1962 is right in the temporal sweet spot of my Mike Montego novels — Shades of Blue, 459-Framed in Red, The Purple Hand, and He Blew Blue Jazz. Here are a few fun facts about this swingin’ year...
Tobacco: Philip Morris introduced “Marlboro Country” to advertise its top filter-tip cigarette against R. J. Reynolds’ Winston brand. The cowboy theme will make Marlboro the leading brand worldwide.
Lt. Co John H. Glenn, Jr., Marine Corps pilot, became the first American in orbit February 20th when he circled Earth three times, covering 81,000 miles at an altitude of 160 miles in the Mercury capsule Friendship 7.
President Kennedy on February 14th announced that U.S. military advisers in Vietnam would fire back if fired upon.
Supreme Court on March 26th backed “one-man one-vote” apportionment of seats in state legislatures.
Europe’s Arlberg-Orient Express goes out of service May 27th after nearly 79 years of operation between Paris and Istanbul; and the Simplon-Orient Express ends service as well. Both have been victims of the airplane that has cut travel time between the cities to two hours.
Economic, Finance, and Retailing: K Mart discount stores are opened by the 63-year-old S.S. Kresge Co., whose five-and-ten-cent stores are losing money. By 1977 Kresge sales will be second only to those of Sears, but Wal-Mart will pass it in the 1980s.
The first Wal-Mart store opens July 2nd at Rogers, Arkansas. Retail merchant Sam Moore Walton, 44, had run a Ben Franklin store with his brother James at Bentonville; Sam proposed a chain of discount stores in small towns; Ben Franklin dismissed the idea and Walton goes into business for himself. His chain will surpass sales of Sears, Roebuck by 1991.
Food and Drink: Diet-Rite Cola, introduced by Royal Crown Cola, is the first sugar-free soft drink to be sold nationwide to the general public. The cyclamate-sweetened cola will soon have powerful competitors.
First U.S. communications satellite is launched in July.
Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring launches the environmental movement.
James Howard Meredith, 29, an Air Force veteran, became the first black student at University of Mississippi, “Old Miss,” October 1st after 3,000 troops put down riots. His admission was ordered by a federal appellate court and upheld by the Supreme Court.
President Kennedy revealed A Soviet offensive missile buildup in Cuba October 22nd. He ordered a naval and air quarantine on shipment of offensive military equipment to the island nation. Kennedy and Soviet Premier Khrushchev reached agreement on October 28 on a formula to end the crisis. Kennedy announced November 2nd that Soviet missile bases in Cuba were being dismantled.
Cigar smokers are the chief U.S. victims of President Kennedy’s embargo on trade with Cuba. U.S. cigar sales exceed six billion per year with 95 percent of Cuban cigars rolled and wrapped in U.S. plants, but without Cuban tobacco cigar sales will fall to 5.3 billion per ear by 1976 despite population growth.
Sports: Ohio golfer Jack William Nicklaus, 22, wins the U.S. Open by defeating Arnold Palmer in a playoff.
Sonny Liston wins the world heavyweight boxing title September 25th. Now 28, he knocks out Floyd Patterson in the first round of a championship bout at Chicago.
New York Yankees win the World Series by defeating the San Francisco Giants 4 games to 3.
Technology: Electronic Data Systems (EDS) is founded by Dallas salesman H. (Henry) Ross Perot, 32, whose data processing firm will make him a billionaire.
Polaroid Corp. introduces color film invented by Edwin H. Land. The high-speed film produces color prints in 60 seconds (Polaroid’s black-and-white film produces prints in 10 seconds).
Films: Roman Polanski’s Knife in the Water; David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia; Sidney Lumet’s A Long Day’s Journey Into Night; John Ford’s The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance; Sam Peckinpah’s Ride the High Country; François Truffaut’s Shoot the Piano Player; Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo; Perter Ustinov’s Billy Budd; Hiroshi Imagaki’s Chushingura; George Seaton’s The Counterfeit Traitor; Blake Edwards’ Days of Wine and Roses; Pietro Germi’s Divorce—Italian Style; Luis Buñuels The Exterminating Angel; John Huston’s Freud; Tony Richardson’s The loneliness of the Long Distance Runner; John Frankenheimer’s The Manchurian Candidate; Artgyr Oebb;s The Miracle Worker; Kon Ichikawa’s The Outcast; Richard Brooks’ Sweet Bird of Youth; Robert Mulligan’s To Kill a Mockingbird; Robert Aldrich’s What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?; and, Ingmar Bergman’s Winter Light.
Music — Popular songs: “Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer” by Hoagy Carmichael; “Days of Wine and Roses” by Henry Mancini (title song for film about alcoholism); “Dream Baby” and “Leah” by Roy Orbison; “Ramblin’ Rose by Noel and Joe Sherman; “Roses Are Red, My Love” by Al Byron and Hugh Evans’ “The Wanderer” by Ernest Maresca; “I left My Heart in San Francisco” by George Cory; “The Lonely Bull” by California trumpet player-vocalist-composer Herb Alpert, 27; “Surfin’ Safari” by the Beach Boys Brian Wilson, 20, Dennis Wilson, 17, Mike Love, 21, Al Jardine, 19, and Carl Wilson, 25.