Sputnik

Sputnik, the first artificial satellite, was launched into space in 1957. It was built and launched by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (Russia). Sputnik weighed 185 pounds. Tracking stations in the United States were able to convert their receivers to Sputnik’s radio transmission frequency and track the satellite before it burned up re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere. This event pressed the United States to move forward with its satellite program.

I was listening to some historians in an online group discussion when one of them made an interesting point. He said people saving the newspapers showing what happened in the terrorist attack of 9/11 should also be saving the newspapers from the day before as well to show how things were before everything changed.

It’s an idea I thought might be fun to try. So let’s get into the Wayback Machine, (bonus points to anyone recognizing that reference), and head to Oct. 3, 1957, the day before the space race began. A time when we thought we were the undisputed leader in science and technology.

Before we get to the newspapers, here are a few facts to put you in line with the times. Dwight D. Eisenhower was president of the United States. Construction of the interstate highway system was just beginning. Elvis Presley made his first TV appearance and first record for RCA Victor the year before in 1956.

Americans were fascinated with space and science fiction at the time as shown by some of the movies being screened in Kingsport. One such movie, “UFO — Unidentified Flying Object,” had played at the 81 Drive-In earlier in the year and “Destination 60,000,” about an experimental supersonic fighter, was playing at the Taylor Theater on Oct. 3.

Eisenhower had started an exchange of science between nations with the International Geophysical Year. He planned for the United States to be the first to launch a satellite into orbit, sometime between July 1, 1957, and and Dec. 31, 1958, to take measurements of the Earth. It would be project Vanguard and would be managed by the Naval Research Laboratory because NASA, the National Aeronautic and Space Administration, did not exist yet.

But there was no talk of rockets or science on the front of the Kingsport Times or Kingsport News on Oct. 3. The big issue on the front of both papers, as well as the nation, was the integration of Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Just a little more than a week earlier, Eisenhower had sent the 101st Airborne there to enforce a court ruling allowing Black students to attend the all-white school, and Arkansas Gov. Orval Faubus was still fuming over it. The Times also had Eisenhower stating the conditions required for him to withdraw the troops and a report of a group of white students in Little Rock who tried to stage a mass protest against racial integration at the school. Their protest failed as no other students followed the instigators out of the school.

The other national story on the front of both papers was the union vote clearing Jimmy Hoffa of any corruption charges.

In local stories, the News reported that school officials were seeking approval of a $1,253,570.80 school bond issue that would fund three high school and three elementary school additions. These improvements included a physical education plant and conversion of the old gymnasium into a cafeteria at Blountville High School; a physical education plant, study hall, library and additional classrooms at Bluff City High; and a study hall, library and additional classrooms at Holston Valley High School. There were also additions for Lynn Garden, Weaver and Orebank elementary schools.

Below that story was a report of a woman who was sitting in her car on Buckles Drive talking to a neighbor when she was bitten by a monkey. It was not her monkey.

The Times reported that new school traffic safety lights had been installed on the Gate City Highway at Lynn Garden. The posted signs announce a speed limit of 15 mph when the flashers were on. Also, yet another proposal had been presented to the BMA to allow hunting and fishing on the city’s mountain property on Bays Mountain.

In sports locally, both papers wrote about how the Douglass Tigers’ football team would be going for its fourth straight win when it played host to Lincoln High of Middlesboro, Kentucky, at J. Fred Johnson Stadium.

In national sports there were two big stories in both papers. One was the World Series, as the Milwaukee Braves were taking on the New York Yankees. The News, the morning paper, had the Yankees beating the Braves in the opening game of the World Series from the day before, Whitey Ford was the winning pitcher and Warren Spahn was the loser. The Times, the afternoon paper, had game two’s results with the headline “Lew Burdette pitches 7-hitter for the NL champs as Braves whip Yankees, 4-2 to even up ’57 world series” on the front page.

The other major sports story in the papers was talk of the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants moving to California.

The funny pages featured cartoons like “Scamp,” “Moon Mullins,” “Dick Tracy” and “Popeye.” The television listings had the test pattern at 6:45 a.m. followed by shows like “Captain Kangaroo,” “Truth or Consequences,” “Beat the Clock,” “Guiding Light” and “Grouch Marx” later in the evening.

So there’s a glimpse of our local papers on Oct. 3, 1957. The next day, Russia launched the first satellite, Sputnik, into orbit and the United States was no longer the undisputed leader in science and technology.

And the race was on.

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