The Charlotte News

Thursday, December 31, 1953


Site Ed. Note: The front page reports that in Panmunjom, Indian troops had performed a year-end head count of the Chinese prisoners of war in their custody this date and determined that 135 of the 4,385 had asked to return to Communist China. An Indian spokesman emphasized that the count was not a screening and did not substitute for the formal interviews, which had ended on December 23. Indian guards, however, gave the prisoners expressing a desire to return home every chance to ask for repatriation. There was no indication whether the head count would be extended to the camp holding 22 Americans who had refused repatriation from the Communists. There was also no indication whether the count would be extended to North Koreans and South Koreans or the lone Briton in custody. Approximately 20,000 non-repatriating prisoners previously held by the U.N. and 100 previously held by the Communists, including the 22 Americans, had not been interviewed during the 90-day explanations period provided by the Armistice.

In Berlin, two Americans just released two days earlier by the Russians following years of imprisonment and forced labor had said this date that Soviet detention camps were "hell holes" where murder and violent death were commonplace. The Army private and merchant seaman, who were arrested separately at different times, had been turned over to the Americans in Berlin two days earlier after successful negotiations between the State Department and Moscow. The merchant seaman said that he had tried to go to the Soviet Union to see what Communism was like there, and had been refused a visa, at which point he crossed into Russia via the Finnish border in 1951, where he was arrested, convicted and sentenced to three years. The private, a military policeman in West Berlin, said that he was apparently drugged in a café on September 5, 1949, and that when he awakened, he was in Russian custody. They had sentenced him to 53 years after a quick trial on charges of being part of an intelligence organization and on suspicion of having slain a Russian officer. Both men said that they saw many foreigners in various work camps, including American soldiers who had once been stationed in Germany or Austria.

The State Department this date ordered the Rumanian legation in Washington to cease publication of a newspaper and other Communist publications within the country, the statement indicating that the directive resulted from the Rumanian Government's December 29 ban of a monthly publication issued by the American legation in Bucharest, first issued the previous October and having a circulation of about 1,600.

The excess profits tax on corporations would expire the following day, reducing revenue by about three billion dollars annually. Likewise, the individual income tax rates would be reduced by ten percent, to compensate for a like increase which had occurred at the start of the Korean War, also reducing revenue by about three billion. The Social Security payroll tax, levied on both employees and employers, would rise from 1.5 to two percent, increasing income to the Social Security trust fund by about 1.5 billion dollars annually. House Ways & Means Committee chairman Daniel Reed of New York had said that the individual income tax reduction was not enough and he hoped for another reduction as soon as possible, also calling for reductions in corporate income and excise or sales taxes. A story provides particular examples of what the drop in individual income tax would mean to average taxpayers.

Disagreement continued regarding the President's policy to let defense contracts in areas of unemployment, with Senate Majority Leader William Knowland of California saying that the new policy was a disappointment and that he would back legislation to modify it. Southern Democrats had bitterly protested the program, which was similar to one put into effect by the Truman Administration in 1952 and dropped by the Eisenhower Administration the previous August. Senator Burnet Maybank of South Carolina said that he would introduce legislation at the first opportunity to prevent the program from being carried out.

In Raleigh, Governor William B. Umstead said to a news conference that he did not think much of the announced plans of the Administration to channel defense spending into areas of unemployment, that the plan might cause business to be sapped away from the Southern textile industry in favor of New England, a criticism voiced by several Southern members of Congress the previous day. He said that the country was in a slight business recession which would involve some unemployment and some decrease in business, but that he was not pessimistic about the situation and was pleased that sales tax receipts and reports on Christmas spending had indicated that the recession had produced little apparent effect on North Carolina, despite a drought during the prior summer. He also indicated that 1,102 persons had been killed in traffic accidents in the state during the year, commenting that if that many deaths had occurred as a result of polio or tuberculosis, the people probably would be much more conscious of the situation and realize the necessity of doing something about it.

In Rome, it was reported that five people had frozen to death in Italy during the previous 48 hours.

In Budapest, imported oranges, making their annual appearance for the holidays, were 10 percent cheaper than the previous year, costing the equivalent of $1.25 per pound.

In many cities across the world, the gayest and biggest New Year's Eve celebrations since the end of World War II were expected, caused by the hope that perhaps peace would have a better chance in 1954. In Moscow, the sales of champagne had tripled in comparison to the 1953 New Year's period, and from New York to San Francisco, theaters and nightclubs expected the largest crowds of the postwar era. Many planned to gather in churches for watch night services, bidding farewell to the old year and praying for peace, health and prosperity in the year ahead. The President would attend a small celebration at the clubhouse of the Augusta National Golf Club, and would go to work early the following day on his State of the Union message to Congress, to be delivered on January 7. Federal offices had closed at noon this date in accordance with the President's executive order. Arthur Godfrey and 11 of his entourage would entertain U.S. Air Force personnel at Thule in Greenland, the northernmost post for any American military personnel. Police in New York City assigned 850 officers to Times Square, where the previous year the crowd had been estimated at 200,000, one of the smallest in years, expected to be larger this night. About 412,000 American sports fans had paid an estimated $1,729,000 to attend nine football bowl games on New Year's Day, with the Rose Bowl in Pasadena expected to have the largest crowd, just over 100,000, to watch Michigan State play UCLA.

The National Safety Council predicted a possible 360 traffic fatalities during the three-day weekend.

In Houston, an armed robber escaped with an estimated $50,000 from the Houston National Bank during the morning, after having pulled a gun on a 19-year old bank employee who worked in the vault, and ordered him to put several stacks of twenties, tens and fives into a leather briefcase which he was carrying. The robber's age was estimated at about 28. Thus, if you see someone who is 27 or 29, forget about it. He is not the one.

In Lodge Grass, Mont., a white man had participated in an Indian ceremony and was under sacred oath this date never to exchange words or glances with his mother-in-law, following a Crow Indian adoption ceremony. The man, a beverage company official from Kentucky, became the first white man adopted by the tribe in five years, at a pre-New Year's rite of the tribe's War Dance Society, part of a four-day jamboree. Samson Bird-in-the-Ground placed a feathered headdress and beaded moccasins on the man, indicating that he would be cared for by his tribal parents, in exchange for which he would assume the duties of a Crow, including avoidance of conversation with or about his mother-in-law, refraining from looking at her or being seen or talked about by her.

In Burlington, Wisc., the Burlington Liars' Club named its champion liar for 1953, a man who said that the strongest wind he had ever heard hit his place the previous summer, along with a "slam-bang" thunderstorm, had been so strong that it picked up his cast-iron wash kettle, which was about three feet across and two feet deep, and blew it out of the country, blowing it so fast that while it was sailing across the front yard, the lightning struck it five times and missed. Honorable mention was given to a man who said that during drought years on the South Texas coast, Baffin Bay became so salty that the fishermen used a bottle of freshwater with a nipple on it for bait. Another man won honorable mention by telling of having nearly gotten shot while deer hunting the previous fall, as he had seen a large buck standing, looking away from him as he came around the bend in the trail, then shot the deer in the back of the head, at which point it turned around so quick to see where the shot had come from that the bullet came out between his eyes and went right back into the rifle barrel. Another honorable mention went to a man who said that he and another fellow had been building a house, that when they were putting on the siding, he had noticed that the other man was throwing away about half the nails, prompting him to inquire as to the problem with those nails, to which the other man responded that they had heads on the wrong end, making him mad, telling the man that those were the nails they used on the other side of the house.

In Charlotte, James P. McMillan was named the city's Man of the Year—as further explained in the first editorial below.

On the editorial page, "James P. McMillan—Man of the Year" praises the selection of Mr. McMillan as Charlotte's Man of the Year. His biggest assignment in 1953 had been to save the auditorium-coliseum project by leading a public campaign to raise an additional one million dollars in bonds, for a total of four million dollars, the additional sum caused by inflation. In 1946, he had been the leader of an unsuccessful bond campaign for a municipal auditorium and was a member of the original study committee which recommended a site for the auditorium and coliseum, approved by the voters in 1950, and had since served as chairman of the building committee, and as a member of the authority which would manage the complex in the future.

He was also president of the Rotary Club, directed his large business, served his church and other worthy community activities. It finds that his greatest accomplishment was his Charlotte Boys Choir, which had provided to hundreds of Charlotte youths the opportunity to learn music, travel, and develop self-confidence.

"Year End Report to Our Readers" indicates that reviewing the newspaper's files brought humility, recognition of where the editorials had gone wrong. On one occasion, for instance, it had recommended "disbursement" of defense industries instead of dispersal. On another occasion, it had defined a pessimist as a person who wore both pants and suspenders while an optimist wore neither, when it meant both belt and suspenders. And it provides other such examples.

It also sets forth several opinions ventured through the year, on local, state and national issues. It suggests that it might have concentrated too much on Senator McCarthy and McCarthyism, rather than on the dangers inherent in the tactics which the Senator had used. It had opined anent the issue of segregation in the public schools that the right of the states to have dual systems should be upheld, that the heart of the "'Negro problem'" was provision of equal economic opportunity. It indicates that frequently through the year, it had pointed up the relationship between job discrimination and poverty, crime, disease, and migration of highly educated black people to other states after receiving their educations in North Carolina.

"It was a controversial, thought-provoking, and exciting year, one that taxed the capacities of the free American who thinks for himself. And one of the more encouraging things about 1953 was that toward its close there were many indications that an ever larger number of free Americans are beginning to think for themselves."

A piece from the New York World-Telegram and Sun, titled "The Public Be Damned", indicates that if the people in the liquor business wondered why their business was often suspect, they should consider a statement attributed to the president of the National Licensed Beverage Association at its recent convention, that it was about time the responsibility for purchase by minors was placed where it belonged, on parents.

The piece indicates that the responsibility for sale of liquor to minors was where it belonged, on the liquor sellers, whose right to sell alcoholic beverages was temporary based on licensing. It hopes that the term of the spokesman who had made the statement at the convention would be a short one.

Drew Pearson indicates that the President was aware that if he did not put across his program during 1954, it would be too late. Recently, he had a conversation with a close friend in which he stated that if he had remained in the military, his record would have stood alongside that of any of the great military figures, such as Lee, Grant and even George Washington, but after becoming President, he realized that his place in history would not be based on his military record but rather on his record as President. The friend had noted a tinge of sadness in his voice, as if he was somewhat sorry he allowed himself to be drafted by the Republicans. He also displayed, however, a note of determination, that he was not going to allow his record as President to be one of failure.

The question was whether the President could put across his program in the second session of the 83rd Congress. Congressman Dan Reed of New York, the chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee, which was responsible for writing taxes, had not attended the recent White House conference on the 1954 legislative agenda, instead taking a vacation in Panama after telling colleagues that he planned to write his own new tax bill. The President's tax program was vital to the success of his overall legislative program, and Mr. Reed was not going to cooperate, just as he had not cooperated in the first session, wherein the Democrats rescued the Administration's tax program.

The President had also stated in his 1953 budget message to Congress that the primary reason he would be unable to balance the budget was because of the financial mess left behind by the Democrats, a criticism which caused former House Speaker Sam Rayburn to denounce the budget message and the President for trying to put forward an alibi for his budget failure. The President had then called Mr. Rayburn and said that he had always thought they had been friends, inviting him to breakfast the following morning, at which time the President had expressed concern over the speech and hoped for Mr. Rayburn's nonpartisan support. Mr. Rayburn replied that he was anxious to support the President as long as he remained nonpartisan, but that when he began criticizing the Democrats in the budget message, he was not operating in that vein. The President claimed that he had never seen the budget message prior to its release and Mr. Rayburn believed he was telling the truth. Presidents Roosevelt and Truman had taken special care with their budget messages, with FDR holding an hour-long special conference to explain each major item in advance of its release, but President Eisenhower had confessed that he did not know what was in his own budget message to Congress.

Stewart Alsop indicates that the coming session of Congress promised to be rancorous, despite the facts that the President had done an excellent job of persuasion of the Republican Congressional leaders recently, and that his program was modest and mildly conservative without controversy, based on the Republican convention platform. It might be expected, therefore, that Congress would quickly enact the program and proceed to fence-mending for the 1954 midterm elections. But nothing of the sort was anticipated.

At least four major issues would confront the Senate as soon as it convened, before even considering the President's program. Those included consideration of the Bricker amendment, the St. Lawrence Seaway, statehood for Hawaii and raising the debt ceiling, each likely to provoke considerable opposition. Senator Harry F. Byrd, for instance, with friends on both sides of the aisle, had said he was ready to fight against raising the debt ceiling. Yet, it was hard to imagine how the Government could operate without doing so.

The Bricker amendment might show how far the Republicans were willing to go with the President, who opposed it while most of its support came from Republicans.

The Democrats believed that they had a winning issue in the midterm elections in the farm policy of the Administration, unless Secretary of Agriculture Ezra Taft Benson suddenly changed course and supported high, rigid parity supports, in which case he would split the Republicans.

Trouble could also be caused by the President's proposed atomic technology and matériel pooling between the atomic powers, requiring revision of the Atomic Energy Act which presently forbade such sharing with any foreign nation.

The worst trouble might be caused by taxes, especially the excise taxes, scheduled for reduction of about a billion dollars on April 1, while Treasury Secretary George Humphrey wanted to maintain the present level of revenue from excise taxes to aid in balancing the budget. Mr. Humphrey had the support of the President in that regard. But powerful business groups were putting pressure on Congress to lower the excise taxes and conservative Republicans were unlikely to withstand that pressure. Democrats, from whom the Administration had once hoped to obtain support, were unlikely to do so in the wake of the charges by Attorney General Herbert Brownell that the Truman Administration had been soft on eliminating Communists from the Government.

Thus, Mr. Alsop concludes, the President's program was in for rough sailing and he would have to be in command of the situation by mid-summer when Congress would adjourn for the elections, not an easy task.

Frederick C. Othman indicates that 1953 had been a year of industrial revolution but that he was not certain that life had become easier. Developments ranged from hats to toothpaste to apple jelly to bedsheets, and an invisible telephone inside a telephone booth, with the receiver built into the walls. The phone company had installed such a booth in Boston to see how people would like it. He fails to see the advantage and instead believes engineers ought to figure out how to make softer planks for pay station phoners.

When the President had decided to don a Homburg rather than a silk top hat for his inauguration, those who sold silk hats were left with a large stock on hand and a bitter feeling against reporters who had spread the news, such as Mr. Othman. Thus, for the New Year's celebrations, the haberdasheries were advertising Homburgs, relegating silk top hats to television comics.

A device had been invented to cut out the loudspeaker on the television set during commercials, an item which he says he did not need for the commercials gave him an opportunity to grab a glass of water.

Toothpaste makers had added chlorophyll which turned the paste green and left green on face towels, which would not wash out. Then came chlorophyll which would wash out, then anti-enzyme toothpaste, about which the dentists were not enthusiastic. His favorite toothpaste manufacturer developed chlorinated anti-enzyme toothpaste with chlorophyll added.

There were also non-fattening sodas and sodas in tin cans for the first time.

Cars which practically steered themselves became so popular that a company put out a self-steerer which the motorist could install. But police warned not to use the latter accessory, as with the motor off, one could not steer the car at all.

A quieter version of the kitchen disposer was invented and one firm had introduced an electric stove which cooked with an infrared light bulb, enabling food when placed on top of the light to be cooked from the inside out.

A letter from the editor of the Star of Zion, the official organ of the African M. E. Zion Church, which had celebrated its 77th anniversary on December 3, expresses appreciation to the newspaper for its contribution to "interracial goodwill and understanding" during 1953. He indicates that during his 15 years as editor, he had witnessed tremendous progress and development by The News and its attitude toward and treatment of news of the black people of Charlotte, as well as those of the state and nation. He suggests that News publisher Thomas L. Robinson had rendered the most outstanding service in race relations of any citizen of Charlotte during the previous year and that editor Pete McKnight had made an outstanding contribution in that area and had shown exceptional ability as one of the great editors of the nation. He says that race relations in the community left much to be desired and remained behind other major cities in the state, but that the newspaper had "shown the way to better understanding of our common problems, and in this deserves the unqualified commendation and support of the Christian community."

A letter writer responds to the December 21 letter of an anonymous parent who had objected to their child's three-day suspension from school after being caught smoking in the school locker room, says that smoking was an evil which should not be tolerated anywhere near schools. He thinks that broad-minded tolerance had been taken too far, that while it was commendable to interpret Christ's teachings as embracing compassionate consideration for those who were weak and had made mistakes, it was also a tragic error not to distinguish between tolerance for sin and sympathy for the sinner.

A letter writer from Boydton, Va., indicates that he had read an editorial from the newspaper which had appeared in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, concerning the poll tax payments required by some of the Southern states, indicates that many in Virginia would be glad to see the poll tax there abolished, but that a few old-time machine Democrats wanted it maintained. He indicates that they had tried to get rid of it in 1949 with an amendment to the State Constitution, which would have substituted a school tax for the poll tax. But the school tax had to be paid before one could obtain any license, including one to operate a motor vehicle, and so he had campaigned against it. He asks whether North Carolina collected any form of tax as a prerequisite to voting.

The editors respond that the state did not collect any such tax, but that if one failed to pay one's income tax, one could wind up in jail and might not be able to get to the polls.

Seventh Day of Christmas: Seven million more votes for Joe Biden.

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