I have talked about John F. Kennedy on my blog before. He was the first president I remember well as a child. I used to confuse Eisenhower with the president of my church, David O. McKay, but at age 9, when President Kennedy was elected, I definitely knew and was mesmerized by the new, young family in the White House. I was also more aware of current world events such as the civil rights protests, the Bay of Pigs, and definitely the Cuban Missile Crisis. That last one kept my worry wart (my parents' nickname for me) self up nights. I wrote about that time in this post.
Fifty years ago today, Jackie was dressed in a pink suit and pill box hat and exiting a plane in Dallas, Texas in company with her husband. It would become the worst day of her life. I was in my 5th grade classroom at Edmunds Elementary located on a quiet country corner across from the church in Plano, Idaho. Edmunds was several miles from my home near Sugar City. It was a daily school bus ride. Some years ago I tried to find this school again for I have many happy memories of my 3rd through partial 6th grade year. I drove this way and that, but never found it. I googled it today and found out why. Here is a copy of the history.
Edmunds Rural High School # 1Edmunds is in the northwest corner of Madison County. Its western border is desert. There is mention made in the histories of the Brown family, who moved to the area in 1889, of attending school in log building located out in the field owned by the Edward Hemsley family. Later this building was moved to Egin.
The next building was a white frame building located on a corner now where the Plano Community Park is. It was in use in 1906. Some time after this, a building was erected on this corner. It was a red frame school consisting of a large room that could be divided with a curtain to make two classrooms. It also had upstairs rooms.
In 1925 this school was torn down and another built on the site. It was built of yellowish brown brick and was intended to house both elementary and high school students. At this time the districts of Plano, Edmunds, and Egin joined together to form a district, Joint Rural High School # 1. This was a large building with a gym and a stage. When the Sugar City Central Elementary School was built all students went to Sugar City. The Edmunds building was later sold and torn down.
I remember the interior of this school well. Four classrooms (one for 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th grades) and the Principal's office opened onto an open hallway which in turn surrounded the gym which was a godsend for kids during cold, cold Idaho winters. The stage was on the south end of the gym and a lunchroom and kitchen were through a door on the east side of the stage. There was a "media" room on the west side, or media as we had in those days. We watched educational shorts from a projector on a white screen every Friday afternoon. I can still hear the whap, whap at the end as the last frames of film left one reel for the other. Now in retrospect, I am sure our movie time was teacher prep time for the next week.
We did not watch movies on Friday, November 22, 1963. We had our daily yummy lunch (our lunch ladies cooked from scratch and it was good food), enjoyed lunch recess, and then returned to our classrooms. The 5th grade room was located on the northwest corner of the school. Mr. Clements was my teacher. It was he who told us of the terrible event that had occurred in Dallas, Texas and that our beloved president was dead. I will never forget the sick feeling that overcame me. I really just wanted to go home to my mother, but we had a couple of hours to endure before that long bus ride through the country side. Mr. Clements seemed to be in shock. He sat silently at his desk with his head down for the remainder of the day. Looking back on this as an adult and a teacher who dealt with students during 9/11, I understand his pain, but I think he failed us as a teacher that day.
In 1963, our family did not own a television. My father, the ever busy farmer, dairyman, and night shift worker during the winters in the lab at the sugar factory, felt that TV watching was a waste of time. The assassination of President Kennedy was a time of great national mourning and the nation was watching it together. My mother went and rented a television set with option to buy. Thus, we watched on live TV as Ruby shot Oswald, a riderless horse clip clopped down Pennsylvania Avenue, and John John saluted his father one last time. My mother also purchased a hard cover picture filled memorial book which was later delivered by mail. I studied that book intently. Over the years I have listened to, pondered, and watched the many theories of why and who and was it a conspiracy. This month I have watched, listened, and pondered more as this 50th year has arrived and many documentaries have been produced. It was truly a defining moment of my childhood.
Earlier this year, I read a memoir by Clint Hill, secret service agent assigned to Jackie Kennedy. I talk about that book in this post.
This is a picture I found of Mr. Hill as he clung to the back of the car after running to it as shots rang out. He has been talking on many of the shows I've watched during this 50 year anniversary. I think that the writing of his book, Mrs. Kennedy and Me, has finally enabled him to talk about that day publicly. He still feels that he failed the President and his wife some how. I remember my pain and wonder about his. How would you deal with such an event when it was your job to protect?