Though it had been three years since World War II ended, reminders of it still appeared daily in the newspaper as July slipped into August in 1948.
Front-page headlines were occupied by negotiations with Joseph Stalin, our new enemy. Veterans read a regular Q and A column helping them navigate the ins and outs of their GI Bill benefits. People learned that Japanese military officials would go on trial for the brutal murders of American POWs in Palawan, no doubt hoping for a retribution that was not really to be.
The Olympics returned after a 12-year absence, and people kept track daily of Americans’ glories on the track and in the water. Closer to home, there was plenty of entertainment. The King Brothers brought a three-ring circus for one day only to Jackson and Wolfe streets. About 150 performers and 250 animals entertained the crowds during two shows.
It seemed, though, that nearly everyone must have played baseball, with the paper reporting names unfamiliar to us today: those in the Civic League belonged to teams such as East End, West End, Uptown and South End, while the Fredericksburg All-Stars played Tappahannock, duPont of Richmond and the Quantico Marines—admission to games was 75 cents. The American Legion posts held their own championship. Kiwanis battled it out on the diamond with Rotarians, Elks with Optimists.
The baby boom was in its early stages. Proud parents brought their children to the James Monroe playground as the babies, not to be outdone by the Olympics, competed in categories such as prettiest, fattest and biggest smile. The same day, pet shows were held on the West and East End playgrounds while children attended bicycle parades and doll shows at Walker–Grant.
Movies would typically play only for a few days, so anyone who wanted to catch the second run of “Bambi” had to get down to the Victoria on Sunday, Monday or Tuesday. After that, the spy drama “The Iron Curtain” was showing. Westerns were always on tap, and movies were shown continuously on weekends.
The specter of polio cast a shadow on some of the fun, however. On Aug. 3, the paper stated that no new cases had been reported to Richmond officials by noon that day, an indicator if there was any of how much people must have been holding their breath. Eleven cases had been reported the previous day, and children’s events at Kenmore for the week were canceled. An ad for polio health insurance (along with other childhood diseases) offered $5,000 of coverage.
Another major component of the postwar era: consumer products. People were happy to buy new cars, which had not been manufactured for the public during the war. The Buick dealership on Princess Anne had an interesting alternative to a new car though: people could bring in their 1937 or newer Buick and they would install the 1949 engine in only 12 hours.
The Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Company reported that the 5,000th telephone in the Fredericksburg area had been installed at Santee, an historic home in Caroline. Now, 2 out of 3 people here had a phone, though many still used the party-line system. C&P offered advice on how to be a good neighbor: Don’t tie up the line by making one call right after another; replace the receiver carefully after a call.
Some appliance stores mentioned televisions, but it seemed that the most excitement centered around washing machines. The new Frigidaire fully automatic machine had “live-water action. All you do is put in clothes and soap, set the dial, and . . . forget it!” The happy woman shown lolling on cloud nine could also get the new roll ironer for sheets and tablecloths, and the electric dryer.
Though nearly all these businesses have come and gone, the churches, which held weeklong revivals in the summer, still remain. So too, does the sense of community, even if the activities differ. And it looks like there’s a good chance baseball is coming back to Fredericksburg, too.