By Steve Gillespie / Managing Editor
The Meridian Star
Melvin Johnson stopped by The Meridian Star recently with a ghost of Christmas past.
A native of Meridian, Johnson said he is moving into a house in Mobile, Ala., where he came across a stack of old Mobile Press-Register newspapers. He brought a section of one with him, dated Sunday, Dec. 23, 1956.
"I'm surprised they're still in good shape," Johnson said.
While in town he said he planned to run by the Meridian-Lauderdale County Public Library as well. He wasn't sure if there was any interest in the old papers as a window to history.
The newspaper was yellow, but not as brittle as might be imagined. The readers in 1956 also got a glimpse of history in that particular issue through a photograph of men showing off their Model A Ford automobiles, and what good condition they were in for the time. The Model A was produced from 1927-1931.
"I'd like to have a couple of those Model As," said Johnson, who was born 10 years after the edition of the Press-Register he brought was printed.
He also was amused at the phone numbers that appeared in the advertisements — two letters and a number followed by a dash and four more numbers.
Just like today, letters to Santa appeared in the paper. One letter in particular, written by 10-year-old Jerry Norris, illustrates the period's fascination with science, technology, the science fiction craze, and the dawn of the space race.
Here's what he wrote, as printed. It's titled "On Mars:"
On Mars they have a Christmas in the summer. In the month of June on the 25th day. On Mars the boys would like to get real ray guns instead of a bb gun. And the teenagers mite get a rocket instead of a car. The girls get a little robot instead of a doll.
Instead of Santa Claus they have a man in a rocket he would be dressed in a helmet and a suit of steel and instead of a sleigh he would have a rocket ship. The Christmas tree was made of reindeer moss.
To some people today a glimpse into 1956 might seem like life on another planet, with strange looking cars and telephone numbers. There was no Super Bowl back then, but the New York Yankees beat the Brooklyn Dodgers four games to three in the World Series, which could be seen on television in color for the second year in a row. Favorite television shows included "I Love Lucy" and "The Ed Sullivan Show." The top grossing films of 1956 were suitable for all family members: "The King and I," "Giant," and "Around the World in 80 Days." On radio a new guy named Elvis Presley was getting a lot of attention with songs like "Heartbreak Hotel" and "Love Me Tender."
Children still wrote to Santa, however.