Friday, November 22, 2013

A New Look, A New Name ...

Launching a newly designed Blog on this historical anniversary of the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy. In the days to come, I will write of the progress on my book, the books I've been reading and enjoying which I will share with you, the menu and guest list for Thanksgiving, health-related news, and the fact that I am accepting private vocal students starting in mid-January. Stay tuned.
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On the 50th anniversary of the assassination of JFK, so many of us remember the precise moment we heard the dreadful news ....

The presidential election of 1960 was the first one in which I was eligible to participate having reached the age requirement of 21 years.  During the campaign between the dashingly-handsome JFK and the sour-faced Richard Milhous Nixon, I walked jauntily down Fifth Avenue on my lunch hour (the office where I labored as a secretary was at 666 Fifth) proudly wearing the largest JFK For President button I could find. 

I'd been prepped for the privilege of exercising my right to vote by my Mother who persuaded me to volunteer at the Town Hall on the day in the 1952 Presidential election when Americans had the choice of either the Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower or the Democrat Adlai E. Stevenson. My assignments involved running up and down stairs most of that hectic day, delivering information of one kind or another to staff and other volunteers scattered throughout the building. Former General Eisenhower claimed the majority of the votes by a substantial margin. My Mother was happy: General Eisenhower's accomplishments and decisions as Supreme Allied Commander during the Second World War had become legendary. The Republican Party was guaranteed a victory in the election with him as their candidate.

In 1960, I was thrilled at the thought that I had helped elect a new, young, vigorous liberal Democrat who not only espoused a philosophy I admired, but added to my sense of pride because of his birth in New England, the cradle of liberty as we like to call it around here. He almost immediately implemented a policy of holding live press conferences which were watched by millions who'd had limited access to President Eisenhower's briefings which were sporadic at best, during which the President appeared stiff and uncomfortable in front of the tv cameras. Now suddenly we were witnessing a young man at ease with the press, able to cope with tough questions of policy while displaying eloquence and keen sense of humor.

The fact that JFK also brought a stylish, intelligent, graceful First Lady into The White House added to our sense that the Kennedy's would enhance the image of America which had seemed stuffy and somewhat dowdy in the previous administration. Millions of us admired JFK to the point of idolatry.

I was a late riser, so when the telephone rang at approximately 1:30 PM on Friday, November 22, 1963, I was just about to amble to the kitchen for the orange juice and coffee. My good friend Bob Bonis told me the President had been shot and that his death had just been confirmed by CBS reporter Walter Cronkite. I leapt out of bed and ran into the living-room to turn the tv on. There was Mr. C choking back tears as he struggled to make the official announcement. I remember falling into a chair as I too wept. I do not remember much else about what I did the rest of that day, whether I had anything to eat, or if I left my apartment at all. I remember telephone conversations with friends equally stricken. I must have had a drink because I usually had some scotch on hand.

The next few days the nation watched tv transmissions of the funeral procession, the casket lying in State under the Capitol Dome while mourners shuffled past, Jackie Kennedy and her children ... the rider-less black horse ... Bobby and Ted Kennedy walking with Jackie behind the flag-draped coffin ... I remember it all so vividly that I cannot watch any of the commemorative proceedings today. I feel the same stab of pain and disbelief, the anger and grief, as visceral as if the horror just occured. It's too disturbing for me to watch those scenes preserved on film and video tape. I don't want to relive those dreadful days. And so I won't. I can't.







4 comments:

  1. Dear Carol Sloane,

    I have been a big fan of yours since I stumbled upon you guest hosting for Ron Della Chiesa about 25-30 years ago. I've seen you perform several times at Chan's, most notably the stormy night you were delayed and stunned to arrive to see your sister Lois keeping the natives restful until your were able to make it to the gig. We have the album you (and Lois!) signed that night, "Love You Madly" framed and hanging in our home. Our collection of your albums in bested in number only by those of Miles Davis and Bob Dylan.

    I look forward to reading your posts on this new site, and even more to getting a copy of your autobiography when it is complete. I will miss your live singing, but wish you the best in your retirement.

    Today is a watershed day for those of us of a certain age. I, too, remember clearly the events of that November weekend. I turned 11 years old earlier that month, but my youth did not make the awful moments fade. Each of them remains strong and clear and full of sadness.

    I wrote of my reflections, too, earlier today, on my facebook page;

    So many reflections today, so much about which we need to do so.
    Grade 6, Ecole St. Mathieu. Eleven years old. I don't remember how we were initially told that our President, John F. Kennedy, has been shot. It could have been over the P.A. Someone might has slipped into the classroom to tell the nun. What I do recall is that the grade six students were quickly ushered into the grade eight classroom just up the hall. It had a large television on a high stand. We stood around the edges of the classroom while the eighth graders remained in their seats and watched as the horror rapidly unfolded. I recall vividly, I don't know why, nervous giggling around the room. Of course no one thought it was funny, it surely was from nerves. How could this happen? The sisters sent us home shortly afterward. We walked, as we did every day. My mom had been taking a nap with my youngest brother, Philip, who was four. By the time we got home she was up, watching the television, and crying.
    Like almost everyone else in America, we were glued to the t.v. that weekend. I spent it at my cousin Kathy's house. Sunday morning, we left the television set for a few moments' respite, going into her bedroom to play board games, sitting on the floor in front of her bed. That is when Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald. We did not see it happen, only in repeat showings of the horror.
    I'll never forget the somber, dignified funeral procession. Jackie's, yes, impeccable dignity. Caroline and John in matching light blue coats. Caroline kneeling at the coffin at her mother's side. John's unforgettable salute. JFK's brothers in morning coats, walking behind the caisson. The riderless horse.
    I didn't think this event could make me cry any more, fifty years later. But as I write and think, I am brought back again to 1963, my eyes filled with tears.
    It's is often said that American lost its innocence that weekend. Of course, no society is ever totally innocent, but there was a seismic shift. The sixties changed everything. And it all began on that horrible Friday in late November, in Dallas, Texas.

    Warm Regards,
    Connie Ross Ciampanelli
    North Providence RI

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  2. Thank you Connie for sharing your vivid recollections of that traumatic event. I doubt anyone who was alive on that day, whether a supporter of the President or a die-hard opponent, can ever think of those times without also recalling we were all nearly catatonic.
    -CS

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  3. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us, dear Carol. I, too, remember that awful, awful day. We were sitting in assembly in my high school in Hoven, South Dakota. One must realize that SD is/was a terribly Republican outpost, despite having elected the estimable George McGovern to the Senate (what a wonderful man he was!). When the announcement of JFK's death was made to those of us not in class, a lone member of the assembly actually applauded. My heart sank. Our die-hard Republican superintendent would not even let us out of school until the end of the day. Once home, I sat transfixed in front of our black and white television and watched every moment, most always in tears. When Mom called for me to come to dinner, I was embarrassed to go to the table with tears streaming down my face. Showing emotion was not exactly a part of my family (me being the very obvious exception to this day).
    Then, while in college a few years later, I campaigned hard and proudly for RFK who came to our state the day before he was shot in California. A carload of us went to see him in Sioux Falls, and we were transfixed by his message. Upon hearing of his death the next day, I thought I would never again get involved in politics, ever. However, when my classmate (from SDSU) Tom Daschle ran for Congress several years later, I could not help but support him, too, though by now I had moved to New York City, where we Democrats were much more than accepted. It was the LAW to be a Democrat almost!
    I also could not watch the tributes and re-runs of those events this past weekend. I got to "meet" Jackie briefly once on Madison Avenue many years later. Of course, I was so dumbstruck I could not speak. What that family has gone through! I understand why dear Caroline decided she did not want to be in the USA for the anniversary. I am proud that Obama is beginning to bring some of the Kennedy diplomatic emphasis back into his final years. Let's hope it works.
    I am a little sad that you, Carol, will no longer be singing for us in person. Thank goodness for your recordings. I cherish mine greatly, especially the one you signed "Happy Birthday" for my almost-shared birth date (Mine the 6th, yours the 5th).
    For now, Happy Thanksgiving, and happy holiday to you and yours. Hoping Buck continues to mend, and you both enjoy good health and happiness in the many years ahead.

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    1. Hi Gregg ... and thanks for your memories of that thunder bolt of a day. I am now prepping in the kitchen aiming to get all that food on the table in the correct sequence tomorrow. Hope you enjoy a wonderful feast surrounded by friendly faces. Best wishes to you, old chum ...

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