The Napa Register Sept. 1957 editions featured numerous interesting and even unique stories. These accounts covered a wide array of topics, including a winery event with international connections, a consumer friendly competition and other noteworthy tidbits from 60 years ago.
Apparently, the year of 1957 was an exceptional year which kept Napa County and U.S. maternity wards very busy. According to U.S. population statistics, 1957 holds the record for the most annual births—4.3 million babies were born in America that year. With local families expanding, adequate housing was in demand. In response, Napa was also experiencing a residential building boom, including the Northwood subdivision. According to the Register, the Northwood development was newly completed in Sept. 1957 and sold for $12,950 to $14,950 per house.
Although Napa was growing substantially, there was no mass transit in 1957. So, many locals relied on their personal motorized vehicles to get around town. Then, as now, those Napa motorists looked for the best gasoline prices. Fortunately, those consumers were pleased to benefit from a “price-slashing competition.”
The Sept. 13, 1957 Register continued, “The first real gasoline war in Napa history, today, neared the end of its first week with happy motorists filling ‘er up at a savings of seven to eight cents a gallon.” According to the newspaper, the typical price of regular gas dropped to 26.9 cents per gallon and 30.9 cents per gallon for premium gasoline. The Register also reported the gas war had been occurring throughout the region since early 1957 and was due to a dispute between the gasoline distributors and retailers.
The Register added, “No meetings have been set by wholesalers or retailers to iron out the difficulties, so it looks like there will be happy pumping for some time to come.”
With the money those local motorists saved at the pump, they may have splurged on a new convenience—a carwash. The first Napa County automated carwash opened in 1957 along Napa’s Main Street.
About a week before those car centric articles were printed, the Register ran a story about an important cultural event that blended food, wine and international diplomacy. The Sept. 5, 1957 Register continued, “George Mardikian, world-famous restaurateur and St. Helena ranch owner, hosted an elaborate party in Napa Valley yesterday for more than 400 outstanding Arabian students currently attending their sixth annual conference at the University of California Berkeley campus.”
The “colorful soiree,” wrote the Register, took place on the Charles Krug Winery lawns. The newspaper added an interesting side note regarding the iconic winery. It was “to be dedicated as a State Historical Landmark” a few weeks later.
Returning to the party, it was the finale of a Napa Valley winery tour. However, as part of the reception, the guests continued sampling local vintages as they dined on special Armenian delicacies. Those dishes were served to the guests by St. Helena Junior Women’s Improvement Club members. They wore “Swiss peasant costumes imported for the occasion by Mardikian,” added the Register.
While the event and all of its details were well orchestrated, the guests added some impromptu entertainment. Under the stately Krug oak trees, they formed a line. The Register continued, “In a festival atmosphere, hundreds of students danced to the calls of their leader in Arabic, accompanied by the rhythm of tambourines and drums.”
That spontaneous presentation was followed by the al fresco banquet. As they dined that Sept. 1957 afternoon, all who were in attendance listened to speeches. A common refrain within those orations was the international significance of that Napa Valley harvest time gathering 60 years ago.