History Book: Breaking the sound barrier, and the Twilight Zone premiere

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Monday, September 30th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Next up on The World and Everything in It: the WORLD Radio History Book.

50 years ago, an airliner test flight breaks the sound barrier. Plus, the premiere of a groundbreaking television series.

EICHER: But first, 100 years ago this week, a presidential crisis  kept secret from the nation for nearly a year and a half. Here’s Paul Butler.

PAUL BUTLER, REPORTER: Following the conclusion of World War I, Woodrow Wilson struggles to convince the U.S. Senate to ratify the Treaty of Versailles. So Wilson decides to take his case directly to the American people.  

On September 3rd, 1919, Wilson leaves Washington D.C. for a 22-day whistle stop tour. The grueling schedule soon takes its toll. By the time Wilson reaches Montana, severe asthma and headaches make speeches nearly impossible. His doctor insists that Wilson return to Washington before suffering a complete breakdown. 

Back in D.C.—on October 2nd— Wilson collapses in his private Whitehouse quarters. Mrs. Wilson finds him on the bathroom floor, bleeding from a gash on his head. President Wilson has suffered a stroke, leaving him paralyzed on his left side and incapable of leading the nation. 

The first lady and president’s doctor hatch a plan to keep the stroke from the American people. For a year and a half, Wilson spends most of his time in bed. All presidential communication goes through his wife Edith. She brings messages to her husband, then returns with verbal instructions or his signature. 

Mrs. Wilson calls these 17-months her “stewardship.” Later she insists that she never made a single decision regarding the “disposition of public affairs.” She says she merely decided what was important enough to bring to Wilson’s attention, and what wasn’t. 

While news slowly spreads of the president’s ill health, the full details of his disability, and his wife’s role in managing his presidential tasks, is not revealed until much later. 

Next, October 2nd, 1959:

SERLING: There is a sixth dimension beyond that which is known to man…

CBS airs the first episode of a new science-fiction-fantasy program…

SERLING: This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area that might be called: The Twighlight Zone…

Rod Serling’s anthology series The Twilight Zone runs for five seasons. Each of the 156 episodes presents a stand-alone story. The plots center on characters in upsetting or unusual situations. Most stories include a surprise ending that reveals a clear moral or offers social commentary. 

SERLING: The place is here, the time is now, and the journey into the shadows that we are about to watch could be our journey…

The first episode, “Where is Everybody?” opens with a man alone on a dirt road—with no memory of who he is or how he got there. He walks into an abandoned diner and begins talking to no one in particular…

FERRIS: Let me put it to you this way…I’m not sure who I am…but I’ve got $2.85 and I’m hungry…that much is established…

As the story unfolds, the man discovers he’s completely alone and becomes more and more hysterical. Everywhere he goes, it appears people have been present, yet are now nowhere to be seen. He fears he’s being watched. 

At the episode’s climax, the man hits a pedestrian call button, screaming for help. It turns out, it’s actually a panic button. Sgt. Mike Ferris discovers he’s in an isolation booth undergoing tests to determine whether he can handle a prolonged trip to the Moon—alone.

SERLING: We think it’s the type of show that will put people on the edge of their seats.

Serling’s series introduces many science fiction storytelling conventions that continue to characterize the genre today. 60 years after its premiere, The Twilight Zone is considered by many critics as one of the most influential fictional television shows of all time. 

And finally, October 1st, 1969:

NEWSREEL: 193 feet long, 38 feet tall, with a wing-span of 84 feet. Vital statistics of an Anglo-French lady who was all dressed up and ready to go places on the biggest date of her life…

The supersonic passenger airliner Concorde breaks the sound barrier for the first time during her 45th test flight. 

Jointly developed by Britain and France, Concorde seats up to 128 passengers. Cruising at more than twice the speed of sound it can cut the flight time between London and New York in half. 

CONCORDE COMMERCIAL: When you fly the flag, you can fly the future. British Airlines Concorde the first supersonic passenger airline…

Air France and British Airways begin flying the Concorde in 1976. The fleet’s 20 aircraft are in service for more than a quarter century. The airliner’s name: Concorde, comes from both French and English, meaning harmony or agreement. It reflects the treaty between the two nations that made the project possible.

Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Paul Butler.


WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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