Wednesday, October 03, 2007


For all you religious fanatics, tomorrow is the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, and I'll post about him tomorrow. But October 4th is also the fiftieth anniversary of the fight of Sputnik Zemlyi, the first man-made satellite, and the CCCP's entry in the Space Race. Sputnik Zemlyi means "Traveling companion of the earth." it was just a silver ball with antennae, 23 inches in diameter and 184 pounds. It terrified people in the U.S.A. and got people thinking about the importance of good science programs in schools, something which is out of style nowadays.

I was a little kid, not even in school yet, but I used to listen to the conversations of the adults, so I was aware of Sputnik and how worried my Republican parents were about the whole "Commies-have-beaten-us-into-space" thang. This was the same year that my parents won sports cars in contests, mere weeks apart from each other. My father had won a red MGB in a contest at work, and my mother entered a contest at the local supermarket and won a red Isetta, a weird, three-wheeled BMW. The door was in the front end of the car and the entire front opened up. Mom and Dad called it the "Sputnik", and since I was a little guy and couldn't see out of the window of the car, I thought it might be flying, just like sputnik.

Grandpa Ike really had a thing about sputnik, in fact, I think he was the one who named the Isetta sputnik. That Christmas he bought a star-shaped Christmas tree topper with a red light in it, similar to the one pictured here, and called it sputnik. Now that I think about it, people seemed to name almost anything round or spacey-looking "sputnik" in 1957! From what I understand, Herb Caen made-up the name "Beatnik" by combining "Sputnik" with the "Beats." Well, Alan Ginsburg was round even then, and of course, always met the second classification.

Think of all the wonderful things we have because of Sputnik freaking out the people of the U.S.A.: we had a space program, electric technology grew in leaps and bounds; we now have weather satellites; in fact, we have so many satellites up there that it looks like I-5 at rush hour around the fragile earth, our island home. And of course, there is the most important gift Sputnik gave us, Tang. You know, here in Panamá you can get maracuya (passion fruit) flavoured Tang! Pretty cool, huh!

This was another episode of Grampa Mickey Goes On and On and On


Matty Boy said...

And you had the antenna right on the TV and there were three channels, dammit! AND WE LIKED IT THAT WAY!!!

Gotta go take my Metamucil.

I always thought that BMW looked so cool, but it had to be about as safe as driving an egg carton.

Anonymous said...

I was scared. We all were scared...bomb shelters were built (and stocked with Mormon sized hording of provisions) and bomb "drills" were held at school...I was in grade school and they had a special alarm (air raid) and we marched into the hallway, layed/crouched face down on the hardwood floor and put our hands behind our neck (to save our neck/brains from flying glass/other)...we remained scrunched up until the all clear siren...bomb drills weren't nearly as enjoyable as fire drills when we got to go outside and secretly chat-it-up. My Mom and Dad were Eisenhower type Republicans (and didn't like Harry Truman because he swore and said "Hell") and we always had secret provisions of undented cans of Campbell's Vegetable Beef y Chicken Noodle soup, rice, canned tuna fish stored away for the "big one"...oh, don't forget a dust covered jar of water purification tablets.

Ziggy Smith Brown

Anonymous said...

Ziggy Smith Brown, survivor of the Atom Bomb, Viet Nam and Rumsfeld/Cheney/Bush (so far)

Lord hear my prayer

Paul said...

You never fail to educate, Padrecito. I had no memory of Sputnik's full name but you restore its dignity and inform us all!

David Austin Allen said...

Ziggy Smith Brown, I think that you are confusing the estadounidense reaction to the Cuban Missile Crisis on 1962, not Sputnik!

Anonymous said...

I think that you are confusing the estadounidense reaction to the Cuban Missile Crisis on 1962, not Sputnik! david austin allen

No, for the Cuban Missile Crisis I was in San Jose, California at College...I was drunk (mostly and in San Francisco) but I do remember watching President Kennedy's speech and then going out to raise Hell, just in case...I wasn't much for facing fear or REALITY at that stage in my life...I wasn't really ready for the Cuban Missile crisis until I was 35 and there wasn't one.

Earlier in my youth:

WE los childrenos were flat/face-down (think King and I) in the school hallway (or home in the basement) regularly/while practicing for the Russian bombing raids on our Betty Crocker "look alike" homes/families and lives! In my very special family/protective, yet dignified, setting we even had gas masks (and several shotguns, just in case, for any necessary armed combat after the "all clear" sounded...even the radios has special settings)!

Ziggy Smith Brown is not a forgetter (unless it's about some personal atrocity I've committed).

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