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Old 26 September 2017, 08:22 PM
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Ponder First historical event you remember

Over the past few days I watched a documentary series on Netflix called The Sixties which originally aired on CNN. (Pretty good; ten episodes, which vary in length.) Since I was born in 1961, I lived through most of the sixties, but of course as a child was not aware of quite a lot of what was happening.

I believe the first specific event I can remember -- the first one I can put an exact date to -- is the funeral of Robert F. Kennedy. I have memories of watching it on television; the train carrying the coffin, and the trip to Arlington. This happened in June of 1968, so I was just over 7 years old.

I was generally aware of some things happening before that, such as the Vietnam war and the space program. But while I'm almost positive I watched at least one of the Gemini liftoffs, I can't say for certain which ones, and I don't have specific memories associated with them as I do for the RFK funeral, or the Summer Olympics later that year, or the Apollo 11 landing the next year.

What's the first historical event you can remember witnessing or being aware of when it happened, and how old were you at the time? Just curious.
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Old 26 September 2017, 08:27 PM
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I remember George Bush Sr. becoming president when I was 5. We were probably watching the inauguration at pre-school, and it probably sticks in my mind because inauguration day is always right around my birthday.

I didn't quite understand what presidents were or the concept of elections or term limits, so I remember asking "Why aren't they letting Mr. Reagan be president anymore?"
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Old 26 September 2017, 08:28 PM
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President Reagan being shot when I had just turned 8. We were just getting out of school and they made an announcement over the PA. I was pretty scared because I thought it was the start of a military coup. (Not sure how I knew about coups as that was in 2nd grade, but it was probably something I'd gotten by osmosis from the nightly news.)

ETA: To clarify, I don't think I knew the word "coup" or what it meant. But I knew that, at times, the military or other armed groups would kill the leader and take over the country. And I knew that such events could injure or kill civilians too.
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Old 26 September 2017, 08:42 PM
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[hijack] I recently started watching The Americans on Amazon streaming. Episode 4 or so is about the fallout from the Regan assassination attempt. Apparently, the Soviets also were concerned that it was the start of a coup. At least that how it was portrayed in the episode, and it seems like the show attempts to portray things fairly accurately. [/hijack]

As for mine, I actually don't remember the actual event of the Space Shuttle Challenger exploding, even though most people my age say the have vivid memories of it. I do remember talking about it in school, though, so maybe it still counts.

I do remember the 1988 election. There was a rumor going around my school that Dukakis wanted to make kids go to school on Saturdays. Bush won my school's mock election in a landslide.
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Old 26 September 2017, 08:46 PM
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Probably Elvis Presley's death. That was, what... 1977? If so I was 8.
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Old 26 September 2017, 08:58 PM
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I have vague memories of being clustered around the television when launches happened during the Apollo program. I was 4 at the time. I have a better memory of the terrorist attack at the Munich Olympics in 1972, when I was 7.
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Old 26 September 2017, 09:09 PM
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For me it was probably the Challenger disaster in 1986, when I was 10 years old. I remember being very upset over what happened. It felt so unthinkable, it's still hard to comprehend.
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Old 26 September 2017, 09:13 PM
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I guess the Vietnam War; I don't remember a time before it (born in 61), does that count as a first memory?

I don't remember RFK's assassination, but I had recurring nightmares that may have been inspired by seeing footage of it, or of some similar event. The key repeating factor in the nightmares was that I was faced with a wall of right hands (I couldn't see the people they belonged to), and I had to walk along it and shake as many hands as possible, but I knew that one of the hands belonged to someone who would hurt me.
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Old 26 September 2017, 09:17 PM
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I actually remembered something I recall from earlier: the 1967 Indianapolis 500. I had to check the date, but I remembered there was a year when Parnelli Jones drove a turbine-powered car, and it was seen as a big deal. Not that I knew then what a turbine-powered car was (or that I really know now, in any detail). I recalled, correctly, that he led throughout the race, but the car suffered a breakdown with just a few laps to go. (The following year, there were several turbine-powered cars of a new design, but they weren't as dominant, and again the one leading the race broke down a few miles before finishing. After that, rules changes effectively banned them).

I wasn't watching the race live -- it wasn't broadcast live on TV in those days -- but I think we listened to parts on the radio, and I was definitely aware of the result (the actual winner was A.J. Foyt).
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Old 26 September 2017, 09:29 PM
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That's an interesting question. I was seven during the 1992 presidential election. Our class had a mock election, and I remember arguing that Bush was already president, and my life was good, so why shouldn't he keep being president? That was pretty much the only argument I could think of, since I knew nothing about who was even running or what their positions were.
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Old 26 September 2017, 09:39 PM
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I remember Reagan's election, although at the time I really had no concept of the realities of politics. (I knew that PBS was partially government funded, and my 3rd grade geek friends and I were upset that since the election, one of our favorite shows had stopped running. We concluded that "Reagan took '3-2-1 Contact' off the air!") I also remember the assassination attempt.

However, the first major event I recall with a fair grasp of detail is the aforementioned Challenger disaster. We had a snow day that day, so my family, classmates and I had plenty of time to watch the news. Schools had been giving the shuttle mission a huge buildup because of Christa McAuliffe, so we were very much aware of the larger context.
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Old 26 September 2017, 09:43 PM
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For me it was also the Challenger disaster. I would have been in second grade. My class watched in on TV, but I wasn't allowed because I was being punished for something (could've been anything--I was in trouble a lot in elementary school). I remember teachers talking about it a little, but not much else.
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Old 26 September 2017, 10:08 PM
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The earliest events I can remember are all from 1980/1981 when I was in first grade. I was originally going to say Reagan being shot, (my class made him get well cards) but I actually remember the 1980 election pretty clearly for a 6 yr old, including that there was an issue over hostages in Iran.

What I remember most about it, though, was my dad being home to pick me up from school (because he got election day off) and me asking him if he voted for President Carter. And when he said no, asking if he voted for Reagan. And when he said no, asking "then who did you vote for?" and him telling me he voted for John Anderson. And then being like "Who is John Anderson?!!!!" The idea that you could vote for someone other than Reagan or Carter was news to me.

I also remember the first space shuttle launch vividly because we just happened to be on vacation in Orlando at the time. We visited Kennedy Space Center earlier in the week and my dad asked the guide when you'd have to get there in order to see the launch live and he said "3 days" and my parents were like "nope" and we went on with the rest of our vacation as planned. We watched the launch on our tv in the hotel room and then went out on the balcony with all the other guests in pajamas and watched it in the sky. Full disclosure: I did not realize that it was the very first space launch for the shuttle until years later. It made an impression on my anyway. I remember that more than Disney World.
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Old 26 September 2017, 10:33 PM
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Probably the Nixon-Kennedy election, in 1960 when I was 9; though I don't remember it very clearly. I do remember Kennedy's assassination, but I don't think I fully understood the importance; my family was pretty vehemently anti-Kennedy and I don't think I was clear yet on the reasons for wanting somebody out of office but thinking it horrible if the person got killed.
(to clarify, my family definitely didn't favor assassination!)

-- I remember having read something in the Reader's Digest well before the assassination, I think before the election, in which they pointed out that every President up to that time who was elected in a year divisible by 20 had died in office (they weren't all assassinated, though.) The article didn't expect this to keep happening, they thought it was coincidence; but they thought it was an interesting coincidence worth pointing out.

Then it wasn't funny any longer. But I think it may be my clearest memory on the subject.
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Old 26 September 2017, 10:39 PM
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I've been thinking more about this, and I'm sure it was Elvis. The Vietnam War, Watergate, and the Ford Presidency didn't really register much to young me. Truth be told the only reason I recall Elvis' death so well wasn't because of news coverage or anything like that. It was the affect it had on my mom. It hit her pretty hard.
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Old 26 September 2017, 10:41 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Veruca View Post
That's an interesting question. I was seven during the 1992 presidential election. Our class had a mock election, and I remember arguing that Bush was already president, and my life was good, so why shouldn't he keep being president? That was pretty much the only argument I could think of, since I knew nothing about who was even running or what their positions were.
I have a similar memory of the 1968 election. I favored Humphrey because he was the vice-president, and therefore presumably knew what he was doing. My brother pointed out that Nixon had also been vice-president at one time, but that was before I was born, so I didn't care.
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Old 26 September 2017, 10:51 PM
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I remember the Challenger disaster. I was four at the time, so I didn't actually understand what was happening but they showed it on TV at my preschool (I have no idea why).
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Old 26 September 2017, 11:03 PM
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I have a few fleeting memories of watching coverage of the Vietnam war back in the early '70s, but can't be sure whether that was news reporting or file footage for news events. I was born in '70 so the timeline does not make full sense.

First event I really remember is the 76 Montreal Olympics. I remember watching it on TV, not because as a 5 year old I understood it, but because my Dad was working at the Olympics and I have distinct memories of my brother and I watching the TV for signs of our Dad. No such luck.

The earliest event I can recall clearly what was happening was the death of John Diefenbaker (former PM). We were on holiday at my grandparents' house in Toronto when Dief died. Now, both my grandparents in Toronto were politically connected* to the Liberals**, to the Progressive Conservatives*** and the the NDP ****. I was just becoming a bit aware of the politics in the family when this happened. There was a lot of buzz around Dief's death in the house. If my grandparents were not so connected, I'm not sure I would have registered it.

Very good question.

* Grandma even had Mike Pearson over to dinner one time before he became PM, the stuff of family legend
** through Grandma's envelope stuffing abilities
*** through Grandpa's work connections
**** through family relationship with the leadership of that party at that time
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Old 26 September 2017, 11:05 PM
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I was born at the end of 1981, so I'm too young to remember the Challenger disaster. My earliest major historical memory is the fall of the Berlin Wall.

I remember the 1988 presidential election, but to me that wasn't a historic event, just another mundane one. We had mock elections in second grade and I voted for George Bush because I thought elephants were cuter than donkeys. Also I heard that Mike Dukakis wanted to make kids stay in school year-round, so no way was he getting my vote!

And I remember the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea. That was when I learned where South Korea was, and it was back when they still had summer and winter games in the same years.
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Old 26 September 2017, 11:08 PM
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I remember when JFK was assassinated but only because of the reactions of my parents and grandparents who were horrified and heartbroken. Offhand the first event I think I can remember clearly was the Apollo One fire when Grissom, Chaffee and White were killed. I was old enough to understand the news coverage and can still remember reading an article about it in, I think, Life magazine. The first news story I remember following though was when Robert Kennedy was assassinated. That along with the Vietnam War are what stand out for me when I think of world events and my childhood.
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