October 1 in history:
A steamboat called the “New Orleans” reached Louisville, Kentucky on October 1st, 1811, having traveled down the Ohio River from Pittsburgh. People in Louisville had never seen a steamboat before, and the vessel was so noisy, stories circulated that the noise was caused by a comet falling into the river.
The U.S. space agency NASA was formed on this date in 1958, almost a full year after the Soviet Union launched its Sputnik satellite.
Disney’s EPCOT theme park, known for displays of futuristic technology, opened in Florida on October 1st, 1982. That was 11 years to the day after Disney World opened in the Orlando area.
On that same day in 1982, Sony introduced its first compact disc player in Japan. The first record album to be released on CD was Billy Joel’s “52nd Street.”
October 1st of ’82 also marked the first weekly episode of “Knight Rider” on NBC, which featured a high-tech talking car named KITT.
September 30 in history:
“The Simpsons” and “Family Guy” might not have existed without Fred Flintstone. On September 30th, 1960, “The Flintstones” debuted on ABC. It was the first long-running animated sitcom in prime time, and it inspired spinoffs, sequels, live-action movies, breakfast cereals, and chewable vitamins.
Lewis Milestone was not a character on “The Flintstones.” He was an Oscar-winning director who had a hit movie in theaters in the fall of 1960, the original “Ocean’s Eleven.” Milestone was born on this date in 1895. He also directed the Best Picture winner for 1930, the World War I drama “All Quiet on the Western Front.”
European leaders hoping to prevent a second World War signed the Munich Pact on September 30th, 1938. The pact would allow Hitler to annex the Sudetenland portion of Czechoslovakia to Germany. The agreement has gone down in history as a monumental blunder, especially for British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, who returned to England that day with a peace treaty signed by Hitler.
The most popular song in much of Europe on this date in 1976 was “Dancing Queen” by ABBA. On September 30th, it was the number-one song in England, Ireland, Holland, Norway, and Sweden.
September 29 in history:
Pope John Paul, formerly Cardinal Albino Luciani, died on September 29th, 1978, only 34 days after being elected. John Paul was immensely popular during his short reign as pope, prompting his successor, Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, to choose the name John Paul II.
Construction on the Washington National Cathedral began on September 29th, 1907.
On that same day, “Singing Cowboy” Gene Autry was born. Autry was famous for his movies and Christmas recordings, and later in life as the founder of the Los Angeles Angels baseball team.
September 29th was the last day of the regular baseball season in 1957, and two franchises played — and lost — their last games as New York teams on that day before moving to California. The Giants, headed to San Francisco, lost their last home game at the Polo Grounds to Pittsburgh, and the Brooklyn Dodgers were beaten in Philadelphia in their final game before moving to Los Angeles.
A Martian had to settle in Los Angeles after his spaceship crashed, on the sitcom “My Favorite Martian,” which debuted September 29th, 1963 on CBS. Ray Walston was billed as “The Martian,” but he was called “Martin O’Hara” and “Uncle Martin” while living with a newspaper reporter played by Bill Bixby.
Jonathan Harris of “Lost in Space” played the voice of Uncle Martin in a 1970’s cartoon show based on “Martian.” On this night in 1963, the same Sunday night that “Martian” premiered, Harris appeared on NBC’s “Bonanza” as author Charles Dickens, visiting the Ponderosa. Harris was a regular cast member on another NBC series that aired that night, “The Bill Dana Show,” in which Dana’s popular character Jose Jimenez worked as a hotel bellhop.
September 28 in history:
The battle which ended the American Revolution began on September 28th, 1781. The British surrendered three weeks into the Battle of Yorktown in Virginia.
“Revolution” was the flip side of the Beatles’ single “Hey Jude,” which became the number-one song in America on this day in 1968, replacing “Harper Valley P.T.A.” “Hey Jude” stayed on top of the charts for two months.
The Beatles led the “British Invasion” of American popular music when they first appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show” in 1964. Sullivan was born September 28th, 1901…the same day and year as his long-time boss at CBS, network founder William S. Paley.
September 27 in history:
Pope Urban VII (real name, Giovanni Castagna) died on this date in 1590. He had only been the pope for 13 days, the shortest papacy ever. There was no controversy about the cause of death: Pope Urban died of malaria.
The assassination of the first Catholic president of the U.S. led to a government investigation that concluded on September 27th, 1964, with the release of the Warren Commission report. The Commission led by Chief Justice Earl Warren concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in killing President John F. Kennedy. TV networks did live programs about the Commission findings at the hour the report was released to the public.
A live late-night program called “Tonight!” debuted on NBC on this date in 1954. Steve Allen was host for the first three years, succeeded by Jack Paar, Johnny Carson, Jay Leno, Conan O’Brien, and Jay Leno again. Jimmy Fallon will become the next “Tonight Show” host in 2014. Steve Allen’s first night as host was also the 34th birthday of his wife, actress Jayne Meadows.
September 26 in history:
Explorer Francis Drake ended a three-year voyage around the world when he arrived back at his starting point of Plymouth, England, on this date in 1580. Drake was knighted by Queen Elizabeth less than a year later.
The cruise ship Queen Mary was launched on September 26th, 1934. It made regular cruises between Europe and the U.S. before it was retired in 1967, and docked in Long Beach, California.
“A three-hour tour” for the S.S. Minnow led to a three-year run on CBS for the sitcom “Gilligan’s Island,” which premiered on September 26th, 1964. “Gilligan” producer Sherwood Schwartz launched another iconic sitcom on this day exactly five years later in 1969, when “The Brady Bunch” made its debut on ABC.
“The Beverly Hillbillies” also had its premiere on September 26th, in 1962…the birthday of Donna Douglas (1933), who played Elly May Clampett on the show. Immediately after “Hillbillies” that night on CBS, “The Dick Van Dyke Show” began its second season with a new opening sequence, in which Van Dyke, as TV writer Rob Petrie, walks into his house and either trips over an ottoman, or sidesteps it. Three versions were shot, so viewers could guess every week whether Rob would trip or not.
September 25 in history:
On September 25th, 1513, explorer Vasco Nunez de Balboa became the first European to see the Pacific Ocean from the east, while traveling on the Isthmus of Panama. Balboa claimed the ocean for the king and queen of Spain.
On this date in 1981, Sandra Day O’Connor took office as the first female justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
ABC was the first U.S. network to hire a woman to anchor the evening news, when it teamed Barbara Walters with Harry Reasoner in 1976. Walters was born on September 25th, 1929.
And the first weekly TV cartoon show about living celebrities debuted on ABC on September 25th, 1965. On “The Beatles” series, the animated adventures portrayed the band members as they looked in 1965. But during the four years that “The Beatles” aired on network TV, the show did take note of the band’s changes in appearance and musical styles.