Friday, November 10, 2017

128. From High School Sweethearts to Partners for Life

In 1949, Nancy and I reached a turning point in our relationship. We were no longer high school sweethearts who saw each other every day and dated almost every weekend. 1949 would always be the year we graduated from high school sweethearts to serious adults planning to spend a life together as husband and wife enjoying a family.

In memory of  that important year, we looked for other events which occurred in 1949.

Harry Truman was our president in 1949 when the average income was just under $3,000 and average price of a new car cost $1,400. Today the mean income is around $35,000, and the typical price for a new car is $33,560.

Life expectancy when Nancy and I graduated was 63 years. Today, we are expected live to be 79 years old. 

When my Dad stopped at the Gulf station for gas, he would often ask for, “A buck’s worth.” For a dollar in 1949, he got almost six gallons. Today, for the same amount of gas, we pay an average of $15.18.

When we rode our bikes to the corner “Mom and Pop” grocery store for a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread, we paid $.84 for the milk and $.14 for the bread. Today, the milk cost $3.50 and the bread cost $2.59.

Finally, if Nancy and I had purchased one share of Pepsi Cola Stock in 1949 at $9.75 and never withdrew money from it, today, we would have 402 shares because of splits and reinvestments, and the value of our shares would be $45,024. If we had purchased ten shares, today we would have….. we don’t want to know!  As Sinatra sang:

“Regrets we have a few, but then too few to mention." 

Friday, October 27, 2017

127. Graduation and Separation

The closer Nancy and I got to graduation from Gettysburg High School in the spring of 1949, the busier we were. Preparing for finals was a chore, especially in courses like chemistry, a subject we never used the rest of our lives. What a complete waste of our time and energy.

Swanee Serenade, our senior dance, was a very special event in our lives. Nancy wore a new yellow gown, and I wore a new suit. Unlike proms today, there was no limousine, no restaurant dinner, no tuxes and unfortunately, no photographs to remind us of this special occasion in our young lives.

On May 30, we stood in front of Nancy’s home on Baltimore Street, and with a crowd of over 5,000 people, we watched one of the best Memorial Day parades held in Gettysburg in a long time. As we watched the children walk by with flowers for the graves in the National Cemetery, we were reminded of our participation in this annual event.

Graduation was painful because it meant we would no longer see each other every day. In the fall, Nancy would attend Shippensburg State College, and I accepted a football scholarship to attend Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, PA. We would be 86 miles apart, and we were concerned about staying together as a couple.

We knew the separation would be stressful, but we kept in touch with letters and an occasional visit on a weekend, and we made it. On May 30, 1953 we were married, and sixty-five years later, our twin sons, our daughter, eight grandchildren and five great-grandchildren are living proof that “love conquers all.”


Monday, October 16, 2017

126. Thrill of Victory: Agony of Defeat

In my scrapbook of faded news clippings, readers will find an account of my participation in sports from seventh grade at Lincoln School through our senior year at Gettysburg High School. From the beginning to the end, it is a record of “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.”

One of the thrills in our senior year included my selection as a member of the first team on the South Penn All-Conference football squad. In addition, I was the leading scorer and a member of the second team All-Conference squad in basketball.

In track, I continued winning the 110 low hurdles, setting a new school and conference record which will never be broken. That’s because that race was replaced by the 180 yard low hurdles in the Fifties and Sixties.

The first time I ran the 180 yard low hurdles was at the District meet in Lancaster. I won that race and that qualified me for the State competition at Penn State University. 

After winning my heat in the preliminaries, I ran in the finals and fell, something I never did in any other race in my high school career. That incident truly best represents the agony of defeat in my career in sports.

When I returned to Gettysburg that night, Nancy was waiting for me.   In her diary for that day. she wrote, “He was kind of blue at first, but he soon got over it and we had a good time."

The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat and the joy found in a loving relationship.

Monday, October 9, 2017

125. Segregation in Gettysburg in 1949

The last few months of our senior year at Gettysburg High School in the spring of 1949 were filled with baseball games, track meets, final exams, a Student Council Conference hosted by our school, an Easter music program, dances and a senior prom.

One of the most memorable events was our class trip to Washington on  April 25 and 26. We left school early Monday morning and toured all the major sites, and returned to Gettysburg late Tuesday. Monday night the girls checked in at the Cairo Hotel and the boys stayed at the Martinique. 

Nancy’s diary for that trip reveals a forgotten and troublesome memory.  According to Nancy, our seven black classmates did not join us. That information prompted me to call our classmate Betty Lee Dorsey Myers who still lives in Gettysburg.

Betty Lee confirmed Nancy’s notes and revealed the reason they didn’t go was because they knew they would not be welcome in Washington.

Then Betty Lee also revealed that when we were in Gettysburg High School in the Forties, she and her black friends were never welcome at the places we frequented including the Teen Canteen.  Nancy and I were dumbfounded. How could there have been such racial discrimination, and we were not aware of it? Or were we simply naive? Nearly seventy years later, we are both embarrassed and ashamed.

Betty Lee also informed me that she is a former elementary school teacher in Gettysburg who graduated from Shippensburg University. She is also the author of Segregation in Death:Gettysburg’s Lincoln Cemetery.

Incidentally, Betty Lee prefers to be recognized as a “black” woman which is why she is described as such in this report.


Monday, October 2, 2017

124. Team Party and the National Cemetery

In the spring of 1949, the basketball season was over for the Gettysburg High School JV and Varsity teams and also for the Girls’ Athletic Association as well. Nancy was one of the leading scorers on her GAA  championship team, Senior II.

After the Varsity boys’ season ended, Nancy and I attended a party at the home of senior team member, Bill Eisenhart. Nancy’s diary reveals that a few boys drank beer, but most drank cokes. No one drank hard liquor, and no one used drugs. Matter of fact, in 1949 we weren’t familiar with recreational drugs except perhaps for marijuana, and no one we knew used it.

A front page story in the April 4,1949 issue of the Gettysburg Times reported the bodies of two men who served in World War II were to be reinterred in the Gettysburg National Cemetery. Pfc. William O’Neill, of McKeesport and  S1C Joseph Coradetti of Wilkes-Barre were originally buried in American cemeteries abroad.

In 2010, there were 1,624 WWII veterans buried in Gettysburg, including Marine Pvt. Paul Heller who was killed in action on October 8,1942 at Guadalcanal at the shocking age of fifteen. Heller is probably the youngest serviceman buried in the National Cemetery outside of the Civil War section.

My Uncle, Herman “Bud” Houck who served with the U.S. Army in the South Pacific in WWII, is buried in the Gettysburg National Cemetery, and each year in December, members of our family place a Christmas Wreath on his headstone and pause to remember him.

Monday, September 18, 2017

123. Famous Visitors and a Famous Guide

An article in the Gettysburg Times on Saturday, March 5, 1949, included the names of famous people who visited the historic town. The list was compiled by Dr. Charles H. Huber, the former director of the women’s division of Gettysburg College.* 

Among those mentioned in Dr. Huber’s memoir were the Count of Paris, the Queen of Hawaii and Teddy Roosevelt who apparently attracted larger crowds than those who gathered in Gettysburg to welcome Abraham Lincoln in 1863.

According to documents from the Adams County Historical Society, sixteen presidents  visited Gettysburg while they were in office. One of those presidents was Jack Kennedy, and his guide for that visit was Col. Jacob “Met” Sheads. 

Sheads was a popular history teacher when Nancy and I were students at Gettysburg High School 1945 to 1949.

Sheads was a battlefield guide during the summer, and it was common knowledge that he knew more about the battle than anyone else. Undoubtedly, that’s why he was chosen to be the guide for President Jack Kennedy and Jackie when they toured the battlefield on March 31, 1963.

It is reported that Col. Sheads suggested Kennedy return to Gettysburg on November 19 for the 100th anniversary of Lincoln’s Address. Kennedy responded, “I’d like to, but I can’t. I have to go to Dallas and mend fences.” President John F. Kennedy  was assassinated in Dallas on Friday, November 22, 1963,
* Dr. Huber was the Headmaster of the Gettysburg Academy in 1921 when   Nancy’s mother, Grace Mae Hartman was a senior there. Dr. Huber also served as president of the Gettysburg National Bank where Charles Ogden, Nancy’s father, worked for forty-six years. Grace and Charles were married on April 17, 1924. 

Monday, September 11, 2017

122. Dating, Church and Basketball

In our senior year at Gettysburg High School, Nancy and I were together often on Friday and Saturday nights. A typical Friday night date began after a football game or a basketball game followed by dancing in the school gym, the Teen Canteen or Woodlawn. Our dates usually ended with a late night treat at the Sweetland, the Delecto, Bankert’s, Smitty’s, Weaner’s or one of the other places catering to hungry teenagers.  

A memorable date in our senior year was the Valentine’s Day Dance at the Gettysburg Country Club.   The love we expressed for each other that night gave us confidence in a future together. I usually left Nancy on weekend dates at midnight,  but that night I didn’t leave until  2:00 a.m.

Despite keeping late hours on Saturday nights, we regularly went to church on Sunday mornings to the Evangelical and Reformed Church on the corner of South Stratton and East High Streets in Gettysburg. Today, it is known as Trinity United Church of Christ. 

Nancy and I were both confirmed in the Reformed Church where we were active on committees and the adult choir. In 1953, after dating for five years, Nancy and I were married in that church.

The end of February marked the completion of boys’ basketball season with a final record of ten wins and ten losses. It was a disappointing record considering the depth of experience on the squad. Our center, Guy Donaldson, was chosen for the All Conference Team, and I led the team in scoring when the season ended.