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Recalling New Year’s 65 Years Ago

The turn of one year to another year, 2023 to 2024, is always a time of transition and change, and very often, some events of great importance, and that transition from 1958 to 1959 — 65 years ago — was no exception.

In the days leading up to the beginning of the New Year, the Williamsport City Council approved a 1959 city budget of $1,471,819, with the tax millage remaining the same for 1959 as it was for 1958 — 14.75 mills.

Thomas Levering was mayor of Williamsport and was preparing for a re-election campaign in 1959, in which he was ultimately successful.

In sports, shortly before the beginning of the New Year, what was regarded as the “greatest football game ever played” took place when the Baltimore Colts prevailed over the New Giants, 23-17, in the first sudden-death overtime playoff game. It ended when the Colts’ Alan Ameche crashed in for the winning touchdown from about the five-yard line.

Locally, the Williamsport Billies professional basketball team was in the middle of a bad season. They would go 9-19, despite having such good players as Jack Molinas, Julius McCoy, and Jesse Arnelle.

The St. Joe’s basketball was the best schoolboy team locally, with standouts like Joey Prato, Charley Pagana, and Tom Eiswerth.

In college football bowl games played on New Year’s Day, the LSU Tigers clinched the national championship with a 7-0 win over a stubborn Clemson team in the Sugar Bowl. The Iowa Hawkeyes defeated California 38-12 in the Rose Bowl. Oklahoma defeated Syracuse, featuring Ernie Davis, 21-6 in the Cotton Bowl. The Air Force played TCU to a scoreless tie in what was regarded as an upset in the Orange Bowl.

At the movies locally, at the Rialto was “Gigi,” starring Leslie Caron, Maurice Chevalier, and Louis Jourdan. “The Girl in the Bikini,” starring Brigit Bardot, was featured at the Keystone, and at the Capitol was Jerry Lewis starring in “The Geisha Boy.”

The top five hits on the Hit Parade that New Year’s were:

1. “The Chipmunk Song” with Alvin and the Chipmunks.

2. “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” by the Platters.

3. “Tom Dooley” by the Kingston Trio.

4. “To Know Him Is to Love Him” by the Teddy Bears.

5. “One Night” by Elvis Presley.

At the local A&P markets, a small ham was selling for 43 cents a pound, pork loins for 25 cents a pound, and a large Jane Parker apple pie sold for 39 cents.

The first three New Year’s babies were born to Mr. and Mrs. Clyde Waltz, Mr. and Mrs. Lloyd Dills, and Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Frahn Jr.

In international and national news, Fidel Castro and his rebels triumphantly marched in Havana as previous dictator Fulgencio Batista fled the country.

Dwight Eisenhower was the reassuring, grandfatherly presence in the White House, and David Lawrence was about to begin his term as Governor of Pennsylvania.

The weather locally on that New Year’s was a mixture of snow, sleet, and freezing rain, with a high temperature of 39 degrees and a low of 23 degrees. The nasty weather was probably responsible for the 13 traffic accidents that happened locally; fortunately, none resulted in serious injury.

The first fire of the New Year, locally, happened at the Stewart Artificial Ice Plant at 739 First Street, but it was not a serious fire and resulted in little damage.

City police reported that there were five traffic fatalities in the city during 1958, the most since 1953, which also had five deaths.

This is just a little snapshot of what was going on 60 years ago on New Year’s 1959.