Everyone who was around on November 22, 1963, can probably tell you where they were and what they were doing the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated — and I’m no exception. But we did cross paths more than most people.
I didn’t vote for Kennedy. I couldn’t. I was only 15 years old in 1960. Back then you had to be 21 to vote, but I had more than a passing interest in politics. When candidate Kennedy landed at the Lockheed Air Terminal during the campaign, my cousins, Ross and Bob Heberly, and I went down to the corner of Victory Blvd. and Maple Street to watch his motorcade go by.
I wasn’t a Kennedy supporter, either. We had our homemade signs — cardboard torn from a box, hand-lettered in white paint with “NIXON” proudly emblazoned on them. As Senator Kennedy rode by, sitting on top of the backseat of a convertible Lincoln Continental, he saw us. Ever the politician, he smiled and pointed at us. I still remember the friendly smile he gave us. If we had tried that today, Obama would probably have us thrown in jail. I think he signed one of his executive order making illegal to protest in his presence. My, how things have changed in America — sadly for the worst.
I eventually got over Nixon losing the election. It was my sophomore year at John Burroughs High School. Three years later I’m at my Senior Prom at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, and who shows up but President John F. Kennedy. I may have still been a little upset about that election. I’m one of the few people there who remembers, and was impressed by, Jack Benny accompanying the President.
Six months later, I’m sitting in my Algebra class as a freshman at Glendale College. It was Friday, and we had a test. Shortly before class ended just before 10 a.m., there was a commotion outside. The teacher, Mr. Fellingham, went outside. He came back telling us, “Some guy with a transistor radio says someone shot at the President in Dallas.”
In my next class, the teacher gave the keys to his Mercedes-Benz to a student, and sent him out to listen to the car radio. We learned the President had been shot. It wasn’t until I got home, shortly after they cancelled classes for the day, that I watched Walter Conkrite tell us that the President was dead.
In something that we will probably never see again, everything in town shut down. I’m sure it was probably like that all over the country, but in Burbank on November 22, every business in town closed. The movie theaters, Cornell, Californina, Magnolia, Major, Loma, all were dark, as were the Pickwick and San Val Drive Ins. Bob’s Big Boy and the other restaurants shut down.
As the shock wore off, some businesses opened the following day. I had two tickets for a “Hootenanny” (that was a folk music concert for those too young to remember) at John Burroughs High. They cancelled the concert. I think I still have the unused tickets somewhere. I was going to go to the hootenanny with Cristy Cole. It was supposed to be the highlight of my birthday, November 23.
Jump ahead 50 years. My birthday will once again fall on Saturday, November 23. I have no plans to go to a hootenanny — even if I could find one. Maybe I should call Cristy Cole and see what she is doing.
My 7 year-old granddaughter, Madison, was trying to do something special for my birthday. She wrote a letter to Jay Leno asking him if he would give her grandpa a ride in his Stanley Steamer on my birthday.” There are very few Saturdays when we don’t see Jay driving his Stanley Steamer or another of his many cars around town.
I’m not sure who was more disappointed, me or her.? No ride in Jay’s Stanley Steamer. But Jay did send her an autographed photo, and even one for me wishing me a happy birthday. I’ll get over not getting to ride in Jay’s car, but I’m still upset about missing that hootenanny.