MDN at 130: 1929 saw births of Martin Luther King Jr., Yasser Arafat and Audrey Hepburn

Friday, December 18, 2009
The front page of The Weekly Democrat-News Jan. 10, 1929, includes a story about Saline County adding a nurse to its payroll. Seventy-five years later, county voters approved a ballot measure establishing a county health department, which now has its own building and offers a wide range of health services.

Until the epic crash of the stock market late in the year, 1929 had been a pretty good year. In fact, the 1920s had been good years for the U.S., generally.

Electricity was increasingly available, which led more consumers to purchase appliances both large and small that required electricity. Industrial production increased. Henry Ford was producing cheaper cars, and more people could afford them. It wasn't called "The Roaring 20s" for nothing.

But the prosperity of those years drove the stock market higher and higher, pushing it up in excess of 500 percent from the early 1920s to 1929. Everybody, it seemed, was buying stock, counting on a continued rise in the price to pay for the purchase of additional stock.

It took a few days for the crash to fully unfold, and there were continued declines until the summer of 1932, but in that time the market lost about 90 percent of its value. It would be 22 years before it reached its previous level again.

William Safire, who died earlier this year, was a political columnist and former speechwriter for Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew, and he first saw the light of day in 1929. Safire was also the author of "On Language," a weekly column on writing in The New York Times. His "Rules for Writers" include these: "Remember to never split an infinitive," "The passive voice should never be used," and "Last, but not least, avoid clichés like the plague."

In the sports world, Missourian Elston Howard, the first black baseball player for the New York Yankees, was born in St. Louis. With a lifetime batting average of .427, Howard appeared in 10 World Series and was the American League's Most Valuable Player in 1963.

Babe Ruth was a hit that year with Claire Hodgeson, a former "Ziegfeld" girl, whom he married in April. By August, Ruth had slammed his 500th major league home run, even as the Yankees lost the game to the Cleveland Indians.

The year also saw the birth of golfer Arnold Palmer, winner of four Masters, two British Opens and one U.S. Open, and leader of "Arnie's Army," as his legions of fans were called.

Wyatt Earp died in Los Angeles, Calif., early in the year, escorted to his grave by actors William S. Hart and Tom Mix, both of whom were noted for their roles in Hollywood Westerns, although neither of them were natives of the American West. Hart was born in Newburgh, N. Y., Mix in Mix Run, Penn.

Earp, who was born in Illinois, took his first job as a "lawman" when he succeeded his father, Nicholas Earp, as a constable in Lamar, Mo.

On Jan. 15, in Atlanta, Ga., civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., was born. King, who was assassinated in 1968, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. His involvement in the civil rights movement began with the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955. In his "I have a dream" speech at the March on Washington in 1963, King said, "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

Other notable births in 1929 included Yasser Arafat, who won a Nobel Prize in 1994; actress Audrey Hepburn, who later became an ambassador for UNICEF; Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis, first lady from 1961 to 1963; Grace Kelly, an actress who married a prince and lived -- mostly -- happily ever after as a princess; Berry Gordy Jr., whose "Motown sound" was the sound of the 1970s; journalist David Broder, who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1973 and is still active as a columnist for The Washington Post; and Anne Frank, whose diary, published by her father after her death in a concentration camp near the end of World War II, fulfilled her wish to "go on living even after death."

A number of important organizations were founded in 1929, including the first seeing-eye Dog Guide School in Morris Township, N.J., and the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

This was also the year of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre, when seven members of Bugs Moran's gang were shot to death in Chicago by seven members of rival Al Capone's gang. The Prohibition years were violent ones, as gangsters like Capone and Moran vied for control of the liquor traffic in the U.S.

The U.S. inaugurated engineer Herbert Hoover as the 31st president in March. Highly regarded for his efforts on behalf of war relief in Europe following World War I, Hoover suffered from a distinct lack of charisma, and was not a particularly good politician, which led to his defeat by Franklin D. Roosevelt in the next election. It was during Hoover's term that the first telephone was installed in the White House. Hoover's vice president was Charles Curtis of Kansas, the son of a Kaw tribeswoman, and the last vice president or president to have a beard or a mustache.

In Hollywood, movie studios anxious to promote their product organized the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and presented awards, later dubbed "Oscars," at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. Janet Gaynor and Emil Jannings took the awards for best actor and actress and "Wings" won for best picture.

Meanwhile, Harold E. Jones, a researcher at the University of California's Institute of Child Welfare, announced that children who did poorly in school and "most often exhibited objectionable traits" were those who attended the most movies. Nevertheless, the first all-color "talkie" opened in New York.

What passed for the "jet set" in 1929 could travel regularly between New York and Los Angeles for $310 via Transcontinental Air Transport. The trip took 48 hours, using trains for nighttime travels.

"Auld Lang Syne," as played by Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians, ushered the old year out on Dec. 31, 1929, for the first time. The song, based on a Robert Burns poem of the same name, had been around for years, but it is Lombardo's version that is still familiar today.

Marshall's newspaper was still a weekly in 1929, which may explain why there are no stories about the stock market crash in the paper around that time.

Early in the year, the city qualified for a first-class post office, according to a story that appeared on Jan. 10.

"The latest announcement, which indicates more clearly than anything else that Marshall is fast becoming a real city, was made today. When the local office receives the first class rating in July, Marshall will be in the top twenty cities in Missouri to have first class post offices," the story says.

Two land sales are spotlighted on the first page. The first, the sale of a 400-acre farm north of Fairville to Henry Leimkuehler by Van Dyke and Hains, garnered $50,000 for "one of the good farms in that part of the county."

The second sale was a purchase of 84 acres on the Marshall and Slater road by Charles F. Bolte of Slater, from the Kidd heirs at a price of $9,660. The story notes this is the second land purchase by Bolte in 60 days.

In the Oct. 17 edition of the paper, there is a report of the arrest and jailing of two men and a woman by Deputy Sheriff Dan Duggins. When Duggins stopped their car on East Vest Street, the report alleges, the trio had 10 gallons of liquor and two jugs "which had evidence of having contained liquor," in their car. A trial was set for the following week.

A story about Marshall Produce Company, a new plant at the corner of Marion Street and Salt Pond Avenue, expresses confidence that "Hereafter, when eastern folks go into the markets for meat for their Sunday dinners, they will be confronted with that wording (Produced in Marshall) neatly placed on a box of good looking dressed poultry. And, if they really want some good meat for their dinner, they will buy meat from that very box."

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