I had shook hands with President Kennedy during his campaign 3 years before.
It’s almost as though I knew him. Like he was a friend. There was much talk about president Kennedy not just at my house, but the whole world was obsessed with Camelot. So when he was assassinated, it was truly quite an upsetting moment in my life; in all of our lives. I had returned home from New York city where I had spent my 16th year and I was back at Woodbury high School a year behind. I was a Junior , not a senior. I also had to make up some sophomore classes, so I was buSy. But I was popular especially since I had lived in the city and this was important.
On this morning I was in biology class in a lab dissecting a frog with my lab mate Cynthia Swainback. We were always getting in trouble. She paid less attention to details than I did , so we had no fucking idea how to fillet this frog. Also, Cynthia had this habit of unbuttoning her shirt while we were in lab, so I would stare at her breasts. I had a nice girl friend so I tried not to react to her. But she was funny and would always brush against me. She’d say things like, ” if you can unbutton my blouse with that ruler, I’ll let you do what you want to me. Being dexterous I would always have her top off in about 30 seconds. Her friends thought this was fun and everybody thought were were really fucking crazy. The teacher Mr Wheaton would say things like;” Miss Swainback, would you please keep your clothes on in lab, what if we have a fire drill”. and” Mr Scott can’t you wait til after school for your escapades?”
Well, no I couldn’t , I had to work and I had a girl friend . So the thing with Cynthia was flirting only….sort of. She also had the shortest skirt at school and was routinely sent home for a wardrobe change. Actually, all of the girls were. It was 1963. Below is a list of the top 100 pop hits . Music was exploding. Motown, folk, surf music, little Stevie wonder, the Ronettes, Bob Dylan and the Beatles “I want to hold your Hand had just broke big in America.
1. Yakety Sax – Boots Randolf 2. Louie Louie – The Kingsmen 3. Up On The Roof – Drifters
4. It’s My Party – Leslie Gore 5. South Street – Orlons 6. The End Of The World – Skeeter Davis
7. Pride and Joy – Marvin Gaye 8. Surfin U.S.A. – Beach Boys 9. Heat Wave – Martha and the Vandellas
10. Walk Like A Man – Four Seasons 11. My Boyfriend’s Back – the Angels 12. Mickey’s Monkey – the Miracles
13. Remember Then – Earls 14. Little Duece Coupe – Beach Boys 15. Wildwood Days – Bobby Rydell
16. Another Saturday Night – Sam Cooke 17. Da Doo Ron Ron (When He Walked Me Home) – Crystals
18. If You Wanna Be Happy – Jimmy Soul 19. Surfer Girl – Beach Boys 20. On Broadway – the Drifters
21. Denise – Randy and the Rainbows 22. You Can’t Sit Down – Dovells 23. Busted – Ray Charles
24. Be True To Your School – Beach Boys 25. So Much In Love – the Tymes 26. Surf City – Jan and Dean
27. Tell Him – The Exciters 28. Our Day Will Come – Ruby & the Romantics
29. Walking The Dog – Rufus Thomas 30. Be My Baby – Ronettes 1. Monkey Time – Major Lance
32. Then He Kissed Me – Crystals 33. Hey Paula – Paul and Paula 34. Sukiyaki – Kyu Sakamoto
35. He’s So Fine – Chiffons 36. You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me – The Miracles
37. I Will Follow Him – Little Peggy March 38. Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days of Summer – Nat “King” Cole
39. Ring Of Fire – Johnny Cash 40. Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport – Rolf harris 41. Let’s Stomp – Bobby Comstock
42. Blue Bayou – Roy Orbison 43. Sugar Shack – Jimmy Gilmor & The Fireballs 44. In My Room – Beach Boys
45. (Down At) Papa Joe’s – The Dixiebelles 46. The Good Life – Tony Bennett 47. Two Lovers – Mary Wells
48. Mockingbird – Charles and Inez Foxx 49. One Fine day – The Chiffons 50. Have You Heard – The Duprees
51. I Adore Him – The Angels 52. We Shall Overcome – Joan Baez 53. Baby Workout – Jackie Wilson
54. Mr. Bass Man – Johnny Cymbol
55. Just One Look – Doris Troy 56. Shut Down – Beach Boys 57. Memphis – Lonnie Mack
58. Bossa Nova baby – Elvis Presley 59. Don’t Say Goodnight and Mean Goodbye – The Shirelles
60. Marlene – The Four Seasons 61. Judy’s Turn To Cry – Leslie Gore 62. Hot Pastromi – The Dartells
63. Boss Guitar – Duane Eddy 64. Make The World Go Away – Timi Yuro 65. Days of Wine and Roses – Henry Mancini
66. Danke Shoen – Wayne Newton 67. Days of Wine and Roses – Andy Williams 68. More – Vic Dana (or Kai Winding)
69. I (Who Have Nothing) – Ben E. King 70. Workout Stevie, Workout – Little Stevie Wonder
71. Martian Hop – Ran-Dells 72. Come and Get These Memories – Martha and the Vandellas
73. Surfer Joe – The Surfaris 74. (Today I Met) The Boy I’m Gonna Marry – Darlene Love
75. Little Latin Lupe Lu – The Righteous Brothers
At around 11″00 am At Mr. Wheaton came in and announced : ” May I have your attention please. This is out of the ordinary and has nothing to do with biology class, but Mr. Lovecraft the principal has asked all of the teachers to tell you That the president of the United States, John Fitzgerald Kennedy has been shot in Dallas Texas. We felt it was important to tell you this. It is a grave situation. We will keep you informed. But for now class is canceled. Would you please put your lab equipment away.”
What.? He left the room and a few minutes later came back in and announced. ” It has been announced on CBS news on Television that the president is dead. I saw it my self on TV. Class and Schoo lis cancelled. You can go home. Busses will be arriving soon to take you. We have called your parents. Those of you with cars should go home.”
What the hell did he say ?? I asked. I was bewildered. I looked over Cynthia, Betsy Cushman and another girl were sobbing. I walked out in the halls people were in shock. Some were laughing others crying…..hysteria was beginning to take over the school. Mr Lovecraft came over to some of us and said” try to calm down.” What? I’m calm. He said no you;re laughing hysterically…sit down for a minute” ( I was coming apart right then and there. As I walked through the halls everyone was crying, teachers, students, secretaries…………I’d never seen such a show of emotion…..it just wasn’t done. My best friend Richard came over to me and said ” This calls for a drink.” Oh Christ I said. You are right. But I really didn’t drink much. Cynthia over heard him and said can I come with you. I said sure and we all walked out of school jumped into my 1963 Ford Farlane, went to my house, got a bottle of Bells 12 year Scotch 3 glasses , some ice and went and parked in a field and had a few drinks. Then we went home.
It was a horrible next three days. TV was blacked out., Only the Kennedy news and his funeral was broadcast. I actually saw Lee Harvey Oswald shot on Live TV. TV was black and white and there were only 3 channels. Radio was blacked out. No music. It was worse than the days following 911. My girlfriend Andy Warren lived across the field from my house, but her parents wouldn’t let us see each other during the days of mourning. To make matters worse ,my fathers brother had a heart attack and died in the middle of all this.This was definitely the day the dream died. November 22, 1963.
After November, the Beatles became enormous and it was a wild American swing back. Nothing seemed to make sense anymore. I spent most days with Andy after school. Both of our grades began to fall. Both parents tried to talk to us about Kennedy’s death. We had friends who were already in Vietnam. They were coming back to high school in uniforms talking about this far off place in Indo China. Where? A place where Buddhist monks poured gasoline over themselves. By the time spring had come, I was breaking down. I bought a new Ducati motor cycle I planned on killing my self with it…… just like my hero T E Lawrence or Peter o’toole ( Lawrence of Arabia) In fact 4 of my friends died that summer in drunk driving car wrecks.
I started drinking more. But alcohol did not agree with me. Andy and I had broken up in June. My family life was a disaster. I started seeing a shrink in the summer of 1964, but I was depressed and lost. I went to the Forum School where I rested and studied, but when the autumn came I was totally out of control. By December I was admitted to the New Town State mental hospital witb a complete nervous break down and acute alcoholism. I was just 18 years old. President Johnson had announced an increase of troops to SE Asia. I was so fucked.