Oddities

August 17, 1957 – Phillies Hall-of-Famer Richie Ashburn’s Freak At-Bat

Phillie Richie Ashburn

On August 17, 1957, one of Philadelphia’s most loved baseball heroes fouled twice, striking the same spectator, in one at-bat.

Center-fielder Richie Ashburn, one of the 1950 National League Champion “Whiz Kids,” played outstanding ball for the Phillies from 1948 until 1959.  He led the league several times in batting and fielding statistics, retiring with a .308 lifetime batting average.  After his retirement from baseball in 1962, he joined the Phillies radio and TV broadcast team as a color commentator, a job he loved and held until his death in 1997.  A long campaign by Philadelphia fans resulted in his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1995.  Over 25,000 local fans drove to Cooperstown for the ceremony – a day which must have meant much to the boy who grew up on a farm in Tilden, Nebraska, dreaming of his day in the big leagues.

But August 17th was not quite a day he had dreamed of.  In the second game of a four-game series against the New York Giants, which the Phillies won, 3-1, Richie fouled twice into the stands, striking spectator Alice Roth.  Alice was married to Philadelphia Bulletin Sports Editor Earl Roth.  The first errant ball broke her nose; the second struck her as she was being carried out of the stands on a stretcher.  Alice was a good sport and she and Richie remained friends for many years.

The Philadelphia Phillies retired Ashburn’s #1 in 1979.  The center-field entertainment area of Citizens Bank Park, the Phillies current stadium, is named Ashburn Alley in honor of Richie’s 47 years of service to the Phillies organization.

Image Credit: Chuck Hofmann/Madison County Museum

Vintage 1957 – The Wonder Boy X-100

 

Power_Mower_Deluxe

Can technology change the lives of suburban husbands and wives? You bet!

In 1957, Simplicity Manufacturing Company of Port Washington, Wisconsin rolled out its first riding tractor – the Wonder Boy X-100. This was no ordinary riding tractor, however. Packed under its metal hood and plastic dome resided an all-purpose lawn system for mowing, weeding, fertilizing, seeding, and pest spraying. It could be used as a snow plow and as a tractor for hauling other equipment. Its on-board electric-generating system provided the driver air-conditioned comfort from atop an air foam cushioned seat, along with a radio telephone and drink-chilling system. Savings in lawn maintenance time could allow its lucky owners to get in an early round on the links. Just snap on the Wonder Boy’s running lights and drive it off to the course as a golf cart.

Simplicity’s promotional photo illustrated not only the mower of the future, but something of gender roles of the future. While a man relaxes with his pipe and a drink, a stylish woman confidently pilots the marvel from a space-age cockpit.

Image Credit: AP Images

August 1, 1957 – Austin City Council Deals with an Infested Lake

AUSTIN

Austin, Texas skyline from I-35. February, 1957.

On August 1, 1957, the weekly meeting of the City Council of Austin, Texas took place in the Council Chamber of City Hall. On the agenda: urban renewal and land use resolutions; construction contracts for gas mains, concrete culverts, and street paving; various building permits; and questions about the extent of the fire protection districts. The meeting lasted six hours and twenty minutes, with very likely a break for lunch.

Which item led off the morning, seemingly most pressing in everyone’s mind? After an invocation by Mr. B. R. Reynolds of the Y.M.C.A., and approval of the minutes of the previous meeting, the August 1st minutes read:

“MR. GILBERT SMITH, and a delegation, appeared before the Council stating the area up the lake was infested with flies and mosquitoes, had lots of moss and green scum, and asked that something be done right away, and suggested lowering the lake to get rid of the weeds. The Mayor stated that the council had promised that if the weed cutter did not do the job, that the lake would be lowered at a suitable time. The City Manager gave a report on the weed cutter operations stating operations had been slowed down by six weeks by the rises in the river; that the mower did do a good job; and that if another mower or additional men were added, and it did not do the complete job, he would recommend lowering the lake a very few feet.

“Mr. ED GRIMMER stated if the weed cutter operated eight hours a day, instead of about three, the problem would be solved, and he did not want the lake lowered. Mr. TOM BRADFIELD asked that the lake be lowered at a satisfactory time. The Mayor stated that the cutter should be operated ten hours a day at this time of the year, and he asked that a daily report be [made] on its operation. After much discussion, the matter was turned over to the City Manager.”

How times stay the same. Anyone who has ever attended a city council meeting has experienced the turmoil of a fiercely debated local issue which ends up unresolved. The qualities of the best City Managers through time have probably been similar to those of cat-herders.

Image Credit: Neal Douglass/The Portal to Texas History, UNT Libraries

Where Were They Then? – Dr. Henry Jones, Jr.

I have evidently been living under a rock. Only this week did I discover the whole alt-world of “fandom.” Fandom, according to Wikipedia, “is a subculture composed of fans characterized by a feeling of empathy and camaraderie with others who share a common interest.” Members of social-network fandoms are different from ordinary fans in that they obsess over “minor details,” create “particular practices,”  and spend a “significant portion of their time and energy” on their shared interest. Sounds a lot like blogging.

Recently, I was strolling the internet for 1957 Time Capsule items when I stumbled across a timeline for the 1957 escapades of . . . Dr. Henry “Indiana” Jones, Jr.! The timeline was so replete with “minor details” that it took me a moment to remember that Professor Jones was not a real person!

INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL

In 1957, Indy was embroiled in the events portrayed in the movie, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Soviet agents, on the prowl for an ancient, telepathic crystal skull, kidnap Indy’s former lover, Marion Ravenwood, and old friend Harold Oxley. Indy finds a new, energetic partner in Marion’s son, Mutt Williams as both the KGB and the FBI join in the chase. A dangerous trip to Peru and Brazil results in the rescue of Marion and Harold and the restoration of the precious, spooky skull to the Temple of Akator. Interdimensional beings say, “Thank you!” and flood the temple valley on departure.

Quite a year for Indy! But not quite all quiet yet. On October 18th, Indy says “I do” with Marion and discovers along the way that something he “did” nineteen years earlier has had a lasting effect. Spoiler alert! Mutt is his son. And someday, just maybe, Mutt will inherit his father’s “mantle” – a dusty fedora.

Image Credit: Lucasfilm Ltd/Paramount Pictures

1957 Pantry – Try Tuna Salad

Hold the presses! On July 11, 1957, the Department of the Interior issued a release to food editors across the nation. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service, whose mission is to “conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people,” want citizens from New York City to Newport Beach to . . . “Try Tuna Salad for Main Dish at Picnics.”

I I1957 Tuna Salad

I’m not sure how suggesting a picnic with tuna salad, using canned tuna, meets the Fish and Wildlife Service mission to conserve and protect our fish and wildlife?

But let’s leave that little puzzle and head to the beach! Pack up the plaid Skotch Kooler, the Pendleton blanket, the sand toys, and the transistor radio. Spread out the potato chips, buttered rolls, fruit, coffee and cupcakes. Build a driftwood fire, see the sun set, burn a few marshmallows, and watch the stars come out. It’s summertime . . . .

Image Credit: U.S. Department of the Interior Information Service

Vintage 1957 – Curly Redwood Lodge

Curly Redwood Lodge LogoRedwood trees are big. Really big.

How big? Tom Wyllie, who already owned the Redwood Room in Klamath, California (and knew a thing or two about big redwoods from looking out his window) wondered if he could build an entire lodge out of one redwood tree. And not just any enormous redwood tree – an enormous curly redwood tree!

“Curly” wood trees are a genetic variation in which the wood fibers form in a wave pattern. The waves can vary in size and direction. The greater the wave size, the more the “curl” will show up as a stripe when the wood is finished. Curly wood is often used to beautiful effect in crafting furniture or musical instruments.

Wyllie and Redwood

Tom Wyllie

Tom found his tree. It was over 18 feet diameter at its base. To be transported, it needed to be cut into five separate logs and then each log needed to be quartered. It produced 57,000 board feet of lumber and then those thousands of feet of lumber produced Crescent City, California’s Curly Redwood Lodge.

The tree came down in 1952. Five years later, in 1957, the (curly redwood) doors opened to the public. Every piece of wood that went into the homey, horseshoe-shaped lodge – floor, walls, joists, paneling, posts, doors, and more –  have been lovingly maintained and preserved to this day. In the mood for hiking in a redwood forest, walking on the beach, and enjoying a retro-blast from the mid-century past? Check into the Curly Redwood Lodge.

Curly Redwood Lobby

Curly Redwood Lodge lobby

Images Credit: Curly Redwood Lodge/Facebook

October 7, 1957 – Time’s People in the News

On October 7, 1957, the weekly installment of Time magazine included their regular feature on the doings of famous movers-and-shakers, the People column.  During a week which included continuing reports of the forced integration of – and military presence at –  Little Rock Central High School, and the announcement of the USSR’s launch of Sputnik 1, the American public probably enjoyed a lighter moment catching up on high-society and high-celebrity.  Some of the high-points:

Embed from Getty Images

Ernest and Mary Hemingway in Venice, 1954.

“With plenty of works in progress but no finished manuscript under his arm, Novelist Ernest Hemingway arrived incognito with wife Mary at a midtown Manhattan hotel for a quiet holiday far from his Cuban finca.  Meanwhile, two short stories, the first new Hemingway fiction to be published since The Old Man and the Sea in 1952, were being put to bed for the centennial issue of the Atlantic, which will be out at the end of October.  Apparently stemming from the experience Hemingway underwent when he was temporarily blinded after his plane crash in Africa in 1954, the stories are paired under the title “Two Tales of Darkness”.

“Following the long antarctic night, the sun rose over the U.S. base at the South Pole last week, and Polar Explorer Paul Siple (Time cover, Dec. 31, 1956) led 17 scientists and servicemen into the open for the reveille that comes there technically only once every six months.  With the temperature at a numbing  minus 88°F and an 18-knot wind blowing across the polar wastes, the ceremonial hoisting of Old Glory turned out to be about the most frenzied since the famed planting of the flag under fire at Iwo Jima.”

LOS ANGELES – OCTOBER 10: Singer Frank Sinatra and actress Lauren Bacall attend a party for the musical ‘Pal Joey’ on October 10, 1957 in Los Angeles, California.

“In seclusion since the death last January of Cinemactor Humphrey Bogart, his widow, Cinemactress Lauren Bacall, was stepping out with an old family friend, Cinemactor Frank Sinatra.  Lauren was recently draped on Frankie’s arm for the Las Vegas premiere of his new movie The Joker is Wild, last week went along with him to a closed-circuit telecast of the Sugar-Ray Robinson – Carmello Basilio fight in a Hollywood theater from which they emerged looking as happy as if they had bet on Winner Basilio.  But though Hollywood gossips buzzed, both Lauren and Frankie denied a wedding is in the wind.”

Eleanor Roosevelt guides visiting Nikita Khrushchev through the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library at Hyde Park, September 18, 1959. Photo: US National Archives & Records Administration, Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Public Domain

Eleanor Roosevelt guides visiting Nikita Khrushchev through the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library at Hyde Park, September 18, 1959. Photo: US National Archives & Records Administration, Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Public Domain

“Describing the Russian people as ‘wonderful’, Globetrotter Eleanor Roosevelt, 72, climaxed her first trip to the Soviet Union by interviewing Communist Boss Nikita S. Khrushchev for almost three hours at his summer villa on the Black Sea near Yalta.  ‘War is unthinkable,’ Khrushchev told Mrs. Roosevelt, who called the hard-drinking, explosive Soviet leader ‘a cordial, simple, outspoken man who got angry at certain spots and emphasized the things he believed.’  But when Khrushchev accused her of hating Communists, Mrs. Roosevelt quickly replied: ‘Oh no, I don’t.  I don’t hate anybody.  I don’t believe in Communism as an ideological way of life.'”