As the winter holidays begin to wind down and a new year is about to dawn, we will soon be turning our hearts and minds to warm days filled with daffodils, gardening, and all those other wonderful activities that come with spring. Recently, a March 1959 issue of the Evening Herald surfaced from a pile of papers and documents making their way across the desk at the Museum of Western York County.
Perusing through the pages, I found it interesting how we were occupying our time in the last spring of the golden Fifties and the dawning of a more complex age. Perhaps excerpts from that newspaper will take the December chill from our cheeks as we take a few minutes to review yesteryear events and remember those who were taking part in developing history.
It seems that everyone that spring was preoccupied with the proposal of a one-cent increase in the sales tax then being argued in Columbia. Both the Senate and the House had looked at several options and suggested a number of packages, but the public knew how it was going to go since representatives found it easier to increase taxes rather than consider budget cuts.
In a letter to the editor, James T. Howe of Rock Hill knew too. He wrote, “Perhaps South Carolina lawmakers would not like taking candy from a baby, but it looks as if about fifty percent of them are now planning to tax the baby’s candy bar, which already sells for a dime.” He even wondered why the lawmakers, who happened to be home that weekend “sounding out public opinion,” bothered, since no more than 10% of the population would favor a tax increase. Howe was convinced that the state needed lawmakers to maintain a reasonable budget and reduce spending. But Howe, just as we might in 2007, knew what was going to happen.
Governor Hollings proposed a package tax on items like beer, cigarettes, pinball machines, and soft drinks, but the Senate shot that idea down. The public was convinced that the House and Senate were not content with such a meager increase and were having their ears bent by lobbyists and special interest groups. As we all are well aware, an across-the-board sales tax increase affects everyone, even on life-necessity items.
In 1959 it was calculated that if a housewife purchased a quart of milk in the morning and a tube of toothpaste in the afternoon, let her son buy two bags of peanuts, and let her daughter buy a bar of candy and a loaf of bread that afternoon, the total of the purchases would be one dollar or less. (Did you get that folks?) And the total sales tax would be seven cents for all of the purchases. We just did not know how well off we were back then.
By 1959 television sets were in many households and to get away from the worries of price increases and taxes, we could settle down for an enjoyable evening of watching our favorite shows. At 6:00 we might chose from Our Miss Brooks, Roy Rogers, or Amos and Andy. Westerns filled the evening programming, including Death Valley, Sheriff of Cochise, U. S. Marshall, Buckskin, Rifleman, The Texan, Restless Gun, and Wells Fargo. Most of us wanted to watch Father Knows Best or The Donna Reed Show, and not a few enjoyed playing along with Name That Tune. Highbrows were not excluded; they could watch the Voice of Firestone, Hall of Fame, and The Desilu Playhouse.
Speaking of television, the Associated Press writer from Hollywood informed us that Dennis Weaver — “Chester” on Gunsmoke — really did not have a limp but had two, strong, healthy legs and had been a track star at the University of Oklahoma. Nor was that western twang real; in fact, he had been a Broadway actor with perfect diction.
Weaver’s character became a Gunsmoke favorite and had just signed a contract for another two years. In a 1959 interview, he was asked if he was concerned about being typecast, and he replied he was not the least bit worried. Yet, after starring on one of the longest-playing westerns, it became a major concern. It’s hard to believe that anyone other than Jim Arness could portray Sheriff Matt Dillon, but in the beginning, Weaver thought he was going to get the starring role.
With Easter approaching Efird’s in Rock Hill was tempting the ladies with a fashionable spring suit for $8.99, and to highlight her figure she could drop by the lingerie department and pick up the Dualift bra by Loveable for a mere $1.50. The Family Bootery on Caldwell Street was offering a pair of high heels with pointed toes for a hard-to-come-by $12.95.
Never mind that my lady might be running short on her budget. Just down the street, she might obtain a loan from the Home Credit Company in just 20 minutes. Don’t worry the hubby; management did not require a co-signer.
Should she not wish to disturb the peace in her home, the versatile housewife might get a few yards of gingham that was selling for 39 cents a yard and cotton satin for only $1.59 a yard. Better yet, take last year’s outfit by Hollis Cleaners on White Street or Rock’s on West Main and make it good as new for Easter.
Of course, Easter is the perfect reason for the ladies to get a new hairdo. At the Ideal Beauty Shop, Evelyn Jones, Mary Aiken, or Joyce Faris were delighted to give a Breck Beautiful Wave, an Enduring Wave, or the Serene Wave — all ranging from $8.50-$12.50. And no respectable woman in 1959 would go to church on Easter without a new hat and gloves. The open, ventilated look in spring gloves signaled an easy, casual elegance; just what a gingham frock needed. The housewife with expertise in cuisine could have her hat and eat it too. A popular theme for Easter dinner cakes was in the shape of a lady’s hat, all frosted and decked out in butter cream flowers.
The men were not forgotten in the fashion world of 1959. Cynthia Lowry of New York announced from the International Beauty Show that the latest fashion for men was hair-coloring. Real color that is — not tints or rinse, but green, crimson, mauve, or apricot. He was able to choose a color to match his mood, whether he was tickled pink, green with envy, or a bit blue. (Personally, I don’t remember this ever storming the York County man-scene; but today, you just might see it in a Wal-Mart parking lot.
In 1959 women were emerging from the docile roles to which they had been shackled for years. Some of the younger women were growing tired of the women’s clubs with their unending rivers of fruit punches, dainty finger sandwiches, do-good projects, and ho-hum speakers. Instead, they began discovering investment clubs and found that their husbands perked up when they came home and said, “I bought so many shares of such-and-such today.” It got more attention than when they boasted, “We’re going to have a bake sale.” More and more back then, women were entering the business world.
Scouts throughout the county were active in celebrating the birthday of Juliet Low, the founder of the Girl Scouts. In the town of Sharon, Girl Scout Troop 27 and Brownie Troop 26 attended Sunday services at the Sharon Methodist Church and then a Juliet Low tea at the Scout office in Rock Hill. Attending from Sharon were Brownie Scouts Bonnie Ruth Wray and Dianne Maloney. In Clover, Mrs. Joe L. Jackson, Mrs. Fred Broyhill and Mrs. S. A. Sifford, Jr., were in charge of an investment ceremony of Troop 49 at the Clover High School.
With the advent of spring, several young women were preparing for their weddings. Dorothy Hollis was given a shower at the Rock Hill home of Mrs. Hazel McKeown on Keels Avenue. Dorothy was looking forward to her marriage to Tim Adams. In Smyrna the ladies of the Smyrna Associate Presbyterian Church entertained for April bride-to-be, Suzanne Smith. The 28 guests were served cake, congealed salad, sandwiches, and coffee by Mrs. W. M. Faulkner, Jr., Mrs. W. L. Whitesides, Jr., Mrs. John Scoggins, Mrs. Charles Whitesides, and Miss Ann White.
Plans for the South Carolina Garden Pilgrimage Tour of Rock Hill and York had been completed, and the event was slated for April 8. The Rock Hill Garden Club and the Rosa Alba Club of York began their tour at Winthrop, with a coffee served by President Sims’ wife and the Dean of Women. From there the tour went to the garden of George Williams on Myrtle Drive and his next-door neighbors, the Alton Browns. (The RH Herald on Aug. 20, 1940 reported, “Mr. and Mrs. George Williams and family are moving today from 219 Oakland Ave., to the W.N. Cork Home in Cherry Park, which they recently purchased.” (This home in 2021 belongs to Chaplin Spencer on Myrtle Drive.)
The already popular Glencairn Garden was seen for the first time as a city project, and then the tour proceeded to the White house and the Garrison Garden on the corner of Chestnut and Spruce streets. After leaving the home of Miss Margaret Spencer in Ebenezer and the Ebenezer Church, the party traveled to York, where they lunched at the Parrish house and strolled the gardens of Mr. and Mrs. George Smith, Mr. and Mrs. S. K. Lowry, and Mr. And Mrs. E. B. Lowry.
The Hill and Dale Garden Club was busy as well. They met at Skeeter’s Restaurant in Rock Hill for a luncheon and installation of officers. Past-president Mrs. Robert Shepard installed Mrs. Reid Horton as president. Others installed were Mrs. Ralph Higgins, vice president; Mrs. Richard Lewis, secretary; and Mr. J. E. Howarth, treasurer. On hand were 14 visitors and two prospective members, Mrs. Nancy Hunter and Mrs. Carroll Eisenhower.
Unless you lived in one of the “price-war” areas, which were dwindling in number, York County residents were worrying about rising gasoline prices. The average price per gallon was 29.51 cents per gallon, and refiners were blaming the need for higher octane on high-compression engines in new cars.
The York County public school system was producing some outstanding students in 1959. Results of the Finley Road School’s Science Fair were announced in March by categories. They were: Barbara Williford, Biology; Nancy Watson, Geology; Mike Griffith, Physics; Bertha Ann Deas and Becky Horton, Nutrition; and Mary Anna Watson, Astronomy. The fair’s judges were Lee Settlemyre, Joe Gault, and Emma Jane McDermott.
A three-act comedy was presented by the eighth grade of the Richmond Drive School. “Just Ducky” was the story of two teenage girls who decided to write a fictitious letter to the editor of a lovelorn column. The cast included Linda Bobo, Ralph Blakely, Bruce Mayer, Robert Wells, Brenda Lowe, Nancy Baker, Gloria Benfield, June Starnes, Jerry Couch, David Odom, and Steve McCrorey.
Four outstanding members of the Clover High School junior class were selected to represent their school in the annual Girl’s State and Boy’s State in Columbia. The American Legion Auxiliary chose Carolyn Withers, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Frank Withers, and Becky Jackson, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Harry Jackson. Legion Post 38 selected Boyce Currence, son of Mr. and Mrs. S. C. Currence, and John Lewis McCarter, son of Mrs. Mae McCarter.
Out of the county, other young men were proving themselves. Two area students among the 207 Citadel cadets were cited for their academic achievement during the first semester: John A. Aycock of Rock Hill and John T. Warlick of Clover. Serving in the United States Air Force, A/2C Thomas F. Russell, son of Mr. And Mrs. Edward H. Russell of Rock Hill, was the top graduate of a Government Driver’s Course while serving in England.
And that was the way it was on Monday, March 23, 1959.
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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