Note: It is a good idea to print
Level Two for easy reference.
Theo Finley has just gotten married in
Springfield and wants to build a house for his new family. Because
of World War II, lumber is still scarce and Theo may not be able to
build the house of his dreams.
These themes can be explored with either a social studies or
language arts curriculum. Use these themes to tie in other
resources to your class discussion, i.e., other books, other
cultures, students' own lives.
- The effect of World War II upon the economy of the family in
- Theo Finley's story, as an example of having to adjust personal
choice to accomodate circumstance.
These questions, which come at the end of each story (minus "the
answer"), can be used to start class discussions or be assigned as
Theo Finley plans to build his own home. What skills and
abilities will he need? What skills and abilities does he
Theo Finley has the necessary skills to design and build a
house. He has a background in electrical engineering and is a
gifted artist. He ran his own sign and poster art shop in Chicago.
He can utilize his drawing skills to create an architectural plan
for his home. With his knowledge of electrical engineering he will
be able to wire his house for electricity and heat. He might need
some help with the plumbing and the manual labor of actually
building the house.
In what ways would you consider Theo Finley a successful man?
What attributes does he possess that have helped him earn his
He is well educated, has owned his own businesses, and is now a
husband and father. He owns land and has the necessary skills to be
able to build his new family a home inspired by the Taj Mahal. From
the way his life has seemed to unfold, we can make a guess at some
of the attributes that have helped him to be successful:
intelligence, an ability to set goals for himself, and the
confidence to persevere and realize those goals.
How much education does Theo have? How do you think his
education has helped him get ahead?
He has a college degree from Southland College in Arkansas, a
degree in applied electrical engineering from the Chicago School
for Engineering, and coursework in lettering and poster art. His
education has been both practical and diverse. We know that in
Chicago he owned and operated Finley Cab Company and his own sign
and poster art shop. While he may not have spent his career as an
electrical engineer, he had the confidence and ability to start two
businesses. Sometimes higher education can help develop a person's
self-confidence and heighten his or her ability to manage and
What has been the direct effect of World War II upon Theo and
his family? How is he providing the best that he can for his
After World War II ended, the country experienced severe
shortages in everything from lumber to food. So many resources and
raw materials had been used for the war effort that America was
depleted of reserves. It was not until the 1950s that America
experienced an economic resurgence. By this time factories that had
been built to mass-produce guns, and ammunition had been
successfully channeled into the mass production of domestic
appliances such as washing machines and vacuum cleaners.
Why has the war created scarcity at home? What is scarcity?
Give an example from the story and one from your own life.
All economic resources were channeled into fighting the war.
During World Wars I and II, the government imposed rations on
household goods. Americans were limited in what they could buy,
including gas, food, and clothing. New fashions, such as short
skirts, replaced old fashions that used more cloth. In this story,
Theo Finley can buy enough lumber for only a 1200 foot house. His
original plan was to build an 1800 foot house.
Theo Finley has to compromise his plans to build a large house
because of the shortage of lumber. Have you ever had to change your
plans because of factors outside your control? What kind of
compromise did you make?
Have students discuss the limits to personal choice. Help them
understand that personal choice is often a juggling act between
what one wants to do and what one can do. Through compromise, one
can still achieve what one wants, even if the final result is
Who do you think should propose first, the man or the woman? Do
you intend on getting married one day? When do you want to start a
This could be the start to a good discussion of the difference
between social mores in Finley's time--when it was unusual for a
woman to propose to a man--and social mores today. It might also
lead to an interesting discussion about family planning and the
risk of starting a family before one has the ability to support the
These are suggested classroom activities and student projects
that you may want to use with your students or as models to create
1. Oral interviews
The theme of this interview will be World War II reminiscences.
Like Theo Finley, many Americans experienced scarcity during and
after World War II.
Interview your grandparents or older members of your community
about World War II and their memories of life at that time. You
might ask them the following kinds of questions:
- How did the war affect you and your family economically?
- How did the war affect you and your family emotionally?
- Did you or anyone you know fight in World War II? What was it
- After the war ended, what kinds of consumer goods or products
were scarce? Did you or your family have to do without things? What
kinds of things?
- Can you compare what America is like today with what it was
like when you were growing up?
You can submit your interview to the website "World War II
under New War Stories.
"World War II Stories" is part of a larger website "World War II
-- Keeping the Memory Alive" at:
Refer to this site for primary-source material about World War
2. Psychology in Advertising
As production of goods increased dramatically during the 1920s,
the advertising business took on the problem of convincing
consumers to buy the commercial goods and services now available.
Advertisers turned to psychology to learn about their customers'
desires and fears. With this information they created ads to
promote the item they were trying to sell, for example a radio, as
the solution to consumer fears or as the key to consumer
Look at the advertisement for the Atwater Kent Radio in Clues to the Past
Follow up: Do advertisers today use psychology to sell their
- How does this ad connect the Atwater Kent radio with glamour,
love, and social acceptance.
- At what kind of person do you think this ad is aimed and
Find an advertisement that you like:
- Make a list of all the things that you like about the ad:
colors, pictures, and words
- Write a few sentences describing how the ad makes you feel and
whether you would buy the product. Why or why not?
3. World War I and World War II Posters
During World War I and World War II, the government published
posters to motivate American citizens to participate in the war
effort. Some of the posters encouraged men and women to join the
army, the navy, and even the workforce. Other posters cautioned
Americans to conserve needed resources, such as gasoline, to grow
their own food, and even to be careful about what was said in
public or written in letters to their loved ones that the enemy
Like advertisements in the 1920s that used psychology to sell
commercial goods, the posters of World War I and World War II used
psychology to motivate Americans to behave in a certain way.
Analyze one of the posters from World War I and one of the
posters from World War II by looking at each element. Make a chart
to organize your findings. Your chart might look like this:
|World War I Poster
|World War II Poster
- What is the message of the poster or advertisement?
- At whom is the poster aimed?
- What kinds of feelings do the World War I and II posters
stir-up: anger, fear, pride, patriotism,...etc.?
You will find more examples of World War II posters at the site
"World War II Propaganda Posters" at:
| Level 1 | Level 3
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