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Matt Weinstock, Jan. 19, 1960

January 19, 2010 |  4:00 pm


  Jan. 19, 1960, Thud

Mass Hysteria


Matt Weinstock     No one knows how it started but one day last week the rumor swept through an L.A. junior high school that the Russians were going to drop an atom bomb on the city at noon.
   
    Probably some youngster remarked mischievously, "Wouldn't it be funny if the Russians dropped a bomb on us?" and another overheard it and repeated it as fact.

    In any event, the rumor,  embellished by impressionable and imaginative youngsters, spread like a bushfire in a wind.  Soon the story was that the report had been heard on the radio.  As the morning progressed, mounting terror gripped the pupils.

   TEACHERS, confronted with mass hysteria, said it was nonsense and tried to reason with the children.  They pointed out it was necessary to evaluate what they heard, not to accept things blindly.  Besides, they said, it wasn't likely the Russians would announce it in advance if they were about to bomb us.

Jan. 19, 1960, Rounder     But some youngsters were not to be consoled.  Half kidding, they said to each other, "Well if I never see you again, it's been wonderful!"

    As the clocks reached 11:59 a.m. many were prepared to die.  When 12:01 p.m. came they realized they'd been victims of their ridiculous fears.  But hours later, when they arrived home, many pupils were still shaken.

    A parent, learning of the hysteria from his daughter, recalled an exercise in transmission from his Army basic training.  Twenty or 30 soldiers were lined up and an officer whispered a message to the man next in line.  By the time the message reached the soldier at the other end it had little resemblance to the original. 

    This parent finds it frightening that normal youngsters can so easily be reduced to near panic.

::

    TWO OLDSTERS
in the County Museum's Hancock Hall of La Brea Fossils (known familiarly as "the bone room") stood gazing incredulously at the enormous skeleton of the imperial mammoth as Bob Wade of the museum staff strolled by . . .

    "Isn't that something!" one exclaimed.

    "It sure is," the other says, "especially when you think it was all carved out of wood!"

    Wade, thinking of the years of effort and skill required to dig up the skeleton from La Brea pits and to assemble the fossil bones, was tempted to comment, "And out of one piece, too!"  But he didn't.

::

    THERE'S A first time for everything and yesterday I  had my first taste of haggis, Scotland's national dish.  It isn't as awful as you might have heard.  Tastes something like hot chopped liver.  The ingredients include sheep's "heart, liver, lungs, etc." called the "pluck," which, minced, seasoned and mixed with oatmeal comes encased in sheep's stomach, called the "paunch."  I'll confess that "etc." bothered me a little.

    The haggis was served by Laurie Priesack, head of the British Travel Association on S Hill St., to commemorate the 201st anniversary Jan. 25 of the birthday of Robert Burns, who once wrote an "Ode to a Haggis."  Mr.Priesack , a distinguished looking gentleman, wore kilts and poured Scotch whiskey without which, he assured the press, no haggis is complete.  A hardy bunch, those Scots.

::

    STALEMATE
With cheering letters in the
    mail
Proposing that I buy on
    sale
Are sterner notes advising
    not
Until I pay for what I've
    got.
        --SHELDON WHITE


::

    AT RANDOM --
The Congressional Record for Jan. 13 has a long report on price support loans to big cotton farmers, listing scores of recipients mostly in Ariz. and Cal.  Among them is Rancho Poco Dinero , Blythe, Cal., $13,068.36 . . . During the last rain a youth wearing a black rubber skin-diving suit was standing at Pacific Coast Highway and Sunset Blvd., thumbing a ride . . . Biggest problem facing newcomers to L.A., G.B. says, is whether to separate the metal top from the cottage cheese cardboard container for the can and rubbish collectors.
 
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