During the past few days, I have received an unusual number of letters dealing with events of long ago.
A Camp Springs man wanted me to settle a bet about who was pitching for Washington when Mickey Mantle hit what he described as "the longest home run ever seen at Griffith Stadium, over the left field bleachers."
Clippings on that historic blast were not readily at hand but my memory, which is no longer reliable, tells me that the pitcher was Chuck Stobbs and that Mantle's drive not only went over the bleachers but almost cleared the football scoreboard atop them as well. It struck high on the right corner of the scoreboard.
A Georgetown woman wrote: "Before Metro, our public transportation company was called D.C. Transit, that much I remember. But what was it before it was D.C. Transit? For some reason I remember it both as Capital Transit and Capital Traction. It was Capital Transit, wasn't it?"
My recollection was that Capital Transit immediately preceded D.C. Transit, and that Capital Traction was a much earlier corporate entity. However, our library turned up no file for Capital Traction. I was ready to give up when researcher Andy Mayer said, "Do you remember the name of a company official in those days? Maybe we can track it down that way."
I said, "Sure. Ed Giddings was the assistant to the president. He's the man reporters dealt with E. Cleveland Giddings. The president's name was Merrill, but I'm not sure about his first name. He may have been in Ed, too."
Mayer pushed a couple of buttons and summoned up E. Cleveland Gidding's file. It turned out that Giddings was a Johnny-come-lately; by the time he arrived on the scene, our streetcar company was already known as Capital Transit. But in a Giddings clipping we found the name Edward D. Merrill, and the rest was easy.
Merrill was president of Washington Rapid Transit when that firm merged with the Capital Traction Co and the Washington Railway and Electric Co. to form Capital Transit - I think around 1936. In 1971, when he was 85, Merril told Washington Post staff writer Jack Eisen that he never thought he'd live to see the demise of trolley cars. Now the trolleys have been reborn to run underground, especially on days when there are no mechanical, electrical or labor disruptions.
Albert J. Kisho of Alexandria posed a question that you District Liners will have to helpme answer because my research on it has been fruitless.
Remember the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) camps of Depression days? Kisho said, "My recollection is that they paid $1 a day, with the young man getting $5 a month, and $25 a month being sent home to his family. My neighbor says it was the other way around; the CCC worker got $25 and his family got $5. No bets are involved, but please straighten us out on this."
Young people may think the question is of little importance because $25 a month is such a small sum. However, in 1933 and 1934 there were no jobs to be had, and unemployment insurance didn't exist. To people who had nothing, $25 was a meaningful sum.
If you'd like some specific numbers, it just so happens that Alwin F. Buehler of Silver Spring has saved copies of Albert Buehler Provision Co. advertisements for Buehler's Market at 8502 Georgia Ave.
In 1926, Buehler's was getting 45 cents a pound for porterhouse steak, 40 cents for sirloin steak, 38 cents for leg of lamb, and 12 1/2 cents for brisket. Buehler's own brand of "perfect blend" coffee was 40 cents a pound.
In the summer of 1931, after the Depression hit, porterhouse steak was no longer mentioned in the ads. Sirloin steak "cut from fancy U.S. choice steers" had dropped to 35 cents a pound. Fresh ground hamburger "from fresh, tender beef" was 18 cents a pound. Whole wheat bread was 9 cents a loaf, eggs 27 cents a dozen, strawberry preserves 19 1/2 cents a pound. Chase & Sabborn dated coffee was 38 cents a pound, but Buehler's coffee was down to 33 cents. At those prices, $25 a month could put a lot of food on the table.
I don't know whether you readers have gone on a nostalgia kick because you think those were the good old days or whether all these letters about ancient history are just coincidence. If the low prices intrigue you, keep in mind that some people thought Henry Ford would go broke when he began paying his men $5 a day. And consider this: coffee at 40 cents is 8 percent of a $5 daily wage; coffee at $4 is 8 percent of a $50 daily wage. The relationship seldom varies much.