Best of 1963
A song, a show and a singer top judges’ favorites from 1963

By Ed Cohen

Of all the things and human beings that debuted in 1963, the favorite of judges who responded to this month’s lighthearted survey question was “Puff the Magic Dragon” by the folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary.

December’s Question of the Month* was pegged to the 60th anniversary of the founding of The National Judicial College in 1963, which the college has been celebrating all year long (surely you’ve noticed). Participants could vote for up to three favorite items on a list of 31 that originated in 1963. A total of 220 judges chose to participate.

“Puff the Magic Dragon” received the most votes, 56, beating the famously improbable TV sitcom Gilligan’s Island with 51. Next came the late singer Whitney Houston (47) followed by retired basketball great Michael Jordan (45). The full results appear below.

Surprisingly, the top three vote-getters didn’t appear in any of the nearly 30 comments.

South Bend, Indiana, Superior Court Judge John Marnocha wrote from personal experience about two of the runners-up in the songs category.

“I never played with the Surfaris, but most bands that I played in (in) the ’60s played ‘Wipeout.’ I did get to play with Martha and the Vandellas, so I played ‘Heatwave’ with them.”

He added that The Great Escape is his all-time favorite movie. And he wasn’t alone.

“No matter what I am doing, if I see The Great Escape is showing, I have to stop and watch Steve McQueen jump the hills on his motorcycle … AGAIN!” wrote Jonesboro, Arkansas, District Court Judge Thomas Fowler.

Judge Bill Squires of Guadalupe County Court at Law, Texas, rhapsodized about The Chicken Dance, which, as he colorfully and accurately put it, has “waddled into every family event” since it hatched in 1963.

“It’s the ultimate equalizer – from toddlers to grandpas, everyone’s flapping and wiggling to that infectious tune. The beauty? Its splendid simplicity. No need for fancy steps, just unfold your arms, clap, wiggle, and twirl like the happiest chicken in the coop. It’s a dance that demands no skill, only a willingness to embrace your inner poultry.”

San Joaquin County Court Judge Tony Agbayani confessed that Cap’n Crunch was his favorite cereal growing up. “It provided enough sugar to keep this 7-year-old going all day.”

Washington state industrial appeals judge and long-suffering Seattle Mariners baseball fan Adam Torem appreciated the nomination of former Mariner Edgar Martinez.

Martinez was a fan favorite in Seattle not just for his success on the field – he’s one of the few Hall of Famers who played most of his career as a designated hitter – but also for his humorous local commercials. In one Mariners promo, he installs a Clapper to turn the stadium lights on and off for nighttime batting practice.

Several judges mentioned omissions from the list.

“I can’t believe you left out the Corvette Stingray split-window coupe!” griped one.

“And ME!!” wrote Judge Darrin Dolehanty of the Wayne County (Indiana) Superior Court.

Like Judge Dolehanty, several voters pointed out that either they, their spouse or another relative entered the world in 1963.

One judge wrote: “While the list is interesting, the ‘thing that debuted in 1963’ which I love the most was my parents’ marriage, which produced me the following year and my siblings in the years to follow.”

Indianapolis Superior Court Senior Judge David Dreyer asked, “Didn’t the Beatles have their first album in 1963?”

Yes and no. The album Please Please Me was released in Great Britain on EMI’s Parlophone label on March 22, 1963. But their first U.S. album, titled Introducing The Beatles and containing a similar but not identical collection of songs, didn’t come out until 1964. 

An unnamed judge sounded glad that the list omitted what is probably the most well-known event of 1963: the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

 “[I]t was nice to see some happy events that occurred that year,” the judge wrote.

Complete results

RankThings and Humans That Debuted in 1963Votes
1“Puff the Magic Dragon” by Peter, Paul and Mary56
2Gilligan’s Island51
3Whitney Houston47
4Michael Jordan45
5The Great Escape36
6 Cap’n Crunch33
7Cassette tapes30
8 Chips Ahoy!28
9 “Wipeout” by The Surfaris27
11 It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World23
10“Heatwave” by Martha and the Vandellas22
Lilies of the Field22
12The Outer Limits20
13Doctor Who17
14Helen Hunt13
The Lava Lamp13
15Malcolm Gladwell11
16The Chicken Dance9
17Rand Paul7
18Mary Kay Cosmetics‎6
Phoebe Cates6
Laura Ingraham6
Conan O’Brien6
Natalie Merchant6
19Lisa Kudrow5
20Edgar Martinez4
The Patty Duke Show4
21Jet Li3
Vijay Singh2

* Each month the College emails an informal, non-scientific one-question survey to its more than 12,000 judicial alumni in the United States and abroad. The results, summarized in the NJC’s Judicial Edge Today, are not intended to be characterized as conclusive research findings. The NJC is a nonpartisan, nonpolitical organization and these monthly polls are designed to engage our alumni in thought-provoking dialogue.

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