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Bensonhurst at the Time of President Kennedy’s Assassination

Updated on November 6, 2018
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President John F. Kennedy and the First Lady Jackie Kennedy moments before he was mortally wounded by Lee Harvey Oswald.Mary Moorman's photo taken seconds after Kennedy was mortally wounded.President Lyndon B. Johnson taking the oath of office on Air Force One.A moment before Jack Ruby fatally shoots Lee Harvey Oswald.The Book Depository in Dallas where Lee Harvey Oswald first the shots that murdered President John F, Kennedy.  January 1981,St. Rosalia Church decorated for "the feast", circa 1979.  Regina Pacis Church. It was designated a basilica in 2012.
President John F. Kennedy and the First Lady Jackie Kennedy moments before he was mortally wounded by Lee Harvey Oswald.
President John F. Kennedy and the First Lady Jackie Kennedy moments before he was mortally wounded by Lee Harvey Oswald. | Source
Mary Moorman's photo taken seconds after Kennedy was mortally wounded.
Mary Moorman's photo taken seconds after Kennedy was mortally wounded. | Source
President Lyndon B. Johnson taking the oath of office on Air Force One.
President Lyndon B. Johnson taking the oath of office on Air Force One. | Source
A moment before Jack Ruby fatally shoots Lee Harvey Oswald.
A moment before Jack Ruby fatally shoots Lee Harvey Oswald. | Source
The Book Depository in Dallas where Lee Harvey Oswald first the shots that murdered President John F, Kennedy.  January 1981,
The Book Depository in Dallas where Lee Harvey Oswald first the shots that murdered President John F, Kennedy. January 1981, | Source
St. Rosalia Church decorated for "the feast", circa 1979.
St. Rosalia Church decorated for "the feast", circa 1979. | Source
Regina Pacis Church. It was designated a basilica in 2012.
Regina Pacis Church. It was designated a basilica in 2012. | Source

How it Was November 22, 1963

On November 22, 1963 I lived in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn, New York. I lived three blocks from where I went to school. When walking to and from school I passed by a Catholic orphanage, which has a playground across the street, and a public high school for girls. I was in the 4th grade in a Catholic grammar school. The teachers were almost all elderly nuns who emigrated from Ireland. Since President Kennedy was the first, and only, Catholic president the nuns held him and his family up as model Catholics.[i] President Kennedy being of Irish extraction was a plus. Roman Catholicism in America was at its height. Sister Luc-Gabrielle, a Belgian nun, had a song “Dominique”, was number 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart[ii]. With the Cuban Missile Crisis taking place just a year earlier the Cold War was in full swing. The movie PT 109, which told the well-known story of President Kennedy’s war record, was released in June. The big construction project in the area was the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. It would be the largest suspension bridge in the world. Verrazano was in honor of Italian navigator Giovanni de Verrazzano who first explored New York Bay. Narrows was because it was to link the narrowest point between Brooklyn and Staten Island. The school, Regina Pacis, was next to the Regina Pacis church. The parish monsignor planned the construction of a youth center. The planned center would cost 2 million dollars, it seemed an exorbitant sub at the time.

There was a television set in the classroom that was mounted on a cart. Sometimes we would watch educational programs. We were watching television and the programming was interrupted to announce that President Kennedy had been shot. One of my classmates yelled out, “It was the Cubans!” When I got home my father was outside. He told me, “The President died.”

News related to the assassination, President Kennedy, and President Kennedy’s funeral replaced regular television programming. Much of the programming was repeated many times. The live television coverage showed the shooting of Kennedy’s assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald. There were numerous replays of this incident.


[i] President Kennedy’s womanizing wasn’t public knowledge at the time.

[ii] Billboard Charts, https://www.billboard.com/charts/hot-100/1963-11-23, last accessed 11/4/2018.

How Things Changed

The neighborhood changed over the next few years. The most noticeable was the orphanage’s playground. The number of children in the playground declined sharply. The percentage of lay teachers in the school increased markedly. They even got a male teacher a couple of years after I graduated from grammar school. The Youth Center opened with much enthusiasm but, except for its bowling alley, soon became an underused facility. Drug use among the teenagers became the norm. The most common drugs were pills and marijuana. Vietnam replaced Cuba as the most talked about country. The 1960s seemed to be a decade of decline for Brooklyn. While Brooklyn declined the people who lived there mostly did well. They simply moved. Many moved to Staten Island, which the Verrazano-Narrows bridge made a practical commute to and from Brooklyn. The Bridge gained worldwide attention from the 1977 movie “Saturday Night Fever”. The Bridge was renamed the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge in October 2018. New York apparently figured if they name a structure to honor someone the name should be spelled correctly.

The strict discipline of the Catholic nuns in the long term was apparently counterproductive to their aim. The martinet nun is a popular comedic character on television and in the movies. “Dominique” was number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart throughout December 1963[i]. Sister Luc-Gabrielle left the convent in 1966 but her hit song inspired the idea of the “cool” nun. The “cool” nun is a popular comedic character in the movies and on television. She and her friend Annie Pécher committed suicide in 1985.

President Kennedy was seen as a young, dynamic, intelligent, and inspiring president. President Johnson was seen as old, in years and thinking, and boring. The 1960s ended with Richard M. Nixon, whom President Kennedy defeated in 1960, being elected president in a three-way race.[ii] The hope that came with President Kennedy’s election seemed to be all but lost. The fulfillment of President Kennedy’s promise to land a man on the moon seemed dulled by many who believed the resources would be better spent on down to earth issues.

Was President Kennedy’s assassination the cause of the counterculture movement, the strife, and other troubles that marked the rest of the 1960s? Were the social changes and related upheaval inevitable regardless of who was president through 1968? These are interesting questions for alternate historians.


[i] Billboard Charts, https://www.billboard.com/archive/charts/1963/hot-100, last accessed 11/4/2018.

[ii] While there is usually at least three people on the presidential ballot the 1968 election was the last time a third-party candidate, Governor George C. Wallace, won electoral votes.

What Might Have Been

If President Kennedy wasn't assassinated.

See results

© 2018 Robert Sacchi

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    • Robert Sacchi profile imageAUTHOR

      Robert Sacchi 

      6 weeks ago

      Thank you for reading and commenting. I'm seeing reports about the riots in France and the articles say it was the worst rioting since the '60s. The counterculture wasn't just an English speaking movement.

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 

      6 weeks ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Robert

      I was three when JFK was shot. Although I don't personally remember it I do remember the counterculture that hit.

      In America it was Vietnam, in Britain, it was Northern Ireland, I think it would have happened anyway, maybe it would be a little less 'abrasive' but every generation goes through something like it when they start to think for themselves.

      Those are my thoughts though.

      Lawrence

    • Robert Sacchi profile imageAUTHOR

      Robert Sacchi 

      2 months ago

      Thank you,

    • The0NatureBoy profile image

      Elijah A Alexander Jr 

      2 months ago from Washington DC

      Yes, brother Robert, "assuming it is a diligent search."

    • Robert Sacchi profile imageAUTHOR

      Robert Sacchi 

      2 months ago

      You have a point. "Seek and ye shall find", assuming it is a diligent search.

    • The0NatureBoy profile image

      Elijah A Alexander Jr 

      2 months ago from Washington DC

      Life or god intended it to be complicated for everyone who isn't chosen to be one of the 10 virgins, they are provided with blinders to prevent their ability to comprehend it. The key is seek within yourself (Luke 17:20-24 & Isaiah 28:9-12) and not to religious doctrines {milk} and religious teachers and preacher {breast} for instructions of how to comprehend life. It serves us best to remember that almost nothing of value will come to us easy, only the things we pay the "diligent seeker" price for will benefit us in the long run.

      Peace

    • Robert Sacchi profile imageAUTHOR

      Robert Sacchi 

      2 months ago

      Seems very complicated.

    • The0NatureBoy profile image

      Elijah A Alexander Jr 

      2 months ago from Washington DC

      Robert, So is the god of the Bible and every other "supreme" god known to any people.

      The "wandering in the desert" and Nebuchadnezzar's living like any other animal are metaphors of the 7000 years between this material and Revelation 21's bodiless and lightless civilization that returns us to Genesis 1. From that perspective you can see why everything changes except change. BUT, at the same time it's a metaphor of this civilization where we wonder blindly because of our judgmental minds until time for the "ten virgins" to go through the metamorphosis Jesus called "new birth" to enter everlasting life.

    • Robert Sacchi profile imageAUTHOR

      Robert Sacchi 

      2 months ago

      Thank you again.

      Elijah, what you wrote reminds me of the Hindu goddess of creation and destruction.

      Perry, you have a point it is hard to imagine the changes the people you mentioned made happen had they never existed. On the other hand it could be the wandering in the desert scenario. The destination is inevitable but the way and the time depends on the leader.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      2 months ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Robert,

      I think that one person can make a huge difference in life whether for good or bad. Jesus, Mother Teresa, Hitler, and numerous others come to mind.

    • The0NatureBoy profile image

      Elijah A Alexander Jr 

      2 months ago from Washington DC

      Yes, Robert, the minutest details are repetitiously happening is why "karma" or "Reaping what you Sow" is the law of existence. The only thing that actually changes is the "energy source", I call life-force, of even the minutest thing in existence. They are designed to endure everything physical form of the entity type it incarnates as before evolving up the latter to the human specie that, via the metamorphosis Jesus called "born again", become man which is another term for god. Change is the only thing that I know of that does not change, thus, change is also god. That is why it is written that god is "I AM THAT I AM" and that god "form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things".

    • Robert Sacchi profile imageAUTHOR

      Robert Sacchi 

      2 months ago

      Thank you for reading and commenting.

      Elijah, do you believe all is predestined down to the minutest detail? About LBJ being alone on the trip that is a good question for someone who has the resources to delve into the archives.

      Peggy, what might have been is always an unknowable question. It is unfortunate because the question brings up a deeper question of how much of a difference can one person actually make?

    • The0NatureBoy profile image

      Elijah A Alexander Jr 

      2 months ago from Washington DC

      From what I do remember, Robert, and by many video accounts of many military personnel of that time, it doesn't make since for LBJ to be alone on the trip.

      Peggy, as for JF & Robert Kennedy plus MLK and the Black Panthers being eliminated, everything in existence were, are and forever shall be predetermined. Every scenario in existence has forever been and shall continue to be, it is designed that only 10% of earth's human population is designed to comprehend that.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      2 months ago from Houston, Texas

      I was a sophomore in high school and vividly remember the assassination of JFK as it unfolded. Both of my brothers served in Vietnam. I watched the moon landing live on television. Times were certainly unsettled. As to your question I did not leave an answer. Who knows what might have happened if JFK, his brother Robert, and Martin Luther King had all remained alive? Would we be in the place that we find ourselves today? Who knows for certain? So much has happened since that time...

    • Robert Sacchi profile imageAUTHOR

      Robert Sacchi 

      2 months ago

      Thank you all for reading and commenting.

      Thank you Elijah and Rochelle for your first hand accounts. Security for the president at the time seemed laughable. Taking security out of the equation, which apparently wasn't in the equation, taking Texas Native LBJ along made sense.

      FlourishAnyway and Liz you are right these questions make for good speculative fiction. It's one of those things if you bring it up to 3 people you get 5 opinions.

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      2 months ago from UK

      You pose an interesting question and sadly one to which we will never know the answer.

    • The0NatureBoy profile image

      Elijah A Alexander Jr 

      2 months ago from Washington DC

      Robert,

      I was in my last semester of the 12th grade and "Distributive Education" which allowed students not expecting/intending to attend college went to school the morning hours and work the afternoon hours. I had heard his speech in Fort Worth, TX during my last class and was on the bus to work for Sears and Roebuck & Co. Seminary South store. When I got to work a co-worker, Ann, was crying and said the president had been shot. The store's speaker soon came on announcing the store's closing respecting the death of president Kennedy so I walked the two miles home and watched the story 'as reported' on TV.

      Observing Kennedy's head go backwards then knocked forward into his wife's lap something nagged at me. As I watched I couldn't understand why VP Johnson had accompanied him. Although young I had never heard of a VP accompanying a president on an engagement, I had believed one would always be in DC. Maybe I had not paid much attention to it but that also nagged at me especially when Johnson pledged the oath of office on Air Force One before it took off, if I remember correctly.

      In reply to your question, "Was President Kennedy’s assassination the cause of the counterculture movement, the strife, and other troubles that marked the rest of the 1960?" due to the evidence I've seen concerning it I say yes. Viet Nam escalated into a fun fledge war; J Edgar Hoover conceived the notion of "crack cocaine" placed in "Black" neighborhoods to weaken the support of the "Back Panthers" and the beginning of "The War on Drugs", which is actually a war on U.S. citizens, was implemented in 1971. Every since then, except during Jimmy Carter's term, this nation began to slide into the gutter of the publicly unknown at that time New World Order. I have since discovered the NWO is intended to make the USA like 1930s Germany and, as early as the 1980s, every president who has been in office was known by name, they were "groomed" for their positions.

      Peace

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 

      2 months ago from USA

      I wasn’t alive yet but I appreciate your first hand account of the 60s and what it was like to receive the news of JFK’s assassination. I wish we did have the answers as to what actually happened and all the impacts had he not died.

    • Rochelle Frank profile image

      Rochelle Frank 

      2 months ago from California Gold Country

      I remember the event well though I was on the other side of the country. The whole country was shocked to the core but I can understand how the horrible event hit your community especially hard. Your description is very vivid. Our national innocence and optomism was destroyed that day.

      https://hubpages.com/politics/Nov-1963--A-Presiden...

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