Like 911, the Pearl Harbor attack, events in history hit you where you live.
When viewed from afar. The perspective age wise, geographical from up here in the right hand corner of the country. In a place with all that space called Maine.
I don’t remember the teacher at Bowdoin Street school giving us the tragic news. But I was only six, in the first grade in 1963. A head filled with more thoughts of what I was getting for Christmas. Worried if Santa thought I scored high enough marks or not. On the behavior scale to win, earn, deserve a slot in the right book. Of other good or varying degrees of rotten boys and girls vying for the guy in red velvet, white fur’s favor.
The teacher, Mrs Nelder, the school might have thought, let the parents handle this one, the JFK assassination news.
At this tender age. On Friday, November 22nd, 1963. About what happened 12:30 Texas time. As it made the ripples in the airwaves of news broadcasts from Dallas over the AP, UPI wires to Maine.
What I do remember is it was a cold gray day in Houlton Maine. Hopping down the school bus steps, walking up the long driveway at a Maine farm located 1.5 miles out on US Rt 2, named the County Road at the time. Bare maple shade trees swaying in the wind. No white stuff on the ground. But smelling like snow could happen at any moment. All the locals ready. Winters with more flurries. School was never canceled like today’s quickness to call it off. The long snow fence of wooden slats like you see on Maine coastal sand dunes in place. To slow the drifts, keep them from filling the highways so quickly.
Inside, putting the yellow, empty folding metal Disney lunch bucket bus on the kitchen counter for tomorrow’s refueling exercise.
Grabbing a couple home made, fresh date filled pin wheel cookies off the cooling rack. A glass of ice cold whole milk from our own cow. And wandering after the snack into the front room. Where my Mom was ironing, focused on the black and white transmission of the latest news information. Delivered by Walter Cronkhite.
Mom watching, absorb, distracted, upset.
Shaking a 1957 Pepsi Cola bottle with a green sprinkler head for the moisture to lubricate, help the process of ironing. Eyes and ears on Walter. On the TV set hooked to twin leads that pulled in three channels roof top from the aluminum array. Lots of numbers on the rotary dial not used. Nothing to pick up. No cable, no SAT dish in the Maine farm home at the time. Too many chores on the farm to perform even if they existed. Life was not spent on the couch growing up on a Maine farm in 1963. Pretty much the same way now.
The last two weeks, because of the approaching 50th Anniversary of JFK’s death, the five decades of reporting the President’s assassination has a mind numbing effect. The event approached from so many angles, perspectives, sources. Beyond just the lone, black and white version one Walter reported with journalistic integrity. We trusted him to get it right, tell it like it was. Cause that’s the way it is. How are you holding up and what do you recall from that day? Hearing the news and your reaction to it?
Mom was upset. So I became worried. This was big, something awful had happened.