Proloy Bagchi

A visit to Bombay suddenly appeared on the horizon in the summer of 1955. While I was not yet 19 and had cleared BA Part I and my only sister, after getting a First Division in her MA Geography – a rarity in those days in the field of Humanities – was in a mood to relax. She was, however, approached for tutoring of the two elder daughters (princesses) of the Gwalior Maharaja, then the Rajpramukh of the now-nonexistent state of Madhya Bharat. It was a pretty cushy job for her. She would be picked up either in a Palace buggy or one of its numerous Mercedes cars and then deposited back at the house. The tutoring was for an hour or so and was well paid by standards of those days. She had collected some money and wanted to make use of it.
Around that time an uncle of ours living in Bombay working in the Port Trust wrote to my father to send his children to him during the vacations. That is how our trip was shaped up. Thankfully two daughters of a neighbour too were due to go to Bombay to their Brigadier uncle. Plans were drawn up and soon we, the foursome, boarded the crowded Punjab Mail for Bombay. A 24-hour journey took us through mostly barren summer landscape of dry fields and rivers with depleted water beyond the Vindhya and Satpura ranges until the climb commenced over the Western Ghats after Igatpuri. I remember having seen some tremendous scenic beauty of green hills with lush green forests, plunging cliffs and deeply cut river valleys. I am sure that green cover is long gone, some of it had already disappeared about 20 years later when I used to travel from Nagpur to Bombay on official business.
As soon as we alighted at the Dadar Railway Station a petite and good-looking lady approached my sister and rather uncannily called her by name. She turned out to be our aunt whom we had never met. She was in her early 30s and was quite adept in dealing with the Bombay taxi-walas. Within moments we arrived at their Hindu Colony apartment on what was then known as Vincent Road, a broad avenue, with three-lane carriageways and trams plying up and down on the central verge. Vincent Road had Hindu Colony on one side and the Parsi Colony on the other. The apartment was on the first floor – of three bed rooms and a big hall and a dining area. Each room had floors done up in bright colourful tiles. Obviously, the era of massive use of Makrana marble was still far away. The flat was airy and our aunt had organised some tropical potted plants on the balconies. Uncle had his around 80-year old father living with him. He was a law graduate of early 1890s and had a raging curiosity about everything. He had known my father since the latter was a student in Scottish Church College in Calcutta in the second decade of the last century.
Bombay, now Mumbai, was a thriving commercial and industrial city and yet it was considered only the second city of the country. Calcutta, now Kolkata, continued to be known as the first city even nearly a decade after independence. Kolkata, earlier the capital of British India, was where the action was and the Communists were still far away in the future and were yet to drive away private enterprise from Bengal. No wonder, it continued to be the hub of trade, commerce and industry. Delhi was nowhere near either Kolkata or Mumbai though it had been the capital of the country since 1931. Perhaps, it had little opportunity to progress after independence as it was subjected to the oppressive pressure of refugees soon after the partition of the country.
Mumbai in those days was of special charm for me. One of my close friends was doing his B Tech at one of the institutes there. He was highly enamoured of the place, especially of its Fort area and the city’s local train services. Another close friend had just returned from there and had given me glowing descriptions of its local trains, buses, trams, its sea and beaches as well as its massive British era buildings. It was quite a build- up and with the opportunity coming my way I was eager to lap it all up. Having never been to a big city my excitement was naturally palpable.
As I settled down and started feeling comfortable in the new environment I would venture out of the house all by myself. Initially I would be cautioned to be careful while crossing roads which I had to do as I frequently would go over to the Parsi Colony on the other side of the Vincent Road. It was a quiet place with well maintained parks where one could hang around in the shade of a tree. Or else I would go cross the Dadar Railway over-bridge and walk all the way to the Shivaji Park beach and get the refreshing breeze that would cool me in the warm and humid weather.
I would also take rides with my uncle in the morning as he drove down to his Port Trust office in the Fort area. He would mostly take the central north-to-south artery via Parel, Byculla, etc and then take the Mohammed Ali Road – now virtually inaccessible to cars – right up to the Fort. Or for a change he would take the outer route of Cadell Road on the Western fringe and would pass through Hornby Vellard, Breach Candy, Chowpatty and on to the Fort via that wonderful “Queen’s Necklace” – the Marine Drive. Both the routes were interesting and I would look forward to these drives.
I would be dropped somewhere near the Hornby Road and I would wander around down its arcades looking at those British era buildings and indulge in window shopping. Sometimes I would veer right into the thick of the business district where offices of big and reputed commercial and industrial houses were located in huge Victorian buildings in what is now known as the “Fort Heritage Precinct”. I was charmed by the Horniman Circle which had a massive park in the middle surrounded by solid looking buildings of uniform elevation. Occasionally I would turn west from Flora Fountain and go and sit on parapets of the Marine Drive and take in the view of (now as I know them) the Art-Deco architecture on Marine Drive and, of course, the Arabian Sea that was not quite attractive in mid-morning hours but a curiosity nonetheless for a young man from a small town in central part of the country who had never seen the sea before. Or I would go along the famous Oval and onwards towards Cooperage grounds. It was fascinating to see the Neo Gothic public buildings (Bombay University, High Court, etc.) on one side of it and those Art-Deco structures on its western side of Marine Drive and Backbay Reclamation. Now I find that these two architectural ensembles of Mumbai constitute the largest such conglomeration of these two genres of architecture in the world.
The Fort area appeared to me more like the London that we had seen in photographs in various magazines with its old and heritage buildings, wood and glass red telephone booths planted in the middle of broad pavements, its red and yellow double-decker buses and trams, the fire hydrants, road signage and the zebra crossings. There were no malls then but big departmental stores one of which was Akbaraly’s off the Hornby Road. One could get virtually every conceivable item in it. After loitering around for a couple of hours I would catch a tram near Colaba Causeway and return to Dadar Tram Terminus sitting on the upper deck taking in the aerial view of the busy but largely uncluttered streets paying just, incredible as it may sound now, an Anna (one sixteenth part of a rupee) as fare. Now, one can neither see the trams nor the wood-and-glass telephone booths, overtaken by technology as both have since been.
We also had outings to Vihar Lake or to Juhu Beach or to the Aray Milk Colony. My uncle was fond of visiting the Santa Cruz Airport. He loved to see the big international flights arriving and disgorging passengers. In those days one could go right up to the glass front of the Arrival Lounge with no questions asked – a seemingly impossible activity today because of the terrorists’ threat. I keep wondering how in around fifty years the country has changed and simple pleasures of life for ordinary people have been snatched away.
My sister and I not only saw “The Country Girl” (with Grace, Kelly, William Holden and Bing Crosby) at the New Empire theatre we also happened to go to an evening of Bengali music at the prestigious Shammukhanand Hall where Late Hemanta Kumar, the famous exponent of Rabindra Sangit (Tagore Songs), led the programme of Barsha Mangal – a thread of songs invoking rain written by Rabindranath Tagore. A great occasion for me, as I, luckily, had the chance to hear live the favourite singer of my adolescent years.
We didn’t realize how swiftly time raced away and soon it was time to undertake that rigorous 24-hour journey to get back to Gwalior. We, my sister and I, spent a very enjoyable summer in the company of uncle and aunt. They were extremely good couple and were very nice to us. Clearly, we were enriched by the trip – the exposure to a metropolitan town enabled us to acquire invaluable experience and knowledge. We got back to Gwalior richer in every way.
Thirty years later, as luck would have it, I was posted at Bombay and served a full tenure of four years. By then Uncle had retired and was not doing very well. The Great City, too, had deteriorated and degraded a lot, overtaken by hundreds of slums, inspiring many books on it, both, complimentary and non-complimentary. Politicians sold numerous dreams of the city’s development and upgrade but it kept sinking to greater and greater depths. For common men it is excruciatingly painful to survive in it whereas for the rich it is a great playground where billions are made and, perhaps, lost everyday. Be that as it may, I look back on my Bombay of fifty-odd years ago with nostalgia and wistfulness.

Snapshot, 1955: A moment of suspense in Corsica

It’s the mid-50s. You’ve arrived in Corsica from the mainland by simply stepping down from the ship’s gangway – but the car in which you’ll explore the island must be perilously hoisted from the main deck…

By this point, large ferries capable of swallowing hundreds of cars within their opening hulls were in use across the Mediterranean – but routes to Corsica were still covered only by traditional cargo ferries. Therefore, automobiles were transported on their decks and lowered onto the docks using the on-board cranes, as demonstrated in the Roger-Viollet photograph above. The image was taken in 1955, and shows a car being lifted from the deck of Cyrnos (which served the France-Corsica route until 1966), with pillows stuffed between the crane’s wheelclamps to prevent damage. We imagine that watching your brand-new Mercedes-Benz 300 SL being unloaded in this manner would be a nerve-racking experience – all the more reason to find a bar from which to order a relaxing pastis, then.

Do you rermember Nelson’s 14 pubs in 1955?

by Geoff Crambie

On a recent journey into the centre of Nelson, an old pal from my Primet Secondary School days asked me just where did the now long-gone Railway Hotel stand?
Well, looking at this week’s column picture from 1955, with the Railway Hotel in the centre, gives us no clue whatsoever! Every single building seen here has been knocked to the ground and this Victorian built corner of Nelson is no more.
The answer is that if you stand at the entrance to today’s Pendle Rise Centre you are on the exact site of the 1848 built Railway Hotel.
Back in the year of our 1955 street scene, Nelson had a grand total of 14 pubs and nearby Brierfield tallied a further 10.
Today you can count the two town’s hostelries on one hand! Who can remember the Borough Hotel, the Engineers Arms and the General Gordon Hotel, all part of Nelson’s history?
Brierfield’s past pubs include the Lane Ends Inn, the Greyhound Hotel and the Wigglesworth Arms, once a thriving trio of welcoming inns. Today they are just fond memories of an era that has sadly gone forever.

Social Security Q&A: When Will I Receive My Maximum Benefit if I Was Born in 1955?

Laurence Kotlikoff

Social Security may be your largest or one of your largest assets. How you manage it, by deciding which benefits to collect and when, can make an absolutely huge difference to your lifetime benefits. And those with the highest past covered earnings have the most to gain from maximizing their Social Security.
I’ve been answering questions and writing columns about Social Security each week for the past two years on PBS NEWSHOUR’s website. The editors at Forbes asked me to post a Q&A each day from those columns. To see all my columns, please go to my software company’s site,, and click More Press below the WSJ quote.
Today’s question asks when someone born in 1955 can receive their maximized Social Security benefit. The answer explores various potential auxiliary benefits, including potentially different months of entitlement for different benefits.

Question: At what age will I collect the most Social Security? I was born in March 1955.
Answer: If we are talking about your retirement benefit, it’s age 70. If we are talking about your spousal benefit from your current spouse or, if you are not remarried, from an ex-spouse with whom you were married for 10 years, it’s 66 and two months. But (there are always buts with Social Security) your current spouse would need to be at least 62 for you to collect a spousal benefit at 66 years and two months. And your ex would need to be at least 62, and you would have to have been divorced for at least two years.

In regards to collecting a survivor benefit, the age at which you can get the highest survivor benefit is age 66 exactly. This is your survivor full retirement age. You might think the full retirement age for survivor benefits would be the same as the full retirement age for retirement and spousal benefits. For young’uns like you, the full retirement age for retirement and spousal benefits can be up to four months older than the full retirement age for survivor benefits.

Then & Now: Harry's Chocolate Shop, 1955

On July 11, 1913, a 14-year-old West Lafayette boy named Harry J. Marack won a "pushmobile" race down State Street Hill, an event comparable to the Soap Box Derbies in later years, as about 2,000 spectators applauded. Generations of Purdue University students and townspeople knew the winner years later as the proprietor of Harry's Chocolate Shop, a legendary hangout in the West Lafayette Village. 
Folklore has it that Harry's, a West Lafayette institution and a rite of passage for most Purdue students, was originally a soda fountain when it was opened in 1919 by Marack. It later received a license to serve beer and alcohol. The bar was a speakeasy during Prohibition, and it gained more momentum after World War II. Merack turned the bar over to Harry Jr. in the 1970s and is today owned by Hershel and Mary Cook. 
A fire in 1995 nearly put an end to the two-story bar, or so students feared at the time. Hundreds of students stood outside the bar watching as 60 firefighters sprayed up to 3,000 gallons of water per minute on the building. The firefighters were able to keep the second-story flames away from the first-story tavern. The bar was closed for repairs for about a month, leaving the hand-carved signatures and initials across the back walls intact. 
Purdue students visit Harry's Chocolate Shop in West Lafayette's Village area in 1955. 2014 photo by John Terhune/Journal & Courier 

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22 September 1955: ITV’s inaugural broadcast

By Ben Judge

Viewers could now change the channel
Until 1955, there wasn’t much choice of what to watch on British TV. You got one channel – the BBC.
But the Television Act 1954 changed all that. It authorised the creation of the first commercial television network in the UK, overseen by the Independent Television Authority.
Many people were worried that ‘commercial’ broadcasting would lead to a dramatic fall in standards. So, a requirement to produce quality programmes was included.
Six franchises were put out to tender. And at 7.15pm on 22 September, Associated-Rediffusion – which had been awarded the London weekday franchise – began broadcasting.
The first thing to air was a five-minute introductory film (which you can see below); then it was off to London’s Guildhall, where viewers were treated to a gala evening of live variety entertainment.
Just under an hour later, Britain’s first TV advert was aired – for Gibbs SR toothpaste.
After ten years, the regional franchises came  up for renewal. Just one was not re-awarded to the existing franchisee – Wales West and North was taken over by Television Wales and West.
In 1968, there was a big reorganisation of the franchises, which saw Thames TV and London Weekend come into being.
In 1990, the requirement to produce quality TV was done away with in the franchising process, and franchises were effectively handed to the highest bidder. A year later, Thames TV was outbid by Carlton, which offered £43m for its licence.
Ownership regulations were relaxed in 1994, ushering in the first wave of consolidation in the industry. Three years later, a second wave of mergers left three major players – Carlton, United News and Media, and Granada.
By 2000, just Granada and Carlton remained. They merged in 2004 to form ITV plc in a £4bn deal, leaving one company in control of all the franchises in England and Wales.

19 September 1955: Military coup ousts Argentina’s Perón

By Matthew Partridge

Former Argentinian president Juan Perón is one of the best-known Latin American leaders in history.
His political career began in 1943 when, as an army colonel, he took part in a successful military coup. A year later he became minister of labour and vice-president.
His policies, which were generally seen as pro-worker, made him extremely popular with poorer Argentinians. He became president in 1946.
Over the next nine years, Perón’s government expanded public services, including social security and health insurance. His labour laws boosted wages. However, attempts to reduce imports, through subsidies and tariffs, backfired, hitting growth and leading to high inflation.
Over time his government became increasingly authoritarian, using media censorship and even outright violence against his opponents on both the right and left.
Eventually, after Perón’s supporters went on a rampage in response to a failed assassination attempt, the military intervened in September 1955.
Perón was forced to spend the next 18 years in exile. With growing fears of a civil war, he was allowed to take part in free elections in 1973, paving the way for him to return to office. However, he would die of a heart attack a year later.
Perón remains an iconic figure in Argentinian politics. Even today, Argentinian politicians claim him as their inspiration.

However, many economic historians claim that his protectionist policies played a key part in transforming Argentina from one of the richest countries in the world into an economic basket case.

Latest Summer Heat: September 17, 1955

by Karl Bohnak

The hottest temperatures relative to average in the summer of 1955 were in the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes.
 It reached 90 degrees in Iron Mountain on September 18, 1955—the latest 90-degree temperature on record.  It’s not surprising that this record occurred in 1955.  The summer of 1955 was a hot, long one.  Weather historian David Ludlum in his “American Weather Book” states “Never did so many Americans swelter under such high temperatures through such a long summer as…in July and August 1955.”
For Iron Mountain, July 1955 was the hottest seventh month in 53 years of record keeping.  Chicago residents endured one of its hottest summers in a string of hot summers in the late 1940s and 1950s.  In early September, the locus of the heat shifted west.  Los Angeles recorded a killer heat wave early in the month.
In the Upper Peninsula, Marquette had temperatures well above average in June, July and August.  The heat of 1955 was known for its persistence and lack of extremely high temperatures.  Ironwood’s temperature record illustrates this lack of extreme heat.  While it was a very warm summer on the Gogebic range and throughout the Great Lakes, the summer of 1955 featured only one record high at Ironwood—a 92-degree high on August 18.
In Marquette, there was one last gasp of heat in September that coincided with Iron Mountain’s record-setter.  From the 16th to the 18th of September, the mean temperature was 17 degrees above average.  The high on September 18 in Marquette also topped out at 90 degrees.  The summer of 1955 was one of the warmest on record over the Upper Midwest and Northeast (Image 1 above).  September did cool back in relation to average (Image 2).  In fact, the U.S. Weather Bureau in Marquette measured near average temperatures for the month.
So far, September 2014 is running three degrees below average.  The month started with seven of nine days above average.  Then the big rainstorm blew in, and temperatures have been below average ever since.  We’ll stay below average through at least tomorrow, and then a warming trend should begin that will take us to average or a little above.  It will likely be a brief one as another cold front will sweep through late Saturday or Saturday night which means a drop in temperature late in the weekend.

1955 Dodge commercial asks “How many dreams can you shape in a minute?”

Kurt Ernst

In the days when model updates were expected from the Big Three automakers on a yearly basis, standing out above the competition was no easy task. For the 1955 commercial “I Built a Dodge,” Detroit’s Grant Advertising focused as much on the workmanship and manufacturing process as it did on the end product. And it employed the production value of a Broadway musical, just to ensure that period consumers would find it entertaining enough to watch.
Such a commercial would be impossible to replicate today, since robots don’t have names like Henry and Joe, and the idea of bringing a metallic (and plastic) object to life is lost on many of today’s car-buying consumers. In many automotive plants, stampings are brought in from off-site manufacturers, and most no longer pour and roll their own bulk steel either. It’s probably safe to assume that much of the steel in today’s new cars started life as another car (or as a refrigerator, stove, or other appliance), and not immediately as iron ore dug from the ground specifically to build a proud new automobile.
Cars were once seen as members of the family, viewed in an odd and anthropomorphic manner by many of their owners, but today are often thought of as disposable appliances, much the same as (an expensive) toaster oven or coffee maker. In that light, commercials such as this may no longer be relevant, but they certainly are charming.

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Seven Year Itch Released 1955

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