Wednesday, March 22, 2017

104. World War II Disrupts Tourism

When Nancy and I inform others that we grew up in Gettysburg, they often tell us how much they love and admire our hometown.  Some even speak of moving there. Obviously, they fail to comprehend what it’s like in a small town sharing the streets and sidewalks with over a million tourists a year.

When we were growing up in Gettysburg in the early Forties during World War II, gas, oil and tires were rationed, and new cars were no longer available. In addition there was a national speed limit of thirty-five miles per hour. 

As a result of the war and rationing, the number of visitors to Gettysburg dropped dramatically from 670,000 in 1941 before the war began to 118,000 during the first year of the conflict.  For the residents of Gettysburg who fought tourist traffic during the busy months, it was a pleasant change, but for motels, restaurants and others who depended on the tourism industry, it was a serious problem.

World War II ended in 1945, and by 1948 when Nancy and I were juniors in high school,  tourism in our town returned to normal. In an article in the Gettysburg Times on May 3, 1948 Dr. J. Walter Colemen, the Gettysburg National Park Superintendent, reported 47,000 visitors toured the Battlefield in April of that year. 

Nancy and I wondered how Park visitation in 1948 compared with the current rate, so we checked with Katie Lawhon, Public Affairs Specialist at the Gettysburg National Military Park, and Katie reported that in April of 2016 112,850 people visited the Park, and by the end of last year visits totlaed well over one million.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

103 A National High School Graduation

In the spring of 1948, the National Association of Secondary School Principals chose Gettysburg High School for a singular honor. Commencement exercises on June 1 that year were broadcast coast to coast over a network of Mutual stations of WOR, New York. The ceremony was referred to as the National High School Graduation.

The speaker, Dr. David E. Lilienthal, chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, gave an address titled, Youth in the Atomic Age. Following World War II which ended after atomic bombs were detonated over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, Lilienthal was chairman of a committee that advised President Harry Truman on the position of the United States in the Atomic Age. 

In his speech to the graduating seniors, Lilienthal was optimistic about future generations living in the Atomic Age "in which there is less suffering, less poverty, less misery."

"The Atomic Age can become an age of mercy, of joy and hope, one of the most blessed periods in all of history," he concluded.

Nancy and I wonder how Dr. Lilienthal would view the current Atomic Age in which there are believed to be 16,3000 nuclear weapons in nine countries including North Korea led by Kim Jong Un considered one of the world's most dangerous men.

We wonder how optimistic Dr. Lilienthal would be about the future of the would he be about the future of the world if he had foreseen a bomb 3,3000 times more powerful than those that fell on Jan in 1945?

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

102 Junior Prom:1948: A Moment inTime

The April 7, 1948 issue of the Maroon and White, our Gettysburg High School newspaper, carried a front page article about April Showers the Girls Scout Dance to be held in the school gym on Saturday, April 17.

Although we were together often for school functions and casual meetings at the Teen Canteen, Nancy and I did not date since the previous fall when she invited me to join her for two parties on successive weekends. April Showers would become a major turning point in our relationship, because when I invited her to go the dance with me, I was elated when she quickly agreed.

Nancy worked at Murphy's 5 & 10 on Baltimore Street on weekends, so we didn't get to the dance until 9:00, but according to her diary, she had a wonderful time. So did I apparently, because a few weeks later, she agreed to go with me to the Junior Prom on May15.

Although dinner, tuxedos and limos were not yet popular, the Junior Prom was a big deal in 1948 with an orchestra, decorations, corsages and gowns for the girls. We weren't aware of it that night, but our future together would be forever measured by that moment in time. 

From that night on, we have been a couple, dating through high school and college until five years later on May 30, 1953, we stood before a congregation of family and friends and pledged our love for all time. This year, we will celebrate our sixty-fourth wedding anniversary.

The photo to the left was taken in Nancy's backyard in 1948 at 336 Baltimore Street in Gettysburg.