Well, since “What were you doing 50 years ago today?” is one of the leading news stories, on this anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy, I thought I’d answer it.
In May 1963 I started working for 73 Magazine in Peterborough, New Hampshire, as an editor, writer, photographer, and general gopher. 73 was small, but the leading amateur radio magazine at the time. We all lived together in a 37 room house that was built in the 1790s. In early November I bought tickets to fly from Boston Logan Airport to Chicago O’Hare for a week’s visit with family in Dolton, Illinois, where my mother and 5 younger siblings were living.
Early on the morning of Friday, November 22, I took a Greyhound bus from Peterborough to Boston, arriving mid morning. I had several hours before I had to head to the airport, so I spent the time walking around Boston. I had lunch in a little bar on Boston Common and was just walking around taking in the sights and window shopping when I realized that people were starting to gather in small groups, around a few who were walking with small transistor radios. I edged in and realized that the broadcasts were saying that Kennedy had been shot and was going to the hospital. We were all shocked, and many were crying. I kept walking around somewhat dazed and realized that another group was peering in the a large glass window. The window was for a TV station that always had a couple of teletype machines printing out stories from AP and UPI for anyone to read. Every once in a while a staff member came by and tore off some of the printout (which was typed pretty slowly) to take back to a newsroom or somewhere else. The feed was nothing but latest reports, incomplete and partial, of the news from Dallas. People moved in, and away, but I stayed, transfixed. I knew I had to get a cab to Logan but couldn’t leave. Just then the news came in that JFK was indeed dead.
I turned away with tears in my eyes and went down a block to a cabstand and got a cab to the airport. I got to the airport just in time to get on my flight to Chicago. By the time the 707 got me there, and Mom picked me up at the airport, LBJ had been sworn in on the plane and he and the presidential party were back in Washington as well. We went straight home and the whole family sat in front of the 21 inch black and white TV for most of the next week. We watched Oswald killed by Ruby live on TV, as did millions of others. We watched the funeral cortege, and everything else that was shown. We watched and cried, we talked and discussed. And we just couldn’t believe it. We’d learned in history of the assassination of other presidents, but they were all more than fifty years earlier, so were ancient history. This was real and this was now, and quite possibly the first national media event. The funeral was on Tuesday, November 25, 1963, which was also Mom’s 44th birthday. Needless to say the birthday wasn’t really celebrated that day, but was on Thanksgiving in a fairly low key way.
A week later I was on my way back to work and life resumed.