Over the Hill

Remembering the events of 1953

Phil Dirkx
Phil Dirkx jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Two important agreements were made in 1953, and both are still in force. One was the armistice that halted the Korean War. The other was the marriage of Phil and Mamie Dirkx. Mamie and I seem much more satisfied with our partnership than North Korea does with its truce.

The Korean armistice was signed July 28, 1953, at Panmunjom on the dividing line between North and South Korea. Mamie and I pledged our vows Sept. 19, 1953, in an army chapel at Camp Roberts.

Weddings may have been in the air then. John Fitzgerald Kennedy and Jacqueline Lee Bouvier were married Sept. 12. The future president had just recently been elected to the Senate.

Another well-known couple got married just a few months later: Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe. They were married Jan. 14, 1954, at San Francisco City Hall. A story circulated around Paso Robles that they spent their wedding night in a Paso Robles motel. Sadly, Marilyn sued for divorce on Oct. 5, 1954.

But the really big topic in the North County was the end of the shooting in Korea and the probable closing of Camp Roberts. The camp had reopened when the Korean War began in 1950. Paso Robles then had a population of 4,835. By 1952 it was 6,148. Did peace mean the city’s population and business would decline?

Also in 1953 the City of Paso Robles sold $350,000 worth of bonds to build a sewage disposal plant and improve the city water system. That seems to be something Paso does frequently.

There was another improvement in Paso Robles in 1953 that people may have forgotten: The Second Baptist Church acquired a larger building. The church’s membership had grown from 11 in 1951 to more than 200 in 1953, under the leadership of the Rev. J. W. Cullors. They needed more room.

So they bought an unused church building in San Luis Obispo and cut it into five sections. Then they moved it over the Cuesta Grade to 1937 Riverside Ave. in Paso Robles, where it still stands and provides needed services.

But also, some troubles happened in 1953 that still plague us. One was when the shah of Iran overthrew and jailed the premier of Iran and got a $45 million United States grant. Mobs in Tehran shouted, “Yankees go home.”

But we also had good news in 1953. The Salk polio vaccine was tested successfully. Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay were the first people to climb to the peak of Mt. Everest. And President Dwight D. Eisenhower chose California Governor Earl Warren to be chief justice of the Supreme Court.

In 1953 the human population of Earth was 2.6 billion. Today it is 7.2 billion. Mamie and I are not to blame. We had just two children. But we weren’t thinking globally; we just thought two were enough. And soon we will subtract two from the total.