Sharing my life and love of cross stitch. Thoughts about this and that.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Nov 22, 1963 - Has It Really Been 50 Years?

Because someone asked on the 123MB and since I took the time to put my memories together, I thought I'd go ahead and post this. Some are still very precise and distinct (I think anyway), some are a bit muddled due to the impact of the Kennedy Assignation, but probably no more so than they when this happened.

Memory of a local teenager:

I was a sophomore in high school in Arlington, Texas - Fort Worth 10 minutes to the west, Dallas 15 minutes to the east. It was Home Coming Friday with our short but enthusiastic Parade with floats made out of chicken wire, tissues and crepe paper to start at 4:00 or  maybe 4:30, the game and a dance scheduled later that evening. We were waiting in the choir room for our after-lunch choir class to begin. There was a Pep Rally scheduled for sometime that day but I frankly have no memory of when it was or was supposed to be. Some of our classmates skipped school and had been in Fort Worth earlier to see Kennedy live and had just returned or hadn't arrived back yet. Some played hookey to go to Dallas to watch the Presidential parade. At 12:35 the bells rang but our always waiting teacher still hadn't appeared. Some students were missing as well. After a few minutes it was obvious something was definitely wrong but no one knew what. This was the era of the cold war and only 13 months after the Cuban Missile crisis. Speculative murmurs of possible nuclear war could be heard and we were getting really nervous. No portable transistor radios were allowed in class. No cell phones, no nothings back in 1963. I think last period had already been cut for early Parade dismissal.  It was already 10 or 15 minutes into the class period (it seemed a lot longer) and some people were talking about just leaving when finally a classmate who had been in the office ran in crying and told us Kennedy had been shot. Utter shock and disbelief. A moment later Miss Ellis came in, about the same time as the principal Mr. Webb came on the intercom to announce what had happened. The lights were never turned on. I remember on a clear bright Autumn day how dark the classrooms, the entire school felt. Hardly anyone said a word. There were a lot of silent tears or quiet sobbing. The principal left the radio and intercom on so we could hear what was happening. Role was quickly taken then the bell rang early for next period.

Everything was cancelled. School was dismissed even earlier than originally scheduled but students couldn't leave unless a parent arrived or they had a car. Bus students had to wait until the buses could get there. I don't remember the next teacher even coming to the class room, or maybe she just took role. We either left the classroom or she let us go before the dismissal bell even rang. Some parents were already waiting. We rushed home to watch our local reporters (Dan Rather for one) become instantaneous national correspondents. We were home to watch the confusion and speculation, both live and immediately aired unedited 8mm or 16mm rushes, the first interviews with witnesses in Dealey Plaza or on the Grassy Knoll, and then to hear Walter Cronkite and the others formally announce Kennedy was dead. At some point we learned Officer Tibbets had been killed and it might be related to the assassination, then that someone had been captured in a Theater not far from downtown Dallas. About the time the Homecoming Queen would have been crowned, President Johnson was taking his Oath of Office on Air Force One.  We watched into the night to see the plane land in DC,  Jacqueline come down the steps in her blood-spattered suit, the casket being removed and placed in the hearse.

We were driving home from church on Sunday listening to a live radio broadcast from the basement of the Dallas Jail and heard Oswell get shot. School was dismissed the day of the Funeral. Whose heart didn't break when John John saluted the caisson?  I think most everyone in the nation and perhaps the world, watched it on TV.

I don't recall whether our high school ever had another Homecoming Parade or not.

Fast forward 8 years. My Ex and I were living in a rent house a block from Rose Hill Cemetery (where Lee Harvey Oswald is buried) and both worked in the Dallas County Records Building which is catty-cornered across the intersection from the Texas School Book Depository. Every day I walked in front of it past tens of gawking but usually quiet tourists in Dealy Plaza to get to my car parked just behind the Grassy Knoll. I drove under the Triple Underpass twice each day, on the way home directly over the X on the street which still marks the spot Kennedy and Gov. Connolly were shot. It always seemed surreal, and I still think about it every time I go to downtown Dallas and pass by and over those same locations these 50 years later. It's all still there. Except for the Texas School Book Depository, since spruced up and now home to The Sixth Floor Museum, it all still looks the same. I think somewhere I still have the yellowed copy of the Extra Edition of the FW Star Telegram.


Kate said...

I still remember where I was and what I was doing .....
50 years already - incredible!

Catherine said...

Thank you for sharing your personal memories....although a few years before I was born, the emotions of that day, felt so strongly and by so many, still sadden me...