When President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963, I was just a little girl of 8 years. I vividly remember how I found out about it. A neighbor girl came running across the street from her house to mine. I was on my way to meet her. It was in the middle of the street that I heard the news…our President had been assassinated. I was horrified, like most Americans were that day. It all seemed too impossible to comprehend. I knew nothing of politics back then, of course, I just knew that something horrible had happened to my country…the whole country. A nation doesn’t lose a president for any reason and not suffer from that loss. The loss of the president…the only president lost during office in my entire lifetime…not that attempts weren’t made or threatened, was so shocking to me. It’s something I will never forget.
After the assassination, there was much controversy about what happened. Immediately…as always happens when anything big happens, there is a special commission appointed to find out what happened. I can see how that is important sometimes, but I don’t know that I think these commissions are always unbiased. As with most events such as these, there were, and still are, many people who do not think that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone…or that he was even involved at all. Seven days after the assassination, Johnson appointed the President’s Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy to investigate Kennedy’s death, and on this day, September 24, 1964, the Warren Commission, headed up by Chief Justice Earl Warren, gave their report to President Lyndon B Johnson, who had been vice-president to President Kennedy, and therefore became president upon his death.
Following the report, those who disagreed thought that the whole thing was a conspiracy. The conspiracy theories were many, including the Mob, Cuban exiles, military leaders, the secret service, and even Lyndon Johnson. The Warren Commission concluded that Oswald was the “lone gunman” in the assassination, but that failed to satisfy some who witnessed the attack and others whose research found conflicting details in the commission’s report. Critics of the Warren Commission’s report believed that additional ballistics experts’ conclusions and a home movie shot at the scene disputed the theory that three bullets fired from Oswald’s gun could have caused Kennedy’s fatal wounds as well as the injuries to Texas Governor John Connally, who was riding with the president in an open car as it traveled through Dallas’ Dealey Plaza that day. Eventually, another congressional investigation was conducted in 1979, but that committee reached the same conclusion as the Warren Commission. During its almost year-long investigation, the Warren Commission reviewed reports by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Secret Service, Department of State and the attorney general of Texas. It also pored over Oswald’s personal history, political affiliations and military record. The Warren Commission listened to the testimony of 552 witnesses and even traveled to Dallas several times to visit the site where Kennedy was shot.
The enormous volume of documentation from the investigation was placed in the National Archives and much of it is now available to the public. Access to Kennedy’s autopsy records, though, are highly restricted. To view them requires membership in a presidential or congressional commission or the permission of the Kennedy family. I am one of those who find the conclusion of the Warren Commission to be…very simplistic, and hard to believe. I have watched several documentaries about the assassination, including the video of the actual event, and it just doesn’t make sense. Be that as it may, the commissions have spoken, and nothing more will ever be done about it. The many people involved are all gone now, so there is no one to say what really happened. So we only know what we have been told, but most of it doesn’t make sense to me.
Kids have always tried to use things around them as props in their games. Things like boxes, barrels, and even a little taller hill become the prop of the day. When I saw this picture of Bob’s brother, Ron, his cousins, Danny and Sandy, and a neighbor girl playing on four oil drums, all I could think was “Roll out the barrel, and we’ll have a barrel of fun.” Of course, that is the “Beer Barrel Polka” song, which was composed by the Czechoslovakian musician Jaromír Vejvoda in 1927, and really had nothing to do with a child’s game at all, but the words seemed so fitting in the case of the game the kids were obviously playing. The barrels must have either had something in them, or been pretty heavy in their own right, because it doesn’t appear that they wanted to roll around on the kids. Still, in my imagination, I could see them racing down the driveway to see who would get to the finish line first. It doesn’t really matter what they were doing with the barrels, because it is obvious that they thought being up on them was great fun. If they looked back now, they would probably wonder how such an inanimate object, with no moving parts and no flashing lights, could possibly have held their interest, but you must understand that their childhood was a time of no computers, cell phones, or video games…at least for a few more years, so they used their imaginations to have fun.
The same applies to the game “King of the Hill”, which was of course to see who could dominate the hill and keep everyone else from being able to get up it. Of course, I don’t think that is exactly what my Aunt Laura and her friend were playing either, but it did, nevertheless appear that Aunt Laura had managed to acquire the taller of the two little hills, thus making her the King…so to speak. Whatever the game was that the girls were playing, the two little hills figured into it enough to make my grandmother want to take their picture as a memory of the occasion. Here again, the girls had used the things available to them to make for a day of fun. Kids used to be able to do that. Without video games and texting, and with parents who didn’t let them watch television all day, or without television at all, the imagination was the way to have fun. It really seems to be a lost art today. Kids don’t used their imaginations much these days, because all the stuff in their head is fed in electronically. That’s really quite sad, when you think about it.