Café Discovery: Context, 1963

I was in ninth grade at Lake Oswego Junior High for the first half of 1963 and a sophomore at Lake Oswego High at the end of it.  

And music ranged from the Beatles at the beginning of the year…to the Beatles at the end of the year.  The meaningful music was in between.

I pulled the news from 1963 out of wiki, every fifth story, chosen in order to hit my birthday.  I’ve added some content and some memories and followed a few threads forward.

I found it an interesting study.  I hope you do, too.

More 1963 music is available here and here.

January 22 – France and Germany sign the Elysée Treaty.  Charles de Gaulle and Konrad Adenauer negotiated what was also called The Treaty of Friendship, in an attempt to reconcile the two countries.

February 10 – Five Japanese cities (Moji, Kokura, Tobata, Yahata and Wakamatsu) located on the northernmost part of Kyushu are merged and become the city of Kitakyushu, with a population of more than 1 million.  Kokura was not bombed on August 9, 1945 because of cloud cover.  The Enola Gay flew on instead to Nagasaki.

February 27 – Female suffrage is enacted in Iran.  Women also gained the right to hold public office that year.

March 18 – Gideon v. Wainwright: The U.S. Supreme Court rules that the poor must have lawyers.  Clarence Earl Gideon’s request for free legal counsel had been denied because his was not a capital case.  After he was found guilty, Gideon wrote his own appeals and managed to get his case before the SCOTUS.  SCOTUS assigned him the DC attorney Abe Fortas, who would later serve on the court himself.  SCOTUS voted 9 – 0 that the 6th Amendment did in fact require that the state of Florida should have provided Gideon with legal representation.  The case had a profound impact on our legal system.

April 3 (my fifteenth birthday) – SCLC volunteers kick off the Birmingham campaign against segregation with a sit-in.

The eyes of the world are on Birmingham tonight.  Bobby Kennedy is looking here at Birmingham, the United States Congress is looking at Birmingham. The Department of Justice is looking at Birmingham. Are you ready, are you ready to make the challenge? I am ready to go to jail, are you?

–Ralph Abernathy

Abernathy and Martin Luther King were among 50 people arrested on April 12, Good Friday.  Four days later Martin would write Letter from Birmingham Jail.  

By the end of the campaign, King’s reputation improved immensely, [Commissioner of Public Safety Eugene (Bull)] Connor lost his job, the “Jim Crow” signs in Birmingham came down, and public places became more open to blacks.

April 12 – The Soviet nuclear powered submarine K-33 collides with the Finnish merchant vessel M/S Finnclipper in the Danish Straits. Although severely damaged, both vessels make it to port.  K-33 would later have a “radiation emergency” in the Arctic in 1965.

April 22 – Lester Bowles Pearson becomes the 14th Prime Minister of Canada.  Under his leadership, his minority government instituted universal health care, student loans, the Canada Pension Plan, the Order of Canada, and the current Maple Leaf (l’Unifolié) Canadian flag.

May 2 – Berthold Seliger launches a 3 stage rocket with a maximum flight altitude of 100 kilometers near Cuxhaven, the only rocket developed in post-war Germany to reach outer space.

May 23 – Fidel Castro visits the Soviet Union, half a year after the Cuban Missile Crisis.

June 5 – The first annual NHL draft is held in Montreal, Quebec.

1. Garry Monahan, Left Wing, Montreal Canadiens

2. Peter Mahovlich, Centre, Detroit Red Wings

3. Orest Romashyma, Left Wing, Boston Bruins

4. Al Osbourne, Right Wing, New York Rangers

5. Art Hampson, Left Wing, Chicago Black Hawks,

6. Walt McKechnie, Centre, Toronto Maple Leafs

June 12 – NAACP Field Secretary for Mississippi Medgar Evers is murdered in Jackson, Mississippi (his murderer, Byron De La Beckwith, was twice tried for the crime in 1964 but not convicted when all-white juries failed to reach verdicts.  He boasted about the murder until his conviction in 1994).

July 1 – ZIP Codes are introduced in the U.S.

July 26 – NASA launches Syncom, the world’s first geostationary (synchronous) satellite.

August 18 – American civil rights movement: James Meredith becomes the first black person to graduate from the University of Mississippi.  The work of Medgar Evers had been instrumental in getting him admitted.

Meredith later started a solitary March Against Fear from Memphis to Jackson (MS) in 1966.  He was wounded by a sniper on the second day.

SCLC’s Martin Luther King, SNCC’s Stokely Carmichael, Cleveland Sellers and Floyd McKissick, as well as the Human Rights Medical Committee and other civil rights organizations decided to continue the march in Meredith’s name.  Ordinary people both black and white came from the South and all parts of the country to participate.

September 7 – The Pro Football Hall of Fame opens in Canton, Ohio with 17 charter members (running backs Jim Thorpe, Red Grange, Ernie Nevers and Bronko Nagurski, quarterback Sammy Baugh, end Don Hutson, backs Dutch Clark and Johnny “Blood” McNally, center/linebacker Mel Hein, end/tackle Cal Hubbard and tackle Pete “Fats” Henry, along with former NFL commissioners Bert Bell and Joe Carr, and four team founders: George Halas (Chicago Bears, originally the Decatur Staleys), Curly Lambeau (Green Bay Packers), Tim Mara (New York Giants), and George Preston Marshall (Washington Redskins).

September 18 – Rioters burn down the British Embassy in Jakarta, to protest the formation of Malaysia out of Malaya, Sarawak, Sabah, and Singapore.  Singapore would withdraw from federation less than two years later.

September 29 – The University of East Anglia is established in Norwich, England.

October 10 – The nuclear test ban treaty (formally known as the Treaty banning Nuclear Weapon Tests In The Atmosphere, In Outer Space And Under Water, signed on August 5, takes effect.

November 2 – 1963 South Vietnamese coup: South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem is assassinated following a military coup.

November 14 – A volcanic eruption under the sea near Iceland creates a new island, Surtsey.

November 22 – John F. Kennedy assassination: In Dallas, Texas, United States President John F. Kennedy is shot to death, Texas Governor John B. Connally is seriously wounded, and Vice President Lyndon Baines Johnson becomes the 36th President. All television coverage for the next three days is devoted to the assassination, its aftermath, the procession of the horsedrawn casket to the Capitol Rotunda, and the funeral of President Kennedy. Stores and businesses shut down for the entire weekend and Monday, in tribute.

November 24 – Vietnam War: New U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson confirms that the United States intends to continue supporting South Vietnam militarily and economically.

December 4 – The second period of Second Vatican Council closes.  Vatican II had been interrupted by the death of Pope John XXIII on June 3 and the subsequent election of Pope Paul VI on June 21.

December 19 – Zanzibar gains independence from Great Britain as a constitutional monarchy, under Sultan Jamshid bin Abdullah.

A month later, the bloody Zanzibar Revolution, in which thousands of Arabs and Indians were killed in a genocide and thousands more expelled, established the Republic of Zanzibar and Pemba.  That April, the republic merged with the mainland former colony of Tanganyika, or more accurately, was subsumed by the much larger entity. This United Republic of Tanganyika and Zanzibar was soon renamed as a portmanteau, the United Republic of Tanzania, of which Zanzibar remains a semi-autonomous region.

December 26 – I Want to Hold Your Hand and I Saw Her Standing There are released in the U.S., marking the beginning of full-scale Beatlemania.


    • Robyn on December 28, 2008 at 9:00 pm

    Peter, Paul, and Mary:  Puff the Magic Dragon

    The song was never about marijuana, though urban legend made much of that interpretation.

    And there is absolutely no connection between my reviewing these years of civil rights strife and current equal rights efforts.


  1. December 26 – I Want to Hold Your Hand and I Saw Her Standing There are released in the U.S., marking the beginning of full-scale Beatlemania.

    That is the line of demarcation.

    I clearly recall the first time I heard I Want to Hold Your Hand. I’d read little articles in the New York Times in the previous months. When that song came on late at night (the transister under my pillow), unannounced, I knew it had to be that English group.

    Life was never the same after that.

    • Robyn on December 29, 2008 at 7:03 am

    …at least this was useful to me.

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