Saturday, February 16, 2013

1955 Downtown Ottawa

The year is 1955, the United States is at peace.

Downtown Ottawa at 3rd and Main
The Korean War ended two years earlier. The French are mired down in a war in Indo-China, not the United States, yet. But peace at home is uneasy. In the midst of good news, the troubling fact is that the Russians have created the Warsaw Pact. The Cold War has begun and the stakes have never been higher, as the Russians detonated their first hydrogen bomb two years earlier.

Dwight David Eisenhower is president of the United States. He suffers a heart attack while vacationing in Denver, and an anxious nation follows his recovery. Fred Lee Hall, Republican, defeated George Docking the year before and is now governor of Kansas. W.W. Robe is mayor of Ottawa.  A post World War II economic boom is going on after a brief recession in 1954. Eisenhower initiates the Interstate Highway Program and the car is king.

It has been four years since the Great Flood of 1951 submerged downtown Ottawa. Hobart Parks who scoured the local Ottawa newspapers for information did not have much to say about Ottawa that year. From the Ottawa Herald, he reports that two new men's dormitories were built for Ottawa University. Parks Annals.

The summer of 1955 and Downtown Ottawa bustles with weekend shoppers.

The same year, Ray Kroc starts franchising MacDonald restaurants, Disneyland opens in Anaheim, California, Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, and James Dean dies in an auto accident, after starring that year in both Rebel Without a Cause, and East of Eden. The biggest hit single on the records chart was Rock Around the Clock by Bill Haley & His Comets, followed by Sixteen Tons, sung by Tennessee Ernie Ford. Dinah Shore was on TV and had two hit songs, including Love and Marriage, which topped out at number 20 on the charts.

And in 1955, the hottest new car on the road was the Chevy Bel Air, which offered the now legendary small block V8 engine and Ferrari-like front grill. And yes, Dinah Shore was singing See the U.S.A. in your Chevrolet on her popular TV show.

1955 Chevy Bel Air