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1948

Published: Monday, July 28, 2014 11:05 a.m. CDT

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The year was 1948.  In postwar America gasoline was 16 cents a gallon, and a postage stamp three cents. The average price of an automobile was $1,250, a home $7,700, and annual income was $2,900. Several inventions that would revolutionize the world had just been announced: the transistor radio and Velcro.  Kitty litter arrived on the scene, and The Ed Sullivan Show aired on CBS.  

Unbeknownst to most, except for family and friends, the eighth and final child of Jack and Grace Swarm was born by Cesarian section, in Perry, Iowa, on July 28, 1948. His name would be Curtis, or Curt, or, as he was called by his four sisters and three brothers, Curtie. Yes, Curtie was the baby of the family and, like most Baby Boomers, spoiled rotten.  

I recently picked up the book, “Good Old Days, Live it Again, 1948” for 25 cents at a garage sale. I thought I would see what was going on in the world during my birth year.  There was quite a bit, actually. The State of Israel had just been formed, President Harry S. Truman signed the Marshall Plan to rebuild postwar Europe, and Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated. George Marshal, who was U.S. Secretary of State and brainchild of the Marshall Plan, received the Noble Peace Prize. The Berlin Blockade was broken by the United States and Western Allies’ airlift to Berlin.

As I thumbed through the book featuring the best of “The Saturday Evening Post,” the reflection of it’s Norman-Rockwell slick pages hurting my eyes, one of my favorite presidents, Harry S. Truman jumped out. He had pulled off one of the most famous election upsets in American history by defeating Thomas E. Dewey. Truman’s whistle-stop campaign to Middle Class America had paid off.  The picture of “Give’m Hell Harry” holding up the legendary copy of the Chicago-Tribune, incorrectly announcing Dewey’s victory, is a classic newspaper faux pas.  

In 1948 men didn’t wear shorts, people were still skinny, paisley ties were in, and ladies’ silk stockings, or hose, had the line up the back.  Also in that year, Babe Ruth bowed out of baseball, presenting the manuscript of his autobiography to the young George H.W. Bush, who was captain of the Yale baseball team. Citation won the triple crown, barbecue grills and something called charcoal were slowly replacing bonfires for backyard cooking, and home-entertainment centers proudly boasted not only a black-and-white television, but a record changer and radio — all in one console.  The World Health Organization (WHO — not the 50,000 watt, clear channel, radio station out of Des Moines — “boarder-to-boarder, coast-to-coast and then some”) was formed.        

Were these the good ole days, as the book’s title suggests, when the economy was booming, the Middle Class was flexing its G.I. Bill-educated brain, and hard work and a handshake were all that was needed for success? Not really. The post-war booming economy also had its side effects — pollution.  Donora, Pa., was beset by a killer smog — a combination of fog and pollution.  Hundreds of animals were killed, thousands of people were sickened, and 20 people died — one of the worst examples of pollution in America’s history, and a sign of things to come. 

Famous people born in 1948 include: Alice Cooper, James Taylor, Billy Crystal, Terry Bradshaw, Bryant Gumbel, Wolf Blitzer, Clarence Thomas, Cat Stevens, Daryl Hall, and Al and Tipper Gore.        

As I thumbed through this attractive book, marveling at all that took place in America during my birth year, a startling, troubling fact popped out. On the copyright page, there it was in black and white, a tell-tell sign of today’s economy: the book was printed in, yep, you guessed it, China. 

Have a good story? Call or text Curt Swarm in Mt. Pleasant at (319) 217-0526 or email him at curtswarm@yahoo.com.

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