The 1800s composition “Vexations,” by Erik Satie, comes with a cryptic instruction to perform the piece 840 times in a row. Many thought that it couldn’t be done, but in the late 1960s, John Cage and some friends decided to give it a shot.
During the Korean War, the 15th Infantry Regiment was sent to hold a small hilltop that was just beyond the front line. Although Outpost Harry had great strategic significance, it was so small that no more than 150 soldiers could defend it at any one time. Over the course of a week, over 13,000 Chinese soldiers took turns trying to storm the hill in wave after wave of assaults. Sergeant Jerry Cunningham was there. Also in the show: A woman learns about cheering in a foreign land.
In 1964, Dan was accidentally lifted 3,000 feet in the air by a hot air balloon. He was 11 years old, and with his buddies went to watch a balloon take off from the local high school football field. Dan was asked to hold a rope, but didn't hear the call to let go
Mauricio grew up in war-ravaged El Salvador and South Central L.A. He says he lived life never thinking about his future because he had a hard enough time surviving day-to-day. He was 16 when he stumbled upon a summer program that took him out of L.A. and into the California wilderness. That experience, he says, is what finally gave him the ability to think about and plan for a better future.
Teresa Simon Noble grew up in Santiago de Cuba. She has vivid memories of the time Fidel Castro came down from the mountains and was greeted by the people with kisses and flowers. Shortly after, though, Teresa became disenchanted with Castro. After she was caught distributing political leaflets, her father sent her away to the U.S. That was in 1960, and although Teresa has come to accept the Castro government, she has never returned to Cuba.
In 1964, Bob Moses led an effort to bring 1000 mostly-white volunteers to Mississippi. Their job was to register African American voters and teach them about their civil rights through "freedom schools." Just before the project began, three volunteers disappeared - and were later found dead.
Deborah Jiang Stein grew up knowing that she was adopted. But when she was in her teens, she discovered that she was born in a prison and had lived there during her early life. Her world then began to spin out of control, and she started to run with a tough crowd, breaking the law regularly. After getting into a lot of trouble in her early 20s, she finally decided that it was time to change her life. Also in this episode, Heather Haskins had never seen her parents work together. In fact, they didn't really get along well at all.But when she was just a kid, her dad had come by her mother's house to pick them up for dinner. Just as they were about to leave, a stranger started to attack the entire family. Heather's mother and father worked together to defend the family, and they all survived the attack.
One of the last things Victor Anderson's older brother Ron did before he was killed in World War II was write to Victor, then 17. He asked that Vic write to an 11-year-old Jewish girl named Marianne Baum whom he had met while visiting her parents in Tel Aviv. Victor and Marianne stayed pen pals for 12 years before they finally met, and eventually fell in love. Also on the show: after 30 years of segregated class reunions, black and white alums hold a reunion together.
Arlie Sholes remembers when the battle between farmers and the government over resources came to a boil. During the Midwest Farming Crisis of the 1980s, he was forced to sell everything and get another job. Arlie's day job led him back to the farm, but this time as a Rural Farm Crisis Hotline Responder. He talks with Dick Gordon about how his own experiences as a farmer prepared him to help other farmers who were going through a tough time. All these years later, he's still answering the phone.