My brother Mike steps in here to share some thoughts on that long ago time that is still with us - the time of the death of John Kennedy which comes up now for its 50th anniversary. I was home from school, sick, up stairs, when it happened on November 22, 1963. As I recall, yes, it was as my parents were at Zayres on the following Sunday morning that Oswald was shot. Back at home we heard that news on NBC Monitor radio reports. - J.V.
On November 24th my parents went off to Zayre’s , then a dime-store chain a notch above Woolworth’s, to shop for black crepe. Word came from the television department that Lee Harvey Oswald had been shot making him the first man in history to be murdered on live television. I always imagine my parents walking past a long row of television sets, the same guy getting shot over and over on each TV set. But I’m just making this up like I’m directing my own MTV video in my head. They were there in the store but it didn’t happen that way.
It’s an irrefutable truth that John Kennedy was murdered that day in November 1963. But a lot of people don’t agree on who killed him. According to Gallup in 2001, 13% of Americans believed that Oswald acted alone while 81% believed “others involved, ” up from 52% in 1963, alongside the same number, 81%, in 1976 when the HSCA (House Select Committee on Assassinations) concluded that Kennedy was probably killed as a result of a conspiracy. For this 81%, the identity of the killers would be an unknowable truth.
Many years after 1963, I asked my father if he thought that Kennedy’s election had raised Irish and Catholics out of a then permanent second class status. He didn’t know what I was talking about. So I might have been earlier expressing a hypothesis that was a pure invention of my head, totally made up.
I don’t remember seeing black crepe thumb-tacked to the front door of the house so that could be all made up, too.
I recently stumbled upon a crumpled beige paper bag in a rarely-visited dresser in what had been my parents’ bedroom. I had noticed the bag before but never bothered with it. It had something clumpy inside that seemed like paper or fabric. I flipped the bag over and saw the old logo for Zayre’s. A cash receipt for 99 cents was taped to the bag. A close look at the tag rendered the date “10-24-63.” I opened the bag and pulled out a carefully folded pile of black crepe. There it was before me: silent, enigmatic, irrefutable truth. And we had held onto it for 50 years. - Michael Vaughan