Mountain Musings


Song For A Friend


As you may or may not know, Monday, Nov. 22 was the 48th anniversary of that tragic day when President Kennedy was killed by an assassin in Dallas, Texas.


It seems like just yesterday. I was out on the basketball court, playing basketball during my PE class at Tustin High School, when that awful news came over the PA system that President Kennedy (JFK) had been shot while visiting Dallas.


We all rushed back to our classrooms, in my case Mrs. Lee’s junior English class, to await any further announcements. In the meantime, Mrs. Lee led us in a silent prayer. This was the first time ever that we prayed at school.


Unfortunately, our prayers were not answered as, several hours later, Walter Cronkite announced on a CBS news update that the president had passed away at Parkland General Hospital in Dallas.


“When you sit and wonder where our friend has gone and search within the heart of every young man and wonder why things have gone so wrong, it’s then we’ll know where our friend has gone.” (“Song For A Friend” – The Kingston Trio, featuring John Stewart – 1963)


In Tustin, it was a somber November afternoon, with dark clouds and a chill in the air when Kennedy’s funeral was on TV.


“And I know I’ll remember when a chill wind takes the sky and speak of years, he gave us hope, they will never die. As we gaze at brave young men when yesterdays grow long, then I think we’ll know where our friend has gone.”


Earlier that year, my parents had gotten me released two weeks before the end of the school year in early June to go on a family six-week tour of 11 Western European countries.


While we were in London, Kennedy, who was on his way to witness the new Pope’s inauguration at the Vatican in Rome, had stopped to lay a wreath at the tomb of England’s Unknown Soldier and we had just missed this event and seeing Kennedy by about an hour.


However, we caught up with him in Rome a few days later when I was at the Spanish Steps and was lucky enough to chase after JFK’s limo and was actually able to shake his hand. What a thrill that was for this 17-year-old kid from the U.S.


Back home in Tustin, I got an invitation from the two teenage girls that rode on the tour bus with us from one country to the next to visit them in Dallas. Just a month after the assassination, just before the Christmas holiday season, I went to Dallas. Genie drove us to downtown Dallas, where we went to Dealey Plaza, near the grassy knoll and looked up at the very window where Lee Harvey Oswald (allegedly) shot JFK. What an eerie feeling that was!


“Summer takes the winter as the good years take the pain there’ll be laughter in the land again, but hearts won’t be the same.”


Keep it flyin’, Uncle Mott