Local News

Saturday, Nov 16 2013 09:00 PM

JFK 50 YEARS LATER: Californian readers share unforgettable memories of a tragic day

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    By Felix Adamo / The Californian

    Debbie Osborn and her classmates simply could not fathom who would shoot the president when they learned President John F. Kennedy had been shot in Dallas.

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    Rhonda Brady gave birth to her second child, a son, the same day President John F. Kennedy was fatally shot, making the upcoming 50th anniversary of the day bittersweet.

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    By Felix Adamo / The Californian

    Carole Price says the day President John F. Kennedy was killed was "the saddest day I ever experienced at my beloved BHS."

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    Fred Drew remembers being in study hall at South High School when he learned President John F. Kennedy had been shot in Dallas. He and the other kids just couldn't believe it.

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    By Contributed photo

    John Siercks was aboard the USS Newport News in Norfolk, Va., when he watched, on live television, President John F. Kennedy get shot in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963. This is a current photo of Siercks.

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    By Contributed photo

    John Siercks was aboard the USS Newport News in Norfolk, Va., when he watched, on live television, President John F. Kennedy get shot in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963. This photo was taken about 1963.

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    Caroline Reid

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    Contributed photo Martin Matheny of Tehachapi was aboard the U.S.S. Wilkinson when President John F. Kennedy was fatally shot, and after the ship pulled into New York City, the crew had the "honor and responsibility" of firing its saluting canon once each hour during its stay.

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    Martin Matheny today.

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    Tony K. Heider had finished up with PE at Westmoor High School in Daly City, Calif., when he heard President John F. Kennedy had been shot. "I felt a profound loss," the now-Bakersfield man said about learning of the president's death.

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    By Courtesy Lucy Clark

    Lucy Clark caught a glimpse of President John F. Kennedy being driven through Dallas just before his assassination. Not long after, she learned the president had been shot.

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    By Courtesy Lucy Clark

    Lucy Clark back in 1963.

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    Jerry Beckwith heard about President John F. Kennedy's shooting while aboard a Navy ship traveling to New York. When they got to the city, they fired the ship's saluting canon every hour. This is him today.

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    Jerry Beckwith during his Navy days.

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    Even as a young girl, Lynn Bailey felt "something precious had been changed forever for me as well as for our nation" when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

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    By Courtesy Phillip Anderson

    Phillip Anderson remembers working at his bench repairing a radar set at Pease Air Force Base in New Hampshire when he heard President John F. Kennedy had been shot. He was called to report to his air duty station.

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    By Courtesy Phillip Anderson

    Phillip Anderson back in his military days.

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    Suzanne Epting remembers hearing the news of President John F. Kennedy's assassination while at the orthodontist's office and what strikes her today is how long it took to get new news — so much slower than it is today.

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    Nora Virrey, shown here in this photo from her high school days, heard the news of President John F. Kennedy's shooting from a friend surreptitiously listening to a radio at North High School.

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    Marsha McKinney remembers her Catholic school principal and teacher crying as they spoke about and announced the death of President John F. Kennedy.

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    Darlyn Baker and her classmates gathered around the small console TV on their dorm floor to learn about the fatal shooting of President John F. Kennedy.

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    Diane Golling remembers seeing her teacher pacing and praying outside her classroom after hearing President John F. Kennedy had been shot in Dallas. This is Golling today.

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    Golling in 1963.

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By The Bakersfield Californian

We asked Californian readers to share their memories of Nov. 22, 1963. We received a huge response, with nearly everyone expressing thanks for the opportunity and interest in reading others' contributions.

 

I was a high school junior out of class on a journalism assignment. In the science building, small groups of students gathered together, speaking in hushed tones. Strange, I thought.

"What's going on?"

Someone whispered, "The president has been shot!"

"What?"

"President Kennedy!!"

Someone else fumbled with a transistor radio. An announcer mumbled something about a Dallas motorcade and the president having been rushed to a hospital. We looked at each other, wide-eyed. The president. Who would shoot the president?

A classmate and I wandered about discussing the possibilities. We had practiced air raid drills since kindergarten. If the Soviets were involved, we would be on some kind of alert.

Lincoln had been shot. Who were the other presidents? Garfield and McKinley, but those were ancient history events of another century. Why would anyone shoot the president? This could not be happening.

A voice over the public address system confirmed the news. School was dismissed early. A large number of my classmates were staunch Kennedy supporters, but all of us were stunned.

The president who started the Peace Corps? The president who had stressed fitness and symbolized youth? The president who supported the Civil Rights Movement? The president who encouraged us to, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country?"

Everyone -- our teachers included -- shared an overwhelming sense of loss, regardless of political affiliation.

The next three days were a blur of news reports and opinion: the assassination itself; information about Lee Harvey Oswald; speculation about his motives; Sunday's live TV assassination of Oswald by Jack Ruby; the flag-draped casket lying in state; John-John's salute; the funeral; the Conrad political cartoon of Oswald pointing an imaginary rifle at the Kennedy motorcade from the book depository window with the caption, "Guns don't kill people; people kill people."

After Nov. 22, 1963, historical events were no longer the stuff of textbooks. JFK's assassination marked the end of political innocence for my classmates and me, if not for all baby boomers who came of age in the '60's.

-- Debbie Osborn, Bakersfield

 

 

At the time of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, I was a young wife and mother awaiting the overdue birth of my second child. In order to speed the process of childbirth along, I had gone out for a walk around the neighborhood when a neighbor called out to me to go home and turn on the television as our president had been shot in Dallas.

That evening, after watching the news unfold on our black and white television, I went into labor and went to the local hospital. Every television in the hospital was tuned into the events, and everyone was extremely upset.

I was examined and put into a labor room while attendants and nurses and doctors came in and out as they were trying to keep current on the event of the nation's beloved president and Mrs. Kennedy. My son was born that evening, and at the time new mothers were kept in the hospital for three days, my giving birth no exception.

For three days and upon my return home, we watched the assassination, Mrs. Kennedy in her blood-stained suit, the swearing-in of Lyndon Baines Johnson, the arrest of Lee Harvey Oswald, and the shooting in the basement of the police station by Jack Ruby. It was constant news.

The funeral parade with the riderless horse with the boots turned backward in the stirrups. John John saluting his father. Caroline in her little coat. It is all still very clear in my head as it was back then.

My son will be 50 years old on Nov. 22, a sad and happy day.

-- Rhonda Brady, Tehachapi

 

 

When President Kennedy was assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963, I was a graduate student at the University of the Americas in Mexico City. The U of A was a unique university in Mexico as it was a United States-accredited university located in Mexico. Most of the students attending were U.S. citizens, as I was.

The shocking assassination of President Kennedy left us dazed and heartbroken. There we were, hundreds of miles from our country. We had no access to U.S. news and as the word spread around the campus, we walked around in a daze, many of us with tears in our eyes, sobbing and hugging one another. We had only access to Mexican television and could only pick up bits and pieces of the news. A brief appearance of Walter Cronkite in the Mexican news was all we could get. We were devastated, fearful and lost.

President Kennedy and Jacqueline had visited Mexico in June of 1962 in an effort to gain Mexican President López Mateos' approval and support for the Alliance for Progress in order to combat the ever-restive Latin America in the wake of the Cuban Revolution. The Kennedys' visit was a smashing success as the Catholic couple was admired by the predominantly Catholic Mexicans, who fell in love with the couple who won their hearts by visiting the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City. Mrs. Kennedy gave speeches in Spanish as she and the president became even more admired by the Mexican public.

What was so remarkable to me and so many of the other U.S. students was how so many Mexicans, total strangers in many instances, would come up to us with tears in their eyes and tell us how sorry they were, how sad and hurt they were, because they loved President Kennedy, too. Beyond the grief I experienced by the president's assassination, it was all the more painful because I was not home to grieve with my own family and friends, but the sympathetic Mexicans did much to help us students during those very sad days.

-- Ray Gonzales, Bakersfield

 

 

The day President Kennedy was assassinated, I was a student volunteer in the Bakersfield High School main office. A son of one of the counselors came in and said President Kennedy has been shot.

He was kind of a cut-up, so he wasn't believed at first. Someone said to him, "That's a terrible joke."

It didn't take long for us to find out it was the truth. I remember then being in one of the lecture halls when someone came in and told us the president had died. Those lecture halls hold at least 100 students, but you could hear a pin drop. And when we left the hall, the whole campus was unusually quiet.

Do I remember the day President Kennedy was shot and killed in Dallas? I doubt I will ever forget it, nor will I forget the saddest day I ever experienced at my beloved BHS.

-- Carole Price, Bakersfield

 

 

I was a senior at South High. I was sitting in study hall, second period, about 9:30 a.m., as I recall. Mr. Moroski, the vice principal, came into the room and whispered something to Ms. Neilson, our study hall monitor. She just burst out crying and ran out of the room.

We all just sat there wondering what was going on. About five minutes later she came back and announced that President Kennedy had been shot in Dallas. The room got very quiet. There was some crying and we all just looked at each other in amazement. How could this happen?

At noon, everyone was released from class to attend a gathering at the school flag pole, where Principal Grant Jensen announced that President Kennedy had died. The flag was lowered to half-staff.

Our 1964 class yearbook, the Merrimac, devoted two pages "With Devoted Memory" to President Kennedy, one with a portrait of him (with his famous quote about "what can you do for your country") and the other showing the flag at half-staff.

That evening, our family gathered around our 19-inch black and white TV and watched one of the three TV channels we had in Bakersfield as Walter Cronkite cried when he gave the news.

Life was different then. My energies were devoted to sports, girls and cars. I don't think as high school seniors we were very tuned into national politics, so I don't think I understood the impact this would have on our country.

Over the next few days watching the funeral in Washington, D.C., and then over the years, I began to understand what a horrific event this was. A sad day for America. For me, it is, and was, one of those times, like the first landing on the moon or the attack on our country on 9/11, that you simply cannot forget where you were.

God Bless President Kennedy and God Bless America.

-- Fred Drew, Bakersfield

 

 

On Nov. 22, 1963, I was in the Navy, stationed on the heavy cruiser USS Newport News CA 148 in Norfolk, Va. I was having my discharge physical and was left alone in an exam room, naked, sitting on an exam table waiting for the doctor/corpsman to arrive.

There was a television in the room tuned into news showing Kennedy's motorcade in Texas. Suddenly, the camera that was focused on the motorcade suddenly jumped about, now showing sky, trees and glimpses of the president's car.

Background voices were exclaiming excitedly (paraphrasing), "The president has been shot. Oh my God, someone shot the president!"

At the time, my reaction was like others. I didn't believe it at first, but after the camera crew regained composure, they filmed the chaos of Secret Service and police rushing about and Kennedy's car leaving the scene for the hospital. While all that was going on, news commentators were trying to describe what happened.

About that time, the corpsman came into the room unaware of what just happened. When I told him, of course, he didn't believe it. A couple of seconds later, over the loudspeakers came the announcement that Kennedy had been shot.

Every available television on the ship was on with anyone not on duty watching it in silence. We were all hoping Kennedy was only wounded, but speaking for myself, I had a feeling of dread and sadness.

I believe the hardest time for me was when I learned of Kennedy's death and when I watched the funeral procession at a bowling alley. No one in the bowling alley spoke, smoked or moved. The silence was unreal and we all were crying softly. It was a memorable part of history I won't forget.

-- John Siercks, Bakersfield

 

 

On Nov. 20, 1963, I had just given birth to my son in Santa Barbara. On Nov. 22, my neighbor called me and told me that President Kennedy had been shot in Dallas. She said she thought he was going to be "OK."

A few minutes later she called to tell me he had died of his wounds. I asked a nurse if this was true. She said, "Oh we don't know for sure yet." Later she told me they were trying to keep it from new mothers and those who were about to be new mothers, so I should just not say anything to anyone about it. She said it was too much trauma for new mothers and those in labor.

I called my husband and he confirmed that President Kennedy had indeed been killed. I told him I wanted to go home. "Go pick up Randi (our 2-year-old daughter) and then please come and get me. We need to all four be in our own little safe home."

I called the doctor's office and said I felt fine and I just wanted to go home and get my family together. He wouldn't let me go until the next day. I think I cried all night. Those were the days they kept new mothers in the hospital for a week.

On Nov. 23, my husband picked me and the new baby up and we went home. We sat in front of the TV all day. The country was in mourning. We had a new baby to celebrate but it was a dark, dark day and week in the history of the United States.

For our immediate family, it was a bright, bright day indeed. My soon-to-be 50-year-old son has been a joy to our family and it is his birthday we celebrate on Nov. 20. We also can't help but have vivid memories of that awful day in history, November 22, 1963.

-- Caroline O. Reid

 

 

On this date, I was located at Zweibrucken, West Germany, assigned to the 7th Army, 32nd Brigade, 94th Group, 2nd Missile Battalion, D-Battery; a Nike Missile Battery armed with several dozen Hercules missiles, each armed with nuclear warheads.

The assassination of our commander-in-chief reached me while I was off-duty and at civilian housing. The unit commander ordered the first sergeant/charge of quarters and other staff to telephone off-duty personnel including myself, alerting troops to grab their combat gear and prepare for transport via 2-1/2 ton trucks. A number of vehicles were directed to locate troops who were enjoying typical haunts such as guest houses (bars), eating establishments and other haunts.

My wife and child prepared for civilian evacuation by private auto and rendezvousing at pre-arranged locations for military convoy escort through France and pre-designated naval ports for return to the United States. Depending on events, an alternate route would have taken the convoy to Italy and Mediterranean ports. Private vehicles were topped 24/7 for such an event.

Upon reaching our unit, I was ordered to the arms room to hand out M-14 assault rifles, ammo, side arms and assorted gear; following that exercise, I then entered the IFC (Integrated Fire Control) van and assumed position as one of three soldiers tasked with operating the target tracking radar. We then waited for an anticipated Soviet invasion through the Fulda Gap, where the U.S. Army's 11th Blackhorse Armored Regiment was prepared to stop any expected invasion through the pass.

Further, like other units, we were prepared to launch/expend our missile inventory, whether at incoming Soviet bomber squadrons and/or surface to surface when engaging infantry/armor; then push toward Kaiserslautern to link up with a heavy infantry division.

In reality, few thought we would survive a head-to-head engagement. Each missile launch would earmark a battery for enemy aircraft's return fire via locked-on guided missiles. During the struggle in southeast Asia ('Nam), many will recall U.S. aircraft taking out SAM Missile sites. Training exercises included simulated engagements with NATO aircraft resulting with an understanding of our vulnerability.

Of course, history documents that following three days of alert, the 7th Army returned to normal duty.

-- Martin Matheny, Tehachapi

 

 

President Kennedy was assassinated during my sophomore year at Westmoor High School in Daly City, Calif. I was in my physical education class and just finished showering and dressing when one of the coaches announced that President Kennedy had been shot in Dallas. It was an eerie coincidence that at the time of the announcement, I was holding Jim Bishop's The Day Lincoln Was Shot, a book I was reading for a school project.

Like everyone else, I was shocked and wondered whether the president had been fatally wounded. I also wondered how it happened and who was responsible. At lunchtime, I went to the school library to listen to the radio, and it was there I heard Edwin Newman of NBC News report that President Kennedy had died. Several students began to cry, and I felt a profound loss.

After lunch, I was the first student to make it to my English class. My teacher was busy writing on the blackboard and had not heard of the assassination. When I told her what happened, she immediately began crying.

Except for acknowledging the tragedy, both my English and geometry teachers conducted business as usual in class. Needless to say, it was almost impossible to concentrate.

-- Tony K. Heider, Bakersfield

 

 

On Nov. 22, 1963, I was working as a lab tech in Dallas at UT Southwestern Medical School with my brand new BA in biology and chemistry. My boss, Greta, and I knew the opportunity to see a U.S. president was a rare event. We decided we ought to go see the president, although for us the other draw was Jackie.

We planned our route from the school and Parkland Hospital, on Inwood over to Lemmon Avenue, close to Love Field where they were to fly in. We thought we would have time to see them, get a burger, and get back to our lab in an hour.

On our lunch break, we drove over to Lemmon Avenue, parked the car and stood waiting on the corner. Absolutely no one else was there, we were so far north of downtown. Soon their convertible came into view! We were so caught up in the moment, so excited to see Jackie and John Kennedy, we were waving and shouting hello, and probably jumping off the ground. They turned toward us, smiled and waved back, and then they were gone.

We went to a drive-in for our hamburgers and drove back to Southwestern to our lab. We were eating in the office when another tech stepped in and said in a hushed voice, "Kennedy is dead. They shot him."

We looked at him and said, "What a sick joke, get outta here!" And laughed. He disappeared out the door.

A while later, Dr. Belli, our boss, came in crying. We could not believe the truth. He had had to move his patient out of one of the ORs at Parkland Memorial to make room for Governor Connelly. He had released his patient and returned to his lab. He was devastated as Kennedy was HIS president, the first Catholic president, so young, so intelligent.

The next day, there was a TV in our lab, and we watched everything that happened in the next few days. He explained the Catholic Mass to his two Protestant worker bees, and we tried to be supportive of him in his grief. We each felt awful and ashamed about living in Dallas, and I moved away four months later.

-- Lucy Clark, Woody

 

 

On Nov 22, 1963, I found myself and 300 other sailors aboard the U.S.S. Wilkinson (DL-5), transiting the Cape Cod Canal from Boston to New York, N.Y. Part way through, scuttlebutt raced around the ship that our president had been shot.

Factual news was spotty and it was several hours before the crew was called to quarters and the skipper announced that our president, John F. Kennedy, had been assassinated.

On our arrival in New York, we were found to be the only U.S. Naval vessel there. We were given the honor and responsibility of firing our saluting canon once each hour during our stay.

New York City, the city that never sleeps, closed down. That same day, all of the department stores pulled their window displays and replaced them with pictures of the president and black bunting. Nearly every store and restaurant closed for business and the streets saw just a few people going about their business.

It was a day forever etched in my mind.

-- Jerry Beckwith, Bakersfield

 

 

It was a cold, dreary November day as I sat in the room of my favorite teacher, Mrs. Finch, who was one of the most loved of all the teachers at Loyola Elementary in Los Altos, Calif. We were listening to her read a section of one of the adventure books we had selected for the last 10 minutes of the day lesson when Mrs. Hopkins came to the door. Mrs. Hopkins, a new math teacher, was known to be very tough and it shocked me to see that she was crying.

She pulled Mrs. Finch from the room, shutting the door behind them. In what seemed less than a second, we all heard Mrs. Finch cry out, "Oh my God, no!" All of us turned to look at each other, instinctively knowing that something horrible had happened.

White as a sheet of paper, tears glistening on her porcelain cheeks, she reentered the class as our principal's somber voice came crackling over the PA system, "Children, the president has been shot. Gather your belongings and go home, school is closed."

I don't remember much as I walked home except that I didn't understand why President Kennedy had been shot and what it meant. When I got home, the TV was on and my mom was glued to a chair. She opened her arms and I ran into them.

The next days are a blur of black and white images flashing across the TV screen -- tears, such sadness and niggling suspicion that something precious had been changed forever for me as well as for our nation. I do not remember that horrible gut wrenching sadness consuming me again until the day my son died and then again on 9/11. However that November day in 1963 is etched like isinglass as the beginning of the cracks in the fiber of a child's soul.

-- Lynn Bailey, Bakersfield

 

 

Mrs. Eckhardt's fourth-grade class from Roosevelt Elementary School was on a field trip that day. I remember being in the school bus, returning from whatever adventure we had been on, and the bus driver and Mrs. Eckhardt having an intense, whispered conversation all the way back to the school.

We wondered what was going on -- but went on talking, laughing and playing with our friends, enjoying the relaxed supervision we were receiving. Back at the school, we continued an art project. I was painting with tempera paints on an easel at the back of the classroom. Mrs. Eckhardt actually left the classroom, which was unheard of. I saw her pacing the concrete breezeway outside our room and praying.

I don't actually remember her coming in and making an announcement ... what struck me was the sight of my beloved teacher, whom I hero-worshipped to a previously unexperienced degree, so upset, pacing and praying. The afternoon was eerie and frightening because of those moments, and the look on her face, which is etched in my memory forever.

Of course, I was at the age where what upset me the most was the emotions of the adults around me ... and the cartoons all being cancelled on Saturday morning! Around-the-clock news coverage. This was a first.

-- Diane Farr Golling, Citrus Heights

 

 

I was in my Algebra class in my junior year at Suitland High School in Suitland, Md., which is approximately five miles outside Washington, D.C., when it was announced over the school's intercom that the president had been shot.

The news was mind-numbing and surreal. A lot of the girls started crying as well as our teacher, and I think some of us guys really had to hold it in. This was a moment in time that will be forever etched in our memory.

-- Les A. Cofer, Bakersfield

 

 

On Nov. 22, 1963, I was in the United States Air Force's Strategic Air Command at Pease Air Force Base in New Hampshire. A year earlier I was serving President Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis and was still at the ready 7/24.

I remember I was in the shop working at my bench repairing an APS-42 radar set. Over the public address came the first announcements of the events in Dallas and the alert klaxon sounded for all of us to report to our Alert Duty Stations. We jumped to get our alert gear, as we always did when an alert was sounded. This time, because of the situation, we moved a little faster perhaps, anticipating the worse.

My Alert Duty Station was on the flight line, in a maintenance truck to be ready to repair any radio/nav-aids equipment on the B47 bombers and KC 97 tankers that might fail, as the planes sat ready to launch. Thoughts raced through our minds as we listened to further details via the radio.

The assassination happened on a Friday that just happened to be the weekend I was scheduled for charge of quarters in the barracks. I was married with a 6-month-old son and young wife. The weekend duty was extended to weeklong duty because of the alert status. My wife and son were off base and I was isolated in the barracks. We spoke on the phone but as I recall, we could not get together as a family.

I was able to watch all the coverage of the return from Dallas, the swearing in of President Johnson, the Oswell and Jack Ruby events and all the funeral events on the TV in the barracks. It is still vivid in my mind as I write this. The photo I have attached is me in my uniform at that time. That day was one that I will remember as long as I live.

-- Phillip Anderson

 

 

I was turning 9 and looking forward to my classmates coming to my birthday party after school. I woke up so early on Nov. 22, 1963 -- excited -- I dressed and hurried out the door for a 10-minute walk to school at Terrace Way Elementary in Delano.

About midmorning, the teacher told us to be quiet and shared that President Kennedy had been shot in Dallas I think for the majority of us at 8 and 9, we were sad but we didn't know what it meant. We saw our teachers and our principal crying and knew that whatever had happened was serious.

When I got home, my mom had the television on watching the coverage, which NEVER happened. NEVER! She said President Kennedy had been assassinated (that is clearly the first time I had ever heard the word), and she and many neighbors were upset and crying. Needless to say, the 9th birthday party never materialized, which at 9 was very disappointing, but certainly appropriate.

The decade being young, we didn't watch television news regularly, but I know with certainty it is the first time I watched news coverage of a national event and it's the first time I can remember being touched by tragedy. For me, personally, I remember the Kennedy family each and every year on my birthday and have a strong curiosity about this family.

By high school, when Dr. King and presidential candidate Robert Kennedy were shot by assassins, the media had shown us the world at large and I understood then how devastating President Kennedy's death was to our parents and to the unknowing 8 and 9 year olds who were my classmates.

-- Susan Chaidez, Stallion Springs

 

 

It was a day shocking beyond belief. Our young lives were changed forever and we cried for days.

It started out normal enough. My friend Glenna Crown (McCutcheon) and I were sophomores at North High School and we were to attend a morning assembly in the boys gym. We shared a second period class so we attended the assembly together.

It was a melodrama of some sort as we were to boo the villains and clap and cheer for the good guys. We became bored, so my friend turned on her trainster radio, which many of us carried everywhere to listen to a Beach Boys or Beatles song. Music was our whole life back then.

We had our heads close to the radio listening to the music when a news bulletin came on. I withdrew from listening but my friend continued to listen. She then whispered in a shocked voice, "The president's been shot!"

I looked at her with wide eyes. She continued to listen to make sure she had heard right. People around us were looking at us and we told them, "The president's been shot!" Some gave us dirty looks and some just stared.

The assembly ended and as we exited the gym, our high school principal, Mr. George Williamson, was standing by the door and my friend wanted to go tell him, but I argued no, we will get in trouble for having the radio on. She threw caution to the wind and went over to tell him and he just looked at her in a quizzical manner. I

I'm very sure we were the first to learn of the tragedy that day at North High School.

-- Nora Virrey, Bakersfield

 

 

Let me start by saying that I had the privilege of seeing President John F. Kennedy in person when he dedicated the San Luis Dam project, part of the California Aqueduct system, on August 18, 1962. The ceremony was held about 15 miles south of my hometown of Gustine, which at that time was a predominantly Portuguese farming and dairy community with the majority of the residents of Catholic faith.

Kennedy was the first,and, so far, only Catholic president. He is also the only president I have ever seen in person.

On Nov. 22, 1963, I was in the 7th grade, only 12 years old, attending Our Lady of Miracles Catholic School. Sister Joachim, the principal, walked into class with tears in her eyes. Believe me, in seven years this was the first time I had ever seen her cry.

She whispered in Sister Martin De Porres' ear and she also started crying. She announced to the class that President Kennedy had been shot and killed. We said a prayer for him, his family and our country. Students were dismissed for the rest of the day. The conversations on the bus ride home centered on the news we had just heard.

When I arrived home, my parents were so upset that someone could even consider shooting such a vibrant and positive leader and angry once the news broke out that there had been a gunman in the book depository.

At that time, there were only three television stations and they were all covering this event. I watched more TV than usual on that day and the days that followed. This was the most traumatic news our little town had experienced. This was a day I have never forgotten.

Marsha McKinney, Bakersfield

 

 

In 1963, as a freshman, 17-year-old student nurse, I was in my Idabelle Firestone School of Nursing dorm room in Akron, Ohio, the day Kennedy was assassinated.

Some of our classes were held in the dorm classrooms while we walked approximately a mile to other classes at the University of Akron. I awakened with a headache that morning and remained in bed while my roommate and classmates made their way to the U of A.

Mid-morning, I was awakened by loud voices echoing in the hallway by my returning classmates nervously talking of the unbelievable news of our president being assassinated.

There was one TV on each of the five floors in our dorm. We gathered around the small console TV on our floor to learn as much as possible of this tragedy. My memory of that day, at age 17, is as vivid as though it just recently happened.

-- Darlyn Baker, Bakersfield

 

 

I was a brand new reporter for the then-Santa Ana Register (now Orange County), and I was assigned to the paper's Huntington Beach office; I had just filed my morning stories when the radio in the adjoining beauty shop (shared space in which only a 3/4 wall divided us) went momentarily quiet and then changed to a special news report that I could not hear clearly. I walked around the partition and asked what the news item was. One of the beauticians told me, "Someone shot the president in Dallas."

About then, my phone rang, and it was my city editor at the main office in Santa Ana, who repeated what the beautician had told me and instructed me to go out and get some "man on the street" comments. I ran a couple of blocks to the coffee shop where all the "power brokers" of the small beach community hung out. I stopped at the counter first and asked the waitress what her reaction was (forgetting that she was a native Texan), and she replied with no emotion, "Guess that will teach him to go to Dallas."

I have never forgotten that morning and certainly not the reactions of the people I asked; most were sympathetic, and when a bit later we found out that Mr. Kennedy did not survive, many expressed sympathy for Mrs. Kennedy and her children.

We put out five extra editions that day, and I think often of how the media business has changed, and how incredibly the world has changed. And how indelibly those events remain in our memories of that tragic day.

-- Michael Furtney

 

 

My family was living in a small farming village in Germany on the day President Kennedy was assassinated. I remember the lady who lived in the house nearest to us came running over, very upset and crying about something.

We had learned some German before we went over, and my father had put my sister and myself right into a German school. But with my beginning skills -- and 10-year-old's vocabulary -- I didn't know what Frau Witte was saying.

I think my mother tried to find out something by tuning in an Armed Forces station on the radio. The U.S. military bases are in southern Germany, and we were in northern Germany.

And on that day, my father was in a German-language immersion course down in Luneburg. It had students from various foreign countries. I remember dad saying some of the students were surprised the gunman had been arrested, and would face the regular judicial process. The next day he had to go back and try to explain Jack Ruby.

But the German people were deeply saddened by the assassination, that was our impression. Germans really loved President Kennedy, and there was an outpouring of grief.

-- Carol Ferguson, Bakersfield

 

 

I will never forget that day in November 1963 -- I was in 7th grade, getting braces on my teeth. Around 10 a.m., the orthodontist got a long-distance call from a friend of his and the nurse said he needed to take it. I was relieved, as the pain was getting really bad and I needed a break, too!

After the call -- it lasted quite a while -- the pain was subsiding -- the orthodontist came back in and told us that Kennedy had been shot and killed. We were all just stunned and no one said a word. The call had been from a colleague in Texas who called to tell him the shocking news.

He turned on the radio in the office and nothing -- no news -- for about an hour and then it was reported that Kennedy had been shot.

Remember, media was not what it is today -- it took time, a long of time. When my mom picked me up about an hour later, I told her what we had heard -- again, back then people didn't have TVs on all the time. She had heard he had been shot, but not about his death.

Sad days prevailed, school was cancelled, many tears were shed -- the simple life as we knew it was gone, as we sat glued to our black and white TVs for the next four days.

-- Suzanne Epting

 

It was Friday, after lunch, at the all-girls school I attended in Chestnut Hill, Mass. I remember we were starting our second-to-last class before we were out for the weekend.

Suddenly, the classroom door opened and another teacher, in tears, came in and whispered something to our teacher, who put her hands to her mouth in shock and burst into tears herself. We could see out into the hallway; sobbing teachers were gathering in and in front of the teachers’ lounge door. The TV was on.

I don't remember who told us the president was killed, but I do remember there was a lot of confusion and we were let out early. My mom picked several of us up and took us home.

I had been able to meet President Kennedy and shake his hand just two years before, at Otis Air Force Base, when he flew in to spend time with his family in Hyannis.

A few weeks later, we were let out of school again. My school was next to Holyhood Cemetery in Brookline, where little Patrick Kennedy had been buried. Our school was closed so that the Kennedy family could have privacy when Patrick was exhumed so he could be buried next to his father at Arlington National Cemetery.

— Pat Mumford, Bakersfield

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