Wednesday, July 15, 2009


The year was 1956. It began with Tennessee Ernie Ford at number one on the Billboard Top 10 with “Sixteen Tons” and ended with Elvis in the top spot with “Love Me Tender.” It began for me with snow days from Lititz Elementary School and ended with seventh grade in the new Warwick Union High School.

Ike was president and early in the year he survived his second heart attack, then announced that he would seek reelection. Most surprising though was the fact that he was keeping Richard Millhouse Nixon on the ticket with him. But it was no surprise when Ike trounced Adlai Stevenson taking 41 states in the fall election.

Bill Haley and the Comets hit the charts in March with “See You Later, Alligator.” Our parents were still convinced that big band, jazz and pop music would soon regain its popularity and “Rock and Roll” as it was named by Alan Fried, would soon become a passing phase. Harvard had just raised its tuition from $800 to $1,000 per semester and campuses across the country were being plagued with “Panty Raids.”

Actress and Philadelphia native Grace Kelley was making preparations to become royalty and Marilyn Monroe married Arthur Miller. The collision of the Andrea Doria and the Stockholm attracted our attention as did the futile rebellion in Communist controlled Hungary and the collision of two airplanes over the Grand Canyon, killing 128 people.

My home town of Lititz, PA was celebrating 200 years as a community with bowler hats for the gents and bonnets for the ladies, beards and the “Brothers of the Brush.” In addition to the normal Memorial Day and Halloween Parades, Lititz had a Bicentennial Parade and a Fireman’s Parade—the Lancaster County Firemen’s Association annual convention was held in Lititz.

The LITITZ Theater brought “Around the World in Eighty Days” as well as “The King and I” and Ingrid Bergman as “Anastasia” to our fair community. On the new medium of television it was the era of the game shows with the “64 Thousand Dollar Question” leading that movement. An era in entertainment ended when the venerable Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus announced that it was retiring its big top and would be holding its spectaculars in stadiums and arenas.

And in Montgomery, Alabama a lady named Rosa Parks decided to sit at the front of the bus and was ejected by police. A local minister led a successful boycott of busses and businesses in that community—his name was Martin Luther King. Warwick High School had no minority students or faculty.

The Lititz Rec (in the old Spacht warehouse at the north end of Spruce Street) was beginning to hold teen dances and its new director, Bill Bell, was doing more to bring in the teenagers. We were listening to WLAN out of Lancaster and WSBA in York was working up to an all rock-and-roll format.

A year of change, of new beginnings and a brand new high school. Such was my 1956.

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