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"We will bury you." -- Nikita Kruschev
In 1956, America was still experiencing the post World War II economic boom. And events were transpiring that would have profound effects on the landscape of America for decades to come. The Federal Highway Act was passed by Congress -- today it's hard to imagine a cross-country trip without the benefit of the interstate highway system. But automobile travel in ‘56 was still the “Route 66” type of drive, While we lived with “the bomb,” we were being told that the atom could also be our friend as the Atomic Energy Commission approved the development of commercial atomic energy plants.

The country was past the near hysteria of the McCarthy hearings, but Communism was still viewed as the major threat to American society. It was in 1956 that Soviet Premier, Nikita Kruschev, uttered the warning to the west that “We will bury you.” While it was a time of peace, the Cold War continued to present opportunities for armed conflict. Soviet tanks moved into Hungary to shut down that country’s inclination to move away from the strict communist system. The “Suez Crisis” in which Egypt had taken over the Suez Canal, prompting England and France to send in troops had been successfully defused. But Israel had taken over the Sinai Peninsula, setting the stage for continued conflict in the Middle East. A revolution had begun in Cuba where Fidel Castro was leading his forces in guerilla warfare in an effort to bring down the Batista dictatorship.

The white migration to the suburbs and tract housing was accelerating and there really existed two Americas, one black and one white. The 1954 Supreme Court’s decision in Brown vs. Board of Education had given momentum to the Civil Rights movement. 1956 was the year of the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott. In February, a motion was filed in Federal court to end segregation on the buses of Montgomery. On December 1 of 1955, Rosa Parks had refused to “move to the back of the bus” and had been arrested. Martin Luther King, Jr. led the Montgomery Improvement Association in an organized protest and boycott of the segregated bus system that eventually led to a Supreme Court ruling by the end of the year that declared the segregation of buses to be unconstitutional. But this wasn’t accomplished without Dr. King’s house being bombed and a great deal of harassment of black citizens who were carpooling rather than ride the bus.

Dwight Eisenhower and Adlai Stevenson faced each other for the second time in the Presidential election of 1956. Even though he suffered a heart attack shortly before the election, the country liked Ike. Amidst some controversy, Eisenhower kept Richard Nixon as his running mate. Eisenhower won easily (57% of the popular vote) but he proved to have rather short “coattails” as the Republicans lost both houses of Congress.

In 1956, 71% of American households had a television and occasionally a black face did appear. Nat King Cole had a short-lived fifteen minute television variety show (perhaps singing his 1946 song about the aforementioned, “Route 66”). For the most part, America’s visage was white. Among the most popular television shows were “I Love Lucy,” “The Phil Silvers Show,” and “Alfred Hitchcock Presents.” “As the World Turns” premiered and the classic “Honeymooners” series staring Jackie Gleason, Art Carney and Audrey Meadows ended its two-year run. Videotape was used for the first time on network broadcasts and the black and white portable television first appeared.

The movies Americans were going to see included “The Ten Commandments,” “Around the World in 80 Days” (Oscar for Best Picture), “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” and “The Searchers.” Paul Newman made his first big picture, “Somebody Up There Likes Me,” and James Dean made his last picture, “Giant.”

The music of 1956 reflected the de-facto segregation of its time and pointed the way toward an integrated society. The “race” music from the “R & B” charts, such as “Speedo” by the Cadillacs, had spilled over onto the pop charts to cohabit with the white mainstream pop ditties such as Perry Como’s “Hot Diggity.” The national attention given to Elvis Presley would introduce a whole generation of white teenagers to the music of rock and roll which would bring blacks and whites together for the performances and the dances. And new talent was being mixed into the brew. Brenda Lee signed her first recording contract at the age of eleven. Buddy Holly had his first official recording session.

Also in 1956: “My Fair Lady,” starring Rex Harrison and Julie Andrews, began its seven year run on Broadway. “Peyton Place,” a novel by Grace Metalious about hypocrisy in a New England small town, and John F. Kennedy’s “Profiles in Courage” were published. Marilyn Monroe married Arthur Miller. The Yankees won the New York World Series by defeating Brooklyn. Fort Wayne lost the NBA title to Philadelphia. The New York Giants were the best in the NFL. Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis split up while Dick Clark joined American Bandstand. Tom Hanks and Larry Bird were born. Bela Lugosi and Tommy Dorsey died.

Americans “wondered where the yellow went” (Pepsodent), asked “does she or doesn’t she?” (Clairol), and were told that, in spite of the race issue, in spite of the Cold War, everything would be okay, “whatever will be, will be.” (Doris Day). It was 1956.
Soviet tanks in Budapest in 1956
Fidel Castro began his revolution to overthrow the Batista government in Cuba.
Rosa Parks being arrested in Montgomery, Alabama
Nat King Cole rehearsing with the vocal group, The Boatnaires, before his television debut
"Speedoo" by The Cadillacs reached #17 on the pop chart in 1955. "They often call me Speedo but my real name is Mr. Earl" -- the lead singer was Earl Carroll.
Paul Newman played boxer Rocky Graziano in "Somebody Up There Likes Me."
The Year