Saturday, 23 November 2013

The Day JFK Died - Thoughts the day after the 50th Anniversary

It is often said that people can remember where they were when President Kennedy was assassinated. That is not, of course, true in the strictest sense. Rather, they can remember where they were when they heard that President Kennedy had been assassinated. Be that as it may, nobody ever seems to take into account false memories or recollections that are misconstrued in some way.

A friend of mine - who is much the same age as me - tells me that he remembers hearing about the assassination at lunchtime the day it happened from the nuns at his Catholic school. The nuns asked everybody to pause and say a prayer before being allowed to continue with their lunch. My recollection is very different. It was a Friday evening when I heard. Friday night was bath night and so I was sitting in the zinc bath in the living room (there was no bathroom in the house in which we lived). The coal fire was burning to my right and I was watching the television on the sideboard in front of me. Programmes were interrupted to announce Kennedy's assassination, whereupon advertised programming was suspended. Broadcast instead was a man playing sombre music at a grand piano.

So whose recollections are more accurate? Unless my friend had gone to boarding school (which he did not) and was dinning (rather than lunching) quite late in the evening, I would have to go with my version. I recently heard that it was announced that President Kennedy was dead at 1pm Dallas time. Dallas is six hours behind London time. That puts the announcement at 7pm London time (on Friday 22nd November 1963). Then, allowing time for the news to be transmitted over the wires - these being the days before fast internet and satellite communication - a time more in keeping with my usual weekly bath time of around 8pm fits.