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Deborah's Story > Chapters > WORKING MY WAY BACK TO THE BEGINNING

NOVEMBER 22, 1963 

 
Date Range: 10/01/2009 To 10/31/2009   Comments: 6 Views: 11805
Attachments: No    

November 22, 1963 that is a date that I will not forget. It was the day that John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. 

I was a fifth grader at Pilgrim Elementary School.  My teacher was Mr. Howard Green.  He had us working long column addition problems on the board.  I had just completed a problem and sat down at my desk.  The boy who sat next to me was named Warren Austin. As soon as I sat back down he began ranting about my answer being wrong.  He was upset because he felt that my incorrect answer was going to ruin our rows no missed problem record.  I was sure that the answer I had calculated was right. Which cause us to have a minor tiff as our classmates worked their problems and returned to their seats.

Mr. Green had just begun to check the answer to the problems when the school secretary Mrs. Wright came into our classroom to tell Mr. Green the news. She looked very upset and she blurted out, "The President has been shot!" We all gasped out loud as she turned to leave.  I believe that she was going from room to room to make the announcement.  We started talking and Mr. Green immediately restored order.  He drew out attention back to the board and the problems.

He had just finished checking the problem that I had completed. It was right and I was feeling pretty good about that fact. He had checked Warren's problem and was moving on down the line when Mrs. Wright returned to our classroom. This time she was crying as she announced, "The President is dead." 

It became very quiet for a moment.  Mr. Green stopped checking problems and stood there looking at the empty doorway. We didn't really know what to say or do at that moment.  When you're ten years old it is difficult to comprehend an assassination.

A few minutes later school was being dismissed.  Mr. Green told us to get our coats and head straight for our homes.  We gathered our things and headed out of the building. I walked home with a group of friends. 

As we walked down Taylor Avenue we were talking about the news of President Kennedy's death.  There were people coming out of their houses and traffic was heavy on Mt. Vernon Avenue.  The workforce had been sent home for the day. 

When I arrived at our house, my grandmother was sitting in her favorite chair with the television on. Which was unusual for her.  She only watched television during the day when the World Series was on the air.  Walter Cronkite was  giving commentary about the events in Dallas.  I removed my coat and sat down in the front room to join her. It was obvious that the murder of President Kennedy had shook up Cronkite completely.  He struggled to give the details of the events that had taken place. My grandmother just sat and watched without saying a word. 

One of my most vivid memories was the television coverage. At that time televisions were broadcasting in black and white. Color programming was the emerging upgrade and it was still pretty new.  We didn't have a color set at the time. We had a floor model Philco. There were only three networks then.  All stations signed off by one in the morning during the week. Each one of the local stations would announce the end of their operating hours and play the National Athem to indicate they were signing off.  Since schools and businesses were closed, I had talked my grandmother into letting me watch until the sign off signal came on.  At one o'clock the coverage continued.  This is the first time that I realized that television could air programs all night long.  

The assassination of President Kennedy is one of the events that changed my perception of this nation.  Kennedy was a popular president among African Americans (Negroes).  A lot of the adults were angry and very upset over his death. Our elders were sure that his intent to inact legislation that was pro-colored people was one of the reasons behind his murder. 

It does not seem like 46 years have passed since the death of John F. Kennedy.  Perhaps that is because the moment is etched within my memories as a person. 

I hope that you never have this experience as an American.



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Member Since
Aug 2008
Adara Bernstein said:
posted on Nov 23, 2009

I didn't realize it'd been that long either. Makes me feel old. I wonder if he and his brother had lived, what kind of changes and impact they would had on this world and country? It would be interesting to note.


Member Since
Jul 2008
Coco Handschnell said:
posted on Nov 23, 2009

They could not send kids home like that. Was a different world back then. Somehow as sinister, but also more innocent.


Member Since
Sep 2007
Kristina McIntosh said:
posted on Nov 24, 2009

That's true. They'd have to put them all in the auditorium and call all the parents etc. Never thought about that.


Member Since
Oct 2009
Deborah White said:
posted on Nov 27, 2009

Adara,

I have often wondered what direction the Kennedys would of lead the nation in also.  I sincerely believe that if things had not headed in the direction that they did-we might have possibly seen a run of Kennedys as Presidents of the United States.

Coco and Kristina,

I lived about five blocks from the school.  We walked to school from the time I was in kindergarten until I graduated from high school.  Our community was very tight and everyone knew each other. We were pretty well supervised by all the adults in the area.  I didn't even think about how different it would be now until I read your comments. 

Thanks for taking the time to read my story.


Member Since
Oct 2009
Henrietta Giseppe said:
posted on Dec 10, 2009

I wish they were like that now. Now parents drop off kids and pick them up - they're not even safe to walk home in pairs.

Sigh... not to sound old, but I miss the "community" of the older days. It's not the same today.

Keep writing Deborah. You have a soulful voice.


Member Since
Oct 2009
Deborah White said:
posted on Dec 10, 2009

Henrietta,

Thanks for your comments and encouragement. 

I wish that it was not so rough and tough out here too.