By chance I heard the song “A White Sport Coat” the other day and it got me to thinking and doing a little Wikipedia research about the politics, cars, celebrities and jokes of the era.
The song was recorded by Marty Robbins and first hit the charts in 1957. It was the same year President Eisenhower and Vice President Nixon were sworn into office. Nixon, of course, had an unusual relationship with his wife, at least for the period they lived. For example, Pat never did any housework, leaving it all to Richard, or later when they could afford it, domestic help. Once, while in his salad days of serving in the California House of Representatives, he found himself in charge of dinner on short notice. The meal was less than ideal. Pat told him so, and he responded with “I am not a cook.”
It was also the year of the last season of the popular television show “The Lone Ranger.” I was only 5 in 1957 but came to appreciate tales of the masked man through reruns shown in the ’60s. Does anyone remember the episode when the Lone Ranger and Tonto are riding along and a mass of Apaches in war paint rise up over the hill in front of them? The Lone Ranger and Tonto turn their horses, Silver and Scout, around only to be greeted by another war party coming up from behind. They turn left and right: same result. They’re surrounded. The ranger asked, “What do we do now?” Tonto responded, “What do you mean ‘we,’ white man?”
While Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels were going off the air, the first Edsels were coming onto the assembly line. The Ford Motor Company billed the Edsel as an “entirely new kind of car’” and assured investors that through market research they knew the new line of automobiles would be in great demand. A little like being promised that you can keep your health care policy. Car buyers had other ideas, and the debacle cost Ford about $3 billion in today’s dollars.
A little known trivia bit is that the Comet was originally supposed to have been sold with an Edsel nameplate. The Comet went on to become a very popular car for the Mercury line through the mid-1970s. Another trivia bit is that in the 1980s, Ford and Plymouth considered cooperating on a hybrid car using features of the Comet and Volare. They were going to call it the Vomit. It would come in 16 colors and a throw-up roof. Luckily for those companies, the concept never got out of the planning stage.
Whatever car you drove in the 1970s, you were likely to tune into music by the Mamas and Papas or The Carpenters. If only Mama Cass and Karen Carpenter had shared the same sandwich they might be alive today.
Other popular icons of the day included Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones, Dennis Weaver (aka Chester) and business magnate Howard Hughes. It’s reported that once the singer came across the millionaire pinning the actor to the ground with his knees and pummeling him with his fists. Jagger was heard to say, “Hey, hey, Hugh, Hugh, get off of McCloud.”
As I look back over this column I realize that the appeal of the jokes (I hope you allow that they are jokes) I’ve worked in rely on the reader being born at least 50, if not 60, years ago. So for those too young to remember: The nadir of Richard Nixon’s political career came when he declared on national television, “I am not a crook;” Cass choked to death on a sandwich while Karen suffered from anorexia; Weaver went on to play a role in a television series of the same name, “McCloud;” and the Stones performed a song with the lyrics, “Hey, hey, you, you, get off of my cloud.”
And getting back to the song that grew the idea for this column in the first place, what would you have if you painted all the cars in the country pink?
A pink carnation, silly, to go with your white sport coat.