I have a cardboard box that I have used since high school to save my valued treasures. I have hauled this box all over the United States on each of our various moves. I don't know how many years, or decades, have gone by since I got the stuff out of the box and went through the items one by one, but it has been many years. At the bottom of the box is a much battered page of newspaper from the Billings (MT) Gazette, dated September 2, 1950. The page consists mostly of want ads, agricultural commodity reports, and daily comics.
On that day in September 1950, I was 17 years old, soon to become 18 on September 17. I had completed my freshman year of college at the University of Wyoming and had returned home to Penrose in northern Wyoming for the summer. I was offered a job in the insurance department of the First National Bank in Powell, which was a step up from the job I had the previous summer at Earl's Super Service and Studebaker Garage right across the street, where I lubed cars, filled gas tanks, nearly pulled a gas pump over when the hose hooked on a car bumper, and learned to like ice cold bottled Coke out of the ice filled pop (never soda) chest. At least that next summer of 1950 I could wear clean clothes to work. My job was to type insurance policies. If I made a mistake, the policy had to be voided and destroyed and a new one typed. I learned to get pretty good at it.
Up until that summer, I had felt fortunate that I had been too young for World War II. Then the world caved in once more when the Korean War started that summer. My dad thought I should stay at the bank and make a career of banking, and was against my returning to Laramie to the University. My bank president boss told me that I would likely get drafted soon anyway, and that I would be better off to go back to school in the meantime. About this time in September, I went on a double date to go to the Powell Panther football game in Laurel, MT. Then a few days later I decided that I would go back to school. I quit my job at the bank, drove twelve miles home to Penrose, loaded up my car with what few things I had, and left as night was coming on to drive the 420 miles or so to Laramie by myself in the dark.
Here are a few gleanings from that battered page from the Billings Gazette of September 2, 1950:
- Musial of St. Louis led National League batting at .358, and led NL hits with 162.
- The best pitcher in the NL in early September was Maglie of NY at 13-3, .813
- Kiner of Pittsburgh led home runs at 40, and Ennis of Philly led RBIs with 112.
- In the American League, DiMaggio of Boston led runs with 115 and ranked 3d in hits, tied with Rizzuto of NY with 165.
- The draft situation was getting so serious that the NFL was considering raising the player limit from 32 to 35, running the risk that 4 or 5 players could get drafted the same day.
- Film star Ginger Rogers teamed with Francis X. Shields in the mixed doubles of the national tennis championships.
- In the butter and egg commodity markets, 93 score AA butter wholesaled for 62 cents, while eggs rated extras wholesaled for 44 cents.
- Russett potatoes were going for $3.50 to $3.80 per cwt.
- The Dow Jones Industrial average was 219.
- The Photo Center in Billings was advertising photo developing of 8 exp. rolls enlarged and deckled for 40 cents with extra jumbo prints at 5 cents each.
- Want ads were showing preference for men above draft age.
- Year around employment available for cattle camp. No drinkers.
- Pinsetters wanted for bowling alley in Cody WY, pay 10 cents per line.
- Comics included Blondie, Dick Tracy, Moon Mullins, Gasoline Alley, Henry, The Gumps, and Orphan Annie.
Is it possible that sixty years have gone by since I put that page of newspaper in the bottom of my box, and that I have never gotten it out or thrown it away for six decades? Time has a tendency to pay tricks on us. That one battered page brought back a flood of memories as I left my bank job, drove to Laramie so I could register the next day for classes, and began my sophomore year of school, uneasy about my future and the future of my classmates, many of whom had already left for the Korean War. I remember it was rainy and cold in Laramie that fall, and that I was able to room with some students in a prefab room built for students who were working at the University of Wyoming Dairy Farm. I can still recall some of the conversations I had with my friends that rainy fall as we talked far into the night, wondering about what the future had in store for us.