When Grandpa Was A Boy, Were There Any Dinosaurs?

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Young Racist

1968: The only black people on the whites-only Orient Beach at East London, in South Africa, were a sad-looking cleaner in blue overalls, and a girl who sold ice creams, whose black feet left footprints in the wet sand. Seven-year-old Don McRae wasn’t sure she should be allowed on the beach barefoot. Whenever he visited the beach, he made sure his small, white, prejudiced feet “stepped over her black footsteps”.

Source: Donald McRae, Under Our Skin: A White Family’s Journey through South Africa’s Darkest Years (2012), p. 46

Franco Strikes Lucky

Francisco Franco, photographed in 1950

1967: What do dictators do at the weekend, after a busy week dictating? Francisco Franco doubtless checked the pools results. The Spanish leader was keen on football, and each week he filled out a pools coupon. In May he struck lucky and won 900,000 pesetas.

Source: Paul Preston, Franco: A Biography (1993), pp. 700, 731

Tapeworm Blamed

1966: On the afternoon of 6 September, a parliamentary messenger named Demetrio Tsafendas stabbed and killed Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd in the chamber of South Africa’s House of Assembly. Tsafendas was quickly labelled a “crank” and a “madman”: he had a history of mental illness, he had been detained in institutions in several countries, and he was obsessed with, and his actions driven by, an illusory tapeworm in his stomach.

Source: Tiffany Fawn Jones, Psychiatry, Mental Institutions, and the Mad in Apartheid South Africa (2012), pp. 86–92

Mental Decline

1965: William Somerset Maugham and Winston Spencer Churchill were almost exact contemporaries. Maugham was born at the beginning of 1874, Churchill at the end; Churchill died at the beginning of 1965, Maugham at the end. As the two men grew old, their physical and mental health declined, though Maugham liked to think that he had withstood the passage of time better than Churchill. “If you think I’m g-g-ga-ga,” he stuttered, “you should see W-W-Winston!”

Source: S.N. Behrman, Tribulations and Laughter: A Memoir (1972), p. 308

Up In The World

Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev, photographed in 1967 by Ulrich Kohls

1964: Leonid Brezhnev replaced Nikita Khrushchev at the top of the Soviet pecking order. Brezhnev enjoyed the trappings of power, with no Marxist misgivings about the privileged lifestyle of the communist leadership.

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Crystal Ball

Shipowner Aristotle Onassis, photographed in 1967

1963: Soon after President John Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Charles de Gaulle predicted that the president’s widow would end up on the yacht of an oil tycoon. In 1968, Jacqueline Kennedy married Aristotle Onassis. Onassis had made his money in shipping, not oil, but he did have a very large yacht.

Source: André Malraux, Fallen Oaks: Conversation with De Gaulle (1972), p. 55