With Wald Park’s Opening Ceremony set for Saturday, we’re releasing a four-part story over the next four days leading up to the ceremony from guest columnist Laurnie Caproni about the summer of 1948, when baseball was booming at the park.
Here’s Part I:
It was a long time ago. Rex Parker was Maysville’s mayor. Earle Clements was Governor of Kentucky and Harry Truman was president of the United States.
The Republicans were out for blood. The Grand Old Party had been out of power for 16 long years and wanted Harry’s head on a platter.
To that end, in July, the GOP handed the nomination to Thomas E. Dewey of New York. Then it cemented what it considered a shoo-in by selecting Gov. Earl Warren of California as Dewey’s running mate.
The consensus was unanimous. Dewey would win. The election was only a formality. In fact, before it was over, every poll, every news organization, every top commentator-all of them-predicted a Dewey win. Everyone it seems except the occupant of the White House. Harry Truman thought he would win too.
The country, and Maysville, was far different then. A limited snapshot of 1948 showed…
There was no intrastate highway system. The roads were antiquated, worn, narrow, corkscrew crooked and dangerous. There was no flood wall and no sales tax.
Most people didn’t own a car because they didn’t have the money to buy one.
They walked to-and-from work or rode the bus. If they had to travel out-of-town, they did so by train or by Greyhound or Trailways bus.
Air travel was out of reach and generally out of the question for most.
Besides, airports were a fairly close relative to primitive and air travel was a hairy proposition at best.
Television was something few had. It was black-and-white and not very good.
Hollywood movies reigned as king, and Maysville’s two (at one time three) theaters were jammed-packed on weekends. A ticket cost 11 cents. A box of popcorn cost a nickel.
There were no computers. People were born, grew up, married, reared kids, and died without benefit of a single one.
You could buy a pair of BVDs but not a VCR or SUV. There weren’t any. Air conditioning was rare as hen’s teeth. Milk and other beverages came in bottles. There were no cans. Look around your home at dozens of things: Washer, dryer, microwave, Jacuzzi, hair dryer, electric can opener, TV clicker, calculator, sticky notes and smiley faces. Few had any of these and some had yet to be invented.
No one ever heard of a cell phone, and refrigerators were by no means commonplace. Many folks kept food from spoiling by buying ice each day and stuffing everything into something called an “ice box”. There were no Wendy’s, Hardee’s, Pizza Hut, Long John Silver’s, Arby’s or McDonald’s. There was nothing on “top of the hill” except the country club and farmland.
Few were aware of a California phenomenon called the shopping center. You got what you needed downtown. You went to the doctor, to stores, and to the bank downtown. There were no drive-in anythings.
The Maysville swimming pool was the place to be during the summer. So was the Dora H. Merz playground, otherwise known as Beechwood Park. At night, on the weekend, Ripley’s roselawn sizzled.
Grocery stores were everywhere and in every neighborhood. These stores opened early and closed late. But none opened on Sunday and all closed at noon Wednesday during hot weather months. Harry Truman was under intense fire because of raging inflation, although by today’s standards one can only blink an eye at the prices.
Montgomery Ward advertised five quarts of “vitalized premium motor oil” for $1.19. It also sold a pair of “scanty panties” for 37 cents or an eight-inch steel fry pan for 12 cents.
Down the street, Merz. Bros., one of Kentucky’s finest stores, presented “six great dress values from the leading fashion names in Paris.” The cost was &8.95. J.C. Penney featured “Men’s two-toned ventilated Oxford. made from genuine leather.” For $7.90. Across the street, the New York store was selling rayon jersey petticoats for $1.
Leo’s store was “beating down inflation by keeping prices low.” To that end, the store was selling 600×16 tires for $9.95.
the Griffin Fertilizer Company purchased dead stock. It offered $9 for cows, $7 for horses and $2 for hogs “depending on condition.” At the Owl Drug Store you could buy a gallon of turpentine for 79 cents.
Down the street and around the corner, Doc Vance charged you 17 cents for a bottle of Rexall Milk of Magnesia.
At the A&P store, you could buy a box of Jello for eight cents, two cans of tomatoes for 27 cents, or a head of lettuce for 15 cents. A cantaloupe set you back 29 cents. Oranges were 39 cents a dozen. The Clover Leaf Dairy sold “Jumbo Malts” for 15 cents. C.L. Mains and Son hawked Samson chairs “which go anywhere in your house.” The cost: $7.95.
You could buy a Coke for a nickel. A cold beer was 15 cents.
Finally, a little 12-year-old boy would hop on the George Washington on a Sunday morning bound for Cincinnati. He would marvel at the vastness of Union Terminal and dream Walter Mitty-like at the heaven-on-earth which was Crosley Field. The tab for the train ticket to-and-from the Queen City, a ticket to see the Reds play, and enough for hot dogs and something to drink-$6.
Meanwhile, in the East End, Glen Hardymon was thinking about the Boys of Summer before that term came into popular usage.
Baseball was on his mind.
Then one day he apparently decided to go see Ruben Pawsat.
The second of four parts of this story will come out in Thursday’s edition of The Ledger Independent.