Friday, November 8, 2013

The World in 1963

The Kennedy Assassination looms large on the landscape of 1963. But the times, they were a'changin' in many other ways. The Cold War hung over the world like a big gray cloud. Trouble was brewing in Vietnam, and race riots were breaking out on the home front. The world was ripe for peace marches and folk music. 

Peter, Paul & Mary at civil rights march, 1963

How many of these movies and tv shows do you remember? How many of these songs can you still hum? How many of these news events do you recall? Or if you're too young to remember, how many have you heard about?

MOVIES of 1963: The Birds; Cleopatra; The Great Escape; The Pink Panther; The Sword in the Stone; Bye, Bye, Birdie; Lilies of the Field; and The Nutty Professor. The Oscar that year was awarded to Lawrence of Arabia

TV in 1963: Some popular television shows were The Andy Griffith Show; Bonanza; The Fugitive; The Ed Sullivan Show; The Beverly Hillbillies; The Twilight Zone; My Three Sons; Gunsmoke; American Bandstand; and The Dick Van Dyke Show. General Hospital made its debut on April Fool's Day. On November 23rd, the day after the Kennedy assassination, Dr. Who was first broadcast in the UK. Johnny Carson was king of the night with Tonight Show. (He had assumed the throne in fall of 1962).

Barney, Opie, Andy, and Aunt Bea
The Andy Griffith Show

POP MUSIC of 1963: Some of the chart-toppers were "Sugar Shack"; "Surfin' USA"; "The End of the World"; "He's So Fine"; "Blue Velvet"; "My Boyfriend's Back"; "Puff the Magic Dragon"; "Blowin' in the Wind"; "Walk Like a Man"; "Mockingbird"; "I Will Follow Him"; and "Blame It on the Bossa Nova." On February 11th, the Beatles recorded Please Release Me (their debut album) at the Abbey Road Studios--in just one day! By the end of the year, Beatlemania was a highly contagious condition, affecting mainly teenage girls.

The British Invasion

BOOKS of 1963:  The Feminine Mystique, by Betty Friedan; Cat's Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut; The Fire Next Time, James Baldwin; The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, John le Carre; The Shoes of the Fisherman, Morris West; Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak; The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath. Sadly, Plath committed suicide that same year.

FASHIONS, 1963: Jackie Kennedy was a great influence on women's clothing, with her pillbox hats and short boxy jackets. Capri trousers and stiletto heels were popular for women; corduroy slacks, wider ties, and brighter colors were coming in for men. Girls wore skirts or dresses to school. Hemlines covered the knee: mini skirts didn't arrive until the following year. As I recall, t-shirts were mainly men's underwear. And jeans? They were for farm boys.

IN THE NEWS, 1963:

George Wallace:
Jan. 14th -- George Wallace is sworn in as governor of Alabama. His chilling mantra: "Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, and segregation forever." 

Feb. 8th -- President Kennedy restricts US trade with Cuba.

Mar. 17 -- A volcano erupts on Bali, killing about 1500 people.

Mar 31 -- NYC newspaper strike ends after 114 days

Apr 9 -- US nuclear submarine Thresher sinks -- all 129 aboard perish.

Thresher underway

Martin Luther King, Jr.
Apr 12 -- Martin Luther King, Jr. is arrested in Birmingham. The charge? "Parading without a permit."

Apr 16 -- King issues "Letter from Birmingham Jail."

May 15 -- Last Mercury Mission -- Atlas 9.

May 23 -- Castro visits the USSR.

June 4th -- Kennedy authorizes the Secretary of the Treasury to issue silver certificates.

Valentina Tareshkova,
first woman in space
June 12th -- African-American civil rights activist Medgar Evers is murdered in Mississippi, by a member of the White Citizen's Council. 

Jun 16 -- Space goes co-ed when cosmonaut Tareshkova leaves earth orbit. (Russia)

Jun 21 -- Pope Paul VI succeeds Pope John XXIII.

Jul 1 -- Zip codes introduced to US mail.

Aug. 5 -- US, UK, and USSR sign Partial Test Ban Treaty

Aug 18 -- James Meredith becomes the first African-American to graduate from U. of Miss.

Aug 28 -- King delivers "I Have a Dream" speech.

Oct. 2 -- Sandi Koufax, leftie pitcher for LA Dodgers, strikes out 15 Yankee batters in game one of the World Series, setting a new record.

Oct. 31 -- A gas explosion at the Indiana State Fair kills 74.

Nov. 2 -- Duong Van Minh stages a coup, taking over as leader of South Vietnam.

Nov 7 -- 11 German miners are rescued from cave-in, after being trapped for 14 days.

Nov 10 -- Malcolm X delivers his "Message to the Grass Roots" speech in Detroit.

Nov. 22 -- President Kennedy assassinated.

Nov. 29 -- President Johnson establishes the Warren Commission to investigate the assassination of JFK.

Dec 8  -- Pan Am Flight 214 is struck down by lightning, killing 81.

Chuck Yeager

Dec 10  --  Chuck Yeager miraculously parachutes to safety when the experimental aircraft he is testing goes out of control almost 21 miles above the earth. 

It was a year of turbulence and triumph, of mourning and celebration. A year when America was deeply wounded and yet survived. 

A year to remember. 1963.


  1. Lots of memories here for sure! I was seven or eight when Kennedy died but I do recall hearing things on the news about some of the other events. Think the major event of the 60's for me was meeting my first best friend (and still one of them!) Kitty, moving to our new house in the suburbs and getting my first radio.

  2. An amazing year, for sure. I was 11, and still remember the news of JFK's assassination coming over the speakers at Adams school, where I was in 5th grade. And I remember all of the news stories about the race riots going on in the south - scary!