The Day JFK Was Shot--The End of Innocence
Kennedy arriving in Dallas
A Fatal Day!
Where were you the day President John F. Kennedy was shot? I've heard that question a lot, and this is about where I was, what I was doing, and some of my feelings on that day.
At that time, I was a Kennedy supporter and a Democrat. I did vote for John Kennedy in the 1960 presidential election of the United States. I guess I was caught up in the glamour of the young charismatic, and well spoken Irishman. However, I did consider his opponent, Richard Nixon, as well. I was a college student at the time and the general opinion I heard from my History and Political Science teachers was the two men were not very different. I still believe that is true in regard to the policies they adhered to. Maybe the country was generally more united then. Both men had served in the United States Navy as Officers. Both believed in a strong defense, and I think they were both patriots.
Kennedy had a claim of being a hero because of rescuing some of his crew members from the PT boat he commanded. Nixon had served as Vice-President in the Eisenhower administration. All in all, I think it boiled down to personalities. It has been said that those who watched the debates on television—the first to be done-tended to like Kennedy, whereas those who heard the radio debates, favored Nixon.
Many Catholics probably voted for Kennedy because he would be the first president who belonged to the Catholic faith. Although I am Catholic, I did not vote for him because of that. It may have been a reason, but not a major one. I probably let the fact that he published a book influence my decision. Sadly, he did not really write the book, so it was a poor reason.
I graduated from college in 1962 and still had hopes of having a writing career. After awhile I was working as a Collections Correspondent for a Minneapolis Corporation. In some ways it was interesting writing but I did not care to be a collector, though someone has to do it.
A Newspaper Job
One day I was glancing through the help wanted ads when one attracted my curiosity. An ad from a rural newspaper seeking an advertising trainee. I mailed a resume to the address in the ad and got back a three page letter from a weekly newspaper publisher, telling of the qualities of his town and the opportunity to learn the news business.. He invited me for an interview. A long, personally written letter. How could I refuse?
I had lived in Minneapolis, Minnesota since I was six years old. I knew very little about small towns or rural life. This town had a population of about 2,000, there were several Lutheran churches, a small Catholic church and a few small protestant churches. There was also a Lutheran College. A new business enterprise was growing there. I found this town was very Protestant and Republican, whereas, I was Catholic and Democrat then.
Although I went there expecting to work on advertising, I covered local sports and wrote the sports page, sold advertising space, covered some news and did whatever else was needed, such as taking pictures. My employer really wanted someone to free up more of his time because he was working on Winnebago’s promotion and advertising. Two small companies were engaged in making campers. One of them would become very successful—but I didn't have a clue about that.
The publisher was investing a lot of his time working on advertising for Winnebago. Several years later, I saw a story in Time Magazine about the town and the company. His efforts paid off for him.
Oswald shot by Ruby
November 22, 1963
On this particular day, I had walked home for lunch and returned to the office afterward. Our the part-time book keeper was there and she said: “The presidents been shot!”
I looked at her and went to my desk. As I sat down I tried to get my head around what she said. “Ït was on the radio,”she said. John Kennedy was shot by a sniper about 20 minutes ago.“
Still stunned I managed to respond to the news and we talked about the details, of what she had heard on the radio. Some others came into the office and discussed the tragedy. Then I felt I had to get away from the office. Since my duties included calling on the local businesses to sell advertising. I left to call on a few of the people in town. Since I was still new my list of advertisers were not the big spenders but the small advertisers, a jewelry store, a tractor mechanic and others who only occasionally bought space.. As it happened, most of these merchants were men in their forties, around the age of our late president. Nobody was in the mood to talk business that day. All they could talk about was the president.
Nobody seemed to care about differences that day. Not in politics. Not in religion. They didn't think of Kennedy as president that day. They thought of Kennedy the man, the Navy Officer they served in the war with For a day, at least, he was a young man in the prime of life who they trusted to lead the country despite differences in party and religion.
Back at the office someone mentioned that the Catholic minister was picked by the minister's association of the town to give a eulogy speech, This town, by the way, was the only place I ever heard a priest referred to as the Catholic minister.
“Well, he was the their president,” someone said.
“He was everyone's president,”another person retorted.
And of course, the president should always be the president of all the people of the United States.
The Following Days
The news coverage was non-stop. I missed a lot of it because I had an old TV set that got poor reception. I do remember the capture of Harvey Oswald, the accused shooter, and later his being killed while in police custody right in front of the TV camera,. I was ready to believe any conspiracy theories that came along.
Father Boyd did give the eulogy sermon for the town. He talked about the two Johns, President John Kennedy and Pope John Need I say that there was a sense of innocence back then. No one anticipated the coming tragedies of another Kennedy being shot a few years later, nor Rev. Martin Luther King.
Later I read some of the books about the assassination of JFK and some were very convincing. For a long time, I was doubtful of the Warren Report, which was the official investigation into the shooting of the president and I am still trying to keep an open mind about it. However, It seems that the investigators and commentators that I most trust still think Harvey Oswald was the shooter. I tend to accept that. Although many of the theories are interesting, none of them really convince me.
© 2015 Don A. Hoglund