Sunday, November 23, 2008

Forty-Five years ago yesterday: Kennedy Assassination

I meant to write this yesterday, but a day full of activity in advance of Thanksgiving, and all the company we will have, gave me no time at the computer.

John F Kennedy was assassinated 45 years ago yesterday, November 22, 1963. I was in 6th grade at the time, in Mrs. Fisk's class in dear old Dutemple Elementary School. The first word that we heard was that the president had been shot. This came from a snotty girl in the class, and how she heard it I don't know--obviously from some adults, probably the teacher. A few minutes later she came over to say the governor of Texas had shot the president. Before school was out at 3 PM Eastern Time, we had the correct news. I don't remember a whole lot about my reaction. I was not very politically aware as a 6th grader, as neither of my parents were all that politically active or interested.

Put me in the camp of skeptics as far as the official version of the events goes: the Warren Commission conclusion that the president was killed by Lee Harvey Oswald acting alone. Sorry, but I don't buy it. I have read way too much about the evidence and actions of the various players, and believe that Kennedy was killed by some sort of conspiracy. The police work was so shoddy, and the forensics so botched--from the autopsy to the ballistics to the interrogations--that there is no way Oswald ever would have been convicted had he lived to face a trial. The doubt of his guilt is way beyond reasonable.

I don't know that I want to get into my theory today. I may never post or publish it, save in papers in my file folders. I do want to mention one interesting family anecdote related to this. My late father-in-law, Wayne B. Cheney, was a paper gatherer, and an amateur photographer of some ability. He took many photos of local sports events in Fowler, Kansas before he moved to Amarillo in his latter days. In 1963 he was living in Longview, Texas (he was divorced from my mother-in-law), and had a lot of interests, had lots of contacts with people. He lived a quiet life, but not an isolated life.

I mentioned he was a paper-gatherer. It fell to Lynda and me to go through those papers after he died, along with all the photographs. One 8x10 glossy photo was among the many in the boxes. It was of JFK and various people. I don't have it in front of me, so I will summarize what Wayne wrote on it: In November 1968 [sic], when I lived in Longview, a friend asked me to take her to Houston for [I can't remember the reason]. While there, president Kennedy was there, and I was able to get close enough to snap this picture. Obviously he got the year wrong, for Kennedy died in November 1963. But could this be true? It would have been like Wayne to have given someone a ride from Longview to Houston; he would have had his camera with him; raised in a Kansas Democrat farm family he would have wanted to see Kennedy. I don't know any other time during his presidency that Kennedy was in Houston. So, assuming Wayne was writing the truth, that he actually took that photo (I still have to look for a negative among his papers/photos), this picture would have been shot Nov 21, 1963 during that fateful trip. What is amazing is how close he was able to get to the president.

I may hunt that photo up and enter the exact caption he wrote on it, but I don't think I'll post it, just in case Wayne really didn't take it. He never mentioned it to me before he died.

Just an interesting anecdote. Then again, maybe I've got a semi-valuable gem in that box.


Anonymous said...

You are a good man Charlie Brown. You know why? I can give you this one reason, right now. You are a “keeper”. I am not. I am one of those who would have thrown the Liberty Bell away because it had a crack in it. Not that I am disrespectful or materialistic. That would have hardly been the reason. I’ve had hard times and appreciate the value of a bag of potatoes and onions to fry up for dinner five nights in a row to feed me and my son. I hope you find the negative to that picture and I hope it’s the real deal. Not only for the interest factor, but for your tenacity to keep keeping on keeping those things that we should hold dear to us.


David A. Todd said...


Ah, all these family treasures I keep--photographs, letters, whatnot--are of little interest to the next generation. I fear a time in the future, when Lynda and I assume room temperature, when an executor and sibling have to go through this material and decide what to keep, what to donate, and what to chuck. I'm starting to go through some things myself to reduce the load. Hopefully 20 years from now I will own nothing that is without value, monetary or sentimental, to those who come behind me.