New Year’s Eve dance party in 1963. Doing the twist, drinking booze, taking photos, and having a great old time, with the addition of some “groovy” music.
New Year’s Eve is the time when most people look back and reflect upon the events of the past year – various forms of media present ‘the year in pictures’, ‘the year in video’, ‘the year in music and film’, etc. Individuals think of lost friends and family members, births and celebrations, achievements and disappointments.
Overall, there is a kind of nostalgia for the twelve months just passed. One could sense those moments of thought fade as the hours become minutes before the big moment. As the final seconds tick down, the memories of the past disappear and anticipation grows. At the stroke of midnight there are cheers and hugs, kisses and smiles, balloons bursting and noisemakers sounding. For some folks it’s a celebration of a new year with new possibilities and hopes. For some it’s a celebration for the end of a good year that has passed or a bad year now gone. For others, it’s a celebration of having made it one more year without having succumbed to that final farewell.
In keeping with the tradition of nostalgia, it seems appropriate to reflect upon what has passed. But rather than looking at the memories of 2013, we’re going to leap back not one year, but fifty – a half century. What kind of things occurred back then that helped shape who and what we are today – and even, perhaps, what we will continue to become next year and the years to come.
The year is 1963. It is the turning point of the decade and, in many ways, a turning point historically for the U.S. – both politically and as a society. It was a year that began with optimism and many hopes. Overall that trend seemed to continue throughout, until a dark pall set upon the nation and the world on one fateful November day. Some people say that this was the year the United Sates lost its innocence – that from ’63 and onwards nothing in society or politics would ever again be seen through the eyes of a credulous public. That may have changed on a clear September morning in 2001 – and perhaps that’s something we should all ponder today.
A half century – fifty years. We can look back and reflect about how that year helped shape the world we live in today. What will the people fifty years hence ponder about the legacy formed by our actions in 2013?
This robot is a star from the Golden Age of robot and toy production. It was a masterpiece of mechanical design. The ‘Television Spaceman’ was created and manufactured by Alps – one of the top Japanese toy companies to emerge post-WWII. If you wonder why so many collectors note Made In Japan when describing a mid century robot or toy, the answer is twofold: quality and multiple features. Alps put both of those virtues into the Television Spaceman – and a lot of creativity to boot. You can click here to read all about the fantastic features of this little marvel at Robot Era.
As can be seen in that nifty video, the centerpiece of this prized robot is the television:
…pre-Apollo era artwork inspired by (or more accurately copied from) the works of the famous space artist Chesley Bonestell…Also noteworthy is Dr Werner von Braun’s space plane prominently displayed at various points in the panorama.
Not all toy robots are alike – and there’s more than just a bit of graphics that set them apart. Alps’ ’61-’69 Television Spaceman robot is a splendid example of just what exactly does.
Christmas should be fun – sooo, here’s Pee Wee’s Christmas Special, 1988. Loads of special guests include, Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon, Dinah Shore, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Little Richard, and, of course, Charo!
Below is an image of a 1938 Disney rejection letter to a woman named Mary Ford. It pretty much speaks for itself. What seems kind of creepy are the illustrations on the stationary. I’m thinking that there’s some kind of message going on here.
Below is a vintage postcard showing the home of the Frisbie Pie Company, located at Kossuth Street on Bridgeport, Connecticut’s East Side:
Below is a photo of a Frisbie pie tin:
Children who lived near the pie company, and students from surrounding colleges, liked to toss the pie tins around as spinning, flying discs.
Pictured in the photo below is a guy named, Walter Frederick Morrison. He wasn’t really a spaceman and that isn’t a Frisbie pie tin that he’s about to toss:
You see, Morrison teamed up with a friend and business partner, Warren Franscioni, to develop the first plastic disc-shaped flying toy called the ‘Flyin’ Saucer’ – ‘Precisely Engineered’ and ‘Aerodynamically Correct’ the PIPCO Flyin Saucer was designed to fly straight, curve, circle, skip, and, best of all, not break.
Unfortunate circumstances split the Morrison/Franscioni partnership and the early 1950s saw the introduction of two new plastic flying discs: The ‘Space Saucer’ marketed by Bill Robs in college campus bookstores on the East Coast, and the ‘Pluto Platter’ – a Flyin Saucer re-design by Walter Morrison.
In 1956, a toy company called Wham-O (founded in 1948 by Rich Knerr and Spud Melin) acquired the rights to the ‘Pluto Platter’ and in 1958 the company introduced the Wham-O ‘Frisbee’.
Throughout its history – from the Frisbie pie tin, to the Space Saucer, to the Pluto Platter (with the famous ‘Play Catch – Invent Games’ stamped on the underside), and beyond – the flying saucer toy has captured the interest of playful people who enjoy(ed) the pasttime of flicking a disc into the air and watching it float to the end of its flight. The ‘Frisbie-ing’ of the 1940s developed into campus ‘Frisbie Matches’ and the first ‘International Frisbee Tournament’ of the 50s. In the early 60s an outfit in Chicago named, Copar Company, introduced the ‘Sky Saucer’ complete with a rule book for the games, Sky Croquet and Sky Golf.
One could say that the modern age of the flying disc toy began in 1964. That was the year that Wham-O introduced the Frisbee Official Pro Model. Multi-talented Ed Headrick re-designed the Pluto Platter to give it better flight performance and greater distance. The now familiar grooves on the top of the disc were added for greater stability. Today those grooves are known to disc-philes as ‘The Lines of Headrick’. Headrick did include the ‘Morrison Slope’ from the original Pluto Platter to describe the outer third of the Frisbee disc. The Frisbee patent filed by Ed Headrick on behalf of Wham-O was issued in 1967 – U.S. patent 3,359,678.
The flying-saucer references of the 1940s and 50s were removed and the Frisbee image changed from a playful toy novelty, to a more serious piece of sporting equipment. In 1967, Headrick established The International Frisbee Association (IFA) and codified the original standards for various disc sports such as Distance, Freestyle and Guts. In 1976, Headrick became ‘the father of “Disc Golf”‘ when he ‘coined and trademarked the term and standardized the sport by inventing the “Disc Pole Hole” – the first disc golf target to incorporate chains and a basket on a pole.’* Today there are associations that represent all levels of the sport, from recreational to professional. It is estimated that there are four-million recreational players around the world, and the numbers are growing.
To read more about the life and times of Ed Headrick – including what happened to his cremated remains – click here.
The flying disc continues to have a following to this day. Frisbee knock-offs are commonplace – the plastic platters are even used as novel vehicles for promoting and commemorating diverse corporate and sporting events. Marvin P Paul has one of the largest collection of flying discs in the world with just over 4400 – that number conveys not just how culturally pervasive the discs have become, but also how timeless they are. To check out some of the more curious discs in the ‘mimetic’ section of Marvin’s Flying Disc Collection click here.
The Frisbie Pie Company closed its doors in 1958 – a year after Wham-O dubbed their space-age flying disc, the ‘Frisbee’. The children who shouted ‘frisbie!’ as an alert for the incoming tin pie plate grew up and embraced a plastic version designed for longer flight and artful tricks.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Seen above is an illustration from the February 1950 issue of Modern Mechanics magazine. It accompanies an article entitled, Miracles You’ll See In The Next Fifty Years, written by New York Times science editor, Waldemar Kaempffert. For a reader in the early 21st century, Kaempffert’s predictions might seem amusing, entertaining, fascinating – perhaps even a bit frustrating to those who lament that things should be so much more clean, efficient, and ‘advanced,’ by this stage of human evolution.
Kaempffert foresaw the stall of progress which he predicted and knew exactly who/what should shoulder the blame: the ‘vested interests’ which included, economic(s), tradition, conservatism, labor-union policies and legislation. It seems the only thing he did not mention was the field of science itself. For if scientists and engineers were left alone to create a future Earth, nothing could impede the inevitable reality of Kaempffert’s world.
The article centers on a ‘hypothetical metropolitan suburb’ named, Tottenville, and a couple named the Dobsons. Kaempffert describes how science and technology impact the Dobsons’ lives and lifestyles – and, by extension, the entire planet.
Natural gas and electricity are the primary sources of energy – burning raw coal is a crime. Atomic power is very limited – if used at all. ‘Solar engines’ are only used in areas that allow the ‘sprawl over large surfaces’ – i.e. farmland and deserts. Light metal alloys have replaced steel for building. Plastics also become a primary material for building homes in particular. Homes are built to last for only twenty-five years – ‘Nobody in 2000 sees any sense in building a house that will last a century.’
In fact, impermanence is seen as a very high virtue in Kaempffert’s year 2000. There is no longer a need for household objects like razors or dish washing machines. Due to the work of ‘synthetic chemists’ razors will be replaced with chemical depilatory agents, plastics synthesized from basic raw materials will allow people to dissolve their dishes rather than wash and reuse.
Some of the other miracles Kaempffert envisioned included halting a budding hurricane by spreading oil over the sea and igniting it, supersonic planes that allow a three hour Atlantic crossing, a personal helicopter for every dwelling (manufactured in a fully automated plant owned by the curiously named, Orwell Helicopter Corporation), and, the somewhat humorous idea of rayon underwear bought by chemical factories and converted into candy.
The final paragraph of the article was perhaps the most foreboding for the reader in 1950. Individuality and non-compliance will subject the so-choosing person to communal ridicule – ‘comment’ is the word Kaempffert uses. It’s worth quoting him directly:
Any marked departure from what Joe -Dobson and his fellow citizens wear and eat and how they amuse themselves will arouse comment. If old Mrs. Underwood, who lives around the corner from the Dob-sons and who was born in 1920 insists on sleeping under an old-fashioned comforter instead of an aerogel blanket of glass puffed with air so that it is as light as thistledown, she must expect people to talk about her “queerness.” It is astonishing how easily the great majority of us fall into step with our neighbors. And after all, is the standardization of life to be deplored if we can have a house like Joe Dobson’s, a standardized helicopter, luxurious standardized household appointments, and food that was out of the reach of any Roman emperor?
– emphasis mine
So, here we are in 2013. How do you think we measure up to Kaempffert’s vision? Do we find ourselves in a better place to live in, or do we sadly fall short? Have the ‘vested interests’ served our time well, or have they denied us a world of uniform progress? Have we not sacrificed our individuality enough to allow the creation of a less durable but more efficiently unified whole? It’s not the intent of this post to decide the answers to those questions – that is left to the reader’s personal reflection. This is more like an exercise in contrasts. In the end, it allows us to better see where we are at as a species, compared to where others in another time thought we should be. Of course, humans continue to develop visions of what the future will be like – but can we see something in ourselves that cause us to appreciate the times we now find ourselves in?
To read Waldemar Kaempffert’s entire article click here.
For the first time we have invaded space with our rocket. Mark this well, we have used space as a bridge between two points on the earth; we have proven rocket propulsion practicable for space travel. This third day of October, 1942, is the first of a new era of transportation: that of space travel.
– Walter Dornberger*
It has been an unfortunate fact throughout history: science and invention has almost always been corrupted by man for the use of destruction. Such has been the history of the German Aggregat rocket series. Aggregat was the project name chosen by the scientists who worked on and developed the A-4 – the first man made object to touch space. The term referred to a group of machines working together. The more commonly used name for the A-4 rocket is the V-2, from the German, Vergeltungswaffe 2 or Vengeance-Weapon 2. The two names – A-4 and V-2 – sharply contrast the aims of the scientists who developed this technological achievement, and the political class that manipulated it for destructive means.
Today the V-2 is infamous as the rocket that terrorized the British Isles and Europe during the Second World War. It is also known as the ‘grandfather of America’s family of large missiles.’* Beginning in 1945, the U.S. began it’s own rocket development program using V-2 components captured in the European Theater of Operations. With Project Paperclip, the U.S. government back-engineered the V-2 with the aide of captured German scientists and rocket specialists led by Dr. Wernher Von Braun. This earlier work would lead the way to the development of ICBMs (Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles) and the threatened nuclear terrors of the Cold War.
Still, there were those who never lost sight of the more farsighted visionary aspects of the A-4/V-2. Beginning in 1946, the V-2 began to be used by the U.S. to launch an array of experiments – the results of which would become vital to the understanding of various properties of the atmosphere and the development of manned space exploration.
One of the most significant of these experiments occurred on 24 October 1946. A V-2 rocket was launched from White Sands, New Mexico, that reached space by achieving an altitude of 342,900ft (104,600m). A mounted camera, provided by John Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory, captured the first photograph of Earth taken from space and a continuous motion picture of the Earth’s surface at altitude from 100ft to 65 miles (105km).*
Putting all politics aside, this was a great moment for the human species. For the first time people of the Earth saw what the planet looks like from above the atmosphere. The pictures didn’t show the images we’ve grown accustomed to in this age, but they did show the diversity of the Earth’s surface covered with ice, land, and water – and past the curve of the planet’s horizon, the darkness of mysterious space. A video of these profound moments is presented below.
While the history of the A-4/V-2 rocket has been cluttered with terror and horrors, it seems ironic that the same rocket would be used to show us images of the singular planet that we all share in the enigmatic vastness of space. This view vindicates the early vision of the scientists and engineers who celebrated the success of the Aggregat 4. It also condemns the darker forces of humanity that have used it towards their nefarious ends.
V2 Rocket launched from White Sands, New Mexico (USA) in 1946 returned the first photos of Earth from space. (Video courtesy White Sands Missile Range)
My oh my. Today, as I was perusing WordPress Reader checking on the latest posts of my favorite bloggers here, I came upon a wonderful surprise. It seems that now is the time to make nominations for The Most Versatile Blog award. Seeing that 2013 is my first year on WordPress, I was very excited and surprised to see that Atomic Flash Deluxe has been nominated by a gal whose blog I enjoy very much.
I give much appreciation and thanks to myavonvintage for this unexpected and wonderful compliment. I’ve learned much from the myavonvintage blog – and have had a few chuckles just when I needed them.
For this award there are 3 rules:
1) Thank the person who gave you this award (and include a link to their blog.)
2) Nominate 15 bloggers for the Versatile Blogger Award (and link to them.)
3) Share 7 things about themselves that people may not know.
Okay – Seven Things People May Not Know:
1) I wrote, illustrated, and bound my first book when I was seven years old. It was called, The Enchanted Forest. I wanted to create a publishing company that would specialize in children’s books, written by children, for children. The idea never materialized. *meh*
2) At twelve, I was the first girl in my state to join a Little League baseball team. The league refused to let me play *meh*, but my efforts helped to begin the conversation and ultimately open the door for future female players.
3) At sixteen, I was awarded the honor of Drummer of The Year for my local music scene – and no one ever said, ‘she’s good for a girl.’ That made me happy.
4) I’m trained to warrant black-belt in the martial art of Tae Kwon Do.
5) I have a BA and double majored in political science and mass communications. I did my post-grad work as a research analyst fellow in political science.
6) I’m a cat lover and have shared friendship with two cats in my life: Newton, who lived to be nineteen years old, and Astro, who is seventeen and still very much alive.
and finally, 7) I love Arab and East Indian food but don’t eat it as much as I would like.
And now for my nominations – in no particular order:
Well there ya’ have it. I chose these blogs for the list because every post is new and I always look forward to the next. The bloggers who work these pages show real versatility with the subjects they’ve chose and make each post feel fresh.
Once again, thanks to myavonvintage for the nomination. And thanks to my visitors and regular readers who make it all worthwhile. You’re all swell!