Where were you 50 years ago this month?
If you’re younger than 50 — or if you were around but not paying attention — you missed a lot.
Here’s a time capsule look at some of them, starting with three “landmark” July “cultural events.” In that month alone:
—The Ohio Art Co.’s Etch A Sketch, an “unforgiving” artistic medium where one shaky mistake can disrupt your masterpiece, made its debut. If it won’t depress you to see what a real “pro” can do at the touchy controls, click on this slide show to check out some of these incredible masterpieces.
–And Chubby Checker, rock ’n’ roll’s undisputed dance king (also the hucklebuck, the pony, the limbo, the fly, the mess around) introduced his signature dance: The twist “reinvented” modern dancing by popularizing dance-floor moves in which the partners never — or seldom — touch. “The Twist,” his version of Hank Ballard & the Midnighters’ modest 1960 hit, is the only song of the modern era to hit No. 1 in separate chart runs in separate years (September 1960 and January 1962).
Here are a few other 1960 developments — many of them life-altering or prompting social change — that may bring back a memory or two:
• John Fitzgerald Kennedy is elected president, the first Catholic to serve, in a squeaker election over Richard Nixon following pivotal TV debates.
• The first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. Enterprise, was launched and christened.
• With 160,000 East Germans fleeing to West Germany, Nikita Khrushchev orders the construction of the Berlin Wall.
• U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers is brought down over Soviet airspace and captured, eventually forcing the United States to admit to aerial spying.
• OPEC — the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries — is created.
• Fifteen African countries gain their independence from colonial rule.
• The Chile earthquake, considered the most powerful in recorded history, and the accompanying tsunami produce death tolls estimated as high as 6,000.
• Sirimavo Bandaranaike of Ceylon (Sri Lanka) becomes the world’s first woman to serve as prime minister.
Health and Science
• The first oral contraceptives are made available to the public.
• The American Heart Association links smoking (PDF) to heart disease.
Technology, Inventions and Innovation
• The first Teflon cookware makes it debut — for sale at Macy’s in New York.
• Xerox introduces the first commercial copy machine.
• The first telephone answering machine is introduced in the United States.
• Several “first” satellites are launched, including Tiros-1, the first weather satellite; Echo I, the first experimental communications satellite; Transit I-B, the first navigational satellite; and Corona, the first spy satellite.
• Theodore Maiman builds the first working laser.
• Wilson Greatbatch’s implantable pacemakers are used on humans for the first time.
Arts and Entertainment
• Movies: “Ben-Hur” wins the Best Picture Oscar, and Billy Wilder’s “The Apartment” — the 1961 winner — is released. The chariot race in “Ben-Hur” is still one of the most amazing — and exciting — “action scenes” in film history.
• Year’s top song: Percy Faith’s “Theme From ‘A Summer Place,’ ” stays at No. 1 for nine weeks.
• Censorship: “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” goes on sale in England for the first time after a 32-year ban.
• Nightlife: The first Playboy Club opens —- in Chicago.
• Television: Animated cartoon favorites “The Flintstones” debut in prime time.
• Suspense: Alfred Hitchcock’s “Pyscho” scares the nation’s film audiences.
• Cassius Clay wins his first professional fight after taking the Gold Medal at the Summer Olympics in Rome.
• The Winter Olympics are held in Squaw Valley, Calif.
• The Pittsburgh Pirates upset perennial champs the New York Yankees in a seven-game World Series.
• Births: U2 singer Bono, and actors Antonio Banderas and Hugh Grant.
• Deaths: Actor Clark Gable, author Boris Pasternak and etiquette expert Emily Post.