I wasn’t quite three-months old when John F. Kennedy was shot and killed. I’m not exactly sure where I was when the news was shared, but my mother always told about a neighbor seeing her hanging out clothes to dry, knowing if she was doing something so mundane that she must not have heard the news. This hearkens back to a time when not everyone had TV, and very few had the TV on during the day. Soap operas and game shows were just taking a hold on daytime. Our neighbor came out, tears running down her face, and told my mother the news. I can safely say that this was the one and only time freshly cleaned laundry meet the grass of our backyard. They both sat on the ground and cried until another neighbor beckoned them to join her in front of her 10-inch, black-and-white TV.
My mother said she was hanging out my diapers when she heard the news, so I’m guessing my only contribution to the day was messing up those diapers. Still, I have felt the sadness of the day, seen the image of John John saluting his father’s passing coffin so many times in my life, I could swear I saw it live. My boss was sent home from her elementary school and eventually was a live TV witness to the death of Lee Harvey Oswald.
As a child of parents who grew up in the depression, I have always had respect and great interest in history. Somehow it is a little hard to believe that I have lived “through” so many historical events now, and can remember these events (moon landing, Vietnam, the Munich Olympics, swine flu, test tube children and Watergate….ugh, that was horrible. I was 12 years old and we were given the task of watching the trials that followed the “scandal” and be prepared to discuss the day’s events in our current-events class. Do they still have a “current-events” class? Gee, how depressing that could be.)
I have had the pleasure of coordinating the 1st-floor display case in Langsdale for a few years now, and am both happy and sad to turn over the management of the case to our head of Special Collections, Ben Blake. This is my last display for now, and I hope it brings more of our university community into the library to view the display, but also to discover the vast amount of printed materials we have on the many subjects of history, be it ancient or as old as a jaded library technician with a desire to let everyone know about the great things you can find in libraries.
The JFK display will on view through the end of November, but feel free to ask a librarian for help finding our history section, and start to be someone who is not destined to repeat the scandals and disasters of the past.