On the eve of the Golden 50s, life in York County was good, and for the next decade, it was about to get better. A perusal of a March 1949 edition of the Evening Herald gives us a flashback of those wonderful years.
At the Winn-Dixie, 49¢ seemed to have been the magic price. A can of salmon was selling for an unbelievable 49¢. A nice, frying-size chicken (dressed and drawn) was also going for 49¢ a pound, as were pork chops. And believe it or not, a pound of bacon could be purchased for only 53¢.
Although York County residents had not yet become connoisseurs of wine, they were, like now, heavy consumers of beer. That year the county received $534 in taxes on beer and wine sold in January, of which 90% ($480.89) was from beer sales. Total statewide beer and wine revenues for the year amounted to $259,688.07, of which more than $17,000 went to the counties, more than $19,000 was divided between municipalities, and $222,000 went to the support of schools.
Along this same line, the Charleston News and Courier was asking, “At exactly what time did cocktail parties win respectability in South Carolina? They were not tolerated, or rather they were not known before World War I, though eggnog and punch parties [were in style but had limited popularity]. It was no more than a coincidence, but the cocktail parties and national prohibition were invented in the same years. The enfranchisement of women, also arrived about that time, had nothing to do with the case.” I’m glad that the News and Courier cleared themselves of blaming womanhood, on which subject I certainly will not say a word.
The invention of cocktails came about because of Prohibition. Since the federal government had stopped the flow of legal, high-quality alcoholic beverages, the clubs, speakeasies, and blind tigers had to rely on foul-tasting, illegal, low-quality moonshine. To disguise the nasty taste, various flavors were added, and the cocktail was born. Obviously, these joints did not have access to the prime white lightning made along the Broad River in those years.
That March, Police Chief E. M. Hanna was warning Rock Hill motorists to be on the watch for children playing in the streets. “As the winter nip goes out of the air … there are more boys and girls on bicycles, roller skates, scooters and tricycles.” Throughout South Carolina the year before, more children were killed in traffic accidents than died of disease, though fortunately, none of these occurred in Rock Hill.
The “Looking Backward” feature in the Evening Herald pointed out that 10 years earlier Frank H.
Hamilton, a Rock Hill fireman of 30 years, died as he drove his truck to a fire. And 20 years earlier, in 1929, all golfers in the county were invited to attend a meeting for the purpose of reviving interest in the game and reorganizing the Catawba River Golf Club.
Horace T. Rabon, a WWII veteran who had served four years in an artillery squad and spent two years overseas, complained in the “Voice of the People” section that the South Carolina legislators had killed the Bonus Bill for the GI’s because of a shortage of money, yet they had found enough to raise their salaries. (Sounds like some we know.) A few years earlier, Rabon said, legislators’ pay was $400 a year, but they had the gall to raise it to $1,000 a year and still were not satisfied. “Now take the York delegation,” he wrote. “Just about as soon as the votes were in and they saw they had been elected, they began to talk about more money. Yet they never mentioned more money when they were trying to get elected. I’m sure they knew what the job paid, and if it was not enough, they should not have asked for it. It is not supposed to be a money making job. It is just an honor and for the benefit for all people.”
Horace continued saying the York delegation had “made a lot of speeches and they talked about what they would do for the county and the people, and the veterans. About the first thing they did was to hold a meeting in York, and in this meeting they voted themselves $6,000 to be set aside to pay them a hundred dollars a month extra … all voted yes.
“All the boys took a hundred dollars apiece during November and December, except Mr. Wallace. Don’t know why he didn’t take his hundred unless he got ‘cold feet’ and wanted to see how the other boys came out first. After the taxpayers resented the extra pay, about the only excuse they had was that they thought the people wanted them to have more money (that was just something they thought.) A mighty slim excuse it was.” Sadly for our generation, all this sounds too familiar.
Like those of us in the 21st century, taxation seems to have been on post-war American minds. Housewives in 30 states were enjoying the taste of margarine but detested having to pay Yellow Margarine taxes. Determined to be heard by Congress, a few women were marching on Washington demanding the repeal of the so-called anti-margarine law. (Editor’s Note — Margarine’s natural color is white, similar to lard. The dairy lobby, in an effort to prevent margarine from competing with butter in the late 1800s and early 1900s, worked to have state and national laws to limit the yellow coloring of margarine and to tax margarine heavily. The laws were repealed throughout the 1950s and 60s, after the margarine producers gained more clout and the public protested.)
On the West Coast in Hollywood, film stars, directors, and writers were hoping to convince Uncle Sam that they should not be taxed because their talent, like automobiles, depreciated. Earning power, they claimed, lasted an average of only seven years — a star might earn $100,000 one year and $3,000 the next.
President Harry S. Truman was elected to his second term (first full term) in 1948. His inauguration on January 20, 1949, was the first to be televised. Until his election, it was widely thought that Truman would lose. He ran against the “Do Nothing” 80th Congress. Thomas E. Dewey, the Republican nominee, was the presumed winner, and so much so that there is a famous picture of a broadly smiling Truman holding a Chicago Daily Tribune newspaper with a headline proclaiming, “Dewey Defeats Truman.”
That’s a brief look into 1949.
J.L. West – Author
This article and many others found on the pages of Roots and Recall, were written by author J.L. West, for the YC Magazine and have been reprinted on R&R, with full permission – not for distribution or reprint!
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