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50 Years Later

Fillmore at Locust
Fillmore at Locust

LAKE MACBRIDE— The school crossing guard at Fillmore and Locust told me President Kennedy had been shot on my way back to school. I don’t recall walking the last block, but  upon arriving at the sixth grade classroom, our teacher pulled down the window shades while we waited for news.

In the fifty years since, this memory persisted, with immediacy, and its uncertainty. I’m still don’t understand what it meant or what it means.

The crossing occurred three blocks from where I was born, a block and a half from where my mother had just served lunch, and a couple of hundred feet from the Catholic church where my parents wed, my grandmother had worked, and where I was baptized, confirmed and attended my father’s funeral. A couple of hundred feet ahead was the duplex where as a toddler I visited my maternal grandmother. That neighborhood was at the core of who I was.

I don’t recall much from the rest of sixth grade, after which we attended school in the new building, and experienced the first of many renderings. I was placed in a classroom with the group of kids who were bound for college, and separated from most of my neighborhood friends. In high school we were rent further as the boys were separated from the girls. After high school, we belonged to the world, and college, and I left not knowing I was also leaving Davenport for good. None of it had anything to do with the Kennedy assassination, and I’ve known that all along.

50 years later I attended an event in the county seat where a local author, the owner of an independent bookstore, one of my graduate school professors and someone else spoke about the day Kennedy died. Familiar icons were mentioned, and the bookstore had a table full of JFK books for sale outside the room. That hour provoked this post, and that seems okay. Because without the noon event, I would not likely have thought of President Kennedy at all today, as I had long ago moved on, almost forgetting how simple life was then.