REMEMBERING JFK – 50 YEARS LATER

John F. Kennedy

Fifty years ago today, January 19, 1961, the Inaugural Gala was held at the National Guard Armory in Washington, D.C., for President-elect John F. Kennedy. The next day, January 20, the new President of the United States was sworn in at the U.S. Capitol.

Many of us remember President Kennedy’s immortal words from his inaugural address to the nation, “Ask not what your country can do for you–ask what you can do for your country.”

I was a freshman at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia that January and only saw news reports of the momentous event. Televising important  events was not as common then, but ironically, it was President Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas, Texas, in November 1963, which changed TV’s place in history. I was still at William and Mary during that tragedy and remember watching as much as possible as events unfolded on a small TV in my college dormitory lobby.

I was lucky enough to see JFK twice in person. In the summer of 1963, he had initiated a special program for college students working for the government, a sort of introduction to how government works. Kennedy gave an inspiring speech to us on the back lawn at the White House, emphasizing how valuable a career in government could be. We college kids were tramping around the play area for Caroline and John-John, the Kennedy kids.

US Senate Chamber Pass for July 8, 1959

During the summer of 1959, before my senior year at Hammond High School in Alexandria, Virginia, I had my first Kennedy sighting in the U.S. Senate. I had no idea at that time who he was.

My friend, Barbara, and I took the bus into Washington, D.C. and decided to see Congress in action. Since she had a boyfriend working as a U.S. Senate page, it was easy to get passes. Pages, who were at least 16 and high school juniors with a good grade average, worked for senators. Although they were mainly “gofers,” they got to witness history in the making. Her boyfriend had told her we could go to the Texas House of Representatives office and get passes for both the House and the Senate.

After getting the passes, we got seats in the Visitor’s Gallery of the Senate, which was in session that day. Lyndon Johnson, the imposing Texas Democrat who was the Senate Majority Leader at that time, was presiding over the Senate while lounging in a chair on the dais in front of the gathered senators.

The feisty senator from Oregon, Wayne Morse, was arguing with Paul Douglas, the soft-spoken senator from Illinois. I don’t believe I was paying attention to the issues because I was enchanted with just being there watching it all.

Both of us were intrigued with a scene on the Senate floor. We noticed an attractive, young-looking man with a nice head of chestnut hair at a table reading a newspaper. He didn’t appear to be paying attention to the discussion. Young pages were scurrying about bringing documents or coffee to this particular senator and others around him.

Next to us in the visitor’s gallery was a young man in a suit avidly studying the scene. “Who’s the cute guy reading the newspaper?” we asked him.

“That’s John Kennedy, haven’t you heard about him?”

2 Comments

  1. Dollie Gifford says:

    I was not even born but i respect as if he were still alive. Sometimes i wish he was a vampire. Thats silly i know bit i would go back in time and take that bullet for him. Im very strongly convined that the person responsible was Lyndon Baines Johnson. If he had lived through that terrible day the world would be so different. Same with his brother bobby and MLK. May they all rest in peace. May god give them everything they deserve. <3. ;(

  2. Ernie Miller says:

    Your memories are wonderful. What a great time that was! I never got to meet the players you did in those times, but I was a bit ahead of you. In 1959 I was finishing my first and most abortive year in College. It was my freshman year at Georgia Institute of Technology. Suffice it to say that I received a very nice letter after completing the year, to come back to Georgia Tech for the next year, but only on the condition that I would continue school on strict probation. The implication was that it would last forever. Oh well! It was fun!

    I entered the Norfolk Division of William and Mary (which became Old Dominion University in 1963) with a few credits from Ga. Tech, and a lot of fine idiotic memories. In 1961, as the Kennedy administration started, I was beginning to establish a pattern at the local bank. I would go in at the beginning of each quarter, borrow enough, on my signature, to buy my admission and books for the quarter, then at the end of that quarter I would visit the bank and pay off the loan, simultaneously taking out a new one. Jerry Hogg was the bank officer I dealt with, and referred to as my parole officer. I made the payments with my commission checks from Hoffheimer’s Shoe Store, where I worked endlessly selling great shoes to customers who almost always asked for me by name. I was a good peddler. Living expenses were minimal, living in a $45 a month furnished apartment, and paying only the water bill. The landlord picked up all other utilities. My pay at the shoe store was $1.07 an hour draw, against a 6% commission on all sales. My loans all got paid promptly, and I even was able to buy one six-pack of beer a month. Sometimes I settled for a $.35 bottle of Carlings Black Label for my celebretory libation.

    Grades were nebulous things. When I graduated in 1964, there was a shadow of a question if I had the required 2.0 needed to graduate. Let it be known by one and all, that indeed I graduated! My grade average had to be carried out to three decimals, but I made it! Also let it be known that in June of 1962, two years prior to graduation I had succombed to lust, and was married. That lasted 23 years, and was the only really dumb thing I did in College. The rest of my transgressions have washed off during the ensuing years. I still think grades are over rated, but give that marriage a D-.

    If Jack Kennedy were to be reincarnated today, I would once again vote loudly for him. After his assasination, I was watching the old black and white tube when Lee Harvey Oswald was silenced by Jack Ruby. Jack Ruby was soon silenced by cancer. To this day, I know in my heart that Oswald was a shooter, but was not “the” shooter. Angles were wrong, target was in motion, and a 6.5 mm Italian Carcano round was never an accurate round. A 6.5 mm Sweed, as an example was equally available in surplus, and was a fine accurate rifle. Same caliber, same ease of acquisition, but totally different capabilities as a weapon. Then there was the puff of smoke from the grassy knoll. It would have been a much easier shot, shorter range, lower relative movement, and the damning fact, it was the right angle of entry to the target.

    What conspiracy???

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