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Front Page » November 24, 2010 » Opinion » The blackest Friday I can ever remember
Published 1,244 days ago

The blackest Friday I can ever remember


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By RICHARD SHAW
Sun Advocate publisher

Each year they call the Friday after Thanksgiving Black Friday. It has something to do with blacking prices out and repricing articles for sale in stores. People love this, but for me it's an odd term. The blackest Friday I ever knew was not about sales, but about death.

On Nov. 22, 1963 I was walking into the lunch room at Grant Elementary School in Murray. I was in sixth grade and life was good. That Friday was the Friday before Thanksgiving which was always a big event at our house as relatives would come by and delight in my mom's wonderful cooking.

As I walked past a group of my friends, one of them stopped me and said, "Rick, did you hear about the President getting shot?' he asked. I stood there and thought for a moment, still a little kid, but one approaching adulthood quickly.

I imagine John Kennedy out pheasant hunting and that he had been shot accidentally while doing that. Funny that should come to mind at the time and that I remember that first reaction, because my dad's farm was just a couple of blocks away on the other side of the road from the school and the last two weeks had seen many pheasant hunters out in our fields. That was all I really had to relate a shooting to. I couldn't imagine that someone would shoot the President on purpose.

But it was on purpose as we soon tragically learned. The only television the school was one of those 25 inch RCA black and white TVs that were on the high cart so they could move it from room to room for programs that came from the educational television station. It happened to be in Mrs. Lindsey's fourth grade classroom that day, so many of us crammed ourselves into that small space to watch what was going on.

While I have seen it replayed many times, I will never forget Walter Chronkite's face that day when he took off his glasses and said, "President Kennedy died at 1 p.m. Central Standard Time, some 38 minutes ago."

It was a complete shock. I saw teachers in the school break into tears, and fear filled the faces of all the adults in the building. They mumbled things about conspiracy and goverment stability. At that age I didn't understand what an assassination could do to a country.

School was dismissed early that day and when I got home my mother was white and my dad, uncharacteristically, was seated in the living room in front of the television in the middle of the afternoon with tears in his eyes.

A lifelong Republican, conservative, my dad didn't like John Kennedy, but this was different. No one, except for some crazy people, wanted this.

The state funeral was on the next Monday, but for the first time in the history of television, almost no other programming was on network television for the entire time. And it was all in glorious black and white, which made it even more macabre.

I remember the dull feeling I had in my stomach, like I had the flu the whole time. The television showed the caissons carrying the coffin, headed up by black horses. Then there was John-John, saluting his dad.

The next Thursday was Thanksgiving and despite the burial and the swearing in of a new President, life was unsettled. None of us said much at the dinner table that day.

No blacker Friday have I ever known.

Nor to I wish to know one.

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