The Year of 1954 (I was 27 years old)
What was happening in the world:
- An Armistice in Korea separates North and South Korea at the 38th Parallel.
- Britain finally gives control of the Suez Canal to Egypt and the British Empire is no more.
- SAS Airline flies the first polar-route flight from Los Angeles to Copenhagen. In 1987, 34 years later, I flew the same route on my trip to Scandinavia.
- Red China threatens to invade Taiwan but backs off when Eisenhower sends the 7th Fleet into action.
What was happening in the USA:
- Eisenhower announces that the USA now has an H-Bomb that is 100 times more powerful than the ones dropped on Japan.
- Puerto Rican fanatics break into the House of Representatives and kill 5 of its members.
- Elvis Presley rules as king of rock-and-roll.
What was happening in California:
- Smog in the Los Angeles Basin is now a major health and environmental problem.
What was happening in sports:
- In the Rose Bowl, it was Michigan State 28 - UCLA 20.
- In the World Series it was the NY Giants over Cleveland 4 games to 0.
- In the NFL championship game it was Cleveland 56 - Detroit 10.
- NFL Player of the Year was Joe Perry of San Francisco.
- The Heisman Trophy went to Johnny Lattner of Notre Dame.
- The national champions of College Football was Maryland.
- The national champions of College Basketball was Indiana.
- The NBA champion was Minneapolis - for the 3rd straight year.
- Stan Musial of St. Louis sets a new record with 5 homeruns in one double header.
What was happening at the movies:
- Best movie was On the Waterfront
- Best actor was Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront.
- Best actress was Grace Kelly in Country Girl.
- Other great movies were:
- Caine Mutiny (Humphrey Bogart)
- River of No Return (Robert Mitchum)
- White Christmas (Bing Crosby)
- The Egyptian (Gene Tierney)
Memorable songs were:
- I left my heart in San Francisco (Tony Bennett)
- You'll never walk alone (Frank Sinatra)
- Atchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe (Judy Garland)
What was happening in my life:
- For the first part of the year, I continued living in Oakland at 2302 Damuth Street. I was working on part-time and freelance art jobs. Most of the work was for the Modernair Corporation (drafting work) and United Displays (sign and cartoon work). I still wasn't making a lot of money, but I was pleased at being able to sell my commercial art skills.
- About halfway through the year, I decided to leave Oakland and head to Sacramento. Moving to Sacramento was a major change in my life. I had left home twice before (when I was drafted into the Army and when I enlisted in the USAF), but in those two cases I was leaving to become a member of a large organization.
- This 3rd time, I was leaving to begin a way of life I have lived now for the last 39 years - a single person living alone. I would be making all my own decisions (including ray successes and failures). It was and is the way I decided I wanted to live my years of life. I have very few If any regrets.
- I packed all my belongings into my old 1948 gray 4-door Dodge, and headed northward to Sacramento. I had known some good times there in the Air Force with my buddy Kalousdian, and I was hoping to recapture some of these good times.
- I got a copy of the Sacramento Bee, and started looking for a bachelor-apartment I could afford. I spent entire days walking the streets of Sacramento looking for my first apartment. I had saved some money during my 4-years in the USAF, and I was using that savings now to finance my new start in life.
- I found a place on 609 11th Street close to the downtown area. It had an upstairs apartment that got very warm during the summer months, but it had privacy and I could afford it. I ended up staying here for almost 2 years. However, most of the time was in the downstairs apartment that was much cooler in the hot Sacramento summers. I have many memories of this "home". Pursuing my interests in art and finding myself as a person were two of my primary efforts in Sacramento.
- With a new home, I now needed a new job. So, I made up a portfolio of my best artwork and headed for the Employment Office. They sent me for an interview at one of the local grocery companies (Cardinal-Inks Groceries). The company was looking for a skilled artist/sign painter to do their weekly-special ads and signs for their 20 stores throughout the interior valley area. I was interviewed by a guy named Joe Puliz, and he hired me for the job. I became the operator of their one-man sign shop. I worked on the 2nd floor of their large office and warehouse on North B Street just a few blocks from where I lived. It turned out to be a great job for me. I had lots of freedom, and as long as I had their signs ready when they wanted them (it was always on Tuesday nights so the signs and ads could go up in their stores on Wednesday mornings) I was left to be pretty much of my own boss. I liked this situation very much.
- I have always done well when I am left alone to do a job. I began by working a regular 8am - 5pm day, but later changed my hours considerably as I became interested in other things. I remember at lunchtime, I would drive around the corner and park on North C Street under a row of shading tree. It was right in front of the Alkali Playground and it was a cool relaxing place to read a book while I ate my lunch. It was here on a warm summer day that I put down my last "novel". It was Victor Hugo's Hunchback of Notre Dame. It was mostly the love story of the angelic Esmeralda and the hideous Quasimodo. When Hugo went into detail in describing how Esmeralda's eyes and tongue "bulged out" when she was hanged - I became so upset I put down the novel and never read another one.
- Some of the things I remember about the year of 1954 living at 609 11th Street and working at Cardinal-Inks are:
- Developing my skill in silk-screening so I could produce the weekly signs for Cardinal-Inks string of 20 stores.
- Catching the Greyhound Bus at the station at 7th and L Streets on a Friday night for a weekend visit with the family back in Oakland. I would always arrive at the Greyhound Station in Oakland on San Pablo Avenue right across from St. Francis Church. Ma, Dad, Bet, and Tom would always drop me off at the San Pablo Station on Sunday evening for the ride back to Sacramento. These were good family memories and as it turns out, I would visit Betty (my older sister) roughly once a month for the rest of our lives.
- Using the old Main Library on I Street right across from the Post Office. Over the last 39 years, I have spent many hours using the services of this library.
- The City Plaza with its bubbling fountain. Unfortunately, it is the hangout of the "bum" population of Sacramento.
- Beer's Book Store on 14th Street. Another place I have visited many times over the years. Often, I was after art books.
- The colonnaded facade of the State Building on Capitol Avenue with its memorable inscription in marble "Bring Me Men to Match My Mountains” - a fitting comment about the great state of California.
- I began attending weekly classes in Square Dancing at the Clunie Clubhouse in McKinley Park. It was my 1st major step to reach out into the world around me. They were held every Thursday night (7pm-9pm) and my usual single partner was a gal named Esther. At Christmas of 1954 we had a class party, and it was the first party as an adult I had ever attended.
- During the hot summer months, we would dance outdoors on the Village Green at Land Park.
- In an additional effort to reach out, I attended ball-room dancing classes at the YMCA on 17th Street. In those days the primary dances were the Foxtrot and the Waltz. I liked the Waltz best of all. As a follow-up to these classes, I began going regularly every Saturday night to the American Legion dances on 21st Street.
- I remember one night on a crowded dance floor, an older guy dropped dead right in the middle of a dance. It was a real "shocker".
- I enrolled in a Watercolor painting class that was taught at night once a week at a local junior high school. It was my first art class since my days at Arts and Crafts in Oakland and I met some very nice people there. We took a weekend one-day trip to the 49er town of Columbia to do some watercolor paintings of local scenes. I remember meeting the local kid about Tom's age and using the watercolors to paint him up like an Indian.
- I remember eating at the Cafeteria in the Greyhound Station on Tuesday nights when I had to work late to finish my weekly signs. My two favorite dishes were Chili and Beans (with crackers) and Macaroni and Cheese. Tom and I also ate here later when he would come up on visits.
- I remember the Jewish guy Herman Schulman I met at the Watercolor class. He invited me over for dinner at his apartment on Capitol Avenue on a hot summer evening. We drank cold lemonade.
- During football season, I remember listening to the 49ers play. These were the days of Y.A. Tittle as quarterback.
- I went to my first rock-and-mineral show. It was held at the Turn Vereign Hall on J Street. It was the beginning of my rock-collecting hobby that has given me great pleasures over the last 39 years. I would eventually put together a collection of over 1,100 rocks and fossils.
- I remember I used to go to the movies every Saturday night to continue our family tradition. My favorite movie houses in Sacramento were Crest, Esquire (both on K Street) and the World across from the City Plaza.
- These were good and significant times in my life, and I was making "slow-but-sure" progress in figuring out what life was all about.
<---- What was happening in 1953
What was happening in 1955 ---- >
One of the ads I made for Cardinal-Inks Grocery Company
I was happy to have a job in Commercial Art.
A sign I made for Cardinal-Inks Grocery Company
Despite being surrounded by one of the most fertile farming areas in the world (the California Central Valley), prices for quality food have increased dramatically.
My first apartment at 609 11th Street
The upstairs always got very hot during Sacramento summers.
The Alkali playground
At lunchtime, I would drive around the corner and park in the shade here - it was quiet and cool.
Heading back to Sacramento on Highway 80
Crossing the old Carquinez bridge after a weekend visit to Oakland.
State Building on Capitol Avenue
The colonnaded entry with its engraved message “Bring Me Men to Match My Mountains”.
City Plaza Fountain
I walked through this plaza almost every week for over 39 years.
Beers book store on 14th Street
Another place where I spent many enjoyable hours. Amazingly, this store still exists - see: http://www.beersbooks.com/
Sacramento’s old central library at 9th and I Streets
I spent many interesting hours here.
The American Legion hall on 21st Street
I attended Ballroom dances here every Saturday night. My partner was often a gal named Esther.
Cardinal-Inks Grocery Company
I got my first full-time job in commercial art here working as an ad/sign maker. The company was eventually acquired by Lucky.
The Clunie Clubhouse in McKinley Park
I took Square Dancing lessons here every Thursday night.
The YWCA on 17th Street
I took Ballroom Dancing lessons here so that I could meet people in the Sacramento area. The YWCA still operates in the same location - see: http://www.ywcaccc.org/sacto.html
An extraordinary collection of photographs
Fishing Baja 2000
Fishing the Sea of Cortez off Cerralvo Island
Other Memoirs from the 1930s - Hugh Flemming - Weston, UK
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