Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Where Was I 60 Years Ago Today at 11 a.m. PST?

 The short answer is:  In the cafeteria at San Diego State University eating lunch.

I had just gotten out of my 9:30 a.m. to 10:50 a.m. class (math, engineering, economics? I don't remember).  I had another class starting at 1 p.m. and needed to eat lunch, watch girls, and study.

I no sooner sat down with my sack lunch (bologna sandwich, apple, cookies?) and the announcement came over the public address system that President Kennedy had been shot in Dallas, and was taken to the hospital.  Shortly thereafter came the news that he had died.

Another announcement said that classes for the rest of the day were cancelled.  I had finished eating, so I went out to the bus stop and took the S bus down to El Cajon Boulevard, then the E bus west to 30th Street, and the 2 bus south to Ivy Street and walked across the street to my home at 2119 30th Street.  It usually took an hour to get home.  The buses were crowded.

When I charged up the stairs and opened the front door, my father was there standing by his desk (he worked at home several days a week as a Prudential insurance agent) and he said "Randy, this is a terrible thing."  It looked like he was profoundly sad.  I don't remember if my mother was home, or if she said anything to me when I got home; I'm sure she was at home and was probably in the kitchen or out in the yard staying away from my father.

On 22 November 1963, I was a 20-year old college student majoring in engineering, with an intense interest in world affairs, politics, history, geography, football and girls.  I had graduated from San Diego High School (a well-integrated high school) with Honors in 1961, had worked for the San Diego Chargers during the summer of 1963 as a camp boy (my first real "paying" job), and was in my junior year of college.

President Kennedy had visited San Diego in June 1963, and I had been in the throng along El Cajon Boulevard when his motorcade passed by on the way to his commencement address at San Diego State.

I liked President Kennedy, mainly because my father didn't.  Even so, I considered myself a Republican because I agreed with the economic, domestic and foreign policies of the party, and especially liked the civil rights aspect of the Republicans in the U.S. Senate.  Kennedy's policies were close to my views, although I thought that the 1961 Cuban adventure was a big mistake and the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis was solved fairly well.  I believed in civil rights for all people, and was aghast at what happened in the South to peaceful protesters and demonstrators. In the past months, President Kennedy had stood up for civil rights for African-Americans. I hoped that things would be better for minorities in the USA.

While I was a quiet believer in civil rights, my father was not.  He was prejudiced, like many persons at this time.  Not just against black people, no, he was an equal opportunity bigot - against Mexicans, Catholics, Italians, lazy people, wealthy people, communists, you name it...against everybody but hard-working white English-speaking people.  Both of my parents voted for Republicans for President throughout their lives.

That's why I was shocked when he said what he said when I got home - I found out that my father actually had a heart and understood what this major historical event meant to our country and the world.  Over time, his views changed a bit as he met, liked and respected more African-Americans (football and music really helped).

Over the next days, through the killing of Oswald, to the funeral for President Kennedy, we were all glued to the television set in the living room.  We watched it all - there was nothing to do; the Chargers AFL game was delayed a week on Sunday.  The San Diego Union newspaper front page for Saturday, 23 November 1963 said it all:

I still have this newspaper, wrapped in plastic, somewhere in my boxes of family stuff.

Over the ensuing years, I followed the Warren Commission investigation, read all of the early conspiracy books, and gradually came to the conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald was the person who fired the shots.  But was he a lone assassin?  Was he a patsy for another group?

The evidence is pretty clear for me 50 years later, and is summed up in a Power Line article that reprints Edward Jay Epstein's 1983 Wall Street Journal article concerning the evidence known about Lee Harvey Oswald.  I think that Oswald did it by himself, acting to impress the Cubans and Soviets to give him a visa to travel to Havana and then Moscow and be hailed as a hero.


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