Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Columns

November 22, 2012

RONNIE ELLIS: Reflections on day JFK was shot

FRANKFORT — Like a lot of people my age, I remember precisely where I was 49 years ago on Nov. 22.

I was on a sidewalk outside Liberty Street Elementary School in Glasgow when a classmate, Mitchell Nance, told me President John F. Kennedy had been shot.

We walked across the campus to the Music Hall where our seventh-grade class in Kentucky history was to meet after our lunch break. I didn’t know what to think.

We asked our teacher, Mr. Saltzman, if the president would live. He didn’t know and he didn’t know what to tell us any more than we knew what to feel. Then over the intercom (we called it the loud speaker in those days) came the principal’s somber, baritone voice telling us Kennedy was dead.

It was a Friday. I spent the next day with cousins and uncles while they stripped tobacco. I wasn’t much help, good only for stripping the tips which remained after others had stripped the higher grades from the stalk. I spent most of my time outside the barn, playing.

On Sunday afternoon we sat around the black and white television watching as thousands lined up and filed silently by the president’s coffin in the U.S. Capitol. I remember his widow kneeling in prayer beside it. Then the next day, we watched the rider-less horse, the salute by John-John and the lighting of the eternal flame.

Life seemed to go on however. Christmas came and went. We returned to school. In February four lads from Liverpool took a grieving nation by the hand – or at least its youth.  I recall the quizzical looks on my parents’ faces while I watched the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show.

I’ve always maintained the “sixties” began with Kennedy’s assassination and ended with Richard Nixon’s resignation as the Watergate scandal unraveled his presidency. A lot happened in that decade. There would be more rock bands, British, American and subversive, and we dreamed of joining a band and growing our hair.

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