It was November 22, 1963. I was four years old. We were living in a rental house in Paris, Texas, while our new home was being built. The rental was referred to around town as “the round house.” It was truly that. Not a corner in it. I have no idea why it was built. To this day, it’s still there.
My dad was home that day. Sleeping. He had a terrible cold and didn’t go to work. He must have been really been sick. He never stayed home.
Ray Rhodes was a pharmacist and owned his own business.
My mom always watched the CBS soap opera “As the World Turns.”
It was interrupted that day by a news bulletin from Walter Cronkite. President John F. Kennedy had been shot in Dallas. Several bulletins followed.
Eventually, you heard Cronkite say those words: “From Dallas, Texas, the flash apparently official, President Kennedy died at 1 p.m. Central Standard Time-2 o’clock Eastern Standard Time… some 38 minutes ago.”
My mom woke my dad up to tell him what had happened. He said, and I remember it like it was yesterday, “Lyndon Johnson had it done.” With a blazing fever, Dad got dressed and went to the drugstore. What else do you do when the president is assassinated?
There, the soda fountain waitress, Becky Taylor, told him this story from earlier in the morning.
Two men wearing hats sat down at the counter and ordered coffee. Becky had never seen them before. One told the other how much he hated President Kennedy. The other said, “Don’t worry, he won’t make it out of Dallas alive.”
To this day, that story gives me chills.
Paris, Texas, is about an hour-and-a-half from Dallas. If these men had anything to do with the assassination, they could have made it there in time.
My dad said to Becky these words: “Don’t you ever tell anyone you heard that.” Years later, my dad told me that story. Occasionally, I would ask him about it. He never wanted to discuss it. I guess all the conspiracy theories resonated.
I think about all of it today. What really happened? Lone gunman? A concerted effort on behalf of our own government to take out a president? A foreign plot? The mafia? Fidel Castro? I still don’t know. Does anyone really know?
There is a fascinating new podcast from Rob Reiner and Soledad O’Brien called “Who Killed JFK?” It’s upsetting and scary. Listen if you can.
It’s been sixty years since President Kennedy was shot and killed in Dallas. It was a Friday. The beginning of a horrible weekend.
Even at four years old, I remember a lot of it. Non-stop news coverage. The assassination. The hunt for the assumed gunman, Lee Harvey Oswald. The shooting of Dallas policeman J.D. Tippit allegedly by Oswald. The eventual shooting of Oswald by Jack Ruby.
I remember waking up in the middle of the night and turning on our old black and white TV. There was President Kennedy making a speech. It was archive film.
I ran into my parents bedroom to tell them he wasn’t dead. They set me straight and pulled me into bed with them.
It’s been said that America lost its innocence with the Kennedy assassination. Maybe we did. It certainly changed us.
My big regret is never pushing my dad on the story of those two men in his drugstore that morning. What did he really think?
It’s the 60th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. All these years later, I still remember that day. I still have questions and not many answers.
My mom told a funny story about that awful weekend. On television, it was all news all the time about the Kennedy assassination. At some point, I said, “I’m sick and tired of Walter Cronkite.” Funny today because I have spent the rest of my life trying to be just like him.