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A Story of My Life, Part 16: The Day Kennedy Got Shot

Updated on October 25, 2011

I was six years old in 1963. Upstate New York could be New England, if you go far enough north. It's always fall I remember best, October is the month of my birth; and those vivid reds and yellows and oranges on the leaves of the turning trees.

Yes, Upstate New York could be New England. It could be Maine, or New Hampshire, or Vermont, with the trees clothed so vividly...the cool crisp autumn days with the smell of burning leaves in the air...the big yellow school bus smelled of apples...we, with our downhome country accents...

And there were apple trees all around, MacIntosh, mostly. We had MacIntosh, also a couple of Northern Spy apple trees on the farm where we lived. How bridal those trees looked in the spring, with their snowy white blossoms...

But it's always fall time I remember best, The big blue sky, with high white clouds, and a patchwork of sun and shadow chasing each other across the patchwork fields as I stared out the schoolroom window.

It was later in the fall, almost Thanksgiving. The leaves on the ground were turning brown and crumbly. We had wood stacked up neatly on one side of our porch, against the coming winter. Our Mom had us iron some of those bright autumn leaves between two sheets of waxed paper, and I had them pinned to the wall in the chilly upstairs bedroom I shared with my sister. They were preserved in their glory while outside the trees were bare, their naked branches beseeching the grey sky for mercy.

I was in the second grade at school. Our schoolroom was decorated with cheerful construction-paper turkeys in the windows. Thanksgiving was almost upon us. I was doing bellwork, sitting quietly at my desk, copying out the poem on the chalkboard, "The Lamplighter", from Robert Louis Stevenson's "Child's Garden of Verses".

My tea is nearly ready and the sun has left the sky;

It's time to take to the windows and see Leerie going by;

For every night at teatime before you take your seat,

With latern and with ladder he comes posting up the street.

Now Tom would be a driver and Marie would go to sea,

My Papa's a banker and as rich as he can be;

But I, when I'm stronger and can choose what I'm to do,

O Leerie, I'll go round at night and light the lamps with you!

Bellwork was something to keep us busy while the class was gathering, before the bell rang and classes officially started. Mrs. Yeager, our teacher, was sitting at her desk. She had the roll book out and was getting ready to call the class to order and to take attendance

We all looked up at the P.A. system speaker in the corner of the room.

Mr. Graham, the principal of the school, had come on. He had an announcement to make, and it sounded like he was crying....

"President Kennedy was shot..."

Dallas, November 22, 1963

Dallas, November 22, 1963

Bob Dylan


  • January 1, 1963 George C. Wallace becomes governor of Alabama. In his inaugural speech, he defiantly proclaims,"segregation now, segregation tomorrow, and segregation forever!"
  • In February, 1963 The John F. Kennedy administration makes travel, finiancial and commercial transactions to Cuba illegal.
  • March 4, 1963 6 people are sentenced to death for conspiring to assassinate President Charles de Gaulle. De Gaulle pardons five of them but the sixth is executed by firing squad a few days later.
  • March 21, 1963 The Alcatraz Island federal penitentiary in San Francissco Bay (The Rock) closes.
  • April 7, 1963 Yugoslavia is proclaimed to be a socialist republic and Josip Tito is named President for Life.
  • April 12, 1963 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Ralph Abernathy and Fred Shuttlesworth are arrested in a Birmingham, Alabama protest for..."Parading without a permit".
  • April 15, 1963 70,000 marchers arrive in London to demonstrate against nuclear weapons.
  • April 16, 1963 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. issues his "Letter from the Birmingham Jail".
  • May 1, 1963 The Coca-Cola company debuts its first diet drink, Tab.
  • May 2, 1963 Thousands of African Americans, many of them children, are arrested while protesting segregation in Birmingham, Alabama. Public Safety Commissioner Bull Conner unleashes police dogs and turns fire hoses on the demonstrators.
  • May 4, 1963 Dr. No, the first James Bond film, is shown in US theaters.
  • May 23, 1963 Fidel Castro visits the Soviet Union.
  • May 27, 1963 The Free-Wheelin' Bob Dylan, Bob Dylan's second album is released. It was the most influential album, the most influential song, "Blowin' in the Wind", was on that album.
  • June 3, 1963 Pope John XXIII died.
  • June 5, 1963 The FIRST annual National Hockey League draft is held in Montreal, Quebec.
  • June 11, 1963 President John F. Kennedy delivered a historic Civil Rights address, in which he promised a Civil Rights Bill, and asks for the kind of "equality of treatment we would want for ourselves."
  • June 12, 1963 Medgar Evers is murdered in Jackson, Mississippi. His killer isn't convicted until 1994.
  • June 16, 1963 The Vostok 6 carries Soviet Cosmonaut Valentine Tereshkova, the first woman, into space.
  • June 17, 1963 In "Abington School District vs. Schempp" The US Supreme Court rules that state-sanctioned Bible reading in public schools is unconstitutional.
  • July 1, 1963 ZIP codes are introduced in the US by the US Postal Service.
  • August 18, 1963 James Meredith becomes the first black person to graduate from the University of Mississippi.
  • August 28, 1963 Dr. Martin Luther King delivers his famous "I had a dream..." speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to and audience of at least 250,000 people during the March on Washington.
  • September, 1963 Marvel Comics releases the first ever X-Men comic book.
  • September 18, 1963 Rioters burn down the British Embassy in Jakarta, to protest the forming of Malaysia.
  • September 24, 1963 The US Senate ratifies the nuclear test ban treaty.
  • October 1, 1963 Nigeria becomes a republic.
  • October 30, 1963 The car manufacturing firm Lamborghini is founded.
  • November 10, 1963 Malcolm X makes a historic speech in Detroit, Michigan, the "Message to the Grass Roots"
  • November 22, 1963 The Beatles' second album "With the Beatles" is released.
  • November 22, 1963

In Dallas, Texas, the United States President John Fitzgerald Kennedy is assassinated. Lyndon Baines Johnson becomes the 36th President of the United States, and the country mourns...

Martin Luther King had a dream...


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    • Paradise7 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Upstate New York

      Thanks, Internetwriter!

    • Internetwriter62 profile image


      8 years ago from Marco Island, Florida

      It's amazing to see the day of President Kennedy's assassination as seen through the eyes of a six year old child. You remember not only that tragic moment in history, but you also remember the leaves, the trees, nature and the poem you were working on. I guess, almost everyone in America remembers what they were doing on that day.

      On 9-11 I remember being at work, with my co-worker at the drive thru at the bank were I was working. We had a small tv in the drive thru so we were able to see the incident, the moment it happened. I still remember that day. It amazing how certain events make some days just stand out in your mind.

      Great hub.

    • Paradise7 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Upstate New York

      Thanks for the comment, RM. I know you've been really busy (I've been keeping up with your great hubs on health and nutrition!).

      I remember the horse-drawn cart on TV, too, and the little boy waving the flag.

    • rmcrayne profile image


      8 years ago from San Antonio Texas

      Paradise, I can't believe I missed 2 installments!! The Helpful Health hubs consumed me! I thought I was reading my daily HP fav authors email, and particularly was keeping an eye out for your story. I thought! Hmm.

      Growing up in SC, I was very fortunate to have beautiful Falls too. Here in San Antonio and the Hill Country area, it's the Spring and wildflowers we look forward to. They are so beautiful, and prevalent on some stretches of interstate, thanks to Lady Bird.

      I was 4 in 1963. I remember the horse drawn cart with the casket of JFK on TV, and my mom crying.

    • Paradise7 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Upstate New York

      Thanks, Duchess. I remember those times so vividly. It might be the most vivid part of my life. I'm glad to bring back some nice memories for YOU!

    • profile image

      Duchess OBlunt 

      8 years ago

      Paracdise7 I was only 4 when this happened and not in school, I don't have any memories of people talking about it at the time. I would not have understood the implications or ramifications at all as one so young.

      I always enjoy your memories though. the automn colours and apple blossoms - as a country girl myself that brings back lots of memories! Nice ones.

    • Paradise7 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Upstate New York

      Scarytaff, I remember that, too. We saw the President being shot on television, over and over, for several days. It was such a shock.

      Dohn, I was thinking that same thing...the only comparison that came to mind for me was 9-11, first, then the Challenger tragedy. The whole nation was in shock; the whole nation mourned.

      Thanks, Micky Dee. I think what I'm trying to do here is define the era in which I lived. I can only do it from my own personal perspective; my own personal memories, interwoven with what was happening in the rest of the world.

      Jen--thank you so much for the comment...our Autumns...I hope the timetable choices make some sense, that the selection scans for my readers. They are related events, but very subliminally. I think you're one of the people who get that, somehow. It's something hard to communicate.

    • Jen's Solitude profile image

      Jen's Solitude 

      8 years ago from Delaware

      I was only 3 when Kennedy was shot but it is good to read of your perspective as a child, when it occurred.

      I do enjoy the timetable of events you include with these stories as well.

      And may I say your description of Autumn is excellent. Made me feel like I was staring out the window right along with you!

    • Micky Dee profile image

      Micky Dee 

      8 years ago

      Great memories- great hub! Thanks again.

    • dohn121 profile image


      8 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

      Hi, Paradise7. The memories you had of autumn reminds me of my memories of autumn. Although I didn't enjoy the orchards you had, I did however have the fall foliage (I grew up in Westchester, NY by the way). I can almost imagine the shock of JFK's assassination. The only two things that come close to such is the Challenger explosion and Nine Eleven. Those two events won't ever be forgotten by me.

      Thanks again for your heartfelt memories.


    • scarytaff profile image

      Derek James 

      8 years ago from South Wales

      I remember Kennedy being shot. We were watching an evening television show when it was interrupted with the dreadful news. We were all stunned. What a tragedy. I really liked Kennedy, he stood up to the Russians and called their bluff over nuclear weapons.

    • Paradise7 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Upstate New York

      I think I became more subliminally aware as time went on and that part of history became part of the times we grew up in. I remember so clearly the announcement itself, and how awe-inspiring it was that the principal of the school sounded like he was crying.

      It confused us, mostly. We, as children, didn't really understand what was happening.

    • Veronica Allen profile image

      Veronica Allen 

      8 years ago from Georgia

      You know paradise7, I can imagine how the adults must have felt at the time of President Kennedy's assasination, but I never thought about how it may have effected the children living in that era. I wonder (depending on their ages and comprehension levels) if the kids understood the gravity of the situation. Though you were just 6 years old, did you grasp the gravity of the situation, or did it simply boil down to just being aware that something bad had happened?


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