1953 was a pretty exciting year. Harry S. Truman left the keys to the White House under the mat for Dwight D. Eisenhower. Jonas Salk introduced a vaccine for polio. Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay looked out over the world from the top of Mount Everest. As millions of children crowded into theaters to see Walt Disney’s Peter Pan, almost three quarters of America tuned in to I Love Lucy to watch the birth of Little Ricky. Some of them were, no doubt, watching on the first commercially available color televisions, at a cost of about $1,800.
For $3,500 you could take a spin in Chevrolet’s latest sportster, the Corvette. Elizabeth II became the Queen of England, and the UNIVAC 1103 became the first computer to use random access memory. Ian Fleming introduced us to a character named “James Bond,” and teenaged boys were introduced to Playboy.
In that same year in the Commonwealth of Virginia, some concerned citizens decided to do something about all of the trash piling up on the roadway by their homes. They established the “Virginia Anti-Litterbug Council.” That same year, Keep America Beautiful was formed by members of Anheuser-Busch, Philip Morris, Pepsi, and Coca-Cola. Perhaps realizing that much of our litter was coming from bottles and cans, they wanted to do something on a national scale, and enlisted the fledgling Anti-Litterbug Council to be a guinea pig of sorts. Could you engage a group of people to do something good with no reward but a feeling of satisfaction?
The industrious Virginians created a campaign to pick up some trash, lead by example, and hopefully leave the State cleaner and more beautiful than it was when you woke up yesterday. Keep America Beautiful loved it, and by 1956 the Anti-Litterbug Council changed its name to Keep Virginia Beautiful and was a proud affiliate of Keep America Beautiful.
My, how much has changed. We’ve eliminated or rendered harmless many of the diseases that used to ravage people everywhere. Everest is so crowded that people are doing crazy stuff like skiing and base-jumping from the summit to make it interesting. We have so many channels and so many avenues to watch television that individual shows come and go like fruit flies. You can buy a television for under a hundred bucks, but a Corvette will cost you as much as $115,000.
Much has, however, stayed the same. The Queen is still in England, James Bond is still ruining gadgets, and Disney is a big as ever. Our phones are now smarter than a UNIVAC 1103, and teenaged boys use them to look at Playboy.
And Keep Virginia Beautiful is still here! The issue of litter is still here, and our members and fans are as active as ever. Groups like Altria organize cleanups and beautification projects around the state, and guys like Earth Korps spend countless hours pulling trash out of our waterways. Companies like Waste Management help us to disperse grants like our Thirty in 30 Days program, and our friends on Facebook share events and information on their UNIVACs.
But our message is still the same as it was in 1953. “To engage and unite Virginians to improve our natural and scenic environments.”
And let’s see if we can’t leave it a little prettier than it was yesterday.