Friday, April 4, 2008

APRIL 2, 1952

I had my 56th birthday this past week, so I Thought it might be a nice change of pace to take a respite from my historical "Profiles of Leadership in America" and pay homage to my birthdate.

April 2, 1952
Although it is not in the same league of important dates as July 4, 1776, or December 7, 1941, April 2, 1952 is an important date in history none the less. At least, I believe that my wife and children and my parents would think so. My mother, in her autobiography Autumn My Time to Remember, writes,
On April first, Tom came home with his hand all bandaged up. He had cut himself at work. He went to bed with his western magazine. It was about 9:00 (PM) when he turned the light off and had just fallen asleep when I awaked him with the news, “It’s that time again.” I had always been right so far, and not wanting to go through any more of those at “home ordeals,” he was up and ready by the time I was. But this baby was in no hurry. He April fooled us and waited until the next evening to make his entrance into the world. He was a wise little character; perhaps he wanted to take a little more time to survey the situation. He must have decided right then—April 2nd, 1952—“to get this show on the road.” The little ham! He proved never to be in a hurry even to this day. We named him Randall Dean. We had seen the movie, The Hatfields and The McCoys. Tom was impressed with the young Randall McCoy, who said, “By gar, I are a man.” Hence the Randall. As for the Dean, we thought it fit. Randy, as we called him, turned out to have light hair and fair complexion, and resembled his big sister Sharon (more so when he tried on her wig after they had grown up).
Clearly, it was an important date to my Mom.
The weather in northeastern Kansas on the second of April, 1952 was pleasantly mild for a spring day, with fair to partly cloudy skies and temperatures a little above normal. Topeka, the town of my birth, was the third largest city in Kansas that year, behind Wichita and Kansas City, Kansas. Topeka would have a population of just about 100,000 and the state of Kansas about 2,000,000 residents. I do not know who the mayor of Topeka was on this date, but the Governor of Kansas was republican Edward F. Arn.

If one were reading through The Daily Capital, the major daily newspaper of Topeka, they would see that life there was probably about the same as in other Midwestern towns in the United States in the early 50s. Topekans were enjoying the economic growth and prosperity that was enjoyed most every where in America in the baby boom years after World War II. Homes were listed to sell at prices ranging from $6,000 to $12,600 in the real estate section of the paper. A one-year-old used car could be bought for $1,345. At Pelletiers, a department store in down town Topeka, shoppers could find stylish dresses (R&K Originals) for only $17.95, high heel dress shoes for $6.95 and $7.95, quilted rayon satin bedspreads at $10. 95, men’s dress suits for as little as $29.75 and women’s spring ‘blousettes’ for only a dollar. At Ward’s department store one could find push style lawn mowers for as little as $15.97 and powered lawn mowers for as much as $98.44. A table saw could be purchased for $35.88 and a drill kit with a complete set of attachments for $14.44.

In 1952 radio was still the King of home entertainment but it was in the process of being replaced by television. A 20-inch black and white television (color TV was not an option then) could be purchased at Jenkins’ Music Store for $239.95, but most of the biggest entertainers were still on the radio. The newspaper advertised that onWednesday evening, April 2, 1952 at 8:00 P.M. Red Skellton would be live on WIBW radio presented by Blue Star Razor Blades. At 8:30 would follow Bing Crosby presented by Chesterfield Cigarettes. Rex Allen presented by the Phillips Petroleum Company would then come on at 9:00.

As a child, I always enjoyed reading the comics strips in the Capital Journal. It was interesting to see the comics that were in the paper the day I was born. Some of the strips would be very long lived; some are still around after 47 years. “Our Boarding House” (later it was called Major Hoople I believe), “Out Our Way”, “Blade Winters”, “Dick Tracy” (it would become my favorite), “Dotty Dripple” (it looked to me like ‘Hi and Lois’), “Alley Oop”, “Rex Morgan M.D.”, “Mary Worth” and “Gasoline Alley” all graced the comics page on April 2, 1952.

Just as it still seems to be today, movies were the most popular entertainment to be found outside of the home. There were many movie houses (with only one screen each) at this time in Topeka, some of which were quite ornate. There were also several drive-in theaters for the economy minded movie viewers. The biggest movie at the time was Cecil B. Demille’s The Greatest Show on Earth, which had been held over in Topeka for several weeks. It would go on to be a big winner at the Academy awards including the award for the best motion picture of 1951. Other popular movies at the time were Red Skies Over Montana, Decision Before Dawn, The Belle of New York, Little Egypt, Captain Horacio Hornblower (I like this one when I watched it on TV about 10 years later) and Darling, How Could You?, not to mention possibly 15 to 20 “B” or lesser quality productions.

Of course 1952 was an election year and President Harry S. Truman had decided not to run for re-election. Politics was focus of the biggest stories of the day. Front pages of the Capital Journal and the New York Times both carried stories about Senator Taft winning the Republican presidential primary in Nebraska and holding a slight edge over General Eisenhower in the Wisconsin, in what reporters called a “grim see-saw battle”. On the Democrat side, Senator Kefaur of Tennessee was leading Oklahoma’s Senator Kerr. ‘Ike’ Eisenhower was already looking presidential though, as he was, at that moment, returning from Europe where he addressed NATO. On the front pages of both the Daily Capital and the New York Times he is reported as saying, “The tide has begun to flow our way, and the situation of the free world is brighter than it was a year ago. NATO can build strength that the communists would never dream of challenging.” He went on to warn Europe that “America’s resources are limited” as well as the patience of the American taxpayers and that the United States “can’t continue to be the main source of munitions for the entire free world.”

Although President Truman was not running for his own second term, he was none the less flexing presidential muscle. The same papers on their front pages reported that the President was considering the seizure of the steel companies because of failed bargaining attempts during labor strikes. His threat apparently worked, for on the next day (April 3rd) the front pages declare, “Kaiser Signs Steel Wage Agreement.” And President Truman is still popular among Democrats. Senator Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota is leading a drive in the Senate for an enactment of congress to make ex-presidents (including Truman, of course) honorary Senators. They (the honorary Senators) would be able to debate on the floor of the Senate but would not be able to vote.

Other major stories in the news having world wide significance includes Joseph Stalin’s call for a “beneficial” meeting of “Big Powers” in which he urges German unification. “Bomb tests in Nevada” is another big headline of the day, as is “Allied fliers down 10 MIGS over North Korea.” Allied troops repulsed a Chinese attack in the western section of the land front. Cpl. Casper C. Deargelis of 2439 Coney Island Ave. received a gala home coming in Seattle for being the 100,000th Korean Vet. to return through Seattle’s military post. And Jean Letsoureau was named as the new High Commissioner over Indo China (Viet Nam, Cambodia, and Laos). All are stories of import on the world and national level on April 2, 1952.

Of local interest, it was reported that the Topeka board of education asked the Supreme Court to determine when it could take control of the old Washburn Rural High School building that sat on the site of property annexed by the City of Topeka. Also, it was reported that a drive to return prohibition to Kansas failed in 20 cities where it was attempted. But, the biggest local story, and the most interesting to me as a Jayhawk basketball fan, followed the headline, “Diesels Dump KU 62-60 in Olympic Finals.” I was surprised to learn that the Olympic basketball team and coach were determined by an AAU tournament. The coach of the winning team was the automatic Olympic team coach. Kansas’ great coach, Phog Allen, would not be the head coach, but 7 of his players (more than from any other team in the tournament) were chosen to represent the United States on the U.S. Olympic team. In a related story, Clyde Lovellette, the great Jayhawk center and most valuable player of both NCAA and Olympic tournaments, decides to play AAU basketball rather than play professionally in the National Basketball Association. All in all, April 2, 1952 was a pretty important day if I do say so myself.


Garry Wilmore said...

I really enjoyed reading this. I am 14 months younger than you are, but I suppose most of the prices you mentioned here were still typical when I arrived on the scene the following year. This, incidentally, was the first time I had ever heard about Hubert Humphrey's idea of making ex-Presidents honorary senators.

One of your dates does need correction. I'm not sure if you meant to refer to December 7, 1941 (Pearl Harbor), or June 6, 1944 (D-Day), but June 6. 1941 was really not a red-letter day in any sense of the word. (Lou Gehrig had died four days earlier, however.)

You know how much I love history, of course, so you might enjoy this picture of me, taken about three weeks ago. :-)

Becky said...

I liked your mother's reflections on the day you were born. I never knew your Mom but she sounds like a neat lady.

Randy said...

Yes it was pointed out by another history buff friend of mine that I made an error on the date--I was actually thinking of both dates that you mentioned when I was writing that and did not realize that I had combinded the two--and have since edited out the error. Too many dates in my old brain to keep straight I guess.

She was indeed a neat lady and had poet's view of things. I miss her.


Ingrid Harris said...

wow dad....stuff was super cheap back then, and whats a blousette? is that the same thing as a blouse?