A Year of Firsts

‘It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards,’ the Queen remarked.
Lewis Carroll , Through the Looking Glass.

The year was 1956 – how long ago I hear you gasp.  And are there really people alive today who can remember that far back?  Well yes and I am one of them.

Several things that happened that year make the year stand out as a Year of Firsts.

I had left school the year before and celebrated my 18th birthday in 1956.  The First Birthday now freed from the confines of school and so frightfully grown up and independent  – although still living at my parents’ house as one did in those far off days.  No flatting for us!

Nat King Cole

Nat King Cole 1919 - 1965

A few days before my birthday I became Engaged to be married.  So, First Engagement.  Nat King Cole sang ‘Too Young” but 2 eighteen year olds knew better.  We had a great party inviting all our friends and relations, as I was the first one amongst the cousins to become engaged.  I sported a very large 5 diamond ring and thought I was just the happiest girl in the world.

However, we were Too Young and the engagement fizzled out quite soon and the next year I met and married my Dashing Young Scotsman.

Royal Opera House

via Wikipedia

My fiance’s mother and stepfather were classical music aficionados while my parents were more light, contemporary musicals.  So that year with his parents,  I saw my First Opera at Covent Garden aka The Royal Opera House  and my First Classical Music Concert at the Royal Albert Hall.  And I shall be forever grateful to these two people for introducing me to both opera and classical music.

Dancing class

Dancing class from my sister

I had been very keen on ballet having studied for many years.  So I  had seen a couple of ballets but they took me on my First Visit to Saddlers Wells.  At that time, Saddlers Wells was synonymous with the ballet.  Since that time the The Royal Opera House has been home to both the ballet and the opera.

Nut cutlets

My fiance’s mother and step-father were vegetarians.  This was very rare some 45 years ago and there were very few vegetarian restaurants.  Fiance’s mother was very resourceful and always managed to find a vegetarian restaurant close by the venue.  So then my First Visit to a Vegetarian Restaurant and my First taste of nut cutlets.  One must remember that nobody was experimenting with vegetarian food then and it was bland, tasteless, uninspiring and uninviting.  It certainly didn’t convert me to vegetarianism.

So in all 1956 stands out as a year of firsts and though I have moved on so far since those far off days, I still remember the visits to the opera, orchestra and ballet with those people.  Incidentally, even though I broke off the engagement my ex-fiance, my Dashing Young Scotsman and I remained friends for many years.  I wonder what happened to him.

But 1956 was not just a big year for me.  Here are some of the other things (rather more world shattering and changing) that happened that year :

  1. John Lennon (15) & Paul McCartney (13) meet for 1st time as Lennon’s rock group Quarrymen perform at a church dinner.
  2. 85th British Golf Open: Peter Thomson shoots a 286 at Hoylake England
  3. Last Ringling Bros, Barnum & Bailey Circus under a canvas tent
  4. Egypt seizes Suez Canal and British government  sends 3 aircraft carriers to Egypt
  5. England retain cricket Ashes, Jim Laker 46 wickets in the series
  6. Tanks are deployed against racist demonstrators in Clinton, Tennessee
  7. Great Britain performs nuclear test at Maralinga Australia
  8. Stravinsky’s “Canticum Sacrum,” premieres in Venice
  9. First transatlantic telephone cable goes into operation (Scotland/Canada)
  10. England’s first large-scale nuclear power station opens
  11. 16th modern Olympic games opens in Melbourne, Australia
  12. Nelson Mandela & 156 others arrested for political activities in South Africa
  13. Japan admitted to UN
  14. Montgomery, Ala, removed race-based seat assignments on its buses
  15. Elvis Presley’s “Don’t Be Cruel/Hound Dog,” single goes to #1 & stays #1 for a record 11 weeks (for a single)
  16. Abigail Van Buren’s “Dear Abby” column 1st appears in newspapers
  17. Britain abolishes death penalty
  18. “My Fair Lady” opens at Mark Hellinger Theater NYC for 2,715 performances
  19. Soap operas “As the World Turns” & “Edge of Night” premiere on TV
  20. Grace Kelly marries Prince Ranier III of Monaco.

Do you have a year of particular memories, firsts or whatever that makes it stand out?  I would love to hear from you.

21 responses to “A Year of Firsts

  1. It was regretful that Nat King Cole died so young


  2. I would have loved to have seen “My Fair Lady” on Broadway.


  3. I was also taken to the Sadlers Wells in the 1950s, though probably not that early as I was only five in 1956. I do remember seeing Orpheus in the Underworld there. 🙂

    As for other years that stand out… mm, yes there are some, but most of the contents are more personal than I could write about in a comment or post. However, it’s something to think about. 🙂

    By the way, I sent you two emails but stupidly I forgot to change the title of one. So if you got them and only opened one, please open the other too as the contents are different!


    • Wasn’t that all so long ago?
      Yes other years for me too, but this one sprang to mind yesterday.
      And thanks – I opened your emails. I had the print of your painting enlarged and am now waiting for the framer to do his nest. I shall send you a photo when it is hanging. 🙂


      • I hope he printed and rescanned it, Judith, as enlargements from original files don’t usually work. Anyway, will look forward to seeing the result! 🙂


  4. What a delightfully interesting post!


  5. I loved the early part of your post about when you left school etc. some of the list caught my eye. John Lennon/Paul McCartney of curdse, and Princess Grace getting married. Wow


    • Well our memories are so special but I do recall the Suez conflict, the arrest of Mandela and the Royal wedding along with the major things happening in my life that year.


  6. 21. My BFF was born! 😀

    Great list, Judith. I shared it with BFF and we both enjoyed your firsts and the world firsts.


  7. I remember 1956 very well, even though I was seven. My grandfather died and my sister was born. Loved your stories of that year and the list of events that occurred.


  8. Very eventful year, in your life and the world’s! Loved it! 🙂


  9. I love the dancing sisters! Interesting things happened in 1956. I was surprised to see the one about the tanks being deployed in Tennessee. And I thought that only happened in Tianenmen Square. How little we know of our own history.


    • Yes the Tennessee tank involvement was something I had heard about but knew/know little about. I met a woman at a local Toastmasters Club who had been involved in the riot in Tienanmen Square. Apparently, she and a young male friend from school risked the curfew and went to the square. Unfortunately, she never saw her young American friend again.


  10. I love the photos… especially the dance with your sister. 😉


    • Thanks Elizabeth. The picture is from a card sent by my elder sister for a birthday some years ago, but I have treasured it because it is so like us. Thanks for the comment. 🙂


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