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Happy 50th Birthday 1962!

Roadtrip-'62 ™ : where it's always 1962!

Welcome to Roadtrip-'62 ™ and Happy Birthday to 1962! This year, 1962 is 50 years old, and we’ll have a year-long celebration here! Cake and ice cream later, but the party starts now. Incidentally, Roadtrip-'62 ™ is 1 year old as this is written, having opened on the web on January 9, 2011. So, we’ll be celebrating both events together!

45 records from 1962
45 records from 1962, featuring Elvis Presley's 'Return To Sender'

Let’s start the party with some music from 1962. A party favorite that was played for years was "Limbo Rock" by Chubby Checker. People still do the limbo at parties! Other dance songs from the year, such as "Mashed Potato Time" by Dee Dee Sharp, "The Locomotion" by Little Eva, and "Let’s Dance" by Chris Montez would be naturals for a party. For some intimate slow dancing, let’s put on "Venus In Blue Jeans" by Jimmy Clanton (one of my personal favorites from that year), "Sealed With A Kiss" by Brian Hyland, "Only Love Can Break A Heart" by Gene Pitney, or "Love Letters" by Ketty Lester. No party of 1962 would be complete without some music by Elvis Presley, such as "Return To Sender", or the Beach Boys, like "409", or Sam Cooke’s "Twistin' The Night Away." After all, we do have to play some Twist music in 1962. This was the year of "The Twist", as Chubby Checker’s 1961 recording returned to the Billboard charts as the #1 song for the year. "The Twist" was so popular that many other artists recorded songs about the dance, with seven other twist songs becoming hits in 1962!


"Mashed Potato Time" by Dee Dee Sharp

I imagine that "The Stripper" by David Rose also found it’s way into some adult parties of the year. For pure goofy fun, you can’t beat Ray Stevens, who released "Ahab The Arab" this year. I doubt that would make it’s way to the top of the charts in our politically correct climate today. Then, let’s throw one more dance song on the record player to fire up this crowd, "Do You Love Me" by The Contours. And, since this is a birthday party, we just have to play "Happy Birthday, Sweet Sixteen" by Neil Sedaka. Yes, I said record player. We only have two options for music back then: the radio and vinyl records. Just like today, if you play the radio, you have to put up with the commercials. That sounds like a good way to ruin a party mood, so it’s records for us. I’ve brought my stack of 45’s: hope you brought a few to share.

cold drinks on ice, 1962 flavors
cold drinks on ice, 1962 flavors

Now that things are hopping, let’s head to the coolers and grab a couple of sodas (or pops as we call them in Michigan). Choose from national brands like Pepsi, Coke or 7-Up of course. Maybe Dr. Pepper or a Nehi or Crush is more your taste. If you want to try something new, I just finished that trip down US-23, so I’ve got a great variety of more regional beverages. Try a Faygo from Michigan, an Ale-8-One from Kentucky, a Dr. Enuf from Tennessee, a Cheerwine from North Carolina or a Vess bottled in Asheville, North Carolina or Columbus, Ohio. You can order all of these today online, and most are carried nationally, at least in specialty stores, but back in 1962 they were only available in the regions they were bottled in.

Or perhaps your beverage tastes run more toward beer. Strangely, the opposite phenomenon applies to beers. Instead of gaining national distribution, many old regional beers have just disappeared, though a few of the old brands have been brought back as specialty brews in small markets. The list of defunct beer brands we might have sampled along US-23 is huge, including Strohs and Goebel from Michigan, Falstaff from Indiana, Hudepohl and Buckeye from Ohio, or Jax Beer from Florida. The root of many of these brand failures appears to go back to the end of Prohibition in 1933. Companies that began shipping beyond their pre-Prohibition market areas generally prospered and became dominant, like Anheuser-Busch and Miller. Regional brewers that didn’t enter the expanding national market with heavy advertising, or that did so too late in the 1970s or 1980s, saw their small markets whittled down to nothing.

crepe paper from Dennison
crepe paper from Dennison, with their 1961 Party Guide

Now let’s decorate this place for a party. Of course we need some crepe paper streamers, preferably flameproof like the ones advertised by Dennison. Dennison also supplied wall decorations, die cut cardboard decorations and other crepe paper novelties and had since at least 1913. They had decorations for all the major holidays. We could even have a theme party with their licensed decorations. They featured Disney’s "Sword in the Stone", other Disney characters, and The Flintstones. The Dennison party decorations would only be available for a few more years, as they discontinued the holiday products in 1967. Another source of party decorations was Stump Printing, who published a full-color catalog featuring numerous theme party kits. Stump is still in business creating theme party kits today, but they do not have an early 1960s theme available.

The other decoration I remember from the past is honeycomb paper decorations. That’s the ones that come folded flat and when you open them up they become 3D objects in fun shapes. I remember standard items like Christmas trees, pumpkins, balls, hearts, stars, turkeys, and of course bells. I still have a couple of white bells from my wedding stored away somewhere! Today, you can get all sorts of custom shapes including fruits, fish, and birthday cakes, and even the old standard shapes now come multi-colored.


Forrer family Christmas Party, 1962 home movie. Check out the honeycomb paper bells hanging up!

Don’t forget to take some home movies of this party! And I mean 8mm home movies on real film, not video from your phone. No camera phones in 1962 and no hand-held video cameras. Most people didn’t have a movie camera either, but those that did could annoy their friends and family showing grainy, silent, movies for years. Or maybe you had a little more money and shot film with sound, so everyone could hear off-key singing. Today, many people are transferring their old home movies to digital DVDs and adding music to fill the annoying silence. And if you don’t have a movie camera, take plenty of photos or slides. A slideshow is another great way to annoy people with your photos.

I know, you’re thinking let’s get to the food. What foods, besides ice cream and cake, would likely have been served in 1962? Of course, you can always bake cookies and serve sandwiches. And, you could try some new recipes from all the giveaway cookbooks by major food brands. Brands from Betty Crocker to Campbell’s Soup to your local dairy used to give away little pamphlet cookbooks to entice you to use their products in new and interesting ways. Desserts were always a favorite of these books, but you could also find a variety of recipes for appetizers, casseroles, main dishes, salads, sandwiches, soups and more. These cookbooks were typically available either at in-store displays, inside product packages, or by mail, all at no charge! You can still find new ones today online. Here’s a few of the old recipes for our party.

typical 1962 food company cookbooks
typical 1962 food company cookbooks

Buttermilk Salad Dressing, from Knudsen Recipes Cookbook by Knudsen Dairy Products – 1962

Mix thoroughly and chill these ingredients:

  • ½ cup Knudsen Real Churned Buttermink
  • 4 teaspoons prepared horse radish
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon prepared mustard
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • dash of pepper

Hammed-Up Diamonds, From Betty Crocker’s Merry Makings – 1962

Heat oven to 450o. Mix 2 sticks Betty Crocker Instant mixing Pie Crust Mix as directed on package. Roll out into an oblong, 14"x12". Place on ungreased baking sheet. Spread half of pastry with a 4½-oz. Can of deviled ham. Fold plain half of pastry over filled half. Cut into diamond shapes, cutting straight across one way and at an angle the other way. Use a ruler for a guide and make cuts about ¾" to 1" apart. Bake 10-12 minutes, or until nicely browned. Serve while warm. Decorate as desired. Makes 3-4 dozen diamonds.

Whitman Donkey Party game from 1962
Whitman Donkey Party game from 1962

Now that we have a few munchies around the room, I think it’s time for some games. For those who want to stay indoors, there are no-cost party games like card games, pin-the-tail, charades, or hangman. We could play old standby board games like Monopoly, Sorry, or Scrabble. Or maybe a brand new board game like Square Mile or something based on a TV show, like McHale’s Navy or Ed-U-Cards’ Rocky & Bullwinkle Card Game. We couldn’t play Twister yet because it wasn’t sold until 1966. If you’re heading outdoors, softball is always good when you have a lot of people...and a large lot. Maybe a scavenger hunt, covering both indoors and out? Yeah, that’s what I’ll do: organize a scavenger hunt. Here’s the list of what to find below. All the answers are somewhere on the Roadtrip-'62 ™ . It won’t be easy because there is no Search bar on the website, but then, there were no Search bars in 1962! The first person to send in all the answers will win a Roadtrip-'62 ™ coaster!

  1. Michigan – The 45th Parallel of latitude crosses US-23 near what Michigan city?
  2. Michigan – What Michigan town on US-23 has a dragway we could have seen races at in 1962?
  3. Ohio – By what name was the current Sumburger restaurant in Chillicothe, Ohio known in 1962?
  4. Kentucky – What Kentucky town on US-23 is near Middle Creek National Battlefield?
  5. Virginia – What National Forest does US-23 pass through in Virginia?
  6. Tennessee – What Tennessee city on US-23 is the home of the soft drink Dr. Enuf?
  7. North Carolina – What was the record low temperature set on December 13, 1962 in Dillsboro, North Carolina?
  8. Georgia – What Georgia town did Stuckey’s first sell their pecan logs and other candies in?
  9. Georgia – What date in 1962 did James Brown record his album "Live at the Apollo"?
  10. Florida – What famous brewery has plants in both Ohio and Florida cities on US-23?
party favors with candy
party favors with candy

And speaking of prizes, parties need favors for all the guests. We’ve got all kinds of vintage candies around here that you would have found in 1962. Take some home as your party favors. For favor containers, let’s pretend it’s 1962 and make our own! A white paper bag can be decorated with glitter, using stencils to create monograms of your guests’ initials. Or just use paper baking cups! Or, roll up a paper cone and decorate it with the Roadtrip-'62 ™ logo.

Did you bring your present for 1962? My present is this website; my tribute to the year. Go ahead and hand out the presents to each other now and watch them being unwrapped, while I tell you about some other people who are having 50th birthdays. There is a long list of entertainers, including this sample:

  • Trace Adkins - January 13, 1962 - singer
  • Jim Carrey - January 17, 1962 - actor
  • Axl Rose - February 6, 1962 - guitarist
  • Steve Irwin - February 22, 1962 – deceased naturalist
  • Darryl Strawberry - March 12, 1962 – baseball player
  • Mike Rowe - March 18, 1962 – television personality
  • Craig Ferguson - May 17, 1962 – television personality
  • Paula Abdul - June 19, 1962 - television personality
  • Tom Cruise - July 3, 1962 - actor
  • Alton Brown - July 30, 1962 – television personality
  • Joan Cusack - October 11, 1962 - actress
  • Mike Judge - October 17, 1962 – film director/creator
  • Jodie Foster - November 19, 1962 - actress
  • Jon Stewart - November 28, 1962 - comedian

There’s also a few world political figures, such as:

  • John Sarbanes - May 20, 1962 – Congressman from Maryland
  • Kim Jong Il - September 11, 1962 – recently deceased North Korean dictator
  • Felipe Calderón - August 18, 1962 – president of Mexico
  • King Abdullah II - January 30, 1962 – King of Jordan
  • Chris Christie - September 6, 1962 – governor of New Jersey

And a few people from the world of business:

  • Rob Glaser – January 16, 1962 - founder of RealNetworks
  • Earl G. Graves, Jr. – January 16, 1962 – founder of Black Enterprise Magazine
  • Sanjay Kumar – 1962 – former CEO of Computer Associates
1962 children's birthday party
My wife's 1962 birthday party. The hats are crepe paper with balloons attached!

Let’s sing them all a rousing chorus of Happy Birthday and then, it’s time for the cake and ice cream! The ice cream we served back in 1962 most likely came from our local dairy, sometimes with a local name or sometimes under the Borden or Sealtest name. There were none of the "super premium" brands we know today, like Ben & Jerry’s (first sold in 1978). Even Häagen-Dazs was only sold locally in the Bronx, New York, having been first sold in 1961. Don’t forget to bake enough cake or cupcakes to feed everyone. My mother's favorite cake mixes from that time were Swansdown, especially the yellow cake mix. That’s not sold any more, but you can still buy other favorite brands that were around in 1962, including Duncan Hines, Betty Crocker, and Pillsbury.

So, now you have some ideas for your own 1962 birthday party. Other people are also holding parties themed in the early 1960s, influenced by the TV show Mad Men. That style of party is a bit more sophisticated than the party ideas I’ve mentioned here, but I wanted to be more family oriented and include the kids. One great party I discovered is at the blog Salty Seattle. She has some black-and-white photos ala 1962, and some great food ideas including a recipe and even candy cigarettes! I don’t smoke, so I’m going to hunt up a NuGrape pop back in the kitchen now. It’s one of my favorites that I can’t buy locally anymore. I already lost at Monopoly, as usual, so I’ll go play some other game. Maybe I can lose at Scrabble too. Don’t forget to take lots of pictures, and I’ll see you all during the year here at the Roadtrip-'62 ™ 1962 birthday party!

Kodachrome Box
Kodachrome Box (from 1962 advertisement)

All photos by the author and Copyright © 2012, 2021 - Donald Dale Milne, except as noted.

All other content Copyright © 2015, 2021 - Donald Dale Milne.

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What's the weather in 1962?

Weather on Jaunary1, 1962 for Saginaw, MI, from the National Climatic Data Center:

  • Low = 10°F
  • High = 25°F
  • Precipitation = none
  • Mean Wind Speed = 11mph

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