With a nostalgic air, the Senate and the House agreed last week to throw a towline to five creaking relics of the American past. U.S.S. Constitution, the famed "Old Ironsides" of the War of 1812, will be restored. U.S.S. Constellation, launched in 1797, will be presented to the citizens of Baltimore, and U.S.S. Hartford, Farragut's flagship in the Civil War, to the citizens of Mobile, Ala. U.S.S.
Olympia, Dewey's flagship, and U.S.S.
Oregon, also a veteran of the Spanish-American War, will be maintained for a year and then given to any state, city or association that will preserve them as shrines.
Of the five, Old Ironsides is the closest to being seaworthy. She was condemned as far back as 1830, but Oliver Wendell Holmes so stirred Americans with" his famed poem that Congress appropriated money for repairs. Now berthed in the Boston Navy Yard, she is about 90% restored (a good part of the money was donated by citizens), and a favored shrine for sightseers.
Once intent on junking all of the vessels except Old Ironsides, Congress changed its mind after protests from citizens. Said the House, back on an even keel: "It is believed that if the ships are preserved . . . they will serve as inspirations to all American citizens." Last week the Congress also: Agreed, in a Senate-House conference committee, to allow more liberal terms on FHA home loans. Key points: 1) the FHA loan maximum would go up to $20,000 (from $16,000) on one- and two-family houses, and 2) the purchaser of a one-family house would be permitted to obtain a loan covering 95% of the first $9,000 of the value, 75% of the rest. Voted 13-2, in the Senate Agriculture Committee, to send to the floor a bill continuing rigid 90% of parity price supports on basic farm commodities for another year. The Administration was hopeful that it could override the committee vote on the Senate floor, as it did in the House (TIME, July 12). Passed, in the House, a bill extending the death penalty to peacetime espionage. Passed, in the House, a bill extending unemployment insurance to 4,000,000 people including 2,500,000 federal civilian employees.
Passed, in the House, and sent to the President, a bill authorizing the President to present a gold medal, "but not in the name of Congress,"† to Irving Berlin for his services in composing many patriotic songs, including God Bless America.
†The language is the same as that used in a 1936 award to George M. Cohan. It prevents the recipient from having the privileges of the floor of the House of Representatives, which in the cases of Cohan and Berlin was considered "neither necessary nor appropriate."