Oddities

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

Vintage 1957 – Near-Mint Near-Complete 1957 Topps Baseball Card Set

1957 Topps Mickey Mantle-Yogi Berra card. Photo: Sports Collectors Daily.

1957 Topps Mickey Mantle-Yogi Berra card. Photo: Sports Collectors Daily.

Attention, baseball card collectors! Rich Mueller at Sports Collectors Daily recently announced that a near-mint, near-complete set of 1957 Topps baseball cards will be put up for auction on eBay. Just Collect is planning to sell, piece by piece, a rare grouping of almost 400 cards obtained from a private collector which Mueller claims would rank “among the 50 best All-Time Finest sets on the PSA Set Registry.”

Topps made significant changes to their card line in 1957. They adopted the standard size still in use today and, rather than using both photo and artwork portraits, switched to photo-only shots of MLB’s Boys of Summer. Our banner year, 1957, is also notable for collectors in that it was a year in which many greats were playing, joined by a swath of soon-to-be-famous rookies. And 1957 was the last year that the Giants played in Gotham and the Dodgers owned Brooklyn.

Collectible baseball cards are rated on a score from 1 to 10. Each card is examined for its centering (how well did the printer do?), corners (how worn are the four points?), creases (did the card get bent or folded?), and surface (are there wrinkles, scratches, warping, damage, bubbles, marks, stains, or notches?).  A rating of ten is extremely rare, and means “taken off the printing press with tweezers and hermetically sealed” (I’m only slightly joking).  On the other end of the scale, a one rating would probably mean that the printing press was in dire need of a tune-up and a teething toddler with cotton candy got hold of the card (again, just a little exaggeration). All the cards in this 1957 collection have been rated a 7 “Near Mint”.

A few big names are missing in the collection, notably Red Sox immortal Ted Williams and  a regular issue of Yankee Mickey Mantle, winner of the Triple Crown in 1956. Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente, Sandy Koufax, Yogi Berra, Ernie Banks, Al Kaline, Duke Snider, Warren Spahn, and Roy Campanella are there, along with rookies Brooks Robinson, Rocky Colavito, Don Drysdale, and Bill Mazeroski. Numerous commons, multi-player, minor stars, and team cards also add to the set.

I acquired my love of baseball when I married into the Red Sox nation at age 21. Now I can’t help but wonder about the identity of the persistent baseball card lover who amassed this treasure trove. Were they born in 1957, too?