Dallas' Love Field, November 22, 1963

James N.

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#1
Four Days spread.JPG


It seems one can't turn on a television these days without seeing some reminder of the events of now fifty ( ! ) years ago; members of my and earlier generations say they remember exactly where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news, much as a later generation did for "9/11" and earlier ones did for Pearl Harbor and probably Fort Sumter as well. In my own particular case, though, I have a little "help" in the form of one of the very first publications commemorating that event, the U P International/American Heritage Magazine combined venture, FOUR DAYS, which went through many editions since its publication early in 1964. The above double-page spread says it all: Welcome in Dallas; and there down in the left corner preserved for posterity is my High School Senior self, which I have circled!

Remembering this was a time people actually dressed for important events, two of my best school friends, Joe Michael Puckett and Katherine Hoskins, and I "played hooky" for this momentous occasion, the visit of a President; he and I wore our suits and Kathy dressed similarly appropriately. "Joe Mike" as we called him, now gone from this earth thirty years or more, was positively a "celebrity junkie", going to see every personality possible who visited Dallas, from John Wayne to the notorious episode with Adlai Stevenson that proceeded Kennedy's visit. I was generally disinterested in politics back then, but was easily persuaded to "skip school" and go to Love Field that day, with my mother's collusion: she called saying I was "sick", and it was her car we took.

We arrived at least a couple of hours before Air Force Two ( carrying the vice president ) and Air Force One touched down in that order from their short flight from Fort Worth. We were therefore able to get a good place along the chain-link fence dividing the waiting area from the tarmac in this age before the "tubes" used today; at least we had the fence itself to lean on during the long wait! Even back then, I thought the Civil War the most important event in our nation's history, so it was natural my mind would go to that "other" U.S. president: looking over my shoulder, I saw a van with one of those large TV studio cameras mounted atop it, and said with unknowing ( and unintended! ) prescience, "Looks like this will be the first televised assassination."

You can easily see why this particular photo wound up being used, but perhaps oddly enough there was absolutely NO hostility from the crowd, evident in part by the signs you can also see. The kids with the flags had climbed up on the fence and stayed there as long as I can remember. Unfortunately for my friends and much to Joe Mike's disgust, he and Kathy were cut out of this picture when it was published. However, you can see my mother's umbrella, which I hung on the fence in case of rain, and which I teasingly suggested Kennedy and company could be hit with, in reference to the incident with Stevenson. We stood there for a couple of hours waiting through one "false alarm" when Air Force Two touched down bringing Lyndon Johnson and his party, but at last Air Force One landed and the Kennedys emerged to the cheers from the crowd.

There has been a lot of description about how the President deviated from plan and came to the fence to shake hands, but I have never seen any reason WHY this happened. An unmentioned fact is that there had been pushed out onto the tarmac a lady in a wheelchair - who this was or why I have no idea. Kennedy and his entourage walked over to greet her, and it was then that seeing how he was nearer the fence anyway and the crowd was obviously enthusiastic that he continued on to us! I was nearly crushed by those behind me as everyone reached to shake hands with the group of five, in this order: President Kennedy, Mrs. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Lady Bird Johnson, and Texas Congressman Ralph Yarborough. Even then I couldn't help but think how tanned and vibrant Kennedy looked, especially in contrast to the flaccid and yellow-looking despised "Landslide Lyndon"! I managed to shake hands with all 3 of the men but "missed" the ladies.

After they passed around the corner of the fence and out of sight, it seemed everyone there had the same idea: bolt back to our cars and try to get out of the airport in time to see at least a little of the motorcade or go to the Trade Mart where the luncheon was to take place. Of course that didn't work, creating a traffic jam from the parking lot to Mockingbird Lane and the route taken by the motorcade. After twenty minutes or more we finally reached the street when a woman in the car next to us motioned for me to roll down my window. ( Remember it had become by then a cool, clear, beautiful fall day. ) She hesitantly said something like "Ah... er, the President... um, the President's... been ... shot." Naturally we didn't believe it - after all we'd just seen him, and he was fine! But quickly turning on the car radio, we learned the awful truth.

Now there was no reason to try to go anywhere; I turned in the opposite direction and headed for the nearest Kip's "Big Boy" Restaurant where we could at least try to sort things out in our minds. On the way inside Joe Mike fumblingly told a man exiting what had happened, only to get an unbelieving and fishy stare. Once inside though, a radio was quickly turned on broadcasting to all patrons the news. We ate lunch then decided to drive downtown to Dealy Plaza which was fast becoming the Mecca it remains to this day. Since this was a Friday, we had the rest of the weekend to watch as events continued to unfold on TV. Only later was our "cover blown" once the book appeared, but I never heard anything about the day at school I missed!

Below, my original edition of FOUR DAYS, sans dust jacket; plus a photo taken of happier times wearing the same suit, along with other officers of the Irving High School Thespian ( drama ) Club, of which I was president my senior year.

1963 002.jpg james-1A.jpg
 
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DixieRifles

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#6
Cool. I've been watching all the original news tapes on Kennedy's travel and his last day in Texas. They shot some extraodinary color video of the motorcade in San Antonio---I believe that was the day before.
 

Nathanb1

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#7
Glad I finally got to see the pics to go with the story you told us in August. :smile: I'd recognize you anywhere! What a story! It has been so eerie thinking back to that day in fourth grade when I arrived home for lunch and walked into an empty house with Walter Cronkite on TV announcing the assassination. In a few moments, my mother arrived. She'd been certain the Russians were going to attack and had driven frantically to school to pick me up; I had ridden my bike home up a parallel street with less traffic! After I recovered from a severe chewing out, I managed to choke down a sandwich and was driven back to school, where we spent the afternoon pretty much sitting around in shock on the playground and trying to figure out how we should react. Fourth graders are, I now realize, pretty clueless about emotions. I think we all looked appropriately somber, however, even though as you pointed out--it was a beautiful, cool, clear day. Too much of a contrast for a child to really comprehend.
 

Will Posey

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#8
In the picture, you appear to be a possible assassin, in good position, with your right hand inside your coat, holding a pistol. Even your facial expression should arouse interest, if not alarm, on the part of bodyguards.

Interest > Alarm > Action

Luck was with you that day.

Will
 

James N.

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#9
In the picture, you appear to be a possible assassin, in good position, with your right hand inside your coat, holding a pistol. Even your facial expression should arouse interest, if not alarm, on the part of bodyguards.

Interest > Alarm > Action

Luck was with you that day.

Will
Will, I saw your complete post on the other accidental DUPLICATE thread I have since ( hopefully ) caused to be deleted. I wanted to tell about an incident that reminded me much more of your original idea: When my best friend and I were visiting the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., the following year on a 3-week "graduation" trip to Civil War sites from Texas to Gettysburg and back, while leaving either the House or Senate chamber where we "sat in" for a few minutes, as usual I was either talking or gawking at people like Senate Minority Leader Everett Dirksen who was standing nearby, I made a wrong turn and was INSTANTLY grabbed from both sides by 2 Secret Service agents I hadn't even noticed! They held me firmly by each arm, gently turned me back into the correct flow of visitor "traffic", and released me to go on my way. I probably didn't look as "suspicious" as I do here, since I was likely wearing jeans and a T-shirt!
 
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#11
James,
I was a freshman in high school that day and remember they were not going to let us off from school to go see the president, so me, my twin brother, and best friend, rode the bus downtown to see the motorcade. We wound up on the corner of Main and Houston streets and waved at Kennedy as he turned the corner onto Houston Street. They then turned onto Elm Street and started to go toward the triple overpass when he was shot. That night my Dad took us downtown and I remember that no one was there, it was really eerie to see that. Just papers blowing across the streets and no one out and about.
 

Greg Taylor

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#13
Such vivid memories! I was in my 2nd. period, 10th. grade PE class when we were called in from the field early and told by Mr.Richards that President Kennedy had been shot. The enormity of that statement did not really sink in until I got to my next class, science. My teacher was sitting at her desk crying. Then we all realized it was true. We sat riveted to the radio and shortly learned that the President had died. The weekend was blur of TV reports and on Monday school was cancelled for a day of national mourning and President Kennedy's funeral.
 

civilwarincolor

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#16
Thanks so much for sharing that. First hand/first person stories are always more interesting than the standard ones you here on TV.

Personally I was too young to remember when JFK was shot (only 2 at the time) but five years later when RFK was shot I had gotten up in the morning to watch cartoons but could not find any on. Finally I got bored and turned off the TV and went into the other room. My mom asked why I was not watching cartoons. "There not on, all the channels are talking about Kennedy being killed." My mom looked a bit perplexed and said "Why would they talk about that now? That was five years ago." Took her a few minutes to put it together that another Kennedy had been killed.
 

ErnieMac

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#17
I was in sixth grade at the time, staying with my grandparents for a week. My youngest brother had been born a few days before and they didn't send the mothers home after a day as they do now. I was sent home sick from school at lunch, my grandparents picked me up and on the way back to their home we stopped by a grocery store to get something for whatever it was I had. My grandfather came back to the car and said the president had been shot. We turned on the radio - the reports said he was still alive and we were all hoping he'd make it through. By the time we got back to the house the reports came in that President Kennedy was dead.

I can remember our U.S. history classes discussing our assassinated presidents and pretty much saying our society had matured beyond that. It was a bit shocking. We only got the main three TV stations and PBS in those days. All three channels were playing the same stories over and over with new developments as they came in - the shooting of Officer Tippit, Lee Harvey Oswald's arrest, Johnson's swearing in, Oswald's murder, etc. That lasted until funeral on Monday. It didn't bother me at all, I've enjoyed history as long as I can remember and I guess I knew I was watching it.
 
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#18
I just heard radio remembrances of this day from folks who were there. Thanks, James N., for sharing your experience - it's remarkable, really, especially for those of us who weren't here yet. Cheers.
 

ole

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#19
I walked into the office off the plant floor and told the guys and gals there that the president had been shot. They were kinda rude, but we had a radio in the shop and they didn't in the office. The day kinda came to an end right there.
 
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#20
I was sitting at my desk in the 4th grade when over the loudspeaker came the announcement that Kennedy had been shot. The teacher stopped what she was doing and had us all start to pray. A little bit later came the next announcement that he had died. They let us out of school right away. I remember watching the whole thing unfold on TV. I vividly remember watching the funeral. It was all a bit much for an 9 year old to comprehend.
 
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