DON CORBIN SAID:
It was a crisp fall morning as I remember. The weather was clear, and it was a Friday. I was really enjoying high school. The classes were more “grown up”. I was taking Algebra, Latin, Biology, English, Phys Ed, and I am sure there was another class in there somewhere. I liked my teachers.
I was playing basketball, and I was becoming seriously interested in girls and I had been for awhile. I also was getting to be interested in the world outside of my little community of Union City, Indiana. I had started to read the newspaper every morning…the Muncie Star, and I would read the Times Gazette in the afternoon. I also liked Newsweek magazine that my family got every week, and I thought if I read all that “news” I would be pretty well caught up on what was going on. I loved my hometown and the people in it. I loved school……life was good! Dreams were great and plentiful. Little did I know how different it would be by the end of the day.
My favorite TV shows were the Andy Griffith Show and the Dick Van Dyke show. I had a serious crush on Mary Tyler Moore. I always thought Don Knotts was good for a laugh or two. On Saturdays, I watched Studio Wrestling, and thought Magnificent Maurice, and Handsome Johnny Baron were the best “bad guys” on the tube. The summer before, I became a Cincinnati Reds fan again because this rookie, Pete Rose, was the starting second baseman. They weren’t very good, but they had promise of becoming better.
On that particular Friday, I had scanned the paper before I went to school. I remember thinking it was funny that I had not read much about the President of the United States lately. I hadn’t really told anyone in my family but I was becoming a big fan of John Kennedy. That would not have played well with my dad, but I think secretly my mom would have been pleased.
Anyway, I caught a mention in the Muncie Star that Kennedy was off campaigning in Texas. I didn’t think much of it that day. Everybody assumed that this young man was going to run for President again, and that he would probably be elected. Texas didn’t seem all that relevant to me, at least, not at that moment.
I can’t really remember anything for sure on that day up to about 1:30. I am sure we had lunch, and am equally sure it included fish sticks or salmon. Pope John 23rd said it was okay to eat meat on Friday by then, but the cafeteria still had some form of fish.
But at 1:30, I would have been in Algebra class taught by Eugene Stocksdale. He was a good teacher. I actually enjoyed Algebra. (It would be the first math class I ever enjoyed, and probably one of the last.) He was teaching us something about formulas. Maureen Fitzmaurice, an upper class lady, was sitting to my right when Mr. Stocksdale asked “Are there any questions?”……..Almost as if on cue, the intercom in the room started to throw out static, and the voice of a radio announcer came on. Some of us started to laugh….maybe the radio announcer had a question. Through the static I heard the words “the Governor of Texas was wounded” Wait a minute, wasn’t the President in Texas. Hadn’t I just read that this morning?
Then the intercom became quite clear. “If you are just tuning in, there is a report that shots have been fired at the President of the United States while he was riding in a motorcade in the streets of Dallas, Texas. There is no report as to whether the President was wounded, but there are reports that the Governor of Texas has been seriously wounded by the gunfire.”
From that moment, November 22, 1963, became a day never to be forgotten, and a moment in history in which the United States of America lost its innocence. In my personal time line, I still measure everything by whether it was pre November 22, 1963, or post.
But at that very minute, we still did not know. And our school administration did not know what to do. It was pointless to talk about algebraic formulas. We just sat and listened to the frantic voices of radio announcers. It was Maureen Fitzmaurice who first said, “He must be dead”……No, not the President. That only happens in those countries in Africa and maybe Asia once in a while.
In any event, it was finally reported that President Kennedy had been shot, and he was taken to Parkland Hospital. The report was that he had been shot in the head…oh-oh!
Bob Shank came over the intercom, and in his usual Marine officer tough guy voice told us to go to our 6th period classes and wait for further instruction. So off I trotted to Biology, taught by the new football coach, Tom Pryor….another tough guy.
It was in Biology that the announcement came over the intercom……“President John F. Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States, has died in Dallas, Texas. He was killed by an assassin’s bullet to the head.” There was a tear streaming out of Coach Pryor’s eye.
School was dismissed after a moment of silence, and we all filed out of school and headed home to begin a weekend in front of the television. It did not get any better. Shortly after I got home it was reported that a Dallas police officer was shot and killed, and a twenty-four-year-old man had been arrested in connection with that shooting. It turns out that Lee Harvey Oswald became the prime suspect in the murder of Officer Tippit, and President Kennedy.
It was all surreal. It was the only thing on television. There was a picture of Vice President Johnson getting sworn in on Air Force One. There was live coverage of the arrival of the casket and First Lady Jackie Kennedy back in Washington. Was that blood all over the front of her pink suit?
Friday rolled into Saturday, and it rolled into Sunday. It was tiring to watch the repeated footage of the Kennedys arriving in Dallas, the chaos at the time of the motorcade through a place called “Dealey Plaza”, the reports from the Dallas City Jail, but watch it you did, because it almost felt like a patriotic duty.
We were all watching at around 12:20 p.m. Eastern Time when they were transferring Oswald from the City Jail to the County Jail…..and right there on live TV was “one more awful” as Jacqueline Kennedy was quoted as saying when she heard the news. There in front of God and everybody, Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald dead.
I believe the weekend will be remembered forever as the weekend that the United States lost its way. Next month is the 50th anniversary of that date, and America has been faced with crisis after crisis in those fifty years…..Vietnam, the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy in 1968, Watergate, the Middle East Crisis after crisis, Iran Contra, 9/11, Iraq, Afghanistan, fiscal cliffs…..can we take another 50 years like the last 50?
We MUST remember the day we lost our way, and we MUST find a way to get back on the path that will allow us to retain the greatness that America still has, and restore the dreams it did have. Please remember that day AND those dreams!!
DAVID VON PEIN SAID:
Thank you, Don, for the above reflections on that terrible day in 1963. I, myself, wasn't even two years old when President Kennedy was slain in that Dallas motorcade nearly fifty years ago, so I cannot offer up such eloquent and vivid remembrances of the President's assassination like those which Don Corbin chose to share with his Facebook friends on October 17, 2013.
But I certainly share the same feelings that Don has about some of the other things he talked about in his wonderful article above. For I too have a distinct fondness for The Andy Griffith Show, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Mary Tyler Moore, Pete Rose, and the Cincinnati Reds.
Maybe that list of things is part of the reason for why Don and I are friends on Facebook. And another reason just might be that his hometown of Union City rests just 27 miles from where I grew up in Richmond, Indiana.
Don might very well be right when he says we lost our way after the events of November 1963. But thankfully some things will never be lost--such as the memory of the "good life" Don Corbin had while growing up in Union City, Indiana, and the lingering affection that both Don and I seem to possess for the things and people mentioned above.
Thanks for reminding me, Don, that many Hoosiers do, indeed, think alike.
Below is another thoughtful post written by Don Corbin on Friday, November 22, 2013, the exact 50th anniversary of JFK's death.....
DON CORBIN SAID:
Today is the anniversary of what I believe to be the single most important day in my life outside of my family specials. You cannot compete with a marriage or a birth of a child, November 22nd, but you are right up there in my timeline.
November 22nd, 1963, with all due respect to Richie Valens, was the day the Music Died. Before that date, life was filled with hope for the future. There seemed to be no limit on the promise of America. There was even the hint of a lasting peace after the Cuban Missile Crisis the previous year. There was a sense that America was on the right path, we were at least attempting for the first time to bring equality to all people in this country so that the “brand” of this country would actually reflect its product.
We were on our way to putting a man on the moon, “not because it was easy, but because it was hard”. We were dealing with our enemies to bring an end to the creation of nuclear weapons, because Man was proving that he possessed the power to undo the beauty of that God had created. We were realizing that all races and ethnic groups finally deserved to share the opportunity to enjoy this country’s bounty. The seeds of Camelot provided such anticipation for the future.
A young, untested President was exhibiting to the world that America could face its inconsistencies, and truly become a “nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all”……and then this day happened 50 years ago.
John Kennedy was murdered on this day as he rode with his wife through the streets of downtown Dallas. It was SO quick, SO sudden, SO final that it is difficult to comprehend even in this day of instantaneous communication……..and it all changed.
Please do not take from this writing I believe John F. Kennedy was a transformative President in our country’s history…..He was not. He had not served long enough, accomplished enough, lived enough that his service as our President gave this country enough to transform it, but there is NO doubt in my mind that his death was THE transformative event in the second half of the 20th Century, and one of the greatest tragedies in this country’s history.
After his death, the Civil Rights Act, and the Voting Rights Act were passed, and that was certainly long overdue, and perhaps the only part of his death that one could look at and believe something positive came from it. Yet, Vietnam became a war that wrenched this country apart.
My brother, who is 5½ years older than me, and I were reflecting last summer on what were the differences between his view of his life when he graduated from high school in 1962, and my view when I graduated in 1967. I told him I believed the biggest difference was that he believed his future to be secure in a growing and vibrant economy, and I believed I could very well be killed in a war I neither understood or believed in.
But it was more than that……The mindset of this country changed. We became polarized. It was no longer a question of whether we were Americans, but whether we were Democrats, or Republicans, pro war or anti war, pro life, pro choice, the “one percent, or 99% or 47%” as the case may be. The sense of pride at what this country was accomplishing became lost in a media belief that Americans enjoyed watching train wrecks more than space launches……and maybe we did.
Maybe November 22, 1963, marked a time when Americans gave leash to their darker souls. Riot became preferable to governance, war became preferable to diplomacy, scandal became preferable to harmony, divide became preferable to union.
And the saddest part, my friends, is that we have yet to recover. The thought that we exist as a country to move forward and improve life is not with us now, and it is less a division of ideas as it is an inner darkness of spirit that discounts whatever ANOTHER may propose because it is not what WE believe. The sadness of this anniversary is not only that a young man was senselessly killed, but that hope, promise, cooperation, and the great potential of this country went with him.
Please God, let John F. Kennedy rest in peace, but let none of us rest until we recapture what was lost with him.
DAVID VON PEIN SAID:
Facebook members can seek out many more excellent articles written by Don Corbin by clicking the logo below. Don is an outstanding writer, which is quite obvious when reading his two posts above.