1963 — The Beeching Report into British Rail is released

Dr Richard Beeching’s reports into the state of British Rail – 1963’s The Reshaping of British Railways and 1965’s The Development of the Major Railway Trunk Routes – are two of the most controversial documents of their era in the United Kingdom. The first Beeching Report recommended the closure of a total of 2,363 stations and 9,700 km of track be closed. (Not all the station closures were on lines that closed – some of the surviving lines were converted to use for freight only.)

The public outcry was immense, and in the event, not all closures went ahead – but the majority of them did. Thousands of people lost their jobs, and even more lost access to the rail network. All in pursuit of savings that largely failed to materialise.

Referenced in:
No Use For Him — Eric Bogle

1963 — William Zantzinger assaults Hattie Carroll, leading to her death

William Zantzinger was, to all appearances, a mean drunk and a racist. In the early morning of February 9, 1963, he assaulted Hattie Carroll, a barmaid, for taking too long to make his drink. He had already assaulted two other staff members at the event – a Spinster’s Ball at the Emerson Hotel in Baltimore. After hitting Carroll with a toy cane, he proceeded to knock his wife to the ground, and continued to be generally abusive and profane to everyone who came near him.

Hattie Carroll was a black woman of 51 years. She was raising children as a single mother, and suffered from a variety of conditions – notably, high blood pressure, an enlarged heart and hardened arteries. When Zantzinger struck her on the neck with his cane, the injury caused a brain hemorrhage that was fatal by 9am that morning. Zantzinger was arrested and charged with murder, although in the end he was convicted only of manslaughter.

Referenced in:
The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll — Bob Dylan

1963 — Betty Friedan’s “The Feminine Mystique” is published

“The Feminine Mystique” is the book most credited with kickstarting Second Wave Feminism. Betty Friedan took aim at a number of targets, most of them to do with assumptions that the current roles of women in American society. Friedan disagreed with Freudian psychology and functionalism in sociology, pointing out how often each was used to suggest that societal roles were biologically determined.

Friedan received a huge number of letters from women, and as a result founded the National Organisation of Women (which she became the first president of), one of the most influential feminist organisations in America. It’s a damned shame that so much as what Friedan was criticising remains true in society.

Referenced in:
Bobby Brown Goes Down — Frank Zappa

1963 — Giovani Montini becomes Pope Paul VI

Cardinal Montini of Milan has been considered by some as a potential papal candidate in 1958, but as a non-member of the College of Cardinals was not eligible for selection. Pope John XXIII was chosen instead, seen as something of a non-entity and a safe choice by those who voted for him. He turned out to be the greatest reformer the Papacy had seen in centuries, calling the epochal Vatican Council II that changed the dogma and practices of the Catholic Church more than any single event since the Council of Nicea 1600 years earlier.

John died in office, and Giovani Montini became Pope Paul VI, inheriting the still going on Vatican Council II, which he saw completed and its reforms implemented over the course of his 15 year reign. Paul’s particular focus was restoring relations with the Orthodox churches of Eastern Europe who had split from the Catholic Church centuries earlier, but he excluded no one in his reaching out to all Christians, other faiths and even atheists. He was also the first Pope to visit six continents.

Referenced in:
We Didn’t Start the Fire — Billy Joel

1963 – Jennifer Beals born

Forever to be associated with her best known role, that of the dancer Alex Owens in the 1980 film “Flashdance”, Beals never thought of herself as a dancer (she famously turned down “Dancing with the Stars”), but as an actor. And despite often being criticised (particularly in the Eighties) for being cast more for her sex appeal than her acting, she is undeniably a talented actor.

Other than “Flashdance”, career highlights include the film “Vampire’s Kiss”, and roles in the long-running “The L-Word” and the unfortunately cut short (but excellent) “The Chicago Code”. Despite her inclusion in the song by Sandler, Beals is not Jewish – her (now deceased) father was African American, and her mother is Irish American.

Referenced in:
The Chanukah Song (Part II) — Adam Sandler

1963 – The last streetcars of Los Angeles make their final runs

Like most other cities the world over, Los Angeles moved away from the inflexibility of light rail public transportation after the Second World War. An increasing emphasis on car ownership gripped the West, leading to booms in freeway construction, service station openings and closures of all sorts of rail lines, light and heavy. Most of the light rail lines of Los Angeles were replaced by bus routes – often, the lines were purchased by bus companies with the express intention of doing so.

The last of the Red Cars – those operated by the Pacific Electric company – ran on the Los Angeles to Long Beach line until April 9, 1961. The last of the Yellow Cars ran almost two years longer, before the last service on the J, P, R, S and V routes on March 30. All of these were replaced by bus lines on March 31, 1963. It was the end of an era.

Referenced in:

The Great Wall — Dead Kennedys

1963 – “I Want to Hold Your Hand” released by the Beatles

Selling over a million in the UK before it was even released, “I Want To Hold Your Hand” is the best-selling single worldwide in the Beatles’ entire career. More than any other, it’s the song that broke them in the United States – the opening shot of the entire British Invasion.

It was number one on the United States at the time that the band made their legendary appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show” – although it was not one of the three songs that they played that night. The song immensely impressed Bob Dylan with its innovative character, and he became a staunch supporter of the band, and later a friend to them.

Referenced in:

Life in a Northern Town — The Dream Academy

1963 – Patsy Cline dies

About a month after finishing recording her fourth, and, alas, final album Sentimentally Yours, Patsy Cline died in what has been described as “one of the worst wrecks in the country”. Also on the plane that night – and also dying in the crash – were her manager Randy Hughes and fellow musicians Hawkshaw Hawkins and Cowboy Copas.

Patsy Clines’s legacy is vast: at the time of her death, she was one of the most popular and best-selling artists in the world (and deservedly so). Her works remain perennially popular, both in terms of airplay and of being covered by the artists that followed her.

Referenced in:

Air Crash Museum — The Dead Milkmen

1963 – President Kennedy is buried in Arlington Cemetary

Perhaps even more than the shooting itself, two days earlier, President Kennedy’s funeral marked the official end of the ‘Camelot’ era. With him were buried a lot of hopes. The future seemed filled with naught but uncertainty. Lyndon Johnson had taken over the job he coveted, albeit in a way he would never have wished for, but his first steps as a leader were hesitant. The one thing he had done with sureness was to declare November 25, 1963 a National Day of Mourning, when only essential personnel would be required to work.

After his death in Dallas, President Kennedy’s body was flown back to Washington, where it was autopsied at Bethesda Naval Hospital on the same day. The following day, he lay in repose, and then in state, in the East Room of the White House, and the day after that, in the Rotunda. His funeral mass was held at St. Matthew’s Cathedral, after which his funeral procession carried him to his final resting place in Arlington Cemetary.

Other than William Taft, Kennedy is only United States President to be buried at Arlington.

Referenced in:

Saturn V – Inspiral Carpets

1963 – The first episode of “Doctor Who” is broadcast

The longest-running science fiction series of all time started 48 years ago today. 783 episodes and 32 seasons later, it’s still going strong. It originally starred William Hartnell as the Doctor – the first of eleven Doctors to date – in a serial (and episode) entitled “An Unearthly Child”. No one expected it to last this long, but then, it was the earliest days of television in the UK – no one really knew anything.

Hartnell would remain the Doctor for the first four seasons – which means that due to the BBC not keeping episodes of anything at the time, more episodes of his run are missing than any other Doctor except his immediate successor, Patrick Troughton.

Referenced in:

Doctorin’ the Tardis — The Timelords

1963 – “The Day of the Triffids” premieres

Based on an original novel written by John Wyndham and published in 1951, “The Day of the Triffids” starred Howard Keel and Janette Scott. It wasn’t, however, a very faithful adaptation. It’s not a bad film – with the possible exception of its deus ex machina ending – but it doesn’t have much relation to the novel.

It is one of the greatest and most influential science fiction and horror movies of all time – its opening sequence inspired ’28 Days Later’; the alien plants helped inspire ‘E.T.’, and the list goes on.

Referenced in:

Science Fiction Double Feature — Rocky Horror Picture Show original cast

1963 – Lyndon Johnson sworn in as President

It’s an event that is easily overlooked, but it had a great deal of significance for the entire world: the swearing in of Lyndon Baines Johnson as the 36th President of the United States of America at 2:38pm on November 22, 1963, a little over 2 hours after President Kennedy was shot in Dallas.

Johnson took the oath of office in cramped conditions aboard Air Force One, with 27 people crammed into a 16 square foot stateroom for the historic event – while down the hall, Jackie Kennedy sat grieving next to her husband’s corpse. Johnson would go on to be one of the most controversial Presidents in American history, remembered for the civil rights reforms of his Great Society program, but also for presiding over the massive escalation of American involvement in the Vietnam War.

Referenced in:

Purple Toupee – They Might Be Giants

1963 — Martin Luther King makes his “I Have A Dream” speech

For a speech that lasted only 10 minutes, it’s hard to overstate the importance of the speech. It’s remains one of the most-quoted speeches of the twentieth century. It crystallised the ideals of the American Civil Rights Movement into a single line; a single dream.

And yet oddly, the best known part of the speech – the “I Have A Dream” section itself – was actually an improvisation. Martin Luther King was a great writer and a great orator, but on this day, he departed from the text of his pre-written speech. He spoke with passion and vision. He spoke from the heart, articulating a vision of an America – a world – which we have still not achieved.

King would be Time magazine’s Man of the Year in 1963, would win the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize…

…and be assassinated a little under eight months later.

Referenced in:
She Is Always Seventeen — Harry Chapin