October, what a spectacular month! When most of us think of October we think about the beautiful panorama afforded us as the leafs on the trees change color, each with it,s own special spot on the palette, or we think of Halloween and the wonderful spectacle of kids dressed in the newest or the oldest costumes, begging for a piece of candy. The smallest ones my favorite, barely able to walk on their own, yet knowing somehow that it is a very special night they are taking part in, looking up at you with those innocent eyes in expectation of something and their joyful giggles when they actually get a gift from someone they have never seen before in their lives. Too bad we can’t retain that innocence forever. We may think of the day set aside to either venerate or denigrate, depending on your point of view, Columbus and his “discovery” of the new world. Did you know that Columbus Day is also Indigenous Peoples Day? There are many people and events to celebrate during October, I want to share three of my very favorites.
First, and a day that changed all our lives, was October 4,1957 at 7:28:34 p.m. when The Soviet Union launched the Sputnik-1 into a low altitude elliptical orbit around the earth, the first artificial satellite ever to orbit the earth. The newspapers, radio, and television were all full of the most starling news any of us could imagine. We all listened to the beep-beep signal that was sent back from the satellite. We were terrified that the USSR now controlled outer space and could attack us from there at any time and there was nothing we could do about it. By the time we went back to school on Monday, the process of revamping the curriculum was already going full speed ahead. Almost immediately, in my hometown, science became a full year subject starting with the fifth grade and the new emphasis put on math was unbelievable. For the first time that any teacher could remember, algebra was taught in the eighth grade. For once our school system was a little bit ahead of the curve but it was not long that schools across the country, with financial help from the government was doing the same as us and in many cases, much more. The writer, Arthur C. Clarke , commented the next day that, “on Saturday the United States became a second rate nation.” As history shows, we fought back and it was the United States that put a man on the moon and brought him safely home. Many things have changed since that morning so many years ago when we first heard a man made sound coming from outer space, but it remains, for all of us alive then or born since, a day that redefined the world.
For me the next important October event occurred on October 7,1952. On that date Bob Horns Bandstand aired in Philadelphia. It remained a local tv show but in 1956 a new guy took over and ABC decided to pick up the show, rename it American Bandstand, and aired it nationally for the first time in 1957. Teenagers all over the country had concluded that heaven had come to earth while the parents of teenagers all over the country concluded that hell must surely have come to earth. The new guy by the was a clean cut 26 year old named Dick Clark, who until a stroke a few years, put an end to many of his activities had not only hosted American Bandstand for what seemed like a century but developed and hosted game shows, hosted the Rocking New Years Eve celebration for several years, and had so many face lifts that his current facial skin used to be on the bottoms of his feet. Why would anyone want to be 26 forever? The birth of the local show way back in 1952 changed the teen generation culture dramatically as kids would rush home from school to see their favorite regulars on the show, find out what they were wearing so they could wear the same thing, and learn the latest dance steps. Just think about how boring the world would have been without American Bandstand! Thank you Philadelphia channel 6 for your fantastic imagination and foresight in creating an American institution.
My big day #3 - October 5, 1902. In Chicago, ILL, a new life was introduced to the world that he would help to recreate. He was not a likely candidate to become an icon. The baby grew up, served as an ambulance driver during World War I, tried his hand at working in restaurants, selling paper cups, working as a jazz musician, and working at a Chicago radio station. He finally settled into the role of a milkshake mixer salesman. Among his customers was two brothers that owned a California restaurant that was different from anything he had ever seen. The restaurant was run like an auto assembly plant. He had an epiphany right in the kitchen. People don’t dine out, they eat and run. He saw a new career for himself and talked the brothers into letting him use their name and open some restaurants like theirs. In 1954 Ray Kroc opened his first McDonald’s drive-in in Des Plaines, ILL and officially founded the McDonald’s Corporation. Who among us has never eaten at a McDonald’s? Who has never heard of Ronald McDonald? I had my first McDonald’s cheese burger in the early 1960s and since then I am sure that I have enabled McDonald’s to add several new stores. Yep, Ray Kroc is one of my heros. He was a guy that stumbled onto an idea and changed the food service experience around the globe.
So, while you are celebrating Columbus Day, I will be sitting back watching reruns of American Bandstand on my computer, and maybe listening to the recorded beeps of Sputnik and enjoying a Big Mac and fries.
Have a happy October!!!!!