In the vein of the gag plaque that some people display in front of a seemingly historical location, “On July 20, 1939 absolutely nothing happened here” might be applicable to southern California. It was just another day.
Thirty years before this seems to be the most significant event:
On July 20, 1909, at 11:15 a.m. Paul “Daredevil” Derkum checked in at Temecula during a timed 320 mile roundtrip race between Los Angeles and San Diego. He was determined to lower J. Howard Shafer’s June 30, 1909 record of 16 hours and 50 minutes. In a cloud of dust, Derkum raced his Indian [motorcycle] north out of town and into the record books. His finishing time was 10 hours, 59 minutes, and 30 seconds.
Derkum would have averaged about 29 miles per hour on less-than-ideal roads.
But, thirty years later, holy mackerel!*
Man first set foot on the moon on July 20, 1969.
Try to imagine life in 1939. You might have flown in an airplane but it wasn’t very likely that you had. At the time, the world’s aircraft record for altitude was about ten miles. The moon is an average of 238,855 miles from earth. A few astronauts were born in 1939 but the first to set foot on the moon, Neil Armstrong, was born in 1930 (not in California, though). Could you imagine telling a nine-year-old Armstrong in 1939 what he would be doing thirty years later?
*an exclamation of surprise heard in 1939