My Kennedy Memories

Dear Readers,

     This month being the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s assasination, it seemed an appropriate time to blog my JFK memories from my journal.  I was a teenager and very naive about the political world…

 

     MY KENNEDY MEMORIES- Journal Entry, August 2008

     I decided it is time to write every memory I have of the John F. Kennedy family, since my mother owned a house in Hyannisport, close enough to John’s summer home that we could see in their windows.  Mom owned the "Anchor Inn" which was directly across the street from the famous Cape Cod post office.

     I was a senior at Auburn High School, in Auburn, Massachusetts when John ran for president.  My sister Teresa and I were too young to vote but together we campaigned for JFK.  We covered our yellow and white 1953 Chevy Bel Air with posters and parked it every day in front of mom’s package store on Auburn Street, which angered her because she was a Republican.  We drove all over town election day and went to bed that night thinking John lost the election.  Much to our surprise the next morning, we discovered he had won by a slim margin.  "An average of one vote per princinct" we were told years later.

     The years that followed the election were exciting.  I was 17 when I graduated and spent summers down the Cape.  Since my mother owned the "Anchor Inn" just one short block from John and Jackie’s house in Hyannisport, we were located directly across the street from the famous little Hyannisport Post Office, where residents still picked up their own mail.

      I remember one day playing badmitten in the front yard and seeing a beautiful convertible with the top down, pull up and park at the post office.  Walking over to our white picket fence that surrounded our yard, I spotted a handsome man driving.  I realized the white pants and blue polo shirt were being worn by our new President who was standing about 25′ away from me.  My heart went all a flutter!  I waved and shouted to him, "Hello Mr. President!"  And he shouted back, "Hello there!"  Even though in real life, I thought he looked thinner than on television, he was still good looking for sure.  Shortly after that, the Kennedy’s stopped picking up their own mail.

     Across the street from our Inn, the government sectioned off the whole block surrounding John’s house so people couldn’t get close to the JFK home anymore.  I remember bringing lemonade and coffee to the guards posted at the intersections 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  We could still walk down those roads because by law, residents couldn’t be stopped from walking the streets; only traffic.  That caused mom’s Inn to fill up with tourists who just wanted to walk by the Kennedy Compound.  Also, because it was so conveniently located, many of John’s secret service people, and his family doctors and nurses stayed at mom’s place as well.

     I remember, at the mischievous age of 17, one day I was upstairs staring out my bedroom window with my father’s binoculars.  I could see right into the Kennedy’s upstairs rooms.  I could actually see John and Jackie walking around in their house by the sea.  The next thing I knew someone was knocking on our front door.  It was a Secret Service guy and I could hear him talking to mom downstairs, "Someone is looking out the upstairs window with binoculars at the President!  Could we have those binoculars please!"  Boy, was my mother angry at me that day!  We never saw my deceased father’s binoculars again.  Shortly after that, an 8’to10′ high stockade fence (not sure about the height) went up around the Kennedy home.

     Another time, hearing the President’s helicopter overhead, I went running down the street with my sister.  We watched as John landed and exited the aircraft with his family.  They had come to spend the weekend at Cape Cod.  They landed in their neighbor’s yard because their yard wasn’t large enough for a helicopter to set down.  Later that weekend, lying on the beach with my siblings, I remember watching the Kennedy family jumping into the ocean off their yacht, swimming and having fun together.  We all got a bad sunburn from staying on the beach to long that day.

     I also remember Caroline and John-John riding their bikes up and down the closed-off street opposite our Inn.  John-John was on his trike and Caroline on her little two-wheel bike with training wheels.  Guards and Secret Service men were posted everywhere, as the children played.

     One Sunday morning I was trying to get into our overpacked church, and I pushed my way up the side aisle looking for a seat, only to be left standing there because the seats were all crowded with tourists.  Frustrated, I glanced to my right, and realized I was standing directly beside where Jackie, John, and the kids were sitting.  After mass was over, my sister and I raced out the side exit and stood at the front of the roped off area, hoping, out of the three exits our church had, that the President would pick that door to leave.  He did!  When John came by us he shook both our hands and asked, "Are you twins?"  My sister and I were giggling so much we just shook our heads no.  And then the Kennedys were quickly whisked off to a big limousine that was waiting for them.

     I remember one time my kid brother, got in a fight with Bobby Kennedy’s kids and my mother had to speak to him about it.  Robert’s children were very spoiled.  All of them!  But, so was my little brother!

     Those years went quickly in my life.  I graduated high school, went to work in the payroll department of Reed and Prince Manufacturing Company, and got married, all during Jack’s presidency.

     There were frightening times too.  When the Cuban dictator, Fidel Castro, challenged President Kennedy, my hubby was still in the Navy Reserves and on call through that whole crisis.  I was sure we were going to war and I would lose him, but John stood his ground and Castro and the Russians backed down and removed all the nuclear warheads from Cuba.  That was the scariest week of my young life.

     I was at work at Reed and Prince Manufacturing when I got word of John’s assasination.  I ran to the ladies restroom because I couldn’t control my tears.  The whole country stopped working that week and mourned.  We glued ourselves to the television for days as history all came together.  The assasination, the arrest of Lee Harvey Oswald, the murder of Oswald, the arrest of Jack Ruby, and of course the wake and funeral of the youngest President the United States ever had.  (I still have the thank you card that Jackie sent out to all the people who mailed their regards to her.)  Vice President Lyndon Johnson was sworn in and finished the rest of John’s term.

     Not long after that crisis Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy were also assasinated.  The 60’s were threatening times!  Many people had bomb shelters in their basements filled with canned goods, flashlights, and water, just in case of a nuclear attack.

     In 2006, I went to Dallas, Texas and walked the area where the crime happened.  I stood in the window where the government said Oswald was when he shot the President.  All I could think of while I stood there was, "No way, no way could Lee Harvery have done all that, from this distance!"  Standing in that window, I relived all the memories of my youth.  I was so deep in thought my husband eventually pulled me away in tears.

     Well, I’ve finally written them.  My memories of JFK; pretty much all I can remember of my own personal experiences.  Thank you for reading.

                          Love in Christ,  Claire  xoxo 

 

 

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