Was it really a simpler time then? | NevadaAppeal.com
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Was it really a simpler time then?

Barry Smith

Sometimes when things get a bit too hectic and it seems the world’s going to heck in a handbasket, I find some comfort in flipping through back issues of the Nevada Appeal.

Now, the Appeal’s been around since 1865, so there’s a lot of flipping to do. This time, though, I just wanted to see what was going on 50 years ago.

At the risk of intruding on Bill Dolan’s “Past Pages” territory, here are some of the issues of the day from April 1954:

n Legendary stagecoach driver Hank Monk promised a sunny Easter morning. “There’ll be some sunburned heads and aching arms and backs if you do much gardening Saturday,” he warned.

That was a rather odd habit of the Appeal, which in those days regularly ran a weather prediction from the man immortalized by Mark Twain for Horace Greeley’s wild ride over the Sierra Nevada.

Hank Monk died in 1883.

The only thing I can figure out is that if anybody complained about the forecast, the Appeal would send them over to the cemetery to talk to Hank.

n The Nugget’s sidewalk cafe on Easter Sunday ran afoul of the law. It seems city trustees decided the tables and chairs violated an 1875 ordinance that prohibits any “person, place or business firm to place or cause to be placed upon any street, sidewalk, square or thoroughfare any box, bale, lumber or any other thing of any nature whatsoever.”

Police should have hauled away the obstructions, the trustees said.

Oh, yeah. The wooden Indian on the sidewalk out front has to go too, they said.

n The next day, the Appeal showed a picture of the wooden Indian and its defenders, Grahame (Judge) Hardy and Kelly O’Keefe. “If we can’t obstruct the sidewalks,” O’Keefe is quoted, “where will I sleep this summer?”

n By the way, Bill Dolan’s column appears on Page 6 of those 50-year-old newspapers.

n Property owners at Lake Tahoe were protesting a new fee being imposed by the state of California on piers. The landowners said the government has no jurisdiction over the land that lies beneath the waters of the lake.

n A baby was born in Reno on Texas soil. How can that be?

Well, 1st Lt. Thomas W. Youngman, a Texan stationed at the Stead air base, and his wife were expecting a child. Youngman couldn’t stand the thought that his baby wouldn’t be born in Texas, so he had a bucket of soil shipped to the delivery room. It was spread under the delivery-room table.

n Ferdinand Bourdlais, 26, of Marinette, Wis., was executed in the state prison’s gas chamber for killing a salesman in Las Vegas in 1952. Bourdlais was described by Warden Art Bernard as “one of the loneliest prisoners we’ve ever had.”

n A letter to the editor, referring to the controversy over the Nugget’s sidewalk cafe, pointed out that the Admission Day Committee each year sold booths to vendors on downtown street corners. “If anything has violated the law of 1875, I believe this has,” the letter said.

Someone else pointed out that parking meters – being considered by the city council – pretty much obstructed the sidewalks, didn’t they?

n An editorial credited to the Mason Valley News sums up the election season this way: “A man running for office the first time can be likened to a sweet young thing passing the pool hall wearing a new dress, a bit self-conscious and a trifle fragile.”

n In San Francisco, a panhandler approached Barnaby Conrad and asked him for 35 cents “to buy a drink.” Impressed with the man’s honesty, Conrad gave him 50 cents.

The panhandler went directly to a lunch counter and bought a sandwich.

n Eight high-school students representing the four classes at Carson High School told the PTA they didn’t think a recreation center was a good idea. What they really wanted, they said, was a malt shop or a swimming pool or a bowling alley.

n In New York, a handy chart was published to guide drinkers on how much whiskey they could safely consume. A person who drinks three-quarters of an ounce an hour will show no or little effect. At the top end, however, somebody consuming 30 shots in an hour “can expect to die promptly of paralysis of the respiratory system.”

OK, it’s time to return to the present. It’s only an illusion that life was simpler then. But turning back the pages of time once in awhile is a good way to remind yourself that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Barry Smith is editor of the Nevada Appeal. Contact him at editor@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1221.