Sunday, January 2, 2011

Fifty Years Ago: January 2, 1961

January 2nd of 1961 was a Monday. That evening, the US embassy in Cuba was ordered to cut its staff down to eleven by Fidel Castro, in a radio address. Just eleven. "The rest are nothing but spies," is what Castro said in the AP story, and he gave them 48 hours to leave.

Premier Krushchev of the USSR voiced alarm over the report that the US was about to invade Cuba. To put this in context, the Bay of Pigs invasion lay four months in the future, but secret training and plans had begun many months before, in summer of 1960. The United Nations was set to discuss Cuba's charge of a planned invasion that week, in early 1961.

In other headlines, the President (Eisenhower) (John F. Kennedy had been elected the previous November but had not been sworn in yet), the Secretary of State, and top military advisers were meeting over a reported Communist invasion in Laos. Whether the invaders were from Red China or Communist North Vietnam was not known. And although this isn't in the newspapers of the day, the US--through Thailand--delivered American-made aircraft to the ruling government of Laos the next day. Civil War in Laos had started seven years before and would last till 1975.

So much for the good old days. All in all, I think the world in general is better off fifty years later.

Of course, the real news was the Rose Bowl Game. Not that the Huskies from Washington were triumphant in the Rose Bowl for the second straight year, beating Minnesota 17-7. (The headline on page 2 on page two of the Los Angeles Times was "Gay Rose Tourney Thrills Throngs.")

No, the real story for non-jocks is that hoax of the century was perpetrated at the game. You can read all the details at Hoaxipedia, but in brief, some Caltech students (the fiendish fourteen) snuck into the hotel where the University of Washington cheerleaders were bivouacked. They knew, already, that as part of the half-time show, a grand card-flipping extravaganza was planned, so that 15 separate images would be flashed by the audience and seen all over the nation, thanks to TV. So they stole the instructions for the card flipping and sabotaged them. You can see the result in this picture

The Times mentioned the prank briefly, assuming that Caltech students had bought out the seat section reserved for U of WA. (that's not what happened.)  The truth came out a few weeks later in a Caltech magazine.  Go to Hoaxipedia for the full story. It'll bring tears to your eyes.

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