What was Milford like in the 1950s? Let’s choose one edition of the Milford Cabinet – “A Day in the Life,” so to speak – to give us a peek. A random July 11, 1957 edition (Volume 155, Number 2) was 12-pages long, cost 10 cents, and certainly reflected midcentury Milford.
Befitting that year of Sputnik, the paper’s top story concerned a civil defense drill to be conducted the following day. “Duck & Cover” was apparently still being pushed as an effective strategy in a nuclear attack as the article details procedures to follow during the upcoming red alert. Pedestrians are told to take cover on sidewalks while drivers are instructed to pull over for 15 minutes when the signal sounds. The mock attack was part of the nationwide Operation Alert but although the paper calls the drill “crucial,” it is certainly hard to believe such actions would have made much of a difference during the real thing.
Such atomic angst is also evident in other parts of the paper. Page 11 informs readers that civilian volunteer plane spotters are “now needed” in the Milford Ground Observer Corps, while a large ad on page 7 features a picture of a rather unfamiliar looking Uncle Sam telling his recruit, “If you’re a young man of military age, Uncle Sam wants you to decide what’s next.” The associated pamphlet was called “It’s Your Choice,” although the way Sam has his arm around the boy, there doesn’t seem to be much deciding left to do.
Religious life is featured prominently. No less than four church-related articles are on the front page alone. The local Episcopal church was planning a “Calypso Fiesta” at the Milford Community House featuring collector button displays and a doll “Hat Bar,” where little girls could outfit their doll with Mae West headgear among other choices. Fire engine rides, fortune tellers, stuffed monkeys, and a puppet show are also highlighted in the article. A reception for the new St. Patrick’s pastor, Walter Blankenship, is front-page news as well as one feature on the new Methodist minister John Penberthy, who had just arrived in town, and another on Reverend Kendall Burgess who had just left. If that wasn’t enough religion for the good folks of Milford, page 2 features a full roundup of goings-on at eight different Milford churches and page 4 features more church news from Mont Vernon and Temple.
A more rural Milford is also evident. A front-page story on the Hillsborough County Farm Field Day mentions a 4-H dairy show, tractor driving contest, and farm machinery demonstration topped off with a BBQ dinner. And farmers would have been interested in the articles on dwarf fruit trees and farm tax refunds, as well as a bevy of classifieds such as “For Sale: Three goats, two milking, one bred, one buck.”
Many of the advertisements throughout the 1957 paper highlight the American Dream – apparently obtainable both in the garage and the kitchen. One Milford Motor Co. advertisement asks “Who says you can’t be a two car family? Make that second car a Ford Dealer A-1,” while another exclaims, “Sure! Many people buy Ford because of their long, low whistle-collecting looks. But beauty alone isn’t enough,” before promoting its under-the-hood attributes. A message from the Public Service Company of New Hampshire touts the “modern living” possible with electricity and is accompanied by pictures of nearly a dozen appliances from dishwashers to blenders to refrigerators.
Advertisements also encourage readers to “twist, turn and tussle to your heart’s content in Pleetway Pajamas,” get the “New Cuts” and “Cold Waves” for one dollar at Anna’s Beauty Shop in Union Square and enjoy the new convenience of supermarket shopping at First National or Mike’s Store on Nashua Street. Some of the food options are quintessential 1950s – “baby limas,” beef pies (3 for 89 cents), chicken shoulders, and strawberry rhubarb pie. Mister Cory starring Tony Curtis and Heaven Knows Mr. Allison with Robert Mitchum were playing in Cinemascope down at the Latchis.
A charming aspect of the Cabinet in 1957 is that it found space for small items from and about its residents. Mini “news” items are featured throughout the paper such as “Dr. and Mrs. Daniel B. Coleman of Wellesley visited the Walter Wiggins on Sunday” or “Miss Clarita Berube is on vacation from her duties at Dyer’s Drugs tomorrow.” Readers could also write in with a “Card of Thanks.” Such a note from Mary Coburn Gilson reads: “I want to express my gratitude in the wonderful way in which my relatives and friends made my birthday such a happy occasion.” And indeed, turning back to the front page, one finds an article on the “spry and energetic” Mrs. Gilson, who had just turned 100.
Throughout the paper there are also unattributed random thoughts and jokes – likely included to lay out the columns correctly for printing. Most display a 1950s folksy sense of humor “It’s not the prices of new cars that bother us, it’s the lack of money to meet them that has us going – by bus,” reads one. Another opines, “The best bet at any racetrack is – don’t.” Other small news items make you wonder – “Man’s wedding ring found on high school athletic field” reads the note on Page 6.
Finally, there is an editorial on Page 2 that is both prescient and fascinating. The unattributed editorial seems almost tacked on to three other opinion pieces and asks “When we look back at these years from some future vantage point, we may well be dismayed by the waste of time, money and effort that has gone into investigating New Hampshire’s subversives. It is discouraging to see so much legislative and judiciary machinery devoted to tracking down a handful of individuals who have the temerity to express ideas looked on as unorthodox to the majority.” Not necessarily a popular opinion in conservative Milford in 1957 but one which has certainly aged well over time.
As in any era, in any town, Milford had its charms, its excesses, its inequalities and its joys – all of which are on full display in the paper from July 11, 1957.
It's Your Choice...