Chapter 1955, age 12-13

Themes and Events
* January. The Chinese Communists who controlled mainland China, threatened to attack Quemoy Island which was occupied by the Nationalist Chinese government in exile. As the possibility of war increased, President Eisenhower received authorization from Congress to use US military force to in the protection of Quemoy.
* [Internet image left] Bill Haley’s and His Comets song. “Rock Around the Clock“, and Chuck Berry’s songs like, “Roll Over Beethoven” start the “Rock” musical revolution.
* The young Negress, Rosa Parks, made her place in history on December 1st, by refusing to give up her
seat on a  bus to a white man. A boycott of the Montgomery, Alabama, city bus line was coordinated by
the then unknown Baptist minister named Martin Luther King eventually resulted in desegregation on the bus. Her act of defiance spurred other Negro boycotts, eventually becoming a rallying point for the Civil Rights movement.
* The Soviet Union and her Eastern European allies formed the Warsaw Pact. During the summer, the Soviet Union successfully launched its first IRBM (Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile).
* Egypt announces that oil has been discovered on the Sinai Peninsula.

Going to the movies
In the early to mid 1950s movie admission cost 25¢ to 30¢ per person, while a box of plain, salted popcorn cost 10¢ to 15¢. Popcorn was not optionally buttered and the containers were all one size.

Movie makers didn’t overlook the public’s interest in science and technology, or the growing number of world-wide reports of UFO sightings. Among the classic science fiction films to come out in this period
were, This Island Earth and a couple of years later, Forbidden Planet.  These films portrayed intelligent alien humanoids as friendly or ambivalent. The aliens and futuristic humans moved between star systems in “flying saucers” powered by some form of ‘antigravity drive’. For defense, the travelers used pistol sized, ‘ray guns’, that emitted beams of light that  vaporized their target. Lasers hadn’t been invented yet or at least were unknown to the public.
Human heroes consulted with wise old scientists, used radar (which was only a decade old) and had access to room sized computers (new). The human heroes won their battles with a combination of quick wits and luck.

YMCA camp
This summer was one of two when Mom and Dad sent me to YMCA camp for a week. The camp was located in the mountains, high amongst pine trees, up somewhere near the middle of the state, I don’t recall the specific site,  but I do remember, camp was fun!!

It seems there were about one hundred to one hundred fifty boys at our, non co-educational camp . Among the activities were: target practice with the .22 cal rifle and archery equipment.
We had several horseback riding sessions, riding out in group or 12-15 on trails leading back into the higher hills, learned to put the saddle on and cinch down the straps, put the bridle on, and afterwards brush down the horses. We had daily leather crafts, several night hikes and daytime foot races.

Of honorable mention was a massive, camp wide, “Capture the Flag” game, where the camp groups were divided onto separate hills, each with a flag to protect. Some protected the  team’s flag, the rest ran in groups of five or so, trying to sneak up the other hill and grab the ‘enemy flag’. The game was a thrill involving patience and stealth, then bursts of high-speed running and jumping, evasion.

Every day we had an opportunity to buy a few things from the camp store. We weren’t allowed cash,
but did have script which we exchanged, usually for things like candy bars or soda pop.

Unlike modern summer camping for children, we didn’t have nightly campfire sing-a-longs, nor were there any swimming facilities.  We did however, sing at meal times, when everyone was gathered around their dining tables. One “table” would sing a song poking fun at either the camp director, one of his assistants, another cabin counselor, or another cabin group. It was all good-natured and after every song there would be a “counter” song, everyone would yell, laugh, clap and happily go about talking-eating-looking about, pointing and waving to new friends, etc. It was great to be away from home, seeing new sights, doing new and interesting things, making friends and for a kid, living life to its fullest.

We slept in bunk beds in wooden cabins. Although we were suppose to go to sleep after “taps” was played, on several occasions we snuck out of the cabin to look around or had a pillow fight while our cabin counselor was gone to the bathroom.

A bug collection for Grandma and Grandpa Pierce
When Grandma and Grandpa Pierce came to Arizona on their extended midwinter visits, they showed an interest in the small desert animals collection and study I was working on (see similar Internet photos from 1954), so I gave them the collection and associated paperwork, and started another. Below are Internet images of a few of the creatures in the collection, which also contained several types of scorpion, lizards, tarantula hawk, wolf spider, Black Widow spider and maybe a dozen other creatures of the desert.

The Cold War, Cuba and Civil Rights
President Dwight D. Eisenhower was running for reelection to a second term in office. Some of the problems that developed and would haunt his administration were:
1)  There was a revolution developing in rural Cuba. At the time, Cuba was a major tourist attraction. Havana could be seen as a sort of eastern Las Vegas, with gambling and good times, all set in a
tropical paradise and located only a few miles from Florida. however, things were changing rapidly: Poverty stricken rural Cuba was being taken over by the citizen army of Communist backed guerrilla leader, Fidel Castro.
2)  One of our high-flying U-2 spy aircraft was shot down over Russia while on a photo reconnaissance/ spy mission. The pilot, Francis Powers, was captured and held up before the world as an example of US aggression.
During the mid 1950s the “U-2″ incident was a very important issue. Now, some forty years later, we still catch one another’s spy’s and major catches still make headlines, but the incidents are seen as ‘briefly sensational’, not confrontational.
3) Meanwhile across the southern USA: Negro militancy, the US Supreme Court and tough southern attitudes about ‘blacks” were butting heads. In Little Rock, AR. schools were desegregated. Elsewhere
“literacy tests” were used to stop southern Negroes from voting.
Political districts were gerrymandered in order to keep Negro children in or send them to inferior schools. Negro adults were usually excluded from jury duty.
In the fall of 1955, a black civil rights leader named, Rev. Martin Luther King, led a bus boycott  in
Montgomery, AL. As a result segregated seating on the city bus line was abolished.
4) On 27 May the population of the United States became 165,000,000. {On 17 August as I’m editing  Chapter 1955 of my autobiography as a post in my WordPress blog, the US population is: 311,136, 762, 88% larger in 56 years.
5) The minimum wage jumped from 75¢ to $1.00 per hour.

Seeing an Atomic bomb explode
One day during the Spring, the Tucson daily newspaper ran a news article stating that city residents might be able to see an A-bomb explode in Nevada at a given time the next morning. The idea of seeing an A-bomb sounded like fun, so, as planned, the next morning, our family awoke before sunrise, quickly dressed, drove to and parked on top of a hill a few miles from home.
Sitting in the car, almost holding our breaths with anticipation, we intently looked toward the northwest, as Dad, watching his wrist watch, gave us a minute by minute countdown. At the end of that last-minute, with only the faintest hint of dawn piercing the eastern horizon, we saw the phenomena occur.
Far away, over the horizon to our northwest, there occurred a flash which quickly settled to an expanding orange glow. It looked much like half of an illuminated orange (fruit) set in the distant sky. The orange glow sat on the horizon for perhaps ten to fifteen seconds then dissipated back to darkness. The distinct glow had appeared no larger than the tip of a finger held at arm’s length. The flash and orange glow was the nuclear test at a Nevada test site some four hundred fifty miles away.
Years later I found the above ‘closeup’ image and description of the test we saw:
[Internet image: A-Bomb, 1955. Operation Teapot, Apple-2 tower shot, May 5, 1955, Nevada Test Site. Teapot was authorized by President Eisenhower on 30 August 1954. This series of fourteen shots (most detonated between February and May) proof  tested a broad variety of fission devices with low to moderate yields. The devices combined several innovations to create a new pattern of fission device that would dominate the design of all later weapons. They were tested for a broad variety of tactical weapon applications, including air defense and anti-submarine warfare.

Our family didn’t buy a television until about 1955 when we lived in the court on East Limberlost Road. Until this time, I occasionally watched a little TV after school at my friend’s house…. before we got down to the really serious business of playing and riding our bicycles.
Our family’s first television had a twelve-inch tube displaying black and white images. It was semi portable so sat on a stand and was given a prominent position in the front room.

During the mid 1950s, I don’t remember seeing color televisions and definitely no remote controls.
At left,internet image: Although this was not the  same model or year as our first TV, it has an essentially the same look.

To me, the first forty years of wide, scale public television programming (roughly from 1948-49 to the mid 1990s), television was a pretty nice medium of entertainment. Some seasons had better
programming than others, but there was usually at least one really good program and several fairly good ones that we looked forward to seeing every week.  The programs I enjoyed were as follows:

What’s o n TV tonight?

  • Topper
  • Disneyland
  • Rin Tin Tin
  • Superman
  • Science Fiction Theater
  • Dragnet

Movies that I saw alone or with a friend this year; This Island Earth with Jeff Morrow, Faith Domerque, Rex Reason, Lance Fuller

The movie, This Island Earth, was so exciting to me as a 12-13 year old that the concept of what alien worlds might look like stuck with me and was partially responsible for my developing the SRAPO project in later years.


Above left is the billboard advertisement for the movie, This Island Earth.  Above right, an image from the film showing alien (Jeff Morrow) in the monitor, talking with the hero, human scientist (Rex Reason), over an alien device called an ‘Interociter’, this was a far sighted science fiction communications concept in 1955.

Movies the family saw together (parents choice):
A Man Called Peter with Richard Todd, Jean Peters, Marjorie Rambeau, Jill Esmond
All That Heaven Allows with Rock Hudson, Jane Wyman, Agnes Moorehead, Conrad Nagel
Marty with Ernest Borgnine, Betsy Blair, Ester Minciotti, Augusta Ciolli
Mister Roberts with Henry Fonda, Jack Lemmon, James Cagney, William Powell

1 Comment

Filed under Autobiography, __2. Childhood: 1942-1963

One response to “Chapter 1955, age 12-13

  1. Ted Haynie

    Mr. Larry,
    Great commentary and review of a young life.

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