When Grandpa Was A Boy, Were There Any Dinosaurs?

Category archive: 1960s

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

Makeover For Timmie

1962: Timmie Jean Lindsey became the first woman to have sacs of silicone gel implanted in her breasts. The 29-year-old Texan happened to visit a hospital in Houston at the same time that cosmetic surgeons were recruiting young women to try out the new implants. “I was okay with what I had,” Lindsey later recalled, although she admitted, “After six children I guess they were kind of saggy.” The cosmetic surgeons tried to convince her that a perkier bosom would boost her confidence, but she already had plenty of confidence. What she really wanted, Lindsey said, was to have her ears pinned back. In the end, the surgeons persuaded her to have the implants. “Yeah, we’ll fix your ears too,” they promised.

Source: Florence Williams, Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History (2012), pp. 66–9

Irascible Exit

1961: The playwright John Mortimer portrayed his father as a formidable figure in the law courts, a barrister who continued work even after he suddenly went blind. He was a man with a volcanic temper, who delighted in argument, yet he laughed a lot, particularly at his own jokes, “until the tears ran from his sightless eyes”. He was very clean and always bathed twice a day. On the night he died, he was his usual irascible self, protesting noisily about not being allowed out of bed for a bath. When he was told not to get angry, he retorted: “I’m always angry when I’m dying.”

Source: John Mortimer, A Voyage Round My Father, ed. Mark Pattenden (1990), pp. vii–ix, 78–9

Poetic Remedy

Boris Pasternak, photographed in 1928

1960: The Soviet poet and novelist Boris Pasternak died at the age of 70. His fellow poet Osip Mandelstam once suggested that reading Pasternak’s poetry cleared the throat, reinforced the breathing and renewed the lungs. “Such verses,” Mandelstam added, “must be a cure for tuberculosis.”

Source: Osip Mandelstam, Osip Mandelstam: Selected Essays (1977), p. 83

Brotherly Love

1968: When Robert Kennedy was assassinated in Los Angeles, Edward, the last of the four Kennedy brothers, delivered the eulogy.

“My brother need not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life; to be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it.”

Source: https://americanrhetoric.com/
speeches/ekennedytributetorfk.html

Lengthy Litigation

1966: On 29 April, The Times of India reported that Balasaheb Patloji Thorat, of Hingangaon, in Maharashtra, secured victory in a lawsuit over the rights to preside at religious and public functions. What made this minor legal squabble newsworthy was that litigation had been initiated by one of Patloji Thorat’s ancestors, umpteen generations earlier, in 1205. The Guinness Book of Records picked up the story and acknowledged the lawsuit to be the most protracted in legal history.

Source: The Times of India, 29 April 1966

Mumbo-Jumbo

1965: Towards the end of Clement Attlee’s life, the biographer Kenneth Harris questioned him about religion. What were his feelings towards Christianity and God and Christ and life after death?

“Believe in the ethics of Christianity,” replied the former prime minister, in typically terse fashion. “Can’t believe the mumbo-jumbo.”

Source: Kenneth Harris, Attlee (1984), pp. 563–4

Nothingness

Grave of Ozu Yasujirō, in Kamakura, Japan, photographed by Tarourashima

1963: Ozu Yasujirō, the Japanese film-maker who directed Tokyo Story, died of cancer on the evening of his 60th birthday. His ashes were buried in the grounds of Engaku temple in Kamakura, beneath a tombstone that bears no name, no dates, no lengthy inscription, just a single character:

which means “nothingness”.

Source: Donald Richie, Ozu (1974), p. 252

Tastiest Bits

1969: On a medical patrol in the Southern Highlands of Papua New Guinea, Paul Bastian couldn’t understand why, at a ceremonial dance in a Bosavi long house, men outnumbered women by five to one. His native travelling companion explained: “because women are eaten in preference to men as their breasts taste sweet”.

Source: The Geographical Magazine, April 1969

“Beep And Bang”

1968: Besides the thousands of tons of bombs dropped from B-52 Stratofortresses on the Ho Chi Minh Trail (or the Truong Sơn trail, as it was known in Vietnam) to interrupt the movement of North Vietnamese personnel and supplies, the Americans turned to electronic gadgetry (“beep and bang” warfare) and a range of specially designed ordnance.

Toxic defoliants were sprayed on jungle vegetation. Aspirin-sized bombs were intended to burst tyres and to maim foot soldiers. A chemical agent was used to turn soil into grease. There was even a scheme to drop Budweiser beer (of which the North Vietnamese were supposedly very fond) so that drunkenness would impede their movements.

Source: Christopher Robbins, The Ravens: Pilots of the Secret War in Laos (1988), pp. 290–1

Un Petit D’Un Petit

Un Petit D’Un Petit, alias Humpty Dumpty, illustrated by John Tenniel

1967: Luis van Rooten’s Mots d’Heures: Gousses, Rames, a collection of nursery rhymes translated from English into French, attempted to retain the original sounds of the words rather than their meanings.

Van Rooten’s version of “Hickory dickory dock”, for example, made no mention of la souris scampering up l’horloge; instead, “De Meuse raines, houp! de cloque”.

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Ban On Tom-Toms

1966: Colonel Jean-Bédel Bokassa, the new president of the Central African Republic, set to work straightaway to improve the nation’s morals. A week after seizing power in a coup, he issued a decree that banned the playing of tom-toms between sunrise and sunset.

Source: Samuel Decalo, Psychoses of Power: African Personal Dictatorships (1998), p. 210

“Hug Me”

1965: The psychologist Ivar Løvaas reported success in his efforts to treat autistic behaviour in 5-year-old twin boys using electric shocks. In experiments at the University of California, Los Angeles, one of the boys, Mike or Marty, would be stood barefoot in a room with an electrified floor. A researcher would stand in front of him and beckon him: “Come here.” If the boy didn’t respond within three seconds he would be given a painful electric shock. After just a few sessions, the boys learned to “practically jump into the experimenters’ arms”.

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Brum Tory Slogan

1964: The Tory candidate in the Birmingham constituency of Smethwick secured victory in October’s general election by tapping into the racial anxieties of the white population. A slogan going round the town warned voters: “If you want a nigger neighbour, vote Labour.”

Source: Robert Winder, Bloody Foreigners: The Story of Immigration to Britain (2009), p. 374

Pandiatonic Clusters

1963: Music critic William Mann praised John Lennon and Paul McCartney as the “outstanding English composers of 1963”. Writing in The Times, Mann drew attention to the “chains of pandiatonic clusters”, “flat submediant key switches” and “major tonic sevenths and ninths” in the Beatles’ music. He detected “melismas with altered vowels” in “She Loves You” and an “Aeolian cadence” at the end of “Not a Second Time”. All of which presumably went clean over the heads of the group’s screaming, swooning fans.

Source: Dominic Pedler, The Songwriting Secrets of The Beatles (2003), chap. 5

Diplomatic Incident

1962: Pakistani mullahs made dire threats against the American ambassador to India, J.K. Galbraith; the windows of the U.S. Consulate in Lahore were broken; a jeep carrying U.S. personnel was overturned. All because of the Galbraith family’s kitten, Ahmed.

The Galbraiths had acquired the kitten during a visit to the Indian state of Gujarat. The children had originally called it Ahmedabad, after its birthplace, but later shortened its name to Ahmed. That was a mistake. Ahmed is one of the many names of the prophet Muhammad, and Muslims consider it offensive to give the name to an animal. Hence the dire threats, broken windows and overturned jeep. The ambassador made soothing noises, which dampened indignation in Pakistan. Changing the kitten’s name to Gujarat also helped.

Source: John Kenneth Galbraith, Ambassador’s Journal: A Personal Account of the Kennedy Years (1969), after p. 586

Strange Bedfellows

Malcolm X, photographed by Ed Ford in 1964

1961: Politics sometimes makes for strange bedfellows. On 28 January, Malcolm X of the black nationalist Nation of Islam and representatives of the white fascist Ku Klux Klan held a clandestine meeting in Atlanta to discuss their shared aim of racial separation.

Source: Bruce Perry, Malcolm: The Life of a Man Who Changed Black America (1991), pp. 358, 503

Giddy Anticipation

1960: As the end of colonial rule approached, many in the Belgian Congo grew giddy with anticipation, even if they weren’t exactly sure what to expect from independence.

Some thought that white men’s jobs, houses, cars, even their wives, would be turned over to blacks. Others thought that dead relatives would rise from their graves.

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