Letter: Seems Like It Just Happened

To the Editor:

Friday, Nov. 22, 1963, was a typically overcast late fall day in the Upper Valley. I was a fifth-grader in the Hanover Elementary School, then located on Lebanon Street in downtown Hanover. It was early afternoon, and we were between classroom activities. I fancied myself a rather accomplished mimic at doing John F. Kennedy impersonations based on Vaughn Meader’s popular The First Family record. To shore up what I perceived as a troubled relationship with my girlfriend, Sara Scottford, I was over by her desk trying to impress her with my Kennedy impersonations. As I was carrying on, I noticed that a girl who had been out for violin lessons had returned to the classroom with a very troubled look. At about the same time, our teacher, Mrs. Ruth Eaton, was called to the classroom door by the principal’s assistant for a brief but hushed conversation. Mrs. Eaton, very shaken, called the class to order, and I quickly took my seat. With great emotion, she told us that Kennedy had just been killed by an assassin in Texas, that school was dismissed, and that we should all go home and be with our families. Apparently a woman who lived across from the school had heard the news on the radio, and had immediately come across the street to tell Bernice A. Ray, the principal.

Outside, I could see that students, teachers and parents alike were dazed, confused and very upset. I walked to my father’s Main Street architectural office. Downtown Hanover seemed almost eerily quiet with people in a state of shock, grief and disbelief. Although my father and his assistant had a radio in their office, they had not had it turned on that afternoon, so they were unaware of what had happened until I told them. I then walked home, where my mother and maternal grandmother, visiting for Thanksgiving, were relaxing in the living room. They, too, had not heard the news.

Fifty years later, it still seems like it was just yesterday.

Frank J. “Jay” Barrett Jr.