Today we’re reviving a series we did back in 2016 called “The Things They Carried.” Inspired by a collection of Vietnam War stories by Tim O’Brien and a series of articles by Foreign Policy Magazine, we’ll be exploring the offices of CC 4th’s professors via mini photo tours. To start us off, Dr. Chris Gehrz has agreed to share about the “things he carries” as a professor of history…
1. World War posters
Two of my favorite classes to teach are World War I (coming back next summer, online) and World War II (coming in January, in person), which are interesting in part because of governments’ sophisticated use of propaganda. These posters — which I inherited from Neil Lettinga, my predecessor as European historian — are both British: one from WWI holding up women munitions workers as models of ordinary Britons “doing their bit”; the other from WWII, featuring a swastika-decorated insect called the “Squander Bug.”
(The “Squander Bug” poster tried to sell war bonds. A U.S. version of the same campaign from WWI hangs next to my window — Uncle Sam telling American children to spend their quarters on war stamps.)
While we cover all sorts of sports in History and Politics of Sports, my favorite sport has always been baseball. Two balls hold up my 2002 Homer Hanky: one signed by my favorite player, Kirby Puckett; the other a memento I picked up from Jackie Robinson Day in Kansas City, when I went to a Royals game while I was in town to do research at the Truman Presidential Library.
3. Dr. Strangelove poster
My students this fall in The Cold War know that I love teaching 20th century history partly because it’s so easy to integrate primary sources from popular culture: songs, but also movies. For example, we wrap up a unit on nuclear fear by watching a clip from my favorite Cold War film, Stanley Kubrick’s dark comedy about an ex(?)-Nazi genius called Dr. Strangelove.
When I was in college, I decided to teach myself the guitar. In grad school, songwriting was a different kind of outlet from working on my dissertation, plus I played in church praise bands. I don’t actually play that often any more, but I do bring the guitar to class to play everything from national anthems (Modern Europe) to Charles Wesley tunes (CWC) to country music mocking Josef Stalin (Cold War). I bought this particular guitar in 2013, as a reward for surviving a summer in which Prof. Mulberry and I spent countless hours building a fully online version of CWC.
5. Shell casings
Another artifact from my World War I collection… I don’t actually know a lot about them except that they’re shell casings from the French 75mm artillery piece that the American Expeditionary Force used in 1918. They came to me from my mom’s cousin Dick, who taught physics at Bethel for decades and used these casings as props in his K course on nuclear bombs.
6. Homer Simpson cut-out
Homer has been in my office as long as I’ve been on campus. The Simpsons was one of my favorite shows growing up, so when I got the job at Bethel, my sister somehow mailed a life-sized cardboard cut-out of Homer Simpson to me. I almost got rid of it when we moved up to CC 4th a few years ago, but I just couldn’t say goodbye… but give it a few more years and I’m not sure students will recognize a Simpson anymore.
7. Lindbergh books
From about 2017 to 2021, I researched and wrote a “spiritual but not religious” biography of Minnesota aviator/white supremacist Charles A. Lindbergh, who was both the subject and author of several other books — like these sitting on a shelf above my computer. Now that that project is done, I probably should move these books elsewhere and put books about higher education (my next topic) in their place…
Click here to learn more about Dr. Gehrz and the courses he teaches at Bethel.