Meanings in We Didn't Start The Fire:
1884-1972, 33rd President of the US, for the years 1945-1953. Became President on the death of Franklin D Roosevelt, authorised the dropping of atomic bombs on Japan.
Popular US actress and singer, made wholesome and schmaltzy films, prompting Oscar Levant to say that he knew her before she was a virgin. First large successful films in 1950. Real name Doris Mary Ann von Kappelhoff.
The People’s Republic of China was formally established on 1 October 1949 when proclaimed by Mao Zedong. In 1949 major fighting in the Chinese Civil War was over and the Kuomintang (former government) fled to Taiwan.
US singer 1927-1990, known as “Cry Baby Ray” for his emotional singing style. Precursor of rock ‘n roll, first record contract in 1950 although he didn’t become popular until 1952. Openly bisexual, worked with a hearing aid.
The Rodgers and Hammerstein musical opened on Broadway in April, 1949. The musical concerns the relationships of male and female military personnel on a South Pacific island during World War 2.
US newspaper and radio columnist 1897-1972. Credited with starting the gossip column by breaking the journalistic taboo of reporting on private lives. In 1949 Winchell had the top rated radio show. His reports could ruin careers.
Joe Di Maggio
US baseballer 1914-1999. In 1949 he signed baseball’s first $100,000 contract but was off part of that year through injury. Married Marilyn Monroe in 1954 but the marriage lasted only 9 months.
US Senator, 1908-1957, the most visible public face of the communist witch hunts which began in 1950. Rose to prominence after he made a speech in 1950 saying he had the names of communist spies in the State Dept.
1913-1994, elected US Senator in 1950. Alleged his opponent Helen Gagahan Douglas was “pink, right down to her underwear.” She responded by calling him “Tricky Dick”, a nickname which stuck. Renowned anti-communist.
US car manufacturer, innovative designs under the slogan “First by far with a post-war car.” The 1950 Starlight Champion coupe had a trunk design that led people to comment that one couldn’t tell if it was coming or going.
By 1950 TV was becoming widespread and was the most popular form of advertising. So many advertisers left radio for television that Variety described it in 1950 as "the greatest exhibition of mass hysteria in biz annals."
North Korea/South Korea
North Korea and South Korea were engaged in hostilities between 25 June 1950 and 27 July 1953, notwithstanding that M*A*S*H went for 11 seasons and saw Alan Alda gradually age to grey hair. The conflict stemmed from both Nth Korea and Sth Korea wanting to unite the country, each under its own government. Nth Korea then invaded Sth Korea and the US/UN intervened on behalf of Sth Korea. China then intervened on behalf of Nth Korea.
US actress, 1926-1962. Director Joseph L Mankiewicz saw her in a small part in The Asphalt Jungle in 1950 and began casting her, Her popularity soared and in 1950 she was signed to a 7 year contract by 20th Century Fox.
Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were American communists arrested in 1950 and executed in 1953 for passing secrets of the atomic bomb to the Russians. Criticism and controversy remain over their guilt, trial and sentence.
A nuclear fusion weapon, unlike A bombs, which are nuclear fission weapons. The development of the H Bomb as a nuclear weapon was announced early in 1950, when it was already being developed. It was first tested in 1952.
Sugar Ray Robinson (1921-1989) has been called the greatest fighter of all time. World welterweight champ 1946-1951, world middleweight champ 1951, retired 1952, came back and won middleweight title in 1955.
A village in Korea on the de facto border between North and South Korea. Peace talks were carried out at Panmunjom between 1951 and 1953, with the armistice finally being signed there in 1953.
In 9151 in his first major screen role as Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar named Desire, Brando (1924-2004) received an Oscar nomination for Best Actor but lost to Humphrey Bogart in The African Queen.
The King and I
The Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The King and I commenced on Broadway in 1951 with Yul Brynner as the King of Siam, a role he repeated in the movie version in 1956.
Catcher in the Rye
J D Salinger’s novel Catcher in the Rye was published in 1951. A first person story of a young boy’s angst, fears and experiences, it drew flak for profanity and sexuality. Mel Gibson has numerous copies in Conspiracy Theory.
(1890-1969), 34th President of the US for the years 1953-1961, elected 1952 under the slogan “I Like Ike”. Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in WW2. In 1951 became first Supreme Commander of NATO.
In 1952 Jonas Salk began testing a vaccine for polio consisting of injections of dead polio virus. Later Sabin began trials of a cheaper and more effective oral vaccine. The use of the two vaccines has eliminated polio in most countries.
England’s got a new Queen
Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith, came to the throne in 1952
Rocky Marciano (1924-1969) is the only heavyweight world champion to retire undefeated. He became world heavyweight champion in 1952 when he defeated Jersey Joe Walcott with a knockout in the 13th round.
Wladziu Valentine Liberace (919-1987), high camp singer and piano player was given a Los Angeles TV show in 1952 that became so successful it went national in 1953. On criticism he said that he cried all the way to the bank.
Jorge Augustín Nicolás Ruiz de Santayana (1863-1952) died in 1952. Wrote 18 books on philosophy. “Love makes us poets and the approach of death makes us philosophers.” - George Santayana
Stalin (1878-1953) leader of the Soviet Union from 1924, died in 19523. Under Stalin repression and purges were introduced, the country was transformed from a peasant society to an industrialised state and was victorious in WW2.
Georgy Malenkov (1902-1988) became leader of the Soviet Union after the death of Stalin. He was leader for 2 years but then fell out of favour, went into a political downfall and was succeeded by Nikita Kruschev in 1957.
Gamal Nasser (1918-1970) led the coup in n1952 which deposed King Farouk. In 1953 conflict developed between himself and the leader Mohamed Naguib. Nasser arrested Naguib in 1954 and then became Premier and President.
Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) was a Russian composer who is regarded as one of the greatest composers of the 20th century, including the works peter and the Wolf and Romeo and Juliet.
Winthrop Rockefeller (1912-1973), politician and philanthropist, moved to Arkansas in 1953 and set up Winrock Enterprises and Winrock Farms, both charitable bodies. Elected Governor of Arkansas 1966 and 1968.
Roy Campanella (1921-1973), US baseballer of African American descent, therefore unable to play in the major league until 1947 when the race bar was lifted. Most Valuable Player award in the national League 1951, 1953, 1955.
The Eastern Bloc or Soviet Bloc was a term used in the Cold War to describe: Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, East Germany, Poland, the former USSR and the former Czechoslovakia. This bloc was developing in 1953.
Roy Cohn (1927-1986), McCarthy’s chief henchman. Prosecuted the Rosen-bergs. Homophobic, he grilled and threatened gays but privately a homo-sexual who died of AIDS. Hearings began in 1954 into Army-McCarthy claims.
Protests from the Catholic church and unrest among armed forces in 1954-55 led to a coup in Argentina in 1955. Juan Peron (1897-1974) fled into exile. He returned to power in 1973 and served for nine months, until his death in 1974.
Arthur Toscanini (1867-1957), Italian conductor, was considered to be the finest conductor of his time. From 1937-1954 he was conductor for the NBC Symphony Orchestra, created just for him. He retired in 1954 and died 1957.
A trade name for an early artificial fibre made from the same plastic as polyester. By 1954 it was hailed as a new wonder fabric, being advertised as a non-iron, drip dry material. Also used for artificial arteries to this day.
Dien Bien Phu falls
The French were defeated in 1954 at the battle of Dien Bien Phu, a village in Viet Nam at which the French had an airbase. This resulted in the loss of the First Indochina War and the 1954 Geneva Accord which split Viet Nam.
“Rock Around the Clock”
Bill Haley and the Comets released Rock Around The Clock in 1954 to only minor success. Went to No 1 when released again when in the film The Blackboard Jungle, it went to No 1. Early rock ‘n roll hit, 3rd best seller all time.
Albert Einstein (1879-1955) is regarded as the most important scientist of the 20th century, having developed the theory of relativity, contributed to the development of quantum physics and discovered how to put bubbles in beer.
James Dean (1931-1955) also checked out in 1955. Nominated for posthumous Best Actor Oscars for East of Eden in 1955 and for Giant in 1956, the only person to have ever had 2 posthumous nominations.
Brooklyn’s got a winning team
New York had 3 baseball teams: the Dodgers in Brooklyn; the Yankees in the Bronx, the Giants in Manhattan. In 1955 the Dodgers won the World Series, defeating the Yankees, believed to be invincible, after being 2 games down.
In 1955 Disney started a television series about Davy Crockett. The Ballad of Davy Crockett formed part of the show and both the show and the theme music became popular. It inspired a short-lived "coonskin cap" fad.
In 1954 Disney released a full length animated movie of Peter Pan, the boy who never grew up. As a curious bit of trivia, the name “Wendy” was invented for the book by J M Barrie and became a popular girls’ name.
Elvis “The Pelvis” Presley (1935-1977) had had a success with his first release, not Heartbreak Hotel or Jailhouse Rock but That’s All Right Mama, released in 1954. In 1955 Elvis signed with Colonel Tom Parker and RCA.
Disneyland was opened in Anaheim, Los Angeles, California in 1955. A plaque at the entry reads “Here you leave today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow and fantasy.”
Brigitte Bardot (1934- ) starred in And God Created Woman, released in n1956. God didn’t do too badly with Mademoiselle Bardot, who became an international hit and thereafter known as “the sex kitten”.
In 1956 there were popular uprisings in Hungary against Soviet occupation and repression, leading to the Hungarian Revolution. The Russians crushed the revolution with tanks, occupied Budapest and left 3,000 dead.
On December 1, 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat for a white man. This gave rise to a boycott and a legal challenge, which upheld the boycotters, giving the US civil rights movement victory.
In 1956 Nikita Kruschev (1894-1971) made his famous Secret Speech, in which he criticised the repressive actions of Stalin and the cult of personality. The speech was part of the “Kruschev Thaw”, an easing of USSR repression.
Grace Kelly (1929-1982) released her latest film High Society in 1956 and married Prince Rainier of Monaco. Under a 1918 treaty with France, If Rainier did not produce an heir, Monaco would revert to France. He did, it didn’t.
Peyton Place is the 1956 novel by Grace Metalious that was the Desperate Housewives of its day. It tells of the secret love affairs of the residents of a small town. Though tame today, in 1956 Peyton Place = sin and debauchery.
Trouble in the Suez
It’s 1956. Egypt seizes the Suez Canal to nationalise it. Israel invades Egypt. England and France support Israel. Egypt sinks 40 ships in the canal. My family has to go around Africa in migrating to Australia from Holland.
In 1957 the Governor Faubus of Arkansas illegally called in the National Guard to prevent 9 black students from attending a white high school in Little Rock. President Eisenhower sent in the Army to protect the 9 students in attending.
Boris Pasternak (1890-1960) published his famous novel Dr Zhivago in 1957. He was awarded the Nobel prize for literature for that work in 1958 but the Russian government forced him to recant and refuse the award.
US baseball player, (1931-1995). In 1957 he ledbhg the league in runs and walks, batted a career-high .365, hit into a league-low five double plays and reached base more times than he made outs, whatever all of that means.
Jack Kerouac (1922-1969), US novelist, pioneer of the “beat movement” which rejected US society aspects such as consumerism and suburbanism. Published On The Road in 1957. Influenced Dylan, Beatles, Tom Waits et al.
Sputnik was the first artificial satellite, launched by the Russians in October 1957 and thereby starting the Space Race. The word “sputnik” means “satellite” and translates roughly to “fellow traveller”.
(1898-1976), Premier of Peoples’ Republic of China from 1949 until his death. In 9157 he survived an assassination attempt whilst on the charter jet Kashmir Princess, having changed planes. A Koumintang bomb killed the 16 others.
Bridge on the River Kwai
The 1957 picture (why do my kids laugh when I say that we’re going to “the pictures”?) Bridge on the River Kwai was a big success, winning 7 Oscars including Best Pic, as well as putting a lot of bums on seats.
Rebellion by Muslim Lebanese escalated into civil war in 1958. Lebanese Muslims wanted to make Lebanon a member of the new United Arab Republic, Christians wanted to align with the West. The US intervened on request.
Charles de Gaulle
In 1958 Chares De Gaulle (1890-1970) came out of retirement to be elected President of the French Fifth Republic from 1958-1969. The Fourth Republic had collapsed after being unable to deal with Algeria’s war of independence.
In 1958 the US baseball club the Dodgers moved from their traditional home of Brooklyn, New York City, to Los Angeles, California. The long-time rivals of the Dodgers, the New York Giants, moved to San Francisco, California.
In 1958, Charles Starkweather killed 4 people, including the mother, stepfather and 2 year old sister of his 14 year old girlfriend Caril Fugate. Together they killed another 7. He got death, she was paroled in 1977.
Children of Thalidomide
Developed in 1954, Thalidomide was marketed to pregnant women from October 1957 to combat morning sickness. In 1961 it was discovered by Oz doctor William McBride that the drug cause horrific birth defects.
Charles Hardin Holley (1936-1959), known as Buddy Holly from an incorrect name in a contract, died in a plane crash in 1959. The day the music died was February 3. The belief that the plane was called “American Pie” is a myth.
The 1959 flick Ben-Hur collected 11 Oscars, including the biggies: Best Pic, Best Director and Best Actor. At $15m, it was the most expensive film made to that date. "It goes on. It goes on, Judah. The race, the race is not over."
Space travel necessitated experiments with animals first. Initially they were sent no return. In 1958 a US monkey returned but drowned before recovery. Two chimps Able and Baker were returned and recovered in 1959.
In 1959 the US Mafia's casino operations in Havana were lost as Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista was forced into exile. Mafia leader Meyer Lansky instead set sights on Bahamas and trans-Atlantic gambling possibilities.
Originating in Australia where plastic hula hoops were developed from the use of bamboo hoops in school gym classes, Californians Richard Knerr and Arthur 'Spud' Melin marketed them in the US, the fad lasting 1958-1959.``cxf
Fidel Castro (1926-) was prime minister of Cuba from 1959 to 1976 and then president, premier until his resignation from the office in February 2008. “Condemn me, it does not matter, history will absolve me.” - Fidel Castro
Edsel is a no-go
After spending $400m developing it and $250m marketing it, the 1957 Ford range of Edsel cars was scrapped because of very poor sales. Redesigns in 1959 didn’t help. Named after Henry Ford’s son, the term now means a dud.
In 1960 The Soviets shot down a US U-2 high altitude spy plane over Russia. A weather plane off course, said the Yanks. The Russki’s then produced the plane and pilot, Gary Powers, who was exchanged 2 years later in a spy swap.
Syngman Rhee (1875-1956) was the first President of South Korea, from 1948-1960. Accusations in 1960 of election rigging led to student riots which led to civil disorder which led to his resignation and flight to/exile in Hawaii.
Payola, or bribes to radio jocks to play songs, was exposed in 1960. The biggest scalp was that of Alan Freed, the man who coined and popularised the term rock ‘n’ roll. His career never recovered from the payola scandal.
In 1960 John F Kennedy (1917-1963) beat Richard Nixon in 1960 for the US presidency in one of the closest elections on record: (49.7% to 49.5%) in the national popular vote; 303-219 (269 needed to win) in the Electoral College.
Ernest Evans (1941- ) aka Chubby Checker introduced a new dance, The Twist, with a record called…The Twist. He was nicknamed Chubby because of his weight and Checker when the producer’s wife joked about Fats Domino.
Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 pic Psycho, a standout for film innovation and graphic violence, was marketed with the warning that no one would be admitted after the doors were closed and with nurses with smelling salts present at theatres.
Belgians in the Congo
In 1960 the Belgian Congo ceased being Belgian when the Congo attained independence. Shortly after the army mutinied, Belgium sent paratroopers to protect Belgians there, the UN intervened and civil war lasted for 4 years.
Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) checked out voluntarily by shotgun in 1961 suffering from depression. It must be a family tradition: father Clarence, siblings Ursula and Leicester, and granddaughter Margaux have also suicided.
Adolf Eichmann (1906-1962), aka the “Chief Executioner” of the Third Reich in that he worked out logistics of “The Final Solution”, is captured by the Mossad in Argentina, smuggled to Israel, tried convicted (1961), and hanged (1962).
Stranger In A Strange Land
Robert A Heinlein (1907-1988) published A Stranger In A Strange Land in 1961, a science fiction story of a boy raised by Martians who returns to Earth. It inspired free love and hippie counterculture, as well as Charles Manson.
Robert Allen Zimmerman (1941- ), aka Bob Dylan (he wanted to call himself Bob Allen but found there was a drummer by that name so picked Dylan after Dylan Thomas) was signed to Columbia Records in 1961 while still unknown.
The Berlin Wall went up in 1961 (down 1989). “Freedom has many difficulties and democracy is not perfect, but we have never had to put a wall up to keep our people in, to prevent them from leaving us.” -JFK 1963 Berlin speech.
Bay of Pigs Invasion
The 1961 Bay of Pigs Invasion was the debacle whereby Cuban exiles sought to invade Cuba to overthrow Castro. CIA trained, supported and funded by the US government and the plan ok’d by Kennedy, they were defeated in days.
Lawrence of Arabia
This 1962 British flick is based on the life of T E Lawrence and his war experiences in Arabia during WW1. Marlon Brando was originally cast as Lawrence but dropped out to play Fletcher Christian in Mutiny on the Bounty.
In 1962 the Beatles: gained Brian Epstein as manager; dumped Pete Best for Ringo; signed with George Martin and Parlophone; went back to Hamburg; lost Stu Sutcliffe who died; released’ Love Me Do and Please Please Me. Whew!
The Mississippi Governor refused to allow African American James Meredith to attend The Uni of Mississippi (“Ole Miss”). Robert Kennedy sent 500 marshalls, riots broke out, 16,000 troops attend. Result: 2 dead but he got in.
John Glenn (1921- ) flew the first American manned orbital mission, termed "Friendship 7". He completed three orbits, the mission lasting approximately four hours. (The Russians had put Yuri Gagarin into space in 1961).
Liston beats Patterson
Sonny Liston beat Floyd Patterson for the world heavyweight championship in 1962 with a knockout in the first round after 2 minutes 6 seconds. The rematch 5 months later saw Liston knock out Patterson in 2 min 10 secs.
Pope Paul VI (1897-1978) was Pope from 1963 to his death in 1978. He implemented his predecessor’s reforms but maintained the traditional position on contraception, priestly celibacy, divorce and women’s role in the church.
Malcolm X (1925-1965), black militant leader and spokesperson for the Nation of Islam, said in respect of Kennedy’s assassination that it was a case of “the chickens coming home to roost”. The Nation of Islam censured him over it.
British Politician Sex
In 1962 the British Secretary of State for War, John Profumo, had an affair with Christine Keeler, also the mistress of a Soviet spy. Just friends, he lied to Parliament in 1963. A big no no. Ten weeks later he admitted it and resigned.
JFK blown away
President Kennedy was assassinated on November 22. “If anyone is crazy enough to want to kill a president of the United States, he can do it. All he must be prepared to do is give his life for the president's.” - John F Kennedy.
The Griswolds had been convicted for using contraceptives. On appeal in 1965 the Supreme Court held that a Connecticut law criminalizing the use of contraceptives violated the right to marital privacy. Commonsense prevails.
Ho Chi-Minh (1890-1969) led the Viet Minh independence movement. In 1965 the US began bombing supply lines, sent troops and had its first major military engagement in Vietnam (see “We Were Soldiers” with Mel Gibson).
Richard Nixon back again
Richard Milhouse Nixon becomes President of the US. The popular vote was 43.2%/42.6% Nixon/Humphrey. “Finishing second in the Olympics gets you silver. Finishing second in politics gets you oblivion.” - Richard Nixon
In 1969 Apollo 11 made the first manned lunar landing. Armstrong and Aldrin landed “Eagle” at Tranquility Base, Collins stayed orbiting in Columbia. “That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” ―Neil Armstrong
A planned music festival at Max Yasgur’s dairy farm near Woodstock expect-ing 20,000 people, became the epitome of the counter-culture when 500,000 turned up. “I came upon a child of God…going to try ‘n get my soul free.”
What began as a simple B & E at the Watergate Hotel ended up bringing down the US Presidency, giving Nixon the dubious honour of being the only President to resign from office or be impeached. “I am not a crook” - Nixon
Between 1974 and 1976 bands such as The Sex Pistols, The Ramones and The Clash developed Punk Rock, abrasive, dissonant, confrontational and aggressive. I’m with Bob Seeger, give me that old time rock ‘n’ roll.
Menachem Begin (1913-1992) became President of Israel in 1977 and made friends with the Egyptians under Sadat in the Camp David Accords, giving them both the Nobel Peace Prize in 1978.
Ronald Reagan (1911-2004) became the oldest President to be elected (69) and served 1981-1989. The press portrayed him as a dopey, geriatric war-monger, in reality he was a dopey, geriatric war-monger.
Since 1974, the Palestine Liberation Organisation, a political and paramilitary body, has been regarded by the Arab League as the "sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people”, becoming a member in 1976.
Terror on the airlines
The skyjacking of Air France Flight 193 by Palestinians comes to an end at Entebbe when Israeli commandos launch an assault and kill the hijackers. 105 hostages, mostly Israeli, are freed. 3 hostages and I commando die.
Ayatollahs in Iran
The Shah of Iran out, Ayatollah Khomeini in and an Islamic republic government was set up. The US refused to hand the Shah over, the US Embassy was occupied, and 52 US diplomats were held hostage for 444 days.
Russians in Afghanistan
In 1979 Russia started its own Viet Nam when it sent troops to support the Marxist government in Afghanistan against the Islamist mujahideen resistance which had US and Saudi support. They left 9 years later with 15,000 dead.
Wheel of Fortune
The night time edition of the US game show Wheel of Fortune aired in 1983, the most watched syndicated program and longest running syndicated game show in history. “TV is chewing gum for the eyes.” - Frank Lloyd Wright.
The first US woman and 3rd woman overall in space, two Russian women having already been there, done that. Went back into space 1984 and would have gone again in 1986 but for the shuttle disaster. Ride Sally Ride.
Heavy metal suicide
Allegations that hidden and subliminal messages in heavy metal music caused kids to suicide finally resulted in a court case against Judas Priest in 1985. Not guilty. JP said if it was true, the message would be “Buy more records”.
President Reagan and 'Reaganomics' started a trend of higher and higher obligations to foreign creditors that continues to today. In 1980 the ratio of national debt to GNP was 33%, in 1988 53%. Does anyone understand this?
A study in nearly 200 cities revealed that the number of homeless people in the US tripled between 1981 and 1989, one quarter being veterans. Vets themselves set up the Jericho Project in 1983 to provide shelters for vets.
Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) was first recognised in 1981. Thought of as a gay disease in the early 1980’s, it was identified as having an infectious agent cause in 1983. The cause of AIDS, HIV, was isolated in 1984.
Crack cocaine is a solid, smokable form of cocaine that can be made using baking soda. Its use began in the early 1980’s. Simplicity of manufacture made it more widespread, increased supply meant lower prices. She don’t lie...
Bernie shot 4 black youths who demanded money on the subway, saying to one “You don’t look too bad, here’s another”, shooting him again, paralysing him. Acquitted of attempted murder charges, many thought him a hero.
Hypodermics on the shore
In the summer of 1988, medical waste including bloodied bandages and used syringes washed up on the beach at New Jersey after being dumped at sea. Yuck. A freak change in the Gulf Stream current had brought it back home.
China’s under martial law
In 1989 China declared martial law to enable the use of force against students occupying Tianamen Square in protest for greater freedom and democracy. Tanks and troops went in, leaving an unknown number (est’d 1,000) dead.
Rock and Roller Cola wars
In 1989 Coke and Pepsi each ran marketing and advertising campaigns using popular rock stars to reach targeted young consumers. This and other campaigns have been referred to as the Cola Wars, a play on Cold War.