Pre-1963 "Where were you whens?"

One constant conversational subject (as well as a reoccurring board topic) is “where were you when you heard about (insert historical event)?” Usually, the unexpected death of a famous person is used (John Lennon, Elvis Presley, Princess Di, etc). The oldest one I commonly hear is the assassination of John F. Kennedy. But were there earlier ones? Did people back in the fifties ask each other “where were you when you heard about FDR dying?” Or is this a phenomenon of the modern mass-communication age?

My mom says she remembers where she was when she heard the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. I don’t know if that’s the memorable event for that generation though.

It’s a long way to heaven, but only three short steps to hell.

Where were you when you heard Santa Claus isn’t real?

My Aunt Leona, God be good to her, was 14 years old and working in a sewing factory on November 11, 1918. (She died five years ago in December, not quite 90 years old.) She remembered Armistice Day, and dancing in the streets.

My mom, God be good to her also, remembered the announcement on the radio about Pearl Harbor, and also about D-Day.


All of my parents (I had a close stepmom) imparted to me significant remembrances, the most memorable to me being my Dad’s (who was a pineapple plantation manager) memory of watching the attack on Pearl.

That’s responding to a veer the thread has taken. I really thought JC, oops, sorry, Mike was asking those present about their own pre-‘63 where-was-I-when-I-heard it memories. I remember a big to-do about sputnik, and I remember Francis Gary Powers going down in Russia and the subsequent denials and acknowledgements by Ike. I remember quite well the arrival of the Magnificent Seven (the original Astronauts) in Houston. I do remember my first sighting of Dan Rather during Hurricane Carla. While no historically significant signal moment from the Cuban Missile Crisis stands out, I most definitely remember the day we had to bring notes from home establishing upon what notice of nuclear attack the school was to release us to go home. Teach read each one out loud - almost everybodys’ said one hour - but my Mom’s, with the notation that it was, “so we can all die together,” gave me ten minutes. I remember thinking, “wait, you’re gonna be in the house and they’re all gonna be huddled up at the school, and I’m gonna get fried hauling fanny down Kirby Drive!”

I remember watching a bomb being tested on the little black & white TV – don’t know if it was the atom bomb or the hydrogen bomb – but it was a big deal. I want to say this was 1952 or 1953. I would have been 7 or 8.

We were living in the country, and I can recall the exact layout of the house, where the TV was in the room. Back in those days, TV wasn’t broadcast 24/7 like now. There was a lot of dead air time.

The next significant “common” event I remember vividly was Kennedy’s assassination.

Does that mean nothing much happened between 1952 and 1963? Might well be.

I’ll bet a lot of people remember the day Hitler lost.And their descendants,too.

And no, they didn’t test the bomb on top of our TV.

I asked my uncle if he remembered when FDR died, and he did.

He said that he was sitting in a barber shop getting a haircut.

I also asked where he was when he heard that the war was over.

He said that he and his men were loading up supplies on ships–that would have been used for the mainland invasion of Japan, if it had happened. His CO came to him and told him that there was a “rumor” that the Japanese were about to surrender.

I very distinctly remember the Cuban missile crisis, Kennedy on TV and the whole thing. My father had come back on a trip through Arkansas and he was terrified because he had seen the U.S. missiles on top of the ground, not in the underground pits.

And yes, my parents’ generation did talk about where they were when they heard about Pearl harbor and when Roosevelt died.

I asked some older friends about Welle’s broadcast of “The War of the Worlds”. They remembered it and where they were.

My grandmother who grew up in rural western NY remembers when the first time an airplane flew over their farm. Everybody in town all along the flight path ran out doors, stopped, and stared until it was well out of sight.
I remember Nixon resigning. Saw it on TV. Things change.

The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits.

I remember seeing the bomb on TV.

Cop Rock, I think it was called.

But seriously… I’ve pretty much isolated myself from mass media, so I’m always the last to hear about things. But I was at home watching TV when the space shuttle blew up. Same with when the gulf war started up.
The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.