Dawn of 1964 had a melancholy feeling and a message

“Christmas and New Year’s Eve, 50 years ago, was one of mixed emotions in the wake of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination on Nov. 22, 1963,” writes Tom Hintgen in the The Fergus Falls Daily Journal in Minnesota. “Still, Americans looked forward to ushering in the new year of 1964.”

“During the holidays in 1963 there were no video games, no CDs and no games to be played on a personal computer. But there were train sets, footballs and Schwinn bicycles, given as Christmas gifts. Kids in 1963 also longed for pogo sticks and even a few hula hoops left over from the Eisenhower years of the 1950s.”

“Your year has been a most eventful one,” wrote Superintendent L.E. Wermager in the [Fergus Falls] high school annual. “The assassination of a president, which you have before only read about as an impersonal happening, has suddenly become a realized life experience for you.”

“Wermager went on to say that, in tribute to JFK, students at Fergus Falls High School should “look deeper and more discerningly into the why and how of life. It also sharpens our understanding so that true values can be seen more clearly.”

4 comments

  1. Tom Huston says:

    Never did get my new Schwinn bike I wanted so badly as an eleven year old that Christmas. We were living in Washburn North Dakota at the time which just happens to be Clint Hill’s hometown as well. In fact he was a classmate of my uncle’s at Washburn High School so our little town in the priarie had a direct connection with one of ours in Dallas that day. Melancholy is a very good description of the mood of our country that Holiday Season. Somehow you sensed that things would be very different with Lyndon Johnson as our president and indeed they were.

  2. Jonathan says:

    Early 1964 was a good time for me personally. I had finished my first semester and had 6 hours of analytic geometry, 4 hours of chemistry, 3 hours of rhetoric, and 1 hour each of P.E. and ROTC under my belt. I was off on an adventure in learning. In addition, I morphed from a pledge to an active in my fraternity. So things were looking up. The girls were pretty; the food and the music were great.

    But the Warren Report was coming, and there was no doubt as to its conclusions. The FBI had pronounced guilt and “case closed” very quickly after the assassination. It was clear Earl Warren and gang weren’t going to gainsay the FBI, even though there were many, many Americans who felt there must have been a conspiracy. Ruby’s murder of Oswald was too neat of a bow on the package.

    Viet Nam was a ways off. LBJ wasn’t going to up the ante there until after the 1964 elections.

    It was a pretty good time to be 18 and in college. Except for one thing. The innocence represented by all those sock hops in high school had been ripped away, in plain view.

  3. Ronnie Wayne says:

    We came home to Texas from Denver that Christmas. Stayed at my grandparents house in Irving. I turned seven a few weeks before 11/22. I remember the teacher crying, watching the funeral with my parents, and nothing but news on for four days. No Saturday morning cartoons. When we got back to Denver Santa had left me a train track set up and ready to go. I didn’t hear or read much more about the assassination until the late 70′s.

  4. Michael Mangum says:

    I was an 8 years old, 3rd grade student when Kennedy was assassinated in ’63, and it sparked my interest in national & world affairs, even at that young age and forced everyone into a new reality. I also remember the teachers crying and school closing that early Friday afternoon. And, personally, I remember getting my first set of junior encyclopedias on Christmas Day, 1963 and as an 8 year old kid, sadly shaking my head because the the publication still displayed President John F. Kennedy as the present 35th President of the United States.

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