Saturday, November 22, 2008

November 22, 1963

Today marks a tragic day in America's history--it is the 45th anniversary of the Assassination of John F. Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States of America.
"Where were you when Kennedy was shot?" is something I have said and have been asked uncounted times since that fateful day. It is a touchstone to a critical point in time.
I remember clearly where I was: I was in the first grade at St. Florian's. It was after lunch time and the whole school went over to the church and we said the Rosary. After that, we were sent home. I came in the house and told my mom that "Sister Isaac says the world is going to end." I don't remember though, being alarmed at such a statement.
The next few days were a little more unsettling: adults crying, watching the funeral on the tee-vee and this immense feeling of grief and sadness was everywhere. On a personal level, I was really sad that Caroline, who was my age, lost her daddy.
A shining light had been extinguished and the promise of a New Frontier just faded away.
As I got older, I became interested in the circumstances of the assassination. I don't believe a thinking person can accept the Warren Commission's explanation of the way things went down. In that spirit, Dale and I took a trip to Dallas in 2005 to see for ourselves.

It was a spiritual experience to say the least. The moment I entered The Sixth Floor Museum, which is housed in the Texas Book Depository, I cried like a baby. It was a surreal experience to be there and also to walk on "The Grassy Knoll". We also went over to Oswald's old neighborhood and actually saw the house where he supposedly posed with the rifle in that famous picture from Life magazine. Some people go to Gettysburg or Philadelphia, I went to Dallas.

Forty-five Every day there are fewer and fewer people you can ask the question "Where were you when Kennedy was shot?" It is up to us to keep the memory alive.
If you want to see more photos of our trip, click here.


Miss Healthypants said...

Well, sorry that I can't say where I was at the time, as I wasn't born yet!

But I've always been interested in this story--the movie JFK was very interesting to me.

Someday the story of "where were you when" will be more about where you were on 9/11, rather than when Kennedy was shot.

And history marches on...

Jeannie said...

I was in 4th grade at St. Augustine's on Howell Ave (not the one in West Allis). We went into the 5th grade room where there was a television to watch the news broadcasts, not sure why that room had the television, they were probably set to watch the art lesson show or something. But I do remember the sense of sadness and the nuns and teachers crying. I hope history doesn't repeat itself with our new young, hope for the future...

MaryRuth said...

MHP--you are right about the 9/11 thing, that will be the touchstone for a new generation. Think about this...a person in their mid-70's today can remember Pearl Harbor, the Kennedy Assassination, and 9/11. One of those is plenty for a lifetime.
The JFK movie was awesome...even if half of it is true, it is mind boggling.

Jeannie--Oh my! I remember that art show! The Obama/Kennedy thing is weighing heavily in my mind too.
During the 1960 primary, I remember going to the parade on 26th and National Ave. with my folks and grandparents.

Jan and Doug said...

This goes way back to 1963. I was a paperboy when Kennedy was assassinated. It was a big deal. Maybe you remember it. It was in all the papers.
The police arrested a guy in a t-shirt named Lee Harvey Oswald. They said he did it.
Well a few days later, on a Sunday afternoon, Lee Harvey Oswald gets shot dead by a fat guy wearing a hat. Wow! It was on the TV! This is unbelievable!

The phone rings at home. It’s my boss Max, from the paper. He wants me to come back to work. The Journal is printing a Special Sunday afternoon Extra edition all because the guy who shot Kennedy in the head now got shot in the stomach!

The deal is that all of us paperboys are supposed to report to their paper shack. The Journal wants us to go sell newspapers! Sell newspapers! “Dang it!” I thought. “I can’t do this.” (I never had much confidence in my sales ability.)
My dad asks me what’s up and I tell him. “They want me to go and sell newspapers. I can’t do that! You remember how lousy I was selling those crummy Christmas cards for the school.”
He says, “You’ll do fine. Just act confident.”
So I figure, what the heck, I guess I gotta do what I gotta do and so I grab my coat and grab my bike and go.

When I arrive at the paper shack, there is a big crowd of kids all lined up outside the shack pushing and shoving and waiting to get these Special newspapers. Everybody’s talking about the shooting and how we’re all gonna make money. The rumor is, that all of us paperboys will get a huge percentage of every paper we sell and we can sell as many papers as we want.
I’m thinking, yeah, if I can sell any.

Boys are muscling their way out the door, leaving with Journal bags stuffed with this special paper. Some of the kids are also carrying even more papers under their arms. I see a few of my smaller friends who can barely walk because they got so many papers jammed into two Journal bags hanging off of each shoulder.
There are a few lucky boys who have their dads helping them by driving them to their routes in their cars which are overflowing with papers. I’m seeing thousands of papers leaving the shack and I’m thinking to myself, “What are they nuts? Am I the only smart one? They can’t sell all those damn papers!”

Finally it’s my turn to order.
I take a breath and gulp while I think about it one last time.
Finally, I mutter to my captain, “Pat, I’ll take 10 copies.”
Pat stops and stares at me a moment and then slowly speaks:
“Doug? Are you sure you want 10?”
I see what he’s driving at and so I say, “You’re right. Make it 5.”
“No, no” he says, “these things are gonna sell themselves.”
I’m thinking “Not the way I do it.” But I figure I’ll take a chance and I take my captain’s advice. I bite the bullet and I go back to my original order of 10 copies. (Act confident my dad had said.)
The captain says “Suit yourself, Dougie. Next!”
Out the door I go with my 10 papers.

Well, the instructions we received from the Journal was to go to our paper routes and sell them door to door to our regular customers. (I had about 70 on my route.) After that we were free to hit the streets and hawk papers like in the olden days.
“Extra! Extra. Read all about it!”
I really didn’t see myself doing that. How embarrassing. I pictured people saying to me, “Shut up kid! Nobody wants your damn papers!”
Anyways, I get to my route, walk up to the first house, ring the doorbell and wait nervously.
The lady answers and says, “Hi Dougie.”
I start my sales pitch. “I don’t suppose you wanna buy a paper do you?”
She says “Gimme 5 copies.”
Good pitch, I think to myself.
Next house. “Wanna buy a paper?”
The guy asks me how many papers I got. I tell him I got 5 but I’m pretty sure my dad wants a copy so really I only got 4. The guy says I’ll take them all.
I give him the 4 copies, he gives me the money and says “Thanks, keep the change kid.”
That was easy.

As I walk away from the guy’s house carrying my last paper, I’m thinking to myself. “I think I screwed up. These things actually are selling and I’m an idiot.”
I think fast and decide to go back to the paper shack and maybe get some more. Maybe it’s not too late.

It’s too late. It’s dark now and when I arrive, the shack is locked and nobody is around.

So I walk home. On every street I see paperboys selling papers and stuffing money in their pockets.
When I arrive back home, mom is cooking dinner and I find my family in the den watching TV.
I go over to my dad, throw the newspaper on his lap and he asks, “How’d you do?”
I said “Great! I sold them all!”
He said, “See, I knew you could do it.”

MaryRuth said...

Awwww Dougie, that was such a sweet story!
I haven't heard the term "paper shack" in a long, long, LONG time!

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