A Southern Cross Christmas, 60 years ago
The Christmas edition of The Southern Cross in 1958 was a bumper 32-page affair. GÜNTHER SIMMERMACHER steps into a time-capsule from 60 years ago.
In the 1950s, the Catholic Church in South Africa, as elsewhere, was confident, which finds expression in the Christmas issue of 1958, dated December 10.
Coming in at 32 pages — including a 20-page Christmas supplement and two full-page ads — the cover price was a shilling (pictured above), which would have the purchasing power of around R35 today.
There are many more photos than there were in previous decades. One shows the Durban Players Guild’s production of The Mime of Bernadette by Hugh Ross Williamson.
The leading news
The lead story concerns the shortage of Catholic churches and schools in Salisbury, today’s Harare. With so many missionaries arriving, said Archbishop Francis Markall, the faithful must pitch in to build these much-needed structures.
In other news
- Two new priests have been ordained: Fr William Barnes in Port Elizabeth and Fr George Foley in Pretoria. Fr Barnes still lives in Port Elizabeth; Fr Foley moved to Texas and is retired in Fort Worth.
- The executive of the Catholic Men’s Union in Mariannhill describes the efforts made to address the hardships and dangers of the migration labour system.
- The recent coronation of new Pope John XXIII, which was attended by Archbishop Owen McCann with his secretary Fr Jerry McMorrow, made history on British TV as the longest transmission of any event, at 4,5 hours.
- Sacred Heart church in Kabega, Port Elizabeth, becomes the diocese’s second new parish of 1958.
- James Rogan of Durban writes about US peace activist Fr Daniel Berrigan SJ.
- Michael de la Bedoyere, editor of The Catholic Herald in Britain, reflects on the centenary of the apparitions at Lourdes.
- Mgr Desmond Hatton visits nuns in Gwelo (now Gweru in Zimbabwe) who are running a printing press.
The Radio Critic in the “This Week on Air” column notes that he (if, indeed, it was a he) is losing interest in radio. “the sequence of programmes day by day has settled into such drab sameness,” he writes. The only unmissable programme is Dewar Macormack’s “Friday Night at 8:15”.
Invariably, lots of English writers filled the pages of The Southern Cross back in ‘58. Douglas Hyde wrote his long anti-communist articles, Sir Leslie Shane recounted his reception into the Church in 1908.
This week’s “Catholics Among the Stars” column looked at British actress Noelle Middleton.
Editor Fr Louis Stubbs writes two editorials: one on Christmas, and the other on how non-Catholics see the Church as an organisation. Rather, he writes, the Catholic Church is an organism which grows from the “living vine” — Jesus Christ.
In one of only two letters, “Shareholder” asks about selling shares in the Catholic Newspaper & Publishing Co, which publishes The Southern Cross. The editor explains how that is done, and points out that for the past three years, dividends have been 7,5%. Happy days!
Dorothy Sprigg offers an ABC of Christmas. The letter E stands for “the egg that the hen laid for Our Lady’s breakfast. St Joseph boiled it for her on the first Christmas morning”. Obviously.
On a less fanciful level, John Paris, director of the SA National Gallery, writes about the iconography of Christmas, and Fr Thaddeus Kidd OFM surveys Christmas customs.
Some big names contribute to the supplement. Noted philosopher Martin van Versveld discusses St Luke’s Nativity account, author Francis Stuart recalls going Christmas shopping as a child in Ireland, Fr Daniel Berrigan SJ reflects on the Christmas liturgy.
Bishop Fulton Sheen calls for a Christmas gift to the Christchild: to resolve spending an hour a day in his presence.
Aunty Valerie Fisher offers two Christmas articles to the fans of her “Children’s Corner”, and Fr Gerald McVann OP reflects on the Third Joyful Mystery: The birth of Our Lord.
Finally, Laurence McCauley takes pity on the poor poultry destined for the Christmas table, but notes: “That Christmas dinner, however hard it might be on the worried birds who play so central a role in the festivities, is almost as much part of Christmas as the Mass.”
In 1958, Catholic businesses supported the Catholic press. From Durban there were, among many others, Durity Frocks, Hatcher’s auto salvage experts, Irene Lord’s furriers, North’s lawnmowers, and the Creamery and Browdun’s tearooms.
Other small businesses that advertised included Brooking & Shaw Outfitters and the famous Danish Confectionary tearoom in Johannesburg; Inman & Co livestock feed supplies in Pietermaritzburg; Crawford’s carpets and JG Ryan electrical engineers in Cape Town.
National advertisers included Regina champagne by Monis, John Orr’s, Ellis Brown, CNA, The French Airline, Markham’s, Royal baking powder, Henwood Stores, and Stork nappies.
And then there is an ad placed by all the contractors involved in building St Finbar’s church in Fairview at Walmer, Port Elizabeth — the diocese’s first church in 1958.