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Where we're always on the road, and it's always 1962! ™

THE ROADTRIP-'62 ™ BLOG

I'm heading down a new road, so to speak. Instead of the long articles relating a roadtrip down a complete highway, I'll now be posting much shorter articles. And the scope will be wider, covering just about everything from the year 1962. This should allow me to post more often, and allow you to have more fun reading. I'm not sure just how often I will post something, but this page will always show the five most recent articles, with the newest at the top. Older articles will be archived at the Blog Archives page. I may even include articles from other people, so if you have something to say about 1962, please let me know. Topics will cover:

  • 1962 News of the World
  • 1962 News of the Nation
  • 1962 Local News
  • 1962 in Sports
  • 1962 in Entertainment and the Arts (including movies, TV, music, art, fashion, architecture, design, books, comics, and more)
  • 1962 in Science
  • Cars of 1962
  • Consumer Products and Retail in 1962 (including just about anything you could buy, plus the stores you could buy it in)
  • On the Road in 1962 (road and roadtrip topics, including things I typically covered on my long journeys)
  • More Fun From 1962! (everything else that sounds like fun, like special events and more pop culture)

 

Local News Highlights from 1962

(June 12, 2018)

Roadtrip-'62 ™ has discussed news before: world news, national news, and other big headlines. Today, I’m going to look at some local news. These are the types of stories that might have made a small newspaper or radio station but never moved into the national conscience.

 
1961 International Harvester truck with Heil Colectomatic Mark II body
1961 International Harvester truck with Heil Colectomatic Mark II body, from sales brochure (from Classic Refuse Trucks.)

Some businesses start small and stay small, some become giants. Both of these businesses probably made little or no news when they opened in 1962. Warren Jackson started Jackson’s Window Shoppe in Lancaster, Pennsylvania in 1962. He had been employed by the local downtown department store, Piersol Co., but lost his job when the store was bought out by another company. Over the many years between then and 2007, Jackson’s Window Shoppe remained a small business, serving mostly local residential customers. That year, Warren’s grandson Brian Jackson decided to go after commercial customers and pushed the company to pass the $1 million sales mark for the first time. The company is still in business in Lancaster, now grossing over $3 million a year.

At the other end of the spectrum is a company that also began in 1962, as one man and a trash truck in the Chicago, Illinois metro area. H. Wayne Huizenga was only 25 years old when he borrowed $5,000 from his father and started hauling trash. Over the next five years he consolidated around 100 other small garbage pickup companies into Waste Management, becoming the largest trash hauling company in the country. In another five years he had become a multimillionaire and eventually Waste Management became the largest solid waste disposal company in the world. Mr. Huizenga left the company in 1984 with a value of $3 billion and went on to build two more multi-billion dollar businesses: Blockbuster video rentals and AutoNation automobile sales. In the 1990s, he diversified further, creating a Florida-based sports empire by bringing major league baseball, hockey, and football to Florida with his Florida Marlins, Florida Panthers, and Miami Dolphins.

 
Marine Tower (Chase Tower), Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Marine Tower, now renamed Chase Tower, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Public domain photo by Shadowlink1014 at Wikimedia Commons.)

Just like businesses, some buildings have long-term staying power and some fizzle out. The YMCA opened their Arlington, Florida branch in 1962 but closed the facility in 2017. They cited declining participation and increasing costs, which also forced them to close additional buildings in other nearby towns. On the other hand, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s Marine Plaza, a 22-story skyscraper built by Marine Bank, opened in June, 1962. It was designed by the New York architectural firm Harrison & Abramowitz as a wall of glass in the “international” style. It was the second-tallest building in downtown Milwaukee: only City Hall was taller. It remained the largest office building in Milwaukee until 1973, when the U.S Bank Center was constructed. The building was later renamed Chase Tower when JPMorgan Chase bought Marine Bank and is still leased for office space.

 

Newsreel footage of snow in Dallas, Texas, March, 1962.

 

Weather news is often local news because it seldom affects a large area. In 1962, Dallas, Texas suffered through a rare snowstorm, as captured on a local TV station’s news broadcast. In this case, the weather did make national news, as the footage was incorporated into this newsreel. Newsreels such as this were still a popular way to add news to your experience at a movie theater, as discussed at Roadtrip-'62’s ™ All the News of 1962 page. Two inches of snow fell in Dallas in March of 1962! It would not snow that much in March in the Dallas area again until 2008.

 
Logo of Dallas Texans AFL football team
Logo of Dallas Texans AFL football team

Of course, no discussion of local news would be complete without an item from my hometown of Saginaw, Michigan. I have sports news today, about football pro Al Hinton. Hinton was born in Georgia, but moved the Saginaw when he was 3 years old. At Saginaw High School, he played football, basketball, and on the track team, breaking the school’s shot put record in 1958. On a scholarship to the University of Iowa, he earned MVP there and was named to the Coaches All-American team in 1961. Though the Dallas Texans of the AFL drafted Hinton in 1962, he signed to play for Toronto in the Canadian Football League (CFL). Probably just as well, because the Dallas Texans folded after the 1962 season. He played in the CFL for six years with Toronto, Winnipeg and Montreal. He had studied art in college and worked as a commercial artist during eight years of living in Canada. Hinton earned a master of fine arts degree from Cincinnati University in 1970 and went on to become a full professor at the University of Michigan. His stint in football was so short that he has no page on Wikipedia and I still had to find all info on him from our local newspaper!

What was happening in your home town in 1962? Stick around and I just might find out and report it here on Roadtrip-'62 ™!

 
 

US-14 Through Some Classic Roadtrip Destinations of the West

(May 29, 2018)

Today, Roadtrip-'62 ™ takes a look at highway US-14. Highway US-14 travels from Chicago, Illinois to Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. It is 1,398 miles long today but was an extra 33 miles long back in 1962. It was cut back a bit at the Chicago end, strangely to end once again at exactly the same point it ended at in 1939. Though for much of its length it runs roughly parallel to the I-90 freeway, it has not been replaced by it. We’ve already covered some of the route in Illinois and Wisconsin as it cross-crossed US-12, US-16, and US-18, so I’ll focus on the western states. The western end is shared with both US-16 and the eastern segment of US-20.

 
Little House on the Prairie, Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1953 edition
Little House on the Prairie, Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1953 edition. This looks like the edition I remember from my elementary school library. (photo from online sale)

Through Minnesota and into South Dakota, the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Highway uses US-14 for part of its route. The Highway is a convenient way to see locations where the Wilder family, made famous by Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House” series of books, lived. The Highway was not established back in 1962, but Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Homes was founded in 1957, and has worked since to open locations mentioned in the books to the public. The Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum is located along The Highway in Walnut Grove, Minnesota, which is where the "Little House on the Prairie" television series was set. In 1947, Garth Williams, who illustrated the books, found the location of the sod dugout house site on the banks of Plum Creek. After Mr. Williams pointed out the significance of the site, the current owners erected a marker and opened the site to visitors. Also in Walnut Grove is the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum. It includes a replica of the dugout, a covered wagon display, and more. But De Smet, South Dakota has the most sites, as the family lived there for the longest time. In De Smet you can visit the Ingalls homestead and the Surveyors’ House that were on the shores of the now filled-in Silver Lake, the house where Ma and Pa lived after Laura left, DeSmet Cemetery where most of the family is buried, a replica of the Brewster School where Laura taught, and even the hill where Laura and Almanzo's homestead once stood. The cottonwood trees that Pa planted, one each for Ma, Mary, Laura, Carrie, and Grace, are now 120 years old and enormous.

 
Interior staircase and columns of the South Dakota State Capitol, Pierre
Interior staircase and columns of the South Dakota State Capitol, Pierre, South Dakota (Photo by Runner1928, via Wikimedia Commons, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.)

Farther west in South Dakota, we come to Pierre, the capital. It is one of only five state capitals not on the Interstate Highway System, served by only US-14 and US-83 instead of a freeway. Pierre was almost not the state capital: there were three public votes on whether to keep it there! First, Pierre won the election to be the temporary capital in 1889. It won again in 1890 to become the permanent capital and again in 1904, which finally put an end to attempts to move the capital. If you head out to Montana, you may notice that their capitol looks almost the same as South Dakota’s. That’s because South Dakota hired the same architects and used their previous design for the Montana State Capitol, with some variations, to save money. Construction began in 1905 and was completed by 1910. It boasts a copper dome, Corinthian columns, and walls of local granite, Marquette Raindrop sandstone, and Bedford limestone. The interior rotunda includes two sculptures by Gutzon Borglum, the sculptor of Mount Rushmore. A restoration that took 22 years beginning in 1977 has restored everything in the capitol back to the building’s original colors and shine. Tours are provided by volunteers and take about an hour.

 
Badlands National Monument, South Dakota
Badlands National Monument, South Dakota (Postcard from author’s collection.)

Out beyond the prairie lie the badlands, displayed at their best at Badlands National Park. The park was designated as Badlands National Monument in 1929 and changed to a National Park in 1978. Though US-16 travels through the park, our US-14 meets it just a few miles north, at Wall, South Dakota, so it’s fair game for our roadtrip. The park protects a vast expanse of mixed-grass prairie where bison, bighorn sheep, and prairie dogs roam. It is also the primary site for re-introduction of the black-footed ferret, North America’s most endangered land mammal. But of course, the big attraction is the extensive badlands. During a period between 26 and 75 million years ago, layers of tiny grains of sand, silt, and clay lay under an inland sea and cemented together into sedimentary rocks. The rocks were rather weak and have eroded quickly and easily over the past 26 million years, since the sea dried up or receded. Rivers cut down through the rock layers, carving buttes, pinnacles, and spires into what had once been a flat floodplain. The Badlands are still eroding at the rapid rate of about one inch per year! Much of the landscape still appears to be clay, mud, and silt after a good rain. Hikes through the badlands range from flat stretches through the prairie landscape to uphill climbs through the rock formations. Because of the difficult ground and hills, the trails in the park include numerous boardwalks and stairways. Several of the trails are less than a mile long, one way, allowing even the casual tourist some great views of this unusual landscape.

 

A college student describes her experience at the Fossil Preparation Lab and fossil hunting. (Public domain video from National Park Service.)

 

Besides the strange landscape, the area is well-known for its fossils and has been since Native American tribes inhabited the area. The Lakota found large fossilized bones, fossilized seashells and turtle shells, leading them to surmise that the area had once been under water. Organized paleontological interest in this area began in the 1840s, as Europeans began exploring. By 1854, when Dr. Joseph Leidy published a series of papers about North American fossils, 84 distinct species had been discovered in North America, including 77 found in these badlands. From 1899 to today, the South Dakota School of Mines has sent people nearly annually and remains one of the most active research institutions working here. There is a a Fossil Preparation Lab in the Ben Reifel Visitor Center. The center was built in 1957–58, so we would have seen a fairly new building in 1962. You can see paleontologists at work and learn more about the scientific discoveries being made. You might even find something important yourself outside! In May 2010, a seven-year old girl found a fossil near the visitor center and reported her find to rangers. It was an exceptionally rare and well-preserved saber tooth cat fossil, which led to the discovery of additional fossil material nearby.

 
Wall Drug, Wall, South Dakota, early 1960s postcard
Wall Drug, Wall, South Dakota, early 1960s (Postcard uploaded by 1950s Unlimited at Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.)

After a visit to Badlands National Park, we come back to US-14 and Wall for a visit to Wall Drug, a sort of cowboy-themed shopping mall that began life as a small town drug store in 1931. Wall proved too small and too poor for pharmacist Ted Hustead to make a good living, until in 1936 his wife Dorothy thought of advertising free ice water to travelers heading to the newly opened Mount Rushmore National Monument. They began selling whatever the tourists wanted and today’s Wall Drug is the result, including a jewelry store, book store, western apparel and hat store, ice cream parlor, restaurant, gift store, rock shop, toy store, and even an art gallery. Wall Drug has over 300 original oil paintings in its Western Art Gallery Dining Rooms. This is one of the best private collections of original Western and Illustration Art in the country, with works by NC Wyeth, Dean Cornwell, and Louis Glanzman. Oh, and don’t forget the jackalopes everywhere in the store and yard, including the giant fiberglass jackalope the kids can pose for photos on. In case you’ve never seen one, the jackalope is a fantasy creature that is some sort of cross between a jack rabbit and antelope. Like other successful tourist destinations that began in the 1930s, Wall Drug was advertised extensively all around the country with billboards. At the peak of their signing in the 1960s, Wall Drug had over 3,000 signs along highways in every corner of the United States! I remember my first approach to the town in the early 1970s, when I noticed Wall Drug signs at ever-decreasing intervals along I-90, beginning back near the Minnesota state line. By the way, the ice water is still free and there still is a real pharmacy inside. As for the restaurant, I think this is the first place I ate a bison burger.

 
Wall Drug, Wall, South Dakota, early 1960s postcard
Devils Tower National Monument, Wyoming (postcard from author’s collection)

Devils Tower National Monument was designated in 1906: the first National Monument. It was known to some of the Native Americans living in the area as The Bad God’s Tower, and it was that name which was modified by the US Geological Survey when they surveyed the area in 1875. It is still considered sacred by some indigenous peoples. The tower is composed of igneous rock from some ancient volcanic system, eroded over millennia to expose the columns of basalt seen today. Hundreds of parallel cracks divide Devils Tower into hexagonal columns that make it one of the finest traditional rock climbing areas in North America. Besides the tower, there are many trails surrounding it, where you can see broken columns and rocks that have fallen off over the years, along with wildlife such as a large prairie dog colony. There is also a campground along the Belle Fourche River, if you want to make this a stop on your own roadtrip. The closest major highway is conveniently US-14, which is just seven miles from the entrance.

 
Wall Drug, Wall, South Dakota, early 1960s postcard
The west end of Shell Canyon as it opens at Shell, Wyoming. (postcard from author’s collection)

The first western canyon I ever saw was Shell Canyon, along Shell Creek as it tumbles down from the Bighorn Mountains. The small town of Shell, at the bottom of the canyon, has an elevation of only 4210 feet above sea level, whereas some of the mountains are over 10,000 feet tall, making for quite a downhill experience! Make sure you have good brakes and transmission before you try this route. The canyon is beautiful, with many layers of colored stone that reminds one of the Badlands but on a larger scale. The canyon is within the Bighorn National Forest, which was created as a US Forest Reserve in 1897. Highway US-14 is so scenic that it has been designated the Bighorn Scenic Byway within the forest. There is a visitor center at Shell Falls Interpretive Site, located adjacent to Shell Falls about halfway down Shell Canyon. The falls are 120 feet high and tumble over granite. There are interpretive trails, scenic views, and educational displays about natural features at the falls. At the bottom of the canyon, you come into fairly flat, dry, cattle country, which extends west to Yellowstone National Park.

One of my favorite things to do along US-14 is also in Wyoming: the Cody Nite Rodeo at Cody. I saw this the first time I went out to Yellowstone National Park and it was the first rodeo I had ever seen. It was a great evening of watching professionals of the Rodeo Cowboys Association ride, rope, and interact with horses and cattle. There were also kids’ events, special fun announcements and real rodeo clowns to keep the action moving along. And you can watch the sunset from the stands! I’ve been back two more times over the years and recommend it to everyone.

 
Yellowstone Lake, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming postcard
Yellowstone Lake, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. (postcard from author’s collection)

Route US-14 ends at Yellowstone National Park and there is so much to see there that I will leave it for a separate article. We come in at the Lake Yellowstone entrance, after traveling back up into the mountains from Cody. Watch for elk as we enter the park. From here, Roadtrip-'62 ™ can exit the park of any of several highways: US-16, US-20, US-89, US-191, US-212, or US-287. See you soon on one of these!

 
 

Your New 1962 Kitchen

(May 1, 2018)

Let’s say we just had a new house constructed in 1962; what would the kitchen look like? My dad was building homes at that time and comparing what I remember with photos from advertisements and internet sources, it appears that his homes were fairly typical. His homes were small suburban ranches, generally with three bedrooms and a dining area attached to the kitchen instead of a separate, formal dining room. So let’s hop in our Roadtrip-'62 ™ Chevy Impala and visit one of these homes, to see the kitchen.

 
home built in 1962, Saginaw, Michigan
Home built by the author’s father in 1962 in Saginaw, Michigan area.

Immediately after World War II, the country experienced a home building boom that went on for a couple of decades. There was a pent-up demand since the 1930s Great Depression, and returning military personnel had money which fueled the buying spree. Homes began at less than 1,000 square feet, but by 1962 had moved upscale to around 1400 square feet. Kitchens had started out with white steel cabinets, moved through a pastel steel cabinet phase, and by 1962 had begun to move to wood cabinets. Steel was cheap after the war because it was no longer in demand for military vehicles, ships, airplanes, munitions, etc., so it found new markets in things like kitchen cabinets. During the 1950s there were almost 90 manufacturers of steel cabinets! But while steel might last forever, it was subject to denting, rusting, and it showed fingerprints. Additionally, as homes became a bit larger, family rooms began to be built adjacent to kitchen areas and people wanted the kitchens to look more like they had furniture in them. I once owned a home with GE steel kitchen cabinets. It was built in 1958 and the cabinet doors were faced with plywood, giving evidence of the trend to wood. By 1962, you could still find new pastel steel cabinets, but other bolder colors were offered in an effort to be unique. Wood had its own range of colors, and 1962 kitchens are seen in all shades from light blonde to dark walnut. Wood cabinets eventually won the battle and that’s mostly what we see today: only 2-3 steel cabinet manufacturers remain. I’m fairly certain that my dad used wooden cabinets.

 
Typical kitchen, 1962 National Plan Service Kitchen Ideas brochure
Typical kitchen from 1962 National Plan Service Kitchen Ideas brochure.

Typical kitchens of the time appear to have used Formica countertops and vinyl or linoleum flooring. Formica is a laminated composite material consisting of many layers of kraft paper, phenolic resin to bind them together, a decorative paper on top, and melamine thermosetting resin to cover and protect it all from damage. The material was invented in 1912 at the Westinghouse Electric Corporation in a search for a less expensive electrical insulating material to replace mica. In 1927, Formica Insulation Company obtained a patent on an opaque barrier sheet for the top layer that allowed the use of printing to make a wood-grained or marble-look product, and Formica became a decorative interior product. In 1938 melamine thermosetting resin was developed by American Cyanamid Company, which was substituted for the top layer of the laminate. It resisted heat, abrasion and moisture better than the phenolic or urea resins then used. Soon after, the Formica Corporation was buying the entire output of melamine from American Cyanamid! During the post-war housing boom, the company created many designs that are still iconic of the 1950s, such as Brooks Stevens’ “Skylark” pattern, Raymond Loewy Associates’ “Sunrise” line, Prince Sigaard Bernadotte’s “VirrVarr” pattern, and the “Boomerang” pattern. Other companies make a similar product, including Wilsonart, Pionite, and Arborite. Wilsonart was founded by Ralph Wilson Sr. in 1956 and at the time, there were 16 competitors in the decorative laminate industry. Formica held a 65% market share, but that left plenty of room for competitors. Arborite is a more recent entry that is unique in using 22% post-consumer waste as recycled content, primarily in the paper layers. It does not contain any formaldehyde and is certified by Greenguard and NSF.

 
Designer kitchen, 1962 National Plan Service Kitchen Ideas brochure
High-end designer kitchen from 1962 National Plan Service Kitchen Ideas brochure.

Kitchen floors of the time were mostly vinyl sheet or tiles. I remember laying the tiles because the glue smelled terrible! Hardwood floors were often used in the remainder of the house, but they became easily water stained in a kitchen, and were avoided. In higher end houses, brick, tile, and stone were used more, especially on walls as accents. Those homes would also have used stone for countertops, as has become very common in recent years. Note the photo above which has tile on nearly every surface! As with the typical kitchen in the other photo, cabinets are strictly wood, with a hint of colonial styling that was becoming popular. Gone are the pastel colored steel cabinets of just a few years ago, though the appliance companies were still offering pastel ovens, refrigerators, and dishwashers. And the wall oven and sculpted chairs complete the 1962 styling.

 
1962 magazine ad for Frigidaire Dishmobile diswasher
Part of 1962 magazine ad for Frigidaire Dishmobile diswasher; note that it still comes in pink.

Lighting also helped set the mood of a kitchen in 1962, and there was a lot to choose from. Chandeliers ranged from atomic or starburst styles of the 1950s that had not yet gone away, to Early American Colonial, to cone-shaped down lights, to novelty themes like wagon wheels and anchors. Fluorescent lights were available in both concentric circles or hidden in soffits. You could also find bubble lights, spotlights (either recessed or hanging), and ceiling mounted glass fixtures. My dad usually went with simple circular ceiling mounted glass fixtures. These cut construction costs and gave home buyers the option of installing any special lighting of their own taste after they bought the house.

 
1962 magazine ad for Frigidaire Dishmobile diswasher
Reproduction mid-century flush-mounted ceiling light fixture. (From online advertisement.)

As always, there were innovations that showed up in kitchens. Lawndale-Cole came out with a Dial-Flow Kitchen Faucet in 1962; one of the first single handle kitchen faucets. This faucet included another innovation, the front part of the spout pulled out to become a sprayer. This is now a very popular design on kitchen faucets. Henry Uihlein, Sr. founded the U-Line Corporation in 1962 and the company developed and patented the first undercounter residential ice maker. The company is still in business, having added other home refrigeration products including small freezers, drawer model refrigerators, and wine cooling systems. All products are still built in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Microwave ovens were brand new in homes for 1962. Raytheon Corporation had sold the first, their Radarange, in 1947. It was the first commercially available microwave oven. But it was both to large and too costly for home use, being 5 feet tall, weighing about 750 pounds, and using about three times as much electricity as today's microwave ovens. Oh, and it needed plumbing, because it was water-cooled! In 1961, Sharp developed Japan's first microwave oven and the following year began selling them to consumers. A US-built microwave for home use wasn’t sold until 1967, when Amana released one.

 
Lawndale-Cole Dial-Flow kitchen faucet
Lawndale-Cole Dial-Flow kitchen faucet carton (Photo from an online auction.)
 

And finally, a peak at toy kitchens of 1962. As you can see below, the pink kitchen is a bit behind the trend of grown-up kitchens: there’s no wood here. The set is noted as easy to assemble corrugated fiberboard (cardboard). Kitchen sets have remained popular toys right up to the present. By the 1970s, when we got my daughter a toy kitchen, it was steel construction. In the late 1980s, plastic became common and if you see a toy kitchen today, it’s likely plastic. They also generally look more cartoony and much less realistic than that 1962 toy. Of course, if you didn’t have room in the house for a toy kitchen, you could get your child Miss Cookie's Kitchen, a Colorforms set made in 1962. These stick-on plastic pieces allowed the kids to pretend to cook and serve and came complete with accessories such as mixing bowls, spoons, and butter, milk, and eggs. Let’s grab some cookies from the kitchen and get Roadtrip-'62 ™ back out on the road for next time!

 
Toy kitchen from 1962 Spiegel Christmas Catalog
Toy kitchen from 1962 Spiegel Christmas Catalog.
 
 

Started Humming a Song from 1962

(April 17, 2018)

Ever find yourself cruising along the highway, when just like Bob Seger in his 1976 song “Night Moves” you’ve "Started Humming a Song from 1962"? Well of course I have; I’m often humming or whistling along with a song from 1962. Here at Roadtrip-'62 ™ we try to play nothing but songs from 1962! That year saw some big changes in music, as the British Invasion was just beginning with bands like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones forming. And 1962 was rich in all genres of music: rock, country, folk, classical, jazz, Broadway and movie, pop, easy listening, TV themes, R&B, blues, Motown, bluegrass, novelty, , religious, beat, surf and drag, and on and on. So turn up your pocket transistor radio and listen along with me as we cruise.

 
1960s Juliette pocket transistor radio
My 1960s Juliette pocket transistor radio

Just what song was Bob Seger thinking about when he wrote those lyrics "Started Humming a Song from 1962" anyway? Bob has stated in a 2011 interview that what he had in mind was The Ronettes’ song “Be My Baby”. Seems his memory is not too good though, because they didn’t record the song until 1963! The Ronettes got their start back in 1957 when Veronica Bennett started singing with her older sister Estelle Bennett, and their cousins Nedra Talley, Diane, and Elaine under the name “The Darling Sisters”. They even added a male cousin, Ira, to the group and signed up for a Wednesday night amateur show at the Apollo Theatre not far from their homes in New York’s Spanish Harlem. The show didn’t go well and afterward, Ira, Elaine, and Diane left the group. The remaining girls renamed themselves "Ronnie and the Relatives" and began taking singing lessons two afternoons per week. They began singing at local bar mitzvahs and sock hops and soon met a producer at Colpix Records, where they recorded four songs in June 1961. Both singles failed to chart on the Billboard Top 100 and the girls filled in as dancers at The Peppermint Lounge behind Joey Dee and the Starliters, who had started 1962 off with the #1 song “Peppermint Twist”. They became a permanent act at The Peppermint Lounge, dancing The Twist and usually singing a song. We see the newly renamed Ronettes during 1962 when Colpix issued the singles “Silhouettes" and "I'm Gonna Quit While I'm Ahead”.

 

Silhouettes, by The Ronettes, released in 1962. I remember the bouncier version recorded by Herman’s Hermits several years later, as that version came out in my teenage years.

Though I mentioned that many musical genres were available during 1962, the music most remembered is the Top 40 radio format. This broadcasting approach is credited to Todd Storz, who owned KOWH in Omaha, Nebraska with his father. In the early 1950s, he noticed that certain songs were played over and over on jukeboxes and figured that if people were paying to hear those songs that often, he could play them that often on the radio also. So he created a music format that focused on playing the top 40 songs as played on jukeboxes. Todd also pioneered the practice of surveying record stores to find which singles were the most popular in sales, adding those records to his format. He bought additional radio stations to spread his new format idea and in the mid-1950s Todd coined the term "top 40" to describe it. As rock and roll blossomed, the format proved easy to duplicate and teenagers loved to hear their favorite songs frequently, so Todd Storz’s format soon went national.

Another feature of Top 40 radio was the jingles used to keep the pace lively and continually promote their Top 40 countdowns. The PAMS company of Dallas, Texas created these jingles for radio stations across the country, becoming the largest supplier right through the 1970s. For example, during 1962, the majority of these promotional jingles used by WQAM of Miami, Florida were produced by PAMS. R.H. Ullman and Futursonic also produced these jingles, along with time and temperature reminders. Press the button to hear one of these jingles for the “Number 1 Tune in Miami this week” that was used on WQAM, 506-AM, during 1962. (From collection of Steven M. Geisler, used by permission.)

 
January 5-11, 1962 Top 40 list from San Diego’s WKDO
January 5-11, 1962 Top 40 list from San Diego’s WKDO. (Photo from John Fry, used by permission.)

And just how did listeners keep track of “Number 1 Tune in Miami this week”? By getting a copy of the list from the radio station, record store, or wherever else it was handed out. I remember getting these from a Kresge store when I was a teen, when I stopped in to buy the latest single. The list changed weekly and you could keep them on file and see the progress up and down the chart of your favorite songs and groups. I didn’t know at the time, but country music stations also used the Top 40 format and distributed weekly lists, like the one above from San Diego, California’s WKDO. In fact, there were also top 40 style charts published for R&B music and easy listening pop. Billboard magazine published all four lists, while competitor Cash Box appears to have published only one overall list. Music Vendor magazine also published a list. Here’s a sampling of information from all of these for the weeks of April 7 through April 28, 1962. (I couldn’t find lists for Cash Box’s country music and R&B music, or any lists from Music Vendor.)

  • Billboard Hot 100
    • April 7 - Johnny Angel - Shelley Fabares
    • April 14 - Johnny Angel - Shelley Fabares
    • April 21 - Good Luck Charm - Elvis Presley
    • April 28 - Good Luck Charm - Elvis Presley
  • Cash Box Top 100
    • April 7 - Slow Twistin' - Chubby Checker with Dee Dee Sharp
    • April 14 - Good Luck Charm - Elvis Presley
    • April 21 - Johnny Angel - Shelley Fabares
    • April 28 - Mashed Potato Time - Dee Dee Sharp
  • Billboard Easy Listening
    • April 7 - Don't Break The Heart That Loves You - Connie Francis
    • April 14 - Don't Break The Heart That Loves You - Connie Francis
    • April 21 - Stranger On The Shore - Mr. Acker Bilk
    • April 28 - Stranger On The Shore - Mr. Acker Bilk
  • Billboard Hot Country & Western Sides
    • April 7 - She's Got You - Patsy Cline
    • April 14 - She's Got You - Patsy Cline
    • April 21 - She's Got You - Patsy Cline
    • April 28 - Charlie's Shoes - Billy Walker
  • Billboard Hot R&B Songs
    • April 7 - Twistin' The Night Away - Sam Cooke
    • April 14 - Soul Twist - King Curtis And The Noble Knights
    • April 21 - Soul Twist - King Curtis And The Noble Knights
    • April 28 - Mashed Potato Time - Dee Dee Sharp

As you can see, some music crossed over between genres. I remember that some radio stations played a range of genres, to try to have something for everybody. My parents usually listened to WKNX-1210 AM back then, and I heard everything above except maybe Charlie’s Shoes from the country list and Don’t Break the Heart That Loves you from the easy listening list. They were probably played too, but just not enough that I remember them. Stations like that, playing most musical genres, were pretty common back then, but began seriously splintering in the 1990s. As fully automated playlists became more popular to save stations the cost of live on-air staff, they focused ever more tightly on formats for specific markets and the wide array of genres that was previously broadcast began to disappear.

 

Elvis Presley performing “Good Luck Charm” from his 1962 single, which was #1 in early April.

One popular music broadcast that didn’t fit any genre was on television: Sing Along With Mitch. Looking back today, this was an unlikely show to have been a ratings smash, but it was. This series debuted as monthly specials in January, 1961 and was such a hit that the program went weekly after returning in the fall. The show ran on NBC on Thursday nights at 10:00pm Eastern time, during the 1961-1964 seasons. In the end, the show was still at the height of its popularity, but the show's audience skewed too much toward mature viewers and the advertisers were more interested in targeting the youth market. The odd feature of the show was that it was basically a sing-along, showcasing mostly old songs. The singers were not even the popular singers of the day, though a few appeared, but a large male chorale under the name "Mitch Miller and the Gang." The music was all Mitch Miller’s distinctive arrangements. Previous to the show, Mitch Miller had been a largely behind-the-scenes band leader and musical arranger. The sing-along portion of the show actually featured a forerunner of karaoke, with lyrics displayed at the bottom of the TV screen along with a bouncing ball to keep you on rhythm!

Classical music was a genre that, as today, struggled to find a place on radio in 1962. Most classical music seems to have been broadcast on stations in the nation’s largest cities, as they were the only places with large enough audiences to be profitable. Public radio, where most classical music is heard today, had not yet become a factor. One of the oldest stations with a classical format is WQXR in New York City, which went on the air in 1936. The station began on AM radio and later moved to the FM dial. In addition to recorded music, it also broadcast local concerts of classical music and this is where it became an early experimenter in stereo broadcasting in 1952. During some of its live concerts, it used two microphones positioned six feet apart. As part of complicated three-way deal in 2009, the station moved to a new frequency and became a non-commercial public radio station operated by New York Public Radio. As with most public radio, it still broadcasts classical music at some time during the day.

 
Karl Haas in his Detroit WJR studio, 1966
Karl Haas in his Detroit studio in 1966. (Public Domain photo from a promotional film "WJR: One of a Kind", by the Jam Handy Organization.)

Another big city classical station began broadcasting in 1962. WCLV, Cleveland, Ohio, was established as a commercial, classical station that year and has been on the air ever since. They also changed frequencies and became a non-commercial station, now owned by non-profit WCLV Foundation. Detroit, Michigan was another hotbed of classical music in 1962, being the home station for Karl Haas’ “Adventures in Good Music”. The show began in 1959 on WJR 760-AM in Detroit and became radio’s most listened-to classical music program after becoming nationally syndicated in 1970. The host, Karl Haas, was born in Speyer, Palatinate, Germany in 1913 and being Jewish, left Germany in 1936 with the rise of Nazism. His broadcast career began in Detroit in 1950, where he hosted a weekly preview of concerts performed by the Detroit Symphony. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, which broadcast just across the border, asked him to talk about the music on the air and eventually he began “Adventures in Good Music”. The show was awarded the Peabody Award for excellence in broadcasting in 1962. Karl Haas was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 1997 and is the only classical music host who’s been so honored.

 

George Jones performing “She Thinks I Still Care” on the Pet Milk Grand Ole Opry television show, February 12, 1962.

Country music, then known as country and western, was a big music genre in 1962, just as it is today. So big that United Record Pressing opened a record manufacturing plant in Memphis, Tennessee in 1962. They have since grown to become one of the 3 largest record pressing companies in the world, and are still located in the same building. I mentioned above that I didn’t remember hearing Charlie’s Shoes from the country song list above, but there are others I do remember because they crossed over to radio stations that played a bit of everything. Here’s just a few of the country hits of 1962 that I recall; my local station seems to have had a thing going for Burl Ives! In just two years, the whole country would know him as Sam the Snowman on the Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer Christmas Special.

  • She Thinks I Still Care - George Jones
  • Wolverton Mountain - Claude King
  • Crazy - Patsy Cline
  • It Keeps Right On A-Hurtin' - Johnny Tillotson
  • PT-109 - Jimmy Dean
  • Old Rivers - Walter Brennan
  • Funny Way of Laughin' - Burl Ives
  • A Little Bitty Tear - Burl Ives
  • Call Me Mr. In-Between - Burl Ives

And of course, who can forget “The Ballad of Jed Clampett” by Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs? This theme song for “The Beverly Hillbillies” was played everywhere, as the show was watched by everyone. And I’m sure it brought a lot of new listeners to country and bluegrass music during 1962 and afterward. Another phenomena that brought a lot of new listeners to the genre was Ray Charles, who released “Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music” in 1962, against the wishes of his record label who thought he would lose all his established R&B fans. But Ray had a childhood full of the sounds of jazz, blues, gospel and country, and they melded into his unique style. The album gave him his third #1 hit, “I Can’t Stop Loving You” and became the biggest-selling album of 1962, occupying the top spot on the Billboard album chart for 14 weeks. In other country music news of 1962, Loretta Lynn was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry and Roy Acuff to the Country Music Hall of Fame, becoming its first living member. Speaking of Loretta Lynn, she is one of the many country artists we discussed along our US-23 roadtrip episode “Country Music Along the Highway”.

 

Compilation of twisting dance scenes from the early 1960's with Peppermint Twist by Joey Dee & The Starliters.

Another award of note is Tony Bennett’s win of The Grammy Award for Best Record for “I Left My Heart in San Francisco”, which was a top-10 single in 1962. The year was also known as The Year of The Twist, starting off with a bang when Chubby Checker’s 1960 hit “The Twist” returned as the #1 song in January. Many other artists recorded songs about the dance during 1962, with seven others becoming hits. These included “The Peppermint Twist” by Joey Dee & The Starliters, “Twistin' The Night Away” by Sam Cooke, “Twist, Twist Senora” by Gary U.S. Bonds, “Soul Twist” by King Curtis And The Noble Knights, and “Slow Twistin' “ by Chubby Checker himself with Dee Dee Sharp, trying to keep his dance craze going.

The Beatles were still just an obscure group in Liverpool, England in 1962. In 1961, they had recorded with Tony Sheridan as the Beat Brothers. During early 1962, they were rejected for a recording contract after an audition with Decca records in the England. The Beatles came to their final form later in the year when they fired drummer Pete Best and replaced him with Ringo Starr. They recorded "Love Me Do" during September and released it in October in England, and within two years would take the United States by storm. The Rolling Stones, now the world’s oldest rock band, also formed that year, playing their first concert on July 12, 1962 at London's Marquee club. And Bob Dylan released his first album “Bob Dylan”, which contained folk standards and only two original compositions. Dylan would hit it big next year with an album of original songs including "Blowin' in the Wind". The Beach Boys hit the charts a year before any of them, however, releasing the album “Surfin USA” in 1962. There were several memorable hits from the album, including the title track and “409”. Along with Dick Dale, they got the California surf and drag genre established.

 

Fusing jazz and pop, Dave Brubeck and Tony Bennett perform “That Old Black Magic” at the White House Seminar American Jazz Concert on the Sylvan Theater grounds, Washington, DC, August 28, 1962.

One genre that didn’t get a lot of radio airplay was jazz. Plenty was happening there, though, that would influence music for decades to come. Albums were released by Herbie Hancock, Stan Getz And Charlie Byrd, John Coltrane, Herbie Mann, Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers, The Dave Brubeck Quartet, and others. And jazz had its place at the 4th Annual Grammy Awards, where Stan Kenton won Best Jazz Performance – Large Group (Instrumental) for “Kenton's West Side Story”. The Newport Jazz Festival was in its 7th year by 1962, held at Freebody Park in Newport, Rhode Island. The 1962 Festival is documented in a film and featured the Oscar Peterson Trio, Roland Kirk, Duke Ellington, and the Count Basie Orchestra, among many others.

In an odd offshoot of jazz, the Swingle Singers formed in 1962 and presented their jazzed-up, be-bop arrangements of classical music to the world. This was an a cappella group that used only their voices instead of instruments to perform the music of Bach, Mozart, and even contemporary songs. They were formed in Paris and became very popular in the United States, winning Grammy Awards in 1964 and 1965. The group was a double-quartet, consisting of Alice Herald and Anne Germain on alto, Christiane Legrand and Jeanette Baucomont on soprano, Claude Germain and Ward Swingle on tenor, and Jean Cussac and José Germain on bass. Their breakout album, “Jazz Sebastian Bach “, was recorded in 1962 and released the next year. The group still exists, though none of the original members are currently singing with it.

 

The Swingle Singers performing “Largo from the Keyboard Concerto No. 5 in F minor” by J. S. Bach, recorded in 1962.

For information on some other musical genres, I suggest you try Roadtrip-'62’s ™ page Christmas in 1962 for Christmas songs. Some of the Christmas songs that charted during 1962 were re-releases from earlier years though, like Jingle Bell Rock from 1957 and the Chipmunks’ Christmas song from 1960. You might also check Happy 50th Birthday 1962! for some great party music or US-23 From Sea to Inland Sea - Day 18 for R&B artists like Little Richard. Motown Records was pumping out records, but they still hadn’t differentiated themselves from standard R&B music. Artists like Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, Mary Wells, and the Temptations were trying and missing at getting to the top of the charts. One of the highest charting of the Motown songs from 1962 is The Contours’ “Do You Love Me”, written by Motown’s founder Berry Gordy, Jr., which peaked at #3 on October 20.

So, if I were to start humming a song from 1962, what song would it be? Tough choice; there a lot of good songs that year and I remember many of them. So here’s my personal Top 62 from the year, taken from the weekly Billboard Top 100 lists and presented alphabetically by artist. And since I was only 9 years old, the list includes quite a few songs I remember my parents listening to. There’s also something you don’t see in modern playlists: a lot of instrumentals. Good musicians were still in demand back then. So now you know what I’m listening to as I take Roadtrip-'62 ™ to the next destination down the road!

 

Vince Guaraldi Trio performing “Cast Your Fate to the Wind” on their 1962 single. And yes, it’s the same guys who brought us the wonderful music of A Charlie Brown Christmas in 1965.

   
table of favorite songs, 1962
Author’s favorite songs from 1962.
 

All photos by the author and Copyright © 2018 - Milne Enterprises, Inc., except as noted.

All other content Copyright © 2018 - Milne Enterprises, Inc.

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What's the weather in 1962?

Weather on February 22, 1962 for Adrian, MI, from the National Climatic Data Center:

  • Low = 30°F
  • High = 38°F
  • Precipitation = no data
  • Mean Wind Speed = 13mph

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Smokey Bear is the longest running public service ad campaign in Ad Council history, running since 1944. At the beginning, Walt Disney loaned Bambi for use on a poster for one year, but that image proved so popular that it is still being used. The original message was slightly different, as "Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires." I hope you enjoy this ad, similar to what you might have seen in 1962, and heed Smokey's message.

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