It was fifty years ago, almost to the hour, when I heard that the President had been shot.
I was a freshman in high school, and ironically sitting in history class. I have no idea what we were studying at the moment, but can still see the wood speaker, with the cloth cover, attached high in the corner of the room next to the door. When the Principal made the announcement, everyone stared at the speaker. It seems like things were quiet for some time. The teacher’s face appeared somewhat paler than it had a few moments before, when I was only half listening to what he was saying.
It’s not that I didn’t like history. It was, and still is, one of my favorite subjects. He was either covering something I already knew,or thought I didn’t need to know, or his presentation was lacking. I liked him, but he was somewhat of a straight liner.He just didn’t get too excited about things.
I was also distracted by a tall girl in the back of the room. I thought she was pretty. This was a few years before mini skirts, and she was a wholesome, modest girl. Her skirt was home made, out of green cotton, and matched our school colors. Her legs were crossed casually, and the two or three inches above her knee was more than enough to get my attention. I liked her and was pretty sure she liked me. Of course I was still trying to figure all that boy – girl stuff out. I still don’t understand it all that well.
Now here is the problem. When I started High school, I was four foot ten and weighed ninety eight pounds. She was a foot taller than me. There are certain unspoken taboos, and height prejudice, especially against men, is one of them. Maybe I didn’t have the boy -girl thing all lined out, but I knew this wasn’t going to work. Still I had to sneak peaks at those beautiful legs. Well actually it was just a knee, and a calf, and a small amount of leg, But these were the old days, and things were much different.
Back then Presidents still rode with the top down through large crowds.
I don’t remember what we did for the rest of class, or if they sent us home early. I do remember we watched TV for days and read the news paper all the time. In those days we got a morning paper and an afternoon paper.
I was a paper boy. I had the early route. I saved some of those articles and pictures and I think at least one or two newspapers. I placed them carefully in a heavy legal size envelope, and wrote a description of the contents and the date on the outside, and then taped it to death. I still have that envelope. I almost opened it on the twenty fifth anniversary Of John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s death. For some reason I decided against it
When my daughter comes home for Christmas soon, I think I’ll ask her to join me in a ceremonial opening. We can’t do it on the exact anniversary because she lives in Scotland, and you lose a little something on Skype.
I don’t remember everything that’s in that package but I do remember that speaker with the cloth cover , and my principals voice , and my teacher’s face, and most of all that pretty girl.
But hey: it’s been fifty years.