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Where Were You in '62?
Foothill College began instruction at a temporary location in Mountain View in 1958. The award-winning Foothill campus in Los Altos Hills opened to the public in September of 1961 for the 61-62 academic year. Following are just a few of the things that were going on in the country during the years 1958-1962.
It was a time of hope, of excitement and exploration. It was also a time of awakening, of unrest and segregation. In 1958 the U.S. government established NASA. It was also the year that Hula Hoops became a national craze, Arnold Palmer won his first Masters golf tournament and experimental nuclear power stations became operational.
In 1959, Alaska was admitted as the 49th state, President Eisenhower signed a bill allowing for Hawaiian statehood and Rod Serling's classic TV series, The Twilight Zone, premiered. Elvis Presley was discharged after two years of service in the U.S. Army.
The next year, 1960, saw four Black students from a North Carolina Universiy staging a sit-in at a segregated Woolworth's lunch counter. They were refused service, but allowed to stay at the counter. The event triggered many similar protests and, six months later, the same four protesters were served lunch at the same counter. Cassius Clay (later named Muhammad Ali) won the gold medal in light-heavyweight boxing at the Summer Olympic Games.
The following year, 1961, John F. Kennedy was sworn in as the 35th President of the United States. At the age of 43, he was the youngest President the country had elected. He established the Peace Corps later the same year. Barbie got a boyfriend when the first Ken doll was introduced. In a speech about television and the public interest, FCC Chairman Newton N. Minow described commercial television programming as a "vast wasteland." A mixed race group of civil rights activists began riding busses into segregated areas of the country to protest anti-segregation laws that were being ignored. They called themselves the Freedom Riders. One bus was fire bombed in Alabama, and the protesters were pulled from the bus and beaten by an angy mob that included members of Ku Klux Klan. Later that same month, Alabama Governor John Patterson delcared martial law in an attempt to restore order after several race riots. Roger Maris of the New York Yankees hit 61 home runs, setting a new record previously held by Babe Ruth.
In 1962, John F. Kennedy received praise from NAACP Executive Secretary Roy Wilkins for his "personal role" in advancing civil rights. First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy took the American public on a televised tour of the White House. The Beatles auditioned for Decca Records, but were rejected and eventually signed with Capital Records. Later that same year, the Rolling Stones made their debut performance at London's Marquee Club and Bob Dylan released his debut album. Wilt Chamberlain, of the (then) Philadelphia Warriors, scored 100 points in a single NBA game against the New York Knicks, a record that still stands today. In February of 1962, John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth, three times, in 4 hours, 55 minutes. During the summer of 1962, the first Walmart store, then known as Wal-Mart, opened for business in Rogers, Arkansas.
1962 was the year of the Cuban Missile Crisis, which began when President Kennedy ordered an embargo on all imports from Cuba. Cuba and the Soviet Union (now Russia) began construction of nine secret missile bases in Cuba, just ninety miles from the coast of Florida, which were capable of launching missiles that could reach most of the United States. By October of 1962, U.S. military forces were on DEFCON 2 alert, which required over 1,400 B-52 bombers to be ready to take off with fifteen minutes notice, 145 intercontinental ballistic missiles on ready alert and the activation of 161 nuclear-armed interceptors. Later that same month, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev announced via Radio Moscow that he had agreed to remove the missiles from Cuba. It was one of the most tense and terrifying moments in American history. All this occured during the second Fall Semester of Foothill College at its new, tranquil Los Altos Hills location.
The war in Vietnam had begun, but was not yet considered a "war;" it was typically referred to as a "conflict." U.S. Senate majority leader, Mike Mansfield, became one of the first U.S. officials to make pessimistic public comments about the war's progress. He reported to John F. Kennedy on December 2, 1962, that U.S. money given to Ngo Dinh Diem's government of South Vietnam was "being squandered" and that the U.S. should avoid further involvement in Vietnam.
Racial tensions over segregation resulted in a violent riot on September 30, 1962, at the University of Mississippi. James Meredith, a Black man with strong experience as an Air Force veteran and good grades at Jackson State University, enrolled at the University of Mississippi. The Governor of Mississippi, Ross Barrnett, had this to say: "There is no case in history where the Caucasian race has survived social integration. We will not drink from the cup of genocide. ... We must either submit to the unlawful dictates of the federal government or stand up like men and tell them never! ... No school will be integrated in Mississippi while I am your Governor!" During the days preceding the riot, bands of racists drove cars through Oxford and the campus with stickers stating that "The South shall rise again," waving Confederate flags and assaulting Black people. On September 30, James Meredith was quietly escorted to his dorm room by local Highway Patrol Officers. Federal agents had assembled on campus, ordered there by President Kennedy. Responding to the presence of federal agents, a crowd of over 1,000 assembled on campus to protest Meredith's enrollment at the University. The crowd swelled to over 3,000, eventually discovered that Meredith was in Baxter Hall and began to assault the building. Military Police and Army Infantry were called in. By the end of the evening, two civilians were killed and over 300 people were injured. Over half of the injured were federal agents, soldiers or national guardsmen. Governor Barrnett was fined $10,000 and sentenced to jail for contempt. The charges were later dismissed.