FIFTY YEARS AGO – A LOOK BACK
FIFTY YEARS AGO – A LOOK BACK
This year of 2005 marks the semicentennial of the year 1955, and oh what a year it was.
I personally don’t remember anything that happened in 1955, as I was in but my second year of life. My parents recall vividly and painfully a memory from that summer, when I’d fallen out of my crib at a beach house and banged my head on a concrete floor. There was concern I had sustained some brain damage, but at this time medical resources for making such an evaluation weren’t exactly high-tech.
It has been hypothesized down the last 50 years among our family that this supposed “brain damage” made me the collecting nerd I am to this day. As a child from about 1956 to 1961, I had developed a hobby that drove my parents crazy – I’d collect the manufacturers’ labels from windows of newly built houses and hardware stores. My parents felt there had to be something better I could do with my young life, and they could sense that I had some sort of “collecting bug.”
When I was six or seven, my mother told me there was in fact something better I could collect. She told me Daddy collected postage stamps, and I found his stamps quite interesting because they looked somewhat like window labels. Older stamps were hard to get except from a dealer, but Mom also thought that coins would be better for me since we handled them every day. My parents took me to a coin shop and picked up the Whitman folders for Lincoln cents. On February 2, 1961, Mom handed me a coin and said, “This is from the ground hog.” I was henceforth, at the ripe old age of seven, crowned a numismatist.
Just last summer (July of 2004), my wife was visiting relatives in the White Mountains area and she stopped at a flea market. She spotted something that she thought would interest me – an issue of the 8th Edition of R. S. Yeoman’s “A Guide Book of United States Coins” (aka the “Redbook”) which was from 1955! As I was thumbing through it, memories stirred of both my early childhood and coin collecting as primarily a hobby. Those were the days, as many rare coins that sold for a few hundred or thousand dollars in 1955 would today sell for hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars. That is a performance that has, for about the last 25 of these past 50 years, been on a par with that of real estate!
Besides coins, music has long been a hobby of mine. And musical interests have been passed down to my daughters who love to sing and participate in school bands and chorales. As I recall (from sometime in the ’60s), it was reported that some of the earliest “Rock ‘n’ Roll” hits were produced in 1955. A few that come to my mind are “The Company Store”, “Bo Diddley”, “Earth Angel” and “Rock Around the Clock.” I believe that 1955 was also the year Elvis made his first big splash. Music of 1955 mentally places me in 1955, just as coins that could have been circulating or on the market during that year do.
For those of you old enough to intelligently remember 1955, undoubtedly you would have something to recall of the political issues and events of that year, such as McCarthyism and the ending of the Korean War. And when you may have settled into your dream home for $16,500 financed at 4%, and gas at 15 cents a gallon to pump up your new “classic” Chevy with the rounded headlights.