50 years ago today: Nov. 22, 1963

Chuck Kurtz

Chuck Kurtz

Fifty years ago today it also was a Friday. I was 13, an eighth grader sitting in John Williford’s wood-shop class at Olathe Junior High School.

It was sometime between 1:30 and 2 p.m. when Mike Newson’s dad came into the class with Mike’s football uniform. I still can remember the haunting, concerned look on his face as he walked through the shop class door and then told us the news: President Kennedy had been shot and killed in Dallas.

The echoes of students hammering stopped. Saw blades and drills slowly whined to a halt. The stunned silence in the room was deafening.

I can remember thinking: Why would anyone want to kill the President of the United States?

I don’t remember if we played football that day after school. I do remember the continuous television coverage by the three stations: NBC, CBS and ABC and my dad getting out of his chair to switch the dial from station to station. There was little, if any talking. Just somber expressions.

There was speculative talk of Soviet involvement, of nuclear attacks, how the United States might or should respond and of how we, in our little house in Olathe, Kan., should respond.

But I was 13, and on the particular Friday night, my parents had given me permission to meet Paula, my girlfriend at the Trail Theater in downtown Olathe. It was my first “date.”

That “date” was shattered when the owner of the theater, Johnny, had made the decision to close it out of respect for the murdered president. At that point, I was upset and disappointed. But over the next few days as I watched the television coverage of this tragic event, I came to understand why that decision was made as the full impact of what had happened began to sink into my teen-age head.

Did Lee Harvey Oswald alone kill JFK? Was it a conspiracy? I don’t know. Most people still can’t believe that a lone gunman like Oswald could have fired the shots to kill the president. That debate likely will continue until all in the generation who can remember where they were the day President Kennedy was killed have died.

Only then, will the Kennedy assassination be a mention in the history books much like the assassination of presidents Lincoln and Garfield.

Until then, we’ll collectively always wonder what might have been if Oswald had missed.

To read more about what happened on this day 50 years ago, click here.


One Response

  1. I was a ninth grader in the same school and I heard the news and the next thing I heard was one of the teachers going down the stairs in front of me say “bought time someone killed that SOB”. Never felt the same about that teacher who I had liked until that moment.

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