Treasures in my own history

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 12, 2013

I enjoy watching those television programs where people find “treasures” by picking through stuff others have accumulated or bidding on unclaimed storage units and lost baggage. I was somewhat taken aback when they got so excited over things dating back to the 1940s and 1950s. They referred to those items as “really old.” When I first started noticing those shows, I would shake my head and think, “They’re not so old.” I entered high school in 1947, so I grew up in that era. It didn’t seem that long ago to me.

After watching a show where someone pulled a 1950s item out of a jammed barn of junk and judged it valuable, it set me thinking about life during those years. Some of the biggest newsmakers were the reports of “unidentified flying objects” spotted in the sky in the late 1940s. It cost a whole lot less to gas up cars in those days than today. The price of gasoline was 25.9 cents a gallon in 1948. The following year, smokers could buy a pack of cigarettes for 21 cents, a loaf of bread for 15 cents, a soft drink for a nickel and a quart of milk in a glass bottle (remember those?) for 25 cents.

I vividly remember April 12, 1945, when my mother and I heard the announcement of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s death announced on the radio. The Roosevelt dime was released to the public on Jan. 30, 1946, which would have been the president’s 64th birthday.

After his successor, President Harry Truman, served out the term, he sought re-election. His opponent was Thomas E. Dewey. A couple of memorable campaign slogans resulted from that election: “Start Packing Harry—the Deweys are coming” emerged from the Dewey camp. Those for Truman used “Phooey on Dewey.” President Truman won the election and re-entered office with a salary of $75,000. In 1949, his salary elevated to $100,000 with an expense allowance of $50,000.Our national debt that year reached $250 billion.

I will never forget how shocked everyone was when President Truman relieved Gen. Douglas MacArthur of his Korean command in 1951. During his farewell speech, Gen. MacArthur uttered a phrase from an old barracks ballad that I think most of us who were around then remember. That phrase was “Old soldiers never die, they just fade away.”

For two consecutive years, 1952 and 1953, the best-selling book was the Holy Bible. Also in 1952, reports of flying saucers were still rampart. That year, Japan produced pocket-sized transistor radios.

The next election brought us President Dwight Eisenhower. In 1954, he moved the individual income tax deadline from March 15 to April 15. That year the huge procession center for immigrants, Ellis Island, shut down. During its time, over 20 million people had processed there.

President Eisenhower signed a bill in 1955 requiring the inscription “In God We Trust” on all U.S. currency. That same year the popular young Hollywood star, James Dean, died in an automobile accident.