A look back at 1955 ~

Equal rights, Disneyland and Davey Crocket

By Holly Gerard

The era of a great world leader came to an end with the resignation of Sir Winston Churchill from his post as Prime Minister of Great Britain.  He held the post twice:  once in wartime and then in peace, navigating the people of his country through the worst times of the 20th century.  Churchill quietly requested an audience with Queen Elizabeth II to submit his resignation, but when he emerged from the meeting, throngs of well-wishers were outside to cheer his remarkable service to his countrymen.  Retiring from his post at the age of 80, Churchill refused an offer of dukedom, so he could remain a part of the House of Commons.

Back at home, popular President Dwight Eisenhower suffered a heart attack, worrying his constituents that he might not seek re-election.  However, Eisenhower fully recovered and went back to work quickly.  One of his key initiatives was to help thaw relations amidst the Cold War, and he succeeded partially in that endeavor by proposing the U.S.S.R. and the U.S. exchange military blueprints and allow mutual aerial inspection.  The move helped other nations who had been suspicious of us to become more trusting of our government.

Albert Einstein, one of the greatest physicists of our time, passed away at the age of 76.  Einstein, a native of Germany, left his homeland for the U.S. when anti-Semitism forced him to leave in 1933.  He made incredible discoveries, but friends noted that he could not take a walk for fear of being getting lost, due to his poor sense of direction.  He loved to joke, and even at photo opportunities was known to wear Mickey Mouse hats would stick out his tongue out at photographers.

Rosa Parks, who would become a pioneer in the civil rights movement, refused to move to the rear of a bus when asked to in Alabama.  Over the next few months and in coming years, a movement swelled to ensure equal opportunity for all Americans.  This same year the U.S. Supreme Court banned racial segregation in public schools.

In entertainment news, Chicago began to experience what became a legend, when Esther Friedman Lederer took over the advice column for the Chicago Sun-Times and assumed the name of the existing column—Ann Landers.  Top songs of the year included remakes of old songs: “Melody of Love” and “The Yellow Rose of Texas.”  Other favorites were “Mr. Sandman,” “Unchained Melody,” “Earth Angel” and “Rock Around the Clock.”  Popular movies included Marty, starring Ernest Borgnine; Mister Roberts, starring Jack Lemmon and William Powell; and Alfred Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief, starring Cary Grant and Grace Kelly.

Another big event in a different kind of entertainment grabbed national headlines, as Walt Disney opened the $17 million dollar Disneyland in Anaheim, CA.  Cars of the future, Old West trains, and Main Street U.S.A. were feature attractions, along with the ubiquitous Mickey Mouse.  Disney made headlines several times this year, with the instant hit of The Mickey Mouse Club.  Children put on their Mickey Mouse ears and sang along to “M-I-C-K-E-Y…”  Disney also scored big with the television release of Davy Crockett on their Disneyland Show—with more than 10 million coonskin caps sold during the year to avid fans.

In sports news, the Brooklyn Dodgers won their first World Series by beating the New York Yankees in a series split of 4-3.  Pitcher Johnny Podres led the team to the final game shutout and after winning couldn’t stop saying, “Wow, wow, wow!”  The Detroit Red Wings claimed the NHL Stanley Cup in a defeat of the Montreal Canadiens, and the Cleveland Browns beat the Los Angeles Rams to win the NFL championship.