Tuesday, October 21, 2014



Knoxville, Tennessee (JFK+50) 75 years ago today, October 21, 1939,"The Wizard of Oz" ended a 3 day run at the Tennessee Theatre* here in Knoxville.
This short run concluded the first opportunity many area residents had to see the movie.

John Shearer writes in his front page story in today's Knoxville News-Sentinel...

"Seventy-five years ago this week, Knoxville residents were absorbed with a major...event being held locally..."

He was not, however, referring to "The Wizard of Oz," but to the college football game being played in Knoxville between "national powerhouses," the Tennessee Volunteers and the Alabama Crimson Tide.**

"The Wizard of Oz", a film based on the original children's book by L. Frank Baum"The Wonderful Wizard of Oz", had made its world premier on August 12, 1939 in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin.

The film stars Judy Garland as Dorothy Gale, Ray Bolger as the Scarecrow, Jack Haley as the Tin Man, Bert Lahr as the Cowardly Lion and Frank Morgan as the Wizard of Oz.  Margaret Hamilton plays the role of Wicked Witch of the West.

Miss Garland's performance of "Over the Rainbow" would earn songwriters Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg an Oscar.  The song would be named the #1 song of the century.

*The Tennessee Theater, located at 604 South Gay Street in Knoxville, TN, was designed by Graven and Mayger.  It opened on Oct 1, 1928 with the film "The Fleet's In" starring Clara Bow.  It was the site of the premier of "Thunder Road" starring Robert Mitchum in June 1958.  In 1982, the Tennessee was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Tennessee Theatre
604 S. Gay Street
Knoxville, TN
Photo by John White (2009)

FDR Motorcade
Gay Street at Tennessee Theatre
September 1940

**The Vols defeated the Crimson Tide 21-0 before 40,000 fans at Shields-Watkins Field.  The game would be remembered for a 56 yard broken-field run by Tennessee's Johnny Butler.  UT's coach was US Army Major Robert Neyland.

Tennessee Volunteers
SEC Championship Years
Photo by John White (2014)


"75 years ago this week, Knoxville saw Emerald tide," by John Shearer, Knoxville News-Sentinel,, October 21, 2014.

Judy Garland as "Dorothy"
Scene from "The Wizard of Oz"


Washington, D.C. (JFK+50) 52 years ago today, October 21, 1962, was the sixth day of what would be the 13 day Cuban Missile Crisis, the closest the world has come to nuclear war.

The Washington Post reported that "unusual (military) activity" had been observed in Key West, Florida...

"The sudden appearance of Marines (here) spark wide speculation as to their ultimate objective in this Cuba-conscious city just 90 miles from Havana."

President John F. Kennedy, however, personally called the editors at the Post. as well as at the The New York Times, and asked them NOT to break the story before he spoke to the Nation.^

^Source: "JFK Day By Day" by Terry Golway and Les Krantz, 2010.

Instead of spending a typical Sunday in Hyannis Port or Palm Beach, JFK was involved in serious discussions with his advisers at the White House.

The President had begun that Sunday morning attending Mass at St. Stephen's Church, then sat down with his advisers in the private living room quarters on the 2nd floor of the White House.

Edward McDermott, Director of the Office of Emergency Management, recalled...

"The president was very, very concerned that there not be a sense of panic created in the American people.  (During the Sunday afternoon meeting) about 10 people were seated in a semicircle around the president.

After the discussion, we went around the circle and asked each person what their recommendation would be.  Then he got up and walked out on the balcony.  The president came back in, obviously very concerned (and said)...'I've made my decision.'"

That decision was to set up a naval blockade of Cuba.  EXCOM reviewed a draft of the speech prepared by Theodore Sorensen for delivery by the President the next evening.  

One of the factors influencing JFK to stay with his decision was the report by General Walter Sweeney, Jr., head of Tactical Air Command, that a proposed airstrike would take out a maximum of 90% of the nuclear missiles, leaving some operational.

Dean Rusk, JFK and Bob McNamara
January 1961
Photo by Abbie Rowe
JFK Library Image


"'Let Us Begin Anew':  An Oral History of the Kennedy Presidency,"  by Gerald S. and Deborah H. Strober, Harper Collins Publishers, 1993.

"TWE Remembers: JFK Prepares to Tell the Nation About Soviet Missiles in Cuba (Cuban Missile Crisis, Day 6)," by James M. Lindsay,