Luděk Kovář, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 3.0
Luděk Kovář, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 3.0

Meet Nicholas Winton, the Man Known as "Britain's Schindler"

Luděk Kovář, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 3.0
Luděk Kovář, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 3.0

In 1988, Greta Gjelstrup was cleaning out her attic in Maidenhead, England, when she stumbled across an old scrapbook belonging to her husband, Nicholas Winton. She had never seen it before, and was surprised and perplexed by the contents: Pictures of children she didn’t know, letters from people she had never heard of, and lists of names she didn’t recognize—hundreds and hundreds of names.

When she asked her husband about the curious memento, he came clean: Half a century earlier, he had been responsible for saving the lives of 669 children.

In 1938, Winton, a British stockbroker, had been planning on a ski trip to Switzerland for Christmas when he received a call from his friend Martin Blake, who had been helping Jewish refugees in a Nazi-occupied portion of Czechoslovakia. Winton halted his holiday plans and jumped into action. Instead of going to Switzerland, he went to Czechoslovakia, and when he arrived, he found refugee camps full of Jews living in terrible conditions. They were desperate to flee, with many especially determined to get their children to safety.

Though Britain was already accepting a limited number of child refugees, getting permits, finding transportation, and locating foster families for the children was difficult. Additionally, Czech parents had to send a £50 (approximately $1295 today) "warranty" with each child to help pay for the costs the foster families would incur.


All of these obstacles were overcome by Winton and a handful of volunteers, who called themselves the British Committee for Refugees from Czechoslovakia, Children’s Section. They found British families willing to welcome refugee children with open arms, arranged for transportation from Czechoslovakia to England, and even helped raise warranty funds. When permits ran out, they forged them. When funds ran short, Winton made up the difference himself. They bribed railway officials and fabricated transit papers.

In the end, seven trains carrying 669 children successfully made the journey from Czechoslovakia to Holland, where a boat then took them to England, before the Nazis invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, closing down Germany’s borders and blocking the train route. Sadly, an eighth train was on its way out of the country when the borders were cut off. The 250 children on board are believed to have died in concentration camps. "Not a single one of those 250 children was heard of again,” Winton later said. “We had 250 families waiting at Liverpool Street that day in vain. If the train had been a day earlier, it would have come through.”

Winton also regretted not being able to place more children abroad. Though he wrote to politicians in the United States, including President Franklin D. Roosevelt, he received no response. Had the U.S. been willing, Winton later said, he could have saved another 2000 kids.

The 669 lives he did save have never forgotten him. In 1988, after his wife passed the scrapbook to a Holocaust historian, a BBC TV show called That's Life invited Winton to come on the program. Unbeknownst to him, producers had located many of the children, now grown, and invited them to be part of the studio audience. Here's the moment when Winton learns that he's surrounded by people who might not have been there otherwise.

Including descendants, more than 6000 people now owe their lives to Winton. And until he died in 2015 at the age of 106, the rescued refugees, who call themselves "Nicky's children," continued to honor him—with, among other things, birthday celebrations, reenactments, and statues. One of Nicky's "children," John Fieldsend, keeps Winton's photo on his mantel.

Even after his "secret" was revealed and the accolades came, including a knighthood, Winton remained modest about his deeds. “One saw the problem there, that a lot of these children were in danger, and you had to get them to what was called a safe haven, and there was no organization to do that,” he said. “Why did I do it? Why do people do different things? Some people revel in taking risks, and some go through life taking no risks at all.”

You Can Now Rent the Montgomery, Alabama Home of Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald Through Airbnb
Chris Pruitt, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

The former apartment of Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald, perhaps the most famous couple of the Jazz Age, is now available to rent on a nightly basis through Airbnb, The Chicago Tribune reports. While visitors are discouraged from throwing parties in the spirit of Jay Gatsby, they are invited to write, drink, and live there as the authors did.

The early 20th-century house in Montgomery, Alabama was home to the pair from 1931 to 1932. It's where Zelda worked on her only novel Save Me the Waltz and F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote part of Tender Is the Night. The building was also the last home they shared with their daughter Scottie before she moved to boarding school.

In the 1980s, the house was rescued from a planned demolition and turned into a nonprofit. Today, the site is a museum and a spot on the Southern Literary Trail. While the first floor of the Fitzgerald museum, which features first-edition books, letters, original paintings, and other artifacts related to the couple, isn't available to rent, the two-bedroom apartment above it goes for $150 a night. Guests staying there will find a record player and a collection of jazz albums, pillows embroidered with Zelda Fitzgerald quotes, and a balcony with views of the property's magnolia tree. Of the four surviving homes Zelda and F. Scott lived in while traveling the world, this is the only one that's accessible to the public.

Though the Fitzgerald home is the only site on the Southern Literary Trail available to rent through Airbnb, it's just one of the trail's many historic homes. The former residences of Flannery O'Connor, Caroline Miller, and Lillian Smith are all open to the public as museums.

[h/t The Chicago Tribune]

Maynard L. Parker/Courtesy of The Huntington Library in San Marino, California
The Concept of the American 'Backyard' is Newer Than You Think
A home in Long Beach, California, in the 1950s.
A home in Long Beach, California, in the 1950s.
Maynard L. Parker/Courtesy of The Huntington Library in San Marino, California

Backyards are as American as apple pie and baseball. If you live in a suburban or rural area, chances are good that you have a lawn, and maybe a pool, some patio furniture, and a grill to boot.

This wasn’t always the case, though. As Smithsonian Insider reports, it wasn’t until the 1950s that Americans began to consider the backyard an extension of the home, as well as a space for recreation and relaxation. After World War II, Americans started leaving the big cities and moving to suburban homes that came equipped with private backyards. Then, after the 40-hour work week was implemented and wages started to increase, families started spending more money on patios, pools, and well-kept lawns, which became a “symbol of prosperity” in the 1950s, according to a new Smithsonian Institution exhibit.

A man mows his lawn in the 1950s
In this photo from the Smithsonian Institution's exhibit, a man mows his lawn in Long Beach, California, in the 1950s.
Maynard L. Parker/Courtesy of The Huntington
Library in San Marino, California

Entitled "Patios, Pools, & the Invention of the American Back Yard," the exhibition includes photographs, advertisements, and articles about backyards from the 1950s and 1960s. The traveling display is currently on view at the Temple Railroad & Heritage Museum in Temple, Texas, and from there it will head to Hartford, Connecticut, in December.

Prior to the 1950s, outdoor yards were primarily workspaces, reports. Some families may have had a vegetable garden, but most yards were used to store tools, livestock, and other basic necessities.

The rise of the backyard was largely fueled by materials that were already on hand, but hadn’t been accessible to the average American during World War II. As Smithsonian Insider notes, companies that had manufactured aluminum and concrete for wartime efforts later switched to swimming pools, patio furniture, and even grilling utensils.

A family eats at a picnic table in the 1960s
A family in Mendham, New Jersey, in the 1960s
Molly Adams/Courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution, Archives of American Gardens, Maida Babson Adams American Garden Collection

At the same time, DIY projects started to come into fashion. According to an exhibit caption of a Popular Mechanics article from the 1950s, “‘Doing-it-yourself’ was advertised as an enjoyable and affordable way for families to individualize their suburban homes.” The magazine wrote at the time that “patios, eating areas, places for play and relaxation are transforming back yards throughout the nation.”

The American backyard continues to grow to this day. As Bloomberg notes, data shows that the average backyard grew three years in a row, from 2015 to 2017. The average home last year had 7048 square feet of outdoor space—plenty of room for a sizable Memorial Day cookout.

[h/t Smithsonian Insider]


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