I was in the fifth grade at Neil Cummins School in Corte Madera, California. It was the mid-morning recess, and my friend Marty and I hadn’t gone outside like we were supposed to. Marty was combing his hair in the picture-tube reflection of a boxy Black &White TV on a cart, which happened to be in our classroom that day.
Just then our teacher Mrs. McKinney , a grey-haired lady with normally charming southern manners poise, charged into the classroom in a lather. She collared Marty, through him to the floor, and switched on the TV. The TV took several minutes to warm-up. In the meantime, we protested Marty’s treatment. We thought our teacher was over reacting to our minor transgression. Mrs. McKinney turned and said, “Shut up, you two!” I’d seen our teacher’s wrath before, but I had never seen her loose emotional control like that. Then the TV came on and we learned the awful news. The President had been shot. We were dumbstruck.
All the fourth, fifth and sixth grader were told to go the Lunch Yard. It was about 10:30 A.M. Pacific Standard Time. We sat there quietly without supervision, while the principal and teachers decided what to do. I remember a chubby redheaded kid named Peter had thought to grab his lunchbox on his way out to the picnic tables. As time went on, we were all getting hungry. Peter tried to sneak a bite of his sandwich, and I remember some of the girls exclaiming, “Peter, how can you eat at time like this?”
The teachers and principal learned that JFK had died in the hospital about 11 A.M. our time. The doctors could not save him. We were not told. It was decided to send us home. I walked home by the sloughs and up Palm Hill to 17 Blue Rock Court. At home I learned from my distressed mother that the President was dead.
Our little portable TV was on almost all the time that weekend. That was unusual in our household. Mom had a one hour a day TV policy. The TV was turned off when we went to church on Sunday.
There was a big turnout that Sunday. The ushers asked me to help them, a big deal for this 11, not quite 12, year old kid. The Pastor came into the back of the church and was telling the adult ushers something. I overheard. When I was escorting two grey-haired little old ladies, in hats, gloves and their Sunday best, to their seats, they whispered to me, “What was the Pastor telling those men?” I told them the news that the man they thought killed the President Kennedy had been shot. I was surprised to see the look of anguish on their faces. But they knew what I was not yet old enough to understand.