Where I was when I heard
Friday 22nd November 1963 was a momentous day. I used to drive to Movietone’s offices at Denham and back home every day, a round trip of some fifty miles. Earlier this year, I had begun giving a lift to the “Cutting Room Boy”, one Bob Hawkins, who lived in Brigadier Hill in Enfield, so it was convenient.
As often happens, it was not always convenient when he was late at our pick-up rendezvous or when he had to work a bit late and I was free to go home. But it was good to have company in the car on the journey to and from the office.
On this day, we left Denham at about 5.45pm and made our way through Harefield to Upper Norwood and into Hatch End. As was my custom, at 6pm, I put on the car radio for the news. The stunning announcement was that President Kennedy had been fired upon in Dallas. The news must have travelled fast, because he had only been fired on a few minutes before six Greenwich Mean Time.
As we drove along our usual route, there were updates on the news. He had definitely been hit as had Governor Connally, and the column had raced to the hospital, the Parkland Memorial Hospital.
As we got close to home, it was obvious that Kennedy and Connally had both been seriously injured.
Stories that emerged immediately after the shooting concerning the conditions of the President were proved to be bogus.
For what reason they persisted with these stories I do not know. The facts, as we know them now, were that Kennedy was killed instantly, and yet we had stories of blood transfusions, heart massage and other emergency procedures. He was dead before he got anywhere near the hospital.
It took quite some time before the death of John F. Kennedy was announced.
Four days later, he was buried in Arlington Cemetery.
A few weeks the affair, the management team at UPIN were all presented with a book, called “Four Days” that had been written and published by UPI in co-operation with American Heritage Magazine. This book which is a complete record of all the events of the four days between the assassination and the burial. It had been compiled in four days, which is something of a miracle.
I still have the book and it is interesting to see the version of events that are included in the narrative that are now known to be untrue. They talk about witnesses saying there were three “bursts” of fire, when we now know there were three “shots”; they we said to have come from an automatic weapon, but later we were told that they were from a single bolt-action rifle. At the time, we were told of the work being done in the hospital when, later it emerged that, Kennedy was dead before he got to the hospital.
There was a sadness around the western world, not that everyone liked him, but because of his comparative youth, he represented a promising future, a peaceful future.
My travelling companion, Bob Hawkins, went on the be a camera assistant with Movietonews. He then emigrated to Australia where he joined Australian Movietonews and became a notable cameraman. I’ll bet he has never forgotten that night.
Main photo by tellmewhat2
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