WE DIDN’T START THE FIRE
FROM A TO Z
On September 27, 1989, the iconic song by Billy Joel, We Didn’t Start the Fire hit the airwaves. It was a history lesson set to music. When you first heard the song, did you know or remember all the people places, things and events mentioned in the lyrics? I sure didn’t. Back in 1989 before the internet was something everyone had access to, my boyfriend (now husband) and I headed to the local public library and looked up all the historical references. This month, for the A to Z Challenge, I am writing about that history.
We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
No we didn’t light it
But we tried to fight it
Today is brought to us by the letter S.
1949 – South Pacific
South Pacific is a musical composed by Richard Rodgers, with lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II and book by Hammerstein and Joshua Logan. The work premiered in 1949 on Broadway and was an immediate hit, running for 1,925 performances. In 1949, the war was still fresh in the minds of those who served and those who waited for their loved ones to come home. I imagine its themes brought it all back.
South Pacific, the prize-winning musical, opens on Broadway on April 7.
From the original 1949 Broadway cast recording of “South Pacific.” This production won the 1950 Pulitzer Prize for Drama; and won Tony Awards for Best Musical; Libretto; Best Original Score; Best Actor in a Musical (Ezio Pinza); Best Actress in a Musical (Mary Martin); Best Featured Actor in a Musical (Myron McCormick); Best Featured Actress in a Musical (Juanita Hall); Producer (Musical) (Hammerstein, Rodgers,
1950 – Studebaker
Studebaker (1852–1967) was an American wagon and automobile manufacturer based in South Bend, Indiana. Founded in 1852 and incorporated in 1868 under the name of the Studebaker Brothers Manufacturing Company, the company was originally a producer of wagons for farmers, miners, and the military. Studebaker entered the automotive business in 1902 with electric vehicles and in 1904 with gasoline vehicles, all sold under the name “Studebaker Automobile Company”. Until 1911, its automotive division operated in partnership with the Garford Company of Elyria, Ohio, and after 1909 with the E-M-F Company. The first gasoline automobiles to be fully manufactured by Studebaker were marketed in August 1912. Over the next 50 years, the company established a reputation for quality and reliability. After years of financial problems, in 1954 the company merged with luxury carmaker Packard to form Studebaker-Packard Corporation. However, Studebaker’s financial problems were worse than the Packard executives thought. The Packard marque was phased out, and the company returned to the Studebaker Corporation name in 1962. The South Bend plant ceased production on December 20, 1963, and the last Studebaker automobile rolled off the Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, assembly line on March 16, 1966.
Studebaker, a popular car company, begins its financial downfall.
1951 – Sugar Ray
On September 12, 1951, former middleweight champion Sugar Ray Robinson defeats Randy Turpin to win back the belt in front of 61,370 spectators at the Polo Grounds in New York City. Robinson, a New York City native, had lost the belt to Turpin two months prior in Turpin’s native London.
Sugar Ray Robinson, a champion welterweight boxer.
1952 – Santayana goodbye
Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruiz de Santayana y Borrás, known in English as George Santayana December 16, 1863 – September 26, 1952), was a philosopher, essayist, poet, and novelist. Originally from Spain, Santayana was raised and educated in the United States from the age of eight and identified himself as an American, although he always kept a valid Spanish passport. He wrote in English and is generally considered an American man of letters. At the age of forty-eight, Santayana left his position at Harvard and returned to Europe permanently, never to return to the United States. His last wish was to be buried in the Spanish pantheon in Rome. Santayana is popularly known for aphorisms, such as “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”, “Only the dead have seen the end of war”, and the definition of beauty as “pleasure objectified”. Although an atheist, he always treasured the Spanish Catholic values, practices, and worldview in which he was raised. Santayana was a broad-ranging cultural critic spanning many disciplines. He died on September 26, 1952 (aged 88) in Rome, Italy
Santayana goodbye: George Santayana, philosopher, essayist, poet, and novelist, dies on September 26.
1957 – Sputnik
History changed on October 4, 1957, when the Soviet Union successfully launched Sputnik I. The world’s first artificial satellite was about the size of a beach ball (58 cm.or 22.8 inches in diameter), weighed only 83.6 kg. or 183.9 pounds, and took about 98 minutes to orbit the Earth on its elliptical path. That launch ushered in new political, military, technological, and scientific developments. While the Sputnik launch was a single event, it marked the start of the space age and the U.S.-U.S.S.R space race.
Sputnik becomes the first artificial satellite, launched by the Soviet Union on October 4, marking the start of the space race.
Soviet Sputnik I Satelite
1958 – Starkweather homicides
Charles Raymond “Charlie” Starkweather (November 24, 1938 – June 25, 1959)1] was an American teenager and spree killer who murdered eleven people in the states of Nebraska and Wyoming in a two-month murder spree between December 1957 and January 1958. All but one of Starkweather’s victims were killed between January 21 and January 29, 1958, the date of his arrest. During the murders committed in 1958, Starkweather was accompanied by his 14-year-old girlfriend, Caril Ann Fugate. Starkweather was executed 17 months after the events, and Fugate served 17 years in prison before her release in 1976. The Starkweather-Fugate spree has inspired several films, including The Sadist (1963), Badlands (1973), Kalifornia (1993), and Natural Born Killers (1994). Starkweather’s electrocution in 1959 was the last execution in Nebraska until 1994.
Charles Starkweather captures the attention of Americans, in which he kills eleven people between January 25 and 29 before being caught in a massive manhunt in Douglas, Wyoming.
Caril Ann Fugate
Natural Born Killers
Robert A. Heintein
Stranger in a Strange Land, written by Robert A. Heinlein, is a breakthrough best-seller with themes of sexual freedom and liberation.