1952: Events and Inventions

February 6-7, 1952. King George VI of the United Kingdom dies at age 56, and Princess Elizabeth becomes Queen Elizabeth II. (Photo: Princess Elizabeth and her husband the Duke of Edinburgh on a rail car in Canada.)

'Princess Elizabeth & the Duke of Edinburgh on a Canadian rail car' photo (c) 2008, Simon Pielow - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/February 26, 1952. Prime Minister Winston Churchill announces that the United Kingdom has an atomic bomb.

July 23, 1952. General Mohammed Naguib and Gamal Abdel Nasser, the real power behind the coup, bring about the overthrow of King Farouk of Egypt. King Farouk, known as “The Playboy King”, abdicates and sails away on his luxury yacht.

August 11, 1952. The Jordanian army forces King Talal to resign due to mental illness; he is succeeded by his son King Hussein of Jordan, age 16.

September 2, 1952. Dr. C. Walton Lillehei and Dr. F. John Lewis perform the first open-heart surgery at the University of Minnesota.

October 20, 1952. The Uk declares a state of emergency and martial law in Kenya due to the Mau Mau uprising.

November 1, 1952. A small island off Eniwetok Atoll in the South Pacific Ocean is the site of a U.S. nuclear test explosion of the new hydrogen bomb. It is believed that Soviet scientists will soon produce their own H-bomb.

'NCP4145' photo (c) 2008, Otis Historical Archives National Museum of Health and Medicine - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/November 4, 1952. Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower defeats Democrat Adlai Stevenson to become the president of the United States.

December 10, 1952. Dr. Albert Schweitzer receive the Nobel Peace Prize for his work as a doctor in French Equitorial Africa. He intends to use the prize money to set up a leper colony.

In the United States, the 1952 polio epidemic became the worst outbreak in the nation’s history. Of nearly 58,000 cases reported that year 3,145 died and 21,269 were left with mild to disabling paralysis. Although a polio vaccine is under development by Dr. Jonas Salk at the University of Pittsburgh, and another by Dr. Albert Sabin in Cincinnati, a polio vaccine will not be announced until 1955 nor widely administered until the late 1950’s/early 1960’s. I was born in 1957, and I remember being taken to the health clinic at City Hall to get my polio vaccination and also a smallpox vaccination when I was about four years old. I’m sure my mom and other parents of her generation were quite thankful for the protection of a vaccine against the double scourges of smallpox and polio. (Photo: An “iron lung” was used to help some polio victims breathe.)

1952: Books and Literature

The National Book Award was given to From Here to Eternity by James Jones.

The Caine Mutiny by Hermann Wouk won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. I read The Caine Mutiny back when I was a teenager, and I remember where I was when I read it: Glorieta, New Mexico at a camp for Christian young ladies. (We were called Acteens, a very 1970’s title for a missions organization for girls.) Anyway, the camp itself and the subject matter in the book were enough of a contrast that I remember the experience of reading it quite well. In my cabin at a camp full of teen girls, during afternoon rest and recreation (recreation for me was reading), I was reading about a bunch of men on a ship and how they eventually relieve Captain Queeg of his command on the basis of the men’s belief that he is mentally unbalanced. I’ve never seen the movie based on The Caine Mutiny. Have you?

Newbery Medal for children’s literature: Ginger Pye by Eleanor Estes.

Carnegie Medal for children’s literature: The Borrowers by Mary Norton. I love The Borrowers. I need to read it to Z-baby if we ever finish reading The Lord of the Rings. (I love LOTR, too, but it is very long.)

Published in 1952:
Mrs McGinty’s Dead and They Do It With Mirrors by Agatha Christie. I think Mrs. McGinty was one of the first Agatha Christie mysteries I read, and I remember it well, including whodunnit. I must admit that I can often re-read many of her other novels with pleasure because my ailing memory doesn’t remind me who the murder is.

The Silver Chalice by Thomas B. Costain. Historical fiction set during the time of Christ.

Giant by Edna Ferber. Ferber’s fun, but highly inaccurate, novel of Texas. I grew up around ranchers and oil men, and although some Texans truly are “bigger than life” (and too big for their britches), Giant goes just a little too far with all the high-flying and high-rolling Texas millionaires. I really wonder if Ms. Ferber had ever been to Texas and if not, where she got her information about the culture of the state. She was a New Yorker as and adult, and she was a member of the Algonquin Round Table, a group of wits who met for lunch every day at the Algonquin Hotel in New York. Giant was made into a 1956 movie starring Elizabeth Taylor, James Dean, and Rock Hudson. It’s a good story if you don’t take its portrayal of Texas too seriously.

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway. I can take, and even appreciate, some Hemingway, but this story of an old man and a boy catching a fish seemed long even at only a little over a hundred pages.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis. Such a fun book, and it has about the best opening sentence in children’s literature: “There was once a boy named Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.” In this book, Lewis does a riff on the Odyssey as Caspian, Edward, Lucy and cousin Eustace voyage on The Dawn Treader looking for the seven lost Lords of Narnia and for the End of the World. This chronicle also has the best transformation as Eustace becomes a dragon, repents of his whining, greedy, lazy ways, and is restored by Aslan to his human form, albeit a much nicer person than when he started out on the journey.

Excellent Women by Barbara Pym. I found the book, Excellent Women, to be reminiscent of Jane Austen (drolly observant), Mrs. Gaskell’s Cranford (insightful in regard to the ordinary), and even Jane Eyre, without the drama, but with the wry self-analysis. Semicolon review here.

East of Eden by John Steinbeck. If I have to choose between Steinbeck and Hemingway, I’ll take Hemingway.

Prisoner’s Base and Triple Jeopardy by Rex Stout. Prisoner’s Base is sad in that a sympathetic character gets killed off in the beginning, but it’s good solid Nero Wolfe tale. Triple Jeopardy is one of Stout’s collections of long short stories or short novelettes, and as such it doesn’t interest me as much as the full-length books do. But I’ll read, and expect to enjoy, anything Mr. Stout wrote about Nero Wolfe and his sidekick Archie Goodwin.

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. “Wilbur never forgot Charlotte. Although he loved her children and grandchildren dearly, none of the new spiders ever quite took her place in his heart. She was in a class by herself. It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.”

Singin’ in the Rain (1952)

Directors: Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly
Writers: Adolph Green and Betty Comden
Starring: Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, Debbie Reynolds, and Jean Hagen

Z-Baby says: Some of it is funny, and some of it is boring. (Donald O’Connor’s solo, Make Em Laugh, was the part that made Z-baby laugh the most.)

Semicolon Mom says: I thought all the singing and dancing was fascinating. The story was thin and hokey, but story is not the main point of the movie. In fact, the movie within the movie practically screamed that the point of the musical, at least to the producers and directors of Singin’ in the Rain, is to shoehorn in all the song and dance numbers you can and work the plot around the dancing. Dialog is optional.

Ha! IMDB says, “The script was written after the songs, and so the writers had to generate a plot into which the songs would fit.”

We enjoyed listening to Z-baby chuckling at the movie almost as much as we enjoyed the movie itself.

IMDB link to Singin’ in the Rain.

Christmas in Norway, 1952

From Arne and the Christmas Star, a story of Norway by Alta Halverson Seymour. Illustrated by Frank Nicholas. Wilcox and Follett Company, 1952.

Arne knew there would be stacks of flatbrod, hard and crisp and round, each piece larger than a plate. Besta baked these right on top of her well-scrubbed cookstove. There would be heart-shaped waffles, and lefse and bakelse and rosettes and all kinds of good coffeecakes. His mouth watered at the thought. If a boy hung around the kitchen at th right times, he was sure to come in for a good many samples, especially broken bits.

He knew there would also be a final scouring of the house just before Christmas, that the windows and the copper flowerpots on the window sills would be gleaming. The geraniums and begoneas would be coaxed into bloom for Christmas. And of course the womenfolk would be busy planning and preparing food to last through the Christmas season.