1957 — Arturo Toscanini dies

At the time of his death in 1957, Arturo Toscanini was a few weeks short of 90 years old, and probably the single best known and most celebrated orchestral conductor in the world. He was a remarkable musical talent, possessed of a photographic memory and an extremely sensitive ear – both of which drove a level of perfectionism and intensity that was exceptional, even for a conductor.

After his emigration to the United States in the 1930s, Toscanini frequently made appearances as a conductor of orchestral works on television and radio – the stereotypical conductor character in many films, cartoons and so on made between 1940 and 1970 is usually based on him, so completely was he associated with the role. Toscanini also conducted the world premieres of such operas as Pagliacci, La bohème, La fanciulla del West and Turandot.

Referenced in:
We Didn’t Start The Fire – Billy Joel

1957 – A fire breaks out at Rocky Flats nuclear plant

Constructed in 1952 near Denver, Colorado, the Rocky Flats Nuclear Plant began production of bomb components, manufacturing plutonium triggers, or “pits” in 1953. By 1957, the plant had expanded to 27 buildings.

On the evening of September 11, 1957, a plutonium fire occurred in one of the gloveboxes used to handle radioactive materials, igniting the combustible rubber gloves and plexiglas windows of the box. Metallic plutonium is a fire hazard and pyrophoric; under the right conditions it may ignite in air at room temperature. The accident resulted in the contamination of Building 771 and caused US $818,600 in damage. It also occasioned the release of plutonium into the atmosphere, part of which blew over Denver. Although this particular event is not believed to have caused contamination, subsequent fires and leaks from the plant did.

Referenced in:
Cesspools in Eden — Dead Kennedys

1957 — Ray Bradbury publishes “Dandelion Wine”

Adapted from his 1953 short story of the same title, Ray Bradbury’s “Dandelion Wine” is one of his best known books. It consists of a series of short stories linked together by recurring characters and themes. The book follows the exploits of Douglas Spaulding, a 12 year old boy, across a summer in his small town named Green Town. It has a sequel, “Farewell Summer” and a related book of vignettes entitled “Summer Morning, Summer Night”. Thematically, it is also linked to “Something Wicked This Way Comes” which addresses similar ideas with a different set of characters.

It is widely considered Bradbury’s most personal work, and Douglas Spaulding is an obvious stand in for a young Bradbury. The book has been adapted into film and radio, and remains a good seller.

Referenced in:

Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury — Rachel Bloom

1957 – Humphrey Bogart dies

One of the silver screen’s all time great tough guys – and romantic leading men – Bogart was 57 years old when he died. In a film career that included 75 feature movies over three decades, Bogart was in some of the best films ever made: The Maltese Falcon, The African Queen, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre and, of course, Casablanca.

Bogart was the original leader of the Rat Pack, among other accomplishments – he also won an Oscar for his role in The African Queen. In 1999, decades after his death, the American Film Institute ranked Bogart as the greatest male star in the history of American cinema – a claim that remains hard to argue with.

Referenced in:
Done Too Soon — Neil Diamond

1957 – The Brooklyn Dodgers agree to relocate to California

In 1957, there were no professional baseball teams in the World Series (that is, the baseball league of the USA) west of Missouri. In 1958, that would all change, and it was largely thanks to one man: Walter O’Malley, who owned the Dodgers from 1950 until 1979. He took the Dodgers from Brooklyn to Los Angeles – from Ebbets Field to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum – and also persuaded the managers of the New York Giants (traditional rivals of the Dodgers) to relocate their team to San Francisco, preserving the rivalry (well, sort of).

To say that O’Malley is a controversial figure in baseball is little like saying that there’s a bright light in the sky called the Sun. Even today, he is still hated in some parts of Brooklyn – the Dodgers might have been a bunch of bums, but they were Brooklyn’s bums, dammit!

Referenced in:

We Didn’t Start The Fire — Billy Joel

1957 – Police first find evidence of Ed Gein’s killings

Ed Gein only ever confessed to two murders, although the circumstantial evidence strongly suggests that there were more.

It all fell apart for him on November 16, 1957 when the disappearance of Bernice Worden from Plainfield, Wisconsin (their mutual hometown) was reported to the police. They then investigated Gein’s house – he being the last person to see her – and found Worden’s body there.

They also found body parts of at least ten other women, possibly more. Gein was eventually convicted of Worden’s murder only – it being judged prohibitively expensive to investigate all of them – and Gein claimed to have exhumed them, not murdered them. Gein was convicted of two murders – the ones he confessed to, and later died in prison.

Referenced in:

Nipple Belt — Tad
Ed Gein — Macabre
Ed Gein — Killdozer
Young God — Swans
Skinned — Blind Melon
Dead Skin Mask — Slayer
Plainfield — Church of Misery
Nothing to Gein — Mudvayne
Edward Gein — The Fibonaccis
The Geins — Macabre Minstrels
Old Mean Ed Gein — The Fibonaccis
Ballad of Ed Gein — Swamp Zombies
Sex Is Bad Eddie — The Tenth Stage

1957 – President Eisenhower intervenes to help the Little Rock Nine

The Little Rock Nine were a group of nine black high school students who were enrolled to begin classes to begin classes in September of 1957 at the Little Rock Central High School, in Little Rock, Arkansas. The nine students – Ernest Green, Elizabeth Eckford, Jefferson Thomas, Terrence Roberts, Carlotta Walls LaNier, Minnijean Brown, Gloria Ray Karlmark, Thelma Mothershed and Melba Beals – arrived at the schooll on September 4 to find their path blockaded by the Arkansas National Guard, who had been ordered out the by the state’s Governor – in direct violation of a Supreme Court ruling ordering the end of segregation.

A tense stand-off ensued, with segregationists and intergrationists arguing vociferously and holding rallies in favour of their causes. Finally, on September 24, President Eisenhower federalised the Arkansas National Guard (thus placing them under his command rather than the Governor’s) and sent in the 101st Airborne division of the US Army. They peacefully dispersed the blockade and took up positions to prevent its reinstatment. The following day, the Little Rock Nine entered the school and began classes, although there remained a considerable amount of racism directed towards them by some white students.

Referenced in:

We Didn’t Start The Fire – Billy Joel

1957 – “Leave it to Beaver” is first broadcast

Leave It To Beaver was one of the most popular and well-known sitcoms of its era, and is still in repeats even today. It was one of the first sitcoms filmed from the point of view of a child, and it helped to create the iconic vision of the American family – suburban, middle class, and so on. When people talk about the ‘good old days’ of the Fifties in America, all too often they are actually thinking of the kind of idealized family and community depicted on Leave It To Beaver.

Referenced in:

I Love America – Alice Cooper