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)
Putting for Fun - Miniature Golf in 1962
This week, we’re going to run all around the country and take a look at miniature golf. Mini golf has long been one of my favorites and it’s extra fun when played on a good roadtrip. Roadtrip-'62 ™ even has a connection to the game, as my previous business was ownership of a set of portable mini golf courses back in the 1990s. I rented these out for company picnics, festivals, and personal parties, along with a variety of other games and inflatable bounce houses. One of the places I bought mini golf equipment like clubs and score stands from was Witek Golf, which has been in business since 1946. But the game is much older than that: let’s look at some history of miniature golf.
Some people credit the first miniature golf course in the world to the Ladies’ Putting Club of St. Andrews in Scotland, in 1867. The game was used as a women’s pastime because it was deemed more ladylike than regular golf, as the ladies did not need to swing with their arms above their shoulders. I’m not sure that a putting club qualifies as true mini golf though. The first acknowledged course in the United States was on the private estate course of James Barber of Pinehurst, North Carolina, who hired Edward H. Wiswell in 1916 to design a miniature course that duplicated the elements of a regular golf course. His course appeared in the pages of Country Life magazine in 1920 and captured national attention. It came at an opportune time, for the Roaring 20s not only had money flowing, but women were moving into new activities outside the home and after Prohibition began, men were moving away from drinking activities. Mini golf provided a new venue for fun and caused a full-fledged national obsession.
We can still find some remnants of that early mini golf boom. For example, Allison's Miniature Golf in Geneva On The Lake, Ohio, was established in 1924 and is now the oldest continuously open miniature golf course in the United States. Courses opened on vacant lots everywhere, and indoors at posh hotels. And where there were no vacant lots, people innovated: by 1926, someone had opened a rooftop miniature golf course on a New York City skyscraper! One problem with all the early courses was a lack of a durable playing surface: grass required constant care and soon turned into mud or dust from constant foot traffic. A mixture of ground cottonseed hulls and oil had been developed by Thomas McCulloch Fairborn in 1922 that was sold commercially and used by many courses, as appropriate outdoor carpet had not been invented. This surfacing was used by the Tom Thumb Golf company, which sold mass-produced concrete figures and obstacles such as gnomes, hollow logs, and miniature buildings. The Tom Thumb courses were a patented course design created by Garnet and Frieda Carter, owners of the Fairyland Inn in Chattanooga, Tennessee. They created a miniature golf course at their resort in 1926 and a few years later began selling the design and obstacles. By 1930, despite the Great Depression, there were over 3,000 Tom Thumb courses around the country, in addition to many thousands more home-built courses. In fact, miniature golf became a nationwide craze: songs and editorial cartoons were written to it, a new trade magazine for the owners, ”Minature Golf Management” was published, and a tournament was held which offered a $7,5000 prize!
It’s estimated that over 25,000 courses were open to play by 1930. Competition became tough in many places, with owners resorting to publicity stunts and increasingly unusual and grand obstacles. Replicas of geysers, natural wonders, Chinese and other cultural décor, and even the Taj Mahal were constructed. During the 1930s, essentially all of the features we see as typical mini golf were developed: buildings, water features, loop-the-loops, the 18th hole that returns the ball to the clubhouse, scoring tables, windmills, bridges, multi-hole greens, and landscaping. A miniature golf course was even constructed at the presidential summer camp in Camp David, Maryland for President Hoover’s family! In an attempt to control the mania, the United States Golf Association unsuccessfully tried to fold miniature golf into its rules and tournament system. But as the Depression deepened, people’s ability to spend even small amounts of money on entertainment started to dry up. Combined with over-saturation of courses, too many local regulations against noise, zoning and taxes, the bottom dropped out of the game by the end of 1931.
By the mid-1930s, miniature golf had died down, but it enjoyed a resurgence in the 1950s, as tourism ballooned along with interstate freeways, new motels, new suburbs, and increased income and leisure time. Owners began to split into two camps: those who built ever more unusual courses for pure fun, and those who built standardized courses for serious play. Putt-Putt Golf was founded in Fayetteville, North Carolina in 1954. They grew into the largest chain of miniature golf courses, at one time having sites in courses in the United States, Australia, Indonesia, and even Lebanon. They opted for serious play, using short holes designed so that a hole-in-one can be scored on any hole with a skillful putt and a calculated bank shot because the metal rails facilitate accurate caroms. Obstacles are usually limited to small hills, metal baffles, pipes, and small water hazards. Because of their predictable play and need for skill, when ESPN broadcasts a miniature golf tournament, it is always at a Putt-Putt course. Many locations are now known as Putt-Putt Fun Centers and feature go-karts, bumper boats, indoor bumper cars, batting cages, laser tag, arcades, and snack bars in addition to mini golf. The franchise is much diminished from what we would have seen in 1962, as, there are Putt-Putt courses in only 14 states today, mostly in the south.
Lomma Enterprises was founded in 1955 in Scranton, Pennsylvania (also on our US-6 roadtrip) and went for the wacky courses with trick shots. This style of course became the norm, and today most mini golf courses include holes that are impossible to get a hole-in-one on. Most also have themes, such as a story book, jungle, space, or pirates, along with manmade mountains, lakes, caves and waterfalls. Besides franchised businesses, as with many things in the 1950s, there was also a strong do-it-yourself trend. Interesting courses could be constructed with not much more than concrete, carpet, and 2x4s, along with some nice landscaping. These simple courses were often located with mom and pop motels or public parks. All of this diversity has made miniature golf a truly American art form that continued to evolve after the 1960s. In the 1970s, entrepreneurs in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, gave a big boost to the themed course idea with Junglegolf. They were followed in the 1980s with Adventure Golf in Traverse City, Michigan and a chain of Pirate’s Cove adventure golf courses. Today’s indoor courses have also become more attention-grabbing with glow-in-the-dark features, LED lighting and other lighting effects.
Now that we know the history of miniature golf, let’s look at some of the courses we could have played in 1962 that are still around, in no particular order. Novelty Golf and Games of Lincolnwood, Illinois, has been open for over 60 years. It’s located just off the intersection of US-14 and US-41 and includes a classic burger, hot dog and ice cream shop called The Bunny Hutch. As with many mini golf businesses, it’s only open during the summer, from April through mid-October. They not only have two 18-hole courses, but also batting cages and a vintage game room. Another old-time course in the Chicago area is Par-King, which opened in 1955 in Morton Grove, Illinois. The country’s leading trade magazine has called it “Minigolf’s Taj Mahal” and noted it as the most elaborate 18-hole mini golf in the country. They have since moved to a spot on US-45 in nearby Lincolnshire, Illinois in 1977 and doubled the size. They also added even more elaborate obstacles and decorative items based on a Chicago area theme, including a 9ft-tall roller coaster hole and a model of the Sears Tower where the ball takes a ride up the elevator!
Florida’s oldest mini golf course is Bayfront Mini Golf, just off US-1 in St. Augustine, Florida. It has been on the marina since 1949, offering scenic and historic views of the Bridge of Lions along with the golf. Even though the course is old, it has recently been renovated to restore it to its original look, without the waterfalls and other gimmicks commonly seen today. It’s a simple putting course with lovely hedges for landscaping. In keeping with its historic aspect, in 2013 the city began the process to place Bayfront Mini Golf on the National Registry of Historic Places. Another old-fashioned course is Farmington Miniature Golf & Ice Cream Parlor, family owned and operated since 1962. It is located in Farmington, Connecticut just 3 miles off our US-6 roadtrip, and includes a few traditional hazards like a windmill on its well-landscaped grounds. Another course that opened in 1962 is Memphis Championship Miniature Golf at Memphis Kiddie Park near Cleveland, Ohio. This course is a classic test of skill, with each hole designed to allow a skilled golfer to score a hole-in-one. The amusement park is about 3 miles off of US-42 and also has a mini roller coaster, train, and other rides.
Miniature golf courses were added to many amusement parks in the early 1960s. As noted on our US-6 roadtrip visit to Cedar Point, Ohio, their Cedar Classic Miniature Golf opened in 1961. Adventureland amusement park in East Farmingdale, Long Island, New York, opened in 1962 with a mini golf course. When opened, it included just a few rides like a carousel, small train, Little Dipper Coaster, and kiddie boats. It has since grown to thirty rides including two roller coasters and three water rides. Unfortunately, the mini golf course was replaced with Adventure Falls, a log flume water ride, in 2001. Even Disneyland added a mini golf course in 1961, though at the Disneyland Hotel and not in the theme park itself. The hotel had a putting green since 1956 and added a full 18-hole golf course, a driving range, and a unique 18-hole miniature golf course adjacent to the Disneyland Hotel. Of course, the mini golf course was outfitted with miniature copies of some of the theme park buildings such as Cinderella’s castle, and featured popular Disney characters. The driving range and miniature golf course were shut down in 1978.
On both our US-23 and US-6 roadtrips, we passed several other courses that were around in 1962. A couple are still in business but most are not. Dinosaur Gardens, on US-23 in Ossineke, Michigan, has a miniature golf course in addition to concrete dinosaurs and a gift shop that boasts "Everything dinosaur!" Just a few miles off US-23, adjacent to Bay City State Park in Bay City, Michigan, there was a mini golf course and roller skating rink. There was also a Putt-Putt brand course on US-23 itself. Both are gone today but there is a new mini golf course across the street from the park, with a modern mountain and waterfall. Running east to west on our US-6 journey, we passed a course at Wellfleet, Massachusetts, where the Wellfleet Drive-In Theater added a course in 1962 that is still in operation with the original obstacles. The Family Drive-In Theatre in Kane, Pennyslvania opened in 1952 and includes a 9-hole mini golf course. Another old-style flat course is Putter-Port Mini Golf in Vermilion, Ohio. This classic course includes an old metal loop-the-loop hazard. Moline Mini-Golf was another of the old-style courses, near King Plaza in Moline, Iowa. It seems to have closed recently. And the Zeckendorf Plaza in downtown Denver, Colorado once included an outdoor skating rink reminiscent of New York’s Rockefeller Plaza, and a miniature golf course. The plaza and its surrounding buildings were completed in 1960 but replaced by other buildings in the late 1990s.
Besides the songs and other cultural artifacts of the heyday of miniature golf from the 1930s, the game continues to have unusual influences on pop culture. In 1962, Milton Bradley introduced a tabletop miniature golf game called Pivot Golf. It was invented by Marvin Glass and consisted of a bunch of tiny plastic replicas of typical mini golf obstacles like chutes. You putted by aiming a Golfer figure and pushing a button, causing the spring-loaded Golfer to swing his club and hit a ball toward each hole. Perhaps its strangest feature was that Lucille Ball endorsed it on the cover of the box! And apparently playing miniature golf helped you score with the girls, as Playboy Magazine’s Miss December 1962, June Cochran, mentioned in her magazine bio that she loves twisting, miniature golf, Corvettes, and shish kabob.
Time now for Roadtrip-'62 ™ to play some mini golf. I’m not going to get as crazy as Dan Caprera, who spent 78 days on a roadtrip adventure sleeping in his car, driving to Alaska, and traveling 20,681 miles across America playing mini golf, but I will be hunting for some more old-style courses. And first, I will check Dan’s ”America’s Best Mini Golf” guide for some ideas. His quest took him everywhere from the corn fields of Iowa to the schooners of Maine and he believes he found the best course in America, and the best course in each state and Washington, DC. There’s sure to be one near you!
More National News Headlines from 1962
In today’s look at the national news of 1962, Roadtrip-'62 ™ will compare some of the news of today with news of that year. We also looked at some headlines in our post . Big recent headlines have involved United States immigration policy, the Federal budget, passenger train crashes, mass shootings, and our ongoing military actions around the world. So, how do each of those situations compare to what happened in 1962?
Immigration in 1962
Annual immigration into the United States was actually very small in 1962, with only about 280,000 people admitted, compared to over 838,000 fifty years earlier. The 1962 figure was only about one-fifth of the 2016 figure of 1.49 million immigrants to the United States. And the number of foreign-born persons living in the country was also much smaller around 1962. Figures for 1965 (the closest I could find) state that only 5% of the population, or about 9.6 million people were foreign-born, compared to 13.5%, or 43.3 million in 2015. This is a huge increase, so it is not surprising that many people feel it has changed the whole of American society and culture. It is also just barely below the peak of 14.8%, which was reached in 1890, when the country still had the buffer of sparsely-settled lands in the west.
Immigration laws in effect in 1962 were largely passed after World War II and were very restrictive. For example, the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 set quotas for aliens with skills needed in the US and increased the power of the federal government to deport illegal immigrants suspected of being Communist sympathizers. Many low-skilled workers came in though, under a 1942 agreement between the United States and Mexico known as the Bracero Program. This program allowed young male Mexicans to enter as guest farm workers on six-month visas each year. Between 1942 and 1964, as many as 4.6 million Mexicans came to work under the Bracero Program, with many workers renewing their visas or entering the program multiple times. However, many also stayed illegally, so in 1954 the Immigration and Naturalization Service began Operation Wetback to roundup and deport immigrants without proper documentation in selected areas of California, Arizona, and Texas along the border. The Bracero Program ended in 1964, sowing the seed of our current illegal immigration problem with Mexico
The biggest immigration concern around 1962 was with people fleeing the newly Communist regime in Cuba. When Fidel Castro’s rebels overthrew the Cuban government in 1959, many Cubans moved to the United States in what they originally thought would be a temporary exile. By 1962, 119,922 people had arrived. Because of Cold War concerns about Communism, most Cubans who arrived were admitted under special humanitarian provisions citing Communist oppression in Cuba. These people were primarily of Cuba’s elite and maneuvered through the immigration system well, obtaining immigrant, student, and tourist visas, or entering the United States indirectly through countries such as Canada, where they applied for US visas. Also, about 14,000 unaccompanied minors arrived in the United States in 1960 and 1961 through a US program known as "Operation Pedro Pan.” In 1966, Congress passed the Cuban Refugee Adjustment Act, which formally allowed a legal status to both new immigrants and those already present in the United States.
Besides the end of the Bracero Program and the amnesty for Cubans, other changes were on the horizon for immigration laws. The 1962 Migration and Refugee Assistance Act, which took effect the next year, provided that the United States would admit 1 refugee for every 4 who were accepted by the rest of the world in any one year. A companion bill permitted 23,000 non-quota aliens to enter from countries with oversubscribed quotas, split with 7,000 as skilled specialists and 6,000 as close relatives of US citizens, the beginning of chain migration. By 1965, the Hart-Celler Act repealed the national-origin quotas altogether and initiated a visa system for family reunification and skills.
The Federal Budget in 1962
The federal budget of 1962 was a record peacetime budget and at $101.3 billion, Congress became known as “the first $100 billion Congress”. It topped the previous year by $5 billion but was less than President Kennedy requested because foreign aid was cut, a $5.7 billion request for public schools was denied, and the Medicaid proposal was not passed. Congress sent more money to defense than the President requested, and spent nearly $1 trillion on infrastructure projects. They also raised federal employee wages almost all across the board. Congress also refused to establish a new Department of Urban Affairs and Housing. It should be noted that eventually, this new department was created, along with the Medicaid program and heavy expenditures of federal dollars for education throughout the states. By 2017, federal expenditures for health care, such as Medicaid, would account for 25% of the budget!
Even back in 1962 the deficit problem was recognized by the Chair of the House Committee on Appropriations, Representative Clarence Cannon, “We are continuously and consistently spending more than we take in, much of it for non-defense purposes, and loading it on our grandchildren and their children’s children.“ Depending on which method was used in calculations, the 1962 fiscal year came in at a deficit of between $4.5 and $6.3 billion. History has shown that Representative Cannon was correct: the 2017 budget deficit was up to $666 billion, about 100 times that of 1962! And the total accumulated public debt is now $14.7 Trillion, which, assuming there will even be an attempt to pay it off, will last long into our grandchildrens’ childrens’ lives.
Passenger Train Crashes of 1962
Passenger train crashes have been in our news lately, and things were no different in 1962. Serious passenger train crashes were not rare worldwide, with one in Iran killing 49 people, one in Columbia killing 40, Romania had 32 fatalities in one incident, and Yugoslavia 24. There were also six deadly crashes in the United Kingdom (Great Britain), two in Italy, and single incidents in Japan, Netherlands, Argentina, France, Poland, and Mexico. Here in the United States, there were the following six accidents worth noting.
In May, 16 people were injured when a freight train derailed in Ravenna, Ohio due to a broken spring in a gondola car. The freight train hit a passenger train heading the opposite direction as it derailed. Video shows some of the aftermath and cleanup beginning at 4:21 in.
In March, the wreck of the North Coast Limited at Granite Lake, Idaho killed just 2 people, the engineer and fireman of the train. Apparently due to human error in determining setting of brakes for a curve, the lead locomotive left the tracks at between 75-80mph, tumbled through the air, slammed into some flat land below, and finally slid into a lake. Fortunately, this action caused the rest of the train to hit the curve at lower speeds, so the passenger cars slid to a stop without falling into the lake. The train's brakes were of a type that needed to be "set up" well in advance of reduced-speed zones, and this was a 30mph zone. There was an "advance warning reduce speed" ahead of the curve but too close to have any significant effect if the brakes had not already been prepared properly. As a result of this crash, the whole segment of track through this area was rebuilt in 1965 with gentler curves.
In June, another crash occurred for the North Coast Limited, this time at Evaro Hill in Montana. This crash unfortunately involved just about the worst in human error: both the engineer and fireman were drunk. This resulted in both men falling asleep, missing a required brake check and speed reduction as the train began coming downhill after reaching the summit under high throttle. The train speed increased to 87mph when it hit a curve that was supposed to be only a 30mph curve, resulting in four diesel engines overturning and careening down an embankment, dragging 15 of the train's 17 cars with them. Fortunately, only one person died, though 219 of the 350 passengers were injured and required hospital treatment.
The worst train wreck in the United States in 1962 was the Baseball Special that derailed near Steelton, Pennsylvania, which killed 19 people. Another 119 were injured when five train cars jumped off the track and the two cars that were carrying passengers landed in the Susquehanna River. Initial rescue work was largely done by volunteers who were first on the scene, and was somewhat hampered because the tracks were electrified and there were sparks flying. Some of the bodies were so mangled they had to be identified from fingerprints. The train was a special run to Philadelphia, taking fans to a baseball game. Later that evening at the game, a moment of silence was observed at Connie Mack Stadium for the crash victims. The game went on, with the Philadelphia Phillies beating the Pittsburgh Pirates, 9-2.
In August, there was a collision at Woodside, New York between a pile-driving crane and a passenger train on the Long Island Railroad. This resulted in the death of one passenger, and the injury of 31 passengers and 7 railroad employees. Railroad employees were the only fatalities in a train-truck crash in Chandler, Texas in November. In this incident, a freight train hit an oil tank truck, which exploded and further caused one of the six locomotives to explode. Three members of the train crew died, though the truck driver escaped with only second degree burns.
Mass School Shootings in 1962
Interestingly from a modern-day point of view, there were no mass shootings in the United States during 1962…or for at least the 20 years before that! In fact, the first mass shooting of the post-World War II era was a few years later, in 1966. In the first mass school shooting of the modern era, on August 1, 1966 Charles Whitman climbed to the top of an observation deck at the University of Texas-Austin and shot and killed 16 people and wounded another 31. But fifty-eight of these mass shootings have occurred since 2006! Today, we seem to have one of these tragedies about every month, so what’s different? Were guns outlawed in schools back then? No, in fact there were really no legal restrictions against bringing a gun to most schools, other than normal concealed carry laws. There were actually a few incidents of someone bringing a gun to a school and shooting a single person, as a result of some personal argument. Were there armed guards in schools to cut short an attack? No, most schools did not even have any unarmed guards and literally anyone could walk onto campus and wander around the buildings at will. Were the guns significantly different? No, there have been semi-automatic “machine guns” available for public purchase since at least 1921, with the most famous being the “Tommy Gun” preferred by gangsters during the Prohibition era.
I strongly suspect that what changed was us, society, the culture. Back then, if you had some grievance against an individual or even the world at large, you simply never thought of shooting a mass of random people at a school. It didn’t even occur to the insane, which you can argue is the mental state of every mass shooter. Somehow, sadly, the world is so complex today, and fame is so instant and pervasive, that madmen can make the illogical connections that they should take out their problems on the world at large and they will achieve a lasting place in society for doing so.
US Combat Troops Around the World in 1962
On January 12, 1962, the first United States combat troops arrived in Vietnam. By the end of the year, we would have around 10,000 men on the ground in an effort to halt the advance of Communist guerrilla fighters from North Vietnam, who were estimated to control about three fifths of the rural areas of the country by the end of 1961. In effect, we had decided to prop up an ineffective and perhaps corrupt South Vietnamese government that a large part of the population did not want. Internal divisions in South Vietnam were actually quite evident even at the highest levels, for example when the country’s own air force bombed the presidential palace in February. But in the grip of our fears of the expansion of Communism, we would not recognize our mistake for another decade, after the deaths of tens of thousands of American soldiers. Besides Vietnam, we also sent troops to nearby Thailand. Their purpose was to help the Thai army secure their border with Laos, which was experiencing internal strife as various factions tried to take over the government.
Unlike today, when we have troops stationed in over 130 countries, back in 1962, we were active in very few countries. Of course, we still had forces in Europe, stationed in both Germany and Italy since the end of World War II in 1945, and also in Japan on the island of Okinawa since that same date. We had troops in Korea since the end of the Korean War in 1953. Additionally, the United Nations had troops in the Belgian Congo, but I could not find whether US troops were part of the force. The force came from nineteen member nations, so it is likely we were involved. This seems to be the only country where the United Nations had troops during 1962. That’s it for US Army involvement around the world in 1962, and this is it for today’s installment of Roadtrip-'62 ™. Hope to see you soon for more!
A Short Roadtrip Down a Long Highway: US-12
Roadtrip-'62 ™ recently took looks at both US-8 and US-10. Today we travel down parts of US-12, which currently runs from Detroit, Michigan to Aberdeen, Washington, 2,491 miles today. In 1962, it was not only much shorter on its western end, but the Michigan portion was on an entirely different alignment! Prior to 1939, US-12’s west end was at the Northeast entrance of Yellowstone National Park (now US-212). It was relocated to Missoula, Montana in 1959, and extended to Lewiston, Idaho in 1962. This is the end we would have seen late in the year, as it was not extended to Abderdeen until 1967.
The 1962 extension and part of the road in eastern Washington more-or-less follows the route of the Lewis and Clark Expedition and is marked as part of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, as are some other parts of the highway. It was one of the last sections of US-numbered highways to be constructed and there was no road across much of this mountainous section of Idaho through Lolo Pass before that. Today the Idaho portion is said to be a great motorcycle road, for its twists and turns. The Michigan end was also relocated in 1962, after the I-94 freeway was completed across the state. To avoid double numbering, US-12 was moved to the former route of US-112, which disappeared.
Throughout Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, US-12 either runs together with or criss-crosses several other routes. Highway US-14 begins in Chicago and follows US-12 northwest out of town, just a few miles away, to Madison, Wisconsin. There, US-12 meets route US-18, which began in Milwaukee, Wisconsin along with US-16. Of course, US-12 meets US-16 at the Wisconsin Dells and they travel together about 50 miles to Tomah, Wisconsin. And if that weren’t enough duplication, US-12 crosses US-10 at Fairchild, Wisconsin and again at St. Paul Minnesota. To complete the tangle of highways, US-8 ends at St. Paul, whew! After that, these routes straighten out to head west across the prairie, spaced form north to south by increasing route number, just the way the US-route system was designed.
Wisconsin also has treats for lovers of modern architecture, because there are several buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and his students. For much of his life, his home and studio was at Taliesin in Spring Green, Wisconsin. Highway US-12 heads through the capitol of Wisconsin at Madison, which has some of his buildings. The easiest one to visit, and one that could also have been visited in 1962, is the First Unitarian Meeting House. This church is one of two that he designed for Unitarian Universalist organizations. The building was completed in 1951 and is constructed of limestone and oak with a soaring, distinctive copper roof. Tours are available and I highly recommend taking one, as I did last summer. Tours are also available at the Monona Terrace, a convention center originally designed by Wright and completed in 1997 by others at Taliesin Associated Architects after Wright’s death.
Another Wright designed building in Madison is the Walter and Mary Ellen Rudin House. This was constructed inn collaboration with builder Marshall Erdman, Wright’s colleague on the First Unitarian Meeting House. It is one of eleven similar prefab homes built as part of his Usonian designs, intended to make innovative design more affordable to the middle class. It was finished in 1959 and is not open to the public. Wright’s older Robert M. Lamp House, one of his earliest Prairie School designs, is also in Madison. It is quite different from the later designs and unfortunately suffers from poor maintenance over the years since its completion in 1903. It is also not open to the public, though some local proponents would like to see it turned into a museum. A final private home in the area is the Eugene A. Gilmore House, also known as the Airplane House. It was built in 1908 and expanded twenty years later. The home is in the Prairie style, with strong horizontal lines and a cantilevered porch roof.
Wisconsin is also famous for the Wisconsin Dells, at the city of the same name. The Dells are named for the gorge on the Wisconsin River, from the French word for narrow, dalles. This 5-mile long gorge has numerous side canyons and cliffs over 100 feet high. These sandstone formations were created when an ice dam that impounded a great glacial lake during the last Ice Age finally melted, creating a catastrophic flood and carving the rock. The rock formations have made Wisconsin Dells a recreation destination since the 1850s, making them one of the oldest resort areas in the state. Like many other resort areas, they boomed in the 1950s, as Americans took their big new cars on the road. The iconic Dells Army Ducks were brought to town in 1946 and were actual surplus Army amphibious vehicles. Modern versions are still giving fun and splashy rides through the Lower Dells and nearby woods and canyons, as an alternative to the boat ride down the river and back that I took last year. Tommy Bartlett’s water skiing show also came in the 1950s and added a man-made attraction to the natural one.
After passing through the metropolis of Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, US-12 heads west through the farm country of the Great Plains. We’ll investigate Minneapolis and St. Paul some other time: there are plenty of US-numbered routes passing through. Willmar, Minnesota is rather typical of small farming towns we pass through on US-12. It has a small history museum, operated by the Kandiyohi County Historical Society. The society was incorporated in 1940 under its current name, but had existed since 1897 under other names. They currently have six buildings including the main museum and research library, District #18 Schoolhouse, Great Northern Railroad steam engine #2523, Sperry House, Grandpa’s Shed, and an agriculture building. In 1962 we would only have visited the main museum, as the locomotive and other buildings were moved here during the late 1960s through 1971.
The city also has one major industry, the Jennie-O turkey processing plant. The Jennie-O brand of turkey products was founded in Willmar by Earl B. Olson in 1940, when he began raising turkeys. It is now one of the two largest turkey processing companies in the United States. It was family owned until 1986, when it was sold to Hormel Foods. And, like many small towns, it has one famous son. Comic book artist Curt Swan, most famous for drawing the Superman line of comics during the 1950s through 1986, lived here at some point. His was among my favorite comic art when growing up around 1962. Even at just 9 years old, I loved his simple lines and how he could change the expression of a character with just a squiggle or two. One of the same things I loved about the Peanuts comic strip.
Like me, you may think of petrified wood as something you would only see in the American Southwest. But we can also find it at the dry edge of the high prairie. Petrified wood is all over the rocky butte country of western North Dakota, and Lemmon is in South Dakota right at the border with North Dakota. Petrified wood was formed when ancient trees were trapped underground or underwater without any oxygen, such as under the shallow seas that once covered this area. Minerals were deposited into the dead tree’s cells, and over time the process turned the wood to stone, preserving the cellular structure. Lemmon’s Petrified Wood Park occupies an entire city block right in the heart of downtown. The park was built between 1930-1932 by “thirty to forty otherwise unemployed men” during the Great Depression. They were supervised by Ole S. Quammen, an amatuer geologist, who also supervised collection of the rocks and fossils from local sources. They built a castle, a wishing well, a waterfall, the Lemmon Pioneer Museum, and hundreds of pile sculptures all made of petrified wood on land owned by Quammen. Upon his death in 1954, the park was donated to the city. Among Petrified Wood Park’s most unusual sculptures are a hundred conical sculptures up to 20 feet tall. There are also stone trees, which are decorated with Christmas lights for an annual holiday "Fantasyland" display. In addition to the Castle building, which includes dinosaur bones cemented into the interior walls, the park includes the Petrified Wood Park Museum in an imposing petrified wood building with spires.
We’ll next stop in Helena, Montana, the state capital. It’s only 20 miles from the Continental Divide, where US-12 begins heading down to the Pacific Ocean. Helena is situated in the mountains and was founded in 1864 as a mining town, when prospectors discovered an extensive placer gold deposit. A placer deposit is an accumulation of heavier minerals formed by settling out of lighter sediments, usually by water. Placer mining was the main technique used in many early gold rushes, and Helena was no exception. Most of the production occurred before 1868 but the mining continued for about twenty years, ending after over $3.6 billion of gold was extracted in the city limits. Helena became one of the wealthiest cities in the United States and the concentration of wealth contributed to the city's prominent, elaborate Victorian architecture still visible today. Once the gold ran out, Helena could easily have become a ghost town. However, it had become the territorial banking center, and a distribution center for goods to and from other mining areas. These activities led directly to it becoming the territorial capital in 1875. A visit to the state capitol building is a good way to spend the afternoon. The main building was completed in 1902, with two wings following in 1912. It sits on 10 acres of spacious lawns and other state buildings, and is constructed of sandstone and granite. A statue of Liberty sits atop the copper dome and artist Charles M. Russell's painting of Lewis and Clark meeting the Indians at Ross' Hole adorns the interior.
Well, I don’t want to cram too much into one post, so I guess it’s time to stop here in Montana. This is a long way from the beginning of US-12, both in mileage and spirit. We’re in a completely different countryside than the big cities the route passed through early on the trip: Detroit, Chicago, and Minneapolis. But US-12 has it all; big cities, small farm towns, and wilderness, the Great Lakes, The Great Plains, and The Rocky Mountains. As I mentioned at the beginning, the next leg of the route was newly extended to Lewiston, Idaho in 1962. So I’ll head out across the wilderness of northern Idaho, through the the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests, and see you some other time on Roadtrip-'62 ™ when I come through Lewiston from another direction.
Chemistry News from 1962
One of my favorite areas of science has always been chemistry, so this week Roadtrip-'62 ™ takes a look at a random selection of chemistry news from 1962. My 9-year old self was reading books from my elementary school library about chemistry and on becoming a chemist back then. I did not yet have a chemistry set, but would get one for Christmas at the end of the year. It was a Skilcraft set with chemicals like those shown below and had a book, “Exploring Chemistry”, of fascinating experiments and lots of potentially dangerous chemicals! Things have changed in the United States, with the Federal Hazardous Substances Labeling Act of 1960, the Toy Safety Act of 1969, the Consumer Product Safety Commission of 1972, and the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 all regulating what you can sell today in a chemistry set. I suspect they’re not as much fun as such sets were back in 1962.
In addition to reading about chemistry, I could watch Mr. Wizard on TV. Don Herbert created and starred in "Watch Mr. Wizard" from 1951 through 1965 and dazzled a generation of kids with his experiments in science. We saw physics, electricity, and especially chemistry demonstrated dramatically every week, from his “garage” laboratory. And the show spoke to us in part because he included a boy or girl in each broadcast. As Don Herbert later noted, "What really did it for us was the inclusion of a child. When we started out, it was just me up there alone. That was too much like having a professor give a lecture. We cast a boy and girl to come in and talk with me about science. That's when it took off. The children watching could identify with someone like them." The show collected numerous honors during its run, including a Peabody Award, four Ohio State awards and the Thomas Alva Edison Foundation Award for "Best Science TV Program for Youth." Some people have speculated that Don Herbert may have been personally responsible for more people going into the sciences than any other single person in the United States. After "Watch Mr. Wizard" ended its run in 1965, it came back for the 1971 season and was relaunched as "Mr. Wizard's World" on Nickelodeon from 1983 to 1990.
So what types of chemistry was making news in 1962? Well, basic elemental chemistry for one. It was found that the element Technetium, which was thought to be manmade and not found in nature, did in fact exist in trace amounts in a Uranium ore sample from the Belgian Congo in Africa. Technetium is a chemical element with symbol Tc and atomic number 43 and is the lightest element whose isotopes are all radioactive; none are stable. The small amount of Technetium that is found in the Earth's crust is a spontaneous fission product in Uranium ore or the product of neutron capture in Molybdenum ore. Manmade Technetium was first produced in 1937 and is a silvery gray metal. It is a common by-product of spent fuel rods from nuclear reactors, which contain various fission products. However, all major reactors that produce Technetium for commercial use were built in the 1960s and are close to the end of their life, creating a potential supply gap in the future. It is used in nuclear medicine for a wide variety of diagnostic tests.
The element Xenon was first made to form chemical compounds in 1962. Xenon is one of the general non-reactive “noble” gasses, which were thought for many years not to form any compounds with other elements. This was proven false by researcher Neil Bartlett, who synthesized the compound xenon hexafluoroplatinate. This was a rare case of a single person, working alone to make a major scientific discovery. Several years before 1962, Bartlett had produced a red solid during experiments with Flourine and Platinum, but the compound defied identification until he and his graduate student Derek Lohmann did extensive research and discovered that the Oxygen had formed positively charged ions even though it usually formed negative ions. Bartlett theorized that if this platinum hexaflouride could so oxidize Oxygen, then it might also be able to achieve the "impossible" task of oxidizing Xenon, one of the “noble” gasses. In March of 1962, he managed to produce the world's first noble gas compound, orange-yellow solid xenon hexafluoroplatinate, while working alone in his laboratory. Within months, other chemists successfully repeated the experiment. Today, noble gas compounds are used as anti-tumor agents against cancer, a cleaner to remove radioactive gasses from uranium mines, and in lasers for eye surgery.
Compounds of the element Berkelium were also first created in 1962. Berkelium is a completely artificial element, produced by bombarding another manmade element, Americium, with Helium nuclei at high speeds. It was first produced in 1949 at the University of California at Berkeley and took nine years to make enough to see with the naked eye! By 1962 there was enough to experiment with and its first chemical compound, berkelium dioxide, was created. Another compound, berkelium chloride, was also created that year. Like the other elements in its part of the period table, Berkelium accumulates in skeletal tissue and is therefore highly toxic to humans. There are no know uses yet other than basic research and it has no known biological role.
Beyond basic research, there were also commercially important chemicals in the news in 1962. The DuPont chemical company used the advertising slogan, "Better Things for Better Living...Through Chemistry", from 1935 to 1982, and this sums up nicely the feeling of the country through that period. Here’s a couple of chemical discoveries from our favorite year. A chemical branded as Texanol by Eastman Chemical, was created and found to be effective in softening particles in latex paint, allowing them to fuse into a continuous film and form a hard surface as it evaporates. Having better evaporation rates, Texanol was preferred to water-soluble solvents in early formulations of latex paint. In 1962, latex paints were just beginning to become popular and consumers were moving away from the older oil-based paints. Today, latex paints dominate the market.
Research into new medicines also continued and you can find more information on the state of medicine at the Roadtip-'62 ™ Medical Progress in 1962 page. The general anesthetic Ketamine was first synthesized in 1962 at Parke Davis Laboratories. The company was searching for a new anesthetic to replace the hallucinogen phencyclidine (PCP), which was deemed not suitable for use in humans. PCP produced severe hallucinogenic effects when patients regained consciousness, whereas Ketamine produced only mild effects. The drug was patented in Belgium during the next year, and approved for use in the United States in 1970. Unfortunately, even the minor hallucinogenic side effects have led to its abuse as a recreational drug.
And the cancer treatment drug Taxol began its journey in 1962, when US Department of Agriculture botanist Arthur Barclay collected bark and other samples from Pacific yew trees in Washington state. His work was part of a program that collected and tested an incredible 30,000 samples from plants between 1960 and 1981! It was two years later that other researchers discovered that extracts from the Pacific yew were toxic to living cells. The most toxic compound was isolated from the bark of the tree and called paclitaxel. But it was not until 1979 that more work discovered how the chemical worked, by stopping cell division. After further development and testing, the drug Taxol was refined and is now used in the treatment of breast, lung, and ovarian cancer, as well as Kaposi's sarcoma.
Here’s a sample of 1962 prizes and awards in chemistry:
- American Chemical Society Priestley Medal – Dr. Peter J. W. Debye, Cornell University
- Atomic Energy Commission Enrico Fermi Award – Dr. Edward Teller, University of California
- National Academy of Sciences J. Lawrence Smith Medal – Dr. Harold C. Urey, University of California
- Nobel Prize in Chemistry – Dr. Max Ferdinand Peritz and Dr. John Cowdery Kendrew, Cavendish Laboratory
- Joseph P. Kennedy International Award in Mental Retardation – Dr. Asbjørn Følling, awarded in December 1962. For work done in the 1930s discovering the disease phenylketonuria, which hinged on the finding of the chemical phenylpyruvic acid in urine.
Ending where I began, you can find more about children’s chemistry sets in this video from the Chemical Heritage Foundation in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They have the largest collection of chemistry sets among public institutions in the United States. Rosie Cook of the foundation gives some info on the rise and fall of the sets. I’ll be experimenting with mine down in the basement and see you next time on Roadtrip-'62 ™!
All photos by the author and Copyright © 2018 - Milne Enterprises, Inc., except as noted.
All other content Copyright © 2018 - Milne Enterprises, Inc.