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.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

121. Warriors Voted In: Maroons Are Out

When Nancy and I were seniors at Gettysburg High School in 1948-49, we were involved in what was the most durable decision made by the student body at that time.

The high school colors were, and still are maroon and white, and prior to February 10, 1949, sports writers referred to our football, basketball, baseball and track teams  as the “Maroons.”  Before 1945, teams were occasionally referred to as Little Bullets, a nod to Gettysburg College teams called the Bullets.

Early in 1949, members of the high school student council decided it was time to select a name for our teams chosen by the students and not the sports writers. The student body was canvassed for suggestions, and among the names mentioned were Warriors, Little Bullets, Picketeers, Lancers, Owls, Rams, Minute Men and Buccaneers.

The  names suggested most often were placed on a ballot and on Thursday, February 10 during club period, the name Warriors won by a student body vote of 257 over the Cannoneers which was second with 178 votes. The new name was used by the media for the first time when the Gettysburg Times reported our win over the Mechanicsburg basketball team on February 15: Warriors Lace Mechanicsburg 44-26 in South Penn Contest

In 1949, four Gettysburg High School teams  were referred to as Warriors. Today there are six boys teams and six girls teams. That’s progress, but the name remains the same.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

120. Christmas, 1948

Nancy and I enjoyed our first Christmas together in 1948. How could we possibly know that sixty-nine years later we would return to Gettysburg with thirteen family members and eight friends to participate in the Christmas Wreath Project in the National Cemetery?  

Christmas in Gettysburg in 1948 was synonymous with American values at the time. Political Correctness was not yet a concept, and our school choir sang carols all over town, window displays featured scenes from the Nativity and friends and strangers wished each other Merry Christmas when meeting on the street.

Early in December, Nancy was appointed chairman of a school committee to order and distribute name cards for seniors, a tradition that apparently continues to this day. We collected cards from everyone in the graduating class and placed them in a book we lost ago.

At a Christmas Dance following a basketball game on Friday, December 23, we danced to  Buttons and Bows by Dinah Shore, A Tree in the Meadow by Margaret Whiting and Nature Boy by Nat king Cole. The latter was so slow, we could fall asleep dancing before the song was over.

On Broadway, the Musical Kiss Me Kate opened just after Christmas and ran for 1,077 performances in New York City. The following year, it won the first Tony Award presented for for Best Musical, and sixty-nine years later, Nancy and I attended a performance of the musical presented by our local theater group. We call that durable.

Monday, August 7, 2017

119. Gettysburg in Rich Farm Country

When Nancy and I were growing up in Gettysburg in the Forties, many of our friends at Gettysburg High School were members of the Future Farmers of America (FFA). Reports in the school newspaper and the Gettysburg Times revealed our fellow students were active in the FFA in Adams and Franklin Counties and in the State as well.

In our senior year, eighty members of the Gettysburg Chapter of the FFA participated in the Farm Show in Harrisburg where three GHS students won State-wide honors.

Many visitors to Gettysburg who come to study the battle, may not realize that our famous town is located in some of the richest farm and orchard country in Pennsylvania. From the town square, you can drive in any direction and you will immediately realize that farming drives the local economy. 

North of Gettysburg, in the South Mountain Fruit Belt, there are 20,000 acres of fruit orchards, and when I was a teenager, I picked cherries in the  late spring and peaches in the summer.

Today, the Adams County Fruit Growers organize the annual Apple Blossom Festival in early May of each year. In 2017, the 62nd Festival was celebrated with a full schedule of entertainment at the South Mountain Fair Grounds in Biglerville north of Gettysburg.

On July 1, 2 and 3 1863, many of the farms surrounding Gettysburg were the scene of some of the bloodiest fighting in the Civil War. The fact is that the battle is named for the town, but  most of the fighting took place in the farm fields and woods surrounding Gettysburg.

Friday, July 28, 2017

118. Thanksgiving 1948

In an earlier post to Growing Up in Gettysburg, Nancy and I reported that President Harry Truman authorized a 3 cent postage stamp to commemorate the 85th anniversary of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. The stamp went on sale in Gettysburg on November 19, 1948, and shortly before noon on November 24, Postmaster Lawrence E. Oyler announced that total sale of stamps reached 1,123,277. Amazing! 

Thanksgiving Eve dances were scheduled throughout Gettysburg on Wednesday, November 24, 1948. The Girls’ Athletic Association at Gettysburg High School sponsored the Blue Jean Jump in the new gym, and Nancy and I were there with friends. We never missed a dance at school in our senior year. Nancy’s diary notes for that evening suggest we had a good time, as usual.

The Gettysburg Times on November 24, advertised Thanksgiving Day Dinners for unbelievable prices compared to today. The cheapest were Bankerts and the Blue Parrot where a full Thanksgiving dinner was available for $1.25. The Battlefield Hotel at the corner of Baltimore Street and Steinwehr Avenue, asked $2.00, and the Gettysburg Hotel didn’t advertise a price. If you have to ask, you can’t afford it.

Looking back on Thanksgiving 1948, Nancy and I are thankful that we found each other when we were so young. Forty-nine years later, we are still happy to be together and still very much in love.

Despite four letterman on the Gettysburg High School basketball team, by the Christmas break, we had lost a game to Delone and two games to York. We were still optimistic as Conference games didn’t begin until January 4. 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

117. Girls’ Sports in the Forties

Nancy’s high school diaries from the Forties are a major source of information for Growing Up in Gettysburg, and in the fall of 1948, she often mentions the Girls’ Athletic Association (GAA).  While the boys played interscholastic sports, athletic competition for girls was provided through participation in the GAA which offered intramural sports in field hockey, basketball and volleyball.  Nancy was involved in all three.

Fifty-one percent of the girls in our senior class at Gettysburg High School participated in GAA sponsored sports. Today the percent of high school girls across the country particpating in all sports is the same.

Currently, there is a total of more that fifty different intramural and interscholastic sports offered to girls in high schools. Basketball is the favorite, and it was the most popular girls’ sport back in the Forties. It was also Nancy’s preference

The Gettysburg Times archives also provide informaiton for this column, and a front page story in October, 1948 reported that 640,048 tourists visited the Gettysburg National Park from October 1, 1947 to September 30, 1948. The record prior to 1948 was set in 1938 when 1,554,234 tourists visited the P ark for the 75th anniversary of the Battle. 

Today, the Park welcomes well over a million visitors each year.

Back in the Forties, cars were permitted on the Battlefield after dark. Nancy and I took advantage of that often, and we suppose we were counted as tourists.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

116 1948 Football Season Wrap-up

The October 23, 1948 Gettysburg High School football game with arch-rival Chambersburg was emblematic of our entire season. We were so close to having a winning game/season, but no trophy.

With four minutes remaining in the game, we were beating the annual Conference champions 13-0. Then we took a nap. Two quick scores on errors by both our offense and defense, and Chambersburg fans left Gettysburg blowing car horns all the way out of town.

I will never get over the disappointment of losing that game, but that night I buried my  distress cuddled up to Nancy on a hayride with friends. Now that’s a very pleasant memory.

When the season ended, we had won four, lost four and tied one. What the won and loss record did not show was that we outscored our opponents 160 to 60 and we lost three games by a total of 12 points. Considering the losing records of recent football teams, it was an improvement.

The two games we lost by one point were the result of failed extra point attempts by drop kicking which involves dropping the ball and kicking it when it bounced off the ground. The drop kick is no longer used in football, and based on personal experience, that’s a good thing.

When the All South Conference team was announced, Bob Hottle and I were both on the first team, and I was pleased to be selected by our players as the Honorary Captain.

Now that football was over, it was time to prepare for basketball season. With four retuning lettermen, hopes were high for another winning season.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

115. The Freedom Train

Nancy and I were seniors in high school on November 19, 1948, the day the Gettysburg Address was returned to the place where it was delivered by President Abraham Lincoln 85 years earlier. 

The document, reported to be the copy Lincoln held when he delivered his famous speech, arrived in Gettysburg on the Freedom Train. A parade of red, white and blue railroad cars carried exhibits of 127 priceless American treasures on a tour of the entire country.   In over 300 cities where the train stopped, a rededication week of public celebrations of the United States was scheduled. 

In addition to Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, the train carried the original  United States Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, Truman Doctrine, the Bill of Rights and many other national treasures. Each historic document was displayed in a beautifully designed protective case highlighted by indirect lighting.

Despite heavy rain,  7,685 persons visited  the Freedom Train on the 19th.   Nancy’s diary notes that it took her an hour to go through all the cars. She also commented on the  Marines guards in every car. Four years later, Nancy married her very own Marine. Sixty-nine years later he’s still hers.

In addition to the visit by the Freedom Train, Rededication Week in Gettysburg included the issue of a special commemorative stamp honoring Lincoln’s Address, and a patriotic program in the Majestic Theater which was broadcast all  over the country on the Mutual Broadcasting System. Schools were dismissed early that morning so we could attend the program.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

114. A Very Special Day in Gettysburg

The celebration of the 85th anniversary of the dedication of the Gettysburg National Cemetery began early in the morning of November 19, 1948.  That was the day the Lincoln-Gettysburg three-cent commemorative stamp, authorized by President  Truman, went on sale at our local post office. 
Nancy and I were seniors in high school on that memorable day, and we distinctly remember participating in several of the activities scheduled for the event. 
For example, I bought several stamps at the post office and an equal number of first day covers from one of the many vendors present for the occasion. Then, after addressing the envelopes to myself, I dropped them in the mail so they would be stamped FIRST DAY OF ISSUE on November 19, 1948. Later, I sold those stamped envelopes to a collector for a nice profit.
According to reports, more than 50 postal employees worked in the basement of the post office all week prior to November 19 processing hundreds of thousands of requests for stamps and first day covers from collectors all over the world. The stamp and cover are still for sale on eBay.
Coincidentally, the actual document that President Lincoln held in his hand on November 19, 1863, returned to Gettysburg on November 19, 1948 and was displayed on the Freedom Train which arrived the previous day. That treasured document was obviously one of the main attractions for the thousands of people who passed through the train.
In the next few weeks, Nancy and I will write about other activities which were observed on the 85th anniversary of the dedication of the National Cemetery.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

113. Fall 1948

Nancy’s diaries written in the fall of 1948 indicate that her days were primarily devoted to her studies, work (Murphy’s 5 & 10), dating and enjoying her friends. I was involved in football (end), student council (president), dating and not enough with my studies.

By the middle of October, our football team won two, lost two and tied one, scoring 109 points to our opponents 34. We were still contenders for the Conference title, because one of our losses was to a non-Conference team. For the first time in many years, our football team was respected by our opponents. 

Because Nancy and I were preparing for college, we were required to enroll in three sciences prior to graduation. Nancy chose science, biology and chemistry. I enrolled in science, physics and chemistry. Both of us had no problem fulfilling the requirement until we took chemistry. Each of us considered chemistry our most difficult subject  … and the most useless.

Saturday night dates at the movies or the Teen Canteen followed by a snack at the Sweetland or Bankerts were a regular part of our routine.

Both of us went to Sunday services regularly at the Reformed Church which served as a hospital during the Battle of Gettysburg and where we would eventually marry on May 30, 1953.  

Life was good to us when we were dating in high school. Because of our beautiful family and many wonderful memories, it’s even better today.

Monday, June 5, 2017

112. Pennsylvania Blue Laws

When Nancy and I were growing up in Gettysburg in the Forties, we couldn’t go to the movies or shop for groceries or clothing on Sundays. Our parents couldn’t buy beer or liquor and couldn’t buy a car. That’s because the Blue Laws, enacted almost 100 years before Pennsylvania became a state, were the law.

In brief, the Sunday Blue Laws prohibited citizens of the State from “working or participating in any sport or diversion.”  Until 1933, that included  professional baseball and football games which we enjoyed on the radio until the early Fifties when were able to watch Pennsylvania teams on TV.  

Blue Laws were intended to force State residents to observe Sunday as a “day of rest,” but over the years so many statutes were enacted, revised,  repealed or misinterpreted most laws became unenforceable.

When Nancy and I were growing up, our parents could only buy alcohol and wine in a State owned and operated liquor store, and there was only one in town. To make a purchase, customers placed their order with a clerk who disappeared briefly and returned with your order. Everything was numbered, so if you couldn’t pronounce Gew├╝rztraminer, you asked for it by number. “I’ll have a bottle of 246.”

The legal age for purchasing liquor or an alcoholic drink in a restaurant was, and still is 21, but Nancy and I had our first cocktail when we were 18 on Christmas Eve in 1949. Nancy’s Dad made Manhattans for us, and I still use his unconventional recipe  today.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

111. Lincoln Stamp and New School Year

Early in July, 1948, the Gettysburg National Park service reported that tourist travel from
October 1, 1947 to the end of June 1948 exceeded visitations during the same period a year earlier by 25,000 visitors. Tourism in Gettysburg during World War II dropped dramatically, but as of 1948, it was back on track and would shortly break all previous records.

The big front page news during the summer of 1948 was President Harry Truman’s authorization of a stamp to commentate the 85th anniversary of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. The new stamp was scheduled to go on sale on November 19, the date of Lincoln’s immortal words, known by some as the “greatest speech in the world.”

On July 28, 1948, 40 Gettysburg High School students attended a meeting to discus plans for the coming football season. Ten others who were invited were either working or on vacation. That was an excellent turnout compared with previous seasons which resulted in losing records.

The following month, 30 of the most promising candidates traveled 25 minutes north of Gettysburg to attend football camp at Camp Nawakwa for ten days. A busy training schedule and a lot of rough work prepared us for the coming season which started  on Friday, September 10.

Our senior year began on Wednesday, September 8, 1948, and according to Nancy’s diary, we were together in English, Chemistry and Spanish classes. After being apart for much of the summer while I was at Camp Nawakwa, Nancy and I enjoyed each other’s company in classes during the week  and dating on most weekends.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

110 Bands at the Battle of Gettysburg

July 1 to July 3 1948, marked the 85th Anniversary of the historically significant Battle of Gettysburg. Nancy and I searched her diaries and local newspapers from 1948 to learn how that important date was acknowledged in Gettysburg. Strangely, we found nothing.

In our search, however, we discovered a reference to Guy Allison, a reporter from Glendale, California who claimed that a Confederate brass band played polkas and waltzes to inspire the  troops during Pickett’s Charge. We should have been skeptical. What troops would be inspired to go into battle listening to waltzes?

According to an article by Logan Tapscott in The Gettysburg Compiler, 10 regimental bands entertained and inspired both Union and Confederate troops at various times during the three-day battle, but Tapscott offered no evidence that a brass band was playing before or during Pickett’s Charge. 

Musicians were often pacifists who cared for the wounded in addition to performing their duties in the band. In reality, band members were much too busy treating the wounded and assisting the surgeons to play, but according to the article in the Compiler the 11th North Carolina band was ordered to perform during the fighting on the McPherson’s Ridge on July 2nd.

When Nancy and I were growing up in Gettysburg and on many occasions since, we have visited  Bloody Angle on the Battlefield and  imagined Pickett’s Charge when over 12,000 Confederate troops marched proudly and bravely toward Cemetery Ridge in formation with flags flying.  

We never imagined a band playing as Pickett’s Charge unfolded  Now, based on the Compiler article, we feel certain none existed.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

109. Thumbing a Ride

On July 17, 1948, Nancy wrote in her diary:
“Bruce and another guy are going to Washington. They’re hitchhiking and coming home tomorrow.”
Apparently, my friend and I were confident about getting rides from Gettysburg, because according to the diary, we didn’t start “thumbing” until late afternoon. Washington is more than eighty miles south of Gettysburg, and  a good two hours away by car.

Unfortunately, my only memory of our brief adventure is standing in line to pay our respects to General John Pershing lying in state in the Capitol Rotunda. After several hours we passed the General in five seconds.

General Pershing was famous for commanding the American troops, or doughboys as they were called, in World War I (1917-1918). Pershing was a hero back then, but modern historians criticize his use of frontal assaults resulting in unnecessarily high American casualties. 

According to Nancy’s diary, my friend and I had trouble getting a ride back to Gettysburg the following day, so we took a bus from Frederick and traveled the same route Reynolds First Corps and Howard’s Eleventh Corps marched eighty-five years earlier prior to the Battle of Gettysburg.

I hitchhiked successfully and often when I was a college student in Lancaster, Pennsylvania fifty miles east of Gettysburg, but my biggest challenge using my thumb to travel was a 450 mile hike from Jacksonville NC to Gettysburg in 1953. In all such cases I was motivated by my desire to be with Nancy.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

108. A Memorable Date in 1948

On one of our most memorable dates in the summer of 1948, Nancy and I traveled to Hershey Park in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Today, you can drive from Gettysburg to Hershey in less than an hour, but back in 1948 there were very few four lane highways and the trip took much longer.

In the Forties, Hershey Park was one of the most popular and entertaining amusement parks in the northeast featuring a roller coaster (Today there are ten.), bumper cars, a merry go round and numerous other rides for kids and adults.  My favorite park attraction was the penny arcade, a Forties version of a video game paradise. The arcade was filled with dozens of game machines testing your strength, skill and patience or predicting your future and even judging your personality.  

Nancy and I always enjoyed a walk through the Hershey Zoo followed by a rest in  the shade of the beautifully landscaped  Sunken Garden.  On a warm day, visitors to the Park could cool off in the swimming pool, before heading to the Ballroom.

On a typical weekend, the featured attraction was in the Hershey Park Ballroom where popular big bands of the Forties entertained their fans.In our most memorable visit to the Ballroom, we danced to the music of the Tex Beneke Orchestra.  Beneke led the Glenn Miller Band after Miller disappeared in 1944.  In 1948, Nancy and I danced to songs that would remain our favorites for the rest of our lives ___ Moonlight Serenade, In the Mood, String of Pearls and Long Ago and Far Away.

It was a romantic, memorable evening.

The cars we drove in 1948 didn’t have bucket seats or safety belts,  and typically, I drove with my left hand on the wheel and my right arm around Nancy who was snuggled up against me. I’m certain that’s how we motored back to Gettysburg that night. Undoubtedly, there were a few stops on the trip so we could talk about our enjoyable day at Hershey Park.