From Charles Royer to Tom Robbins, memories of JFK
Charles Royer, mayor of Seattle from 1978 to 1990
I was married in 1960 and then I got drafted in 1961. I went into the Army and ended up in Fort Hood (Texas).
When the Cuban crisis struck in 1962, we all went to Florida in case we were going to invade Cuba.
That didn’t happen and we ended up in Georgia, 2,000 to 3,000 men, in a rather crummy post outside of Savannah. We just stayed there for months.
Kennedy came to visit us before we flew back to Fort Hood.
There was a huge parade ground and the troops were standing there in the cold. I’m guessing it was October. The commanders wouldn’t let the men put on field jackets. They wanted them to look sharp.
As usual, Kennedy was maybe three or four hours late. Troops were fainting. Then a whole line of choppers landed, with Kennedy in the lead.
He stepped out, looked around the parade ground and immediately took in the situation. He pulled off his hat and dropped off his overcoat on the ground. All the troops immediately warmed up to him.
Behind him, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the senators, all followed like dead trees and dropped their coats.
Mary V. Thresher, Wenatchee
I was a 7-year-old third-grader at Mark Twain Elementary School in Kirkland. I remember being in the lunch room, and all the female teachers were crying. They sent us all home and our parents told us what happened. As a “Daddy’s girl,” I could not take my eyes off of Caroline Kennedy during the days that followed ... she was the one I felt the most sorry for.
Stan Boreson, host from 1954 to 1967 of “KING’s Klubhouse” kids show
I was in the bedroom ironing a white shirt when I heard the news on TV that Kennedy had been shot.
We went on the show like it was a normal day. What could we do? You’re in front of these young kids and you tell them your president has been murdered? You don’t do that. Nothing was said. Isn’t that something?
Sharon Bosse, Kent
Our first child was born Nov. 22, 1963, at 3:17 a.m., and I was in my hospital bed just waking from the anesthetic around 1 p.m. central time when two nurses came running into the room shouting that the president had been shot and turned on the TV.
For the next three days, emotions were so mixed as I watched the ensuing events on TV with constant tears and held our baby boy.
Only 3½ years before, in April 1960, I shook hands with John F. Kennedy as he campaigned for the presidency on my husband’s college campus in Richmond, Ind.
Jim Whittaker, the first American to reach the summit of Mount Everest, on May 1, 1963
Each member of the expedition was standing in the Rose Garden and shook hands with President Kennedy. Gombu (Whittaker’s Sherpa) was next to me. He’s 5-foot-3 and I’m 6-5.
Kennedy said, “Jim, I understand these Sherpas are really strong,” and kinda grabbed Gombu by the arm just to hold it and check out his muscles.
I said, “Oh, Mr. President, they’re incredible load carriers, but it’s not the arm you ought to feel, but the thigh.” The president grabbed Gombu by his thigh and said, “I see what you mean.”
Gombu later said, “If I’m ever reincarnated, even as a worm, I’ll never forget President Kennedy.” The president was a gracious, wonderful man.
Tom Robbins, author of “Another Roadside Attraction,” who in 1963 was an art critic for The Seattle Times
Appropriately, I learned about the assassination in the newsroom of The Seattle Times. The evening prior, I had reviewed a play so came into work that day a little late.
The moment I entered the newsroom I knew something of great import had occurred because the entire staff was gathered around a small TV set. As I approached the crowd, one of the city editors turned to me and growled, ‘Robbins, how did you get back from Dallas so fast?’ Maybe that’s an indication of how my co-workers at the Times regarded me.
I can be counted among those who still believe the killing was a conspiracy, and if true, it magnifies the tragedy astronomically.
In any case, it’s somewhat of a minor tragedy that nobody remembers that Aldous Huxley also died that day.
I tend to hold a creative genius such as Huxley in a higher regard than I do politicians, even one as luminous as JFK.
Stephanie Bower, Seattle
Nov. 21, 50 years ago, I saw JFK.
The day before he went to Dallas, he came to San Antonio, Texas, where my mom took me and my little brother to see him. The three of us waited on the hood of our car. ...
Where we were, the crowds were thin, and as the open convertible passed by, I clearly remember seeing Jackie look our way, nudge her husband and nod toward us — then they smiled directly at us and waved ... and that magical moment was seared into my memory forever.
As an adult, I realized we probably looked a lot like their family.
My mom looked and dressed quite a bit like the iconic Jackie, and my brother and I were the same ages as Caroline, 5, and John Jr., a few days shy of turning 3. ... I can’t help but tear up at the enormous tragedy and loss, especially for the children who lost their father. We sobbed for days.
— Compiled by Erik Lacitis and Holly Henke