What June 1950 can teach us about June 2021

In June of 1950, Joe DiMaggio got his 2,000th hit. Guam was designated a United States Territory, and its residents were granted US citizenship. Budge Patty won his first of 2 Grand Slam titles at the French Men’s Tennis Championships, beating Jaroslav Drobný 6-1, 6-2, 3-6, 5-7, 7-5. Doris Hart was the women’s French Tennis Champion.

All through June of 1950, The Third Man Theme, an instrumental played on the zither by Anton Karas, was the most popular song on Billboard’s Best Sellers in Stores chart in the US. It was also the Most Played in Jukeboxes. The most popular song Played by Jockeys was Hoop-Dee-Doo by Perry Como. Jukeboxes, Jockeys, yes we are that far away from then now.

I was born in June 1950. Although that fact ages me now, until recently I knew nothing about the month in which I was born. The New York Times on June 9, 1950, the day of my birth, saw a scary world. U.S. Reds Go Underground To Foil F.B.I., Hoover Says is centered on the front page. The sub-headline goes on to state that 540,000 Communists and Followers Seek Our Atomic, Military, Industrial Secrets, He Tells Closed Senate Unit Session. Page 2 tells us that the FAR EAST SITUATION is VIEWED AS GRAVE. In fact, Peace Treaty With Japan Now Would Throw That Country to Russia, Navy Expert Says.

Reds was a word much in fashion in 1950.

But even so, over at the New York Times not all was doom and gloom. The paper, on page 26, had a Coco-Cola ad touting the beverage as the Natural Partner of Good Things to Eat. Who knew!  Altman & Co showed DISTINGUISHED DRESSES OF HOPE SKILLMAN COTTONS, all in caps, for $19.95, on page 7. These dresses were available in 1950 with a cool well-bred air all of their own. Not only that. You could have the first dress in blue, maize or rose as shown – as shown was in black and white, a minor detail – or in a different stripe design in brown, blue or green, size 10 to 20. But wait. For the second dress, there were other options. The second dress was available in orchid, gold or rose; or in a stripe with amber, blue or green predominating, sizes 12 to 20. Unfortunately, those size 10 were out of luck with the second dress option.

But just a minute, what about those sizes 4, 6 or 8, much in demand today? So sorry, those sizes did not seem to be available in the 1950’s. Everybody was big then, or so it would seem.

On page 28 of the New York Times on June 9, 1950, were the movies of the day. Annie Get Your Gun, The Picture the Country’s Been Waiting For – News. Maureen O’Hara and Macdonald Carey were in Comanche Territory. Elizabeth Taylor (the Bride of the Year) was in Conspirator, an MGM hit. The Little Carnegie on West 57th (between 6th and 7th Avenues, the ad adds for reference) was showing Faust and the Devil, BEST FILM OF ITS KIND YET MADE – Journal American.

What was news in June of 1950 is today just an annotation in history, patchily available on Wikipedia and Google Images. It might be good for us to remember that in another 50 to 100 years, our preoccupations of today, our pandemic, the newly hatched harebrained notion that Trump might be legitimately reinstated as President in August 2021, however we define the world as we know it now and no matter how impassioned we are about our present, all of our concerns will one day be lodged somewhere as just plain ole yesteryear.

Zeroing in on June 9, 1950, the Panhandle Herald in Carson County, Texas noted on page 2 that there was a problem getting good seed wheat that year. On its front page the same paper reported that a radio and rifle had been stolen from a farm belonging to one Jim Mecaskey. On page 5, we discover that Alma Medlin, Bride-Elect, was Given a Shower. And on page 7, we learn that Frank Duby Took a Business Course.

Regional newspapers around the country and around the world reported on everyday events going on that same day. The Amherst News-Times in Ohio reported that their Council had authorized Parking Meters Here, and that Funeral Services would Be Friday for Adam Hahn.

In Ireland, sometime during that day of June 9th 1950, I was born, one among an estimated 266,848 babies born on that date worldwide.

I have just recently discovered that there are web sites dedicated to revealing to me essential facts of my existence that I might have missed. One site tells me that according to their calculations, it’s most likely I was conceived on Friday, September 16, 1949. In all honesty, I had never wondered about that before they brought it to my attention. Now I’m wondering if I should somehow celebrate September 16 as a sort of alternate birthday. Happy Conceived Day!

I was born, it turns out, just weeks before the outbreak of the Korean War. That war began on June 25th 1950 when forces from North Korea invaded South Korea. On June 28th, North Korean forces captured Seoul, the capital of South Korea. The times were not so innocent after all. I have no memory of the Korean War at all: nothing, no images, no sound bites, no anecdotes.

My memories of the 1950’s are bathed in dull colors, sepia browns, indistinct grays and dusty blues. If there were reds (other than Hoover’s) or yellows or greens in those years, then they were dull too. I often think of that when I look at the vibrant, soul enhancing and screamingly alive colors of David Hockney who also lived through the dulled colors of the1950’s. Hockney is the anecdote to the visual world in the 1950’s, even the 1940’s.

Who else was born in 1950? Do I want to do this and date myself? I guess so.

Among those in the public eye born in 1950 were Bill Murray, Dr. Phil, Stevie Wonder, Joan Lunden, Victoria Principal, Daniel Auteuil, Morgan Fairchild, Natalie Cole, Mark Spitz, Peter Gabriel, Cybill Shepherd, Miou-Miou, Neil Jordan, Julie Walters, Bobby McFerrin, William Hurt and Martin Short.

For the rest of us born in 1950 still alive, untouched by fame, we too have achieved a milestone. We have witnessed 71 years.