Year In Review -- 1952

(Part One)

by Bill Monson

Travel with me back half a century to review a year even more turbulent than this one.

Korea was blazing. Peace talks fell apart, and the Communists made heavy attacks.

Red strength in Korea was now estimated as over one-million. Russian jets attacked airliners flying to Berlin; and West Berlin residents were banned June 1 from East Berlin. All of this was reflected in President Truman's $85.44-billion budget, the largest "peacetime" budget ever. The Treasury reported that the deficit had reached over $4 billion and would get even worse with Truman's budget.

In Indochina, the Vietminh intensified attacks on French colonial military forces. In Kenya, the British battled the Mau Mau; on October 3, the Brits joined the Nuclear Club when they exploded an atomic weapon northwest of Australia.

The U.S. Navy was now as large as all other navies of the world combined and would become stronger as it laid the keel of the U.S.S. Nautilus -- the world's first atomic-powered sub -- in Groton, Conn. The Navy was also now using guided missiles in Korea. The Russians were building submarines, too, and had four times as many as the Nazis had in World War II. They also produced five times as many planes as the U.S. since 1947.

The nuclear race accelerated on November 1 when American scientists exploded a hydrogen bomb in the Marshall Islands which tore a hole one mile wide and 175 feet deep. Eniwetok atoll was completely obliterated.

King George VI of the United Kingom died unexpectedly on February 6; and on June 2, his elder daughter was coronated as Queen Elizabeth II.

There was a change of leaders in the U.S. too. Although eligible to run again, President Truman announced on March 29 he would not do so; and on April 11, General Dwight D. Eisenhower asked to be relieved as U.S. commander of forces in Europe, effective June 1. On July 11, the Republican Party chose him as its candidate at the GOP convention in Chicago; Richard Nixon was his running mate.

Fifteen days later, the Democrats chose Adlai Stevenson, governor of Illinois, and Alabama Senator John Sparkman as their candidates -- also in Chicago.

A major issue was what the Korean Conflict was doing to America and its budget. President Truman was blasted for his illegal seizing of U.S. steel mills on April 8 because of labor problems. The railroads had been under the token supervision of the Army since 1950. In October, the soft coal miners struck. When Eisenhower pledged ten days before the election to go to Korea and seek an early end to the war if elected, the nation responded. The Democrats lost the Presidency they'd held since 1932 -- and the House and Senate, too. Eisenhower won 39 states and 442 electoral votes; and in early December visited Korea for three days. Two days after Christmas, the Army requested a draft of 53,000 men -- the highest since early in the war.

Disasters hit far and wide. In mid-January, heavy snows in the Sierra Nevada stranded a Southern Pacific passenger train with 200 aboard in Donner Pass. In April, floods on the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers ravaged eight midwest states. In May and June, there was a shortage of potatoes throughout the U.S. Spuds rose to $8 per 100-pound bag on the black market. In July, an earthquake near Tehachapi, Calif. killed 11 people, rocked 100,000 square miles, and closed the Southern Pacific Railroad main line between Bakersfield and L.A. Heat waves in late June and August turned Tennessee and Kentucky into drought disaster areas and cost Texas farmers $68 million in lost crops. Three airplane crashes in less than two months closed the Newark, N. J. airport until a solution could be found for area approach control.

The Korean Conflict also reached into sports as veterans like Ted Williams were called up and rookies like Willie Mays were drafted. Cleveland had three 20-game winners in Early Wynn (23), Mike Garcia (22), and Bob Lemon (22) but lost he American League pennant to the Yankees, who had only one -- Allie Reynolds (20). The Bronx Bombers won their fourth straight World Series over the Brooklyn Dodgers four games to three. Ferris Fain of the Philadelphia Athletics hit .337 and Larry Doby of Cleveland hit 32 home runs, but pitcher Bobby Shantz of the A's was MVP with 24 victories. Cardinal Stan Musial was NL batting champ at .336 but lost the MVP to the Cubs' Hank Sauer and his 37 four-baggers.

The June heat wave affected one of the year's biggest boxing matches as Joey Maxim outlasted Sugar Ray Robinson June 25 for the light-heavyweight title at Yankee Stadium. Ringside temperature was 104 degrees, and Robinson, easily winning, was unable to answer the bell for the 14th round because of heat exhaustion. Earlier, the referee had collapsed in round 10 and had to be replaced.

The biggest battle of the year saw Rocky Marciano of Brockton, Mass. knock out Jersey Joe Walcott in the 13th round. Rocky was unbeaten in 43 bouts with 28 KO's. The fight was blacked out on regular broadcast TV and available only in theaters. The International Boxing Club of New York and Chicago had seen what TV was doing to its sport and carefully chose what bouts could be seen on TV, leading to charges of monopoly by the Justice Department. However, smaller boxing clubs continued to die.

Part Two

TV was also affecting football. The NCAA decided to provide only 11 important games in the fall of 1952. Halfback Billy Vessels of Big Seven champ Oklahoma won the Heisman Trophy. Texas was the Southwest champion, Southern California the Pacific Coast leader, and Wisconsin and Purdue tied for the Big Ten. In the major rule change of the year, any block from behind in the open field was made illegal. In pro football, the Detroit Lions defeated the Cleveland Browns 17 7 for the NFL title.

TV could not yet affect the Olympics, so the U.S. had to settle for film replays of the Winter Games in Oslo and the Summer Games in Helsinki, Finland. At the former, skater Dick Button was the star for the U.S. which finished second to host Norway. At the latter, the U.S. bested Russia 614 to 553.5 in points but dominated many major events.

One of those events was basketball. The U.S. team was picked from major college and A.A.U. teams, who also played a pre-Olympic tournament. In the regular season, Kansas was the dominant team in America behind Clyde Lovelette; the University of Illinois won the Western Conference but finished third in the NCAA tourney. Peoria's Caterpillar Diesels were champs of the Amateur Athletic Union, led by Howie Williams, former Purdue Ace. The Diesels also won the pre-Olympic tournament; and six of their players were named to the U.S. Olympic team, which won all its Olympic contests. In the N.B.A. the Minneapolis Lakers won the title over the New York Knicks 4 games to 3.

Television was also killing radio. Most major stars had moved to TV, and radio's top shows were Dragnet, The Railroad Hour, The FBI in Peace and War, and You Bet Your Life with Groucho Marx.

Amos 'N' Andy reached their 10,000 broadcast on November 16.

There were 109 TV stations serving 64 metropolitan areas, but A.T. & T. extended its coaxial cables south, southwest and northwest; and the FCC finally lifted its four- year freeze on construction of new stations on July 1, leading to an explosion of new stations. The central TV location of Chicago led both the GOP and Demos to choose it for their summer conventions. The top shows of 51/52 were Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts, Texaco Star Theatre (with Milton Berle), I Love Lucy and The Red Skelton Show.

To battle TV, Hollywood introduced Cinerama. Top grosser of the year was Cecil B. DeMille's The Greatest Show On Earth. Others included Ivanhoe, The Snows of Kilimanjaro, The African Queen, and The Tales of Hoffman.

Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis were major box office stars and Marilyn Monroe was Motion Picture Herald's top''Star of Tomorrow.'' Hollywood won a big victory on May 26 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that movies were entitled to free speech rights under the First Amendment.

On records, Johnny Ray continued popular with ''Please, Mr. Sun'' and ''Walkin' My Baby Back Home''; but Eddie Fisher was challenging him with songs like ''Wish You Were Here'' and ''Lady of Spain''--even though Fisher was currently in the Army. Other top tunes included ''Jambalaya,'' ''I Went to Your Wedding,'' ''Because You're Mine,'' ''Syncopated Clock,'' and ''Wheel of Fortune.''

Broadway was in the doldrums despite long-running musicals South Pacific, The King and I, and Guys and Dolls. Pal Joey was the only successful new musical; and among dramas and comedies, I Am a Camera, Gigi, Dial M for Murder, and The Seven Year Itch were popular.

Pulitzer Prizes went to Herman Wouk's The Caine Mutiny, Marianne Moore's Collected Poems, and Joseph Kramm's play The Shrike. The Academy of Arts and Letters gave gold medals to Thornton Wilder for fiction and Galesburg native Carl Sandburg for history and biography.

The biggest publication news was The Revised Standard Version Of The Bible, followed by Great Books Of The Western World. Other significant books were The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway; East of Eden by John Steinbeck; Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison; Giant by Edna Ferber; The Silver Chalice by Thomas Costain; and My Cousin Rachel by Daphne Dumaurier.

In non-fiction, The Diary of a Young Girl By Anne Frank and The Power of Positive Thinking By Norman Vincent Peale were best-sellers.

In leading Galesburg news, the Dolly made its last run; and the dieselized Santa Fe signed over its water supply--Lake Storey--to the City. A bus carrying GHS basketball players back from Dixon collided with a car, killing the car's driver. The Streak baseball team went 17-5 and won both the Northwest and Illini championships. The track team and golf team also did well, led by sprinter Dave Wallace and linksmen Bob Sparks and John McKenzie. However, the football team was dismal, losing its first eight games before upsetting undefeated Monmouth 16-12 in the last game of the season. The cross country team won the Northwest Conference championship, led by Jim Colver and Larry Thomson.

During the year, a group of citizen reformers led by Knox Professor Alvin White, Rev. Fred Gilson and Rev. Alan Jenkins sought to close down prostitution on Water Street and under-age drinking at local bars and restaurants. In a series of carefully planned raids, they managed to bring area-wide attention to the condition of vice in Galesburg and contributed to their suppression. Eventually, the group's efforts would lead to the discovery of a white slavery ring that ran women in Galesburg, Quincy, Danville and Cicero, which the FBI would close down. The group would also contribute to the adoption of the Council- Manager form of government in Galesburg and its selection as All-American City.

The year closed with Tuskegee Institute announcing that 1952 was the first year without a U.S. lynching since 1882, when records were first kept.

Uploaded to The Zephyr website December 31, 2002

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