The JFK assassination: A Child’s Eye View… Friday, November 22, 1963. I was 11 years old, in grade 7. It was a typical late fall school day, chilly and gray, in my hometown of Georgetown, Ontario. Our teacher, Mrs. Evans, whom everyone called Beaky, read to us from the Bible, lengthy segments as she did every morning, while her class full of budding pubescents writhed and chafed.

I returned home for lunch as usual, then hurried back to the playground of Chapel Public School, where we would play games before afternoon classes began at 1:30 pm.

At the 1:30 bell, we trooped reluctantly into the classroom, hung up our coats, and scraped our seats into position behind the assigned wooden desk, being careful not to knock over the brimming inkwell that occupied a round hole in the right hand corner of our personal writing space. But before Beaky could begin the lesson, a strangely sinister stir and hum arose from the corridor; teachers and staff began banging on classroom doors, ashen faced and tearful.

“The president has been shot,” the voices hissed.

The adults who educated and oppressed us were in a state of anguish and panic that we had never witnessed before.

“Return home to your families,” they ordered, liberating us from their vice-like grip.

My best friend at the time, Peter Francis, was as pudgy as I, and hence in the same category of public school reject. Peter and I were inseparable. When suddenly released from the shackles of Friday afternoon classes, we hurried downtown, flouting the solemn orders of the staff. Both of us loved to skulk along main street and cackle wildly whenever we crossed paths with people we deemed misshapen or “weird,” i.e. wearing inappropriate clothing or strange headgear.

But at 2 pm on November 22, 1963, the main street of our little town was populated by distraught spectators, sobbing and embracing, speechless or communicating in cries or whispers.

Hustling back to my humble family abode on Elizabeth Street, I entered just in time to hear my mother keening as she peered at the images on our decrepit, rabbit-eared, sporadically flickering tv set; then I stood by the door and watched CBS newsman, Walter Cronkite, announce that JKF was dead. It was about 2:40 pm.

From Dallas, Texas, the flash apparently official, President Kennedy died at 1 p.m. Central Standard Time – 2 o’clock Eastern Standard Time – some 38 minutes ago.”

Cronkite removed his thick spectacles and wiped his eyes. He could barely speak.

The next few days crawled by in a haze of grief, no less poignant for being vicarious.

The tv news was constantly on at our home throughout those unforgettable November days and evenings.

On Sunday, November 24, my parents received their friends Joe and Velma Glesta for lunch. Mr. Glesta was normally a guffawing extrovert, but on this day he was red-eyed and sedate, as were the other three adults.

My parents and their guests huddled in front of the tv set just before the mid-day meal was to be served.

Mesmerized, I watched with them at the very instant that the accused assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, was being trundled through the police station basement by a phalanx of men in Stetsons, when another be-hatted individual, who turned out to be Jack Ruby, emerged from the scrum and shot Oswald at point blank range, a murder broadcast live and in black and white.

For me, life is an unsettling form of punctuated equilibrium, as momentous events on a personal or a more global scale erupt and shatter, overturn and remake. The assassination of John F. Kennedy was one such event, an injection of corrosive, unsettling anxiety that has fermented and intensified for 60 years since.

Robert McBryde Author: history, art, poetry, CBC radio, literary non-fiction, vignettes and sketches, immigrant experience, living in Quebec and in France, childhood and animal stories, creative memoirs, satire, autobiography, family relations, raising children, aging, travel, social commentary, love and marriage, driving lessons, self-deprecation, Dijon France, condiments, translation: English-French; French-English

Publisher’s Note: Funny, manic, and wistful… self-deprecating creative nonfiction…The author, Robert McBryde, a professional translator, has been compared to David Sedaris for the sometimes-snarky autobiographical satire characterizing his literary sketches. Many of the stories in his new book, titled My Time with You Has Been Short but Very Funny, have been featured on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation radio network.

Author Robert McBryde

Author’s Note:
I’ve written a new book of creative non-fiction titled My Time with You Has Been Short but Very Funny, recently published and now on the market. The book is based on stories that I told over the years as a writer/ broadcaster and host on CBC radio based in Quebec City, Canada.

The book is available via my website. The purchase links are at the bottom of the home page. 

I will post two blogs per week, normally Wednesday and Friday afternoons at around 4:30 p.m. (Eastern Time). Stay tuned!

Today I am posting an excerpt from a new book I’m cooking up, titled It’s All in the Condiments.