Welcome to another Roadtrip-'62 ™ discussion of things from 1962! My name is Don Milne and I’m your guide on this virtual tour of history. Today, we'll be discussing the news of 1962 and how that relates to the world then, the world before, and the world today. At Roadtrip-'62 ™ we travel one week and discuss a different topic every other week, usually related to the segment of US-23 we just traveled. If you remember 1962, you'll recognize what I discuss, and if you don't know 1962 firsthand, this will give you a chance to learn new things. By the time we travel the full length of US-23, you should have a pretty good idea of just how 1962 fits into today and yesterday! Time now to grab a few newspapers, magazines, or turn on the radio or TV and see what was news in 1962.
So, just where did we get our news in 1962? First, consider some places we did not get news back then. There were no 24-hour-a-day TV news networks: no FOX News, no CNN, no MSNBC, no CSPAN, no Weather Channel for weather information, no ESPN, Fox Sports, Golf Channel, or NFL Network for sports news, and no CNBC or Fox Business for financial news. In fact, TV news was pretty much limited to an hour near dinner time and a half hour at 10pm or 11pm (depending on where you lived). Of that, only a ½ hour or less was a network news show discussing national news. In fact, both the CBS News and NBC's nightly Huntley-Brinkley Report were only 15 minutes long until September of 1963! You could get a bit of news on the Today Show, but then as now, the format included lots of entertainment. There were some other national news programs though: "Meet the Press" on the weekend, and specials when events warranted. But most news was local, with whatever small amount of national or world news the local editors decided to include.
A great video of the year 1962 in retrospect gives a sense of how news was reported then, and what was viewed as important. The video is from a CBS News broadcast of "Television Album" at the end of the year, by Eric Sevareid. A lot of time is spent on space news, including a broadcast that included worldwide live selections of pictures using the new Telstar satellite. The commercials have been edited out, but otherwise it faithfully shows what I remember of TV news at the time, including the rather poor quality of video available from reports from the field. The quality was undoubtedly better in the original broadcast, but it was nothing like we see today. Several anchormen (and they were all men back then) changed during 1962, including Walter Cronkite taking over from previous anchor Douglas Edwards. Cronkite was a WWII veteran correspondent and set the standard as both managing editor and anchor of the CBS News. Cronkite was later referred to as the "Most Trusted Man America."
Radio was also not of much consequence in how Americans got their news. Like today, the most frequent format was a few minutes at the top of the hour. One of the radio broadcase networks we could have listened to in 1962 is no longer around. The Mutual Radio Network had 560 stations in 1952 and peaked at 950 stations in 1979. By 1999, Mutual ended its regular programming history and the last newscasts ran under the Mutual logo. The Mutual "brand" is essentially now just a corporate trademark, but currently is not being used. We would have heard a Major League Baseball Game of the Day, every day except Sunday during baseball season on Mutual. Near the end of its run as a major programmer, Mutual introduced Larry King, so their impact is still felt today. Mutual had a very unstable corporate history, which may have hastened it’s demise. In 1960, the 3M Company purchased Mutual and owned it for six years. Its final corporate parent, Westwood One, which purchased it in 1985, was the seventh owner since 1957.
There was no government-supported radio or TV, no NPR or PBS in 1962. Some larger metropolises experimented with public television though, like New York City beginning operation of Public TV channel 13 on September 16. The modern "News-Talk" format had not yet developed. But radio station KFAX tried an unsuccessful experiment as the nation's first all-news radio station in late 1959. WAVA in Washington, DC tried a 24-hour All News station in January 1961, which ultimately became successful. Perhaps this worked because Washington, being our political center, is more concerned with news and could support such a niche idea. But for the remainder of the country, the primary source of news was still newspapers and magazines, as it had been for decades before. There was one truly nationwide newspaper, the Wall Street Journal, which today is the highest circulation US newspaper, but most papers were local in 1962.
Along US-23, we would have been able to buy many different newspapers. Not only large cities published a paper, but many smaller cities also did. Many of those smaller papers are now out of business, or have become a weekly instead of a daily. In fact, some of the big city papers have merged and the big cities along the route no longer have choices in newspapers. Some of the papers in larger cities have ceased publishing altogether, such as in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where the publisher replaced it with an online only version in 2009. But once there were more choices. For example, the Columbus Citizen-Journal was formed in 1959 by the merger of The Columbus Citizen and The Ohio State Journal. This new newspaper published until the end of 1985. There was even a third paper in Columbus, the Columbus Dispatch. Today only the Columbus Dispatch is still published, but Columbus had two newspapers in 1962. Another place along US-23 where we could have read two different papers was Asheville, North Carolina. The two were the morning Asheville Citizen and the afternoon Asheville Times. In a pattern that was repeated across the country, the morning and afternoon papers merged, in this case on July 1, 1991, to form the Asheville Citizen-Times. Another of these morning-afternoon mergers occurred in 1982 in Atlanta, Georgia. The current Atlanta Journal-Constitution is the result of the merger of the staffs between the former Atlanta Journal and Atlanta Constitution.
A merger in Macon, Georgia also eliminated a choice of papers that existed in 1962: the Telegraph and Macon News merged in 1983. In Kingsport, Tennessee, the Kingsport Times-News was sold in 1962 to a company that also publishes the nearby Johnson City Press, but was not merged and has continued publication to this day. The two cities are only about 20 miles apart, and this appears to be far enough that publishers prefer to treat them as separate markets. A similar situation exists between Bay City and Saginaw, Michigan, only 15 miles apart, where there are separate newspapers published by the same company. Contrary to this, some papers that were small town weeklies in 1962 have since expanded and merged with nearby papers. On our journey, we could have read several newspapers in eastern Kentucky including The Sun in nearby Martin County. But today, The Big Sandy News covers the entire region from Louisa to Prestonsburg.
Another major source of news back in 1962 was general interest magazines and news magazines. We can still read news magazines today, some of which like Time and Newsweek were around in 1962. However, only 1 of the top 10 magazines today is a news magazine. And the general interest magazine is now a piece of history. Life, Look, and the Saturday Evening Post were the big three of this genre. All featured news and special features. The Post also featured fiction and cartoons. But the big draw may have been the photos. They were illustrated with both black-and-white and color photos of world news and celebrities, perfecting a format called photojournalism. News like the manned space program and the United States' first crop of astronauts were natural subjects for photographs. World news including wars was also good. These magazines began publishing in the 1930s, before there was television. As I mentioned above, television news was just beginning to grow from it's minor role of 15 minutes of national and world news, so these magazines could still be a major source of information. As television news expanded and went to all color format, the magazines became less important and eventually faded away. All died within a couple of years of each other: Saturday Evening Post in February 1969, Look (which was published in Des Moines, Iowa along our US-6 roadtrip) in October 1971, and Life in December 1972.
Reader's Digest was another magazine for the mass-market audience, but without the photojournalism. It specialized in fiction, humor, and in-depth reporting and was a handy size that could fit in your coat pocket. It is still publishing. All of these magazines, and others, are invaluable for a thorough view of 1962 and surrounding years, both through the articles and the advertisements published. The ads give a great insight as to how the culture saw itself at the time. The technology of the time is also on display in the cars, housing, machinery and medicine advertised.
1962 newsreel from Universal Studios (in the public domain at The Internet Archive)
Another source of news that no longer exists was the movie newsreel. Through the mid-1960s, you could still watch world and national news as a feature before a movie at theaters around the country. As with mass-market magazines, the demise of the newsreel was largely due to television. By the time a newsreel could be produced and distributed to theaters, television's immediate nature had already told the story to the public, so newsreels became less and less relevant. In 1967 Universal Newsreel and Hearst Metrotone News quit producing them. Fox Movietone News had given up earlier, in 1963, so we would be watching the last of those.
So, what was the news in 1962, anyway? Let's take a peek at world news first. Northern Africa and the Mideast were keeping the world on edge. France and Algerian Moslems negotiated a truce to end a 7-year war in Algeria on February 18, completing a revolution. A military coup in occurred in Syria on March 28, and President Nazim al-Kudsi fled the country. Iraq had completed a revolution in 1958 and the problem of accommodating the Kurdish minority led them into an open revolt again in 1962. The Soviet Union helped to stir things up, openly supporting the Kurds in an attempt to create a new puppet state. The United States faced a dilemma, as we had previously supported some Kurdish claim to sovereignty, but could not afford to antagonize Turkey. We continue to face that same problem today. Egypt, officially known then as the United Arab Republic, celebrated the 10th anniversary of its revolution with a parade showing off its new capacity to launch rockets. In Yemen, the army rebelled against the government in September, after the death of the country's ruler, Iman Ahmad. These countries appear to never have settled whatever internal differences they had, as they are all back in the news today with revolutions and other unrest.
There were other trouble spots around the world also. In Argentina, the party of Juan Peron won a decisive victory at the polls, only to have the army stage a coup. Argentine President Frondizi fled from the army on March 29, but the army soon devolved into internal squabbles. By the end of September a new president, Jose Maria Guido, was in control and announced new elections. In South Africa, Nelson Mandela was arrested for incitement, and sentenced to life in prison. Mandela served 27 years but was eventually released and elected president of the country in 1994, after repeal of the apartheid system of race separation. On October 20, China mounted a full-scale attack on India's northern border, a border which China had never formally recognized. The Indian army was totally unprepared and collapsed within weeks, giving China a new boarder.
The United States was also active on the world stage, sending military advisors to Vietnam. On February 14, President Kennedy said that if they were fired upon, they would return fire. This was the beginning of our ill-fated war in Vietnam, opposition to which would fuel much of our domestic unrest for the remainder of the 1960s. In other world news, the drug thalidomide was banned after it was found to lead missing and malformed arms and legs in babies. The drug was prescribed as a sedative and a relief for morning sickness for mothers during pregnancy. It was never approved for use in United States because the FDA held up approval just long enough for the disastrous side effects to become known. The country experiencing the most deformed babies born was West Germany, where the drug was originally developed. Speaking of births, on September 1, 1962 the United Nations announced that Earth's population had reached 3 billion. Today, the US Census Bureau estimates the world will reach the 7 billion mark later in 2011.
But of course, the most important piece of world news in 1962 was the Cuban Missile Crisis, between the United States and the Soviet Union. Events kept everyone here in a state of fear and readiness for a possible nuclear war, during the autumn of that year. On October 15, United States reconnaissance photographs taken by a U-2 spy plane revealed missile bases being built in Cuba. Three days later President Kennedy met with Andrei Gromyko of the Soviet Union, who denied the existence of missiles in Cuba. The President gives a public address on October 22, informing the American public that missiles have been discovered in Cuba which had the potential to attack the United States with nuclear warheads. He warns that, "It shall be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union." The stage is thus set for a showdown. Options for removing the missiles from Cuba are discussed in Washington, with the Joint Chiefs of Staff recommending a full-scale invasion. President Kennedy decides instead for a naval blockade of Cuba, which begins two days later. Meanwhile, the Strategic Air Command go to readiness level DEFCON 2, for the only time in history. A complete timeline is at The People Histoy Blog. I remember this period because at this time, the jets from Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Oscoda, Michigan are heard breaking the sound barrier up and down US-23. On October 27, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev offered to remove Soviet missile bases in Cuba if the U.S. removed its missile bases in Turkey. The next day, he announces that he has ordered the dismantling of the bases and President Kennedy announces the United States will remove all missiles set in Turkey on the border of the Soviet Union. The immediate crises is ended, but fear lives on.
Both before and after the crisis, the United States and the Soviet Union were still exploding nuclear bombs for testing in the open atmosphere, spreading radiation all over the planet! Today we get a little worked up about a nuclear plant leaking a little radiation in Japan, but in 1962, radiation was floating all over and being added to wantonly. There were several US nuclear test missiles launched from Johnston Island in the southwest Pacific Ocean in 1962. Twelve nuclear warheads were exploded in all, just in this one series of tests, one of which failed when the PGM-17 Thor missile carrying it failed to launch and scattered plutonium debris over the island. Afterwards, the radioactive debris and soils were placed in a landfill on the island. In 1993, Congress redefined the island's military mission as the storage and destruction of chemical weapons.
The mood of those years led to various government and personal measures to figure out how to ride out a possible nuclear war, which the crisis showed us was a real possibility. As a boy, I remember fallout shelters being displayed alongside farm equipment at my local Saginaw County Fair. This state of fear and readiness persisted even after 1963, when the Soviet Union and United States Senate ratified the Limited Test Ban Treaty. A copy of the book "Personal And Family Survival", by the US Office of Civil Defense has detailed lists of what to stock in your home fallout shelter, instructions to build a shelter, how to test for radiation, how to counter the psychological problems of long-term confinement in shelters and more. There are also instructions for how to set up public fallout shelters in large buildings. Many schools, public buildings, and office buildings of the time were stocked with food and equipment for hundreds of people. Signs announcing which buildings had shelters can still be found today, fading in the long years of sun since the shelters were abandoned. Photos of some public shelter supplies are at The Ohio Historical Society.
Besides the dangers of war, there were disasters both man-made and natural in 1962. Here's a short list of some of the more notable disasters:
- January 8 - In Netherlands, 93 die when an express train crashes into slow commuter train.
- January 10 - In Ranrahirca, Peru, 4,000 die in an avalanche.
- January 10 - In Peru, eruptions on Mount Huascaran destroy 7 villages and kill 3,500. Another 4,000 die the next day.
- February 7 - In Voelklingen, Germany, a gas explosion in Luisanthal coal mine kills 298.
- March 1 - In New York City, New York, an American Airlines Boeing 707 plunges into Jamaica Bay killing 95.
- May 3 - In Tokyo, Japan, an express train crashes into the wreckage of another train, killing 163 and injuring 400.
- June 22 - On the island of Guadeloupe, a French Boeing 707 crashes and kills 113.
- August 28-29 - In Sunchon, South Korea, the Dongchun River bursts a dike during a storm and the resulting wall of water kills 163.
- September 1-2 - In Iran, the most disastrous earthquake to date kills an estimated 10,000 and injures just as many, while destroying 200 villages in a remote area.
- October 20 - In the Mississippi River at Lutcher, Louisiana, a Norwegian tanker and some oil barges collided and the resulting fire kills at least 12.
- December 21-26 - In the United States, there were 645 traffic fatalities on the highways during the Christmas season.
In a disaster that has meaning to US-23, on June 3, 1962, many of Atlanta, Georgia's civic and cultural leaders were killed in France. They were returning from the Atlanta Art Association trip to the Louvre, on travel arrangements by American Express World Travel Service. Their chartered Boeing 707 crashed upon takeoff at Orly Field near Paris, France. Of the 122 passengers that died, 106 were from Atlanta, Georgia. Other news, big and small, along US-23 that year included:
- Michigan held a constitutional convention in 1961-62 and passed a new state constitution in 1962 that is still in effect;
- Don Wayne, a Nashville, Tennessee songwriter, began writing "Saginaw Michigan" in 1962. Lefty Frizzell recorded the song, which entered the country music charts on January 11th, 1964 and made it to number one;
- The opening of a new freeway segment at Sylvania, Ohio in November;
- The Pickaway Country Club opened in Circleville, Ohio;
- Ashland, Inc., an oil refining and chemical company based in Ashland, Kentucky and now part of Marathon Ashland Petroleum LLC., acquires United Carbon Company and Humble Oil & Refining Company;
- On February 10, Francis Gary Powers, a Pound, Virginia native, was exchanged for a Soviet agent after two years in captivity. He had been a civilian pilot flying for the Central Intelligence Agency and had been shot down in a high altitude U-2 espionage plane over the Soviet Union;
- The Bloomingdale branch library in Kingsport, Tennessee opened to the public on March 2; Jim Roland, a Franklin, North Carolina native, debuted in baseball's big leagues on September 20, with the Minnesota Twins;
- Gainesville, Georgia suffered a snow storm: yes, they do get snow in Georgia;
- A church is destroyed by fire in Macon, Georgia on September 25;
- The opening of both a new Civic Auditorium and a new freeway segment in Jacksonville, Florida.
On to national news, where we find that California became the most populous state in 1962. It was estimated to be growing at 1600 people a day! It's still the most populous, with the 2010 census showing it has since ballooned to 37,253,956 people. After losing a presidential election in 1960, Richard Nixon ran for, and lost, a bid for governor of California in 1962. He lost to Edmund Brown, the father of current governor, Jerry Brown. Though we don’t have royalty in the United States, it’s no coincidence when familiar names keep showing up in politics year after year. Another well-known politician, Edward "Ted" Kennedy, was first elected to the US Senate in 1962, to fill his brother’s seat. Civil rights was coming to a turning point this year, with James Meredith enrolling as the first black student at the University of Mississippi. He was finally allowed to attend when the President sent 3000 US Army troops to put down riots.
The world's widest freeway opened in Chicago: the Dan Ryan Expressway. We won't see anything like its 14 lanes of traffic on our journey! In other highway news, our neighbor to the north finished the last gap in the Trans-Canada highway, allowing cross-Canada travel on a paved road for the first time. Congress passed a law in 1962 that unionized federal employees. State and local governments followed in the next few years and the unions now represent more workers in government than in any other industry. Of course, their contracts are beginning to bankrupt governments now, creating a new political battle.
In 1962, the military is the largest part of the budget at about 52% of federal spending. Treasury and interest costs are only 7.5% of the total. By 2008, these costs have risen to over 16% and are still rising! It's interesting to note that even with the massive spending on the space program and the Interstate Highway System in the early 1960s, the federal deficit was only 1.3% of Gross Domestic Product in 1962. Today it is consuming nearly 9% of all our output. Is it any wonder that we can no longer invest in repairing that infrastructure?
In business news, Ross Perot, who also once ran for president, began Electronic Data Systems (EDS) on June 27. The stock market experienced "Black Monday" on May 28, 1962, with the heaviest selling since 1929. The high point had been in late 1961 though, so it was already on its way down. It eventually lost 27% from the high before recovering. Some of the important stocks of the day included AT&T, which has since been broken into smaller companies and reconstituted itself as a giant again. Other stocks on the Dow Jones Industrial Average included General Motors Corporation and Chrysler, both of which have gone through a government sponsored bankruptcy and bailout, and Eastman Kodak and Sears Roebuck & Company, both of which narrowly missed a bankruptcy in recent years. Many of the other stocks on that list are no longer part of the list and many others are out of business as separate companies. I'm thinking you may not have done too well buying big company stocks in 1962 and holding for the past 50 years.
You could get 4.6% interest on simple saving accounts then: today you can't even get 1%! Diet soft drinks were just becoming popular. Diet Rite Cola was first introduced in 1958 by the Royal Crown Co., but was only marketed on a limited basis as a special dietary soft drink. In 1962, after a successful trial run in select markets, it was rolled out nationwide. Within 18 months it had become the No. 4 cola in the United States! Coca-Cola was forced to introduce "Tab", its version of a diet cola, to compete. Discount stores were a changing and booming field in 1962. Eventual success stories Kmart, Target, and WalMart all entered the field, along with hundreds of others that would never make it past their first few years. There were an estimated 1500 discount stores, an increase of as much as 35% over the previous year.
That brings us to the end of the year, so let's take a look at the year-end issue of Time magazine. The cover story notes, "Thanks to the energetic leadership of its new president, Lynn Alfred Townsend, 43, Chrysler in 1962 was the comeback story of U.S. business." The article goes on to note that Chrysler was having problems because the engineering division had long ago seized dominance over the financial and manufacturing divisions. This led to years of building and selling solid but stodgy cars that were losing money. But, nobody knew that the cars cost too much to make because there was no cost effective control. The new president was born in Flint, Michigan, a city along US-23. Lynn Townsend put himself through the University of Michigan, also on our route. Surprising how this highway connects the country, isn't it?
Another article discusses Yemen's civil unrest, noting the US was anxious to quarantine the civil war in Yemen before it engulfed the whole Middle East. Egypt had already sent an 18,000-man expeditionary force, while Saudi Arabia and Jordan were still supporting the deposed Imam Mohamed el Badr. After nearly three months of hesitation, the US became the 34th nation to recognize the new Yemen Arab Republic. Jordan's King Hussein and Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Feisal both feared that the successful revolution in Yemen could spark trouble within their own kingdoms, and were "extremely unhappy" with the United States' action. Sounds very much like today's Middle East.
Finally, there is a story about violence in the coalfields of Kentucky, a region we'll pass through on our trip. Come to think of it, I'll leave that discussion for another day, as we head down the road on Roadtrip-'62 ™ through Kentucky. Today, I'll just open up my newspaper again and maybe do the crossword puzzle. In 1962, your newspaper was probably still delivered to your home by a newsboy beginning his journey, as the stamp notes, into "Free Enterprise." It was a common first job for a boy before his teenage years, but no longer.
All photos by the author and Copyright © 2012 - Milne Enterprises, Inc., except as noted.
All other content Copyright © 2012 - Milne Enterprises, Inc.