I have some old Cincinnati Reds baseball team yearbooks from my younger days growing up in that city. I was looking through one of them today from 1958 and, although it is 53 years old, there are some interesting items there that offer a good look at the contrasts of life then and now.
There is an ad for the new 1958 Ford Thunderbird advertising that is “all swoop and no sway.” Those of you familiar with T-Birds know that ’58 was the year they enlarged it into an ugly 4 seater thus ending the three great model years of 1955, ‘56, and ’57. That also was the year the Edsel was introduced so it wasn’t a good year for Ford.
Another half page is for some hotels you may wish to stay in during your next trip to New York. How about the Hotel Times Square or the Knickerbocker? In 1958 you get a room at those places for $4 and up. A cup of coffee at Starbucks costs that much today.
One of the big time hotels in Cincinnati in 1958 was the Netherland Plaza. They had a cocktail lounge there called “The Gay Peacock.” Do we have to even imagine how a name like that would be interpreted today? For those too young to remember, the word “gay” used to have a lot different definition than it does now.
How about a complete steak dinner at Jack Stayin’s Charcoal Steak House for $3.75? The ad says it is “magnificently prepared” so it must be good.
Since these are ads from the Cincinnati Reds yearbook, I must mention the price to see a ball game in those days: Box seats, $2.00, general admission, $1.50, bleachers, .75.
It all sounds good but we must remember that incomes were a lot lower in 1958 so when the steakhouse finally raised their steak dinner price to $4 they probably caught hell for it.
Another interesting note from 1958 is where the ballplayers have their biographies. Each player’s ancestry is listed. For Pitcher Brooks Lawrence and other black players they are “Negro”. A pitcher named Johnny Klippstein is listed as “German-Scotch, English-Indian”. I doubt if such nomenclature would be available in the yearbooks of today. In 1958, it was still a big deal.
Another oddity is the addresses of the players during the off season are listed. If you wanted to go by and say “Hi” to Brooks Lawrence in 1958, all you had to do was stop by his home at 1817 Springmont Avenue in Springfield, Ohio.
With everyone’s paranoia about privacy today, it’s amazing how accessible ballplayers were then. But, since they didn’t make much money and had to work during the winter at regular jobs, maybe they didn’t consider themselves the celebrities that today’s players with their millions think they are.
Well, it’s time for me to stop by Jack Stayin’s for a complete chicken dinner for $2.00. Then, I’m heading to the Reds’ game to sit in a box seat for $2 and drink a couple of 25 cent Wiedemann’s. Let’s see, that’s $4.50 for the evening so I’ll have enough to buy a deck of Luckies for a quarter on the way home. It’s 1958 and life is good!