June 23, 1957 – Mike Wallace Interviews Defector David Hawkins

David HawkinsOn June 23, 1957, 23-year-old Korean War defector David Hawkins appeared on the Mike Wallace Interview television show.  Born in Oklahoma City to a overly controlling mother and a father who spent six years in Europe during World War II starting from the time he was age six, David enlisted in the Army when he was 16 years old.  He was captured by the North Koreans at age 17, served as a prisoner of war for three years, and chose when the armistice was signed in 1953 to remain in Communist China.  Hawkins changed his mind and returned to the United States after he learned of the brutal repression and coverup of the Hungarian Revolution by the communist Soviet Union.  During the interview, Wallace forcefully confronted Hawkins with his actions, repeatedly calling him a “turncoat.”  Hawkins, for his part, was ready to admit his defection was a mistake and expressed feelings of guilt and shame.

Hawkins disagreed with Wallace that he had come from a good home, that in fact it had felt like a broken home; he had missed his father and his mother had been very rigid and restrictive (which she admitted on his return).  Hawkins felt he hadn’t sufficiently understood or appreciated the freedoms available in America and the sacrifices made to preserve them.  He had been easily convinced by expert Chinese indoctrinators that Socialism was the best system to improve the lives of the imperially-oppressed Chinese.  When Wallace accused him of being an informant against his fellow soldiers, or committing crimes in Korea that prevented him from wanting to return, Hawkins firmly denied both.  He had been labeled by his peers as “progressive” for his curiosity about socialism and was an easy target for such allegations.  “At the time,” he stressed, he felt that going so far away from home to fight on a “barren rock,” getting involved in another country’s civil war while  not knowing what he was fighting for, believing the United States had made a “big mistake,” was a “raw deal”. The military had not prepared him, Hawkins explained, to face interrogation by the Chinese, whom he was told instead were our friends.  His three years in China were somewhat sheltered ones, but he liked the Chinese people and felt no reason to doubt that Socialism could work.  He was regularly the subject of brainwashing in what the Chinese called “criticism meetings.”

Then the Soviets crushed the Hungarian people as they fought for freedom.  Hawkins saw that he had been wrong.  He wanted to come home.  He arranged without trouble for he and his wife to leave through Hong Kong.  He believed now that Communism was truly a threat to world freedom and needed to be stopped.  He had two warnings for the viewing audience. He, and his fellow defectors, some of whom still remained in China, had been trained to return to the United States to help in an eventual people’s revolution against the “war-mongering” government. And – ignoring mainland China, a “formidable power” which had made “great strides” to improve the lives of ordinary Chinese, was a mistake on the order of refusing to see the “elephant in the room.”

Wallace summed up the interview thus: David Hawkins was an illustration of the need for “faith and courage” as the ultimate weapons against communism.  Because faith and courage “couldn’t be issued by the army,” it was up to homes, schools and churches to instill them.  “In that sense,” Wallace said, “David Hawkins’ problem has certainly become our own.”

Image Credit: Harry Ransom Center/The University of Texas at Austin

June 22, 1957 – The Quarrymen Rock (and Skiffle) Liverpool


The Quarrymen

From left: Hanton, Griffiths, Lennon, Garry, Shotton, Davis

On June 22, 1957, John Lennon’s first band, The Quarrymen, performed two sets of skiffle and rock at the 750th anniversary celebration of the granting of Liverpool’s charter by King John.  Following warmup appearances at movie intermissions, parties, skiffle contests, a golf club, a youth club, church halls, a school dance, and a jazz club called The Cavern, John Lennon (guitar, banjo), Eric Griffiths (guitar, banjo), Pete Shotton (washboard), Rod Davis (banjo), Len Garry (washtub bass and tea-chest bass), and Colin Hanton (drums) played to a hometown crowd from the back of a stationary flatbed truck.  Having gotten their start in skiffle music, a peculiarly British genre that required little musical technique or expensive instruments, John and Eric’s efforts to include some rock and roll in their repertoire were usually rebuffed by their gig hosts.  John especially liked Elvis and Little Richard songs.

The Quarrymen got their name from John and Eric’s school – Quarry Bank High.  The school song contained the line, “Quarrymen, old before our birth / Straining each muscle and sinew,” and the not-too-interested-in-working-hard-at-school boys liked the ironic twist.  At the time of the 750th anniversary concert, Lennon was 16 years old.

Image Credit: Charles Robert

June 21, 1957 – Berke Breathed and Opus are Born

Berke BreathedOn June 21, 1957, Guy Berkeley “Berke” Breathed, creator of the Doonesbury-inspired, Pulitzer Prize-winning Bloom County comic strip, was born in Encino, California.  Filled with memorable characters such as Opus the Penguin, Bill the Cat, Steve Dallas, and Cutter John, Breathed parlayed his strip into a cartoon empire including syndication at the strip’s height in over 1200 newspapers, spin-off strips Outland and Opus, eleven cartoon collections, five children’s books, greeting card and gift ensembles, a movie, and a stage musical.

Breathed started his cartooning career while at the University of Texas, where his first strip, The Academia Waltz, appeared in the Daily Texan.  A film adaptation of his picture book Mars Needs Moms!  was released in 2011. Producer Robert Zemeckis used then-state-of-the-art motion-capture animated film technology, but the movie turned out to be less than a magnum “opus” at the box office.  Bill the Cat’s response?  “Accckkk!”

Image Credit: Bloom County/Facebook

1957 Boomer Baby

Born in 1957 LimaLimaLtdWere you born in 1957?

If so, we are kindred spirits.

How did entering the world in 1957 affect your life? What are you grateful you experienced? What did you miss? What do you wish you’d missed?

Here’s my list:

I’m grateful I experienced –

  • Great TV shows like Leave it to Beaver, Gilligan’s Island, and Perry Mason
  • The freedom to wander on my own around my Portland neighborhood
  • Scholastic book orders in grade school, which delivered a fresh stack of books to read every month
  • The relief when it was clear that my friends would not go to Vietnam
  • Girls sports teams in high school, after Title 9 took effect
  • Star Wars on opening night in my local theater. Remember the knock-you-back-in-your-seat trumpet fanfare during the opening credits? The stomach-dropping sensation of rollercoastering over the dunes of Tatooine?

I missed –

  • The beginning of the Beatles and the hippie Summer of Love thing
  • Laugh-In, which my parents thought was obscene
  • Owning a Chevy Bel Air before they became an expensive classic

I wish I’d missed –

  • The disco generation! I’m still embarrassed . . . really embarrassed


How about you? Please leave me a comment and share.

One more question, Class of 1975: was this The Slow Dance at your senior prom, too?


Image Credit: LiraLira Ltd.

June 20, 1957 – Deadly F5 Tornado Strikes Fargo, North Dakota

Fargo Tornado

F-5 tornado touches down near Hector Field, the local airport 3 miles northwest of Fargo

On June 20, 1957, a series of 23 tornadoes spawned by a supercell thunderstorm, including a massive F5 twister which leveled 329 homes and killed ten people, struck Fargo, North Dakota.  The 9-miles-long, 700-feet-wide monster traveled over 57 miles on a track originating in Albertha, North Dakota and continuing across the state to beyond the Minnesota border.  Debris from Fargo was found as far away as Rochert, Minnesota, 54 miles east of the devastated town.  Additional damage across the state included 1035 homes, four churches, three schools, and 45 businesses, mostly small shops.

Dr. T. Theodore Fujita from the University of Chicago studied the Fargo tornado extensively.  His published work introduced many terms for tornado technology still in use today.  In 1971, Dr. Fujita created the F-Scale for rating tornado intensity based on damage to structures and vegetation.  At that time, the Fargo tornado was designated with F5 status.

Image Credit: North Dakota State University

June 19, 1957 – Michael Was a Teenage Werewolf

Teenage Werewolf June 19On June 19, 1957, teenage girls across America thronged to the local movie theater for a triple treat – Sugar Babies, Grape Nehi, and 20-year-old heart-throb Michael Landon in the premier of director Gene Fowler, Jr.’s I Was a Teenage Werewolf.  Two years before “Little Joe” experienced the wild, wild west on the classic television series Bonanza, he got in touch with his own wild side as violent troublemaker Tony Rivers.  Enter an unscrupulous  psychiatrist armed with regression hypnotherapy and an experimental serum (antidepressant research was booming in the ’50s!) and Michael undergoes a transformation requiring up to two hours of facial prosthetic work.  Will a janitor from the Carpathian Mountains be able to save Tony and the other students at Rockdale High?  Who will be the next victim?

I Was a Teenage Werewolf grossed over two million dollars at the box office.  Michael Landon was paid $1000.  Coming soon from Gene Fowler, Jr. – I Married a Monster From Outer Space.

Image Credit: Herman Cohen/American International Pictures

June 18, 1957 – Los Angeles County’s City of Industry is Incorporated


San Gabriel Valley’s City of Industry

On June 18, 1957, the founding fathers of the City of Industry in Los Angeles County’s San Gabriel Valley received ratification of election results creating the municipality.  Residential development was spreading rapidly in the valley, and local citizens, many of them farmers, wanted to reserve space for industrial expansion as well.  Increased jobs and property values motivated the owners of the largely rural five-square-mile strip between two railroad lines to incorporate.  As of 1957, the residents of the area numbered a little over 600 and the land was valued at about 2 million dollars.  Within five years after designating the town 100% zoned for restricted heavy manufacturing, the number of industrial firms quadrupled, the number of jobs almost tripled, the payroll almost tripled, and, through annexations, the city doubled in size.

City of Industry 1957

City of Industry’ original City Hall building from 1957

Currently, the City of Industry (aka Industry) has approximately 440 residents on almost 12 square miles of land zoned 92% Industrial and 8% Commercial.  A portion of Industry is now designated a Foreign Trade Zone, an customs-free area within the United States that provides advantages for businesses with international trade.  According to the its website, the City of Industry “with only 3.1 percent of the total land area in the San Gabriel Valley, is the economic engine of the San Gabriel Valley. . . generating employment for over 67,000 people and total sales of over $31 billion dollars.”

Image Credit: City of Industry website