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Where Were You?

Area Residents Remember Where They Were 50 Years Ago Friday When They Heard the News That President Kennedy Had Been Shot

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Posted: Wednesday, November 20, 2013 12:15 pm

On Friday, Nov. 22, 1963, President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was assassinated at 12:30 p.m. while traveling in a presidential motorcade in Dealey Plaza, Dallas, Texas.

President Kennedy was riding in a convertible 1961 Lincoln Continental limousine with his wife, Jacqueline Kennedy, Texas Governor John Connally, and Connally’s wife Nellie.

Lee Harvey Oswald was charged with assassinating President John F. Kennedy; however, many conspiracy theories have been raised regarding a suspected cover-up plot to kill the president.

Dallas nightclub owner Jack Ruby murdered Lee Harvey Oswald before he stood trial for the assassination charges.

This Friday, Nov. 22, 2013 will be the 50th anniversary of the assassination of JFK.

It’s said that people who were alive in 1963 remember exactly where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news of President Kennedy’s assassination because it was so shocking and unbelievable.

The Missourian spoke with area residents at the Washington Library and Washington Senior Center last Wednesday, Nov. 13, about where they were when they heard the news and what was their reaction.

This is what they said:

“I was at work at Mallinckrodt Chemical (in St. Louis) and everyone else had left for lunch, and for some reason, a person was retiring and the gift he got was a radio. It was in this little room where he worked, and I just happened to be the only one there. I was in that room to get some bottles or something that was in there, and I heard over the radio that the president had been shot . . .

“Pretty soon everyone started coming back from lunch, and I told them, ‘Did you know that the president had been shot?’ And they looked at me like where’s the punch line. They thought it was a joke, but it wasn’t. I was the first one in our whole building who heard it.

“They were very sad. Some of the women were crying. There was this one girl who was working in a school program where she would work nine weeks and then go to school nine weeks. Her reaction was she felt like she was going to quit the human race. If this is what human beings could do, she was going to quit the human race. At that time I was writing poetry, so I wrote a poem to that effect. It ended, ‘Who will plead the case for the human race? A voice small and still says again, “I will.” ’ ”

— Edward Adams, 83, Washington.

“I was a student at the vocational-technical institute at Southern Illinois University. I was 23.

“I just heard it on the radio. I was in the room with my roommate, and we heard about it. I was at school. There wasn’t much else to do. People were talking about it, but I don’t remember anything specific.”

— Richard Buretta, 73, Washington.

“I was working on a house in Fenton, Mo. I had a radio with me. I couldn’t believe it. I thought it was false. I guess probably most people did. Then when I went to lunch that was the only thing, that was the only news everywhere.

“I think probably everybody remembers exactly where they were. In fact, I still know where the house is.”

— Tommy Meyer, 73, Washington.

“I was on my way to Columbia to meet my boyfriend with a friend, we were going out for the weekend, and we heard it on the radio on the way up. I was 19. It was pretty sad. I didn’t see it on TV until the end of that weekend. We all went home early because it was so sad.

“(Jackie) was different. They were different. He was a different kind of man. Maybe because they were younger.”

— Barbara Morgan, 70, Washington.

“I was sitting watching the Charlotte Peters show around noonish. It was a talk show. They interrupted the show and Walter Cronkite came on live and was saying at that point that the president and Gov. Connally had been shot, not that they had been killed, because they didn’t know until later.

“I was about three months pregnant with my daughter, and it was just a shock. When they finally came on and said he was killed. I was glued, just totally glued to the TV. I was home by myself, and I cried. We didn’t have a phone to call anyone. It was like losing a relative.

“We felt like we knew him because they focused on his kids, they showed them, so you felt like you knew the kids, and Jackie would give her tours. You just felt like you knew them.

“It was really very traumatic.”

— Ruth Johns, St. Clair.

“I was working for Binkley Manufacturing in Warrenton. I think we heard it word of mouth, it went through the plant. It was so noisy working there, no radio. Everybody was shocked. Nobody expected that.”

— Bernard Meyer, 74, Washington.

“I was in school (in Pacific) . . . in band class when they announced it over the intercom to the whole school what had happened. Everybody started crying. We couldn’t even finish class because everybody was upset, so we just sat there. The teacher just started talking and let everybody talk about what was going on.

“Everybody was feeling sorry for the kids, for the widow because they were such a young family. It was such a tragedy.

“Nothing like that had ever happened, who would think.”

— Terry Smith, 62, Pacific.

“I was on my last day at work on this one particular job (in St. Louis), and when everybody heard, everybody was crying. I started working on a new job that Monday, the day of the funeral. It was very sad, very sad to see that. I will never forget that day.”

— Katy Boyer, 69, Robertsville.

“I had gotten out of the service that February, and I was working the night shift down at McDonnell Aircraft, and I was (at home) sitting there watching TV when it came on, in the living room right there on Jefferson Street, right across from the old Elks Hall . . . It seemed unbelievable.”

— Walter Meyer, 71, Washington.

“My daughter was 3 months old, and we lived in St. Charles. I was walking down to the library carrying her. Came back. Heard it on the radio. Just shocked. My husband and I watched the whole thing that weekend. It still brings tears to my eyes.

“It was so emotional because this young vibrant president was killed, and his family, seeing them, just everything, just how it happened, and it was so senseless. It was shock and just extreme sadness.”

— Lynda Merrill, 71, Washington.

“I was driving home from work, and it came on the radio, and I’m boohooing, naturally. I had to pull over and almost had an accident . . . So then I got home, and I had quit crying, but I made the mistake of turning the TV on, so boohoo again. Tragic thing, tragic.

“I wasn’t thinking it would be on the TV.”

— Shirley Miladin, 84, Lonedell.

“I was in the company hutch in Okinawa (Japan) shooting pool . . . we all thought it was bogus, until the next day. I was in the Marine Corps.”

— Richard Meyer, 69, Washington.

“Well, it was on for three days. I think my biggest memory was the horse (in the funeral procession) with the boots facing in the back. I was at work (at a bank) and we had elevator-type music in the background, so when it came on, we knew something was wrong, because they never interrupted the Musak, but they did. And everybody just stopped dead and listened. Then you could just see tears started, running down faces.

“Nothing like that had ever happened in our lifetime. We were at a bank, so we had to (go back to work), but it was just incredible. I thought of my own children. And he was so young . . . a beautiful family. And I think everybody kind of liked them . . . even if you were not a Democrat. He just gave off that vibrancy, the youth, ‘OK, good, that country’s taking a new direction. We’re going in the right direction.’

“To suddenly be snuffed out like that was just tragic . . . It’s a day you will never forget, that and 9/11.”

— Betty Ambrecht, 80, Washington.

“It must have been a Friday, because we were invited out for dinner that night. I had two little kids, and I was home (in Webster Groves) and turned on the TV — of course was shocked.

“We went to our friends’ house for dinner and the woman had shrimp she was going to cook, but she couldn’t do it. She was incapacitated, she was so upset.

“I remember saying to her, ‘Lynn, President Johnson, it’s OK, he’s going to do an OK job. We’re going to be OK.’ I think people were a little frightened, what it meant for the country . . . so that comforted her some. I said, ‘President Johnson is there. He’s going to take over. He’s a good person, and we’re going to be OK.’ ”

— Ann Johnson, 80, Washington.

“I was in a hospital (in California) waiting for my husband to come pick me up from our second son being born. I heard the nurses crying in the hall and asked what was going on. I didn’t have the TV on in the room. They had TVs in the room then, but you had to pay for them.

“It was really hard because I went home and I thought, ‘Here it’s so neat, I’ve got this new baby,’ and all there is is the funeral, dirges. It went on and on for weeks. It was really kind of a downer. It was hard to be happy for our new baby.

“My daughter was born the year that (Bobby) Kennedy and Martin Luther King were shot.”

— Carolyn Donoho, 72, Union.

“I was at work at Michelle Drapery in Washington. I heard about it on the radio. I was shocked, couldn’t believe it happened. I mean, this is America. You just, back then, never heard of anything like that. It was just terrible.

“I was already mad because I didn’t get to vote for him when he was elected because he got elected right before I turned 21 — back then you had to be 21 to vote.”

— Jerean Riegel, 78, Washington.

“I was working . . . in St. Louis. We made air conditioners . . . I was at work, they announced it over the PA system. Everybody was in shock. Nobody believed it. He was one of the best presidents we had. I rated him right up with Harry Truman. You never know what’s going to happen when some nut gets out there, but it happens. It’s just a shock. The fact that he can get away with it. That he can get up in there, carry that rifle all that distance. I never did believe that it was only one shooter. I didn’t believe that at all.”

— Donald Meyer, 79, Washington.

“I was student teaching in college, and my teacher who was my leader came in — I was leading a gym class for (fourth-grade) kids (in Quincy, Ill.) — and she came in crying and told me all about it. We were all shocked, because nothing like that had ever happened before.

“It was quiet the rest of the day. We didn’t really do much anymore. I think the teachers just told the kids, there was no announcement.

“We just went back to the classroom, it was right after lunch, and it was just kind of quiet the rest of the day.”

— Maureen Horst, 71, Union.

“I was in grade school (in sixth grade in Austin, Texas). I just remember the teachers that there was something going on. All the kids on the playground, something was going around. I guess we knew the president had been shot, but maybe not having the full concept of what that meant as a child, but we definitely got the impression from the teachers — they were talking and whispering — that there was something very important going on.

“At home, it was just kind of quiet. Maybe being children, they didn’t want to upset us or anything.”

— Donna Eichholz, 62, Dutzow.

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