How many do you know?



My mother often talked about people who were famous when she was young during the 1920s and ‘30s. They were mostly names that I didn’t know or care about. Now, my memories are heavily composed of trendy people from the ‘60s and ‘70s whom the young and middle-aged of today might not know or care about.

The following is necessarily a personal list that reflects my age, nationality, and interests, yet everyone on it should be known to every American of the era who kept abreast of current events. Some were so famous that a person would have needed to live in a cave to avoid them, but my goal wasn't simply to list famous people but to give preference to large forgotten people who contributed to the unique zeitgeist of the era.

Give yourself two points (100 being a perfect score) for each person about whom you can name at least one thing that they were famous for. It might be a catch-phrase, or something they did, or something that was done to them, but try to be specific. Hint: two people were famous under more than one name, and several were famous before and/or after the era.

Leo Buscaglia, Angela Davis, Patty Hearst, Tiny Tim, Lenny Bruce, Steve Allen, Gloria Steinem, Madalyn Murray O’Hair, Alan Watts, Benjamin Spock, Rod McKuen, Alan Ginsberg, Sharon Tate, Wavy Gravy, Marabel Morgan, Sam Sheppard, Larry Flynt, Martha Mitchell, Sidney Poitier, Ross Barnett, Dick Martin, Huey P. Newton, Rachel Carson, David Brinkley, Betty Friedan, Abbie Hoffman, David Crosby, Art Linkletter, Cassius Clay, Jimmy Hoffa, Charles Whitman, Joseph Fletcher, Walter Lantz, Sirhan Sirhan, Richard Alpert, James Pike, Robert Crumb, Ed Sullivan, Tom Smothers, Flip Wilson, Truman Capote, Eugene McCarthy, Dick Gregory, Billie Jean King, Linus Pauling, Jane Fonda, Anton LaVey, Milton Friedman, Tommy Chong, Daniel Ellsberg, and for extra credit, Euell Gibbons and Julian Bond.


Larry Flynt photo © Glenn Francis, www.PacificProDigital.com

24 comments:

Helen said...

Just wanted to say I LOVE your post ~ at quick glance I admit to not recognizing four names: Alan Watts, Ross Barnett, Joseph Fletcher. Now for the hard stuff ~~ elaborating a bit on the others!!

Helen said...

.. Oh, and Richard Alpert.

G. B. Miller said...

Cool post. I can probably connect at least one (in)famous event with about 95% of those on your list (I'm 50 and I love American history and pop culture). Might be something I could do on mine, with your permission of course.

Stephen Hayes said...

I think I knew all of them...except Wavy Gravy.

Fram Actual said...

It appears I failed the test. Ten, I did not recognize, and even after "looking them up," only one among the ten rang a bell. C'est la vie ....

rhymeswithplague said...

There were six names in that list that I have no memory of ever hearing or seeing before, but as an old Southern gentleman of a certain age I do remember Ross Barnett and Marabel Morgan. Not together, of course.

My list of "Who?" includes Alan Watts, Wavy Gravy, Charles Whitman, Joseph Fletcher, Richard Alpert, and Robert Crumb. I know, I led a sheltered life.

Charles Gramlich said...

I recognize 'em all of course, though I can't say I ever paid any of them much attention.

Sue in Italia/In the Land Of Cancer said...

My list is the same as Helen's with the additions of LaVey and Pike. Maybe these men were famous in your region. I knew the rest of them as I am probably close to your age. Who would I add? Malcolm X? Tom Hayden, Twiggy? All the Watergate folk...

Marion Lawless said...

I recognized most of them...even Wavy Gravy. Long time no see, Snow. Hope you've been well. xo

Snowbrush said...

This post was inspired by my friend, Lee, who is in his thirties. He grew up Jehovah’s Witness, so much of modern culture eluded him, but he has fairly wide interests, and is fairly well read and well educated, at least in computers (he got his Masters at 20). He will occasionally come out with a name that I’m surprised he knows, but I’m sure there are a lot more—from “my” era especially—that I’m sure he doesn’t know, but I can never figure out which are which. There’s a commonality of knowledge and experience that I would feel with many of you that it’s impossible to feel with someone so much younger, so I’m forever wondering if Lee has heard of a particular event, person, or technology.

I’ll give an example of the latter that occurred with Peggy, no less, although she is only two years than I. We were watching an old movie recently when she saw a phone that looked much like today’s “land lines” but had no means to dial it. She found this extremely odd and asked me how it was possible to use such a phone. For those of you whom might not know, you pick up the receiver; the operator says “Number, please;” you give her the number you want, and she connects you (my first phone number was 65M2).

So, why didn’t Peggy know this? It was because she grew up on Air Force bases in many states and on three continents and only used rotary-dial phones, whereas I spent my early life at Route 4, Bogue Chitto, Mississippi, where phones like the ones in the movie were the ONLY phones. I would see rotary-dial phones at the Saturday matinee and envy people who had them because they seemed so urban, and when you live in the sticks, you have the idea that urban is better—especially when you live in a tarpaper shack without electricity and running water.

Anyway, I’m sure I spend WAY more time wondering what Lee knows than he spends wondering what I know, and maybe this is normal. I want to tell him so very much about “the old days,” but just as I took little interest in my parent’s “old days,” I have no reason to think that he will take more than a slight interest in mine. So it is with the young whom tend to regard what took place 40-years ago as corny and uncool—or maybe I project. I know that, for my part, I’m glad I grew up then instead of now, because, frankly, now is a lot more depressing. If I had grown up the Depression, maybe I would feel differently, but what people had during the sixties and early seventies was hope for a better tomorrow, and I can’t see much reason for that now.

rhymeswithplague said...

My first phone number was 157J3, and you had to turn the crank on the sall unit to "ring up" the operator (get the operator's attention, I suppose). When we got a desk model with a rotary dial, our number changed to 4726.

Ancient history is so much more fun when you can remember it personally.

rhymeswithplague said...

I meant wall unit.

possum said...

32. That's all. But, like Peggy, perhaps, I spent many years out of this country with only BBC, The Voice of Amerika and its extremely limited vocabulary, and Moscow Molly to listen to... I was spared TV for most of my life.
And I, too, remember our phone being a box on the wall with a crank to ring up an operator who not only would place your phone calls, but would ask how your Grandma was feeling today, or thank you for the cake, or tell you that Mz Susie wasn't home yet from her Drs appointment!
Oh my, I am ancient!

Snowbrush said...

I had to go back and add Euell Gibbons. How could I have forgotten him when he had me trekking around the woods looking for wild plants to eat! I also added Julian Bond.

“you had to turn the crank on the wall unit to "ring up" the operator (get the operator's attention, I suppose).”

Probably so. I worked on the switchboard in college. A light came on when there was a call, so I would stick one wire into the hole next to the light to answer the call, and then an adjacent wire into the hole next to the extension number that the person was trying to reach. I think there must have been a low beep or buzz when calls came in, because I know I didn’t just sit and stare at the panel.

“I recognize 'em all of course, though I can't say I ever paid any of them much attention.”

I paid some of these people a great deal of attention, at least to the extent of watching the evening news and talk show interviews, plus reading at least two newspapers and Life Magazine. I was as enchanted by the Klan as the Freedom Riders because both were so idealistic, the one presenting itself as protecting my region’s heritage from “outside agitators,” and the other as representing a brave new tomorrow. I was clearly more influenced by romance than by rationality, and unlike other kids I knew, felt strongly pulled from opposing directions. Such has been my life.

“But, like Peggy, perhaps, I spent many years out of this country... I was spared TV for most of my life.”

Peggy lacked interest, at least in current events. About six months ago, she started watching the evening news, but prior to that, she showed almost no interest in current events. She also led a sheltered childhood and adolescence. I find it sad that you were so alienated from your country’s culture. Peggy has a friend who grew up in Oregon, yet she wouldn’t do any better on the list than you did, and probably not as good. The things that she doesn’t know are astounding. The news, music, and TV shows of the 60s and 70s all happened without her notice or interest. It’s as if she never read anything, watched anything, talked to anyone, or went anywhere. She confounds me. Her ignorance even makes me dislike her because it simply seems abnormal to take NO interest in anything beyond the end of your nose, although, when it comes to today’s music, TV shows, and popular culture, I’m as ignorant as anyone, and I find it very hard to care.

lotta joy said...

All of them except Joseph Fletcher and, after googling him I see no reason why I would have known him - me being a countrified hillbilly and all.

My mom got all bent out of shape when they changed our phone number from WhiteHall 536 to 94536 saying "How can we be expected to remember all those numbers!"

In 1968 I was a telephone operator sitting in front of a huge black box called a switchboard. There were about 20 of us per shift, lined up with huge headphones, holding pencils to help us dial so we wouldn't end up with deformed fingers. At first the list of area codes frightened me, but the other operators said "You'll have them memorized in no time." Which I did.

I still have nightly nightmares of my time on the fire department, yet never dream of my years as a local/long distance operator. I loved both jobs.

Wait....what were we talking about...

Lee Johnson said...

I was born in 1982 and can identify 9 of them, so 18 points. Hardly a passing grade. About 10 more sound familiar, probably because my parents mentioned them at some point.

Especially when it comes to pop culture names, I feel just as disconnected from stars of the last 5 years as those of 50 years ago. I do, however, find "the old days" very interesting. I regret that I rarely saw my grandmother and so much of the life and events of that time period are now lost, at least to me.

kylie said...

i didnt know a whole lot of those namesbut then i'm a lot younger than you and australian.

it sometimes amazes me what my kids dont know, admittedly it's usually things before their time but so familiar to me that i find it hard to imagine anybody not knowing.

Snowbrush said...

“i didnt know a whole lot of those namesbut then i'm a lot younger than you and australian.”

Yes, I anticipated this and am sorry for it as I usually try to make my posts relevant across decades and borders. I’ll just say that most of the people on this list were really famous, at least for a short time, and now few Americans under 50 or maybe 55 would know of them, so you’re hardly alone. The brevity of fame is one of the lessons of age. Sure, John Wayne, the Beatles, and others are still remembered, but in fifty years they won’t be recognized by anyone but the very old and a few history buffs. They’ll be like Rudolph Valentino, a silent film actor who was so popular that his fame could have scarcely been greater. According to Wikipedia:

“An estimated 100,000 people lined the streets of New York City to pay their respects at his funeral, handled by the Frank Campbell Funeral Home. The event was a drama itself: Suicides of despondent fans were reported. Windows were smashed as fans tried to get in and an all-day riot erupted on August 24.”

Just think, all but the very youngest of those 100,000 people who were there on that August day in 1926 are themselves dead and forgotten, and even Valentino has been forgotten by everyone but silent film scholars.

“In 1968 I was a telephone operator…”

I was the only operator on my college switchboard. I very much enjoyed that job. Friends could come by and hangout with me, and we would play music. One day a caller suggested that I turn the music down, and she was right.

“I was born in 1982 and can identify 9 of them, so 18 points.”

As I emailed you, you inspired this post, so I’m glad you had the time to read it and even take the “test.” Now, I wish I knew which ones you knew. Do you see a pattern in them. In other words, are they all of one profession or known for one activity? I knew you would recognize Dr. Spock as you talked him recently as someone who you heard trashed during your Jehovah’s Witness childhood. Just maybe you heard about Joseph Fletcher in the same venue as he was infamous (to many church people) for “Situation Ethics.”

“I feel just as disconnected from stars of the last 5 years as those of 50 years ago.”

I don’t watch commercial TV except for the evening news and an oldies channel (oldies as in ‘50s and ‘60s), and I don’t listen to modern music, so I have no idea who is trendy (or was trendy five years ago), and I find it a little unfortunate that I don’t care. I say unfortunate because it causes me to feel disconnected from my culture, but at the same time, it’s my impression that what my culture cares about isn’t worth caring about, so I’m in a dilemma. As I look at my list, I still feel that a great many of those people were worth knowing about, and I don’t get that of trendy people today. The difference, as I see it, is that many of the people on my list cared deeply about making the world better, but what do their equivalents of today care about? As I see it, the young people of today no longer have a unifying vision and a certainty of a better tomorrow, and the Republican politicians of today—who attempt so lamely to provide these things—would have been most young people’s worse nightmare in the ‘60s. They’re like a monster in a scary movie that just when you think it’s dead, it rises up again stronger and scarier than before.

“I do, however, find "the old days" very interesting.”

In all fairness to myself, when my mother reminisced it was invariably about movie stars—some of them from silent movies—whose movies were no longer shown, and who I would have been challenged to find interesting even if I had wanted to. As for my father, he never reminisced about anyone, other than FDR a little. I don’t know why, but I think it might have been that he never, when he was young, had an interest in the world outside of his day-to-day experience.

CreekHiker / HollysFolly said...

56....

All Consuming said...

34. Now bear in mind here that I think a lot of them are far better known to Americans than Brits. Still, what an enjoyable post, for I have looked up quite a few of those I don't know too.

Snowbrush said...

“Now bear in mind here that I think a lot of them are far better known to Americans than Brits.”

Yes, I thought of that and felt badly about it. I considered adding someone from Monty Python, but the group really wasn’t, to my knowledge, much known here until later, so I felt that I had to stay mostly with Americans because I simply couldn’t think of enough Brits. I also realize that I don’t have any poets other than Rod McKuen, and not a lot of writers either. I considered Kerouac but his best work was from the ‘50s. I also considered Bertrand Russell (that would have been a Brit) for his ant-nuke work, but, there again, I felt that he was a lot more famous for things that came earlier.

I did think of a few more just last night: David Wilkerson (author of The Cross and The Switchblade), Bob Harrington (“Chaplain of Bourbon Street” since 1963), and John Howard Griffin (author of Black Like Me). If I added them plus the ones I purposely omitted because they were too similar to others I included, I would be pushing 100.

Lotta, you said there would have been no reason for you to know Joseph Fletcher, the author of Situation Ethics. He was notorious for the book because it made Biblical commandments subordinate to given situations. To me, this just made good sense, but it outraged millions. For example, if you’re hiding a brutal man’s wife from her husband, and he asks if you she is in your house, and the ONLY way to save her life is to lie, what are you going to do? Lie, I should hope. Presumably, those who attacked the book would either tell the truth or refuse to answer. I think that the real reason the book was so controversial was that any criticism or diminishment of the Bible paves the way for other criticisms and diminishments.

Sparkling Red said...

Er, I got a Z-minus. I only became a wanna-be history geek within the past three years, and I have a LOT of catch-up reading to do.

Linda said...

Richard Alpert was the name that stumped me. I kept thing you must have meant Herb Alpert. So, I suppose I got a 98. Ross Barnett was easy for a former Mississippian. The list is part of our culture that we all share whether some people know it or not.

I remember my mother talking about things of her youth. I am almost 69. She was born in 1921. things she told me I considered to be very important. I don't know why, but I was interested, so lots of the culture of her age was transmitted to me.

Reading the newspaper and watching the news were always important to me. My ex hated my interest in watching the news and tried every day to find some way to thwart my watching the 5 and 10 pm news.

PhilipH said...

Patty Hearst, Tiny Tim, Lenny Bruce, Benjamin Spock, Rod McKuen, Alan Ginsberg, Sharon Tate, Sidney Poitier, Cassius Clay, Jimmy Hoffa, Sirhan Sirhan,Ed Sullivan, Truman Capote, Eugene McCarthy, Billie Jean King, Linus Pauling, Jane Fonda, Milton Friedman

And that's all. The rest, never heard of 'em.