Saturday, April 12, 2008

1954: The Year in Review (Happy Birthday to Me)

In 1954, the movie “On the Waterfront” with Marlon Brando won the Academy Award for best picture. Also in Hollywood, Marilyn Monroe wed Joe DiMaggio. The first of the Godzilla series of movies was released in Japan.

The first color T.V. was manufactured by RCA in 1954. It cost $1000 for a 12” screen. We always had a black and white T.V. when I was growing up. It was in a great big console and had a small roundish screen. I believe we got our first color T.V. in the early-70’s. It was still in a large floor console, but it had a bigger screen. The first Miss America Pageant was aired on television. Seizing the opportunity of a lifetime, American Gerry Thomas invented the T.V. Dinner in 1954.

Bill Haley & His Comets recorded “Rock Around the Clock” in New York City. On July 7, 1954, WHBQ in Memphis became the first radio station to air an Elvis Presley record, and rock-n-roll was about to change the face of the American teenage culture.

In the medical realm, the first mass vaccination of children against polio began in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I remember polio vaccinations, and the day my brother and sister and I first received ours. It seems to me they used a needle that rather scraped the vaccine into your skin; I don’t think it hurt but all children are afraid of “shots.” It was the initial polio vaccine developed by Dr. Jonas Salk. Salk’s vaccine was a “killed” vaccine that prevented most of the complications of polio, but did not prevent it altogether. (I still have the scar!) Later, probably in the early-to-mid-60’s, we received an oral vaccine as well, developed by Dr. Albert Sabin, a renowned medical researcher. I vaguely remember my mother having personally known Dr. Sabin due to his affiliation as head of Pediatric Research at Cincinnati’s Children’s Hospital and his association with my mother’s boss, Joseph Kanter. I must have thought this familiarity quite impressive at the time, as I can still recall it. During that same year, the first kidney transplants were done in Boston and Paris.

The Nobel Prize for Physics was won by Max Born & Walther Bothe; for Chemistry by Linus Carl Pauling; for Physiology or Medicine by John Franklin Enders, Thomas Huckle Weller, & Frederick Chapman Robbins; for Literature by Ernest Hemingway; and for peace by The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

The Vietnam War was brewing, and President Dwight D. Eisenhower authorized the creation of the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado. On Flag Day, June 14, 1954, the words “Under God” are added to the “Pledge of Allegiance.” Most people think these words were always in the Pledge. I have always known them, that’s for sure!

Sports Illustrated was published for the very first time. I wonder if they had a “swimsuit issue,” and what parts of the anatomy those swimsuits covered? Roger Bannister of England was the first man to break the 4-minute mile. West Germany won the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland, defeating Hungary. Radio was giving way to T.V. as the last new episode of "The Lone Ranger" was aired after 2,956 episodes over a period of 21 years. The first transistor radio was developed for the public and cost around $49.95 ($300 in today’s money). They dropped significantly in price when they became more popular and mass-produced in the 60’s.

Nash and Hudson merged to form the American Motors Corporation (AMC). And who didn’t want a 1954 Chevrolet Corvette or a Lincoln?

As I recall, we didn’t even have a car till the late 60’s when my mother learned to drive. It was a 1960 white Rambler, something like this:

A chapter in American History closed in November, 1954, when the main immigration port-of-entry in New York Harbor at Ellis Island closed. The U.S. sent back to Mexico almost 4 million illegal immigrants. Brown vs. Board of Education made segregation in U.S. public schools unconstitutional. Rosa Parks' arrest in Montgomery, Alabama, set the American Civil Rights Movement in motion. The Boy Scouts of America desegregated on the basis of race.
The first Hyatt Hotel opened in December, 1954. It was the Hyatt House of Los Angeles, and was the first hotel built outside of an airport.

Average prices in 1954?
  • House - $22,00

  • Average Income - $3,960

  • Ford Car - $1528 - $2415

  • Milk - $.92

  • Gas - $.21 (yes, per gallon!)

  • Bread - $.17

  • Postage Stamp - $.03

  • Swiss Cheese - $.69 a pound

  • American Cheese - $.55 a pound

  • T-bone Steak - $.95 a pound

  • DelMonte Catsup- (2) 14-oz. bottles $.25

  • Post Grape Nuts Cereal - 10 oz. package $.19

  • Clorox Bleach - 1/2 gallon $.19

  • 20 Gallon Gas Water Heater - $75

  • Semi-automatic Kenmore Washer - $154.95

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at an all-time high of 382.74.

Not so notable: Howard Stern was born on January 12th, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. on January 17th, Oprah Winfrey, January 20th, Bill Mumy, John Travolta, and Christie Brinkley in February. Patty Hearst, American heiress and kidnapping victim, was born on February 20th. Ron Howard, Jackie Chan, Dennis Quaid, and Jerry Seinfeld, were all born between March and April. Other births in 1954 were Freddie Prinz, James Belushi, Barry Williams, and Scott Bakula, and Al Sharpton, American politician and minister. Chris Noth, most notably from the Law and Order series, was born in November, and in December, Stone Phillips, American television journalist, and my favorite actor, Denzel Washington.

And on April 11, 1954, I was born. Robin Ann Roach to Theresa Lillian Matthai Roach and John Joseph Roach of Cincinnati, Ohio. 3rd of 7 children. Happy Birthday to me. I’m 54!

Have a blessed day.


Junosmom said...

Happy Birthday, Robin! What a beautiful photo of you as a child, one I've seen before. I hope you spend the day happily with your family. Love, Cousin Cathy

Anonymous said...

AH! The glorious 50's, I remember it well, the year you were born, I was cruising in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Korea when I got word of your birth. It's hard to believe it was that long ago. I long for the slow relaxed pace of life from those days past. everything was so much simpler then. All my love, from your Uncle George

Junosmom said...

You know, I was just re-reading this (since there wasn't a new post hint hint) and didn't realize your mom's first name was Theresa. I never knew that! Why was she called Lilly?

Passage of a Woman said...

Well, better late than never. My mom always thought her name was Lillian Theresa Matthai, so everyone called her Lil or Lilly. The story goes, when she was in high school, she hated the name Lillian so much, she adopted her "middle" name Theresa and had all her friends call her Terry. In adulthood, she went back to Lillian. However, my grandmother told us that Grandpa wanted to name her Theresa as her first name after his mother in Germany, but grandma wanted Lillian. They compromised and put her name as Theresa Lillian on the birth certificate and called her Lillian Theresa in life. When grandma passed away, and my mom's birth certificate was found, that secret was borne out; and sure enough, her first name really was Theresa, not Lillian. Much to mom's dismay, because till the day she died, she never cared for the name Lillian.