The Strange Thirties
The Martians Are Coming As we entered the decade of the thirties and I became 6 years old, I felt that something seemed strange or wrong. My parents talked about what they read in the newspaper and heard over the radio. There appeared to be an era of lawlessness and dare-devilness. For example, Bonnie and Clyde were shooting it out with cops in Texas and Oklahoma. John Dillinger was a notorious criminal. He and Pretty Boy Floyd kept the Midwest in terror. One goes to the movies for $0.10 and sees Tom Mix with his slinging gun mow down a whole rustling group. There just seemed to be a gun everywhere. All the bad people made the news and it seemed that we worshipped them more than our Minister. There were a couple of bright spots. Willie Sutton was honest when he said that he only robbed banks because that is where the money is. And, of course, there was the advent of the Good Humor man. When there isn’t much money around people will risk leg and limb for a few bucks. On a Sunday afternoon we would go to a small local airport. Here we would see a man climb out of a plane in flight and stand on the wing. On a nearby lake small motor boats would race and crash into each other and the bank. We would go to the county fair and watch every stunt imaginable. My large family usually had supper and then listened to our one radio. We heard Amos and Andy, Lum and Abner and then Lowell Thomas with the news. On this Halloween night in 1933 a special program was to follow. As the program began, there was calamity. Martians from the planet Mars were invading New Jersey. Special police forces were formed. States were calling on their National Guards. We were told to stay in and lock our windows and doors. At nine years old I didn’t know what a planet was especially one named Mars. In fact, I had never heard of New Jersey. It was just a great big hoax that terrified the Nation. We later learned that a young actor and director by the name of Orson Wells pulled this greatest hoax in history by following H. G. Welles’ novel, The War of the Worlds. On the strength of this sensation, R. K. O. Studio hired Wells to direct and act in his own films. The accomplishments of Orson Welles over many years are well known. I recently learned that the town of Grover’s Mills, New Jersey, claimed to be the invasion spot of the Martians. A large statue has been built in Center Square depicting a flying saucer with Martians jumping out.