5 June 1963

John Profumo, the British Secretary of State for War, resigns in a sex scandal known as the “Profumo affair”.

On June 5, 1963, British Secretary of War John Profumo resigns his post following revelations that he had lied to the House of Commons about his sexual affair with Christine Keeler, an alleged prostitute. At the time of the affair, Keeler was also involved with Yevgeny “Eugene” Ivanov, a Soviet naval attache who some suspected was a spy. Although Profumo assured the government that he had not compromised national security in any way, the scandal threatened to topple Prime Minister Harold Macmillan’s government.

Age 48 in 1963, John Dennis Profumo was appointed secretary of war by Macmillan in 1960. As war minister, he was in charge of overseeing the British army. The post was a junior cabinet position, but Profumo looked a good candidate for future promotion. He was married to Valerie Hobson, a retired movie actress, and the Profumos were very much at the center of “swinging ’60s” society in the early 1960s. One night in July 1961, John Profumo was at the Cliveden estate of Lord “Bill” Astor when he was first introduced to 19-year-old Christine Keeler. She was frolicking naked by the Cliveden pool.

Keeler was at Cliveden as a guest of Dr. Stephen Ward, a society osteopath and part-time portraitist who rented a cottage at the estate from his friend Lord Astor. Keeler was working as a showgirl at a London nightclub when she first met Dr. Ward. Ward took her under his wing, and they lived together in his London flat but were not lovers. He encouraged her to pursue sexual relationships with his high-class friends, and on one or more occasions Keeler apparently accepted money in exchange for sex. Ward introduced her to his friend Ivanov, and she began a sexual relationship with the Soviet diplomat. Several weeks after meeting Profumo at Cliveden, she also began an affair with the war minister. There is no evidence that either of these men paid her for sex, but Profumo once gave Keeler some money to buy her mother a birthday present.

After an intense few months, Profumo ended his affair with Keeler before the end of 1961. His indiscretions might never have come to public attention were it not for an incident involving Keeler that occurred in early 1963. Johnny Edgecombe, a West Indian marijuana dealer, was arrested for shooting up the exterior of Ward’s London flat after Keeler, his ex-lover, refused to let him in. The press gave considerable coverage to the incident and subsequent trial, and rumors were soon abounding about Keeler’s earlier relationship with Profumo. When Keeler confirmed reports of her affair with Profumo, and admitted a concurrent relationship with Ivanov, what had been cocktail-party gossip grew into a scandal with serious security connotations.

On March 21, 1963, Colonel George Wigg, a Labour MP for Dudley, raised the issue in the House of Commons, inviting the member of government in question to affirm or deny the rumors of his improprieties. Wigg forced Profumo’s hand, not, he claimed, to embarrass the Conservative government but because the Ivanov connection was a matter of national security. Behind closed doors, however, British intelligence had already concluded that Profumo had not compromised national security in any way and found little evidence implicating Ivanov as a spy. Nevertheless, Wigg had raised the issue, and Profumo had no choice but to stand up before Parliament on March 22 and make a statement. He vehemently denied the charges, saying “there was no impropriety whatsoever in my acquaintanceship with Miss Keeler.” To drive home his point, he continued, “I shall not hesitate to issue writs for libel and slander if scandalous allegations are made or repeated outside the House.”

Profumo’s convincing denial defused the scandal for several weeks, but in May Dr. Stephen Ward went on trial in London on charges of prostituting Keeler and other young women. In the highly sensationalized trial, Keeler testified under oath about her relationship with Profumo. Ward also wrote Harold Wilson, leader of the Labour opposition in Parliament, and affirmed that Profumo had lied to the House of Commons. On June 4, Profumo returned from a holiday in Italy with his wife and confessed to Conservative leaders that Miss Keeler had been his mistress and that his March 22 statement to the Commons was untrue. On June 5, he resigned as war minister.

Prime Minister Macmillan was widely criticized for his handling of the Profumo scandal. In the press and in Parliament, Macmillan was condemned as being old, out-of-touch, and incompetent. In October, he resigned under pressure from his own government. He was replaced by Conservative Alec Douglas-Home, but in the general election in 1964 the Conservatives were swept from power by Harold Wilson’s Labour Party.

Dr. Stephen Ward fell into a coma after attempting suicide by an overdose of pills. In his absence, he was found guilty of living off the immoral earnings of prostitution and died shortly after without regaining consciousness. Christine Keeler was convicted of perjury in a related trial and began a prison sentence in December 1963. John Profumo left politics after his resignation and dedicated himself to philanthropy in the East End of London. For his charitable work, Queen Elizabeth II named him a Commander of the British Empire, one of Britain’s highest honors, in 1975.

Keeler’s autobiography, The Truth at Last: My Story was published in 2001. Profumo died on March 10, 2006, two days after suffering a stroke.

21 March 1963

Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary closes.

On March 21, 1963, the Alcatraz Island federal prison in San Francisco Bay was emptied of its inmates and closed at the order of Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy.

Alcatraz, also known as “The Rock,” had housed some of America’s most dangerous felons, since it opened in 1934.

Alcatraz had previously served as a fortress to protect the San Francisco Bay area and also was the home of the first operational lighthouse on the West Coast.

The Army gave control of Alcatraz to the U.S. Justice Department in 1933 so it could be used as a federal prison for inmates deemed too dangerous for other U.S. prisons, according to www.history.com.

Alcatraz had held some famous inmates such as Al “Scarface” Capone, George “Machine Gun” Kelly and gangster Alvin “Creepy Karpis” Karpowicz who was listed as “Public Enemy No. 1,” according to history.com.

Alcatraz was shut down in 1963 because its operating costs were higher than other prisons and exposure to the salty sea air was taking a toll on the buildings.

The 1979 movie “Escape from Alcatraz” starring Clinton Eastwood was an adaptation of the 1963 non-fiction book by J. Campbell Bruce about the 1962 prisoner escape from Alcatraz.

According to history.com, 36 inmates attempted to escape over the years.

“According to the U.S. Marshals Service, only three remain unaccounted for: Frank Morris and John and Clarence Anglin, who spent months digging out of their cells with crude tools before escaping on June 11, 1962, in one of the most famous prison breaks in history.”

Alcatraz Island today is a popular tourist attraction and is part of the National Park Service.

18 November 1963

The first push-button telephone goes into service.

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Bell Telephone introduced the first commercial push-button telephone on November 18, 1963. It was installed first in Carnegie and Greensburg, Pennsylvania, just outside of Pittsburgh. The push-button phone replaced the rotary dial phone, which had been in use for decades. Customers had to be convinced to use the new phones. Bell was quick off the mark with their interactive display from the 1963 Seattle World’s Fair, showing why users should switch to the new push-button phones.

The push-button telephone was only one part of the package that completed the modern telephone system. One other major part was automating the signals sent down the wire after you pushed the buttons. To fill this gap, touch-tone dialing was also introduced on November 18, 1963 to speed the transmission of telephone numbers. Rotary dial phones had used pulse dialing, a much slower method of routing a call to an exchange to connect with another number.

Until rotary dial phones were introduced, telephone operators at an exchange grabbed plugs on the end of long cord and pushed them into a jack on a board, connecting someone placing a call with the party they were calling, or with a long-distance operator in another city. While I was a student at the Illinois Institute of Technology in the mid-1960s, I had a part-time job as the night shift operator on the internal version of such a switchboard inside the University Club of Chicago, connecting members in their rooms with other rooms, the dining room, room service or an outside line by inserting a plug into a jack.

17 March 1963

Mount Agung in Bali erupts, killing more than 1000 people.

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Mt. Agung, the famous landmark of Bali, Indonesia erupted violently on March 17, 1963 generating pyroclastic flows that destroyed many villages along the slopes of the volcano and killing 1,584. The mountain remains a serious threat to all residents of this beautiful island.

Mount Agung or Gunung Agung is a volcano in Bali, Indonesia. This stratovolcano is the highest point on the island. It dominates the surrounding area, influencing the climate. The clouds come from the west and Agung takes their water so that the west is lush and green while the east dry and barren. The Balinese believe that Mount Agung is a replica of Mount Meru, the central axis of the universe. One legend holds that the mountain is a fragment of Meru brought to Bali by the first Hindus. The most important temple on Bali, Pura Besakih, is located high on the slopes of Gunung Agung.

Gunung Agung last erupted in 1963-1964 and is still active, with a large and very deep crater which occasionally belches smoke and ash. From a distance, the mountain appears to be perfectly conical. From the peak of the mountain, it is possible to see the peak of Mount Rinjani on the island of Lombok, although both mountains are frequently covered in clouds.

12 February 1963

Construction starts on the Gateway Arch in St Louis, Missouri.

The Gateway Arch is a 630-foot monument in St. Louis in the U.S. state of Missouri. Clad in stainless steel and built in the form of an inverted, weighted catenary arch,it is the world’s tallest arch, the tallest man-made monument in the Western Hemisphere, and Missouri’s tallest accessible building. Built as a monument to the westward expansion of the United States, and officially dedicated to “the American people,” it is the centerpiece of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial and has become an internationally recognized symbol of St. Louis, as well as a popular tourist destination.

The Arch was designed by Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen in 1947; construction began on February 12, 1963, and was completed on October 28, 1965, for $13 million. The monument opened to the public on June 10, 1967. It is located at the site of St. Louis’ founding on the west bank of the Mississippi River.The Arch has served as the site for multiple incidents, accidents, and stunts, and following the Oklahoma City bombing of 1995, and the September 11 attacks has received a number of security related upgrades.

26 December 1963

The Beatles’ “I Want to Hold Your Hand” is released in the USA.

This was the first Beatles song to catch on in America. In 1963, the Beatles became stars in England, but couldn’t break through in the US. They couldn’t get a major label to distribute their singles in America, so songs like “Love Me Do” and “She Loves You” were issued on small labels and flopped, even though they were hits in England. By February 1964, America finally took notice of The Beatles and bought this single in droves, giving them their first US hit. It sold better in the first 10 days of release in the US than any other British single, and remains the best-selling Beatles single in the United States, moving over 12 million copies.

The Beatles celebrated madly when they found out they were #1 in America. They came to America for the first time in February 1964, a week after this hit #1, and having the top single gave them a huge boost. Conquering the US was, and still is, a big deal for British bands. Many groups that are huge in the UK (Oasis, Blur) never really catch on in America.In the first three days after its release, 250,000 copies had been sold; 10,000 were reportedly sold every hour in New York City.