By: Jack Swift
Johnson County Historian
The title of this column says it and I believe it. The year 1938 was a year of many changes and innovations and it was also the year I was born. Sometimes I enjoy looking back to see what was going on besides my entering the world. Few, if any, saw by events that unfolded in 1938 that a second world war was on the horizon. President Woodrow Wilson had declared World War I (sometimes called the great war) as the war to end all wars. That was not to be. The beginning of World War II is said to be when Germany invaded Poland in late 1939. The end came in 1945. The United States entered the war following the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Empire of Japan in 1941.
A significant feature of 1938 was a radio program titled “War of the Worlds.” The program was thought by many to be a real Martian invasion and panic ensued when it aired resembling authentic news broadcast.
Eight million folks were reportedly out of work in 1938. The Minimum Wage was set at 40 cents per hour. Kate Smith was a popular songstress in 1938. She introduced the song “God Bless America” that became an enduring song of patriotism that has become a standard in the music business.
A few of the songs that were popular then included “Jeepers Creepers,” “Love Walked in,” “Flat Foot Floogie With a Floy Floy,” “A Tisket, A Tasket,” and “September Song.”
In sports the New York Yankees won the World Series, the New York Giants won the National Football League championship. In the Kentucky Derby, Lawrin ridden by Eddie Arcaro came in first place. Joe Louis was the man of the hour in the boxing category as he defeated Nathan Mann, Harry Thomas and Max Schmeling — all by knockouts. In 1938, the average income was $1,731, a brand new car could be had for about $860 and a gallon of gas was ten cents per gallon. Life Expectancy was around 60 years of age.
Recently I saw an advertisement for a Willy’s auto. I knew that Willy’s made a Jeep at one time, but I never knew they made an auto. The motto of the company was “Half the gas… twice the smartness.” The ad featured a man who testified that he got 35.3 miles per gallon with his Willis. In that same book was an advertisement for a LaSalle automobile. That is one brand of car I remember.