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It Happened This Week! Historic Events & Nostalgic Memories: June 19 – June 26


Two things that provided fodder for my childhood nightmares happened this week in history. The first involves great heights. The second involves a shark. I don’t love either of these, but there’s no denying that the historic events I’m referencing impacted all of us.

Everyone’s held on for dear life while swinging to-fro in a tin bucket hundreds of feet in the air, and everyone’s heard and mimicked the irregular chords that precede Roy Scheider’s frantic “Everybody out of the water!”

Of course, I’m talking about Ferris wheels and Jaws, which is, hands down, the scariest film ever made. (Cujo is a close second.) And let’s not forget the fact of Jaws opening this particular week in history — the third week of June, when families hit the beach, and kids, who look to a shark like the perfect bite-sized snack, flood the ocean’s shorelines. Evil marketing genius or cruel kid torture? Probably a little bit of both. All I know is that I was one of those kids, and to this day, I can’t dip one toe in the tide without worrying that a shark will spring from the 6-inch deep water and bite off my arm.

But that’s just me. Do you remember Jaws? Maybe you’ve blocked it and remember sweeter historic events from this week in June — like the birth of Garfield and the advent of Pop-Tarts. Whatever your taste, here are a few important pop culture events that happened this week between 1893 and 1978.

Jaws made everyone afraid to swim.

On June 20, 1975, America experienced its first blockbuster movie. Jaws starred Roy Scheider as the police chief and Richard Dreyfuss as the marine biologist trying to keep beachgoers in a small resort town safe from a human-hungry shark swimming in shallow waters. Believe it or not, the studio that made Jaws originally wanted a real shark to be trained to appear in the film!

Frosted fruit-flavored pastries burst onto the breakfast scene.

Pop-Tarts were trademarked in 1965, and quickly became the sweet breakfast and after-school snack of choice. The first Pop-Tarts came in just four flavors: strawberry, blueberry, brown sugar cinnamon, and apple currant. Today, there are more than 20 Pop-Tart flavors, though strawberry remains the best-loved and bestselling. So where does the name “Pop-Tart” come from? Apparently, it was largely inspired by Andy Warhol’s Pop-Art movement.

The man who broke The Beatles launched his eponymous TV show.

Toast of the Town, a variety series hosted by Ed Sullivan, premiered on CBS on June 20, 1948. It was Sullivan’s first official television appearance. (In 1947, CBS filmed Sullivan hosting a New York City event and, unbeknownst to the stoic emcee, put it on the air.) Toast of the Town was later renamed The Ed Sullivan Show, which became must-see TV for Americans eager to hear the newest and best music.

Garfield became a “big, fat, hairy deal.”

The plus-sized cat with bright orange fur and a sarcastic streak first appeared in a printed comic on June 19, 1978. Beloved for his smug catchphrases like “I hate Mondays” and ‘I”m not overweight, I’m undertall,” his comic strip went on to appear in more than 2,500 newspapers nationwide and in the rear window of what seemed like every car in America. (If you were alive then, you doubtless remember the great Garfield car window cling fad. I bought the suction-cupped stuffed toy for my mom for Christmas in 1979. It was the first gift I ever bought using my own money, and it hung in the back of our family car until Garfield was bleached white from years of sun exposure.)

Ferris wheels swept Americans off their feet… literally.

The first Ferris wheel premiered at Chicago’s Columbian Exposition in 1893. It could hold 2,000 people on 36 cars and was 264 feet tall. Though a far cry from today’s Ferris wheels, the tallest of which is the 820 feet tall Ain Dubai in the U.A.E., it was a spectacle not to be missed. Ferris wheels quickly caught on, and are now staples at fairgrounds, boardwalks, and amusement parks.

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