Saturday, June 29, 2013

Sixty Years Ago

Come with me today and let's travel all the way back to 1953. Dwight Eisenhower replaced Harry Truman as President of the United States in January 1953, a disappointment to my grandfather, who was a staunch supporter of Adlai Stevenson. That was the year Queen Elizabeth II was crowned queen. A polio epidemic in the U.S. frightened all of us, and the Korean War--never more than a blip on my underdeveloped radar--came to an end. Click here for a fun, closer look at 1953.

For a big part of that year I was ten years old and in the fifth grade at Phelps Elementary School. My teacher was Mrs. Challis, who lived directly behind us a few streets over, close enough that I could walk to visit her at home, which I did on more than one occasion.

This path led from the Phelps playground to my friend Leila Kammerer's
backyard. We met up at her house each morning and walked the path
to school together. (I was pleasantly surprised to see that the path
 was still there when my sister and I visited the school in 1996.)

My great-grandmother, Dora Elliott, passed away in October 1953. She was the first person I knew personally who died. I remember standing beside her open casket, hesitantly extending one forefinger to touch her lightly on the cheek. What a shock! That one touch of her body told me Grandma wasn't in there anymore, forever changing my understanding of death and making it less frightening. I have no memories of Grandma before she was senile, but I must have known her in better days, because I can still say the alphabet backward as quickly as forward, and some part of my brain remembers that it was she who taught me that.

Dora Hetherington Elliott in 1950

Movie theaters were great places to be in 1953, when 3-D movies became very popular. My favorite one, because it was so scary, was House of Wax. I'll bet you can smell the popcorn while you watch this movie trailer:

We got our very first television set sometime in 1953. Until then we gathered in the living room every night, each of us with something to keep our hands busy, and listened to our favorite radio programs. The big console radio kept us company in the daytime, too, first with my grandmother's soap operas (including Oxydol's Own Ma Perkins) and then with music, songs that evoked emotions and stirred dreams in me even as young as I was.

This picture, taken about 1956, is the only one I could find of our
big family radio, shown at left. My little sister and I are seated in
the chair. The young man on the phone behind us is a college student
who rented an upstairs bedroom. The birdcage behind him holds our
beloved Sugar, an avian character who deserves a blog post of her own.
I remember a lot of radio songs from 1953, some of which you probably know even if you weren't yet born then. One of them was particularly inspiring--possibly the first spiritually uplifting song that ever captured my attention--and still moves me today. In fact, that song is the inspiration behind this entire post and, yes, it's today's Saturday Song Selection. I hope you like it as much as I do. I believe you will.

The song is "I Believe" by Frankie Laine.
Thanks to texpaco for posting the song and its lyrics on YouTube.

Thanks also to Helpmemakethisfilm for posting the House of Wax trailer on YouTube.

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