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What Happened in July 1960?
July 1960 - A Landmark Month That Lives On In Surprising Obscurity
July 1960 was an interesting month, notable for the astonishing lack of historic moments that took place during those 31 days.
Oh sure, to those who were born in July 1960, it was a bit of a landmark. And there was Somali Independence Day... and Elvis hit the charts with It's Now or Never,one of his biggest singles ever... and the Etch-A-Sketch appeared in toy stores for the first time... and the Stars and Stripes got 50 stars... and JFK snagged the Democratic nomination... but really, who remembers all those things now?
No, July 1960 languishes sadly in the shadows, as far as popular memory goes.
So let's track down those golden gems of events and give that long-ago month its rightful place in the public eye. Join us, won't you, in a fond look back at July 1960...
Photo: Ceremony of transfer from Army control to NASA control July 1, 1960 By US Army [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Etch-A-Sketch, New in July 1960 - Innovative Drawing Toy is Launched
The tricky-knobbed Etch-A-Sketch was to the children of the '60s what the iPhone is to today's youth. Just consider this conversation, which could have been recorded (in sterophonic 4-track sound on a mod slim-line tape machine!) in many North American homes, July 1960 ...
Remember the Top Toy launched in July 1960?
1960 Dad: "Frickin-fracken thing is busted. I can't make it..." 1960 Kid: "Aw gee, Dad, it's easy as pie! Here, give it to me and I'll show ya."
Hot Summer On the Hit Parade
When those wacky kids weren's busy with good clean fun of twiddling knobs on the Etch-a-Sketch, they were turning the knobs on the car radio or bedroom transistor set, seekingto tune in the latest musical hits - rock 'n' roll music, of course, to drive the oldsters to distraction and heat up a hot summer night. Who else turned on the romantic steam, back in July 1960, like the King, the one and only Elvis Presley?
July 1960 - It's Now or Never - Elvis Come-Back Single Released July 1960
Elvis Presley's single "It's Now Or Never" (B-side:"A Mess of Blues") was released in July 1960 and launched itself immediately to the top of the UK and US charts, re-introducing the singer to his public after a stint of military service at a US base in Germany.
With lyrics by Wally Gold and Aaron Schroeder set to the tune of O Sole Mio, in July 1960, Elvis's softer side won over even the most conservative of radio station programmers - and reclaimed the hearts of record-buying fans, to the tune of 20 million copies.
In this fan video, the song is played over live footage of Sergeant Presley as he returns to the United States (March 1960) and meets the press - ready to re-invent his hip-swivelling bad-boy image as a clean-cut young American crooner. Take a listen!
Now or Never
But I Digress...
Photograph: Harpo Marx Telegram to John F. Kennedy, July 14, 1960 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons (above).
Telegram from Harpo Marx to JFK - July 14, 1960
United States Enters the "Camelot" Era
July 15, 1960 - John F. Kennedy Accepts the Nomination as Democratic Party's Candidate for President
The speech JFK gave at the 1960 Democratic National Convention, 15 July 1960, came to be called "The New Frontier," a phrase that seems now to weirdly foreshadow Star Trek's "final frontier," for those of us who grew up in the 1960s as hopeless nerds...
Other campaign communications from JFK:
- July 21, 1960 - Statement of Senator John F. Kennedy
- July 28, 1960 - Press Conference of Senator John F. Kennedy in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts
- July 30, 1960 - Joint Statement of Senator John F. Kennedy and Senator Lyndon B. Johnson in which they say they plan to leave off campaigning long enough to finish the business of the upcoming congressional session - the last item of which was, interestingly, to pursue the Antarctic Treaty (1961) in which the signatory countries agree to preserve the frozen continent for peaceful, natural and scientific purposes.
Photograph: Kennedy Brothers, July 1960 - United States Senate [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.
Meanwhile, in Fashion... - In July 1960, Jackie Kennedy sets the style
Jacqueline Kennedy refuses to wear another dress that looked like a lampshade, declares that girls who wear fur coats look like roadkill (I'm paraphrasing here; she probably didn't use the term roadkill), and popularizes the lean, tailored, A-line styles that were the bane of "hippy" women well into the next decade.
What Else Happened in July 1960?
- July 1, 1960 - "A Man For All Seasons" on the London Stage
The premiere of A Man for All Seasons, Robert Bolt's play about Henry VIII execution of Sir Thomas More "perplexed the critics" - as it did me, when I saw it almost 20 years later.
- July 4, 1960 - USA Budget in the Black
TIME magazine reports that the United States had "snapped back from last year's debt-bloating deficit of $12.4 billion into the black by an estimated $750 million. (Don't those teensy-tiny budget numbers read like typos, from the 2012 perspective?)
- July 21, 1960 - First Solo Ocean Yacht Race across the North Atlantic
Francis Chichester won the first-ever Single-Handed Trans-Atlantic Race (OSTAR) in July 1960. Six years later, he became the first person to sail solo around the world following the old clipper route, and was later knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for
Is that all that happened in July 1960?
Of course, that's not all.
My friend John Tannahill has a whole different take on the magical month of July 1960, to begin with, including an especially loving look at our beloved iconic toy Etch-a-Sketch. John dubs July 1960 the "Most Important Month of the Twentieth Century" - see if you agree!
A few other things of note did happen in July 1960, and this page of mine is a work in progress. In fact, there's a whole (slim) file folder of July 1960 facts and frivolities, sitting on my desktop, just waiting for time to be added here.