Although that dull November Friday had been nothing unusual, I was quite pleased. Having started my new Saturday job helping the milkman that summer, I had extra money to spend.
With The Beatles LP
After school I had collected a new LP “With The Beatles” ordered from Hughes’s and I had a date with my new girlfriend Kay. We went to town on the bus to one of the better cinemas to see the new James Bond film “From Russia With Love”. At around 9:30 p.m. after the film we ran and caught the number 56 bus to Castle Bromwich. I remember that eerie journey well.
From Russia With Love
We noticed that traffic was unusually light and the streets were deserted. Getting off the bus at the Clock Garage we walked the empty streets to her house. We were kissing under her porch light when we almost fell inside, the door yanked open by Kay’s dad saying no more than “You had better get home quick son!”
Kennedy in Dallas
None the wiser I ran home. Mother hugged me red faced from crying and dad looked very solemn.
They recounted how mom had put my little brother Ian to bed and they had switched the TV on at 7:30 for Emergency Ward 10. Shortly after starting a news flash that President Kennedy had been assassinated was shown. The screen then went to the “Interlude” card. They switched over to the BBC which was also displaying the “Interlude” card. A few minutes of speculation ensued.
Dad wondered if JFK had been murdered by the Russians which prompted mom to worry that WW3 had already started - that’s why the TV has gone off. Dad hadn't gone out for his usual pint with his mates. At 11.00.p.m. we watched in silence the BBC tribute to President Kennedy which included tributes by Sir Alec Douglas-Home, Harold Wilson and Joe Grimmond. That night I went to bed not quite knowing if I would wake up in the morning.
The next day was strange.
On my milk round with Albert, the roads were still quiet. Many had not gone about their normal business but were just sitting at home awaiting news bulletins. Albert was pleased nearly everyone paid their milk bill that day. On getting home that afternoon, mom was enjoying the ITV wrestling, wincing, hiding her face and peering through her fingers at the wrestlers’ antics. The TV was full of reports of this disaster. The only bright spot for me was the new BBC science fiction series starting - Doctor Who, followed by the Telegoons, then a choice of Jukebox Jury or on ITV Thank You’re Lucky Stars.
The bar in our front room
That evening my parents had a pre-planned small party, a belated celebration of their wedding anniversary; just a few of their favourite friends enjoying a buffet with drinks from our new fully loaded bar, built by dad and me. The night was full of discussion about JFK and the uncertain future.
They reminisced how when Kennedy had been voted in at the age of 43, just a few years older than my dad, it seemed that a new age had dawned with a bright new future. John and his glamorous wife Jackie were always in the news.
We had seen the USA through the black & white TV series at the time, 77 Sunset Strip, Highway Patrol and at the movies in vivid colour; all so much more exciting than drab Britain. Then in ’62 Kennedy had, so it seemed single-handedly, faced up to the Soviets and prevented war. He was holding the Soviet expansion in Vietnam, promised equal civil rights and he had set course for a man to be sent to the moon!
My dad, who had been in the Pathfinder Squadron of the RAF in 1946 had flown to Russia several times was convinced that the Russians wanted peace at all costs. So there was a consensus of opinion that all would be well in the end, but a huge sense of sadness prevailed.
For a boy of 13 the night was full of interesting stories, laughter and sadness as I learned how my parents and their friends viewed the world. When they had all had copious amounts of drink, I introduced them to my new Beatles LP. That Sunday also proved shocking with the revelations that Oswald had been charged and then murdered by Ruby; more confusion, never to be satisfactorily explained.
Me in 1963