Column – Passing of time

Published 4:16 pm Tuesday, April 11, 2023

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The 1950s were ushered in with a worldwide interest in nuclear weapons. As the world’s superpowers raced to develop weapons of their own, the United States set up an aerial guard complete with jet fighters and anti-aircraft weapons to defend the nation’s atomic plants. Several studies and discussions were held about civilian defense and the threat to key locations in the case of nuclear bomb attacks.

By mid-June, hostilities in Korea were heated. On June 27, Truman ordered American military forces to aid in the defense of South Korea. Less than 24 hours later, North Korea had taken control of Seoul using Russian tanks. The United States had gone to war again, this time in Korea. The draft was extended. More and more men were sent to Korea. 

By mid-1950, reserve units were activated. Truman asked for additional military funds, $10 billion to be precise, to supply troops headed to Korea.

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The front page again gave daily battle reports. Headlines declared massive bombing attacks. Stories provided tallies of downed aircraft and injured or killed soldiers. Reports from the war front were not censored as much as they were during World War II. There were more stories and photos showing and describing in accurate detail the horrors of war. 

Not all the news from Korea was bad. One short story told about Operation “Kiddy Car,” a military operation led by the chaplain force to transport nearly 1,000 Korean orphans rescued off the streets. The children, aged 6 months to 11 years old, were air-lifted to an island sanctuary off South Korea. Attended by Korean women, they were taken to the child welfare center to be fed and their injuries attended to with the hopes of finding homes at a future time. 

While war and carnage were the primary headlines, the United States also was making advances in medical care. On April 5, 1950, an aorta transplant was performed at Henry Ford Hospital. The same year, the iron lung was used locally for the first time. The patient was a 15-year-old suffering from a rare muscular disease. The disease had weakened her muscles, particularly those required to breathe. After several life-saving emergency calls, she was admitted to the hospital and put in the iron lung.

Nationwide, the number of polio cases hit record highs. Many studies and assumptions were made about the disease, one being that polio was caught through open wounds. 

With the draft increased and many young men at war in Korea, labor shortages began to affect the nation. A solution found by many companies and factories was to hire more women. As a result of many women working outside the house. Suffolk schools considered the addition of a cafeteria in the local schools to feed lunch to the children. A questionnaire was sent home to all children asking parents’ opinion on the matter. 

Women were making advances in other areas as well. In June 1951, in Richmond two women were chosen to serve on a jury for the first time.

A local watch retailer desired to give a couple graduating students the gift of time and devised a fun way to do so. “A local jewelry store has set up a unique system for determining which boy and girl of the Suffolk High School graduating class this year will receive each of the two watches which it will present. Leonard Barr, manager of Barr Brothers, explained that a large electric clock has been set up in the store window around the face of which have been written the names of the members of the Class of 1951. An eight-day, mechanical clock will be wound up tightly. Wherever the hour and minute hands stop, the names pointed out by the corresponding hands on the electric clock will determine who will receive the watches. The hour hand will point out the boy and the minute hand the girl. Two 17-jewel Bulova watches — a man’s and a woman’s — will be presented to the lucky seniors.

Jen Jaqua is the creative director for the Suffolk News-Herald. She can be contacted at