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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • THE NAVY NEEDS YOU IN THE WAVES

Welcome to Big D: 1963

Welcome to Big D: 1963

        President Kennedy on that dark yet sunny day in Dallas 50 years ago, minutes before he was assassinated.

November 22, 1963. "Overview of crowds of people waving as President John F. Kennedy and his wife sit in back of limousine during procession through downtown Dallas, Texas; Texas Governor John Connally and his wife ride in the limousine's jump seats." New York World-Telegram and the Sun Newspaper Photograph Collection, Library of Congress. View full size.

You Can Hear Radio Recordings of That Day

Go to RadioTapes.com to hear several hours of recordings of that day, as broadcast over Minneapolis radio station WCCO. Eventually the coverage shifts mostly to the CBS network, including Cronkite's announcement of Kennedy's death. There are also recordings from NBC and Voice of America.

I was in second grade, Mrs. Gooler's class at Hale Elementary School in Minneapolis, and we had just returned from lunch. The principal came over the PA system to announce the shooting; we were asked to put our heads down on our desks and pray silently for the president. Not fifteen minutes later she came on again to announce that President Kennedy had died and that we would be dismissed early. (In those days, virtually no mothers worked, and we all rode the bus home for lunch and back for the afternoon class.)

I remember arriving home and being shocked--SHOCKED!--that my mother was actually WATCHING TV DURING THE DAY! My parents had a love/hate relationship with the TV and had only bought one the previous Christmas because I was given "viewing assignments" at school. They typically watched it only an hour a day for the NBC Evening News and the local news.

And as if that weren't bizarre enough, my father came home from work early, which he never did. All normal broadcasting--including advertising--was suspended until the funeral the following Monday. We didn't completely resume our normal activities until after Thanksgiving weekend. No one who was alive then will ever forget where they were when they got the news; a so-called "significant emotional event" like this generation's 9-11.

How I remember it

I was in the seventh grade at Centralia High School in southern Ohio. We were taking a math test in Mr. Potter's class. There was a wall behind us with large windows that looked into the journalism class. We were distracted by noise from that room, and as I turned to look, I saw the whole room emptying.

We returned to work but soon the class behind us returned and some of the girls were crying and dabbing their eyes with tissues. They had gone to hear the news on the TV in the study hall on the same floor.

We heard over the intercom that Kennedy had been shot, but we didn't know whether he was hurt fatally. I was so stunned. I still cannot believe that Mr. Potter made us finish the math test! My next class was study hall, and when I could, I rushed up there and positioned myself in the middle of the room to get a good view of the TV, which soon showed Walter Cronkite make the announcement. We were all silent.

Next and final class of the day was Ohio History, where our young teacher, Mr. Lungo, through tears, said that we should pray for the Kennedy family, and then just sat throughout the whole period crying uncontrollably.

When my little brother and I got home, we found my parents outside. My mom was sweeping the walk and my dad was sharpening a hoe. I asked if they knew Kennedy was dead and she asked how I knew that, like was it something some kid of the bus had said? I said no, it was on TV in school. She looked at my dad and wondered if it could be true. Of course, we all went right in the house and turned on the TV. Naturally, they were stunned and just watched in disbelief.

Unbelievable

I was 11 years old and, like everyone else my age, I was in school. The door to our classroom was at the back of the room. We had just come in from recess and the teacher was beginning our next lesson when the Principal quickly stuck his head in the door, made an announcement, and quickly moved on. Because of his distance from our teacher and the quickness of his words, she didn't understand him. She asked us what he said and a child that sat at the back of the room by the door said "He said the President's been shot!" Well that was a concept too ridiculous to believe, so our teacher just said "No he didn't, I'll go find out what's going on," and she went out the room to the class next door. The next thing I remember was everyone standing in the hall, lined up to be excused for the day. The teacher from the class next door was crying inconsolably. I was like our teacher, and was having a hard time believing that all of it was happening. It wasn't until I got home and found my family in front of the TV watching the news that I finally realized that my perfect little world was no more.

Change of subject

I was in fifth grade on the day he died. There are many good comments on that day. Still the bus picture has a reminder of my youth.

I grew up in Florida but the soft drink Dr. Pepper was not sold in Florida. In those pre-Interstate years, we went to North Carolina to visit the grandparents. The first thing we did when we stopped at "South of the Border" was to buy Dr. Peppers. It had a real bite and a strong aroma. Now Dr. Pepper is still tasty but without the bite and strong aroma. I would love to be able to buy the original Dr. Pepper.

When I heard the news

One of the things forever remembered by us as individuals is not only where we were, but who it was that broke the news. For many, this accidental fact influenced the way we reacted that day in November. I was 21 and working as a draftsman at a small business computer firm. There were five of us in our windowed room from which we could see the production floor. I had just begun to notice that the assembly workers had left their stations and were standing about in small groups. Moments later one of the electrical engineers, who often used our room as a shortcut, came breezing through and asked if we'd heard that someone had shot President Kennedy. The guy was a jokester (often shamelessly irreverent), so we looked up from our desks, smiled, and waited for the punch line. When he continued out the other door without another word we realized in sudden shock that there would be none. It was true, and thus began a season of feeling that ice water in your veins disbelief I would suffer again many years later when I watched the Twin Towers come down on live TV and realized that we were at war.

No matter how hardened and cynical we are made by this world, we are never quite prepared to receive startling and painful news of great magnitude, even though we know it can come at any time, and in any form.

"The president has been shot"

I was in third grade in Northern Kentucky. Someone's mother had driven to the school to inform us of the news she had just heard. An unseen adult came to our classroom door and spoke with our teacher, Miss Reagan. I recall that she took a moment to compose herself, then stated that we were to put away our books. She said that the president had been shot. We were to pack our things to leave for the day, as school would be dismissed early. Soon, each classroom would be called to the cafeteria to pray. There was a hush. A knot in the pit of my stomach. Not much talking, brief nervous laughter that soon ceased.

Then the entire student body, 865 children, assembled in that basement cafeteria. I remember standing room only -- we ate in three shifts -- and all those children were led in praying the rosary until the buses came to take us home. No one talked. Some of us quietly cried. We prayed desperately for the president's survival. Everyone was riveted by the unfolding events. Even the bus ride home was subdued that day.

I remember being glued to the TV coverage as events unfolded. Later in the day at home Walter Cronkite announced that the president had died of his wounds. The news coverage was nonstop and I recall that the funeral, especially the sight of the Kennedy children, was overwhelmingly sad. Jackie seemed courageous beyond belief -- how could she retain such composure in this tragedy that had me bawling for days? The pomp & circumstance of the funeral proceedings, all the symbolism involved, marked the stature of this event and also somehow, gave solace.

Newsman

My dad on the evening of 11-22-63, after a long day of covering the assassination from the Oakland (California) Tribune. Dad was a reporter and remembered when the AP wire first came in from Dallas. Soon the whole newsroom was frantic with the shock and the task of putting it all together for the afternoon edition. They got the special edition done in time, almost an entire rewrite, and this photo shows my dad waiting in the Tribune foyer for my mother to come get him and drive him home. The Tribune photographer had been taking photos all day of the activity in the newsroom and caught my dad here as he waited for mom.

Canadians too

I was also in 6th. grade, and I was living on an Airforce Base in Canada's capital, Ottawa.

It hit us hard too, although at the time I couldn't understand exactly why. I was only 11 years old, but I remember I cried, somehow knowing he was a man who would have done a lot of great things. He wasn't our President, but somehow it was as though he was the world's President.

To this day in my 60's I remain fascinated and interested in JFK, his family, his life.

Surge

A crowd would never be allowed to move that way today with a president so close. Just look at the excited people coming forward behind the bus. The few people at the window seats on the bus have really lucked out. Jackie is looking right at one of them, and JFK himself could be waving at the same person. A gaggle of women on the right could reach out and touch the motorcycle cop. They're all waving and screaming for the President's attention, but he's looking at that friendly face on the bus.

I was in Grade 1 in Winnipeg and I remember the grief of the funeral like it was yesterday. We Canadians felt as though this American event was ours too, as though we ourselves had also lost this amazing person.

What I remembered that day

The often asked question, "Where were you when Kennedy was shot"....I was in 6th grade at about lunchtime. The PA had clicked on (always a noticable indication that someone was going to the office) and the principal read a short message about the President being shot but no other information as of yet. I remember my teacher looking down at the floor with his hands folded. We were released for lunch and in the hall kids were crying. I went home, the TV was on, (I remember looking at Walter Cronkite on the TV) and my Mother had tears in her eyes while she was making sandwiches. "The President's dead" she murmured and threw the towel to the floor. Mom was so proud that Kennedy was our president. She voted for him...partly because of his good looks, same age and he was Catholic. It seemed, to me, that she was just about as devastated over his death as she was of her Father's passing just a year earlier. My Father, who worked in Manhattan, came home later in the day (it was a bit early for him to be home at 4 PM) saying that the trip home on the train was so quiet that you could hear a pin drop. Every rider had a stunned look about them. Even the conductor was speaking in hushed tones. This is what I remember.

A Very Long And Tragic Day

Interesting to read all the comments from the Shorpy community. Those of us aware of what was happening that day can never forget it, and those who weren't around will never understand our feelings.

John Kennedy was so alive, with so much to do with his life, that the idea of his life being cut short was all the more unbelievable.

I was living in Houma, Louisiana, and had a paper route, for which I collected my dimes and quarters every Friday. The thirty or so customers I had were usually ready for me when I came around after school, and I'd complete my collecting no later than 5pm. That day, it was well after 9pm when I got home. The phrase I heard over and over-- and everyone wanted to talk, if only to an 11-year-old paper boy-- was "I just can't believe it!"

--Jim

There are no words...

Life changed for many of us, 50 years ago, tomorrow. The memories of those days forever burned into our hearts. I remember being in Miss Barbara Rappaport's World History class in Abraham Lincoln HS in Brooklyn. Someone came into the class that afternoon, approached her, whispered something in her ear. I still see her, sort of falling into her chair (she NEVER sat in class), with her head in her folded arms, sobbing.... President Kennedy has been shot. We sat there, stunned not knowing what to do, or say. The next days were crazy, with new names popping onto the news minute by minute, it seemed. Lee Harvey Oswald, Jack Ruby, Jackie, LBJ, Lady Bird, Governor Connolly, the Texas Book Repository..... on and on, Zapruder film, grassy knoll, Warren Commission. Blood on Jackie's pink dress, running FBI agents, that presidential Lincoln... Madness, it seemed! Our calm quiet, idyllic world, was suddenly insane. Caroline and John-John at the grave. And finally, the eternal image of the skittish horse, following the caisson, with the reversed boots in the stirrups. We grew up really quick on that day 50 years ago. Those days live on in our hearts, don't they?

WNTC Radio

I was in the student union at Clarkson College (now University) in Potsdam, NY. Saw the news come across the teletype we had in the newsroom window there. I immediately crossed the street and fired up the college radio station, WNTC, so the guys in the newsroom could broadcast developments.

As Angus said the radio stations were playing sombre music - I distinctly remember being very hard pressed to find something to fill the time between news bulletins since we were a rock and roll station and there was not much appropriate music to be had.

Fourth grade teacher's words

We had just returned from recess at P.S. 81 in the Bronx. Our teacher, Mrs. Stanton, told us to put all of our books and things away. This seemed really strange to us, as it was time for our flutophone lesson. I remember her words, "President Kennedy is dead. He was in a parade today, and he was shot." I remember the feeling in my stomach--as though it had dropped somehow. We were sent home.

My parents had copy of the comedy album, "The First Family," which poked fun at President and Mrs. Kennedy. When Dad arrived home from work that night, he had a copy of the NY Post with its terrible headline. He took out the LP, wrapped the newspaper around it, and sealed up the album with heavy tape.

My family had lived in D.C. for about about two years in 1960-62. Once Christmas we attended the White House tree-lighting ceremony which the President presided over. When Dulles airport opened, Dad took me to the ceremonies. I was perched on Dad's shoulders. We stood not far from the stage where Kennedy gave his speech. I remember thinking how handsome the President was.

Then

I had just joined a Mechanical Engineering firm that week located on 15th Street in D.C. We had radios in the drafting studio and time stood still that Friday. Surreal; we just stood around, what was there to say?

Our Latin Teacher

Mrs. Closser was my grade 10 Latin teacher at Herman Collegiate Institute in Windsor, Ontario, just across the river from Detroit. She was an American in her 50s who lived in Detroit and commuted every day to teach in Canada. Before the end of the period she would leave the classroom to join the other teachers for a quick cigarette in the teachers' lounge. She never came back before the bell rang. Until that November day in 1963 when she burst into the classroom, tears streaming down her face, and stood in front of the class and announced, "Our President is dead!" She collapsed into her chair as several girls went up to comfort her. She didn't come back for a week. I took the bus to a dental appointment, and recall that even the hit parade radio stations were playing sombre music.

I'll never forget

I remember that day. It was a Friday. Thanksgiving was near at hand..

I was 10 years old. I was in the fifth grade at South Avondale Elementary School in Cincinnati. It was warm that day for November..I checked and the high was 68. After lunch at school we all lined up to go back inside and it seemed the teachers were anxious to get us back in class. I remember our math teacher Mr Jackson told us that Pres Kennedy had been shot and turned on our Tv in the classroom. We heard Walter Cronkite voice but did not see him until he announced JFK was dead at the hand of an assassin. In the classroom next to ours a teacher, Mrs Keller, screamed and fainted. She was taken to the hospital. She never returned to school. School did not resume until after the Thanksgiving Holiday.

After the death announcement school was dismissed..I walked home. On the corner of Reading Road and Rockdale AV a news person was hawking the Cincinnati Post-Times Star.. he was shouting;

"Pooossst Timesss Pap-pur!!..President assassinated in Texas..Extrrey! Extrey! Read all about it President is dead..Pooossst Timesss Pap-pur' Over and over again. I the Irony is he was standing in front of a Statue of Pres. Lincoln.

I solemnly walked home..things were in a daze. When I reached my home my step-mom was going out to visit my sister in Childrens hospital. She had had her transistor radio with her so she could get the latest news.. She asked did I hear about Pres Kennedy. I told her yes...

The next three days all that was on Tv was news about the assassination of JFK. His funeral on Monday was a site to behold. I will never forget that black caisson with his coffin riding atop it. The sadness and grief of everyone. Never ever...That was a long time ago in a World so different than today's..

Main and Ervay

The view is toward the southwest corner of Main Street and Ervay Street. The Neiman Marcus building is in the upper portion of the frame.


View Larger Map

Breaking News

I was in my TV/Appliance store in Jamaica, NY as I was walking toward a bank of playing TV sets, all of which were on ABC Channel 7. A news bulletin lit of all the receivers. An announcer was on screen reporting that shots were fired during the President's slowly moving motorcade in downtown Dallas. As I kept watching further news breaks, it became clear that President Kennedy had been shot. Later in the day, as the news spread the store was filling up with people looking at all the TV sets. Later that afternoon I decided to close the shop and went home.

On top of the bus

I'm trying to figure if that's an old-school air conditioning system or some other modification, to fight the hot Texas heat?

The Shots

My step brother's brother was walking from his Law Office to lunch
when he heard the shots and had no idea what that was about... until
later.

"Your president has been shot"

A man came into the break room where I worked and made that odd announcement. We were all in shock and it wasn't until later that I wondered about the word "Your" being used to tell the people there this horrible news.

A sunny but sad day

My mother worked in downtown Dallas, in the Davis Building at 1309 Main Street. She rode the elevator down from the eighth floor, and watched the motorcade go by. Just a few minutes later, the president was gone.

I can't exactly place where this picture was taken, except that it's on Main. Downtown has changed a lot, and some streets have been removed over the years as new buildings have gone up.

The Announcement

I was on the basketball court at recess in the eighth grade
when we were told over the school loud speakers. I'll never forget it.

 
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