The Charlotte News

Monday, December 26, 1955


Site Ed. Note: The front page reports from San Francisco that surging rivers from southern Oregon to Monterey Bay below San Francisco were receding, but that a mighty crest of water borne by the giant San Joaquin-Sacramento system threatened to pile up with a high incoming tide east of San Francisco Bay, with the levees protecting tidal flats in the rich delta country northeast of the city trembling under pounding waves as trucks roared through the night with sandbags for emergency gangs rushing from one weak spot to another to try to shore them up. The estimated dead in northern California and southern Oregon were presently 43, with five still missing in Oregon, and more possibly having drowned in the flooded northern California towns of Marysville and Yuba City. The rains had begun a week before Christmas and had left perhaps 50,000 persons homeless and caused damage estimated conservatively at 100 million dollars. The number of dead and the extent of the damage remained uncertain as many communities remained cut off from communications, and families and whole populations remained scattered from hasty evacuation. A total of 18 inches of rain had fallen within 48 hours in one locality in the Santa Cruz mountains south of San Francisco. Receding water had left flood marks six feet high on houses in Yuba City, 120 miles northwest of San Francisco, but some of its 8,000 residents had been permitted to return the previous day to determine their losses, having been shooed away again, however, as night fell because of a possible "backlash" from the Feather and Sacramento Rivers.

Associated Press reporter John Mayer, who had helped to save many lives by broadcasting civil defense orders from a local radio station in Yuba City during the flooding, reports from Marysville that the water had come into neighboring Yuba City, just across the Feather River, with a "loud p-o-o-s-h!" as "a wall, spreading in all directions and with such pressure that it raced up hills almost as if they weren't there," forcing people to run for their lives, that within 45 minutes, all, save possibly a sixth of the town, had been flooded, with nearly everyone in that short time-frame having evacuated. As soon as the levee on the river had broken, the word had been flashed by Mr. Mayer via the one remaining radio station in operation. People fled the two towns in cars, three abreast, bumper-to-bumper, at 10 mph. Some had been trapped and he believed that most of those had perished, but an exact number of the dead was still unknown. He recalled especially a fire alarm having gone off just as the levee had broken, prompting the firemen to answer it, only to have been met by a wall of water and forced to flee, with the house on fire, amid a sea of water, burning down. Two and a half hours later, the water had begun to recede, and before that, the pressure had been relieved on the Marysville levees, such that the town was never flooded. At daybreak, help began to come, with all varieties of airplanes, helicopters and numerous boats and Army ducks arriving in the area to try to rescue trapped survivors, which probably numbered in the hundreds. He recounts that possibly two-thirds of Yuba City was presently still under water and that returning to the town would be difficult. The sewage system was not working and potable water was not available, with no one knowing how long it would take to make the town habitable again. Mr. Mayer concludes by indicating that they were eating pretty well, that he had a turkey dinner for Christmas.

Individual members of the House Ways & Means Committee said that an individual income tax cut was possible in the following year, but wanted Congress to delay action until the Government spending situation became clearer. Representative Daniel Reed of New York, the senior Republican member of the Committee, said in an interview that he foresaw a "strong possibility" of some cut in individual income tax rates, but agreed with opinions of leaders of both parties that any such reduction had to await clearer evidence of the fiscal situation, sometime in the spring.

In Algiers, it was reported that two French boys, ages three and nine, had been the lone survivors of a family ambushed by the Nationalist terrorists on Christmas Eve, the chief of the rebel band having spared the lives of the two boys. They had been riding with their father, a forest guard, their mother and an older brother, age 12, in eastern Algeria, 40 miles south of Setif, when a fusillade killed the father, mother and the older brother, and the car had plunged into a ditch. The rebels who found the two surviving children, both wounded, had asked their leader in French whether they should finish them off, to which he had replied in the negative and told them to let them go. The two wounded children, walking hand in hand, started toward the nearest French post and when the three-year old could walk no farther, the nine-year old left him crying under a bush and ran the rest of the way to obtain help. During the Christmas weekend, the "little war" between France and the Nationalist rebels had taken 25 lives, with terrorists having massacred four Europeans and six Moslems, and killed three Algerian soldiers in a clash, while French troops had killed 11 rebels in various actions.

Near Gaylord, Mich., a 36-year old mother and her five children had died early this date when a flash fire had destroyed their two-story farmhouse, six miles from the town, with the husband being the sole survivor, telling police that he had awakened in the wee hours of the morning surrounded by smoke, called to his wife and they managed to gather two of the children and start downstairs, until smoke and fire separated him from his family. He thought that they had followed him to safety through a kitchen door, and when he realized they had not, sought to re-enter the house, but was prevented by smoke and flames.

In Charlotte, a Christmas Eve dinner had resulted in the death of a 26-year old woman, according to City police, after she and her husband, accompanied by another couple, had gone to a local restaurant for dinner, and upon her second bite of a steak, had strangled to death, despite members of the party having pounded on her back to try to dislodge the stuck piece of meat, without success. She had been pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital. The deceased had been a fashion illustrator for a number of women's apparel shops in Charlotte.

Charlotte had the warmest Christmas Day on record, following a cold snap which had ended just prior to Christmas, but with another cold snap forecast for the following day, with 32 degrees as a low, though followed by a forecast high of 56 in the afternoon. The low the previous day had been 52 during the morning, reaching a high of 77, six degrees over the previous record of 71 established in 1889. As a result of the warm weather, people had jammed the streets and roads of the city to visit with friends and relatives on Christmas. A cold front had moved into the area the previous afternoon but the bright sun had temporarily halted it, though the cold air made its presence known during the morning, when the temperature dropped to 40. It was expected to remain fair through the following day.

Across the country, the cold front had chilled much of the mid-continent this date, spreading as far south as the Gulf of Mexico, with temperatures dropping about ten degrees in much of the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley regions, and by as much as 25 degrees in parts of New England. Light rains continued along the Pacific Coast, with the heaviest amount falling over the southern Oregon coast. The forecast was not predicting any recurrence of the previous week's deluge which had produced devastating floods in northern California.

The National Safety Council reported that an all-time holiday death record was possible this date as motorists were returning from holiday travels, with the traffic fatalities having reached 461 by 10:00 a.m., plus 51 more deaths in fires, and 60 from various accidental causes, for an interim total of 572. The president of the Council said that the last day of any holiday period was always the worst, and he predicted that the total traffic toll would reach 560 during the 78-hour period which had begun at 6:00 p.m. the prior Friday and would end at midnight this date. Thus far, the rate had been eight traffic deaths per hour, and if that rate continued, it would set the all-time record for a holiday weekend, at 624, with the present record having been 556, established in 1952 over a four-day weekend, with the three-day weekend record being 545, set in 1950. The previous year's two-day holiday for Christmas had claimed 392 traffic deaths, plus 63 from fires and 60 from miscellaneous accidents. The overall accidental death records were 789 for the four-day period in 1951 and 734 for the three-day period of 1950, with the record number for any holiday period having been 805, set during the three-day Independence Day holiday of 1955. During a non-holiday test period, between December 9 and 12, the totals had been 364 traffic deaths, 57 from fires and 88 from miscellaneous accidents, or 509.

In North Carolina, at least 16 lives had been lost during the holiday weekend, 11 of whom had died in traffic-related accidents.

Incidentally, the rest of that story involving the Charlotte detective shooting to death one black man and wounding another on Friday, is here. Was it justified? Based on the detective's account, it appears to have been, but one has to question then why Police chief Frank Littlejohn had determined that the detective's report to the chief on the incident would be maintained in confidence and not released to the press or the public, with the detective's story, as related by the chief or possibly by the detective, himself, having been made available to the press and there being no other witness left to tell what occurred, apparently the wounded man still being at large. But, in considering alternative scenarios, don't start making up stories suggesting that the detective possibly was meeting some shrewish Kate for a date, and got caught out too late, as there is no evidence of that in the case, and so it would be entirely in poor taste.

In Barboursville, Va., there was a party being held at the Volunteer Fire Department, with an open house to the townsfolk, all of whom were having a good time, until a fire alarm went off just at the start of the party, and when the firemen returned from extinguishing the fire two hours later, the last of the guests were going home.

On the editorial page, "President and the Press: New Style" tells of it being reassuring that within 3 to 4 weeks the President would resume press conferences, not having held one since August 4, first because of the Congressional recess and then because of the President's September 24 heart attack. It finds it also good news that he had elected to continue his practice of receiving questions on the fly, not adopting the Coolidge-Hoover practice of demanding questions in writing in advance.

The absence of press conferences had meant that the public and the press were getting information from subordinate sources within the Administration, and, in consequence, foreign capitals were also not receiving information directly from the President. The resumption of the conferences was also politically astute, as the President would be able to be seen at work for the first time, and judgment could be made as to whether he was up to the pressures of the office for another four years, as press conferences typically lasted about a half hour and were strenuous, as the President had to cover a wide range of topics, most of them complex, some politically sensitive.

Reporters would return to the press conferences with plenty on their minds, wanting to know if there would be a tax cut in the coming year, how the President would analyze the new Communist offensive in the Middle East, whether he intended to take any action against Administration personnel who had approved the Dixon-Yates contract, and whether the defense budget was sufficient to meet the threat posed by rapid Soviet advances in aircraft and guided-missile technology.

It concludes that it would have been far easier for the President to have reverted to the Coolidge-Hoover format and by rejecting that proposal, had inspired new confidence in his capacity to resume executive leadership.

"Faceless Informers: Another Chapter" tells of the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission having denied compensation to two North Carolina veterans of the Korean War for time spent as prisoners in Korea after it had determined, based on anonymously supplied information, that the two men had collaborated with the enemy "voluntarily, knowingly and without duress." It had taken the intervention of North Carolina Representative Harold Cooley to get the Commission to overturn its decision as to one of the men, based on the notion that they were entitled to confront their accusers, with the case of the other man still pending.

It indicates that the action was entirely justified if the charge had been true, but, based only on anonymous information, it was completely unfair to the two men, and should not have taken the intervention of a Congressman for the Commission to act fairly.

It concludes that unfortunately, it was a widespread idea in the Government that men could be marked on the basis of secret information, though repugnant to the principles of a free society, and that only by publicity given such cases as those cited, was it being curbed.

"The Day That Was Christmas" tells of Christmas having been a day which had come indoors and was welcome, "could have been winter's Christmas gift or spring's promise", making the writer wonder why they had spray-canned snow on windows and sent Christmas cards embossed with snow and ice, when there was no snow on the ground but rather a dazzling sun on a winter's day.

It then agrees with the Georgia soldier, quoted from John Brown's Body.

A piece from the Columbus (Ga.) Ledger, titled "Lissenin' to Chillun", begins with: "Our teachers show wuk hawd, juss no two wayzaboutit, and Ahm not gone critcizem. But theys jes one thing Ah wanna know an Ahm show so boutit, and thas why is it hour students talk lak they do."

And it goes on in that cawnpawn language throughout, concluding: "But Ah still wanna know whut happen to the millyuns we spent on edjication when chillun come outa schools tawking lieka buncha cawton pickuhs. Ahm show gone try to find out. Ah showly would likeka know."

Drew Pearson, in Thule, Greenland, tells of the commander of the American base there, Col. "Rip" Rohr, being in charge of 6,000 men and three women and liking the weather at the Arctic base, as they did not face ordinary diseases and maladies, such as mumps or measles, as the extreme cold killed all of the germs. He said, however, that they would probably contract some virus after the entertainment group brought in by Mr. Pearson departed, as they had brought with them some germs, but at present, their hospital was only half full and the patients only had sprained ankles, broken legs and the like. He said that the colony of Eskimos which had lived in Thule prior to the Air Force having established its base there, had to be transplanted about 100 miles away and contact forbidden between the Air Force personnel and the Eskimos so that the latter would not fall victim to American imported diseases, as a case of the mumps or measles could be fatal to the natives, having built up no immunity to such maladies. American personnel were also prohibited from hunting seals, Arctic foxes and polar bears, which had become scarce and were reserved only for the Greenlanders, the name applied to people of mixed Eskimo and other blood. The full-blooded Eskimos were also becoming scarce, with only about a hundred living on the northern tip of Greenland. The total population of Greenland was only about 25,000, chiefly Danes and Greenlanders, and yet Greenland was three times the size of Texas, and American personnel presently constituted nearly half of the population, located mainly in the south.

Relations between Denmark, which owned Greenland, and the U.S. had been quite friendly, with the U.S. having been invited to establish a base on Greenland as part of Denmark's contribution to NATO. The Danish liaison officer at Thule, Commander Orla Jensen, had gone out of his way to tell Mr. Pearson during an interview that he enjoyed working with his American colleagues, and was consulted on all major matters by the American commander.

Likewise, in Labrador and Newfoundland, American troops were present only through the invitation and courtesy of the Canadian Government. At Goose Bay, Labrador, Col. James Knapp, the American commander, had command of about twice as many men as the Canadian commander, but took orders from the Canadian, telling Mr. Pearson that that they got along quite well.

Recreation in Thule was a problem, as at all such extreme northern bases, as the nights were long and, at Thule, no wives or children were present, with the men receiving no leave for a full year. The commander said that he kept his men happy by keeping them busy, that much of their time was spent trying to stay alive. He provided a television report to the entire base every Wednesday evening and also permitted each man to come to see him privately on Thursdays to discuss any personal problems. Every night, the television station carried the top television shows from the U.S., dispatched by film, while the enlisted men's club, the base gymnasium and hobby shop also helped to kill time, with the hobby shop having woodworking tools, photographic equipment, leather-making tools, modeling and painting materials. The enlisted men also operated a telephone-radio to the U.S., via a ham radio operator in Slingerlands, N.Y., who spent his weekends and evenings receiving messages via ham radio which were then dispatched to relatives of the men by telephone.

There is next a break in the column, with a portion having been excised indelicately, leaving a hanging paragraph, which probably suggested that the show put on by the troupe traveling with Mr. Pearson had not ended until 2:00 a.m., with them scheduled to depart for the next show four hours later.

He also indicates that from mid-November until the end of February, the men living at Thule never saw the sun, and when they went out, even at noon, they wore illuminated Scotch tape on the arms of their parkas to make themselves visible to automobiles.

There was no madness recorded from the loneliness, as the men worked together and with teamwork, though lonesome for their wives and families, but believing that they would be better husbands and fathers when they returned home, as a result of their experiences in the Arctic.

He closes by indicating that readers could be glad that while they enjoyed the generosity of Santa Claus during the Christmas season, they did not actually have to live in "Santa Claus land".

Robert N. Elliot looks at the nation's previous First Ladies, indicating that history books and teachers had given a lot of attention to the role of previous Presidents, but not so much to the women who often achieved amplification of their ideas and ideals through their husbands in the White House. "We know that George Washington was a great and good man who seldom swore or played around with the truth; we know that Andrew Jackson was impetuous and died regretting that he had not hanged John C. Calhoun; we know that Abraham Lincoln approached saintliness and was quite a hand with the axe and pen; and we know, depending on party affiliation, that Dwight D. Eisenhower is the epitome of an American." But little was known of their wives.

Men were considered to be the forefront of action, recording their own deeds, usually in words of extravagant adulation, with their achievements becoming "masterpieces of heroism told with cunning deceit." Occasionally, men grudgingly acknowledged the help of the "little woman", who, as the men put it, saw that they left the house correctly dressed and in time to meet important appointments. He suggests that, doubtless, it was so with the nation's past Presidents.

There had been 33 men in the White House, with Grover Cleveland counting as two Presidencies, intervened by the Presidency of Benjamin Harrison, and thus President Eisenhower was in the 34th Presidency. With the exception of James Buchanan, who served a single term between 1857 and 1861, all had been married men, even if in four instances, Presidents' wives had predeceased their entry to the White House, and in three other instances, their wives had died while in the White House.

Thomas Jefferson's wife had died 18 years before he had become President in 1801, but he had relied on his daughter to be hostess while he was in office. Andrew Jackson's wife had died on the eve of his inauguration, and he had relied on his niece for the strength which he had lost. Chester A. Arthur, who had become President in the wake of the assassination of James Garfield in 1881, had the support of his sister after his wife had died. Only Martin Van Buren, among the widowers entering the White House, whose wife had died 17 years before he became President in 1837, had endured alone for some period of time until he was forced to enlist the help of his daughter-in-law as hostess for White House functions.

President Cleveland had come to the Presidency in 1885 as a bachelor, but within one year had married a woman 27 years his younger, having been his ward from the time she was 11 years old, as the daughter of his law partner when he was younger and thus was appointed her guardian ten years before they were married. The Clevelands became the first First Couple to have a child while in the White House—President and Mrs. John F. Kennedy later, in August, 1963, becoming the next and thus far only other First Couple to have that distinction, though the Kennedy's third child would survive birth only by two days, their second child, John, Jr., having been born three weeks after the 1960 election. Mrs. Cleveland had survived her husband by several years, and five years after former President Cleveland's death, married a college professor.

John Tyler, who had come to the Presidency in 1841, after the death of President William Henry Harrison from contracting pneumonia at his inauguration, had lost his wife a little over a year after becoming President, but had remarried two years later, his new wife having been 30 years his junior. The way he had met her was by invitation to her and her father to be guests of the President on the flagship Princeton for an outing on the Potomac, at which time a gun was fired in salute, but exploded, killing the young woman's father, causing her to faint into the arms of the President, who dutifully carried her off of the ship, and they were married five months later.

Woodrow Wilson had also lost his wife after entering the Presidency, and, dependent for encouragement from women, remarried a little over a year after his first wife's death.

Theodore Roosevelt had been, at that time, the only other President to have married twice—with Ronald Reagan and Joe Biden being the other two since 1955, though President Reagan remaining the only President ever to have been divorced, President Biden having lost his first wife and infant daughter in an automobile accident in late 1972, shortly after he had been elected to the Senate, the present First Lady, Dr. Jill Biden, then a school teacher, having met Senator Biden some two years later, married in 1977. (We do not count El Presidente, also divorced, as having been a real President, and so...) TR's first wife had died three years after their marriage, following the birth of a daughter, and two years later, he had married a childhood friend, who remained his supportive companion for the rest of his life.

Eliza Johnson, the wife of Andrew Johnson, who had succeeded to the Presidency upon the assassination of President Lincoln in 1865, had been the youngest bride ever to marry a future President, having been only 17 at the time, while Andrew was only 18. When they had first met, young Mr. Johnson had arrived in Tennessee as an uneducated tailor, unable to read or write, and the future Mrs. Johnson, a school teacher, taught him how to do so, with Mr. Elliot positing sarcastically that it was perhaps the reason he wound up impeached in 1868.

Millard Fillmore, who succeeded to the Presidency upon the death in 1850 of President Zachary Taylor, had also been taught by his future wife, young Millard having been one of her many students, singled out for extra help after class and at night, eight years later having married him. Once they had reached the White House, Mrs. Fillmore, unlike her predecessors, did not confine her social interaction to the White House, but attended concerts, public lectures, art exhibits and literary meetings, established the first library in the White House, after prevailing upon her husband to obtain an appropriation from Congress for it, and also saw to it that the first running water and bathtub came to the White House during their scant 2 1/2 years as residents.

Bess Truman had been the oldest woman to marry a future President, having been 34 when she finally said "yes" to Harry, a haberdasher having trouble at business.

Anna Harrison, wife of President William Henry Harrison, and Lucy Hayes, wife of President Rutherford B. Hayes, had borne eight children each, the most ever produced by future First Ladies, while John Tyler produced seven children from each of his two wives. The wife of President Jackson, the wife of President James K. Polk, President Wilson's second wife, and the wife of President Warren G. Harding, each had no children.

Mr. Elliot indicates that few Presidents had the temerity to marry outside their station in life, President Lincoln having been one, but having failed to show up at the first scheduled ceremony, eventually marrying Mary Todd a year later, later commenting, "One 'd' is enough for God, but the Todds need two."

The wife of President Hayes, in office between 1877 and 1881, represented what some had called the "New Woman Era", when women began to assert their independence and rights in the latter portion of the 19th Century, including the right to vote, to hold office, to legislate and control their property, etc. Mrs. Hayes took an active leadership role in that era, being the first First Lady to have graduated from a chartered college, as most women of that time did not go beyond finishing school or high school. She permitted no alcoholic beverages to be served in the White House and became known, in consequence, as "Lemonade Lucy". When Congress had passed a law closing the Capitol grounds to children on Easter Monday because they were ruining the grass, she had defied them and ordered the gates of the White House opened, reintroducing the customary egg-rolling which had been iniated years earlier by First Lady Dolly Madison during the term of husband James. Mr. Elliot suggests that it cast doubt on the fatal admission once made by President Hayes that his wife perhaps had "no influence with Congress, but she had great influence with me."

Abigail Adams, wife of President John Adams, who served from 1797 to 1801, had advocated equal rights for women as early as 1777. Theodore Roosevelt had said of his second wife, Edith, "Whenever I go against her judgment, I regret it." The wife of President Herbert Hoover had begun her career by studying geology, and Grace Coolidge, wife of President Calvin Coolidge, had, before their marriage, taught in a deaf school, which Mr. Elliot suggests might have been a reason for the traditional silence of "Silent Cal", based on the notion that Mrs. Coolidge was accustomed to stating things without response, thus accounting for her husband having developed the trait of speaking only in monosyllables or not at all.

It might be added, for accuracy in recounting history properly, ignoring the silly constraints imposed by the archaic, elitist convention of the Electoral College, that Hillary Clinton, in 2016, became the first former First Lady and first female to be elected to the Presidency, at least by the proper convention, in any self-respecting democracy not seeking to live by the pre-Edisonian lights of the 18th Century, of nationwide popular vote. Light a candle for her this Boxing Day—as well for Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., who was, when a Senator, a major proponent of amending the Constitution to afford proportional electoral voting based on each state's popular vote, though had it been thus, he would still not have been elected Vice-President in 1960, despite the closeness of the popular vote nationally.

A Pome appears from the Atlanta Journal, "In Which Is Enunciated An Underlying Principle Of Proper Dressing:

"A fashion-place would never choose
To uglify his tans with blue."

But with one for the money, two for the shoe,
Go cat, get ready, and get your honey due.

Second Day of Christmas: Two cheeses from which to choose—one being Big and the other, grape juice...

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