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Remember when page for the Grand Rapids High School Class of 1961 40th Reunion

World Events

While Growing To Young Adults

1943 - 1961

1943:  Most of the class of '61 were born in 1943

  • WWII was still being fought - Eisenhower named Supreme Allied Commander.
  • wartime rationing begins.
  • RADAR first used


  • The world is at war...
  • Ration Coupons


  • Germany surrenders, V-E day.
  • Atomic bomb dropped on Japan forcing a quick surrender. 


  • ENIAC, The first general purpose electronic digital computer.



  • On October 14, 1947, Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier in an experimental rocket plane.

1949:  We entered the first grade.

  • NATO formed.
  • Communists under Mao Zedong defeat Nationalists in China.
  • Nationalist Chinese under Chaing Kai-shek flee to Taiwan.
  • Civil War in Greece ends.
  • Indonesia declares independence from Netherlands.
  • India becomes a republic.
  • Federal German Republic (West Germany) formed; Adenauer becomes Chancellor.
  • NATO Treaty signed.
  • Apartheid system introduced in South Africa.
  • Soviet Union detonates its first atomic bomb.
  • Truman's "Fair Deal" proclaimed.
  • Civil War veterans (16 in number) have their last meeting.
  • Minimum wage bill passed.


  • The population of the United States as reported by the 1950 Census is 150,697,361. The population of the world is approximately 2.5 billion.
  • North Korea invades South Korea
  • USSR announces they have developed the atomic bomb.                           
  • Chinese invade Tibet.
  • North Korea invades South Korea.
  • UN forces drive North Koreans out of South Korea.
  • Vietnam divided into North and South.
  • Alger Hiss convicted.
  • Senator McCarthy begins enquiry into "un-American activities."
  • Mother Teresa founded the first Mission of Charity in Calcutta, India.
  • Korean War (1950-1953)
  • Unemployment is 5.3%


  • Direct-dial, coast-to-coast telephone service began as Mayor M. Leslie Denning of Englewood, New Jersey called his counterpart mayor Frank Osborn in Alameda, California.
  • A.E.C. produces electricity from atomic energy.
  • J. Andre-Thomas invents the first heart-lung machine, allowing advanced life-support during open-heart surgery.
  • The U.S. Congress ratifies the Twenty-second Amendment, limiting presidents to two terms in office. 
  • Rosenbergs convicted of selling atomic secrets to the Soviets.
  • Unemployment: 3.3%


  • George V1 of England dies; Elizabeth 11 becomes Queen
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower elected President of US (Richard Nixon becomes Vice-President)
  • President Truman seizes U.S. steel mills to avert an industry-wide strike for higher wages. The President asserts that the industry is vital to the defense of the U.S., but the Supreme Court rules the seizure unconstitutional. The strike is settled after 54 days in talks at the White House.
  • First hydrogen bomb (US)
  • Puerto Rico becomes a Commonwealth under U.S. jurisdiction.
  • First British atomic bomb test (at Monte Bello Island, later tests at Woomera)
  • First jet airliner (de Havilland Comet)
  • Norman Vincent Peale, publishes his most popular book, The Power of Positive Thinking
  • University of Tennessee admits its first black student.
  • George Jorgensen/Christine Jorgensen, the first person to go public after a sex change operation.
  • First polio immunization developed by Jonas Salk


  • Korean War ends.
  • Josef Stalin dies; Malenkov becomes Premier of Soviet Union.
  • Dag Hammarskjold becomes Secretary-General of UN.
  • Watson and Crick discover structure of DNA
  • First heart-lung machine.
  • Dr. John H. Gibbon performs the first successful open heart surgery in which the blood is artificially circulated and oxygenated by a heart-lung machine.
  • First Soviet hydrogen bomb
  • Edmund Hilary and Tenzing Norgay become the first humans to reach the summit of Mount Everest.
  • East Berliners rise against Communist rule. The Soviets roll tanks into city.
  • Tito becomes president of Yugoslavia.
  • Joseph Stalin dies at the age of 73.
  • Unemployment is 2.9%


  • Congress after a campaign by the Knight of Columbus, added the words 'Under God,'to the Pledge of Allegiance. The Pledge was now both a patriotic oath and a public prayer. 
  • US Supreme Court decision prohibits racial segregation in schools. 
  • French defeated at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu in North Vietnam.
  • Vietnam partitioned into North and South.
  • Nasser ousts Naguib as president of Egypt.
  • National Liberation Front (FLN) raids spark the Algerian War.
  • US and Canada begin construction of the St. Lawrence Seaway.
  • US nuclear submarine, the Nautilus, launched.
  • IBM announces the development of an electronic brain for business use. 
  • A test program using sterilized males wipes out screwworm flies on the Caribbean island of Curacao in only 4 months. (Just thought you should know this fact.)
  • A 1953 incident where Eisenhower's aircraft was "Air Force 8610" and an Eastern Airlines plane was "8610" created the need to devise a unique call sign. In 1954, the call sign "Air Force One" was classified to identify not only the president's plane, but when he was aboard.
  • Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser seizes power in Egypt April 17. On October 19, Nasser signs a treaty with the British under which the British will withdraw from the Suez Canal Zone.
  • Canada and the United States agree to build a 3000-mile-long array of radar warning stations across northern Canada (the DEW line - Distant Early Warning). 
  • Unemployment is 5.6%

1955:  We entered  junior high school.

  • President Eisenhower takes part in the first televised press conference.
  • Texan Sam Rayburn is elected Speaker of the House of Representatives for the third and final time.
  • Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat on a bus to a white man.
  • Racial segregation in scools banned by Supreme Court
  • 1st automobile seat belt legislation enacted (Illinois).
  • Congress authorizes all US currency and coins to say "In God We Trust."
  • Marian Anderson becomes 1st black singer to perform at the Met (NYC).
  • Unemployment is 4.4%


  • Last survivor of the Union Army dies (Albert Woolsen).Suez Crisis - Suez canal nationalised by Egypt.
  • Israeli forces under Moshe Dayan seize the Gaza Strip & Sinai Peninsula.
  • Fidel Castro and Che Guevara land in Cuba and begin a guerrilla war.
  • Transatlantic telephone cable.
  • Eisenhower re-elected President of US (Nixon Vice President) - defeating Adlai E Stevenson
  • 200,000 Soviet troops and tanks crush anti-Communist uprisings in Hungary.
  • Federal minimum wage rises to $1.
  • Admiral George Dufek, as part of Operation Deep Freeze, is the first American to land an airplane at South Pole.
  • Israel captures Egyptian militay post at El-Thamad, Gaza, Sheham and the Straits of Tiran & reach Suez Canal in Egypt.
  • Unemployment is 4.2%


  • Russians launch a 184 pound satellite, Sputnik I.
  • U.S. launches its first, smaller satellite four months later.
  • Boeing 707 passenger jet makes its inaugural flight.
  • First non-stop around the world flight
  • Major John Glenn, Jr. sets an air speed record by traveling from California to New York in a jet in 3 hours, 23 minutes, and 8.4 seconds.
  • Britian becomes the 3rd nation to join the "nuclear club" with the explosion of an atomic weapon.
  • Ed Gein's killing and mutilation spree is over as he is arrested. Gein was the inspiration for Norman Bates in Psycho and Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs.
  • B-52 bombers begin full-time flying alert in case of USSR attack.
  • James Hoffa gains control of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.
  • There is a 51.7% business failure rate.
  • Strom Thurman set filibuster record.
  • First underground nuclear explosion.
  • Racial violence in Little Rock.
  • Surgeon General links smoking to lung cancer.
  • Giants leave New York and Dodgers leave Brooklyn.

1958:  We entered high school.

  • Manufacturing wages rise to an average $83.56 per week - compared with $54.32 for 1949.
  • Charles de Gaulle becomes President of France.
  • Nikita Kruschev becomes sole Premier of USSR.
  • Explorer 1 & 111 (US satellites).
  • Pioneer 1, 11 & 111 (US moon probes)
  • US nuclear submarine Nautilus reaches the North Pole.
  • First trans-Atlantic passenger jet service.
  • First heart pacemaker.
  • First stereo records.
  • The John Birch Society, a radical anti-Communist organization, is created in the U.S.
  • The price of 1st class US postage is raised to 4˘ from 3˘ where it had been for 26 years - only a penny in 26 years!
  • Charles de Gaulle becomes premier of France, a position he will hold until 1969.
  • The Bank of American introduces the BankAmericard, which will become the Visa card.
  • NASA is created and Explorer is launched.
  • Japan’s new Datsun (Model 211) cars begin shipping to the U.S. but only 52 will sell. An especially meager number since in 1958 America will import 430,808 passenger cars.
  • Pope Pius XII declares Saint Clare of Assisi patron saint of television. Her placement on the television set is said to guarantee good reception.  Later in the year, Angelo G Roncalli is crowned Pope John XXIII.
  • 9,000 scientists of 43 nations petition UN for nuclear test ban
  • The nuclear submarine Nautilus traverses the North Pole under the polar icecap.
  • The National Association of Broadcasters bans subliminal ads.
  • There is a 55.9% business failure rate.
  • Dr Ake Senning installs the first pacemaker.
  • Unemployment is 6.8%
  •  Van Allen Belt discovered.


  • World population reaches 3 billion
  • Fidel Castro becomes President of Cuba
  • Cyprus gains independence from Britain; Archbishop Makarios becomes President
  • The Dalai Lama flees to India after China crushes an uprising in Tibet
  •  Iran & US sign economic treaty.
  • South Africa decides not to introduce any television. The decision will stand for 16 years.
  • A banner year for imported passenger cars. Some 668,070 of them. Up from 21,287 in 1950.The trend will reverse itself and by 1961 when there are only 279,437 imports.
  • Space monkeys Able and Baker boldly go where no monkey (or human) has gone before.
  • NASA picks the Mercury Astronauts, 7 guys with the "right stuff."
  • On February 3, Alaska is admitted to statehood. Followed by Hawaii on August 21.
  • The microchip is invented by Jack Kilby and Robert Noyce of the U.S. 
  • 12 nations sign treaty for scientific peaceful use of Antarctica
  • Swiss males vote against voting rights for women.
  • Presbyterian church accepts women preachers.
  • There is a 51.8% business failure rate.
  • Japanese-Americans who renounced their citizenship in 1942 when they were placed in concentration camps under Executive Order 9066 regain full citizenship May 20 but receive no compensation for the losses they incurred as a result of their relocation.
  • Unemployment is 6.8%
  • Khrushchev visits US.
  • food stamps authorized


  • U.S. launches Echo I, the first telecommunications satellite.
  • FDA approves the first birth-control pill.
  • Quasars, the most luminous known objects in the universe, discovered.
  • The laser is introduced to the public.
  • America launches the USS Enterprise, the first nuclear powered aircraft carrier.
  • A civil rights bill passes Senate.
  • Gary Power's U2 spy plane downed over Russia.
  • First weather satellite launched.
  • Coronary problems linked to smoking.

1961:  High school graduation.

  • John F. Kennedy is sworn in as President.
  • Peace Corps is inaugurated.
  • Bay of pigs.
  • Adolf Eichmann on trial for war crimes against Jews.
  • The Berlin wall goes up.
  • Russian Yuri Gagarin makes the first manned orbital flight; John Glenn's flight is February, 1962.
  • The drug thalidomide is found to cause malformations in new born babies
  • Allan Shepard, first U.S. astronaut in space.


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Last Modified Jan. 25, 2003