Friday, July 17, 2009

Fifty Years Ago -- 1959

In 1959, I was in junior high school in a suburb of Minneapolis. I had two things on my mind – Judy Ballet and trying to figure out what to do with the rest of my life. That summer, Judy Ballet and her family moved to California before I got up enough nerve to ask her out and I'm still trying to figure out what to do with the rest of my life.

The following events also took place in 1959.

Jan 1 – Fidel Castro led Cuban rebels to victory over Fulgencio Batista who fled to the Dominican Republic. Castro then took over the country of Cuba.

Jan 3 – President Eisenhower signed a proclamation admitting Alaska as the 49th state into the Union.

Jan 7 – The USA recognized Castro's new government in Cuba.

Jan 9 – "Rawhide" with a young actor named Clint Eastwood premiered on CBS TV

Jan 25 – The jet age in the USA opened with an American Airlines (Boeing 707) flight from Los Angeles to New York

Feb 1 – The patent for the Integrated Circuit was requested by Texas Instruments

Feb 3 – A plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa, killed rock-n-roll stars Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. (The Big Bopper) Richardson.

Feb 6 – The USA successfully test-fired an intercontinental ballistic missile, for the first time, from Cape Canaveral

Feb 17 – The USA launched its first weather station into space

Mar 3 – The first U.S. probe (Pioneer 4) was launched into orbit

Mar 9 – The Barbie doll was introduced by the Mattel Toy Company

Mar 12 – Both houses of Congress approved the statehood of Hawaii

Mar 16 – The last documented Civil War veteran died

Mar 29 – The movie "Some Like it Hot" starring Marilyn Monroe, Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis premiered

Apr 9 – NASA announced the first 7 astronauts – Scott Carpenter, Gordon Cooper, John Glenn, Gus Grissom, Wally Schirra, Alan Shepard and Donald Slayton

Apr 26 – Cuban guerillas attempted an invasion of Panama but were suppressed by Panamanian forces

Apr 28 – Charles de Gaulle resigned as president of France

May 1 – West Germany introduced a 5-day work week

May 10 – Armed Forces from the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan

May 19 – In Vietnam, construction of the Ho Chi Minh Trail was begun to facilitate troops and supplies from North Vietnam to support the revolution in South Vietnam

May 20 – Japanese-Americans regained their U.S. citizenships from World War II

May 30 – Josef Mengele became a citizen of Paraguay

Jun 16 – George Reeves, star of the TV series "Superman," died from a supposed suicide

Jun 25 – The Cuban government seized 2.35 million acres of privately owned land under a new reform law

Jul 26 – There was a nuclear meltdown at a Rocketdyne field laboratory 30 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles, causing hundreds of future cases of cancer in the community

Aug 10 – My 15th birthday – old enough to get a driver's license in the state of Minnesota. Wouldn't get my first speeding ticket for another 8 months

Aug 17 – A magnitude 7.1 earthquake struck Yellowstone National Park

Sep 7 – I start 10th grade at Robbinsdale High School in Minnesota – state champions in football, wrestling and intimidation. A dozen well-known, top-flight professional wrestlers are produced by the school. It is not for the timid

Sep 12 -- The TV show "Bonanza" premiered on NBC – it would run for 431 episodes

Sep 14 – The Soviet Union launched a space probe, Luna 2, that became the first man-made object to crash into the moon

Sep 26 – A typhoon hit Japan killing 5,000 people

Oct 14 – Actor Errol Flynn died of a heart attack at age 50

Oct 31 – Former U.S. Marine, Lee Harvey Oswald, defected to the Soviet Union

Nov 3 – President Eisenhower laid the cornerstone for the CIA headquarter building in Langley, Virginia

Nov 16 – "The Sound of Music" opened on Broadway – it would run for 1443 performances

Nov 18 – The movie "Ben-Hur" starring Charlton Heston premiered in New York City

Dec 12 – Pantyhose was introduced

Dec 25 – I get a sweater and some socks for Christmas – apparently, Santa ran out of lumps of coal

Dec 31 – The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed the year at 679.36

The number one song of 1959 was THE BATTLE OF NEW ORLEANS by Johnny Horton

"We fired our cannon 'til the barrel melted down...
So we grabbed an alligator and we fought another round...
We filled his head with cannon balls, and powdered his behind...
And when we touched the powder off, the gator lost his mind."

Quote for the Day – "There are two keys to success – 1) Don't tell all you know." Woody Paige

Bret Burquest is an award-winning columnist and author of four novels. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and where lost minds are commonplace. His blogs appear on several websites, including

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