Looking back 50 years

Fourth of July, then as now, was big news

July 01, 2011

"Plans for the city's most elaborate celebration of the year are still underway as members of the Fourth of July Committeework feverishly to tie up the loose ends of the countless preparations to stage next Monday and Tuesday's patriotic program at the City Park," one of the top stories on the front page of The Record 50 years ago this week said.

It is just as true a half a century later.

"Most last-minute details still to be ironed out will become reality when Havre de Grace residents and many spectators from nearby communities witness a king-size Independence Day program," that story continued. "This celebration will mark the tenth year for the spectacular performance, sparked by a small, but energetic group of civic-minded citizens, headed by Mrs. Mary Sentman as chairman – the first woman to hold this mammoth job."

In other front page news, Delaware approved construction of a new toll road that would be a "Turnpike To Connect With Northeastern Expressway," that many knew as the John F. Kennedy Memorial Highway and that most folks know today as I-95 or simply 95. The Bainbridge Naval Training Center, which was in full operations, was to hold a change of command ceremony. Joseph L. Davis American Legion Post 47 in Havre de Grace announced a membership meeting for July 12 to discuss the feasibility of building a swimming pool behind the post home. Obviously, it was never built, but another Havre de Grace fraternal organization, Elks Lodge 1564 on Route 40, did build and operate a pool for its members in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

And in one other front page story, the mayor and city council held a closed meeting to bring peace to the city government that had been in turmoil since the election the previous month of James C. Vancherie Sr. as mayor. After the meeting, the following statement was released: "At the executive meeting held in the City Council Chamber on Tuesday, June 27, 1961, with Mayor Vancherie and all members, city clerk, city attorney and A. Freeborn Brown III present, a full and complete discussion was had concerning the duties and responsibilities of the position of mayor, positions of Members of City Council and the various committees.

"It is now believed and expected that the result will be full cooperation of city officials." Oh, really? Elsewhere on the front page was a piece labeled merely "Comment," authored "By The Editor," that not only called out the mayor for the tensions that led to the abrupt resignation of Havre de Grace Police Chief William Bullock, but also offered the same space for unfiltered commentary from the mayor and all of the members of city council to explain the controversy and the turmoil in the city government.

"I can tell you very frankly," the comment said for the mayor's benefit, "that the people generally DO NOT approved the prsent methods of operation – outside newspaper headlines, threats of reprisal, state police standing by at the meetings, etc., etc." The comment also admonished those in city government to do better and to be more civilized. "The people DO expect mature men to resolve their differences. They DO expect the government of the city to conducted in accordance with the rules." This, clearly, was far from the latest to be reported and/or opined on this hot topic.

In a real advertisement from the past, Pershing Studio was advertising developing and printing rolls of film at its home of the past 14 years at the corner of Franklin Street and Union Avenue. An eight exposure roll would cost 84 cents and a 12 exposure would be $1.16. "Jumbo reprints" were 8 cents. Film dropped off by 6 p.m. would be ready for pick up by 2 p.m. the next day.

Moviegoers had their choice of watching Marlon Brando and Karl Malden in "One-Eyed Jacks" in the air conditioned comfort at the State Theatre on St. John Street in Havre de Grace or under the stars in Aberdeen at the Harford Drive-In Theatre.

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