Children have parents to teach them the difference between right and wrong, show them how they should act, and help them grow up to be responsible, mature, mentally stable adults who care for others. However, just having parents is not enough to properly shape a child into an adult who will deal rightly with people and know what to do in hard situations. Throughout the years, there have been periods of time that are much harder to deal with than usual. In America, there were countless wars and times of great economic depression. Though economic depressions are the most difficult for adults who have to figure out a way for their family to live, there is something more frightening and difficult to deal with for children.
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Though children may understand financial hardship and certainly feel the effects of it on their lives, it is difficult for them to truly grasp the meaning of such things and feel the same fear their parents do. Children do not stay awake late at night wondering if they will be able to find enough work the next day to feed their family, or how late they will have to work just to bring home something so their children do not go hungry. They see that there is not as much food to eat as there used to be, but they do not feel the self-inflicted pain of inadequacy and inability to be a good mother or father for their children. However, children do understand fear.
In the 1950s, fear of the atomic bomb was prevalent in America. Throughout the nation, teachers taught children what to do if there was a bomb. According to IMDb.com, Archer Productions produced a short film in 1952 called “Duck and Cover,” teaching students to duck and cover if they ever saw a bright flash in the sky, presumably indicating the explosion of an atomic bomb. Though the film was not very long, it would never have reached the level of popularity it achieved in the United States without its main character, Bert the Turtle.
Voiced by Carl Ritchie, Bert the Turtle was the star of “Duck and Cover.” Bert was a very cautious turtle and wore a helmet so he would always be safe. In the film, Bert was walking along, minding his own business, when he heard a suspicious noise behind him. He turned around, and there was a monkey hanging from a tree and holding a lit firecracker. Since very little good could come from a monkey holding an unlit firecracker, much less a lit one, Bert decided to quickly duck and cover. This was a wise decision, because a moment after he ducked and covered, the firecracker exploded, leaving a broken tree and no monkey. However, Bert was safe because he ducked and covered. This is the lesson Archer Productions was trying to teach children. They learned it quickly because they admired Bert and his life choices and aspired to be like him one day if they tried very hard and always ducked and covered.
Though human role models are helpful and can influence children greatly, animals may be even more influential in children’s lives. Such was the case with Bert. Children loved him and took his instruction because he was such a good example; everyone looked up to him. Bert the Turtle was a shining light to children around the United States, an excellent role model in their time of distress.
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