The Charlotte News

Saturday, December 24, 1949


Site Ed. Note: The front page reports that an emergency Interstate Commerce Commission order gave first preference to the railroads for receiving coal during the shortage produced by the three-day work week, reduced to two days for the two-week holiday period. The companies would so qualify if they had less than a nine-day supply on hand.

In Vatican City, Pope Pius XII opened the 1950 Holy Year of the Roman Catholic Church this date amid ringing of church bells, cheers of a crowd of 50,000 people, and also angry Communist protests. The latter crowds stoned the Spanish Embassy and yelled "death to Franco", protesting the presence in Rome of Spanish Foreign Minister Martin Artajo. Communists had ordered and then quickly canceled a general strike in Rome at the same time the Pontiff symbolically struck a silver hammer three times to open the Holy Year.

The annual pilgrimage to Bethlehem was small in 1949 because of rain and mud, plus the recent war. The dull sound of explosions could be heard by the pilgrims as Israeli soldiers cleared wartime mines from their route, passing through an Israeli-held Arab-Israeli demarcation line. Inside the Holy City, Christmas worship would continue as usual and a mass would be held at St. Catherine's Church adjoining the Church of the Nativity, where it was believed Christ was born.

Traffic fatalities had already accounted for 49 of 71 lives lost in accidents across the nation since 6:00 p.m. the previous day. In a collision between a car and a gasoline truck, a Texas farm family of five had burned to death and a truck driver was killed.

A six-year old boy in Newton, Mass., was electrocuted as he played in front of his decorated Christmas tree after he put his finger in an open light socket as he lay on the iron grate of a hot-air register. It may have been euthanasia.

In San Antonio, Tex., a mother and five of her six children died in a fire at their home caused by an overheated wood stove.

Pour some gasoline on that sucker if she won't burn well enough. Get a hose and really stoke her up.

Columnist Bruce Barton begins by relating that Charles Kettering of G.M., inventor of the electric starter, had been approached by a young man on May 20, 1927 and breathlessly told of the news that Charles Lindbergh had crossed the Atlantic alone. His response was that by the young man's excitement, he expected to hear that he had done the feat in committee.

Mr. Barton suggests that each person at some time or another desired counsel. He rarely made an important decision without discussing it with his wife, his son, his secretary or one of his business partners. But talk, he finds, often took the place of decision-making. It did not always take a committee to make a decision, as with Nelson at Trafalgar, who devised his own strategy. Thomas Gray, a friend had reminded, wrote alone his "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard", not through a government commission.

He says that he had another friend whose wife had already written his epitaph: "Gone—to another meeting."

In Athens, Ga., a divorced wife, the previous night, shot her former husband, dean of the University of Georgia School of Journalism, wounding him three times in the chest. She had also critically wounded his secretary, hitting her twice. Both were expected to survive. The woman had driven home after the shootings and described her actions on the phone to friends who called police. The couple were divorced the previous summer after 24 years of marriage.

In Phoenix, Miss America, Jacque Mercer, 18, announced that she would marry her high school sweetheart the following July 4.

Stores across the nation reported late Christmas shopping during the week, with a new record high for the week ending December 17, offsetting slower sales during November.

Typical weather was predicted for Christmas, with a white one for the central part of the nation and cold pervading the Rockies, Midwest and Northeast.

On the editorial page, "The Christmas Story" quotes the verses from Luke in the Bible describing the birth of Jesus and the revelation of it to the shepherds tending their flocks.

"Merry Christmas to All" imparts Christmas and New Year's wishes from News publisher Thomas L. Robinson to the readers, subscribers, employees, and advertisers of The News.

Thanks to the calendar this year, we didn't even get a day off. Why didn't you suspend publication on Christmas Eve, Mr. Robinson, and show genuine concern for both your readers and employees? How about at least Boxing Day off?

"Christmas" tells of the Yuletide spirit not having reached Charlotte until the morning of this date. No one had felt Christmas in their bones in 1949. But for this one day, people were cheerful and polite, showing a "benign sort of innocence" such that everyone suddenly seemed young again. It concludes that Christmas made children of everyone.

A piece from the Duke Chronicle, titled "Once a Year", finds it too bad that the Christmas spirit which had done such miraculous things as to stop a war for a day in 1917 could not persist on every day of the year.

Drew Pearson tells of the back-story behind the decision of the President to reveal to the American people in September the fact of the Soviet explosion of an atom bomb the previous August. The seismographic data had suggested such a strong explosion that either the entire Soviet arsenal had been set off by the blast or they had a bomb far more powerful than that exploded at Hiroshima in 1945.

At first, the British were opposed to revealing the secret for fear that the British people, already upset with the Labor Government and devaluation of the pound, might not take the news well. There was a plan suggested to leak the news through James Reston of the New York Times but that was abandoned.

Eventually, former FDR press secretary and Undersecretary of Defense Steve Early made the most convincing argument to the President for release, that not to do so would result in the Russians exploiting the news for propaganda purposes and probably releasing it before the U.N., potentially demoralizing the American people and causing them not to trust their government any longer to protect them. This argument won out and was relayed to Secretary of State Acheson, tied down with the U.N. General Assembly meeting in New York, and to Prime Minister Attlee. The British finally agreed and the news was released less than 24 hours later.

Railway Express had raised its rates four times since 1945 and in consequence, the Post Office was doing a booming Christmas business, double that of the prior year, in Christmas mail through parcel post. It was believed that hard times might lie ahead for Railway Express, founded more than a hundred years earlier from Wells Fargo.

Automobile manufacturers, he reports, might have to absorb steel price increases rather than raising prices as sales had dipped because of high prices. Prices would likely be decreased to encourage sales.

Portugal was the only nation to resist the call of the U.N. to protest the arrest and deportation of American Consul General in Mukden Angus Ward. They feared that protest would cause Communist China to invade Portugal's island of Macao off the China coast, a center for the opium trade.

Hundreds of former German army officers were leaving the American and British zones of Germany for the Russian zone to join the new German militia formed by the Russians.

The Russians were said to be preparing to release German General von Paulus so that he could head the pro-Russian German army in East Germany. It was reported that he had become such a rabid Communist while in captivity that he believed he was destined to be East Germany's new leader, with the blessing of Moscow.

Joseph & Stewart Alsop tell of the best and brightest in foreign affairs, as in domestic matters, leaving the Truman Administration, with the result that the mediocre would be left to run things. National Security Council executive secretary Sidney Souers was leaving as was Presidential adviser and speechwriter Clark Clifford. Secretary of the Army Gordon Gray was only taking over the Army on a temporary basis. High commissioner for the U.S. occupation zone of West Germany, John J. McCloy, was rumored to be leaving the following fall to return to his law practice.

David Lilienthal was departing as AEC chairman. Chief planner George Kennan was leaving the State Department. Paul Hoffman was leaving as head of ERP, possibly to be replaced by Averell Harriman, head of ERP in Europe, or Ambassador to Britain Lewis Douglas. But either of the latter would leave positions in which they were already considered valuable.

They conclude that mediocrity beget mediocrity, that defense and foreign aid had fallen victim to the Truman tendency toward the mediocre. So it was easy to understand why so many were leaving. But the Alsops cannot understand how the Government was to carry on successfully its foreign policy when only the cronies and second-raters would remain on the job.

Robert C. Ruark, in Honolulu, tells of flying across the Pacific from San Francisco aboard a Pan Am Stratocruiser, sitting beside a sailor who described himself as a carpenter who was a drunk going to work in Eniwetok for the Atomic Energy Commission. Mr. Ruark found the fact to be symbolic of the world situation.

When he arrived in Honolulu, he was greeted by three men, one of whom he had known during the war, another as a fellow journalist, and the third when he had been a student at UNC many years earlier. He marvels therefore at the tininess of the world and how the airplane had shrunk it.

Tom Schlesinger of The News provides his weekly "Capital Roundup", tells of North Carolina's Paul Green receiving much publicity in Washington for his having written a symphonic drama on five days in the life of General George Washington, in celebration of the Capital's Sesquicentennial, set for the following July 4. He had managed to get a group of experts together to build a 4,000-seat amphitheater for the presentation. Mr. Schlesinger provides a brief description of the play, yet without a title. Mr. Green hoped it would become a permanent production as with his "The Lost Colony" in Manteo, N.C.

A radio war between Cuba and the U.S. could result in loss of many clear channels in the Southeast, including Charlotte's WBT, as Cuba was demanding eleven new frequencies, thus far resisted by the U.S.

Secretary of the Army Gordon Gray was still being mentioned as a distinct possibility to replace Senator Frank Graham as UNC president.

Over 1,300 people had attended the North Carolina Society's Mistletoe Mingle the previous week.

It was likely that former Senator Robert Rice Reynolds would run for the Senate again and that former interim Senator William Umstead would not, the latter probably opting to run for governor in 1952, for which he would receive support which would be absent in a Senate run against Senator Graham.

The new ornamented plaster and stainless steel ceilings for the Senate and House chambers of the Capitol had been completed. Both chambers were now air conditioned and new acoustical material had been installed in the upper walls. The new lighting was indirect and the hideous steel beams which had kept the roof from collapsing had been removed.

Too bad that the country this past November, or more properly, the spare majorities of the citizens of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan, the 78,000 who, perhaps for the first time in history in any country calling itself a democracy, trumped the will nationally of 2.9 million voters, decided to restore stale, hot air to the Capitol and, moreover, to the White House.

Merry Christmas to all—except to those who voted for the Idiot. To you, the greedy, deluded and foolish, we wish for the coming year nothing but coal, coal, and more coal.

Special Note on Christmas Day: The First Day of Christmas in Trumplanderkind: Ein Rebhuhn im Birnbaum.

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