Tuesday, January 30, 1962: Laughter epidemic

Excerpted from "Humoring the Gerontologists" (from the website www.damninteresting.com):

... In the small village of Kashasha, Tanganyika (modern Tanzania), students at a girls' boarding school began to laugh following some remark or event which is now lost to history. ... The laughter was abnormallly infectious, and soon the greater part of the student body was incapacitated with the convulsions. In an effort to quell the outbreak, administrators closed the school and sent the students home, but this allowed the epidemic to spread ... (it) propagated to thousands of people, including other schools, workplaces a neighboring village. The episodes became unpleasant for the sufferers, leading to abdominal pain, fainting, respiratory problems, rashes and uncomfortable weeping. ... Reports vary regarding the duration of the epidemic -- anywhere from six to eighteen months -- but over time it faded. ... Most historians and scientists attribute the bizarre incident to mass hysteria (specifically, mass psychogenic illness). The nation had won its independence from Great Britain only months prior, and the resulting increase in expectations among the citizenry was said to have produced unusually high levels of stress.

* "An epidemic of laughing in the Bukoba district of Tanganyika" (from Central African Journal of Medicine, May 1963): @
* "Examining 1962's 'laughter epidemic' " (Chicago Tribune, July 2003): @
* "Contagious Laughter" (2008 broadcast from radiolab.org): @
* "Laughter" (American Scientist, January-February 1996): @
* International Society for Humor Studies: @


January 1962: Vietnam

Thursday, January 11

In his State of the Union speech, President John F. Kennedy says:
We support the independence of those newer or weaker states whose history, geography, economy or lack of power impels them to remain outside "entangling alliances" -- as we did ourselves for so many years. For the independence of nations is a bar to the communists' "grand design" -- it is the basis of our own.
In the past year, for example, we have urged a neutral and independent Laos -- regained there a common policy with our major allies -- and insisted that a cease-fire precede negotiations. While a workable formula for supervising its independence is still to be achieved, both the spread of war and a communist occupation thus far have been prevented.
A satisfactory settlement in Laos would also help to achieve and safeguard the peace in Viet Nam -- where the foe is increasing his tactics of terror -- where our own efforts have been stepped up -- and where the local government has initiated new programs and reforms to broaden the base of resistance.
The systematic aggression now bleeding that country is not a "war of liberation" -- for Viet Nam is already free. It is a war of attempted subjugation -- and it will be resisted.

* Text of speech (from American Presidency Project): @

Friday, January 12

From pbs.org:
In Operation Chopper (part of Operation Farm Gate), helicopters flown by U.S. Army pilots ferry 1,000 South Vietnamese soldiers to sweep a NLF (National Liberation Front) stronghold near Saigon. It marks America's first combat missions against the Viet Cong.

1962 photo from Life.com, precise date and location uncertain; caption reads, "Vietnamese troops waiting to be picked up."

* "Operation Farm Gate" (from "The Encyclopedia of the Vietnam War"): @
* More about H-21 Shawnee helicopters (from www.globalsecurity.org): @

Saturday, January 13
Operation Ranch Hand -- an effort to flush out North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops by destroying ground cover through the aerial spraying of herbicides -- formally gets under way.

* Earlier post on Operation Ranch Hand (August 10, 1961): @
* "Operation Ranch Hand: Herbicides in Southeast Asia" (by William A. Buckingham Jr., who also wrote a longer history for the Office of Air Force History, linked to in earlier post): @

Monday, January 15

From a news conference held by President Kennedy:
Q: Mr. President, are American troops now in combat in Vietnam?
A: No.

From "Vietnam War Almanac": This is technically correct, but U.S. are serving as combat advisers with the South Vietnamese army, and U.S. pilots are flying missions with the South Vietnamese air force.

Transcript of news conference (from JFK Library): @

Saturday, January 27

From "Vietnam War Almanac":
Secretary of Defense McNamara forwards a memorandum from the Joint Chiefs of Staff to President Kennedy that urges the deployment of "suitable" U.S. forces to Vietnam, saying that it is clear that the South Vietnamese cannot handle the insurgency alone. The Joint Chiefs of Staff asserts that failure to deploy forces at this time "will merely extend the date when such action must be taken and will make our ultimate task proportionally more difficult."

From the memorandum, titled "The Strategic Importance of the Southeast Asia Mainland" (dated January 13):
The military objective, therefore, must be to take expeditiously all actions necessary to defeat communist aggression in South Vietnam. The immediate strategic importance of Southeast Asia lies in the political value that can accrue to the Free World through a successful stand in that area. Of equal importance is the psychological impact that a firm position by the United States will have on the countries of the world -- both free and communist. On the negative side, a United States political and/or military withdrawal from the Southeast Asian area would have an adverse psychological impact of even greater proportion, and one from which recovery would be both difficult and costly. It must be recognized that the fall of South Vietnam to communist control would mean the eventual communist domination of all of the Southeast Asian mainland.

Note: McNamara does not agree with the assessment. He adds this comment to the report in passing it to Kennedy: "The memorandum requires no action by you at this time. I am not prepared to endorse the views of the Chiefs until we have had more experience with our present program in South Vietnam."

* Text of memorandum: @


Tuesday, January 24, 1962: The Beatles get a manager

The Beatles -- John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Pete Best -- sign a management contract with Brian Epstein, who ran a family-owned record shop in Liverpool, England. It's a "contract" in name only; Epstein himself doesn't sign it; he later explained that he wanted to get the group a recording contract first (the group, billed as The Beat Brothers, had backed up Tony Sheridan on "My Bonnie" and other songs in June 1961, and had unsuccessfully auditioned for Decca Records on January 1, 1962). Also, since Paul and George were both under 21, their signatures should have been witnessed by their fathers. A proper contract would be signed, Epstein included, on October 1. By that time, Ringo Starr had replaced Best as the group's drummer. (Stu Sutcliffe had left the band in mid-1961, staying in Hamburg, Germany, to pursue his artwork.)

Photo from The Daily Mirror newspaper.
* brianepstein.com: @
* Track listing for January 1 audition (from www.beatlesource.com): @
* More about Epstein, from the book "The Beatles," by Hunter Davies: @
* Earlier post -- The Beatles at the Cavern Club (February 9, 1961): @
* Earlier post -- The Beatles in Litherland (December 27, 1960): @
* Earlier post -- The Beatles (August 17, 1960): @


Undated: A change in crayon colors

The Crayola crayon color "flesh" is changed to "peach." From the Crayola website: "Name voluntarily changed to 'peach' in 1962, partially as a result of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement." The website crayoncollecting.com adds a bit of background, stating that the color had in fact gone from "flesh tint" (1903) to "flesh" (1949) to "pink beige" (1956-57) to "flesh" (1958) to "peach" (1962).

* Crayola chronology of colors: @
* Crayola history: @
* Entry from www.crayoncollecting.com: @


Undated: 'Music From Mathematics'

From the November 17, 1962, issue of Billboard magazine (the article uses the spelling "computor"):

"Decca Records introduces two new artists in its 'Music From Mathematics' LP this week when the IBM 7090 computor and the Digital to Sound Transducer make their disk debuts. The electronic duo are the stars of the new Decca album and the results of their rapid and unerring calculations make the music heard on this disk.
"The process of composing music for the computor is described by the label as 'outlining musical sounds by ascribing to them mathematical sequences of numbers. The numerical descriptions are the equivalent of musical sounds.' These numerical sequences are punched up on IBM cards and, upon instructions from the composer, the cards are fed into the machine which transfers them into sounds which are amplified and recorded on to the usual tape recording console.
"Decca notes that the composer is still the controlling factor and, in so many words, without the man, the machines can't go. So far this kind of music has been produced instrumentally, but it is also known that the Bell Laboratories have a produced a singing voice through electronic manipulation. It shouldn't be too long before card-feeding composers create tomorrow's singing idol."

The album features otherworldly sounds alongside musical renditions of the well-known songs "Frere Jacques" and "Joy to the World." But the most memorable piece by far is "Daisy Bell (Bicycle Built for Two)," with the computer singing the last verse. From the National Recording Preservation Board of the Library of Congress: "This recording, made at Bell Laboratories on an IBM 704 mainframe computer, is the earliest known recording of a computer-synthesized voice singing a song. The recording was created by John L. Kelly Jr. and Carol Lochbaum and featured musical accompaniment written by Max Mathews." (The song was later used in the 1968 movie "2001: A Space Odyssey"; the computer known as HAL sings "Daisy" while in its death throes.)

Notes on "Daisy":
The reason this post is listed as "undated" is that there's a bit of discrepancy as to when "Daisy" was actually completed. A different version of "Music From Mathematics" was released as a 10-inch album in 1961 by Bell Telephone Labs, but the track listing does not include "Daisy." (Click here for the entry from discogs.com.)
However, United Press International's year in review for 1961 includes the song. (Click here to read transcript and listen.) The National Recording Registry also puts the year as 1961.
"Daisy" also appears on a magazine insert called "Synthesized Speech" from June 1962. (Click here for details, and here to listen.)
I emailed Max Mathews in 2011 to try to pin down the date. His reply, dated March 28, reads as follows: "The best date I have is sometime in 1962. The piece was made in two parts. Kelly and Lochbaum made the singing voice first with a singing voice synthesis program they wrote. I made the accompaniment later using my Music 3 program." (Mathews died on April 21, 2011.) Bell Labs also says it was recorded in 1962. (Click here for summary.)

* Listen to album (from Computer History Museum): @ and @
* Album liner notes: @
* Back cover: @
* Max Mathews obituary (New York Times, April 2011): @
* "The First Computer Musician" (New York Times, June 2011): @
* "Max Mathews Makes Music" (from Computer History Museum): @
* "The Computer Music Tutorial" (book by Curtis Roads): @
* "HAL's Legacy: 2001's Computer as Dream and Reality" (from MIT Press): @


Saturday, January 13, 1962: 'The Connoisseur'

Norman Rockwell's illustration for the cover of The Saturday Evening Post, unlike many of his other works, is open to interpretation; namely, "What is the man thinking?" or "What is Rockwell saying about modern art?" The abstract painting is done in the style of Jackson Pollock.

From the biography "Norman Rockwell: A Life": "The Pollock imitation is considered by most experts to be competently executed; certainly the intent is to represent the art respectfully, not to mock it. ... It is impossible to appreciate the significance of Rockwell's story on this January cover, however, without taking seriously the rueful statements he made to others about his place in the art world. ... The illustrator had swallowed his unhappiness at being taken out of the category of 'artist' long ago ... "

* Norman Rockwell Museum (click on "Rockwell" and then "Timeline" for more about the cover): @
* Earlier post on a Rockwell work (1964's "The Problem We All Live With," about school integration): @

Saturday, January 13, 1962: 'The Twist' back at No. 1

More than a year after its first reached No. 1 (September 19, 1960), Chubby Checker's "The Twist" returns to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 music charts. The reason for the resurgence: the dance's popularity among adults as well as teenagers. In New York, the place for celebrities to be -- and to be seen -- was the Peppermint Lounge. (Joey Dee and the Starliters' "Peppermint Twist," a tribute to the nightclub, would itself go to No. 1 after Checker's two-week run).

Photo from Corbis Images dated October 28, 1961. Caption reads, "Patrons and limousines line up in front of the Pepprermint Lounge, home of the dance craze the 'Twist' in New York, New York."

The photo below, of first lady Jackie Kennedy doing the Twist with fashion designer Oleg Cassini, was taken at her sister Lee's home in London in the spring of 1962 (photo from www.digigraphie.com). The New York Times wrote in February, "It was Mr. Cassini who introduced the twist to the White House at a dinner dance last fall for Mrs. Kennedy's sister..."

* "Let's Twist Again" (The Guardian newspaper, June 2011): @
* "A Pulsating, Gyrating, Hip-Swinging Mania Sweeps the U.S. and Europe / And Now Everybody is Doing It; The Twist" (Life magazine, November 24, 1961): @
* Entry from "The Billboard Book of No. 1 Hits": @
* Earlier blog post on "The Twist" (August 6, 1960): @


January 1962: 'Are Writers Made or Born?'

"On The Road" author Jack Kerouac pens a piece for the January 1962 edition of Writer's Digest. It ends with the oft-quoted line:

But it ain't whatcha write, it's the way atcha write it.

That's actually a variation of a line earlier in the article: "It ain't whatcha do," Sy Oliver and James Young said, "It's the way atcha do it." Kerouac is referencing the jazz song " 'Tain't What You Do (It's the Way That You Do It)," written by Oliver and Young and recorded by Ella Fitzgerland, among others.

* Text of article (from a posting in the forum section on www.bobdylan.com, of all places; I've emailed the site to find out whether it's the piece in its entirety, as it is the only place I've found it on the Internet): @
* www.kerouac.com (website of The Beat Museum): @
* Short biography of Kerouac (from American Museum of Beat Art): @
* More Kerouac links (from Open Directory Project): @


Undated: War Book

As described in the UK National Archives:

In the unprecedented international situation existing following the end of the second world war, the Cabinet instituted the preparation of the War Book. ... (It) was assembled in three parts reflecting pre-Precautionary Stage matters, the Precautionary Stage, and War. The War Book specifies the actions to be taken by ministers and officials in each of these periods. ... The war books have been subject to a virtually continuous process of revision and amendment.

The photo is from the website www.burlingtonbunker.co.uk; the caption reads, "The BBC's underground broadcasting studios, which the prime minister would have used to address the nation."

* Links to declassified files (from website www.coldwaronline.co.uk): @
* Various documents (from @wellbright): @
* "The Secret State: Old and New" (lecture by Peter Hennessy; from Journal of Royal Air Force Historical Society): @
* "The Thin Wisps of Tomorrow" (lecture by Hennessy; from Journal of the International Liberal Group): @
* "Catch-up History and the Cold War" (lecture by Hennessy; delivered to Friends of the National Archives": @
* "Peering into Britain's Cold War Past" (BBC video): @
* "Rehearsing the end of the world" (BBC audio): @
* "1961 files: codeword to enter secret bunker at the end of the world" (from The Telegraph newspaper): @
* "Wiltshire's Underground City" (from BBC): @


Thursday, January 4, 1962: Broadway stunt

From the website www.theatermania.com:

Faced with negative reviews for the musical "Subways are for Sleeping," (Broadway producer) David Merrick invited individuals who happened to share the first and last names with the major drama critics of the day to see the show, then reproduced the favorable comments of those laymen in print ads.

* Account from www.museumofhoaxes.com: @
* Account from the book "David Merrick, the Abominable Showman: The Unauthorized Biography" by Howard Kissel: @
* Merrick obituary, New York Times, 2000: @

Thursday, January 4, 1962: Automated subway in New York

From the website www.nycsubway.org:

On January 4, 1962 at 3:17 p.m. lasting until about 7 p.m., the first automated train in the U.S. began revenue service. Although not needed, in deference to the TWU (Transport Workers Union), a motorman rode the train at all times but did not operate it. The following day the train ran according to the regular shuttle timetable for track 4. Signs were posted all over track 4 indicating that the train was being automatically operated. The motorman did not ride in his cab.

From The New York Times: The three-car train won general approval from riders, many of whom had waited a half-hour or more to get aboard the first public run. The consensus was that the train had performed no differently from an automated one. There was however, a sharper jolt when the train stopped, particularly at the Grand Central end. Engineers were not prepared to say whether this could be corrected.

The photo, also from www.nycsubway.org, shows a test run of the automation system.

* "The Automated Times Square - Grand Central Shuttle" (from www.nycsubway.org): @
* New York City Transit -- History and Chronology (from www.mta.info): @
* "Automatic Train Control in Rail Rapid Transit" (U.S. Office of Technology Assessment, 1976): @


About the new profile picture

It's a portion of an Associated Press photo, from the University of Mississippi Digital Collections. The caption reads:

OXFORD, MISS., Sept. 19 -- CHANGING SIGN -- When students entered the main gate at the University of Mississippi in Oxford (Ole Miss) this morning, they were greeted by the sign at left, calling for "white students" to report for registration. Later the "glued-on word" was removed and the sign returned to normal. The campus of 5500 students awaits the arrival of Negro James Meredith scheduled to become the first of his race to enter the all-white university. No one knows when or by whom the word was placed.


Monday, January 1, 1962: Navy SEALs

The United States Navy's SEAL (Sea, Air and Land) teams are first commissioned. From "SEAL Teams in Naval Special Warfare" (Naval Warfare Information Publication 29-1, issued in December 1961):


(1) Primary: To develop a specialized capability to conduct operations for military, political, or economic purposes within an area occupied by the enemy for sabotage, demolition, and other clandestine activities conducted in and around restricted waters, rivers, and canals, and to conduct training of selected U.S., allied and indigenous personnel in a wide variety of skills for use in naval clandestine operations in hostile environments.
(2) Secondary: To develop doctrine and tactics for SEAL operations and to develop support equipment, including special craft for use in these operations.
(3) Tasks: Tasks may be overt or cover in nature.
(a) Destructive tasks: These tasks include clandestine attacks on enemy shipping, demolition raids in harbors and other enemy installations within reach; destruction of supply lines in maritime areas by destruction of bridges, railway lines, roads, canals, and so forth; the the delivery of special weapons (SADM) to exact locations in restricted waters, rivers or canals.
(b) Support tasks: The support tasks of SEAL Teams include protecting friendly supply lines, assisting or participating in the landing and support of guerrillas and partisan forces, and assisting or participating in the landing and recovery of agents, other special forces, downed aviators, escapees and so forth.
(c) Additional tasks:
1. Conduct reconnaissance, surveillance and intelligence collection missions as directed.
2. In friendly areas, train U.S. and indigenous personnel in such operations as directed.
3. Develop equipment to support special operations.
4. Develop the capability for small boat operations, including the use of native types.

* History (from official Navy website): @
* "U.S. Navy SEALs: The Silent Option" (2006 documentary): @
* "How the Navy SEALs work: (from science.howstuffworks.com): @
* "Hunters & Shooters: An Oral History of the U.S. Navy SEALs in Vietnam" (book by Bill Fawcett): @
* National Navy UDT-Seal Museum: @

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