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everyone had access to, my boyfriend (now husband) and I headed to the local public library and looked up all the historical references.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.


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

 1959 – space monkey
On May 28, 1959, two monkeys are the first creatures to survive a space flight.  Able, a seven-pound female rhesus monkey and Baker, a one-pound female squirrel monkey launched 300 miles into space.  They were placed in the nose cone of a Jupiter missile AM-18 and launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida.  This 15-minute flight that reached speeds of up to 10,000 mph ended with the monkeys being recovered 1,500 miles away in the South Atlantic near Puerto Rico. The pair, who were weightless for nine minutes, were monitored throughout the flight for changes in their heart beats, muscular reaction, pulse velocity, body temperature and rate of breathing. A spokesman from the Medical Research and Development Command of the US Army said the monkeys were in “perfect condition” on their return. Data recorded throughout the flight was analyzed over the next two weeks.  Though considered a success in the race for space, it was also heavily criticized by animal activists.
Space Monkey: Able and Miss Baker return to Earth from space aboard the flight Jupiter AM-18.

Space Monkey: Able and Miss Baker return to Earth from space aboard the flight Jupiter AM-18.

1960 – Syngman Rhee

Syngman Rhee (April 18, 1875 – July 19, 1965) was a South Korean statesman, the first president of the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea, and the first President of the Republic of Korea (commonly referred to as South Korea). His three-term presidency of South Korea (August 1948 to April 1960) was strongly affected by Cold War tensions on the Korean Peninsula.  Rhee was regarded as an anti-Communist and a strongman, and he led South Korea through the Korean War. His presidency ended in resignation April 26, 1960, following popular protests against a disputed election. He died in exile in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Syngman Rhee was rescued by the CIA after being forced to resign as leader of South Korea for allegedly fixing an election and embezzling more than US $20 million

Syngman Rhee was rescued by the CIA after being forced to resign as leader of South Korea for allegedly fixing an election and embezzling more than US $20 million

1961 – Stranger in a Strange Land
Stranger in a Strange Land is a 1961 science fiction novel by American author Robert A. Heinlein. It tells the story of Valentine Michael Smith, a human who comes to Earth in early adulthood after being born on the planet Mars and raised by Martians. The novel explores his interaction with—and eventual transformation of—terrestrial culture. In 2012, the US Library of Congress named it one of 88 “Books that Shaped America”.  The title “Stranger in a Strange Land” is an allusion to the phrase in Exodus 2:22.   (And she bare him a son, and he called his name Gershom: for he said, I have been a stranger in a strange land — Exodus 2:22).  According to Heinlein, the novel’s working title was The Heretic.  In 1991, three years after Heinlein’s death, his widow, Virginia Heinlein, arranged to have the original uncut manuscript published. Critics disagree about which version is superior, though Heinlein preferred the original manuscript and described the heavily edited version as “telegraphese”. (is a clipped way of writing that attempts to abbreviate words and pack as much information into the smallest possible number of words or characters.)
1983 – Sally Ride
I wrote about Sally Ride previously for my series The Worlds Outstanding Women (WOW)
 Sally Ride: In 1983 she becomes the first American woman in space. Ride's quip from space "Better than an E-ticket", harkens back to the opening of Disneyland mentioned earlier, with the E-ticket purchase needed for the best rides.

Sally Ride: In 1983 she becomes the first American woman in space. Ride’s quip from space “Better than an E-ticket”, harkens back to the opening of Disneyland mentioned earlier, with the E-ticket purchase needed for the best rides.

From Cape Canaveral, Florida, the space shuttle Challenger is launched into space on its second mission. Aboard the shuttle was Dr. Sally Ride, who as a mission specialist became the first American woman to travel into space. During the six-day mission, Ride, an astrophysicist from Stanford University, operated the shuttle’s robot arm, which she had helped design. June 18, 1983

Sally Ride on Space Shuttle Challenger

Sally Ride on Space Shuttle Challenger

Early Years

Born on May 26, 1951 in Los Angeles, California, Sally Ride was the elder child of Dale Burdell Ride and Carol Joyce (née Anderson).  She had one sibling, Karen “Bear” Ride, who is a Presbyterian minister. Both parents were elders in the Presbyterian Church. Ride’s mother had worked as a volunteer counselor at a women’s correctional facility. Her father had been a political science professor at Santa Monica College.  Sally Ride attended Portola Junior High (now Portola Middle School) and then Westlake School for Girls in Los Angeles (now Harvard-Westlake School) on a scholarship.   In addition to being interested in science, she was a nationally ranked tennis player.

ride 7

Ride attended Swarthmore College for three semesters, took physics courses at UCLA, and then entered Stanford University as a junior, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in English and physics. At Stanford, she earned a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in physics while doing research on the interaction of X-rays with the interstellar medium.

Sally Rider and parents at Graduation

Sally Rider and parents at Graduation

NASA Career

Ride was one of 8,000 people who answered an advertisement in the Stanford student newspaper seeking applicants for the space program. She was chosen to join NASA in 1978.

3_capcom

During her career, Ride served as the ground-based capsule communicator (CapCom) for the second and third space shuttle flights (STS-2 and STS-3) and helped develop the space shuttle’s robot arm.

Prior to her first space flight, she was subject to media attention due to her gender. During a press conference, she was asked questions like, “Will the flight affect your reproductive organs?” and “Do you weep when things go wrong on the job?” Despite this and the historical significance of the mission, Ride insisted that she saw herself in only one way—as an astronaut.

On June 18, 1983, she became the first American woman in space as a crew member on space shuttle Challenger for STS-7.

Astronauts of the STS-7/Challenger mission are left to right first row: Sally K. Ride (mission specialist), Robert L. Crippen (commander), Frederick H. Hauck (pilot); rear row: John M. Fabian (left) and Norman E. Thagard (mission specialists). STS-7 launched the first five-member crew and the first American female astronaut into space on June 18, 1983.

Astronauts of the STS-7/Challenger mission are left to right first row: Sally K. Ride (mission specialist), Robert L. Crippen (commander), Frederick H. Hauck (pilot); rear row: John M. Fabian (left) and Norman E. Thagard (mission specialists). STS-7 launched the first five-member crew and the first American female astronaut into space on June 18, 1983.

She was preceded by two Soviet women, Valentina Tereshkova in 1963 and Svetlana Savitskaya in 1982.

Valentina Tereshkova

Valentina Tereshkova

Svetlana Savitskaya, the first woman to fly into space twice and the first woman to perform an EVA. Photo Credit: Roscosmos.

Svetlana Savitskaya, the first woman to fly into space twice and the first woman to perform an EVA. Photo Credit: Roscosmos.

The five-person crew of the STS-7 mission deployed two communications satellites and conducted pharmaceutical experiments. Ride was the first woman to use the robot arm in space and the first to use the arm to retrieve a satellite.  Her second space flight was in 1984, also on board the Challenger. She spent a total of more than 343 hours in space.

Challenger Explosion

Challenger Explosion

Ride, who had completed eight months of training for her third flight (STS-61-M, a TDRS deployment mission) when the space shuttle Challenger disaster occurred, was named to the Rogers Commission (the presidential commission investigating the accident) and headed its subcommittee on operations. Following the investigation, Ride was assigned to NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C., where she led NASA’s first strategic planning effort, authored a report entitled “NASA Leadership and America’s Future in Space” and founded NASA’s Office of Exploration.

After NASA

In 1987, Ride left her position in Washington, D.C., to work at the Stanford University Center for International Security and Arms Control. In 1989, she became a professor of physics at the University of California, San Diego, and director of the California Space Institute. From the mid-1990s until her death, Ride led two public-outreach programs for NASA — the ISS EarthKAM and GRAIL MoonKAM projects, in cooperation with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and UCSD. The programs allowed middle school students to request images of the Earth

Death

Ride died on July 23, 2012, at age 61, seventeen months after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Following cremation, her ashes were interred next to her father at Woodlawn Cemetery, Santa Monica, California.

Sally Ride

 

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9 responses

  1. Beth Lapin says:

    Your Studebaker brought back memories of a family car. Thanks!

    Affirmations for a Good Life

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    • We love our cars don’t we? I think most Americans could quote a memory that involved a car from either their childhood or for themselves when arriving at driving age. Thanks for reading.

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  2. Great lists for the letter “S”. Although I remember Billy Joel’s song very well, I don’t remember where I was when I first heard it.

    http://sagecoveredhills.blogspot.com/2017/04/s-is-for-summer-constellations-scorpius.html

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  3. Denise says:

    Ah yes, our 1952 ugly green Studebaker. That was one weird looking car IMO as a child.

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  4. Liam says:

    Stranger in a Strange Land may be the weirdest book I’ve ever read. It actually feels like the first half and second half are different books.

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  5. Arlee Bird says:

    Funny, but this past week I watched an episode of Land of the Giants that featured Sugar Ray Robinson. He did a pretty credible acting job.

    Last time I read Stranger in a Strange Land was when I was in high school. I still have that copy of the book–probably should reread it since it’s been so long ago.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out

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  6. Birgit says:

    So many in the S category! Sally Ride was so ahead of her time and helped women in this field which is so man dominated. Those poor monkeys must have been scared.

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