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On this day in history, Dec. 9, 1965, ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ debuts to popular acclaim

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“A Charlie Brown Christmas,” a beloved holiday television tradition for generations of American families, debuted to overwhelming popular acclaim despite network fears of failure on this day in history, Dec. 9, 1965. 

Expectations were low for its success, according to several accounts of the history of the broadcast.

CBS executives were underwhelmed by the slow pace of the production; and the network had battled behind the scenes with “Peanuts” creator Charles M. Schulz over the inclusion of a scene lifted straight from the New Testament.

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The animation was quirky. There was no laugh track. Actual children, not trained voice actors, spoke for the characters. 

Peter Robbins, the voice of Charlie Brown, was just nine years old at the time. (Robbins died in January 2022 at age 65). 

"A Charlie Brown Christmas": After Charlie Brown complains about the overwhelming materialism he sees among everyone during the Christmas season, he winds up as director of the school Christmas pageant. 

“A Charlie Brown Christmas”: After Charlie Brown complains about the overwhelming materialism he sees among everyone during the Christmas season, he winds up as director of the school Christmas pageant. 
(ABC Photo Archives/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images)

Despite the fears, the American public absolutely adored “A Charlie Brown Christmas” from the moment it reached their antennas.

“On Thursday, December 9, 1965, over 15 million households tuned in to judge for themselves,” wrote Smithsonian Magazine in a treatise on the history of the program.

“Nearly half of American television sets had watched what the network thought would be a flop.” — Smithsonian Magazine

“The reception would turn the special into a classic. CBS soon learned that nearly half of American television sets had watched what the network thought would be a flop.”

“A Charlie Brown Christmas” continues to warm the spirits of millions of people around the world each holiday season. 

Several surveys place it as America’s favorite Christmas special.  

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The seemingly simple children’s cartoon is a deceptively rich and layered piece of American art. 

“A Charlie Brown Christmas” pairs innovative animation techniques with a critically acclaimed jazz soundtrack, while its grade-school-age characters struggle with the very mature topic of the real meaning of Christmas amid an overtly commercial society. 

CIRCA 1962: Jazz composer Vince Guaraldi plays piano in circa 1962. 

CIRCA 1962: Jazz composer Vince Guaraldi plays piano in circa 1962. 
(Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Children love the cast of characters with unique personalities who inhabit a world that appears to have no adults. 

The “Peanuts” gang were first popularized by Schulz in his syndicated comic strip that debuted in 1950. 

Charlie Brown is ordered to find “a great big shiny aluminum Christmas tree … maybe painted pink” to set the holiday spirit. 

Adults enjoy the reminders of childhood. Many find themselves grappling with the very same struggle — to find purpose in a holiday whose spiritual foundations appear to face greater attack each year.

“Look, Charlie, let’s face it. We all know that Christmas is a big commercial racket,” cynical Lucy says as the Peanuts gang attempts to produce a Christmas play. 

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“It’s run by a big Eastern syndicate, you know.”

The bouncy and spirited Vince Guaraldi Trio tune “Linus & Lucy” plays as Charlie Brown is ordered to find “a great big shiny aluminum Christmas tree … maybe painted pink” to set the holiday spirit. 

The Guaraldi soundtrack features 11 jazz recordings, a deft combination of instrumentals and vocal tunes. 

It features original compositions from the California jazz pianist (“Skating” and others), a Beethoven masterpiece (“Fur Elise”), a traditional folk tune (“O Tannenbaum”) and a Mel Torme pop holiday classic (“The Christmas Song”). 

Portrait of American cartoonist Charles M Schultz (1922-2000) surrounded by rubber doll replicas of the characters in his "Peanuts" comic strip, California, October 1966. 

Portrait of American cartoonist Charles M Schultz (1922-2000) surrounded by rubber doll replicas of the characters in his “Peanuts” comic strip, California, October 1966. 
(Underwood Archives/Getty Images)

“The genius of ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ was the way it channeled the looming sadness and anxiety that come with the holidays,” Rolling Stone wrote in a 50th-anniversary retrospective of the Guaraldi recordings in 2015. 

“Its timeless, best-selling soundtrack by the Vince Guaraldi Trio tapped into that narrative seamlessly, with muted, melancholic jazz.”

The foundation of the program’s popularity, however, is its open embrace of the birth of Christ — a fact curiously overlooked in most children’s Christmastime specials about magical snowmen and flying reindeer. 

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“A Charlie Brown Christmas” reaches its climax as the frustrated title character screams out: “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?!”

Linus responds with a dramatic Shakespearean moment. 

“Sure, Charlie Brown. I can tell you what Christmas is all about.”

The Peanuts gang provides the cutest Christmas ever, complete with pathetic little tree.

The Peanuts gang provides the cutest Christmas ever, complete with pathetic little tree.
(Warner Home Video)

He takes the stage by himself, under a spotlight, and proceeds to quote verbatim the Christmas story as it appears in the King James Version of the Book of Luke.

“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

“And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

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“And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.

"A Charlie Brown Christmas": As the Peanuts gang prepares for its Christmas play, Linus responds with a dramatic Shakespearean moment. "Sure, Charlie Brown. I can tell you what Christmas is all about."

“A Charlie Brown Christmas”: As the Peanuts gang prepares for its Christmas play, Linus responds with a dramatic Shakespearean moment. “Sure, Charlie Brown. I can tell you what Christmas is all about.”
( Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images)

“And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.’”

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.” 

Linus follows his biblical soliloquy by announcing to his now spirited friend: “And that, Charlie Brown, is what Christmas is all about.” 

The gang then gathers around Charlie Brown’s once-ugly and withering but now loved and lush beautiful little Christmas tree, embracing the birth of the Savior. 

“Hark the herald angels sing; glory to the newborn King,” the Peanuts gang sings triumphantly as the credits roll.

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“No ‘Good grief! at the end,” The Christian Chronicle wrote in a review of the timeless TV classic.

“Just the silent recognition of good grace, God’s grace, through the gift of his infant son, Christ the Lord, the greatest miracle of them all.”

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On this day in history, Jan. 28, 1986, space shuttle Challenger explodes, shocking the nation

On this day in history, Jan. 28, 1986, the space shuttle Challenger — scheduled for a routine launch from Cape Canaveral in Florida — exploded after just 73 seconds in flight, killing all seven Americans on board.

The disaster shocked the nation — and led to an immediate pause in the space shuttle program.

The cause of the disaster was found to be the failure of the primary and secondary redundant O-ring seals in a joint in the shuttle’s right solid rocket booster (SRB).

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While the mission on that fateful day in 1986 was supposed to be like any other routine mission, unusually cold temperatures caused the external tank to explode seconds into takeoff — causing the orbiter to disintegrate and the spacecraft to explode, according to NASA. 

The space shuttle Challenger lifts off on Jan. 28, 1986. Carrying seven crew members, including teacher Christa McAuliffe, Challenger exploded just 73 seconds into its launch — killing all on board. 

The space shuttle Challenger lifts off on Jan. 28, 1986. Carrying seven crew members, including teacher Christa McAuliffe, Challenger exploded just 73 seconds into its launch — killing all on board. 
(Bob Pearson/AFP via Getty Images)

In addition to highly experienced astronauts, the Challenger carried a special passenger on board: teacher Christa McAuliffe. 

She was a social studies teacher from Concord, New Hampshire, chosen from among 10,000 others who applied to be the first private citizen in space, according to Britannica. 

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In her application, McAuliffe said she would keep a journal about her experience — and would include sections about her training, the flight experience and her feelings about returning to Earth.

One of the reasons McAuliffe was chosen, apparently, was her teaching experience — and the way she would be able to connect with children across the country. 

This November 1985 file provided by NASA shows the crew of the U.S space shuttle Challenger. Front row, from left: astronauts Mike Smith, Dick Scobee, Ron McNair; back row, from left: Ellison Onizuka, schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe, Greg Jarvis and Judith Resnik.

This November 1985 file provided by NASA shows the crew of the U.S space shuttle Challenger. Front row, from left: astronauts Mike Smith, Dick Scobee, Ron McNair; back row, from left: Ellison Onizuka, schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe, Greg Jarvis and Judith Resnik.
(NASA/AFP via Getty Images)

And that is why, on the day of the launch, scores of students in schools across the country watched as a teacher launched into space for the first time ever. 

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It was unfortunate timing for young children to watch this particular launch — something President Reagan was worried about when he was deciding how to address Americans later that evening.

Leading up to Challenger

Americans had been visiting space for decades before that — the first time in 1961, with U.S. Navy test pilot Alan Shepard. 

Shepard was the second man in space following the Soviet Union’s Yuri Gagarin just a mere weeks before. 

By 1969, space travel had progressed to visiting the moon — something the U.S. successfully completed with Apollo 11 that year.

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However, with this success, Americans began to fear the government was spending too much on space, according to NASA. 

A reusable manned spacecraft then became a focus by the Nixon administration, and the space shuttle program was born.

Christa McAuliffe (1948-1986), wearing a blue NASA jumpsuit, smiles in a studio portrait while holding a model of a space shuttle at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, on Sept. 26, 1985. She was the first private citizen to go into space on the shuttle.

Christa McAuliffe (1948-1986), wearing a blue NASA jumpsuit, smiles in a studio portrait while holding a model of a space shuttle at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, on Sept. 26, 1985. She was the first private citizen to go into space on the shuttle.
(Space Frontiers/Archive Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

The Challenger’s first mission was in April 1983 — and it quickly became one of the most popular spacecrafts to be used in the following three years, according to NASA.

The annual State of the Union address for early 1986 had been scheduled to take place on the evening of the Challenger’s launch — but given the tragedy, President Reagan chose to delay the address by a week. 

“The future doesn’t belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave.”

Instead, that night, Reagan did address the nation but from the familiar Oval Office instead. 

President Reagan addresses the nation about the Challenger shuttle disaster, on Jan. 28, 1986, from the Oval Office of the White House.  

President Reagan addresses the nation about the Challenger shuttle disaster, on Jan. 28, 1986, from the Oval Office of the White House.  
(Diana Walker/Getty Images)

Reagan began by saying, “Ladies and gentlemen, I’d planned to speak to you tonight to report on the State of the Union, but the events of earlier today have led me to change those plans.”

He went on, “Today is a day for mourning and remembering. Nancy and I are pained to the core by the tragedy of the shuttle Challenger. We know we share this pain with all of the people of our country. This is truly a national loss.”

Mandana Marsh holds her daughter, Molly, 4, as they watched TV coverage hours after the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger inside their home in Concord, New Hampshire, on Jan. 28, 1986. When her mother explained what happened, young Molly asked,

Mandana Marsh holds her daughter, Molly, 4, as they watched TV coverage hours after the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger inside their home in Concord, New Hampshire, on Jan. 28, 1986. When her mother explained what happened, young Molly asked, “Can’t Christa swim?” 
(Suzanne Kreiter/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

In his speech, Reagan also expressed a willingness to remain steadfast in the pursuit of space flight — but also, he focused on the families of those who were aboard the Challenger and on the children who were watching the flight from their classrooms or homes.

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“I know it is hard to understand, but sometimes painful things like this happen,” Reagan told the country that night.

“The future doesn’t belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave,” Reagan also said.

“The Challenger crew was pulling us into the future — and we’ll continue to follow them.”

On this day in history, Jan. 28, 1986, the Challenger spacecraft exploded — killing all seven passengers aboard. That evening, President Reagan addressed the nation from the Oval Office about the tragedy.  

On this day in history, Jan. 28, 1986, the Challenger spacecraft exploded — killing all seven passengers aboard. That evening, President Reagan addressed the nation from the Oval Office about the tragedy.  
(Getty Images)

The next mission launch was over two-and-a half years later, in September 1988 — named the “Return to Flight” mission. 

The mission lasted for four days and included 64 orbits around the planet.

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It ended with a successful landing at Edwards Air Force Base in California, according to NASA. 

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JCPenney partners with shelters to help senior dogs like Kofi of Texas find a home

JCPenney is partnering with local shelters around the country to help adoptable senior dogs find their forever homes. 

The large retailer is taking its well-known JCPenney-style portraits of the dogs — so that interested adopters can step forward to help animals in need. 

Kofi is a spaniel mix at the Dallas Pets Alive organization in Dallas, Texas — and he desperately needs a home.

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Kofi is looking for a forever home where he could spend the last chapter of his life. 

He is well-behaved and considered docile — fully content with just sitting quieting next to his new owner, according to the organization.

Kofi is a senior spaniel mix who weighs about 35 pounds. He needs a forever home.

Kofi is a senior spaniel mix who weighs about 35 pounds. He needs a forever home.
(JCPenney Portraits by Lifetouch)

Kofi has a black-and-gold coloring and his fur is said to be silky soft — making him an easy dog to keep petting. 

He weighs roughly 35 pounds and enjoys going on walks, Fox News Digital is told.

“We’re excited to give the senior dogs in these shelters their chance to shine.”

He also gets along well with others — so having other pets or children in the house could be good for him. 

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Kofi is spayed, neutered, microchipped and up-to-date on all vaccines. 

JCPenney is partnering with local shelters around the country to help adoptable senior dogs find their forever homes. 

JCPenney is partnering with local shelters around the country to help adoptable senior dogs find their forever homes. 
(JCPenney Portraits by Lifetouch)

He is just one of the many dogs featured in JCPenney’s new campaign about shelter dogs and JCPenney Portraits by Lifetouch. 

Bill Cunningham, JCPenney’s vice president of marketing strategy, said the occasion is special for many reasons. 

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“We’re excited to give the senior dogs in these shelters, who are often less likely to be adopted, their chance to shine and encourage customers to get involved with their local communities to change a pet’s life for the better,” Cunningham said in a media statement. 

Kofi is located at Dallas Pets Alive, an organization in Dallas, Texas. 

Kofi is located at Dallas Pets Alive, an organization in Dallas, Texas. 
(JCPenney Portraits by Lifetouch)

The partnership runs from Jan. 24 through Feb. 28. 

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Those interested can visit JCP.com to see new adoptable pets … and some adorable portraits. 

JCPenney is partnering with local shelters across the country to try to help senior adoptable dogs find homes. 

JCPenney is partnering with local shelters across the country to try to help senior adoptable dogs find homes. 
(JCPenney Portraits by Lifetouch)

JCPenney will also be donating $1,000 to each of the 10 shelters it’s partnered with to help animals find homes.

The shelters are located in 10 different cities around the country: Atlanta, Austin, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Louisville, Miami, Orlando, Philadelphia and Phoenix. 

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For more information on Kofi, anyone interested can visit dallaspetsalive.org or email adopt@dallaspetsalive.org.

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They risked their lives for others: Author Richard Hurowitz remembers unsung heroes of the Holocaust

January 27 is International Holocaust Remembrance Day, designated as such by the United Nations. 

Why this date?  

On this date in history, Jan. 27, 1945, the infamous Nazi German slave labor and death camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau, was liberated by the Soviet army.

The day recalls the killing of six million Jews as well as millions of other people by the Nazi regime and collaborators.

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But there are scores of interconnected stories as well.

“During the Holocaust,” wrote Richard Hurowitz in a recent essay in The Wall Street Journal, “citizens from Denmark to Greece protected their Jewish neighbors from the Nazis by standing together.”

Richard Hurowitz's new book is

Richard Hurowitz’s new book is “In the Garden of the Righteous: The Heroes Who Risked Their Lives to Save Jews During the Holocaust.”
(Richard Hurowitz/Donna Newman)

Most of these heroic individuals were and are still largely unknown. 

Remembering the horrors of war — and chronicling how brave people, in the face of fear, brutality and cruelty, stood up for other human beings even when their own lives were on the line — is the job of historians, authors, journalists and others who believe the truth needs to be passed along to new generations.

“In the Garden of the Righteous” pays tribute to those who risked everything for others.

In this spirit, writer and investor Richard Hurowitz has just released a new book, “In the Garden of the Righteous: The Heroes Who Risked Their Lives to Save Jews During the Holocaust” (HarperCollins), which pays tribute to those who risked their very existence to help others in trouble.

Among them are Adolf and Maria Althoff, who hid Jewish acrobatic performers in plain sight from the Nazis — and Italian cycling champion Gino Bartali, who faked long-distance practice runs to sneak forged identity papers that saved hundreds of people.

Hurowitz, based in New York, is publisher of The Octavian Report, a quarterly “journal of ideas.” He is chief executive officer of Octavian and Company LLC, an investment firm.

Just ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Fox News Digital posed three questions to the author.

‘An under-covered topic’

Fox News Digital: Why did you write this book now? 

Richard Hurowitz: Rescue during the Holocaust and the courage of those who risked their lives to save Jews and others is an extremely under-covered topic — yet people find it enormously inspirational.  

Oskar Schindler and Raoul Wallenberg are well known, but beyond those two archetypes very few rescuers have gotten the acclaim they deserve.  

Author Richard Hurowitz told Fox News Digital that his new book "grew out of several profiles I wrote for newspapers of individual rescuers — and the response was extraordinary."

Author Richard Hurowitz told Fox News Digital that his new book “grew out of several profiles I wrote for newspapers of individual rescuers — and the response was extraordinary.”
(Courtesy Richard Hurowitz)

Some of the people rescued in my book were or went on to have enormous impact on the world — from the physicist Niels Bohr to the artist Mark Chagall to many members of royalty — while most were ordinary refugees.  

The book grew out of several profiles I wrote for newspapers of individual rescuers — and the response was extraordinary. 

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I think people are looking for stories of inspiration and courage during our own difficult times. 

At a time of rising bigotry, anti-Semitism, polarization and conflict, I think these stories are extremely timely.

‘I hope people are inspired’

Fox News Digital: If you wanted readers to have one memorable takeaway from your book, what would it be?

Hurowitz: I hope people are inspired by these stories and learn about some of history’s forgotten heroes. 

And I hope they are inspired and remember that there is good in the world and that everyone can make a difference.  

It is not just in times of utmost peril like the Second World War

Indeed, we can avoid our society heading in that direction by standing up for the values of compassion, kindness and tolerance.  

There were even communities in Europe during the war — such as Denmark or the village of Le Chambon in France — where the entire group stood together against the Nazis. And were able to save almost all their Jewish neighbors.  

So I hope the book is a message of hope — and [that it] offers lessons on how we can make our world a better place.

‘Rescues echo down through the generations’

Fox News Digital: What stays with you in terms of reporting and writing the book?

Hurowitz: I have had the profound experience, when I’ve written about rescuers, to hear from people I personally know who are alive today because their family was saved by them. 

Rescues echoes down through the generations. 

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There are possibly one million people alive today because of the 10 rescues profiled in the book. 

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And at least some of [these people] many of us probably know — and some of them have themselves done extraordinary things that would have been lost to us had it not been for courage eight decades ago.

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