Friday’s column (read it here) is made up of responses from readers about where they were on Nov. 22, 1963, when they heard about President Kennedy’s death. The responses were so many and often so lengthy, some had to be left out and most had to be truncated, sometimes severely. Because space on the Internet is infinite, below is every response I received, in full. Feel free to share your own memory, or your reaction to others’, in the comments section. — DA
I was in kindergarten at First Lutheran in Pomona. We were all taken down to the principal’s office, or outside the principal’s office. She had a television that could be seen from the hallway. Of course, at 5 years old, I didn’t understand much of it. I remember my principal, Mrs. Kirby, in tears. My mother picked me up. She was so distraught, crying. We just watched the television coverage of it on Channel 2 throughout the afternoon and evening.
As VP of manufacturing of a Massachusetts carpet mill I was in the US Rubber Company plant in Connecticut monitoring a trial of applying their rubber to one of our commercial carpets. The noise from the machinery running in this plant was overwhelming. Just prior to our trial run the din began receding slowly until there was complete silence. The US Rubber people with me were as baffled as I was until we were told that word had spread though the plant that President Kennedy had been shot. Without any instructions or permission the workers had independently shut off their machinery, picked up their lunch pails and left the plant for home, many in tears as I was. I had spent some memorable time with JFK on three occasions when he was the senator from Massachusetts. It was a long sad drive back to Massachusetts and it still is 50 years later.
Ralph F. Langley
My 20th birthday, Nov. 22, 1963. My husband Larry was stationed at Otis Air Force Base, Cape Cod. Mass. The Kennedys came many times to the family compound in Hyannis Port, about 30 miles from Otis. I was parked many times in view.
I was a young mother with a 3-year-old and a 9-month-old. Larry was at work, just a normal Friday. I turned on the black and white TV at 1 p.m. EST to watch “As the World Turns.” About 40 minutes later there was a Special Bulletin that the president had been shot in Dallas.
Later Walter Cronkite announced that John F. Kennedy had passed away. We were glued to that little TV for many days. It is a sad memory.
After the funeral Jackie, Caroline and John John came to Otis on a private plane, no entourage. They walked through the flight line where Larry was working. He saw them quite close. They were on their way to Hyannis Port.
I am now 70 and it is a vivid memory for us both.
On Nov. 22, 1963, I was in the teachers’ lunch room at El Camino School in Ontario. I was a brand new teacher for 7- and 8-year-olds. During our lunch hour, the tragic story unfolded on the radio. Stunned disbelief is what I remember. Soon the bell rang and as I walked toward my classroom, I could see all of my second- and third-graders eagerly waiting for their usual afternoon activities. What do I say? In 1963 children had not experienced assassinations or national tragedies such as mass shootings, nor had I.
I greeted them and asked them to quickly take their seats. I then chose to simply tell them that something very sad had happened today. Our President John Kennedy had died. Thankfully, no one asked me details and we knew so little at that point, that I could not have answered accurately.
I began to read “Charlotte’s Web” to them — a story we all loved and managed to hold it together, for all of us. This was my experience that is still vivid in my memory.
My brother, Ken Payne, was a graduate student in Munich on Nov. 22. He wrote a very moving account of the reaction in Munich that was published in the Daily Report soon after the assassination. Our dad, Ernie Payne, was principal of Chaffey High School and had numerous decisions to make concerning procedures.
Barbara Payne Cheatley
On that horrific day, at 12:30 p.m. when we first heard about the tragedy, I was a senior at El Rancho High School in Pico Rivera. I was in my math class when the vice principal, Mr. Milatick, walked in and told us to all report to the gymnasium for a special report of our president Jack Kennedy’s trip to Dallas.
There were no TVs in the classrooms and no radios allowed, so we all quietly marched to the gymnasium. The principal and all the teachers were present at the podium. When Mr. Nolan reported that Mr. Kennedy had been shot and then said at 1 p.m., some 30 minutes later, he had died.
We were all in shock, close to 2,000 students. There was some crying and screaming of “How could this be” — someone who was so loved and admired, and his beautiful wife and family.
The principal stated that they called the buses to pick us up and there would be no further classes and that he expected us all to be present and respectful that evening as we attended our CIF semifinal football game with Centennial High School of Los Angeles at our football field. and that, that game would be played in the memory of our beloved 38th president Jack F. Kennedy.
We won that game by a score of 33-13 and all the members of the football teams stood and hugged each other in unity as the principals of both teams spoke on the tragic events of that day while the band ended it with God Bless America.
I was on the drill team and all the pep squads of both schools held hands and clapped after the event. That memory will remain forever. By the way, the significance of that Centennial team that played that night was that it was an all-black South Central Los Angeles high school campus and we were an all-white and Mexican campus. Kennedy believed in civil rights and that was on his agenda for approval during the end of his presidency.
Hopefully you could read this memorial and make sense of it, when nothing else could that fateful day. I was 16 years old and a senior and now I’m 65 and it’s as clear as the day I walked on that campus.
Rita Herrera Nelsen
I was in third grade at Yorba Elementary School in Pomona when President Kennedy was shot. They closed the school and let all the students go home! I remember being one of the lucky ones as my mother did not work and was home to accept my early arrival. One of the neighbor girls came home with me rather than return home to an empty house.
Here’s my story. I had just gotten out of the Navy where I was a Radar Tech. I was working for Motorola and contracted to the Air Force/NASA at Edwards AFB. I was working on the X-15 project.
I was in my electronics lab aligning an IF strip used in the microwave system that I maintained for the test flights. I was sitting there “doing my thing” listening to the radio (KAVL, 610 on the AM dial out of Lancaster) when suddenly the music abruptly stopped and all I could hear was yelling and screaming! It took a second for me to realize something was wrong.
Finally, the remote announcer came on and said that President Kennedy had just been shot and the cars were racing away! I was working alone at the time, so I realized that everyone in the main Range Control Building (bldg 5780) wouldn’t know what was going on. So I ran across the parking lot to the main building and inside I yelled for someone to “get a radio on, President Kennedy has just been assassinated!!”….
I don’t remember much after that, things got pretty intense for the rest of the day.. Even now, I find it ironic that I can still remember all the details after 50 years!….. Sometimes I can’t remember what happened yesterday.
I was a junior at Claremont High School, in my Chemistry class. All of a sudden, the classroom intercom came on, but instead of an announcement from the office, it was a radio broadcast. It was immediately obvious that something horrible had happened, but unclear exactly what. I remember thinking initially that it was Jacqueline Kennedy who had been shot. At the front of the classroom, the teacher’s eyes flew open wide in shock. Shortly, it became obvious that it was the President who had been shot. When I got home from school, I found my Mom in a chair, pulled up close to the TV, watching the news and crying. Oddly, our football game that night, played at Citrus College, was not cancelled.
I was in the 7th grade in Catholic School in Paramount, California (Our Lady of the Rosary). We had recess every day at 10:30 a.m. PST, including on 11/22/63.
The nuns called us all into our classrooms before recess ended on that day. They broadcasted the news of JFK’s shooting over the school’s PA system.
I remember the classroom’s clock was just about 11:00 a.m. when we heard the announcement, “Ladies and gentlemen, the president of the United States is dead.”
Several folks starting crying, including some nuns.
1963 was a big year for nuns. JFK was the first Catholic president and Sister Jeanine Deckers had a No. 1 hit with “Dominique” as the Singing Nun. The nuns played that song for us so many times that I started singing the song in French (and perhaps it inspired me to take three years of French in High School; don’t remember much now). After all, how many times has a nun had a top hit?
I hope this helps.
I was an 8th grader at Vina F. Danks Jr. High in band class. Our teacher, Mr. Roberts, got a phone call from the school office. This didn’t happen very often, so we thought someone was in trouble and had to go see the principal. Instead, he came back into the band room and said “the president has been shot.” We talked about this unprecedented event for the rest of the rehearsal time. The rest of the day was a blur.
Here are my experiences of that day, which you will no doubt want to edit. However, I have to tell it like it was. Fifty years ago is a long time, but I remember the events of that day with crystal clarity.
Where was I on November 22, 1963? It was my father’s 38th birthday, but as it turned out there would be no celebrating that day. I was a 14-year-old freshman at Chaffey High School. As I crossed the north quad, on my way to science class, in what was called Tower Hall back then, I noticed small groups of students in conversation. I suspected something was afoot. When I got to science, this highly excitable kid came into the classroom saying: “I can’t believe it, I can’t believe the president has been shot!”
Class started and our teacher went ahead with the lesson plan. Some minutes into the period, Mr. Page, another science teacher, stepped into the room and told us the president was dead. We were all shocked! Even more shocking was our teacher going on with the lesson, totally indifferent as to what had happened. All of us in class that day have never forgotten how he handled the situation. Even 50 years later we still talk about it.
During lunch I wondered if this wasn’t some type of conspiracy by the Soviets to take over the government. Next class was World History. Mr. Dormer spent the entire period talking about what had happened. By this time in the day more information had become available. In my last class of the day, my French teacher, Mr. Vaucher, took it up where Mr. Dormer had left off.
Years later, on Sept. 11, 2001, I was a high school teacher. As that tragedy unfolded, the television was on in my classroom all day. I did not want to go down in the memory of my students as the man who was indifferent as to what had happened.
Louis Di Donato
You asked for submissions on where we were on that fateful day. I think my story is somewhat unique, so here goes:
I was assigned to a Missile Battalion in Korea at Camp Page. We were about seven miles south of the DMZ, close to the West Coast. I had CQ (Charge of Quarters) duty that Friday evening the 22nd and as such, needed to stay awake in the HQ office and answer phones, and, important in November, stoke the diesel fuel heaters in each barracks Quonset hut a few times each night so they didn’t go out. I was listening to some music on Armed Forces Radio, and about 4:15 am, I went to do a tour of the barracks to check the heaters.
When I returned to the office about 4:30, a couple of minutes later, the music got interrupted by someone announcing that the President had been shot in Dallas, and he started to tell some details. I thought it was one of those “If It Could Happen” stories that the Armed Forces Radio used to do from time to time. When I suddenly realized that this was real time and the names were also real, I put the radio sound on the P.A system and ran out to wake all the barracks. We listened attentively, and all our activities that day were scrubbed so we could all listen.
When it was announced that he had died, we were shocked and somewhat disbelieving. (“That can’t have really happened!!??”) This was how we knew that the world had changed, although we could not have realized those implications at the time.
Early the next week the Eighth Army, in conjunction with all other military bases, decreed that we should have a memorial ceremony at the same time worldwide, which for us was conducted on our air strip. While we all stood there, words were said, messages from our leaders were read, and taps was played by two trumpeters; one at each end of the tarmac, echoing each other. Because it was foggy, we could not see them, which made it very poignant. That’s my story, one which I will always remember.
James B. Downs
Here’s my story about Friday, Nov. 22, 1963.
I was a very young adult, working my first full-time job at a newspaper in Simi Valley, which in those days was two towns: Simi, which was pronounced SeMEE, and Santa Susanna. They later were joined and incorporated into a new town called Simi (SEEmee) Valley. Some of us didn’t like calling it the seamy valley. My movie theatre days were still in the future.
On that fateful Friday morning a group of us were in the newspaper office having our morning coffee when the big ol’ teletype machine started click-clacking. We walked over to it to see what news flash was being sent. It was a one sentence message from our editor in Thousand Oaks: “President Kennedy has been shot in Dallas, Texas.” We all looked at one another in disbelief and muttered things like, “Gee, I hope he’s gonna be OK.” We were all standing around discussing how that family (the Kennedys) seemed to have a string of bad luck when the teletype started clacking again. There was another terse message that said simply, “The president is dead from an assassin’s bullet.” Needless to say, we were stunned into silence, everyone wondering if it could be, by any stretch of the imagination, a mistake, or somebody’s idea of a sick joke.
That day, of course, changed our lives and that of the world. Suddenly some items that had been news up until then seemed very petty: What color Jackie was wearing to a state dinner. What JFK’s favorite food was. Then came the ’60s as they are remembered: Revolutionary thinking, anti-establishment themes in movies, books, music and plays, LSD trips by well-known people, hippies, long hair and beards, not to mention even more assassinations of public figures.
When young people these days ask me things like, “Hey, what was it REALLY like growing up in the ’50s, ‘cause ya know, the movies and such make it look like people were less nervous about stuff, and were more honest, and trusted each other more than now.”
I always respond most emphatically, “Yes, that’s the way it was. We hardly ever locked the front doors of our houses. We often left the keys in the ignition in our cars when we parked if it was going to be a quick stop.”
People in general had standards and principles that are unheard of today. Those that did not were dealt with harshly by the authorities, their peers, their parents, their teachers. This kind of talk by people like me these days simply makes people like me seem like old fogies. But that’s OK. In the 1950s, our country, and especially California, was a wonderful place and time to live. It seemed like the awful things of the century were now in the past: World War I, the Depression, World War II, Hitler and his ilk. Here in California, the education system was second to none, standards of living were improving on a daily basis, and the sun shone virtually everyday, literally and figuratively. Sure, there were negative factions at work, and the depravity of humankind manifested itself far too often.
But boy-oh-boy, did we all have a rude awakening and an introduction to a new world on November 22, 1963.
We were living in Birmingham, Ala., at that time. I was looking at sewing fabrics and trying to keep control of two busy little girls at the JC Penney store in Eastland Mall in Birmingham. The store manager came on the store intercom and made the announcement, which just shocked and stunned people. We all were speechless, looking around in disbelief, until we realized it really did happen. I dropped the fabric I was looking at, gathered up my girls and drove slowly home. We stayed glued to the TV until the media coverage ended after the funeral.
I was sitting in the living room of our rented home on Park Street in Ontario, watching a morning talk show, “Girl Talk,” with hostess Virginia Graham, on our “black and white” TV that we had just bought, used (it had a cord-connected remote control and we thought we were really living “high”). Diahann Carroll was the only one of Virginia Graham’s guests on that show that I can remember for sure (I think that Phyllis Diller was there). Diahann was talking, explaining to the others something about a zipper in the back of a gown that she had recently worn to an event.
At that moment the news break came on the television, interrupting Diahann’s story, saying that the President had just been shot in Dallas. The rest of that day, and several days after, were spent, by me, glued to the TV set. It was one of the two biggest shocks and saddest days of my life, concerning the public events of our country — the other being 09/11/2001.
I was sitting in my World History class at Chaffey High School.
Nov. 22, 1963 is a day that I have never forgotten. I was a newly arrived to California ninth grade student at Marshall Junior High in Pomona. I was in P.E. at the announcement of the assassination. I remember we were all put into an empty classroom not really knowing what was going on. I was not in my P.E. clothes so I guess this had happened (or was announced) right after the change of classes.I remember sitting there with a great range of emotions. Of course, the implications of this were unknown to a 14-year-old but I did know (of course) about President Kennedy and the whole idea of what had happened was a bit overwhelming. I also remember being a little frightened, not knowing what this was going to mean for our well being.
We were sent home immediately after that and I remember a very long, sad weekend with a lot of shock and tears as the events were televised and became oh so real. We were off from school for the funeral and that was another sad and poignant day. I especially remember the riderless horse being led by a military officer with boots inserted into the stirrups backwards during the funeral procession. Another memory was when the casket was lying in state at the Capitol and Mrs. Kennedy and the children walked up to it. Caroline slipped her hand under the flag to touch the casket. That simple act was so very touching and I think everyone could feel her desire to just be a little closer to her father.
At the time I was a Candystriper volunteer at Casa Colina Hospital and it was there on a very quiet Sunday morning, while I was volunteering, that I saw the televised murder of Lee Harvey Oswald. I was sitting and talking with some young patients and the television was on in the room. We all watched in horror as Jack Ruby lunged from the crowd and shot Oswald. It just seemed like such a huge tragedy and disaster all the way around.
Thanksgiving was just a few days later and I remember thinking that it must be so sad for Mrs. Kennedy and Caroline and little John-John.
Many years later I did visit Dealey Plaza, the infamous Texas Book Depository and the room where Oswald fired the shots. It’s really a much smaller area than it looked like on television. Standing at the grassy knoll and thinking about that day gave me chills.
I have always felt that I lived through one of the pivotal moments in history and from then on, everyone wanted to know…where were you when you heard the news? Things were never the same after that tragic few weeks.
My husband Dan was a freshman at Pomona High. He went to one of the Social Studies classrooms, (Mr. Seltzer’s) with other students, after the announcement of the assassination. There was an old black and white television there and he and everyone watched the unfolding events. He especially remembers when Walter Cronkite removed his glasses, and fighting emotion announced President Kennedy’s death. He said that the saddest thing for him was when little John saluted his father’s coffin. Totally unexpected and so very sad.
I was a seventh grader at El Roble Intermediate School in Claremont. We had just come out from lunch to attend recess when I saw a group of kids surrounding a proctor who was listening to a transistor radio. The proctor was a student from Claremont Men’s College. He was a cool guy and always had his radio with him as it was the latest thing to have. We learned that President Kennedy was shot and dead.
It was a shock to everyone and I remember some teachers and students crying. I recall Mrs. Butterworth, an English teacher, running down a quad screaming, “Assassination! Assassination!”
But not everyone had the same reaction as I reported for my math class after lunch. Mr Fenoglio, a native Texan transplanted to Claremont, did not appear upset at all and became stern with students, particularly two girls who were crying and sobbing. He ridiculed and punished them and made them write a note saying they were too upset to continue class. He sent them to the office and then continued with our regular Friday test. I did not understand his actions that day but, perhaps I do today.
I have often thought of what could have been had it not been for the assassination of President Kennedy. I still have the Progress Bulletin that was delivered to our house that afternoon.
Where was I?
Working at Boeing Aircraft in Renton, Wash., when an announcement came over the speakers that the president had been shot and rushed to the hospital. A short time later the announcement came that he had died.
From the first announcement, all communication with the outside was shut off. That means no phones and no one was allowed to enter the plant or leave the plant. We were told later that Boeing feared this may be an attack on our country, therefore, all necessary security was put in place.
We stayed in silence and shock for several hours until given the go-ahead to leave if we wanted. My cousin and myself stayed until our regular shift ended then drove to Everett to attend Mass. It was a horrible time in our lives as we all thought so much of the president and Mrs. Kennedy.
A few years earlier we had worked on Air Force One, never being told what the project was for. We toured the plane prior to the interior being complete and prior to painting. We were honored to stand outside and watch this plane take its maiden test flight. Little did we realize this same plane would carry the body of our president.
Mary Louise Ardito
This is my little story of when I heard about President Kennedy’s death:
I was three months into my State of California 41 year-career. I had turned 18 years old on Nov. 6th and was happily working at Patton State Hospital as a junior stenographer. As I was working in the Transcription Room, all of a sudden I noticed it was very quiet, and no one was typing away nor in the room with me. I went out to the hallway, and found co-workers listening to the PA system. I asked, “What happened?” I was told that President Kennedy had been shot! I was stunned. He was one of my favorite presidents and my family felt like they knew him personally. It was one of the saddest days of my life.
Ofelia Garcia Lund
Where was I on Nov. 22, 1963, you ask? My memory of that day is vivid.
I was in second grade at Lincoln Elementary School in Ontario (on D Street and Allyn Avenue). I was in room 8 and my teacher was Dixie Beth Stern. I was wearing a tomato red blouse and skirt. The principal, Ray Schroeder, came to the door of the classroom and motioned with his hand for Mrs. Stern to come to the door. He then whispered something in her ear, and her eyes began to well up with tears. He left the classroom, and Mrs. Stern tearfully told us what had happened.
I think of that day every year at this time, but especially this year, because I am now substitute teaching for the Ontario Montclair School District, and recently subbed at Lincoln School. Although the old Lincoln School has since been demolished and rebuilt, I still remember that fateful day 50 years ago.
It was Friday and the day before my 10th birthday…Saturday birthdays were special then….we weren’t allowed to watch very much TV so if your birthday was on a Saturday it meant LOTS of extra television time!! On 11-22-63, we were called into our California classroom and sent home…I don’t remember if we were told what had happened….as a self-centered preteen, I was thinking of how it might affect my birthday the next day. Which it did…all that was on TV was “assassination stuff” and the adults weren’t paying much attention to me!!!!
I will turn 60 the day after the assassination anniversary and with age has come perspective about that historic time. I rarely meet anyone much younger than I who remembers that event…and that shared memory bonds us who do remember into a special group.
I was sitting around the radio in London, England (age 21) listening to the news and eating dinner with my sister age 19 and my mother. It was my sister’s 19th birthday and she had become engaged on that day. At 7 p.m. at night a newsflash came over the radio to tell us that President Kennedy had been shot and by 7:30 p.m. we got the news that he had died. The remainder of the evening, somber music was played on the radio and updated news. I moved to the U.S. in June 1964 just after the Beatles had made their historic first visit. I will never forget Nov. 22, 1963 and neither will my sister, Audrey, for several reasons. She has now been happily married for 48 years.
I had worked the graveyard shift at Kaiser Steel that morning, came home and was in bed asleep by 8:30 AM. When I woke at about 4 p.m., my wife said, “Isn’t it terrible?”
“Isn’t what terrible?
“They shot him.”
“They shot who?”
“The President. They shot the President. Don’t you remember? I woke you up and told you. You sat on the edge of the bed, and we talked about it.”
I didn’t remember. Still don’t. I slept through the whole thing. A cynic could say I was unimpressed by it. That’s not true. I’m just a world-class sleeper.
I do remember that there was nothing else in the papers except the assassination story for the next three days. Apparently nothing else happened in the world during that time.
Nov. 22, 1963, the day I began to grow up. I started the day as an unemployed 19-year-old, college dropout, !-A draft status, who still lived at home. I had kicked around the idea of enlisting in the Army for a few weeks when I rode my bike on the eventful Friday morning from Wilmington to San Pedro and the Armed Forces Recruiting Center.
Richard, a neighbor on one side of me, had been in the California National Guard, reaching the rank of “buck” sergeant and he had given me the lowdown about joining the Army and the Guard. The Guard was great for him because he had a good job, unmarried, and he was able to go to weekend and summer training with no problems.
Pete, the neighbor on the other side of me, had been in the Filipino Scouts, commanded by Douglas MacArthur, joining in 1940, and he had gone through the infamous Bataan Death March. I learned about Pete’s military experiences from his wife. I think, Pete had what is now called Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome and he just didn’t talk about the Death March or POW encampment.
It was about 10:30 a.m. when I got to the Recruiting Office in San Pedro, and I was greeted my an Army sergeant. I noticed that he had a sleeve patch which said Filipino Scouts, and that kind of broke the ice where I said “Sir, I have a neighbor who was also in the Filipino Scouts.” He immediately told me the old Army sergeant expression of “don’t call me sir, I work for a living.” I was next handed a few Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine pamphlets and instructed to read through them carefully and when done, sit at his desk if I had thoughts of joining the Army or join one of his co-recruiters, and listen to what they have to say about their branch.
It was now about 11:00 a.m. when I went to the Army sergeant’s desk, and I noticed a picture of General Douglas MacArthur, who was regarded as a “god” among the Filipino Scouts. The sergeant and I had no sooner started talking when the mailman came in while listening to his pocket transistor through his ear piece and said, “had you heard, President Kennedy has been shot.”
That was the first time I had heard that President Kennedy had been shot because the recruiter’s office radio was turned off and apparently no one bothered to call the recruiters with the news. While the mailman was sorting out the mail for the various recruiters, he pulled out his ear piece, turned up the volume and we all heard a newscaster repeat, “President Kennedy has died.” There was not a dry eye in the place, even the battle hardened Marine recruiter was crying.
After I was able to read what I was looking at, I signed the papers indicating my intent to join the U.S. Army. Five weeks later, on Dec. 27, 1963, I took the oath of allegiance and officially joined the Army. I ended up spending almost three years in the Army, mostly in Germany, in the Artillery.
I had to write about my recollection on the day JFK died.
I was 20 years old back in Hawaii. I worked for the first store Safeway built in Honolulu.
I had recently moved into my first apartment away from home. It was minimally furnished. I don’t think I even had a radio.
While I didn’t work that day I had to go to there to get my paycheck. When I got there everyone, my fellow employees, seemed so strange. Very quiet, even the customers.
I finally asked what was going on and was told Kennedy was dead. It was already in the Honolulu Advertiser newspaper.
I left and went to pick up my wrist watch from the jewelry store where it was being repaired.
When I came out this woman, maybe in her 70s, was all confused and lost. She was a tourist and when she heard about Kennedy she went out from her hotel and began walking. She was a good four miles away from Waikiki when I found her. I took her back to her hotel and made sure she got back to her room.
I then went to my mom’s place. From there, I, like a zillion other people, was glued to the TV for days. I am now 70 and will never forget that day. In my opinion the worst days this country has ever had.
Jerry De Rego
This was going to be a special day and evening. My now husband, Harold, and I were going to have our engagement party with hors d’oeuvres and dinner for our 50 family members and close friends. I was at work making phone calls on my lunch hour break to making last-minute details.
The general manager of the company went from office to office of middle management and I could tell by the looks on people’s faces that something was wrong. In the meantime, my mother called to advise me of the terrible news of the assassination. Along with everyone else, I wondered how this could happen.
My mother was still on the telephone and I asked her to call the invited friends and family on our side that the party was cancelled. I made several calls as well to inform who ever I can that all party plans are cancelled. This evening turned out to be very sad and not in any way joyous or to celebrate.
My husband and I were living in Chicago at the time. We were able to reschedule our engagement party the following Thursday, which was Thanksgiving. First it was with family and later on we were visited by friends.
Where was I on Nov, 22, 1963?
I was in Psychology 101 class at East Los Angeles College. My teacher had a throat problem and was under doctors’ orders not to speak. When class started he wrote on the board his problem and would give us instructions in writing.
At one point he was called out of the room, and when he came back he wrote on the board that the President had been shot. Before class ended he was again called out of the room, and when he returned he wrote on the board the President was dead and class was dismissed. I only remember gasps coming from classmates and maybe an OMG.
The teacher was stone faced, no expression at all. That is the image I most remember, I guess because I was observing the only adult in view and looking for direction on how to deal with this startling event. I was 18 years old at the time.
A few weeks before that infamous day a good friend of mine introduced me to his cousin Jo Ann. We hit it off pretty good. The next thing you know we were going out. Now I went to one high school in Torrance and she went to another. On Nov.21 she finally agreed to let me pick her up the next day and take her to school.
I went to pick her up and we decided ditch that day. While fooling around on the couch and watching the parade all of a sudden President Kennedy was shot. That is how I remember it. Jo Ann and I were married three years later; unfortunately the marriage only lasted about 16 years.
On that day I was 13 years old in the eighth grade at Garfield Junior High School in Berkeley. I found out about President John F. Kennedy’s assassination outside the bungalow classroom of the mechanical drawing class I was taking. As I left the class, my classmates were milling around at the bottom of the steps to the bungalow. Somebody told me the president had been shot. Later when I picked up the newspapers which I was delivering as a carrier, the headline described the assassination.
I sat, as usual, gazing out the window of Mr. Moore’s history class, distracted by the beauty of a warm autumn Inland Empire day. I wasn’t bored, but as much as I loved history, I was overtaken by the extraordinarily beautiful campus of Chaffey High School. The abrupt 8,000-foot San Gabriels seemed touchable in the unusually clear dry Santa Ana breeze.
Mr. Moore was summoned outside the class for a moment and returned, his lanky 6-foot-4 frame stoop-shouldered with an ashen face nearly matching his graying hair. “I am sad to report that our president has been shot,” seemed to fall from his lips to the floor. The girl next to me let out a startled scream.
Black-and-white images soon flickered from a rolling TV cart as the rabbit-ear antenna was tilted toward the transmitters atop Mount Wilson. School was adjourned.
JFK held the very face of our youth and idealism. A half-century has not removed the sadness. As his tiny son stood at the curb saluting the passing caisson, a piece of us was buried that day. History lesson, indeed.