Friday, November 22, 2013

JFK's Assassination 50th Anniversary Tribute

Sometimes these posts kind of happen by accident. I knew this year would be the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy but coming up with a nice little tribute just drew blanks. Until. Until this old  kopf of mine started reminiscing, and remembering. I actually saw President Kennedy when, on his visit to Milwaukee in May of 1962, his motorcade passed just two blocks from our house! The motorcade was traveling north on Layton Ave, which becomes N. 27th St as it passes over the 27th St Viaduct. We walked the two blocks down to 27th St, just at the far north end of the viaduct, crossed the street and watched the motorcade pass by. It was great but far too short and just a little over a year later he would be gone.

The shooting of the President was one of those moments in one's life where they remember exactly where they were and what they were doing. I was in grade school, in my 5th grade classroom that Friday afternoon when just after 12:30PM there was a commotion in the halls (Milwaukee and Dallas are both on Central Standard Time) and before long we heard that the President had been shot. Being so young a lot of the details are sketchy in my mind but there was general feeling of panic, sadness, and a feeling of "what are we going to do now?". I seem to remember that the whole school was released early that day.

The days that followed, which included the swearing-in of Lyndon B. Johnson as the new President, the capture and subsequent killing of Lee Harvey Oswald, and the funeral, were all viewed in a state of numbness. You have to keep in mind that JFK, Jackie Kennedy, and the White House Camelot were all exciting, heady stuff to us back then and it was a big blow to the nation. But here we are, 50 years down the road, and now know how thin a veneer this fairy tale existence was. Had JFK lived, his philandering would most certainly have finally made front page tabloid fodder. Lyndon Johnson was being investigated by the press for the 'business' dealings that made him a fortune, all of which were swept under the rug in the name of keeping order and sanity in the country. 

But back then people wanted to hold on to the dream and remember in any way they could. That's where today's post comes in. My mother had kept clippings from those days as well as a complete copy of The Saturday Evening Post magazine from Dec 14, 1963, a sort of mini-time capsule. This batch of papers have been in my possession for the past 50 years and has followed me from one end of the world to the other. 

After untying the string that held it all together, the contents were slowly revealed. Now, for the first time in 50 years we can all look at some of the news that heralded the Fall of Camelot.

The spine of the scrapbook had apparently separated long ago and the whole book had to be handled carefully. Mom didn't save whole newspapers but managed to save many of the pages. I didn't do a page count but there must be close to a hundred in the book.

The pages have been folded for 50 years. Some of the pages were yellowed, all had brittle edges, but many were still white-ish.

Back in the day the Milwaukee Sentinel was the morning newspaper while the Milwaukee Journal was the evening paper which is why this copy is dated for the next day.

The list of Downtown businesses closed out of respect for the slain president.

The pages contained many what are now considered iconic images of those days.


The clippings stop on Nov 26, 1963, the day of JFKs burial.

The Saturday Evening Post, Dec 14, 1963

I guess patriotism started at an early age for me. These two pics are my bedroom back in Dec 1965. Mom wrote an annotation on the back of this photo saying how much I loved the eagle bedset.

The movie PT 109, starring Cliff Robertson, was a favorite of mine as a kid. It was released in June 1963 and did you know it was the first commercial biographical film of a sitting president while he was still in office? This photo shows two plastic model kits I built, PT 109 and JFK sitting in the Oval Office. I don't remember now but I think PT 109 was a Lindberg kit and JFK was an Aurora kit. I did a really crummy job on both, especially JFK. I can remember using Testor's flesh colored paint on his face and hands. The paint was thick, gooey, and an anemic looking pinkish color - horrible.

Back in May of 1988, Bettina and I flew from Germany to Washington D.C. for my nephew's wedding. We could only stay the weekend and what a weekend it was. A mini-family reunion, a big wedding, and a short time to play tourist. Just prior to leaving for the airport to go back to Germany we took the time to visit Arlington National Cemetery and pay our respects at the grave sites of both JFK and his brother Robert. Our time was short, my film running low and only a few pictures were taken.

JFK's grave and the eternal flame

Robert Kennedy's grave site on the hill overlooking his brother.

A couple of quick pics of the White House


  1. This is a wonderful tribute to that grey, horrible weekend in November, frozen in time, burned into our souls. I was only 4 1/2, but remember it vividly. Having lived on the northwest side of Milwaukee in 1963, our family has the exact same collection, carefully stored all these years. Thank-you for this excellent post. - Mike

    1. Thanx for your kind words Mike! It was indeed a day to remember and it's nice to hear other people still kept memories of the day even after we as a society have become so disenchanted with our authority figures.