The world was on edge in 1953. The cold war was at its height and it
was not hard to imagine a nuclear holocaust, especially after the
Soviets exploded a hydrogen bomb early in the year. Back yard bomb
shelters were replacing swing sets and those of us who attended the
grade school on Academy Street practiced diving under our desks and
putting our heads between our knees the moment we saw the first flash
of the atomic explosion. When Stalin died in 1953 and was replaced by
Nikita Khrushchev there a brief glimmer of hope that tensions might
abate but paranoia and mistrust were too entrenched on both sides.
In the U.S. Joe McCarthy continued his reign of terror and the new
President, Dwight Eisenhower, agreed to fire any federal employee who
asserted his or her 5th Amendment rights. Eisenhower he did stir
himself to criticize McCarty however when Joe suggested the Commies
had also infiltrated the Republican Party. Eisenhower refused to grant
clemency to the atomic spies Julius and Ethel Rosenbergs who many
Americans believed had been framed. However recent evidence
establishes their guilt beyond any doubt.
In Cuba, a young revolutionary named Fidel Castro began an uprising against the Cuban
government, was arrested and given a 15 year prison sentence. Winston
Churchill was knighted and Queen Elizabeth coronated in England and
Edmund Hillary summited Everest. Finally, in a bizarre accident in
Mars Bluff South Carolina, a B-47 accidentally dropped a nuclear bomb on
the town– but luckily, only the conventional explosive in the bomb
In sports, the Red Sox scored 17 runs in one inning, still a record,
without Ted Williams in the lineup. He was still in the military and
had just been awarded the Air Medal for safely crash landing a
crippled Panther jet. Ernie Banks played his first game for the
Chicago Cubs and Rocky Marciano beat Joe Walcott for the heavyweight
In entertainment, WABI Bangor went on the air, Elvis graduated
from high school, Playboy hit the newsstands with Marilyn Monroe as
its first centerfold and Peter Pan came to the screen. In the world of
print Hemingway won the Pulitzer for Old Man and the Sea and TV Guide
didn’t win the Pulitzer then or ever but did publish its first issue.
Perhaps the most important event of 1953 occurred in medicine when
Jonas Salk announced that he had developed a polio vaccine.
Polio had reached epidemic proportions by 1953. The March of Dimes
wanted to build a wall against polio as pictured in this January 1953
ad in the Calais Advertiser. Thankfully Salk’s vaccine was only months
In the St. Croix Valley area, St Anne’s Church celebrated its centenary with
several days of special services. There was a good deal of
construction going on in Calais. The Flatiron Block on Main Street,
now Triangle Park, was demolished to make way for the Barnes Brothers
Cities Service gas station as was the old Wilfred Eaton House on Main
Street where construction began immediately on a modern brick hotel to
be named the “International”.
On April 15, 1953, the third serious accident of the year occurred at Mill Cove in Robbinston when
a Moncton, NB car overturned killing a boy and seriously injuring the
rest of his family. This particular curve was considered the most
dangerous in the county and several other deaths occurred before the
road was rebuilt. The “old” curve can still be seen to the right as
you turn on to the Ridge Road.
The Flatiron Block in Calais was the equivalent of Baltic and Mediterranean
Avenues and by the 50’s was beyond repair. This photo shows the block
from the corner of Main and Hog Alley. The library would
be directly to the right, to the left is Main Street looking toward
the corner of Main and North Street.