Wednesday, November 20, 2013

50 Years Ago!

Every "Baby Boomer" remembers where he was 50 years ago when he first heard the news. This is my story.
I was a junior in high school at North Bend High in North Bend, Oregon on the Oregon coast. I was in my Junior English class, the last class, before our "activity period" which would be followed by the lunch break.  Class was interrupted by an announcement by our Principal, R.V. Wilson, over the school's intercom system, that "President Kennedy has been shot in Dallas Texas".  The very first words spoken in my class were from  fellow student D*** O****** sitting in the desk right behind mine,  who said:  "Wickre, it was you right wing extremists!" Our English teacher Rudy Sellei, who had been in the 1956 Hungarian Uprising against Soviet occupation, replied: "we don't know who did it."
The radio coverage of the news was then piped into the school's intercom system for the rest of the day.  A TV was then set up in our cafeteria during the lunch period and school continued. Because of my well known opinions on politics, even at that age, I witnessed some very unfriendly looks for the rest of the day.
 I was a member of the local chapter of Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) and was working in the "Draft Goldwater" campaign.
Some fellow YAF members a few miles away at Marshfield High in Coos Bay had similar experiences. Two of them were caught laughing over an unrelated joke and the rumor spread like wildfire through the school that they were happy about the assassination.
Only later did we learn that Oswald was a Communist who had lived in the Soviet Union and was a supporter of Fidel Castro.  
I also remember that day the tears that flowed from our female foreign exchange student from Greece. Just the summer before she had joined  my family at our cabin on the lake at Lakeside.  We had argued that night about Kennedy and Goldwater.  At the end of the school year she wrote this this in my high school annual:
"Boy, I will never forget the fight we have had about Kennedy and Goldwater that night on your cottage on Lakeside. Remember? ......"
Yes, I remember

Like most Americans we spent the next few days, through the weekend, glued to the TV as events unfolded.  Our collective hearts broke to watch little John-John salute his dad's coffin!
Regardless of my dislike of  John Kennedy I was crushed  that our political system could be corrupted by an assassination. Things like that did not happen in modern America. It would not be the end.... we still had 1968 before us!
Going back in time, I had been a supporter of Richard Nixon in the campaign against Kennedy in 1960.  I had stayed up way beyond my bedtime hoping Nixon would pull it out in California on election night. Only later did I learn Kennedy and LBJ had stolen the election in Texas and Illinois. For the next two years I had a large poster picture of Nixon on the closet door of my bedroom.  After Nixon lost his race for Governor of California in 1962, I read Barry Goldwater's book "Conscience of a Conservative" and joined Bill Buckley's YAF and started to work in the Draft Goldwater movement.
I was unimpressed by the so called Kennedy coolness  and was repulsed by  how journalist fawned over him. Some things never change.  I believed he deserted the Cuban Freedom Fighters at the Bay of Pigs, gave up too much to the Soviets to end the Cuban Missile Crisis* and used thug tactics in sending the FBI to make midnight calls to intimidate steel executives to end the steel strike. It was only later that we learned about Marilyn Monroe and an affair with mob boss mistress Judith Exner.  
The assassination guaranteed the election of LBJ in 1964 which led to his incompetent leadership in conducting the Vietnam War and the not so "Great Society." This led to the destructive 1960's that damaged the fabric of American society which we are still witnessing today. 
*a little over a year before as a sophomore, I had been in the high school library when the school administration issued a flyer on what their plans were  for school evacuation if the Soviets launched a nuclear strike against the United States. Depending on the amount of warning we would either be sent home or kept at school.