Saturday, November 23, 2013

Engaging Answers

Where were you when President Kennedy was killed?
Here's some engaging answers written by compeers.

Country school with no tv. The neighbor called to say what happened.

LaRayne Meyer Topp
Nebraska Writers' Guild

I was in my 1st grade room when the principal announced it over the loud speaker. We cried.

Nancy Nielsen
Nebraska Writers' Guild

I was on a bus going to Kansas City when in Topeka a young man came running up and started pounding on the door. The bus driver wouldn't open the door but finally the boy yelled the news loud enough for us to hear. Someone then pulled out a small transistor radio and we all listened the rest of the way.

Charlene Neely
Nebraska Writers' Guild

My class had just returned from lunch. The principal abruptly put a radio station on the intercom, saying, "The President has just been shot." We never changed classes the rest of the afternoon. We sat and listened to impossible news. Impossible? We were studying "Macbeth." Students had said things like, "Nobody kills kings." They never said that again.


David Prinz Hufford
(find David's poetry on Barnes & Noble or Amazon)

I was sitting in my living room in California watching a rerun of "I Love Lucy". I had a three year old at my feet and I was feeding my five month old. The Lucy episode was of a gutted television set with Lucy crouched inside it. She said, "We interrupt this program to bring you a special report" Almost immediately the television flashed Walter Cronkite with the same message. I had to take a double-take to understand it was real. I was a basket case the rest of the day. Bawled my eyes out.

Frieda Dryden
Author of:
Leonard's Wife, Misty's Child
Evil Seed, Trailer Trash

 I was a Freshman at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, just leaving my final class of the day, American History, when I heard people saying, "the President's been shot."

"That just can't be," I thought, but more and more people were saying it was true, so I rushed toward the dorm, to get to a television, fearful, needing to find out what was going on.

I'll always have the shock of hearing of Kennedy's assassination accompanied with hearing  bells, the library bell ringing overhead signaling time for the next class to begin.


Kay Golden

This is Ralph's memory of meeting JFK June 1963 in England:

Transcending all though is my own memory from June, 63 of the few moments experience of the dazzling smile, the sheer personal up close aura, the firm handshake and the quick exchange of a few sentences of wit and wisdom with the man himself.

Kennedy had taken time out from his visit to Eire to visit the Chatsworth Estate in Derbyshire, home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire to whom he was related by the marriage of his sister Kathleen. She died here in an air crash either late in WW2 or just after, and her grave is in the churchyard of Edensor, a village on the estate.

All local press in the region were told at fairly short notice, which included the group I was training with, Formans, whose main titles were The Nottingham Evening Post and the morning Guardian Journal. Nottinghamshire is the next county east of Derbyshire.

The photographer whose bags I carried hauled me out of the darkroom saying: "This is your chance to see President Kennedy!"

We sped along as he explained why and joined about 40 others in a press pound a few yards away from the church gate.

There was soon a whump-whump of helicopter rotors and two landed a short distance away.

A small knot of men, some uniformed, others in "plainclothes" suits formed from the machines, then more than five detached and walked towards the church and us.

One lone figure clearly gestured the rest should wait and became quickly recognizable as JFK.

He walked to the church gate and went inside. Emerging awhile later he paused for us at the gate then headed our way, waving the obvious Secret Service men to stay put.

Reaching us he said something like "Hi, thanks for coming along, gentlemen." 

He then looked at me, put his hand forward and said; "You look very young to be involved in all this."

From somewhere inside I found a calm voice pitch, shook the hand and said; "I'm learning about it, sir. I've heard a lot of people say you look very young to be in your job too!"

The eyes flashed and he laughed and replied, "It's never to soon to be a journalist! Good luck it's an honourable profession. Maybe I'll be doing it again if I don't get reelected next year!

With that he stepped back, posed briefly again and walked back to the other men.

Ralph Stephenson
(his photos can be seen on

Friday, November 22, 2013

Nov. 22

Where were you  today, Nov. 22, in 1963, when JFK was assassinated?

I perched on a stool at a curved wooden bar in a dark New York City tavern. My long-legged boss, Patricia "Pat" Chapman and I were running late, so we ordered beers and sandwiches. Our beers slid into place.
A blaring TV hanging above us featured "As the World Turns." Pat and I groaned at the low-class fare, then laughed. 
Our sandwiches came. We munched down.
Above us, Thanksgiving provided a crisis for the TV soap.  "Nancy" tried to bring "Grandpa" up to date when a CBS News Bulletin broke through. Walter Cronkite's voice said, "Three shots fired at President Kennedy's motorcade in Dallas." My head snapped up. "Seriously wounded." I struggled to believe this.
Pat stood and fumbled with her purse. "Come on," she said. 
Cronkite's voice continued: "Mrs. Kennedy jumped up and grabbed Mr. Kennedy. She called, 'Oh, no.' The motorcade sped on." I wanted to howl in protest, but I had no time. Pat slapped cash down. "Let's move it!" Our lunch stayed on the counter.
We ran and jogged back to the office, Home Furnishings Daily (HFD), our handbags slapping our thighs. By the time we arrived,"seriously wounded" has changed to "dead." I felt glazed.
At HFD, sister paper to the famous Women's Wear Daily, I worked as a market reporter. Our trade paper appealed to buyers and makers of home furnishing products. 
Gender lines divided the paper. Men wrote the page-one stories that dealt with important products that women couldn't understand. Washing machines, for instance. Pat and I wrote inside stories for less significant items like wall decor and bone china.  
At her office desk, Pat divvied up the work. We turned to our phones. I called manufacturers and importers of dinnerware, asking each the same thing: "How will the president's death affect your business?" I found the question difficult to ask but jotting down answers proved even harder. 
Our routine reporting seemed distasteful. Kennedy, to me, had been larger than life, so asking how his death might affect business seemed crass and disrespectful. My body didn't stiffen, but inside, something congealed. 
That night, my husband, Tom Henshaw, a feature writer for Associated Press, called from the office. "We're putting together a book about Kennedy, all stops pulled. We want to be the first out with a hardcover book, but we need copy editors. Can you come down?"
So I put my feelings on hold and worked around the clock with the AP guys to produce The Torch is Passed. Heady with our achievement, whatever I might have felt about Kennedy's assassination disappeared.
Until now. Until I saw, on YouTube, in black-and-white the familiar face of CBS anchor Walter Cronkite detailing Kennedy's death. Then, I broke down. I sobbed, moaned, and keened for the young president that I had loved and lost to an assassin's bullet. For the smashing of his Camelot. For weeks and months that could have been.