By JUDY HOPKINS
3, 1963: Opening day of the University of Pittsburgh, Bradford Campus. College
freshmen gather under the portico at Hamsher House, a former dormitory for
Bradford Hospital’s nursing students and now the hub of Pitt-Bradford. Some
students have just come from their first class; others wait for friends to join
them in The Tuck Shop, a snack bar inside.
conversation drifts to their teachers, perhaps John Shea, who teaches political
science, June Pfister who teaches chemistry and math, or the German teacher,
the group breaks up, and local students driving their parents’ new Studebaker
Wagonnaires or Buick Rivieras ask out-of-town freshmen if they want a lift to
for the out-of-the-area female students means the former Zook family apartment upstairs
at 146 W. Washington St. Male students live at 87 Kennedy St., 2 School St. or
197 Interstate Parkway — complete with
housemothers. Others room at the local YMCA.
in, students might grab a snack — perhaps a bowl of a new cereal, Fruit Loops, or
another just-released product, Chips Ahoy! Chocolate Chip cookies — and wash it
down with the newfangled Maxwell House Freeze Dried Coffee or new diet drink Tab
(filled with the later-banned artificial sweetener, cyclamate).
evening, students could choose from only three TV networks — CBS, NBC, and ABC
— and watch “Combat!,” “Mr. Novak” or “Petticoat Junction.”
they could listen to their trendy transitor radios and hear the No. 1 song, “My
Boyfriend’s Back” by the Angels, or other Top 10 tunes like “Hello Muddah,
Hello Faddah!”; the Four Seasons’ “Candy Girl”; or Peter, Paul and Mary’s version
of Bob Dylan’s anti-war anthem, “Blowin’ in the Wind.”
students type letters on their new Smith Corona portable typewriters while
others choose to see the movie playing at Dipson’s Theater on Main Street — “Irma
La Douce” starring Shirley MacLaine and Jack Lemmon.
as Walter Cronkite would have reported on the now-half-hour CBS Evening News
(expanded from 15 minutes just the day before), viewers saw scenes of unrest in
the South; updates on NASA’s plan to send a man to the moon before 1970; or a report
about Vietnam’s unstable government.
no one, except perhaps a loner named Lee Harvey Oswald, knew President John F.
Kennedy had a little over two months to live.
was 1963 when the average yearly income was $5,807; a stamp cost 5 cents; a
loaf of bread, 22 cents; a gallon of gas, 29 cents; and a new car, $3,233.
is the word Dr. Richard Frederick, professor of history at Pitt-Bradford, chose
to sum up the year 1963 — not only because of the Kennedy assassination, but
also the civil rights events, especially in Alabama.
baby boomers, the question is still asked: Where were you when you heard
Kennedy was assassinated? On a campaign trip to Dallas, President Kennedy, with
his wife, Jacqueline, sat in the back of a Lincoln convertible when Oswald, a former
U.S. Marine, fired the fatal shots from the sixth floor of the Texas Book
days later, Oswald, was shot and killed by nightclub owner Jack Ruby as he was
being transferred from Dallas police headquarters to the county jail. The networks
unwittingly had broadcast the first live murder on TV.
Nov. 25, the nation would watch JFK’s funeral, during which his 3-year-old son
“John John” saluted his father’s casket as it passed.
we usually think of as ‘The ’60s didn’t really start until after the Kennedy
assassination,” Frederick said.
the civil rights movement heated up in 1963. Baptist minister Martin Luther
King Jr., president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, led
non-violent civil rights demonstrations in segregated Birmingham, Ala., where
police, under orders, used guard dogs and hoses (some said to carry 700 pounds
of pressure) to combat the protestors, which included student activists. King, along
with others, was arrested and incarcerated where he wrote the landmark “Letter
from Birmingham Jail.”
demonstrations and sit-ins followed in the South, culminating in the Aug. 28 March
On Washington for Jobs and Freedom where King delivered his “I Have a Dream”
speech before a crowd of 250,000.
speech was tremendously important in awakening youth and middle America to what
was going on,” Frederick said.
the violence was far from over.
September, Alabama Gov. George Wallace —
halted in June by a federalized National Guard from keeping two black students
from attending the state university — tried again to outlaw integration, this
time in a high school. Again, Kennedy federalized the National Guard to prevent
Wallace from using the Guard members as troopers.
September, a bomb planted by members of the Ku Klux Klan killed four black
children and injured 22 others at Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist
a month earlier, James Meredith became the first black man to graduate from the
University of Mississippi.
a world away, America would deepen its involvement in Vietnam. Kennedy had
first supported Ngo Dinh Diem, the president of Vietnam, but later decided he was
not the leader to stand up to the Communist rebels.
and his brother Nhu were killed in a coup on Nov. 1,” Frederick said. “I think
this was the turning point of the United States really taking control of things
in the war, although the great infusion of troops didn’t start until 1964.”
the British had once again invaded America
— this time with The Beatles taking over the music charts as well as the
heart of every teenage girl. The four young men from Liverpool, England, known as
much for their hair as their harmony, had released “I saw her Standing There,”
“I Wanna Hold Your Hand” and “She Loves You,” among other hits in 1963.
have said that the Beatles were an antidote to the Kennedy assassination in
America. Sure, they were that. But they would have been as big with or without
that tragedy,” said Tim Ziaukas, Pitt-Bradford professor of public relations. “The
Beatles enlivened a group of young people who would go on to change America.
The Beatles were their wake-up call for the 1960s.”
Plenty of memorable non-Beatles’ songs filled
the charts, too. There was surf music by The Beach Boys and Jan and Dean; soul and
R&B music from Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, The Ronettes and The
Shirelles; more British acts like The Rolling Stones, The Dave Clark Five and
Dusty Springfield; and even a singing nun from Belgium who had a No. 1 hit with
“Dominique.” Teens gyrated to their music
with dances called “The Monkey” and “The Limbo.”
released in 1963 included “The Birds,” “How the West was Won,” and “Cleopatra,”
known more for inciting the love affair of its stars, Elizabeth Taylor and
Richard Burton, than for its artistic achievements.
TV programs introduced that year included “The Fugitive,” “My Favorite Martian”
and “The French Chef” starring Julia Child.
Friedan’s landmark feminist treatise, “The Feminine Mystique,” first appeared
in 1963, as did comic books like “The Amazing Spider Man” and X-Men.
sports, the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Yankees in the World Series, with
Sandy Koufax named the National League's Most
Valuable Player. The Chicago Bears defeated the New York Giants in the National
Football League and the Boston Celtics triumphed over the L.A. Lakers in the National
Basketball Association finals.
news that year included the succession of Pope Paul VI after the death of Pope
John XXIII; the introduction of the five-digit ZIP Code, touch-tone telephones
and pull-tabs on alumninum cans; the closing of Alcatraz federal penitentiary; the
start of Weight Watchers; and the distribution of the Sabin oral polio vaccine.
also was the year NASA sent astronaut Gordon Cooper on the last Mercury flight.
He became the first American to spend more than 24 hours in space.
years on, a new freshman class is ready to enter Pitt-Bradford. Besides the obvious
differences a half-century has brought, how different are these freshmen from
their peers in 1963?
young people back then were naïve in believing they were empowered by
idealism,” Frederick said. “The kids of today are naïve in believing they are
empowered by technology.”