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


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)


Roadtrip to the Beers of Highway US-18

Continuing the Roadtrip-'62 ™ countdown of US-numbered routes, it’s time to take a peek at highway US-18 today. This east-west highway runs basically through the Great Plains, from Milwaukee, Wisconsin to Orin, Wyoming. The Milwaukee end is in the same city where US-16 once began. Route US-18 is currently 1,043 miles through mostly farm and cattle country on two-lane roads. But it was 88 miles shorter in 1962, before the west end was extended. The extension was made in 1967, and runs US-18 together with US-20 from Mule Creek Junction to Orin, Wyoming. Why it needed an extension when US-20 already covered the same route is anyone’s guess. The Milwaukee end is unusual because it just ends alone, not at a junction with another numbered highway.

Miller High Life beer magazine ad, 1962
Miller High Life magazine ad from 1962

But we’re looking at beer brewers along US-18, and there is no better place to begin than at Milwaukee. The city’s Major League Baseball team isn’t called the Brewers for nothing! Milwaukee was known as the “Beer Capital of the World” and was home to four of the country’s largest brewers in 1962: Schlitz, Blatz, Miller, and Pabst. The other large-scale brewer with national distribution was Annhauser-Busch, headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri. Miller was still growing at the time, having purchased the Milwaukee's Best brand in 1961 when they bought out the local Gettelman Brewing Company. In case you’re wondering about the city’s namesake beer, Old Milwaukee Beer, it was not made by a separate brewery, but was brewed by the Joseph Schlitz Brewing Company. It originated in 1849 and was withdrawn from the market for many years, coming back in 1955.

1962 steel Pabst Beer can, flat top, punched opening
1962 soldered steel Pabst Beer can with flat top, punched opening (photo from online auction)

Milwaukee’s beer making history goes back to at least 1844, before the city was even incorporated. That year, Jacob Best opened his brewery, which became the Pabst Brewing Company in 1889. It was renamed after Frederick Pabst, who had married Best’s daughter years earlier, purchased a 50% stake in the company, and later became president. By 1874 Phillip Best Brewing Co. was the nation's largest brewer, and they hadn’t even introduced what would become their best seller, Best Select. The beer was introduced in 1875 and became Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer in a marketing move in the 1890s. It turns out that the beer never actually won a blue ribbon, but during the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago, Pabst had blue ribbons tied around his Best Select so it would stand out from other beers. People began identifying it as the Pabst Blue Ribbon beer and Pabst wisely renamed it to capitalize on the fame. The blue ribbons continued until 1916, when a silk shortage during World War I halted their use. After Prohibition, the blue ribbons around the neck of the bottle returned until 1950. So, we would have missed this gimmick on any Pabst Blue Ribbon we bought in 1962. But we could have tried Pabst’s Andeker, a European-style lager they introduced in 1939. Later in the 1960s it was removed from the market, but we can try it again at the new Pabst Milwaukee Brewery. The Pabst Milwaukee Brewery is not the original brewery, but a brewpub located in an old chapel on the original brewery campus. Today, Pabst Blue Ribbon is brewed by contract at the former flagship brewery of the G. Heileman Brewing Company in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Pabst acquired that in 1996, during a buying spree I’ll discuss later. Since 2014, their original brewhouse in Milwaukee has been converted into a hotel and other buildings on the campus were converted into condominiums and offices.

Schlitz Beer magazine ad, 1962
Schlitz Beer magazine ad from 1962 (photo from online auction)

The next oldest brewer in the big four is the Joseph Schlitz Brewing Company, founded in 1849. Joseph Schlitz was hired as a bookkeeper in a tavern brewery owned by August Krug. In 1856, he took over management of the brewery following the death of Krug, married the widow a few years later, and changed the name of the brewery. Schlitz became known as “the beer that made Milwaukee famous” in the aftermath of the terrible Great Chicago Fire in 1871. The fire not only destroyed 11 of the city’s 23 breweries, but also much of its water distribution system and the housing for a third of the population. To help the thirsty Chicagoans, Schlitz floated huge shipments of beer down Lake Michigan. Other Milwaukee brewers also sent beer south, but Schlitz got a lot of the credit, and a lot of the sales afterward. A year before the fire Schlitz produced around 6,800 barrels of beer, but by the end of the year that was doubled. As a result of the huge increase in brewing volume and the experience of long distance shipping, Milwaukee’s brewers soon shipped more beer than those in New York, Philadelphia or St. Louis, despite the larger populations of those cities. Schlitz became the largest beer producer in the country in 1902 and repeated that feat many times, exchanging the title with Anheuser-Busch off-and-on during the 1950s.

Schlitz remained the number-two brewery in America as late as 1976, but a series of labor strikes, poor marketing decisions, and a change in the brewing formula nearly killed the brand by 1999. During this period, the company was sold to competitor Stroh Brewery Co. of Detroit, Michigan. The brand has been sold several more times since, resulting in the original Schlitz Beer recipe being lost. You can still buy the beer though, as current owner Miller has researched and reconstructed the classic 1960s formula as best they can, and now brews Schlitz at its Milwaukee production facility. The old Schlitz Brewery complex in Milwaukee was transformed into a mixed-use development called Schlitz Park, with the original Schlitz Brewhouse demolished in 2013.


Blatz Beer commercial from early 1960s


Blatz Beer originated in 1851, at the Milwaukee brewery of Valentin Blatz. He was next door to Johann Braun’s City Brewery and merged the two businesses when Braun died in 1852. In 1875, Blatz was the first Milwaukee brewery to have a bottling department to package beer and ship nationally. It was also the first of the big Milwaukee brewers to disappear, being bought out by Pabst Brewing in 1958. The merger was initially short-lived, because both companies were so big. The federal government sued claiming the merger violated anti-trust laws and it was voided in 1959. So Blatz just closed instead. All the assets were sold the next year…to Pabst, getting around the government’s concerns. The mergers within the beer industry, as noted in the paragraphs above, were especially complicated for Blatz, moving the name through the G. Heileman Brewing Company in 1969, Stroh Brewery Company in 1996, and after a brief stint with Miller Brewing Company, back to Pabst in 2007. Today, Blatz is still produced under contract for Pabst by Miller! The Blatz brewing company's office building in Milwaukee has been converted into condominiums and the former Blatz bottling facility is now the Campus Center Building for the Milwaukee School of Engineering. I fondly remember the Blatz jingle from TV ads of the 1962 period, which highlighted the fact that many other beers had a different taste when bottled and canned from how they tasted fresh from the keg, but Blatz was always the same great beer. As the commercial says, "I'm from Milwaukee, and I ought to know! It's Draft Brewed Blatz beer, wherever you go. Smoother, fresher, less filling, that's clear. Blatz is Milwaukee's finest beer!"

1960s Miller High Life Beer Tap Handles
Early 1960s Miller High Life Beer Tap Handles (photo from online sale)

And finally, we come to the big survivor of Milwaukee beers, Miller. Miller Brewing Company was founded in 1855 by Frederick Miller, who brought a unique brewer’s yeast with him from his native Germany. In 1903, he came up with Miller High Life Beer and packaged it in a Champagne-shaped clear bottle with sloping shoulders. Besides being clear, the bottles also had foil that covered the cap and top of the neck similar to the way Champagne is sold. The nickname “The Champagne of Bottle Beer” was adopted in 1906, which was modified in 1969 to “The Champagne of Beers”, dropping the reference to bottles. By 1955 Miller Brewing had moved up from 20th to 5th in sales nationally. It remained family owned until 1966, when controlling interest was sold to conglomerate W.R.Grace & Company, outbidding PepsiCo. A few years later it was sold to Phillip Morris Inc., but mergers and spinoffs were not over yet. Recently, global giant Anheuser-Busch Inbev wanted to buy the successor company of Phillip Morris, SABMiller, which would have consolidated all major beer production in the country in a single brewer. As part of the 2016 agreement with the US government, Anheuser-Busch Inbev was forced to sell the Miller assets to Molson Coors, where they remain today. So Molson Coors’ Miller Brewing Company is still headquarted in Milwaukee, and you can still get a free, one hour, guided walking tour of the brewery. You will even see the limestone caves where Frederick Miller chilled his beer in the days before refrigeration. And of course, there are ice cold beer samples!

How did so much of United States beer history end up in Milwaukee? It seems to have been a fortunate collection of factors. A decade and half after its incorporation in 1846, the city’s population had increased by fivefold, so there were a lot of customers. And by 1880, native Germans made up 27 percent of the city’s population: the highest concentration of a single immigrant group in any American city. With the Germans came beer halls, beer yeast and knowledge of brewing techniques. Also, Milwaukee was close to grain growing areas, which supplied the main ingredient of beer. Being on Lake Michigan, the city also had good water and abundant ice in the days of manual ice harvesting before artificial refrigeration. This stimulated long-distance beer shipping, since rail cars needed to be packed with ice to prevent spoilage en route. Many other cities had some of these qualities, but Milwaukee had them all. And as mentioned earlier, they all came together when Chicago lost almost half its breweries in a fire and Milwaukee brewers stepped into the void. Long distance shipping was the final piece of the puzzle that pushed them to become nationally-minded organizations.

1960s Gettleman Beer lighted bar sign
1960s Gettleman Beer lighted bar sign (photo from online auction)

And, how did all these beer brewers weather the Prohibition years of 1920-1933, when production and sales of alcoholic beverages was outlawed in the United States? Each company found their own strategy. Pabst switched to cheese production, with their main product being Pabst-ett Cheese. When Prohibition ended, the company sold the cheese line to Kraft. Schlitz made non-alcoholic beverages, changing their slogan to "The drink that made Milwaukee famous." After Prohibition ended, Schlitz quickly became the world's top-selling brewery in 1934. During Prohibition, Blatz produced juices, chewing gum, and non-alcoholic beverages such as sodas, near beer, and the curiously named malt soap. The Miller Brewing Company formed Miller High Life Co. and produced a wide variety of malt syrups, carbonated soft drinks, and cereal beverages during Prohibition.

Besides the big four, there were almost no other breweries left in Milwaukee by 1962. During the late 1800s, there were dozens of small breweries here. But most were gone by 1900 and the few that remained died with the beginning of Prohibition. Several were restarted afterward, but by then it was too late to compete with the big boys. Gettelman Brewing Corp. was the one that lasted the longest. It was originally established in 1895, which was late by Milwaukee standards and may account for why they remained a smaller brewer. As I mentioned earlier, Gettleman’s was purchased by Miller Brewing in 1961. Their best known label was Milwaukee’s Best beer, which continued to be made and sold under Miller’s ownership until 1971. Gettleman’s was an innovator, with Frederick Gettelman personally designing the first practical steel keg in 1933, manufactured by the A.O. Smith Company of Milwaukee. Gettleman’s was also the first American brewer to import and distribute a European beer, importing Tucher beer from Nuremburg, Germany in 1959. I found only one other brewer still in business in 1962, the Independent Milwaukee Brewery. It dated back to 1901, another very late start, and its best-known brand was Braumeister. It closed in 1964, after the company was sold to the larger G. Heileman of La Crosse. Heileman closed the brewery but continued making Braumeister for some time before selling it to the Peter Hand Brewing Co. of Chicago. Hand continued making and selling Braumeister until 1998.

Weber Waukesha flat top beer can
Weber Waukesha flat top beer can (photo from online sale)

You might well wonder whether there are many brewers to find west of Milwaukee along US-18. The short answer is no. There were certainly brewers all across Wisconsin, but most remained small up to Prohibition. As a consequence, many went out of business in 1920 and never came back. A handful tried to restart operations but were swallowed by larger brewers or went out of business as Milwaukee and other big city brewers ramped up regional and national advertising and distribution. The Weber Waukesha Brewing Company, in nearby Waukesha, Wisconsin, began in 1857 and operated under a number of names. Waukesha is only about 20 miles from downtown Milwaukee, so this company and Fox Head, mentioned below, may have enjoyed some of the same benefits that the big four had, or may have been able to imitate them for some time. During Prohibition, the Weber Waukesha Brewing Company operated as the Waukesha Dairy Company. When they reopened as a brewery after Prohibition, they completely modernized their plant, becoming the first brewery in the area to use stainless steel equipment. Weber merged with its neighbor Fox Head in 1958. The buildings have since been reused for other purposes and there is a historical marker commemorating the Weber Brewery on US-18 at the intersection with NW Barstow Street.

But we could have enjoyed the products of Fox Head in 1962! This brewery began in 1893 when a group of saloon owners from Chicago constructed it as a cooperative to supply their businesses. They chose Waukesha because its spring water was full of minerals and the area had been a popular health resort for some time. They also bottled and sold the spring water and used it for soft drinks, creating a ginger ale named Fox Head in 1908, which soon became the company name. Because of the Chicago connection, after Prohibition ended and the company restarted operations, there were always rumors of mob influence. Some poor business decisions in the 1950s, as the company tried to expand, finally doomed it. Fox Head bottled its last bottle of beer on June 30th, 1962. In 2015, a new Fox Head Brewing was opened, using the old trademarks. It is a true microbrewer though, making hand-crafted beers 30 gallons at a time.

Fox Head Beer sign on building in Waukesha, Wisconsin
Fox Head “400” Beer sign on building in Waukesha, Wisconsin (Photo by Cragin Spring at Flickr, used by permission.)

Jefferson, Wisconsin had several breweries in the 1800s and up to Prohibition, but none that lasted to 1962. The closest was the Henry Perplies Brewing Co., which closed in 1953. Even the much larger city of Madison, Wisconsin’s capital, had only one brewer that made it to 1962. Fauerbach Brewing Co. began in 1868 had its own icehouse on the shores of Lake Monona until 1917. Madison harvested and sold ice far and wide before refrigeration equipment was available, shipping ice by rail to customers. Fauerbach had their own harvesting crew to supply their needs. During prohibition they produced cereal beverages, sodas, and cheeses. Of the several breweries in Madison, only the Fauerbach Brewery started brewing again after Prohibition. They expanded distribution by shipping west by railroad to Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska. But they also had a difficult time competing against the larger national brands. The Fauerbach Brewery closed in 1966, as even the company’s Pepsi bottling franchise could not save them. The brewery was demolished in 1967 and condominiums were built on the site. The Fauerbach beer brand was briefly resurrected in 2005 by family members using a contract brewer, but closed again in 2009.

Tavern in Whiteclay, Nebraska, 1940, near Pine Ridge Indian Reservation
Tavern in Whiteclay, Nebraska, 1940, just south of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation (Public domain photo by John Vachon from Library of Congress.)

Breweries in Dodgeville, Wisconsin and Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin never reopened after Prohibition. And breweries along US-18 in Iowa never made it to the 20th century at all! There were brewers in Postville, New Hampton, Charles City, Algona, and Mason City in the 1880s. Today, all I can find are a number of recent micro-breweries along US-18, in cities including Mason City, Clear Lake, and Spencer. And when researching this article, I did not find any historical breweries along US-18 in South Dakota. That turned out not to be a surprise once I discovered that about ¾ of US-18 in the state passes through Native American Reservations: the Yankton Sioux Indian Reservation, the Rosebud Indian Reservation, and the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. A law passed in Congress in 1832 banned the sale of alcohol to Native Americans. The ban was only ended in 1953, giving Native American tribes the option of permitting or banning alcohol sales and consumption on their lands. So there was simply no opportunity to establish breweries.

The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is now the only reservation in South Dakota where the sale and possession of alcohol is still illegal. The tribe has had significant problems with alcohol consumption throughout their history, and that is likely led to their maintaining a “dry” status. The Pine Ridge Reservation covers three counties and they are among the poorest in the United States. It is home to 20,000 Oglala Lakota Sioux tribe members in an area larger than Delaware and Rhode Island combined. The unemployment rate hovers around 80% and the suicide rate is over four times the national average! Per capita income for American Indians living on Pine Ridge is $7,773 versus the United States average of $27,599. It is against this background that the tribe has fought against alcohol sales for over a century and a half. Most recently, the fight went to the Nebraska Supreme Court, which in 2017 upheld a decision of the Nebraska State Liquor Commission revoking the liquor licenses of four businesses just across the state line in the settlement of Whiteclay, Nebraska. Despite the small population of the reservation, over four million cans of beer per year were sold in Whiteclay, mostly to tribal members. The existence of the stores dates back to 1904, when President Theodore Roosevelt reduced the “dry” zone adjacent to the reservation to a single mile radius. This came at a time when the 1890 massacre at Wounded Knee, where up to 300 Lakota on the reservation were killed by the US Army, was still a fresh memory and may have set a pattern of poverty and attitude that has persisted to the present day.

Old Milwaukee Beer 6-pack from 1962
Old Milwaukee Beer 6-pack from 1962 (photo from online auction)

Unfortunately, since the closure of the Whiteclay stores, tribal members have begun foraging farther from home, bringing large quantities of alcoholic beverages onto the reservation for illegal bootleg sales. And there has been a surge in methamphetamine abuse, begging the question of whether drugs will simply replace the alcohol. We would have seen the poverty problem back in 1962, but today we might see some wind turbines as we drive US-18 through the reservations. Six South Dakota Sioux tribes are currently working to improve their future with development of utility-scale wind power in a project funded by a multi-Tribal power authority. They are hoping that income from the sale of electrical power will also power their future.

I found no record of any breweries on the remainder of US-18 in South Dakota and the route ended less than 10 miles into Wyoming in 1962, so we’ve come to the end of our road. If you haven’t had enough beer history yet, I suggest stopping at The Museum of Beer & Brewing back at the start of our trip in Milwaukee. The Milwaukee County Historical Society has brewing exhibit that they recently moved into The Shops of Grand Avenue, an urban shopping plaza in the heart of town, opened in 1982 in a former hotel building. The Museum is at the main entrance. You can now view the history of brewing in Milwaukee while you shop. And as a bonus, the admission fee includes a beer at the Milwaukee Beer Bar inside the mall!

Braumeister Beer 24-bottle case from 1962
Braumeister Beer 24-bottle case from 1962 (photo from online auction)

And if you would like to try the beers of 1962 for yourself, the following beers I’ve mentioned are still for sale:

  • Schlitz (though this is the reconstructed recipe)
  • Blatz
  • Miller High Life
  • Pabst Blue Ribbon
  • Andeker (but only at the Pabst Milwaukee Brewery brewpub)
  • Old Milwaukee
  • Milwaukee’s Best
  • Fox Head (but only in the Waukesha, Wisconsin area)

Only Braumeister, Weber Waukesha Beer, and Fauerbach are no longer available anywhere. I’m not much of a beer drinker, so I haven’t tried any of the beers mentioned except for Miller. And that was so long ago that I can’t give any recommendation as to taste. So, I’ll be your designated driver on the next Roadtrip-'62 ™ journey and see you then!


A Roadtrip Down US-17 - The Coastal Highway?

Roadtrip-'62 ™ is looking at US-17 today, which today runs 1,189 miles from Winchester, Virginia to Punta Gorda, Florida. In 1962, it was a little shorter, beginning only at Fredericksburg, Virginia but having the same southern end point. Also known as the Coastal Highway, the highway’s proximity to the Atlantic Ocean has made parts of US-17 prone to hurricanes. In 2004, Hurricane Charley made first landfall near the southern terminus of US-17. The hurricane then followed up the highway nearly its entire route in Florida before temporarily heading out to sea. When Hurricane Charley again made landfall in South Carolina, it ran all the way north through Virginia close to the route of US-17. While it is the US-numbered highway closest and parallel to the Atlantic Ocean coast for much of its length, quite a lot of US-17 is not near the coast. Whether we consider the current north end at Winchester or the old north end at Fredericksburg, it begins well inland.

Victory Monument, Colonial National Historical Park, Virginia
Victory Monument, Colonial National Historical Park, Virginia (Public domain photo from National Park Service, by Roger Wayne Green.)

From Fredericksburg, US-17 follows the Rappahannock River to near its end and then jogs south to Yorktown, Virginia on Chesapeake Bay. This is our first view of the Atlantic Ocean coast. Yorktown is the site of the final major battle in the American Revolution, where General George Washington’s army defeated the British Army under General Cornwallis with the help of French forces in late 1781. The defeat was final enough that Cornwallis surrendered and a peace treaty was signed soon after. In recognition of the United States’ victory, the Continental Congress directed that a monument be erected at Yorktown, consisting of a marble column with text heralding the surrender and victorious actions of the combined forces of America and France. No action was taken on constructing the monument until 1879! Attempts were made in 1834 and 1876, but Congress finally authorized action and appropriated funds in 1880. The cornerstone of the current monument was laid the next year, per Congresses’ intention to have the monument completed for the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Yorktown victory, though it was not completed until 1884. The monument has twice been damaged by lightning, in 1942 and 1990. It was repaired in 1956, so that we would have seen it in all its glory during our 1962 visit.

The monument is part of Colonial National Historic Park, authorized in 1930, which connects the Yorktown Battlefield and Yorktown National Cemetery with nearby historical Williamsburg, Virginia and Jamestown Island. The Colonial Parkway was constructed to connect all of these sites, and runs 23 miles from the York River at Yorktown to the James River at Jamestown, passing under Williamsburg. The Parkway was begun in 1931 and completed in 1957. As with many projects of the period, both the Great Depression and World War II negatively impacted the construction schedule. The tunnel under Williamsburg was built in 1942 and resulted from the need to build a road connecting the park’s major elements while preserving historical sites. Colonial Parkway is typical of National Park roadways, with no at-grade crossings of non-park roads, gentle curves, elegant landscaping, no commercial development, and a relatively low speed limit. It makes for a very pleasant drive between parts of Colonial National Historic Park.

Royal Artillery firing cannon, Yorktown Battlefield, Colonial National Historical Park, Virginia
Royal Artillery firing 6 pounder cannon at Yorktown Battlefield, Colonial National Historical Park, Virginia (Public domain photo from National Park Service, by Linda Williams.)

The battle occurred here because General Cornwallis had occupied the town to establish a naval base. Yorktown was a major Virginia port and economic center, and had 250 to 300 buildings and a population of almost 2,000 people around 1750. Unfortunately, though the United States won the battle and the war, much of the town was destroyed. By the end of the Revolution, less than 70 buildings remained and the 1790 census listed a population of only 661. Yorktown never regained its economic prominence. A fire in 1814 then destroyed the waterfront district as well, with additional destruction during the Civil War. You can stroll the mostly empty streets today and imagine Yorktown as the thriving tobacco port it once was through interpretive signs, some remaining buildings, reconstructions, and ruins. One of the major remaining buildings is the Nelson House, which the National Park Service did not acquire until 1968. The Nelson House was the home of Thomas Nelson, Jr., one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. The Nelson House is one of the finest examples of early Georgian architecture in Virginia and most of the house is original.

Albemarle Sound Navigation Chart, North Carolina, 1961
Navigation Chart of Albemarle Sound, North Carolina, 1961, showing finger inlets separating US-17 from the coast. (Public domain map from U.S. Department of Commerce.)

From Yorktown, we continue south to Newport News, Virginia for our view of the James River, instead of heading to Jamestown. I’ll leave a description of Williamsburg and Jamestown until we get to highway US-60, as they are much closer to it. We cross the river and head through Chesapeake, Virginia and back inland through the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge. The old roadbed of 8 miles of US-17 is now a hiking and biking trail, converted in 2005 when the highway was moved onto a new alignment to the east. Beginning at Elizabeth City, North Carolina, we again touch the Atlantic Ocean coast at several fingers of Albemarle Sound over the next 40 miles to Edenton, North Carolina. Then, it’s back inland until New Bern, North Carolina, where we again touch the Atlantic Ocean coast at the estuary of the Neuse River. We can spend a lot of time in New Bern seeing attractions that were here in 1962. The city is home to the New Bern Firemen's Museum, established in 1955, the birthplace of Pepsi-Cola, created in 1889, Tryon Palace, built in 1769, and Croatan National Forest, established in 1936. Tryon Palace is the former home of the colonial governor of North Carolina and later briefly the state capital.

New Bern was originally settled by the Chattoka tribe, who were displaced in 1710 by Swiss and Palatine German immigrants. They named the town after Bern, the capital of Switzerland and the 1st Baron of Bernbert, Christoph von Graffenried, their royal patron. The city still has a lot of historic buildings because it did not experience much fighting during the Civil War. This was due to its continuous occupation by United States forces from 1862 to 1865. It played an important part during the war though, as it was the site of the Trent River encampment, which housed nearly 10,000 former slaves as war refugees. New Bern boasted the oldest chartered fire department in North Carolina, having been formed in 1845, which was 20 years before the New York City Fire Department! But the war interrupted the early history of fire-fighting in New Bern, as members of the city’s fire-fighting companies volunteered for service in the Confederate Army at the beginning of the war. To commemorate this early history, the New Bern Firemen's Museum was established in 1955. Today, you can ride the old firetrucks and check out the old fire-fighting equipment for a step back in time. There is also an exhibit on the local Great Fire of 1922 which destroyed over 1,000 buildings in New Bern, leaving part of the city in ruin.

1962 Pepsi bottles
Pepsi bottles from about 1962, showing old logo

New Bern is also the birthplace of Pepsi-Cola, my dad’s favorite drink! It was invented by Caleb Bradham at Bradham's Drug Store in 1883, as he tried to create a fountain drink that was appealing and would aid in digestion and boost energy. He originally named it Brad’s Drink and marketed it as an elixir for curing a stomach aches. In 1889, he came up with a new name, Pepsi-Cola, from the word dyspepsia, meaning indigestion. Though many people think otherwise, pepsin was never an ingredient of Pepsi-Cola. Marketing was successful, with growth occurring in both soda fountains and via bottles, and by 1910 when the first bottler convention was held in New Bern there were 240 franchisees in 24 states. Pepsi was not affected by the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act which banned substances such as arsenic, lead, barium, and coca leaves from food and beverages because Pepsi-Cola did not contain any of such impurities. However, the law forced many soft drink manufacturers, including Coca-Cola, to change their formulas. Bradham lost control of the company in 1923 due to his speculation on the price of sugar, which had skyrocketed during World War I. He bought too much at high prices while his competitors were free to buy at lower prices. After that, the company and most of its assets moved out of town and the drug store building eventually housed various businesses. Today, the building is named The Birthplace of Pepsi Store and is owned and operated by the Minges Bottling Group of Ayden, North Carolina. It opened as The Birthplace of Pepsi Store on the 100th Anniversary of Pepsi-Cola in 1998. That’s too recent for us, but we can always celebrate with a couple of Pepsis! That name was finally trademarked in 1961, though people had called it Pepsi for years. The change went along with a new advertising slogan "Now It's Pepsi for Those Who Think Young", which was promoted with a jingle sung by Joanie Sommers.

Tryon Palace, New Bern, North Carolina postcard
Tryon Palace, New Bern, North-Carolina early 1960s postcard (from online auction)

Tryon Palace and the North Carolina History Center is North Carolina’s premier historic site. The building was built for Royal Governor William Tryon and his family in the Georgian style that was popular when it was completed in 1770. Besides being the governor’s residence, Tryon Palace served as the first permanent capitol of North Carolina. In 1798, a fire destroyed the original palace building, but we could have seen the current reconstruction in 1962. That was the result of an extensive 30-year campaign to rebuild the palace and restore the grounds, which was completed in 1959. Besides the palace, you can enjoy the 16 acres of gardens, which are also a reconstruction. The current gardens were designed by landscape architect Morley Jeffers Williams in the 1950s to represent the formal garden style of 18th-century Britain. It is not known how closely they hew to the original gardens, as there are three different plans that claim to show the original gardens. The entrance to the entire complex is through the modern North Carolina History Center, which has historical and hands-on exhibits, a café, and a gift store.

The grounds also feature several other colonial era buildings. The George W. Dixon House was built in the early 1830s when part of the original palace grounds were sold after the fire. It sits on its original site. The Stanly House was built in the early 1780s and may have been designed by the same architect who designed Tryon Palace. The Stanly House has been moved twice, most recently to this location in 1966, but remains one of the finest examples of Georgian architecture in the South. We could have seen it in 1962 as the New Bern Public Library, a function it served from 1935 until 1965. The Robert Hay House was constructed before 1816 and is modest by comparison to the other homes of the Palace complex. It is maintained as a living history museum where you can get a first-hand feel for life in 1835 by talking with in-character interpreters who give hands-on demonstrations. The building and all furniture has been restored to give the look and feel of a home of that era. An additional building featuring history exhibits is located outside of the palace grounds; the 1809 New Bern Academy Museum. It’s located in New Bern's historic residential district and the displays interpret life in New Bern during the Federal occupation, 1862-1865.

Map of Croatan National Forest, North Carolina
Map of Croatan National Forest, North Carolina, with city of New Bern at top (Public domain brochure from National Park Service.)

Just southeast of New Bern is the Croatan National Forest. The forest was established in 1936 and features Atlantic Ocean coast and hiking through coastal lowland longleaf pine forests, evergreen-shrub bogs, and wetlands. Besides hiking, canoeing and fishing are popular on blackwater creeks and in saltwater marshes. These various habitats provide the opportunity to see a variety of wildlife, including carnivorous plants like Venus fly-trap, sundew and pitcher plants. You can also find endangered species like the red-cockaded woodpecker and the rough-leaf loosestrife. And of course, there is the larger wildlife such as deer, black bears, turkeys, and alligators. Just a few of the many trails are the Island Creek Forest Walk Trail, a 3.7 mile loop near Pollocksville, North Carolina, the Cedar Point Trail through a salt marsh on boardwalks, and the Neusiok Trail. The Neusiok Trail is over 20 miles long, beginning on a sandy beach on the Neuse River and running to a salt marsh on the Newport River. On its way, the trail meanders through cypress, hardwoods, loblolly pines, savannas and swamps. And if 20 miles isn’t long enough for you, the Neusiok Trail is also part of the 900-mile Mountains-to-the-Sea National Recreation Trail that goes all the way to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park!

I often mention hiking somewhere, national parks, state parks, or even railtrails. I’ve been at it long enough that I know what I need to take with me, how long a given trail might take to hike, and other factors that a newby to hiking might not know. If you find yourself in the category of want to try a hike but not knowing how to begin, you might begin with an Ultimate Beginners Guide to Hiking by Jenny at HobbyHelp. She has a lot of helpful ideas. I’m setting off in the Croatan National Forest; see you in a few hours. I’ll choose the Island Creek Forest Walk because it’s closest to US-17. The others are over our 5-mile limit away and closer to US-70, so let’s leave them for that roadtrip.

Fighting Stallions” by Anna Hyatt Huntington, Brookgreen Gardens, South Carolina
“Fighting Stallions” by Anna Hyatt Huntington, at Brookgreen Gardens, South Carolina (Photo by Hisland7 at Wikimedia Commons, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.)

Highway US-17 next hits the coast at Wilmington, North Carolina. There, the USS North Carolina sits in the harbor as a museum ship. This World War II ship was purchased from the Navy in 1958 and arrived in Wilmington in 1962, just in time for us to see it! We finally reach the coast proper at Crescent Beach, South Carolina, traveling through coastal towns for the next 37 miles to Pawleys Island, South Carolina. Within this stretch, we can visit Myrtle Beach State Park. The Myrtle Beach area is also famous for over-the-top miniature golf courses. I love mini golf and once owned portable courses for party rentals, as I mentioned in the article Putting for Fun - Miniature Golf in 1962. So of course, I’m stopping to play some mini golf here.

Also along this stretch of coast is Brookgreen Gardens at Brookgreen, South Carolina. First opened to the public in 1932, the grounds are the largest and most comprehensive collection of American figurative sculpture in the country. It’s displayed in a garden setting plus three indoor galleries, which contain over 2,000 works by 425 artists. The sculpture gardens are the dream of Archer Huntington and his wife, sculptor Anna Hyatt Huntington, to collect, exhibit, and preserve American figurative sculpture. They also established two other missions for the property, which it also achieves: to collect, exhibit, and preserve the plants of the Southeast, and to collect, exhibit, and preserve the animals of the Southeast. The last function is accomplished in the Lowcountry Zoo area. In addition to the sculptures, some of the garden areas are the Live Oak Allée, comprised of 250 year-old Live Oak trees that were planted in the early 1700s, and the Palmetto Garden, completed in 1950 and named for the Sabal palmetto, South Carolina's state tree. The current gardens are completely on the former Brookgreen Plantation, which was owned by Joshua John Ward, America’s largest slaveholder.

cannon at Fort Sumter National Monument, Charleston, South Carolina
42 pounder smoothbore cannon at Fort Sumter National Monument, Charleston, South Carolina. (Public domain photo from the National Park Service.)

After these beach towns, US-17 heads back inland again, though only a few miles off the beach and sometimes within view of the Intracoastal Waterway. Its companion route, US-17 ALT, goes even further inland between Georgetown, South Carolina and Yemasee, South Carolina. I’ll let that road go where it may; our next stop is near Charleston, South Carolina. Just before we cross the Cooper River, at Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, is Boone Hall Plantation. Boone Hall has been open to the public since 1956, shortly after the McRae family purchased the plantation and furnished the house with antiques. Boone Hall Plantation was founded in 1681 and is one of America’s oldest working farms. They have been continuously growing and producing crops for over three centuries: once primarily cotton and pecans, currently fruits and vegetables including pick-your-own crops. Across the river is Charleston, the oldest and largest city in South Carolina. I didn’t talk about historic Charleston when we looked at news along US-176, which ends in town. But during 1962, the centennial of the Civil War was being commemorated around the country, and we could have visited the place where it all began.

Fort Sumter is most famous today because Confederate States of America forces fired the first shots of the Civil War upon Federal troops at Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861. Fort Sumter National Monument comprises several sites in Charleston Harbor, including of course the fort. After its capture by Confederate forces, the fort secured the harbor against Federal invasion for the duration of the war. Besides the fort, Fort Sumter National Monument incorporates Sullivan's Island, which provided Charleston Harbor's first line of defense against disease or foreign invasion. Its quarantine stations checked every person that came into the harbor, including newly-arrived slaves from Africa. It’s estimated that forty percent of slaves imported to the United States came through the port of Charleston. After the War of 1812, Congress ordered the improvement of the United States’ coastal defenses, building 34 forts from Maine to Louisiana, including Fort Sumter in 1829. Since 1961, you’ve been able to take a tour boat over to Fort Sumter and spend time wandering around. The ride over includes a trip around the harbor and you might even see dolphins! You can also tour Charleston’s many historic homes, cemeteries, churches and waterfront buildings. In addition to harbor tours on various types of boats, you can take horse-drawn carriage tours, bus tours, and even narrated walking tours.

Owens-Thomas House, Savannah, Georgia postcard
Owens-Thomas House, Savannah, Georgia postcard

Between Charleston and Savannah, Georgia, US-17 heads inland because the rivers cut deeply in from the coast, so that there is no good route to stay on the coast. Mostly sandwiched between US-17 and US-17 ALT, which approach Savannah from separate bridges, lies the Savannah River National Wildlife Refuge. It is largely freshwater marshes, tidal rivers and creeks, and bottomland hardwoods, composed primarily of cypress, gum, and maples. Because access to these areas is by boat only, I haven’t been there even though it was established in 1927, so it’s plenty old enough for my roadtrip. If you stop in, you will find hiking and bicycling opportunities along the many dikes that were originally built during the 1700 and 1800s, when the area was formerly plantations’ rice fields. The city of Savannah lies across the Savannah River and is Georgia’s oldest city. You can still find cobblestone streets among the 21 historic squares and period architecture. As with Charleston, the best way to see the historic district is by carriage tour.

Beyond here, we never hit the coast again throughout Georgia except at Brunswick, where we come to the bay and estuary of the Brunswick River. This is where we find Jekyll Island, long popular as an oceanside resort for the rich. In the late 1800s, Jekyll Island became an exclusive hunting club for families with names like Rockefeller, Morgan, Vanderbilt, Pulitzer, and Goodyear. The Jekyll Island Club National Historic Landmark District s now one of the largest preservation projects in the southeast. It’s now open to everyone, as in 1947, the Georgia state legislature established Jekyll Island as a State Park. Many of the homes have been restored to their former glory; the first one was Indian Mound Cottage in 1954. Also that year, the drawbridge to the island was opened. The next year the road around the island was paved and a beach pavilion was constructed at one of the few beaches open to Negroes in the south during the segregated period. In 1962, we would have seen a brand new, full-fledged tourist resort area, with the Peppermint Land Amusement Park opened in 1956, and the Aquarama and first 18-hole golf course opened in 1961 and 1962, respectively.

Maxwell House Coffee Plant, Jacksonville, Florida
Maxwell House Coffee Plant, Jacksonville, Florida…”Good to the Last Drop”

For more information on Jacksonville, Florida, see my posts about the end of US-23. After Jacksonville, US-17 moves increasingly inland: so much that it eventually ends on the other coast! On the way across the state, we can visit Palatka Ravine Gardens, now Ravine Gardens State Park, in Palatka, Florida. The ravines are a natural feature created by a spring-fed creek, which supplies underground water that bubbles up and carries the sand and soil downstream, eroding the ravine banks. Beginning in 1933 and running through at least 1936, the ravines were transformed into this garden by the federal Works Progress Administration. The project kept up to 300 men busy each year and resulted in construction of an administration building, concessions building, entrance station, limestone fountain and gardens, suspension bridges, dams, a sprinkler system, terracing and construction of retaining walls, and road improvements. For the gardens, the men planted over 40,000 azaleas and 270,000 other plants on the slopes of the ravines. The city operated the park for many years, however, as the 1960s ended, the Gardens became increasingly difficult and expensive, resulting in the closure. The City offered the park to the State of Florida and in 1970 Ravine Gardens officially became a Florida State Park. From the 1.8 mile trail system, you can see the creek and plants of the garden. The garden's peak flowering period is still azalea season, from January to March. But you can also see some of the hundreds of remaining azaleas earlier and later, as they experience a "rolling bloom”.

“Southern Belle” and flowers at Cypress Gardens, Florida postcard
“Southern Belle” and flowers at Cypress Gardens, Florida postcard

Highway US-17 also goes through Orlando, Florida and Kissimmee, Florida, right through the neighborhood of Walt Disney World. It’s really hard to imagine as you drive through the massive development of the area that stretches for probably 20 miles, with theme parks, motels, restaurants, more theme parks, gift stores, and more, that back in 1962, none of it was here! This was still a flat area of forests, cattle pastures, and swamps. The Walt Disney Company didn’t even begin purchasing land until 1964. The only tourist attraction we would have seen in the area was Cypress Gardens, 30 miles southwest of Kissimmee in Winterhaven, Florida. Cypress Gardens has been called Florida’s first theme park, and since it opened in 1936, that might be true. It began as a botanical garden planted by Dick Pope Sr. and his wife Julie. In 1932, Mr. Pope convinced the local branch of the federal Works Progress Administration, the same US government office that funded Ravine Gardens up the road, that it would be better to pay the men to beautify and rebuild the local canals and chain of lakes. But after spending about $5,000 of government money, local opposition to the project became so heated that it was canceled. Mr. Pope repaid the funds and continued on his own, and when Cypress Gardens opened it had 8,000 varieties of flowers from over 90 different countries.

During the World War II era, he introduced water skiing exhibitions as entertainment for servicemen stationed in Florida. By the time the war was over, Cypress Gardens was on its way to becoming the "Water Ski Capital of the World". Many of the sport's landmark firsts were made here and over 50 world records were broken. Movies were filmed at the park, including portions of “This is Cinerama”, a wide-screen format I discussed in my article on highway US-16 in Detroit, Michigan. During the 1950s, the third unique attraction of the park debuted: the women dressed as colorful Southern Belles in the crinolines reminiscent of the Antebellum South, who posed around the garden. During the American Civil War Centennial, including 1962, young men dressed in Confederate Army uniforms posed with them. By that time, Cypress Gardens was at its peak. Mr. Pope even welcomed the announcement of the construction of Walt Disney World, figuring that anything that brought more visitors to Florida would also help his business. But by the time Walt Disney World opened in 1971, travel patterns and demographics began to change as people took shorter trips to a single destination. The gas shortages of the mid-1970s hurt him even more. Visitors came to the new Orlando theme park, stayed a few days there, and often left Florida without coming south to Cypress Gardens. Cypress Gardens tried to respond to the competition by expanding and adding some theme park-like attractions, but they couldn't match Disney. I first visited in both parks in 1975, when Cypress Gardens was still at the height of beauty and relevance, during that transition period.

Water ski show at Cypress Gardens, Florida postcard
Water ski show at Cypress Gardens, Florida postcard

By the mid-1980s, Mr. Pope’s son sold the park to the Harcourt Brace Jovanovich publishing corporation, who was on a theme park buying spree at the time. Along with acquiring Cypress Gardens in 1985, they also bought the Sea World parks, Circus World, and Stars Hall of Fame. But new owners, who poured a lot of money into new attractions, did not help enough. Passing through a couple of other owners, Cypress Gardens closed in 2003 and again in 2009. It’s now reopened as a part of Legoland Florida, which opened in late 2011. Buried in the new theme park are Cypress Gardens' most popular features, including its lovely gardens and a water ski show. The gardens still hold a magnificent collection of native plants, including azaleas and camellias. Even the huge Banyan tree that was planted as a seedling way back in 1939 is still standing. The water skiing show is a bit different, with acts such as water skiing LEGO soldiers. They’ve also constructed LEGO sculptures of their famous Southern Belles and other familiar Cypress Gardens sights.

Our trip down US-17 ends at Punta Gorda, Florida, on the Gulf of Mexico side of the state instead of the Atlantic Ocean side where we started. If it were still 1962, we could have visited Everglades Wildlife Park and fed a deer, looked at some alligators, and bought some useless gifts. Oh well, I guess I don’t really need any of that anyway, so I’ll see you next time on Roadtrip-'62 ™ for something different. And sorry you didn’t get to see Disney World on this trip!


The 1962 Seattle World's Fair – Century 21 Exposition

As I write this, summer’s over, the kids are back in school, and our roadtrips are done for the year. Well, the roadtrips are never actually finished here at Roadtrip-'62 ™, but my real life vacation is done for 2018. In case you’re wondering, "What I did on my summer vacation", here’s my report. This summer, I attended the 1962 Seattle World's Fair, also known as the Century 21 Exposition! Actually, I visited what’s left from the fair, which is still enough to have a fun day in Seattle, Washington and beyond.

reproduction travel poster for 1962 Seattle World’s Fair
Travel poster for 1962 Seattle World’s Fair (Reproduction print from an online auction.)

From where I live, in Saginaw, Michigan, I could have driven US-10 all the way to Seattle in 1962. The highway ran from Detroit, Michigan to Seattle back then, using a ferry between Ludington, Michigan and Manitowoc, Wisconsin. I would have joined the nearly 10 million other visitors who came for the fair that summer, which ran between April 21 and October 21. A great place to stay while in town would have been the Edgewater Hotel, which is built on Pier 67 over the water of the harbor and is Seattle’s original waterfront hotel. This 223-room hotel is still the only waterfront hotel in town and has welcomed many famous guests over the years, including The Beatles in 1964! The large lighted “E” is prominently visible when lighted at night, or even during the daytime from a harbor cruise. I recommend taking a harbor cruise both for the great views and interesting commentary; we did.

Edgewater Hotel, Seattle, Washington, 2018
View of the Edgewater Hotel, Seattle, Washington, from the harbor, 2018

The fair began life as an idea by City Councilman Al Rochester in 1955. Public excitement built, and two years later Seattle voters passed a $7.5 million bond issue for fairground development, which was then matched by the state legislature. Considering the expenditure, it’s nice to see that some of the fair remains over five decades later. It’s also nice to know that unlike some other World's Fairs of the period, this one made a profit! The chosen theme, Century 21 Exposition, wrapped together science, space exploration, and the progressive future. In 1961, the International Bureau of Expositions certified the event as an official World's Fair. This gave the event the cachet for various governments to become involved. The United States was very interested in showing off the nation's scientific prowess, and so committed over $9 million, mostly to build the NASA-themed United States Science Exhibit. Several foreign governments provided an international flavor, though the tense geopolitical mood of the early 1960s limited participation. The Soviet Union declined to participate, and the People's Republic of China, North Vietnam, and North Korea were not invited.

Photo exhibit on the construction of the Space Needle, Seattle, Washington
Photo exhibit on the construction of the Space Needle, Seattle, Washington

Much of the site for the Century 21 Exposition was already city property, with a large chunk intended for a civic center that had not been built. Some land had been donated to the city as long ago as the 1980s, and a school and a fire station were demolished. Some of the land had held some of the city's oldest houses, apartments, and commercial buildings, known as the Warren Avenue Slum, which were purchased and demolished. Construction was active all throughout 1961 and early 1962: of course, construction of the Space Needle caught everyone's attention. Meanwhile, civic boosters and marketers worked all over the country to get as much early press coverage as possible. You could read stories everywhere, from Life magazine to The New York Times. All of it was designed to get people planning vacations to Seattle to see the wonders of the future. Many big name politicians also planned and made stops, including Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Bobby Kennedy. But one of the great disappointments was that President John F. Kennedy never visited the fair while it was open. President Kennedy was scheduled to open the Century 21 Exposition in April of 1962, but did so remotely by telephone. The White House promised the president would return for the fair’s closing in October but he had to claim a "heavy cold" and beg off, as he was dealing with the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Seattle Center Monorail entering fairgrounds through the MoPop building
Seattle Center Monorail entering fairgrounds through the MoPop building, 2018

So let’s get ourselves over to the fair! I traveled the Seattle Center Monorail from downtown Seattle to the fairgrounds, just the way it was planned. The original Monorail cars still look shiny and almost new 56 years and over one million miles of service after their inaugural run. In 2014, it carried roughly two million passengers from the downtown station to Seattle Center. It’s actually a good way to see some of Seattle, riding above street level. It used to end rather undramatically at the fair grounds, but now it bursts through the MoPop museum building, which was constructed around the Monorail in 2004. I think it makes MoPop look like a curtain fluttering around the Monorail whenever a train enters the Seattle Center. Alweg Rapid Transit Systems of Sweden constructed the monorail, which is 1.3 miles long. Seattle has discussed extending the line many times over the years, but nothing has been done. Alweg was also the builder of the original Disneyland Monorail System in California, which opened in 1959. Both systems remain operational. A third system, built in Turin, Italy for the Italia 61 Exposition, was destroyed by a fire in the late 1970s. Alweg's technology was also licensed in 1960 by Hitachi Monorail, which continues to construct monorails around the world.

Seattle Center Monorail interior
view of the Seattle Center Monorail interior, 2018

The monorail opened a month before the fair, moving its first passengers on March 24, 1962. The original fare was $1 per trip, which is more than $8 in today’s money! The current fare is only $2.50. The Monorail was privately operated and like the fair, it was profitable, carrying 8 million guests in its first six months. The system was sold to the city in 1965. Despite the fact that I took the ride as a tourist, Seattle Monorail Services General Manager Thomas Ditty notes that most riders are locals. He says their biggest weekends are Seattle special event weekends and that there a are monthly pass holders that use the train to commute. There originally was another ride that began near where the Monorail ended, the Skyride. It ran a series of bucket shaped gondolas about 60 feet above the fair for about a quarter mile over to the International Mall area. The Skyride was moved to the Puyallup Fairgrounds, site of the Washington State Fair, in 1980, where it is still operating. Stop by and have a ride during the fair, the first three weeks of September!

Official map of the Seattle World’s Fair Century 21 Exposition
Official map of the Seattle World’s Fair Century 21 Exposition (From Jordan Smith, The Cardboard America Archives, used by permission)

Once on the grounds, I should buy an official guide book, they’re only $1.00. A lot of the information I’ll list below comes from the book. So, where to next? The fair was divided into various areas, much like a theme park. In no particular order, there were The World of Science, The World of Commerce and Industry, The World of Art, The World of Entertainment, Show Street, The World of Tomorrow in the Washington State Coliseum, and two shopping areas, Boulevards of the World and the Exhibit Fair. I began my day with the biggest thing left from 1962, the Space Needle! The Space Needle is in The World of Commerce and Industry section. (I would have expected a World of Tomorrow area, but it turns out that that was an indoor exhibit…more on that later.) The Space Needle began as an idea by Seattle World’s Fair Commission chair Edward E. “Eddie” Carlson while he was visiting Stuttgart, Germany in 1959. Eddie Carlson, who was also a vice president of Western Hotels, and his wife dined with friends in a restaurant at the top of a 400-foot TV tower there. He marveled at the idea that people would actually pay for an elevator ride just to get to a restaurant, and then pay high prices for a meal. The fact inspired him to doodle the idea of a "flying saucer" restaurant on the top of a tower for the World’s Fair.

Space Needle with matching streetlight on World’s Fair grounds
Space Needle with matching streetlight on World’s Fair grounds, 2018

Once back in Seattle, Eddie Carlson pitched the idea to others on the fair board and was put in touch with architect John Graham Jr., who had recently completed a revolving restaurant in Honolulu, Hawaii. He proposed a similar revolving restaurant to provide patrons with an ever-changing view of the city while they ate. Graham assembled a design team who played with concepts such as a saucer-capped spire to a structure resembling a tethered balloon before settling on the now familiar curved tower and crown-shapped restaurant. The county declined to fund the project and so a group of private investors was formed which included the architect and Wright Construction, who eventually constructed the tower. Eddie Carlson committed Western Hotels to run the facility and its restaurant. The developers purchased the site from the City of Seattle, began construction, and the entire facility is still privately owned today. The Space Needle actually opened early, in December 1961 and originally included a natural gas flame at the top. The restaurant still completes a full revolution every 58 minutes, powered by only a 1.5 horsepower electric motor. The Space Needle has withstood both the Columbus Day windstorm of October 1962 and a 1965 earthquake without damage.

View from Space Needle looking north
View from Space Needle looking north, 2018

Throughout 2017 and into late 2018, the Space Needle underwent a $100 million renovation. It was nearly finished when I visited in July, 2018, but some construction equipment was still on site and some interior areas were closed, including the SkyCity Restaurant at the top. Over the years, changes to improve safety, by adding “pony walls” and cages, had restricted the views from the top. All of this was removed and replaced with new exterior glass barriers with angled glass benches on the outer open-air Observation Deck. You can now lean against the clear glass wall of the outer observation deck and look down to the city below. The interior of the Observation deck also had brand new floor-to-ceiling glass walls, but the open circular stairway and glass-floored view of the elevators and structure of the Space Needle were not yet finished.

Paul Horiuchi's mosaic mural at Seattle Center, Seattle, Washington, 2018
Paul Horiuchi's mosaic mural at Seattle Center, Seattle, Washington, 2018

The other buildings and exhibits in The World of Commerce and Industry section included the Mural Amphitheater, the Hall of Industry, the Interiors, Fashion, and Commerce Building, and even 15 governmental exhibitors surrounding the World of Tomorrow. These are all gone today, but in 1962 we would have seen exhibits ranging from 32 different furniture companies, Ford Motor Company, and Bell Telephone, to the Encyclopædia Britannica. One I wish was still around was the Electric Power Pavilion, which included a 40 feet-high fountain styled to look like a hydroelectric dam, with the entrance to the pavilion through a tunnel in the dam! The World of Tomorrow was the largest and most diverse of the five themed areas and also included some futuristic exhibits like a wall-size television, home and car of the future, and electronic library exhibit. Near the center of this area was Seattle artist Paul Horiuchi's mosaic mural, which now forms the backdrop of the current Seattle Center's Mural Amphitheater. Foreign exhibits included Great Britain’s science and technology exhibit, Mexico and Peru handicrafts exhibits, and Japan and India showing their national cultures. Of course, you could not escape world politics during the Cold War, as the Taiwan and South Korea pavilions touted the benefits of capitalism over communism.

United States Science Pavilion towers, now the Pacific Science Center
United States Science Pavilion towers, now the Pacific Science Center, 2018

The nearby World of Science area surrounded the United States Science Pavilion, which included a NASA exhibit that included models and mockups of various satellites, as well as the Project Mercury capsule that carried astronaut Alan Shepard. There was an exhibit on the development of science, with every field from mathematics to genetics (in 1962!). The Spacearium was a theatre that held up to 750 people for a simulated voyage through the Solar System and then through the Milky Way Galaxy and beyond. Other exhibits included the “House of Science”, “Development of Science”, “Methods of Science”, and a glimpse of the future at “The Horizons of Science”. I didn’t spend time at the current Pacific Science Center due to other interests competing for my time, but based on other modern science centers I have seen, I’m sure that it would have provided an experience worthy of the former Worlds’ Fair exhibits.

Aerial view of Seattle World’s Fair, looking southerly, postcard ca. 1962
Aerial view of Seattle World’s Fair, looking southerly, ca. 1962 (Postcard from an online auction.)

The Washington State Coliseum, seen at the right in the postcard above, was a sort of combination of The World of Science and The World of Commerce and Industry, housing exhibits from both. The major exhibit was Washington State’s World of Tomorrow, billed as a tour of the future. Here was a round, see-through elevator called the Bubbleator, a display of a future home with a personal gyrocopter for commuting, a display of an automated plankton harvesting farm in the ocean, future schools with electronic knowledge storage, future offices with electronic communications, and rather incongruently in my opinion, a display of a 1962 family in their fallout shelter. Other exhibits in the building included those from France, Pan Am, General Motors, the American Library Association, and RCA. The Washington State Coliseum is now Key Arena. It is used for entertainment purposes, such as concerts, ice shows, circuses, and sporting events. It was first converted to sporting events and became the home of the Seattle SuperSonics in 1967. It was rebuilt between 1994 and 1995 to bring the arena up to NBA standards of the time, such as lowering the court 35 feet below street level to allow for 3,000 more seats. The Seattle SuperSonics continued to play there until 2008. Key Arena became home for the WNBA Seattle Storm in 2002 and they still play there. Recently, an investment group has been in negotiations to once again renovate the city-owned KeyArena. The group is also negotiating for an NHL franchise and expects to have either an NBA or NHL team within three years.

Paul Bunyan Birthday Cake, 1962 Seattle World's Fair  postcard
The World's Largest Birthday Cake, the Paul Bunyan Birthday Cake - 1962 Seattle World's Fair (Postcard from Jordan Smith, The Cardboard America Archives, used by permission.)

I should stop for lunch sometime, so let’s look in at the Food Circus. The Food Circus was a food court inside the former Armory Building, situated in the center of the fairgrounds. Today, part of the building houses the Seattle Children’s Museum and part is performance space, where over 3,000 free public performances occur every year. Much of the main floor is again a food court, and that’s where I’m heading. The Armory was built in 1939 and was originally home to Seattle’s 146th Field Artillery. Though the current arrangement has food vendors around the outer edges with tables filling the center and a stage for shows at one end, the 1962 arrangement also had many food concessionaires throughout the center. There were 52 vendors in all, and nine of them had exhibits in addition to serving food. One of the more interesting exhibits was the Paul Bunyan Birthday Cake presented by Clark’s Restaurant Enterprises and baked by Van de Kamp’s Holland Dutch Bakers of Seattle. It was presented in celebration of the American folklore character Paul Bunyan’s 128th birthday. The cake stood 23 feet high and used 4000 pounds of sugar just for the frosting! It was a fruitcake and also contained over 7000 pounds of raisins and a ton of pecans. During the course of the fair, slices were boxed and sold both on site and by mail. There was nothing so spectacular when I ate here this summer, and the fair rides and many exhibit buildings are gone. But there are still plenty of people: I had to wait over 20 minutes just to order lunch!

Space Needle and tower of glass by Dale Chihuly, Seattle, Washington
Space Needle and tower of glass by Dale Chihuly, Seattle, Washington, 2018

I didn’t find anything remaining from The World of Art section of the fair. This was a temporary fine arts exhibit assembled from 61 museums from around the world and displayed in the Fine Arts Pavilion. In addition to loaned masterpieces by such artists as Michelangelo, Titian, Renoir, Rembrandt, Rubens, Picasso, and Homer, there were works from 50 contemporary American artists including Willem de Kooning, Georgia O'Keeffe, Jackson Pollock, Alexander Calder, Louise Nevelson, and Frank Stella. Local Washington artists were also represented and a separate gallery presented Northwest Coast Indian art. Instead of these exhibits, I visited the current fine art exhibit on the grounds: Chihuly Garden and Glass. This amazing exhibit of glass is housed both inside and in the garden of a new building on the site of the former Gayway, the amusement park area of the fair. Chihuly Garden and Glass opened in 2011 and his works have a connection to 1962.

Dark room exhibit at Chihuly Garden and Glass, Seattle, Washington
Dark room exhibit at Chihuly Garden and Glass, Seattle, Washington, 2018

Dale Chihuly is world-renowned for his large-scale, innovative works of blown glass. If you only see one thing in Seattle, this should be it. And if you find any of his installations anywhere else near you, you should see those also. Dale Chihuly was born in nearby Tacoma, Washington in 1941 and was studying interior design at the University of Washington, in 1961. There, he learned how to melt and fuse glass and some basic blown glass technique. But at that time, there was no recognized curricula or university training in glass blowing, so in 1962, he drooped out of school to study art in Florence, Italy. He became frustrated by his inability to speak Italian, so he moved on to study in the Middle East. There he met architect Robert Landsman, who helped convince him to return to his studies. In 1963, he took a weaving class where he incorporated glass shards into tapestries. After graduating in 1965, Chihuly enrolled in the first glass program in the country, at the University of Wisconsin. But how did the University of Wisconsin come to create a glass studies program during those few years?

Ceiling exhibit at Chihuly Garden and Glass, Seattle, Washington
Ceiling exhibit at Chihuly Garden and Glass, Seattle, Washington, 2018

One of the instructors at the University of Wisconsin. Harvey Littleton, had been dabbling in glass for a few years and was trying to get grants to set up a hot glass studio program at the university. When no grants had been received by the fall of 1961, Otto Wittmann, director of the Toledo Museum of Art, suggested that Littleton consider giving a glassblowing seminar at the museum. Glass research scientist Dominick Labino, who worked in Toledo, was brought in and developed a small, inexpensive furnace in which glass could be melted and worked, making it affordable for artists to blow glass in independent studios. A temporary glass-blowing facility was established in a storage shed on the museum grounds and the first of two workshops was held there in March 1962, with the second in June of that year. Afterwards, Labino set up his own glass studio on his farm near Grand Rapids, Ohio and Harvey Littleton traveled to Europe to research how glass making was taught in universities there. He found nothing. Students were not taught hands-on techniques as the craft of working with hot glass was still taught only at the factories, under the apprenticeship system. During the 1963 semesters, Littleton taught glass in a garage at his own farm under an independent study program. By the following year, because of the success of the Toledo workshops and that independent study course, he had finally secured University of Wisconsin funding to rent and equip an off-campus hot shop in Madison, Wisconsin and authorization to offer a graduate level glass course. That was the course that Dale Chihuly enrolled in and the studio glass movement rolled on from these 1962 beginnings.

I’ve mentioned the rides at the fair in 1962 had occupied an area called The Gayway. The area featured 19 rides, loosely in a space theme. Many were the same rides you would have found at any county fair or small amusement park of the time, including Calypso, Rotor, Scrambler, and Wild Mouse. The ferris wheel was named the Space Wheel and the Tilt-A-Whirl was named the Space Whirl to fit the theme. A few other rides had spacey names but I don’t know what kind of rides they were: Flight to Mars and Galaxi. As I mentioned before, the Skyride carried you from the Monorail station over to the International exhibits. If you wanted to walk, you would pass through The World of Entertainment area.

Gracie Hansen's Paradise International at 1962 Seattle World’s Fair postcard
Gracie Hansen's Paradise International at 1962 Seattle World’s Fair (Postcard from Jordan Smith, The Cardboard America Archives, used by permission.)

Walking off the Gayway, the World of Entertainment began with a water-skiing show in the stadium, produced by Tommy Bartlett of Wisconsin Dells fame. They built a canal wide enough for about 8 skiers and a power boat pulled several pretty girl skiers around the circuit. It was called an Aquadrome and photos show a pyramid of skiers zooming around it. Considering the producer and the type of shows he was known for, I’m sure they did a jump or two. The stadium seated 12,000 and presented a wide array of entertainment. The stadium remains but the Aquadrome was filled in long ago. To one side of the stadium was the Hawaii Pavilion, a Japanese Village, and the Paris Spectacular wax museum. Other entertainment ranged from a boxing championship to an international baton twirling competition, from ballet to jazz, and a number of nationally and internationally known performers at both the Opera House and Playhouse. After the fair, the Playhouse became the Seattle Repertory Theatre until the mid-1980s, when it became the Intiman Playhouse. It is still an important performance venue in Seattle as Cornish College of the Arts took over the lease from the city and now operates it as the Cornish Playhouse at Seattle Center. Also in this section was Show Street, an “adult entertainment” portion of the fair. In the far northeast corner was Gracie Hansen's Paradise International, which was a Las Vegas-style floor show, and LeRoy Prinz's "Backstage USA" next door. At "Backstage USA” you walked through what appeared to be the stage door of a theater and saw the on-stage performance from the stagehands’ side, including views into the performers‘ dressing rooms. Sid and Marty Krofft, later known for the H.R. Pufnstuf TV show, had an adults-only puppet show, Les Poupées de Paris. There was also a show featuring naked "Girls of the Galaxy". I suspect they were all from Earth.

Original Seattle World’s Fair International Fountain at night
Original Seattle World’s Fair International Fountain at night (Public domain photo Item No: 73084, courtesy of the Seattle Municipal Archives.)

Walking around, we would also have seen the two shopping districts of the fair, the Boulevards of the World and Exhibit Fair. The central feature of this area was the International Fountain, with the State Flag Plaza to one side. An art competition was held to find a design for this central feature, and one idea was a large moat with gondolas floating in it. Instead, the more abstract fountain won the competition for a “light, water and sculpture display”. The designers, Kazuyuki Matsushita and Hideki Shimizu, were from Japan, adding to the international focus of the fair. It has been described as an underwater mine in a blast crater or a sea urchin but the official description from the Museum of History and Industry as symbolizing mankind's efforts to explore the farthest reaches of outer space. In any event, the original fountain had over 20 spouts and was programmed to change patterns accompanied by recorded music. As with many features of the Seattle World’s Fair, it was later modified. The central spout feature was changed in 1995 from a dark metal ball with hard nozzles to a smooth silvery metal ball with interior nozzles, and is now climbed upon safely by hordes of children every year. The International Fountain's engineering was updated and computerized by the designers of the Bellagio Hotel Fountains, Las Vegas, Nevada. The so-called Super Shooter nozzles shoot 120 feet high and there are 4 of these, 56 Micro Shooters, 77 “Fleur-de-lis” and 137 mist nozzles.

Astro Ray Gun from Ohio Art, 2018 model
Astro Ray Gun from Ohio Art, 2018 model (originally produced in 1962)

Today, the main shopping area is at the foot of the Space Needle, near the Monorail station, as that is the main tourist arrival area. There are food vendors here in addition to those in the Armory Building, along with all sorts of souvenirs. The interior gift shop at the Space Needle is an especially fertile place for souvenirs, with both modern and retro gifts. And of course you can buy models of the Space Needle in just about any size and material you want! I saw metal plastic, cardboard and inflatable versions, along with puzzles, pet squeak toys, and dozens of different mugs, glasses and bottles. You can buy space needle foods ranging from pasta and chocolates to coffee and lollipops. They have plush toys, lighted toys, retro toys, and good old standbys like books and postcards. I couldn’t resist completely: I bought a postcard. (If I were still 9, like I was in 1962, I’m sure I would have wanted the Astro Ray Gun!)

waiting for the train, Seattle Center Monorail station
the author waiting for the train, Seattle Center Monorail station, 2018

Time to leave the fair now, though we’ll see some other relics of the fair later as far away as the Pacific Ocean town of Ocean Shores. As I head back downtown on the Seattle Center Monorail I’m surprised again at how shiny and new the whole system looks. Even the ticket booths have a look and feel as if the World’s Fair just opened. We go back out through the MoPop building, which I didn’t talk about when we came in. The MopPop collection focuses on rock and other music of the 20th century, science fiction in television and movies, and video games. The building was designed by Frank O. Gehry, who began his own architectural practice in Los Angeles, California in 1962. Some of his most famous buildings include the titanium-clad Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles.

American Home of the Immediate Future at the Seattle World’s Fair
American Home of the Immediate Future at the Seattle World’s Fair (Public domain photo courtesy of the “a href="" target="_blank" >Seattle Municipal Archives.)

I kind of hate to leave the fairgrounds, so I’ll mention a part of the fair that has also left. I discovered that one building from the fair has been moved to another location, the “American Home of the Immediate Future”. This was originally an exhibit of the US Plywood Association, to showcase all the new innovations in home construction that were possible with plywood. It was originally located adjacent to what is now the Seattle Children's Theater at Seattle Center, but has been moved to near the corner of SE 70th Place and East Mercer Way on Mercer Island, where it I being used as an actual residence. One of the home’s innovations facilitated its relocation: it consisted of sections prebuilt by the PanelBild Division of US Plywood that were bolted together on the destination lot. This allowed for easy disassembly and reinstallation when moved. Of all the smaller buildings from the fair, this is the only one still used for its original purpose. The home is now in the hands of its third owners, who bought it in 1990. At that time, the master bedroom was still painted the original orange from the fair.

Seattle Center Monorail ticket booths
Seattle Center Monorail ticket booths, 2018

After spending the night at the Edgewater Hotel, we get up the next morning to take a short roadtrip out from Seattle, to see some more remnants of the World’s Fair. We’re heading to Tacoma, Washington first and then to the Pacific Ocean at Ocean Shores, Washington. Now you’re probably curious about what we’ll find, but first a story about how the fair affected the Seattle area. It seems the whole town celebrated the World’ Fair all year long, including local musicians, radio DJs, and bar-goers. Thus, the city’s own song, “Wasn’t That A Mighty Day When The Needle Hit The Ground” became a big local phenomenon. A young singing duo known as Mike & Maggie recorded this song in a bar, in the best folk song style of the day. The song tells the tale of what happens when too many men crowd to one window of the observation deck at top, to view a woman undressing in another building, which of course causes the entire Space Needle to crash and roll. Records sold briskly and the song got a lot of local airplay, along with another local song, “See You In Seattle” by Joy & The Boys.


“Wasn’t That A Mighty Day When The Needle Hit The Ground”


I’m taking US-99 south to Tacoma, instead of the recently completed I-5 freeway. I’m stopping for an early lunch on my way west, as I imagine many folks did between Seattle and the coast in 1962. And that’s because of a real old-fashioned burger drive-in in the northwest part of Tacoma. Frisko Freeze has been here since 1950, serving milkshakes, fries, and burgers still greasy from the grill in wax paper wrappers. You can just feel that this was the place for a teenager’s first date or meeting place after high school football games. It’s across from the Kaiser Permanente Tacoma Medical Center hospital, so it’s easy to see how this small, neighborhood place has stayed in business this long. I ordered the standard hamburger, which is served with mustard, mayo, green relish, lettuce, and onion. It’s the only burger I’ve ever had where the mustard is the major condiment and that gives it a unique flavor. I skipped the fries and ordered the onion rings, which were big, crunchy, and delicious. And since they custom made the shakes and malts, I had butterscotch instead of chocolate and a malt instead of a shake. It was great: I could taste the malt! The customer is always outdoors here: you have the option to drive up to the order window and then park to wait for your food, or to park first and then walk up to the order window. I got here after lunch and the parking lot was empty, so I parked first and walked over. There is no seating, so you eat in your car. Or if you want a nice place to picnic with your food, Wright Park is only eight blocks away. The park has good flower plantings, a pond with ducks, and a small conservatory, the W.W. Seymour Botanical Conservatory. A great place to enjoy your lunch and the flowers.

Frisko Freeze drive-in, Tacoma, Washington
Frisko Freeze drive-in, Tacoma, Washington, 2018

The Puyallup Fairgrounds, new home of the Skyride, are not too far from Tacoma, but as that fair wasn’t open when I visited this summer, let’s continue to Olympia, Washington. There we visit another enduring legacy from the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair. Tumwater Falls Park, on the Deschutes River, was created specifically to try to entice visitors to the fair to come down to Olympia and spend some money in town. The Olympia Brewing Company and the Schmidt family who owned it had a foundation to fund philanthropic projects for their hometown. Learning of the impending Seattle fair in 1961, the foundation’s board saw an opportunity in the traffic flowing to the fair on the new freeway. The I-5 freeway runs adjacent to the brewery and the river. Brewery tours were very popular at the time, but there was no nearby park area where families could relax before or afterward. In its early years, about 400,000 people visited each year, which is now down to about 250,000. It’s a relatively quiet green space in the middle of the city, with a playground, picnic tables, and paths along and across the river. The park is still owned by the Olympia Tumwater Foundation and was constructed and continues to operate with no public money. The paths take you past waterfalls and give a view of a canyon below. You can watch migrating salmon in season, including viewing them right under your feet through a grated path!

Tumwater Falls Park, Deschutes River, Olympia, Washington
Tumwater Falls Park, Deschutes River, Olympia, Washington, 2018

Continuing west after Olympia, I find that US-410 would have joined us in 1962. That number is gone today, replaced by a handful of various state and US numbers. We would have followed US-410 all the way to Aberdeen, Washington, but now follow a state highway for a while until we reach US-12. As I noted in , highway US-12 currently runs from Detroit, Michigan to Aberdeen, Washington, 2,491 miles. In 1962, the west end was way back at Lewiston, Idaho. Where we reach the end of US-12, Roadtrip-'62 ™ has to leave the US-numbered highways and travel WA-9c out to Ocean Shores, Washington. It’s there that we find the last piece from the Seattle World’s Fair, the wreck of the S.S. Catala. The Catala was a 229-foot ship built in Scotland in 1925, which saw passenger service until 1958 in British Columbia, Canada. In 1961 the Catala was purchased and towed to Seattle, where it was refurbished as a floating hotel for the World’s Fair. It had with 52 staterooms, a restaurant and lounge. Two other ships, the Dominion Monarch and the Acapulco were also outfitted to serve as floating hotels, but the Catala was the only one to make a profit and stay for the entire run of the fair.

S.S. Catala floating hotel boat, beached in Ocean Shores, Washington postcard
S.S. Catala floating hotel boat, beached in Ocean Shores, Washington (Portion of postcard from online auction.)

After the fair, it was towed out to sea again and down to Ocean Shores, where it operated as charter fishing base, hotel, and restaurant for two more years. Its career was ended during a storm on January 1, 1965, which grounded the Catala and set it on its side. Numerous attempts to re-float the ship failed, causing it to become known locally as the "Tilting Ship". It eventually became too dangerous to climb around, so in 1980 the stacks and cabin decks were cut off at the sand line and the remainder of the ship was buried in the sand. However, in 2006 another severe storm uncovered it! This time it was completely excavated and cut up because of concern that oil from onboard tanks would begin leaking. The nearby Coastal Interpretive Center has displays of the S.S. Catala and several other local shipwreck stories. The Coastal Interpretive Center began operation in 1977 in a building that had originally been a land sales office for Ocean Shores in 1962. Artifacts from the Catala include the original galley doors, samples of china dishes, Captain’s deck logs, numerous photos, and even a piece of the hull.

That’s all from the 1962 Seattle World's Fair, also known as the Century 21 Exposition. But if you haven’t seen enough, go see the fair yourself in the video below!


“Century 21 Calling – 1962”


World News of August, 1962

August just finished, so it’s a good time for Roadtrip-'62 ™ to look back on what happened in August…of 1962. Unfortunately, the headlines of the time remind me of the headlines of today! We have sex scandals among the Catholic clergy, revolutions and other changes of national governments around the world, and Presidential press conferences. There are also major infrastructure projects around the world, and some surprises. Because it’s 1962, there is also space news. So sit back and we’ll show some stories you might have seen on the TV news.

First up is some bad news from the Catholic Diocese of Ogdensburg, New York. Father Thomas Rogers was alleged to have attempted sexual assault against a high school boy, and the claim was found to be supported by evidence and witnesses. Because the accused was a priest, police did not follow their usual procedures and Father Rogers was allowed to leave town the day that he was interviewed by the police. In a pattern we recognize today, Bishop William Connare perceived a need to "…proceed cautiously to protect his [Roger's] reputation…" and no further action was taken by the church. A review by another Bishop found that the matter had been handled well, and Father Rogers apparently continued to perform as a priest, just at different churches, at least through 1998. In a belated action, a later Bishop ordered Mr. Rogers to stop presenting himself publicly as a priest in 2002. Sounds too much like the kind of cover-up we are reading about in today’s news.

Russian stamp of Vostok 3 and Vostok 4, 1962
Russian stamp commemorating the 1962 flights of Vostok 3 and Vostok 4 (photo from an online auction)

There were two major airline disasters during August of 1962. On August 1st, a Nepal Airlines plane from Kathmandu, Nepal to New Delhi, India crashed. The wreckage was not found until eight days later, confirming that all four crew members and six passengers were killed, including Nepal's ambassador to India. The plane was found on a mountain at about the 11,200 foot elevation. Another crash occurred on August 20th in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. A Panair do Brasil flight skidded off the runway during takeoff, killing 15 people. The good news there was that 90 people were rescued from the burning airplane.

The manned spaceflight news from August all came from the Soviet Union. The Soviets made history by launching two orbiting capsules, with Vostok 3 launched on August 11th and Vostok 4 the next day. This was the first time that two manned spacecraft were in orbit at the same together. They then manuevered within 4.0 miles of one another and ship-to-ship radio communication was established. This was all the more amazing because it was only the Soviet Union’s fourth manned spaceflight and required a level of coordination that the United States was not know to be capable of yet. As with all Soviet space launches of the period, no announcement was made beforehand. In another first, Vostok 3 provided live video of Soviet Cosmonaut Andriyan Nikolayev in orbit. Both capsules safely landed in Kazakhstan just a couple of days later.

Stamp of Netherlands New Guinea overprinted U.N.T.E.A., 1962
Stamp of Netherlands New Guinea overprinted U.N.T.E.A. for use in 1962 (photo from an online auction)

Rebels, revolutions, and wars continued to make news in August. The capture of the leader of the Darul Islam rebellion in Indonesia led to the end of that effort. Sekarmadji Maridjan Kartosuwirjo would be executed just a month later. Also during 1962, Indonesia undertook successful military actions in Netherlands New Guinea (also known as West Irian), which was the only part of the former Dutch colonies in the area not previously turned over to Indonesian administration. This gave the Indonesians a good position in United Nations sponsored negotiations, and Netherlands finally agreed to hand over the territory later in the year, and a United Nations joint administration was established in the interim. The territory would finally become a province of Indonesia in May 1963.

Elsewhere around the world, Argentina had a confusing year. It began with a coup in March of 1962, a disputed election thereafter, backroom maneuvering and cabinet resignations, and culminated in a minor fight between competing factions of the country’s military in August. Most of the shooting occurred in the capital, Buenos Aires, around August 12th. By mid-September, a group known as the Blue Group appeared to be in control of the government. Also in August, the four former colonies of French India were formally transferred to the Indian government by the French parliament. The four French territories of Pondicherry, Karaikal, Yanam and Mahé merged to form the Union Territory of Puducherry. By December, the India army would occupy the Portuguese colonies and they would also be incorporated into India.

Nelson Mandela on cover of his 1962 speeches pamphlet
Nelson Mandela, on cover of his 1962 pamphlet of trial speeches (public domain photo, source unknown)

Here’s some 1962 bits and pieces of news:

  • August 3, 1962: An elephant at the Oklahoma City Zoo, Tusko, was injected with the hallucinogen LSD in an ill-fated experiment on aggressive behavior and rage in male elephants. Tusko collapsed minutes later and died.
  • August 5, 1962: Nelson Mandela begins 27 years of incarceration in South Africa, after being arrested with the apparent help of the United States CIA. He had been involved in steadily escalating opposition to the South African government and was seen to be a danger to stability. His 1962 arrest lead to a trial for inciting workers' strikes and leaving the country without permission, from which he was originally sentenced to only five years. But subsequent government raids and seizure of paperwork at his group’s meeting places documented his participation in sabotage. It was a second trial on four counts of sabotage and conspiracy to violently overthrow the government that led to his 27-year incarceration.
  • August 13, 1962: Three minutes of silence were intended to mark the first anniversary of the building of the Berlin Wall. However, angry crowds began throwing stones across the border at East Berlin police and troops, who responded with water cannon and tear gas grenades into the crowd on the west side of the wall. West Berlin police responded with their own tear gas across the border and after about an hour, the class ended with no serious injuries. However, the next day East German border guard captain, Rudi Arnstadt, was shot by a West German border guard and died.
  • August 22, 1962: French President Charles De Gaulle narrowly escaped an assassination attempt in Paris. Gunmen attacked his limousine, shooting out the rear window and two tires and causing De Gaulle to be hit by flying glass. No one was injured and the leader of the gunmen, former French Air Force Lt.Col. Jean Bastien-Thiry, was arrested and executed the next year.
Italian portal to Mount Blanc Tunnel
Italian portal to Mount Blanc Tunnel (Photo by François Trazzi from Wikimeida Commons, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.)

Several big engineering projects were completed around the world in 1962. The boring for the Mont Blanc Tunnel between France and Italy was completed on August 14th. It took about 400,000 blasts to get from one end to the other and when opened for travel in 1965, the tunnel would be the longest in the world at 7.25 miles. The tunnel is a single tube, and has a single lane in each direction for traffic. Elsewhere, bridges were the infrastructure of choice. The General Rafael Urdaneta Bridge in Venezuela was opened to traffic on August 24th. This bridge was designed by the same engineer using the same technology as the Morandi Bridge in Genoa, Italy that collapsed in August 2018. This 1962 bridge is older than the Italian bridge and has had no inspection or maintenance of its structural components for the past two decades. Is it next to collapse? Meanwhile, the second deck of the George Washington Bridge opened in New York City on August 29th. This added six lanes to the bridge, bringing the total to a record-breaking 14 lanes!

President John F. Kennedy press conference, August 29, 1962
President John F. Kennedy speaks during press conference on August 29, 1962 (Public domain photo by Abbie Rowe of the National Park Service.)

To close out this look at the news of August 1962, let’s listen in on President John F. Kennedy’s news conference of August 29th. In addition to domestic subjects, he covers a wide range of worldwide subjects. One of the first subjects the President brought up was that the Soviet Union had proposed, “…a cutoff time for all nuclear weapon tests and that this date should be set as of January 1, 1963.” He noted, “I'm happy to say that the United States Government regards this as a reasonable target date and would like to join with all interested parties in a maximum effort to conclude effective agreements which can enter force on next New Year's Day. To accomplish this purpose the governments involved must accelerate their negotiations looking toward an agreed treaty.” Such a treaty was not reached, but the Partial Test Ban Treaty (PTBT) was negotiated and signed by August 5, 1963. The PTBT was first signed by the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States and has eventually been signed and ratified by 123 other countries. The treaty is considered partial, because it did not ban all testing, but it did ban nuclear weapons testing in the atmosphere, in outer space, under water, or in any other environment if such explosions cause radioactive debris to be present outside the territorial limits of the State that conducts the test. That’s why we only conduct underground tests today.

Regarding the tensions in Berlin, the President responded to a question about whether the Soviet Union was interested in holding meetings of the four powers occupying Berlin, to discuss the situation. The president responded, “No, I'm not familiar with any proposal by the Soviet Union to discuss. No, I have seen nothing about that. I've seen no recent proposal by the Soviet Union that there should be a four-power conference in Berlin to discuss the future of Berlin. We've had no indication that the Soviet Union has made that proposal.” Considering what was happening in Berlin, that was unfortunate.

Missile site, Los Palacios, Cuba, October 1962
Missile site at Los Palacios, Cuba in October 1962 (Public domain photo from United States Department of Defense.)

President Kennedy also highlighted the need for a robust foreign aid program, as a counterbalance to expenditures by the Soviet Union. For example, he noted, “I was looking at some figures today which showed that the Soviet Union had given in economic and military assistance to one country, Indonesia, over $300 million in the last 12 months. They are giving, as we all know, substantial military and economic assistance to Cuba, as well as many other countries.” He listed many other countries where he thought we should spend money in addition to building our military capabilities, including, “…particularly those in Latin America, which have many economic, serious economic problems, those countries in Africa which are newly emerging, those countries along the Soviet Union border beginning with Greece, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, India, Thailand, and the others, South Viet-Nam, many of them are hard pressed, South Korea, the Republic of China. They depend upon the United States to assist them in maintaining their freedom. It seems to me to be the height of folly to appropriate these large sums of money for military organization, and let these very vital countries pass into the Communist bloc.”


Near the end of the press conference, he answered questions that pointed ominously to the Cuban Missile Crisis that would unfold in October, 1962. A reporter asked about reports that the Communists were sending troops into Cuba, not technicians and noted that Senator Capehart called for a United States invasion of Cuba to stop the flow of troops and supplies. The President commented that, ”We've no evidence of troops. And I must say that I know that this matter is of great concern to Americans and many others. The United States has obligations all around the world, including West Berlin and other areas, which are very sensitive, and, therefore, I think that in considering what appropriate action we should take, we have to consider the totality of our obligations, and also the responsibilities which we bear in so many different parts of the world. In response to your specific question, we do not have information that troops have come into Cuba, number one. I'm not for invading Cuba at this time. I think it would be a mistake to invade Cuba, because I think it would lead to--that it should be very--an action like that, which could be very casually suggested, could lead to very serious consequences for many people.” Fortunately, events played out favorably and Roadtrip-'62 ™ can be back with a new post soon!

General Rafael Urdaneta Bridge, Lake Maracaibo, Venezuela
General Rafael Urdaneta Bridge over Lake Maracaibo, Venezuela (photo from unknown source)

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

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Your Ad Here Oster Coleman

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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