January 19, 1955: Red letter day as hit US board game Scrabble arrives in the UK

Scrabble, the words-and-letters board game that had taken America by storm, became an international success as it went on sale in the UK.
By Rhys Lewis 
Hit board game Scrabble went on sale in the UK on this day in 1955, but far from being an overnight success, the US words-and-letters game had taken 17 years from its invention to cross the Atlantic.
Unemployed New York architect Alfred Butts invented the game in 1938 having set out to create a game that combined skill and chance with the fad for anagrams and crossword puzzles.
The first sets of the game he called Criss-Crosswords had only letters and no board. Only when Butts (below, in 1974) gave up trying to find a distributor and sold the rights to entrepreneur James Brunot did the new owner create a board, add the bonus squares and trademark the game.
In 1948 Brunot came up with the name ‘Scrabble’, meaning ‘to grope frantically’, and, in a converted school house on Connecticut, he and his wife produced the first 2,400 sets, but lost $450 in the process due to poor sales.
But word of the word game got round and a big order from Macy’s secured Scrabble’s future – supposedly after the company president played it on holiday and couldn’t find a copy in his own department stores.
By 1952 Brunot had to license a nationwide game maker to market and distribute the game, and it was such a success in the US that in 1954 JW Spear acquired the overseas distribution rights, with UK and Australia players the first outside North America to pit their word knowledge against friends and family.
Some 150 million sets have been sold worldwide since, and 53% of UK homes are said to own a Scrabble set.
Do you still play Scrabble with friends, on your PC or online? Let us know if it's your favourite game in the Comments section below.
Scrabble – Did you know?
o          As well as Criss-Crosswords, Alfred Butts' early names for the game were Lexiko and, bizarrely, It.
o          Butts decided on the various letter values by analysing how many times each letter appeared on the front page of the New York Times.
o          The values have remained ever since, despite frequent calls – backed up by computer analysis – to make the values reflect modern usage.
o          The original carved wooden tiles were changed to flat plastic tiles during the 1950s so that players couldn’t feel for high-scoring letters when they drew new tiles from the bag.
o          Scrabble is now available in 41 different languages including Esperanto, Latin and Basque. Each one has its own tile distribution and points system. In Polish, for instance, Z is worth just one point, while the Malaysian version has 19 ‘A’ tiles - almost a fifth of the 100-tile set.
o          There are Scrabble World Championships in English, French and Spanish.
o          QI is the most commonly played word in Tournament Scrabble. It’s pronounced ‘chee’ and means ‘life force’ or ‘energy’ in Mandarin.
o          In 1998 the Army and the Navy played a game of Scrabble on the Wembley Stadium pitch to mark the game’s 50th anniversary. The board (pictured above) measured 900 square metres and each two-metre-square tile had to be put in place by two people. For the record, the Navy won.
o          A Welsh edition, launched in 2005, contains individual tiles for the language’s characteristic LL, TH and DD sounds. There is no Z or Q in Welsh, so two other combinations, NG and RH, constitute the game’s 10-point tiles.
o          In 2008, current owners Hasbro tinkered with the idea of adding apostrophes and hyphens to the game to permit contractions such WON’T, DOESN’T and SHOULD’VE, as well as possessives such as HOUSE’S. The idea was eventually rejected.
o          Scrabble had a role in the creation of another best-selling board game. It was over a game of Scrabble in 1979 that Chris Haney and Scott Abbott devised question-and-answer game Trivial Pursuit.

Liberty Student becomes first Polio victim of 1955

Contra Costa Times

Liberty student first 1955 polio victim: Barely hours into 1955, Diablo Valley got its first reported case of polio when a Liberty High School girl came down with the disease.
Wallis Mae Panioguh was stricken on New Year's Day, and immediately moved to a polio isolation ward at the county hospital, where officials reassured the public that the teenager did not have a severe case.

Simultaneously, a 17-year-old Lafayette girl who survived polio was working to raise money for a "Teens Against Polio" campaign. Beverly Benson, who still had to use crutches to walk, helped organize a number of Acalanes dances and parties to raise money for teenage polio victims throughout the state.

'Driving the King' explores civil rights movement circa 1955

By Chris Foran of the Journal Sentinel

Driving the King. By Ravi Howard. HarperCollins. 336 pages. $25.99.
Birmingham, Ala., November 1945: One of Alabama's favorite sons, rising music star Nat King Cole, returns for a rare hometown performance.
Well, not everyone's favorite, as it turns out. As the show gets underway, Cole — beginning with a number helping an old friend propose to his gal — is attacked onstage by a half-dozen white men. But before they can do any serious damage to Cole, that old friend — a returning soldier named Nat Weary — leaps from the balcony to rescue him, pummeling one of Cole's attackers.
End of show, beginning of Weary's journey, and Birmingham's, in "Driving the King," Ravi Howard's new novel exploring the edges of the civil rights battle in mid-century America. In an easygoing style, with Weary as his guide, Howard pokes into under-viewed corners of the fight while never losing sight of the humanity of both the cause and its effects.
After the fracas, Weary gets 10 years in prison, losing his girl and his sense of self. But he doesn't lose his old friend: As Weary's release nears, Cole sends an emissary to offer him a job as his driver and bodyguard out in Los Angeles, where Cole — by 1955, one of the world's biggest-selling pop stars — is about to be the first African-American to host his own national television show.
A year later, both men return to Birmingham, to stage the concert that Cole never got to finish and give Weary some closure, as the city begins to boil over amid the bus boycott that followed the arrest of Rosa Parks.
In "Driving," Howard jumps between Weary's time in Birmingham — when he first gets out of prison and when he returns for the concert — and his time in Los Angeles working for Cole. The two cities are worlds apart but tightly linked.
In L.A., Weary becomes friends with a woman editing an African-American newspaper who taps his ties to report on the Birmingham boycott, whose organizers include members of Weary's family, his ex-fiancée and a young preacher from Atlanta named Martin Luther King Jr.
In California, Cole and his family have had their windows shot out, and his latest venture — a prime-time show on NBC — is on life support because he can't find a company willing to sponsor a program hosted by a black man.
Howard, a former producer with NFL Films with an award-winning first novel ("Like Trees, Walking"), doesn't mention it in the acknowledgments, but he likely was inspired by a real-life event in which Cole was battered onstage during a concert in Birmingham, albeit in different circumstances and in a different time frame.
But Howard's rewrite allows for a broader perspective on the battles being fought by African-Americans famous and anonymous as the lines are finally being drawn.
The world Weary returns to after leaving prison is one in which people of color have decided to take matters into their own hands, aware that they face long odds when they do so. In fact, Weary's impulsive act to defend Cole has served a call to arms; even King has heard the story of his sacrifice, and congratulates him on doing the right thing, regardless of the consequences.
King, in his brief cameo, is depicted on a human scale in "Driving" similar to the flesh-and-blood way he's depicted in the movie "Selma," Cole, on the other hand, gets a far more sympathetic treatment than he did in real life, when some leaders of the civil rights movement accused him of being an Uncle Tom. In the novel, Cole is a smart, determined professional who won't surrender his dignity by giving in to racists, but is all too aware that his popularity would be at risk if he was any bolder.
In Howard's hands, Cole taking the stage in the city where he was nearly killed by hate is as much a blow for equal rights as refusing to give up your seat on the bus just because of your skin color.

About Chris Foran

Chris Foran is an assistant entertainment editor, overseeing the Tap Weekend, Tap Daily, Good Morning and TV Cue sections. He also writes about movies, books, pop culture and fun stuff to do in Milwaukee.

John Wayne here with Groucho Marx and Red Skelton, 1955

lvis before the rhinestone jumpsuits and the drugs

"And Sandy Martindale ... dated Elvis before the rhinestone jumpsuits and the drugs, when he was sharp and cool and jagged, like porcelain that has been hurled against a wall..." -

Rick Bragg, Somebody Told Me: The Newspaper Stories of Rick Bragg

NORAD tracks Santa because of a typo in 1955

By Sandra Osborne, Anchor/Reporter

Christmas Eve means hundreds of volunteers will be working on the NORAD Tracks Santa operation, keeping an eye on the man in red.
Tracking Santa Claus is something NORAD — the North American Aerospace Defense Command — does every year, but its history might surprise you.
The tradition started nearly six decades ago, when a typo ran in a newspaper in Colorado.
It was 1955, when right before Christmas, an error was printed in a Sears Roebuck & Co. advertisement for a phone number to call Santa. The phone number, given by mistake, was not to the North Pole, but to the operations hotline of the Continental Air Defense Command, now known as NORAD.
Instead of ignoring the calls, Col. Harry Shoup, the director of operations, had his staff check on Santa's location and report back to the children calling.
Thus, a tradition was born.
One of the main bases of operation is in Colorado. Another tracking station is NORAD's Florida office, located at Tyndall Air Force Base, near Panama City.
Hundreds of military men, women and their families volunteer to take part every year on Christmas Eve. NORAD said it has a special radar system and "Santa Cams" to keep an eye on the reindeer-powered sleigh, said to be about 75 cc's — that's candy canes — in length.
According to a NORAD spokesperson, when Santa is said to be in U.S. airspace, fighter jets like F-15s and F-22s sometimes fly nearby, reporting back to the Santa Tracker team and keeping the air safe for holiday travel.
Volunteers said they expect to receive between 60,000–70,000 calls from children and parents looking to find Santa's location this year.

1955 North Carolina

The back of this holiday photo found in the files of The Courier-Tribune is stamped Wright’s Studio, 117 Trade Street, Asheboro, N.C‘Man with a Gun,” starring Robert Mitchum

GM’s Greatest Hit: The 1955 Chevrolet

Paul Niedermeyer

The 1955 Chevrolet was the greatest full-size car ever made in America. “Has a car ever exuded more self confidence, optimism, and all-round competence?” Cars would get better in many technical ways, but never again was a car so perfectly suited to its time and place. The Chevrolets of the mid fifties “achieved a pinnacle”, as did GM, which was the Apple of its day — the most admired and profitable company in the country (2,370 words)

Dec. 19, 1955: 50-foot tree jams in bridge

  By Chris Zdeb, Edmonton Journal December 19, 2014

Canada’s largest Christmas tree at 24 metres was erected in Churchill Square in 2008. In 1955, a 15-metre tree being trucked in from the south side for display on Jasper Avenue at 100th Street got stuck on the Low Level Bridge.
EDMONTON - Having a little trouble putting up your Christmas tree this year? Be glad you weren’t Harry Feverell, the city’s superintendent of building maintenance in 1955.
Among other things, it was Feverell’s job to put up a 15-metre (50-foot) Christmas tree at Jasper Avenue and 100th Street.
That year he’d lined up a suitable spruce from Morinville, 32 kilometres (20 miles) north of Edmonton.
City electric light and power department workers had gone out and selected a beauty, felled it and trucked it into the city.
“They did a dandy job,” said Feverell. “But then the cold weather came along. The needles were brittle and by the time they had brought the tree to the city over the weekend, all the needles had fallen off. It was just a skeleton.”
The city was left in a bit of a spot until a private citizen, W. H. Coghill came forward with another 15-metre tree — “one of the nicest trees we’ve ever had” — that stood in the yard of a house he owned in Bonnie Doon.
Coghill had offered the tree to the city earlier in the month, but was turned down because the Morinville tree had already been picked, Feverell explained.
City workers went out and felled Coghill’s tree and loaded it on an engineering department trailer truck for the trip downtown.
They got as far as the Low Level Bridge without too much trouble. But there, the tree stuck.
It was just a trifle too big for the span. Workmen climbed up on the tree and worked the branches under the wires and girders, one by one. Northbound traffic was so backed up, cars were rerouted over the southbound span.
For a time, it looked as if Edmonton’s civic Christmas tree was going to spend the holidays on that bridge, the Journal story said, until ingenuity prevailed.
Some of the longer branches were trimmed and workmen managed to ease the tree back out of the entrance of the northbound lane. They then started across again on the southbound lane which had fewer overhead obstructions, “and after a good help hour’s work emerged triumphant on the north side of the river.”
Standing the tree up in its concrete base and hanging 400 lights on its branches was going to be a cinch after that, Feverell said.
Sixty years later, a giant tree continues to be put up every Christmas in the downtown only now it stands in Churchill Square. The tree is much bigger — this year’s version was a 22-metre white spruce harvested near Whitecourt and donated by Millar Western Forest Products. (The 24-metre Christmas tree put up in 2008 was the largest in Canada.)
And lighting it is a much bigger deal, it’s an event that attracts thousands of people to the annual Christmas on the Square Holiday Light Up to see Santa Claus and the mayor turn on the tree, decorated with 14,000 LED lights by Epcor.

Wreckage from 1955 crash part of Cold War Memorial

Reported by: Denise Rosch

MOUNT CHARLESTON (KSNV MyNews3.com) – Part of the wreckage of a 1955 plane crash that killed 14 passengers and crew members on a top secret mission during the Cold War is being used as a memorial at the Visitors Center in Kyle Canyon, now under construction.

The plane, which took off from Burbank, Calif., heading to Area 51, ran into bad weather and crashed.

Steve Ririe of the Cold War Memorial Committee says it is high time southern Nevadans got a look at the historic wreckage.

“Most of the debris is still up there,” he said. “It was not removed. We brought the propeller down about 10 years ago, and it's been waiting for this moment today.”

The memorial is surrounded by 14 stones, representing the lives lost in the crash.

Visitors will get to look at the crash site through a telescope at the Visitors Center, which is set to open to the public in May.

Christmas 1955: Trees, telly and toys bring the colour back to Christmas

The 1950s was the decade when television not only changed Christmas Day entertainment, but also the gifts that children asked Santa for.
By Jayne Cherrington-Cook 

Rationing ended in 1954, meaning that Christmas 1955 was more abundant than previous years. However, some things were still hard to come by and exotic foods like a banana or coconut made for a great festive treat!

The decorations

After a shortage during World War II, real Christmas trees were once again widely available, and more than 31 million were sold in America for Christmas 1954. However the 1950s also saw the emergence of man-made fibres, such as plastic, which revolutionised the world of Christmas decorations. Artificial trees were bigger than ever before, and Woolworths produced fake trees, made from a new fabric called Nylon, which measured up to eight feet in height.

Candles were still used to decorate the tree, but electric lights were leading the way. A favourite was the bubble light, a candle-shaped light filled with a liquid which would ‘bubble’ and glow.
The entertainment

In previous decades, families huddled around the radio for their Christmas Day entertainment, but television had risen in popularity during the 1950s, and many people bought a TV set to watch the Queen’s Coronation in 1953. While her Christmas speech was first broadcast on TV without pictures in 1955, the new Queen herself didn’t appear on our TVs on Christmas Day until 1957.

The BBC’s monopoly on the airwaves vanished when ITV launched in 1955. On Christmas Day that year, viewers faced a choice between the commercial channel’s flagship Sunday Night at the Palladium, and Bird in Hand, a comedy starring Terry-Thomas, on the BBC.

The first official singles chart began in 1952, and crooner Dickie Valentine hit the Christmas number one spot in 1955 with his festive tune Christmas Alphabet. Another popular party tune was Rock Around the Clock by Bill Hayley and His Comets, which charted in November of that year.

The food
Turkey was still relatively rare on the Christmas table due to its cost, so many families tucked into joints of meat, chicken or duck instead. While home-made Christmas puddings were popular, Mrs Peek was doing a roaring trade in her ready-made puds – a one pound pudding would set you back 2s 6d.

While many of us think nothing of opening a bottle of wine on Christmas Day today, back in 1955 wine was seen as a middle-class drink, and many families would drink beer with their Christmas dinner instead.

The presents

After the scarcity of toys in the war, shops like Woolworths were now doing big business selling a wide variety of toys.
Die-cast toys were really popular during the mid-50s, with Corgi and Matchbox leading the way. They were well-made, but also portable and relatively inexpensive to buy.

The first Airfix aircraft kit was released in 1955. The Spitfire model, which sold for 2s, was the most popular toy in Woolworths that year.

TV also started to influence toys for the first time. Popular gifts in 1955 included a Muffin the Mule puppet and the Sooty Songster Xylophone.


After years of drab, recycled and hand-made clothes, the 50s saw the fun return to fashion. A nipped-in waist was the new silhouette along with longer, fuller skirts.

If Christmas Day involved a trip to church or a visit to relatives, then accessories were essential - no well-groomed woman would have been seen without her gloves and good leather handbag!

Rosa Parks ‘Transformed A Nation’ On This Day In 1955

On this day nearly six decades ago, Rosa Parks got on that fateful bus.
She was on her way to a meeting at her local N.A.A.C.P. about protesting segregation laws when it happened: “she found a seat in the first row of the “colored” section in the back. However, after a few stops, the driver ordered her to get up so a white passenger could sit down. Parks refused, and the police were called to take her to jail.”
Her ordeal would soon inspire a citywide boycott and a ruling that such segregation was illegal.
She sat near the middle of the bus, just behind the 10 seats reserved for whites. Soon all of the seats in the bus were filled. When a white man entered the bus, the driver (following the standard practice of segregation) insisted that all four blacks sitting just behind the white section give up their seats so that the man could sit there. Mrs. Parks, who was an active member of the local NAACP, quietly refused to give up her seat.
Her action was spontaneous and not pre-meditated, although, her previous civil rights involvement and strong sense of justice were obvious influences. “When I made that decision,” she said later, “I knew that I had the strength of my ancestors with me.”
She was arrested and convicted of violating the laws of segregation, known as “Jim Crow laws.” Mrs. Parks appealed her conviction and thus formally challenged the legality of segregation.
At the same time, local civil rights activists initiated a boycott of the Montgomery bus system. In cities across the South, segregated bus companies were daily reminders of the inequities of American society. Since African Americans made up about 75 percent of the riders in Montgomery, the boycott posed a serious economic threat to the company and a social threat to white rule in the city.
A group named the Montgomery Improvement Association, composed of local activists and ministers, organized the boycott. As their leader, they chose a young Baptist minister who was new to Montgomery: Martin Luther King, Jr. Sparked by Mrs. Parks’ action, the boycott lasted 381 days, into December 1956 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the segregation law was unconstitutional and the Montgomery buses were integrated. The Montgomery Bus Boycott was the beginning of a revolutionary era of non-violent mass protests in support of civil rights in the United States.
It was not just an accident that the civil rights movement began on a city bus. In a famous 1896 case involving a black man on a train, Plessy v. Ferguson, the U.S. Supreme Court enunciated the “separate but equal” rationale for Jim Crow. Of course, facilities and treatment were never equal.
Under Jim Crow customs and laws, it was relatively easy to separate the races in every area of life except transportation. Bus and train companies couldn’t afford separate cars and so blacks and whites had to occupy the same space.
Thus, transportation was one the most volatile arenas for race relations in the South. Mrs. Parks remembers going to elementary school in Pine Level, Alabama, where buses took white kids to the new school but black kids had to walk to their school.
“I’d see the bus pass every day,” she said. “But to me, that was a way of life; we had no choice but to accept what was the custom. The bus was among the first ways I realized there was a black world and a white world” (emphasis added).
Montgomery’s Jim Crow customs were particularly harsh and gave bus drivers great latitude in making decisions on where people could sit. The law even gave bus drivers the authority to carry guns to enforce their edicts. Mrs. Parks’ attorney Fred Gray remembered, “Virtually every African-American person in Montgomery had some negative experience with the buses. But we had no choice. We had to use the buses for transportation.”
Thus, transportation was one the most volatile arenas for race relations in the South. Mrs. Parks remembers going to elementary school in Pine Level, Alabama, where buses took white kids to the new school but black kids had to walk to their school.
“I’d see the bus pass every day,” she said. “But to me, that was a way of life; we had no choice but to accept what was the custom. The bus was among the first ways I realized there was a black world and a white world”
Montgomery’s Jim Crow customs were particularly harsh and gave bus drivers great latitude in making decisions on where people could sit. The law even gave bus drivers the authority to carry guns to enforce their edicts. Mrs. Parks’ attorney Fred Gray remembered, “Virtually every African-American person in Montgomery had some negative experience with the buses. But we had no choice. We had to use the buses for transportation.”
Civil rights advocates had outlawed Jim Crow in interstate train travel, and blacks in several Southern cities attacked the practice of segregated. There had been a bus boycott in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in 1953, but black leaders compromised before making real gains. Joann Robinson, a black university professor and activist in Montgomery, had suggested the idea of a bus boycott months before the Parks arrest.
Two other women had been arrested on buses in Montgomery before Parks and were considered by black leaders as potential clients for challenging the law. However, both were rejected because black leaders felt they would not gain white support. When she heard that the well-respected Rosa Parks had been arrested, one Montgomery African American woman exclaimed, “They’ve messed with the wrong one now.”
In the South, city buses were lightning rods for civil rights activists. It took someone with the courage and character of Rosa Parks to strike with lightning. It required the commitment of the entire African- American community to fan the flames ignited by that lightning into the fires of the civil rights revolution.

-Tamara El (@_SheWise_)

1955 Time Capsule Found As Veterans Memorial Comes Down

COLUMBUS, Ohio - The year was 1955. 10TV was covering stories like the expansion of Port Columbus. Over at the newly formed Veterans Memorial, a time capsule was sealed behind a granite wall.
Now, Vets is being torn down to build a new one. When workers chiseled away a granite wall, they discovered a town capsule.
For a moment, Ronald O'Neal felt a little bit like Indiana Jones.
“It was the hidden treasure. It was exciting,” says O’Neal, Assistant GM at Veterans Memorial.
The treasure was a thin copper box that was sealed with beads of lead, a time capsule. Only the people who had placed it there knew about it.
“It certainly gives us a peek into the history of Columbus back in 1955,” says O’Neal.
It would take some effort to pry it open.
“We had to pry it open with a screwdriver, kind of tap it down very carefully. We spent about an hour and a half getting into to,” added John Raphael, Board of Trustees Chairman.
Inside, they found neatly folded newspapers. It included the three city newspapers of the time – The Columbus Evening Dispatch, Columbus Citizen, and the Ohio State Journal. There was an itemized list of construction costs and the original site plan.
“The biggest attraction was this phone book everybody trying to look up parents and grandparents,” said Raphael.
Finding the time capsule took a little bit of luck. Workers knew it would at the cornerstone of the building and figured it was behind a slab that honored the Board of Trustees. But getting to the time capsule required hammering through a 600 pound of granite.
The time capsule reveals the importance of Vets memorial for its time. For most of six decades it served as THE place where Columbus came to celebrate. All big events were hosted at Vets.
Now, 60 years after its construction, Vets is coming down. The discovery of the time capsule reminds everyone what this building meant to the city.
The items inside the time capsule will be displayed at Motts Military Museum then will be on permanent display at the Ohio historical society.

1955 Flashback: Yankees co-owner hopes to 'some day have outstanding Japanese players' in N.Y.

By Dakota Gardner |

In 1955, following their loss to the Brooklyn Dodgers in the World Series, the Yankees took off on a six-week tour of Japan -- one of the world's then-burgeoning baseball enclaves. The tour included Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford and Mickey Mantle, as well as the team's co-owner Del Webb and MLB Commissioner Ford Frick.
On November 3, the Yankees stopped off in Osaka to play against the All-Stars, a team made up of top players from each of Japan's professional leagues. The Bombers won that game, 7-3, on the back of some solid hitting from Billy Martin, who had a single and a home run.
Webb was heading back to the United States after that game, but before he boarded his plane, he took time to talk to reporters about the trip and the team's newest hire: a Japanese Baseball Hall of Famer named Tadashi Wakabayashi, who'd spent the year serving as a coach in the Japanese Pacific Professional League.
According to Webb, Wakabayashi was hired with the express purpose of integrating Japanese talent into the Yankees' system and, in explaining his reasoning behind the decision, made a pretty prescient comment:
Webb, co-owner of the New York Yankees, expressed hope today that his ball club may some day have outstanding Japanese players on its roster … "The enthusiastic interest shown by the Japanese public in baseball has impressed me with the deep significance of the visit of the New York Yankees in the promotion of Japanese-American friendship."

Of course, the Yankees would eventually sign the dominant slugger Hideki Matsui, and the 2013 Yankees roster included outfielder Ichiro Suzuki, veteran hurler Hiroki Kuroda and superstar pitcher Masahiro Tanaka. We hear those guys are pretty good.