The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

August 18, 2012

BILL EGGERT | 1962: A significant year

Bill Eggert
For The Tribune-Democrat

JOHNSTOWN — It is difficult to believe that 50 years have elapsed since 1962, a very eventful year.

It is also hard to believe how much we have advanced in those past 50 years.

There were only three television networks back then: ABC, CBS and NBC, and all networks were still broadcasting in black and white. John Kennedy was president for two years; the following year he would be assassinated. The Berlin Wall had been erected the year before, coming down 28 years later.

In sports in 1962, Arnold Palmer won the Masters and British Open, but lost to rival Jack Nicklaus in Palmer’s backyard, Oakmont Country Club, in the U.S. Open. In baseball, Roger Maris led the New York Yankees to beat the San Francisco Giants, led by Willie Mays. In football, the first Super Bowl was still five years away; the AFL champions were the Dallas Texans, and the NFL champions were the Green Bay Packers. In hockey, Bobby Hull was the NHL’s leading scorer, but his Chicago Blackhawk team lost to the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Fireball Roberts won NASCAR’s Daytona 500 that year.

In music, there were some auspicious debuts in 1962: The Beach Boys, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Four Seasons and Bob Dylan all impacted popular music that year and for decades later. Some are still performing.

In movies, 1962 was the film debut of James Bond, secret agent 007, starring Sean Connery as the first, and many believe the best, of the long line of Bonds. Other memorable films that year included “West Side Story,” “Lawrence of Arabia” and “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

More new introductions in 1962 included the beginning of two new chain stores: Wal-Mart and K-Mart. Albert Sabin developed an oral vaccine to combat polio.

The first Telstar communication satellite was launched into space, spawning subsequent Telstar satellites, as well as a hit instrumental song by the Tornados that same year. Speaking of space, NASA’s Mercury Program astronaut John Glenn made history circling the earth three times in 1962.

In television, two legendary icons began their famous tenures in 1962. Walter Cronkite began his 19-year run anchoring the CBS Evening News. On NBC, Johnny Carson began his 29-year run hosting “The Tonight Show.” And in the art world, Andy Warhol’s infamous “Campbell’s Soup Cans” painting made its debut.

The entertainment world said goodbye to two major icons in 1962: Film star Marilyn Monroe (reportedly a suicide) and television comedic pioneer Ernie Kovacs (car accident), who were only 36 and 42, respectively.

Arguably the most significant incident of 1962 was those tense days in October of that year as the world sat on the brink of destruction. This was during the Cuban Missile Crisis, as the Cold War reached its zenith in hostilities, before calmer heads averted a possible nuclear war.

Each year in history has its own unique personality, reflected by its movers and shakers. 1962 was a very significant year in a positive and negative light. To paraphrase Walter Cronkite: “And that’s the way it was, 1962 …”

Bill Eggert is a Johnstown resident. He writes an occasional column.