Category Archives: History

Fifty years of Beatlemania in the US

Here is the latest in what have turned out to be infrequent blog entries. And like the last entry, this one will deal with a 50th anniversary.

50 years ago, in January and February 1964, the Beatles were making their first big splash in the United States. On the date I’ve started this post (January 20), back in ’64, the album Meet the Beatles was released.  The single “I Want To Hold Your Hand” had been issued the day after Christmas.  Beatlemania was arriving on these shores.  And what was I doing? Not a heck of a lot. How could I? I was only seven or eight months old at the time. I was unaware of world and national events. I would only have been aware of what was happening around me.

On February 9, would I have seen (or at least exposed to) the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show? It’s possible; I remember the show being on the air, so I know my mom and dad watched it, at least occasionally.  They might have had it on at home, and I might have been awake for it (7 at night in the Central time zone). Then again, they might not have cared to watch that evening and put something else on. I’ll never know.  But I do know this: a few years later, I can barely remember seeing the credits for the Beatles cartoon show that aired on Saturday mornings on ABC. That was probably the first exposure to them that I can remember.  Did I become a fan right away? No, that took about ten years. And during those ten years, I would hear some of their songs on the radio; I would definitely hear their solo songs starting in ’72 and ’73 (and start buying the singles, too). Then everything clicked in ’76: I got the Red and Blue albums, I picked up the guitar, and I had become a fan.


Celebrating Doctor Who’s 50th Anniversary

Yesterday, we commemorated the 50th anniversary of a tragic event, the assassination of President Kennedy.  Today, we celebrate the 50th anniversary of another event, albeit an event that wasn’t noticed in the US at the time: the premiere of Doctor Who. It didn’t premiere in the US at that time, just in the UK. Indeed, even if it had been scheduled to premiere here on November 23, it wouldn’t have; the networks were continuously covering the aftermath of the assassination.

According to a Wikipedia article, Canada’s CBC aired the first 26 episodes of the program beginning in January 1965. It may well have been seen in Detroit, Buffalo, Seattle and other border towns in the US. A few US cities might have seen it in 1972; a good friend of mine recalls seeing it then while he was living in Florida. Detroit and Buffalo could have started to see it again via TVOntario in 1976. But for me, the first time I saw Doctor Who was when KPRC channel 2 in Houston started carrying it in 1978 or 1979. At first, it was on in the afternoons, but I was in school then. Later, they started to air it late on Saturday night, Sunday morning after Saturday Night Live and Monty Python. The first story I remember seeing was “The Invasion of Time” — not a very good one to start with. That’s because the Doctor was acting very out of character for much of the story, but how could I have known that? I wasn’t turned off, though; no, I continued to watch, and I became hooked.

For Americans such as myself who became fans at that time, Tom Baker will always be “their Doctor”. But if I had grown up in the UK, no doubt I’d have become a fan earlier, in either the Patrick Troughton or Jon Pertwee eras. I would have been too young to see most of the William Hartnell era, but maybe I would have remembered some of the final episodes from 1966. I don’t know, and there’s no way to know.

And so here we are on the 50th anniversary. Will the 100th anniversary be remembered? I doubt I’ll be around for that one. But I am here for this one, and I raise my glass in a toast to Doctor Who and everyone who’s ever been connected with the program. To the actors who’ve played the Doctor, I echo the comments of the Brigadier when I say, “Spendid chaps – all of them.”

My thoughts on the JFK assassination anniversary, part 1

This November brings two important 50th anniversaries. One of those anniversaries commemorates an event that went unnoticed in the US at the time, the debut of the British science-fiction program Doctor Who. I’ll talk about that anniversary another time. The program wouldn’t make a big splash over here until the late 1970’s, but even if it had been scheduled to debut in the US at the same time as in the UK, it wouldn’t have. Its debut would have been postponed because of the news coverage of the other big event from November 1963. I am referring, of course, to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

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The Thomas Jefferson Hour

When I was on vacation in June, driving through the Texas Panhandle on my way to Amarillo, I was tuning around on the radio dial when I happened to come across an interesting radio program. The Thomas Jefferson Hour is a public radio program devoted and dedicated “to the search for truth in the tradition of Thomas Jefferson” (quoting from the program’s website). The distinguishing characteristic of the program is the series of conversations with President Jefferson himself, as portrayed by scholar Clay Jenkinson, speaking of events and answering listener’s questions in character as Jefferson. I’ve enjoyed it enough to send in a donation to keep the series going.

I listen to the Jefferson Hour on my Apple TV, along with several other podcasts (mainly video). I’ll have more to say about the Apple TV in a future entry.

Discovering history through aerial photographs

Over on Facebook, I belong to three groups that deal with the history of where I grew up: League City and the Clear Lake area of Texas. We’ve had some very interesting discussions on a number of topics. Many of those discussions have been sparked by vintage photographs.  A few of those vintage photographs have been aerial photographs that I found on the web.

One of the first places I found vintage aerial photographs is Their selection varies widely, depending on the part of the country you’re interested in. For my primary area of interest (the Houston area in general, the Clear Lake area in particular), I’m in luck; they have historic images, where historic means 1999 and earlier. More specifically, I found images from 1953, 1957, 1964, 1973, 1981 and a few other years. But if I were interested in historic images from, say, Nebraska, I’d be out of luck; they don’t have any.  Now HistoricAerials charges for its photos; I’ve bought some from them in the past.

A site that contains more government-generated photos and data is Earth Explorer by USGS. I’ve found data from 1953, 1954, 1955, 1969 and some other years for the Houston area.  These photos contain a great amount of detail.  They’re also huge in size; 100 MB is a fairly common size. Thank goodness for speedy connections and large hard drives! The interface isn’t too difficult to use, and the photos I retrieve are free!

Even Google Earth has vintage aerial photography. For League City, you can go back to 1944. Now that’s really mind-blowing for me, because in 1944, there was no Gulf Freeway (that only dates back to 1952), but there was a second bridge crossing across Clear Creek, that being Old Galveston Road (not the current Highway 3, but the original road, which is known in LC as Kansas Street). Unfortunately, there are big gaps in that photo set, because the area west of town isn’t covered, so you can’t see the land without the freeway.  I’d sure like to see the land like that. I’d like to find more aerial photos, and of different years, to see more of the history and the changes.

Why I am a Texan

Today’s (Sept. 15, 2013) Houston Chronicle has an article on how NASA’s Johnson Space Center came to be located in the Houston area, a decision that had a profound effect on my life. Because the space center was in Houston, my parents moved down there after they got married, and I was born there and grew up there. I made many friends down there, people I still consider friends some 40-50 years later.

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My September 11 Story

Originally posted to my website in 2002

With the first anniversary of the September 11 attacks approaching, I’ve decided to post my 9/11 story to my blog. Compared to others, my story of September 11 is nothing. I was not there; I was home in Detroit. I had no family members or friends directly involved [I did have a friend report on the aftermath, though], although my brother-in-law is a Federal employee.

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