Friday, November 22, 2013

November 22, 1963 -- My Story

I was just out of college and working as a teacher of 11th grade English in Corsicana, Texas.  It was my mother's birthday, but I wasn't going home to see her until the next day because I'd be working at the football game that night, taking up tickets.  Corsicana had a great team that year, and in fact they went on to win the state championship in class 3-A.  

I was teaching Huckleberry Finn to my fourth-period English class when the school secretary came to the door.  She called me into the hall and whispered that John F. Kennedy had been shot in Dallas.  That's all she knew, and she was going from room to room with the news.  Apparently the principal didn't want to announce it over the speaker system.  

I had no idea what to do next, so I went back into the room and finished the lesson without mentioning what I'd learned.  After the room cleared out at the end of the period, I went downstairs to proctor the fifth-period study hall.  I didn't have to mention what had happened, as by that time, everyone seemed to know.  Someone had one of those little portable transistor radios, and it sat in the window, tuned in to a Dallas station.  Except for the radio, the room was absolutely quiet, which, believe me, was unprecedented.  For the rest of the period we all listened to the radio.  At some point a girl started to cry.

I don't remember what happened in the sixth-period English class.  I do know that we didn't do much talking about the assignment.  

That night I worked at the football game.  The University Interscholastic League had decided that the games would go on.  Football trumps everything in Texas.

The next day I went home for my mother's belated birthday.  There wasn't much of a celebration.  On Sunday when I was getting ready to return to Corsicana, the TV set was on and I saw Jack Ruby shoot Lee Harvey Oswald. 

I've never been through another weekend like that one.  I don't suppose I ever will.  The next week went on as usual, but eventually we began to realize that everything changed, in ways I can't begin to explain.


George said...

I was reading in my High School Library when the horrifying announcement about Kennedy being killed came over the loudspeaker. Then we were sent home. Our TV was on constantly for the next week as we followed the story of the assassination, Ruby shooting Oswald, and the moving funeral of the President. Turbulent times.

Anonymous said...

Like George I was in high school. Between periods I was walking down the stairs when a guy who lived across the street from me told me. (Of course, he had it wrong, saying that Connally was dead and Kennedy was in surgery.)

Next period they did come on the loudspeaker and tell us to go home.

Sunday was my birthday (same as this year) and my uncle was taking me to the NY Giants football game at Yankee Stadium. (I took the subway and met hi there.) As some of you geezers will remember the NFL decided to play the games that day as scheduled. (Classy move, Mr. Rozelle.) Before I left for the game I saw Oswald shot on live television.

Incidentally, the Giants lost that day. They were 11-3 that year and lost the championship to the Bears, 13-10.

No, as Bill said things were never the same after that.


Deb said...

I was six and in grade school--in England, so it was the weekend before the news trickled through. I remember the following Monday at assembly our head mistress said, "We know there's been terrible news from America."

Btw, on PTI today Mike Wilbon quoted Pete Rozell as saying the worst professional decision he ever made was authorizing the football games to go ahead that weekend.