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Tuesday, December 10, 2019
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A Friday Afternoon in Dallas

 
   
     Some days you never forget. 
     My senior year at DuPont Manual High School in Louisville is mostly a vague memory of anticipating graduation and planning for college. I was seeking a scholarship because I knew my parents could not afford college tuition in those days. I was doing OK in my classes although I was not as motivated for my Latin II and Physics classes as I should have been that year.      However, I did enjoy an elective class called Radio Shop that taught me a bit about electricity and sound transmission. The best part of the class was that each student had the opportunity to build a radio “from scratch”. In those days, transistors were new technology, so building my own radio was a particularly exciting project assignment.

     I recall one day in that class in particular. It was a Friday afternoon during fifth period, and I was sitting in the back of the class room tuning my radio that I had just finished building.  I was getting mostly static as I rolled the tuner along the frequency band, when suddenly I heard a familiar voice…that of Walter Cronkite.
      It was 1:20PM, I think, and I wondered what he was doing on the news that time of day since he usually reported the evening news. He was saying something about a shooting that afternoon in Dallas Texas. I knew that President Kennedy was to have traveled to Dallas that day, so I held the roller on the tuner steady and listened closely.
     Then Cronkite in his deep resonant tones said, “Here is a bulletin from CBS News: in Dallas, Texas, three shots were fired at President Kennedy's motorcade in downtown Dallas. The first reports say that President Kennedy has been seriously wounded by this shooting.”
     I jumped up from my desk and went to my teacher to tell him I had just heard that President Kennedy may have been shot. He told me to go back to my desk and listen to see if the report would be confirmed, and if so to tell him. Then he went immediately to his intercom and called our principal, Mr. Reis, to pass the message along.
     
It seemed a lot later, but likely was only five minutes or so, when I heard Mr. Cronkite’s voice again. In all the years I had listened to Walter Cronkite report from tragedies around the world, I had never heard the genuine sadness and emotion he conveyed when he said, “From Dallas, Texas, the flash apparently official: President Kennedy died at 1 p.m. Central Standard Time, 2:00 Eastern Standard Time, some 38 minutes ago.” At this point, Cronkite paused to fight back tears. When he regained his composure he said, “ Vice President Johnson has left the hospital in Dallas, but we do not know to where he has proceeded; presumably, he will be taking the oath of office shortly and become the 36th President of the United States."
     Again, I went to my teacher and conveyed the awful news which he quickly passed on to the principal, who then announced on the PA system that the President was dead and asked that all students return to their homerooms immediately.
     
My shop class was on the third floor of the school and my homeroom was at the opposite end of the large building. As I walked quickly down the halls, I recall seeing both students and members of the faculty in the halls sobbing and holding each other, and I began to wonder like so many others that day if I was witnessing the first shot of World War III with Russia. That afternoon, we were dismissed early from school.
     I had a first date scheduled that evening with a pretty girl I had met in Band Class. My plans were to take her bowling that evening, but under the circumstances, I thought it best to call and ask if she still wanted to go. I was glad when she said yes, and it was the first of a number of dates with that girl. In fact, four and a half years later we had a date at the altar of marriage!       And fifty years after President Kennedy’s tragic assassination, that girl and I are still going strong.
     
November 22, 1963. I remember it as clear as if it were today! 


 Submitted by:  Jene Hedden, President Emeritus, Shelby Counseling Associates; Publisher, ShelbyBoomer.com 

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