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- November 28, 1988
- Vol. 30
- No. 22
Where We Were
A portrait of America on November 22, 1963 during the last innocent hours before John F. Kennedy was murdered
As a people, we have not yet made up our mind about John Fitzgerald Kennedy, our President of a thousand days, but his prospects for reelection seem on the upswing. We were comfortable with Ike; now we sense an assurance in this forceful young President who stumbled so badly at the Bay of Pigs, then brought us through the sobering danger of the Cuban missile crisis. With his direct and vigorous speeches, he makes us feel that we are living in stirring times and that he is truly a leader, taking us on a path we might not have chosen for ourselves. "Let the word go forth from this time and place," he has told us, "that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans." And we believe him.
Today this man will be taken from us. We will learn, in the years to come, more than we ever wanted to know of his imperfection. Yet there is no denying what he has meant to us, and no reclaiming what we will lose.
What follows is a portrait of America on this day, in the hours before it takes on its historic meaning. It is a mosaic of American lives being lived unaware of impending tragedy—an album, if you will, filled with snapshots of a time beyond saving.
It is 5 A.M. and still dark in East Berlin, Conn., as 16-year-old Dick Benson's mother shakes him awake. Groggily, the boy tumbles out of bed, pulls on dungarees, a flannel shirt and battered work boots, then heads off through the morning chill on his Columbia bike. Bare bulbs gleam in the whitewashed barn at Shepard's farm, just a mile down the road; Ed Rhenberg, the herdsman, is already milking the 50-odd head of cattle. Dick joins in as soon as he arrives.
After three years of working part-time on the farm, Dick, who makes 60 cents an hour, has the operation down cold. He enjoys his time with the animals, as well as the chance to smoke his cigarettes, far from his mother's disapproving gaze. But today he has something—someone—on his mind; the beautiful Joyce Johnson, and she's his date for tonight's junior prom. Dick is in love, and aglow with anticipation.
It is only 6:45 A.M. when he finishes cleaning out the stalls and leaving some fresh Canadian hay for the cows. But Dick is already wondering how he's going to get everything done that he has to do. He has to find the time to wash and polish the family car—a white '61 Ford Falcon station wagon. He has to pop down to the florist's to get a wrist corsage for Joyce, then over to the jewelers to pick up a pair of cuff links for himself. Back home now, dressed for school in slacks, tab-collar shirt and sweater, he dashes into the kitchen and wolfs down his breakfast.
He listens impatiently, shifting from foot to foot, as his mother warns him to drive carefully. Then he is behind the wheel of the Falcon—actually driving it to school!—and the inessential world falls away. His mind is back on Joyce Johnson and the promise of enchantment held by the prom, whose theme will be An Evening in the Blue Grotto.
The President's personal secretary, Evelyn Lincoln, calls on John F. Kennedy in his suite in Fort Worth's Hotel Texas. She is meeting friends who have driven over from Dallas for breakfast and asks if the President would mind saying hello. In a cheerful mood, Kennedy agrees to do it—later that morning.
Waking up for what she knows will be the last time in her cherished four-poster bed, LoRaine Leland, 20, pulls the covers tightly around herself and slowly surveys the bedroom that has been her haven for as long as she can remember. She glances wistfully at bookshelves loaded with her childhood collection of stuffed animals and yearbooks from Robert E. Lee High School in Jacksonville, Fla. Then her eyes roam toward her closet, where her white, floor-length peau de soie wedding gown hangs on the door, along with a fingertip veil with seed pearls and crystals.
This evening, LoRaine will marry John Charles Davidson, 23, a rookie fireman, at the First Baptist Church of Jacksonville, Suddenly remembering all the things still left to be done, she bolts out of bed and prepares to deal with the half-packed suitcase she will carry on her honeymoon to South Florida. For months LoRaine has been planning what to take, including her blue plaid madras shorts, a pale-blue chiffon dress for fancy dinners, a white peignoir to wear to her bridal bed, and a bottle of Wind Song perfume. Everything seems under control, but LoRaine can't help worrying about the weather. If it rains, her bouffant hairdo—just like Jackie Kennedy's—will be an absolute mess. How come nothing like that ever happens to the First Lady?
In Chicago, novelist Saul Bellow is at home, writing, in the study of the apartment on East 55th Street that he shares with his wife, Susan, who is five months pregnant. He is feeding his Smith-Corona electric typewriter the cheap, white paper that he buys by the ream and enjoying the machine's busy chattering as he fingers the keys. Bellow, 48, is into the final stages of his sixth novel, Herzog, the tale of a twice-divorced intellectual—like the author himself—who can find nothing in Spinoza or Aristotle to help him understand what has gone wrong in his life.
Flying back to New York's Idlewild Airport from a business meeting in Dallas, former presidential candidate Richard Nixon, 50, is back in private life to stay, he says. Just last fall he was defeated by Edmund G. (Pat) Brown in his race for Governor of California and told the press bitterly afterward that they wouldn't have Nixon to kick around anymore. Former President Dwight Eisenhower, 73, in New York for a banquet this evening, has already checked into the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. At the Waldorf Towers next door, another veteran of the Oval Office, 89-year-old Herbert Hoover is resting in his apartment. Harry Truman, 79, is at home with wife Bess in Independence, Mo. In Washington, D.C., Congressman Gerald Ford, 50, is getting ready for a meeting with an educational counselor for one of his children. Jimmy Carter, 39, a Georgia State Senator, is weighing grain on his farm out in Plains. Actor Ronald Reagan, 52, is driving to his Lake Malibu ranch for the day. Texas oilman George Bush, 39, is preparing to speak at a luncheon in East Texas, still hoping he can win an uphill campaign for the U.S. Senate next fall.
Roger Little can't stop grinning as he regales the regular morning coffee crowd at the Williamston (Mich.) Cafe with the story of his hunting trip. Pulling out a copy of the daily Lansing State Journal, he tells his buddies to take a gander at the sports section. A story inside tells how Little, 26, a journeyman printer, bagged a 235-lb. nine-point buck, one of the the biggest deer shot all year in Michigan. Later, at work, he thinks about having a trophy made of the buck, now hanging from a tree at his parents' house, and relives the moment of the kill one more time. He had been planning to shoot the first deer he saw that day, but when he caught a doe in the sights of his Swedish Mauser rifle, he hesitated, missing his chance. He could hardly believe his good luck when a huge buck sauntered into view seconds later. Thinking about it now, Little can still feel his pulse quicken as he gently squeezes the trigger and holds the Mauser steady against the recoil.
Lee Harvey Oswald has arrived at the Irving home of co-worker Wesley Frazier, an order clerk at the Texas School Book Depository in Dallas. The two men sometimes ride to work together in Frazier's car, and today Frazier notices a long package that Oswald has placed on the back seat. Lee says it's curtain rods. The two men talk about the presidential visit; glancing up at the still cloudy skies, Frazier mentions that it sure doesn't look like a good day for a parade.
A chill fog shrouds the Caric and Sons Ranch in Delano, Calif., as Peter Velasco, 53, begins picking bunches of Almeria, Revere and Emperor grapes. Dressed in a heavy workshirt, with a bandana around his neck, Velasco longs in vain for a feeling of warmth. Like the 60 other workers on this job, most of whom are Filipino immigrants like himself, Velasco has a chronic case of the shivers. At night he sleeps in an unheated company barrack, and each morning the sun all too slowly breaks through the fog.
Eight years ago, Velasco quit a small farm he worked with his brother and headed north. He receives only 95 cents an hour for his labor, and three years ago, in 1960, he joined the organizing committee of the AFL-CIO's fledgling Agricultural Workers Union. Velasco hopes that John Kennedy, even though he is a rich man, will help improve conditions for poor migrant workers like himself. But in the meantime, Velasco enjoys the routine of his work. Listening to Mexican music on a small transistor radio, he picks only the bunches that have ripened, the ones with coffee-colored stems. In an hour Velasco hopes to have picked 44 pounds of grapes, enough to fill two large wooden crates. He moves methodically and quickly, knowing that the exertion of moving the crates will ease the cold in his fingers and toes.
Frazier and Oswald are arriving at the Book Depository. At about the same time, Kennedy and Lawrence O'Brien, his close friend and aide, are looking out a hotel window toward a vast parking lot. Kennedy remarks that if anyone wanted to get him, it would be very easy to do it here.
"Girls, today we will have a special treat," Sister Alice announces to her third-grade class at the Academy of the Holy Names in Tampa, Fla. "While we write our thank-you letters to the President, we are going to watch his motorcade in Dallas on television." Of the 25 girls present, 8-year-old Rosemary Weekley knows that she has the most to be thankful for. Four days before, Sister Alice had taken the class to nearby Mac-Dill Air Force Base to catch a quick glimpse of President Kennedy as he arrived on Air Force One for a briefing and a speaking tour in Florida. Rosemary waved excitedly as she watched the President emerge from the plane and climb into a waiting car. Then, as Secret Service agents scrambled after him, Kennedy impulsively leaped from the car to greet Sister Alice's class. Rosemary was the first one to shake his hand; she still can't believe it happened. Now she must find the right words to thank her hero for bringing such joy into her life, and she hopes that seeing him again on television will give her inspiration.
As Kennedy climbs onto a flatbed truck to speak to a crowd of about 5,000 gathered outside his hotel, the rain stops and the sun peeks through. There are shouts of "Where's Jackie?" The President smiles and points to his hotel suite, where the First Lady is reportedly still getting ready.
When President Kennedy challenged America's youth to make the world a better place, he struck a spark that brought Doug Frago to the tiny village of Rabinal in Guatemala. Normally on a day like today the 23-year-old Peace Corps volunteer would be teaching the farmers how to protect their crops from disease or showing them how to clean up their beehives as a way of increasing honey production. Growing up on a sweet-potato and watermelon farm in central California, Frago got hooked on bees when he was 10. And he always wanted to travel. Graduating from college with an agronomy degree, he was looking for a way to combine his work with his wanderlust. In President Kennedy's Peace Corps he found one.
Today he is eight kilometers from Rabinal, in the village of Cabulco, vaccinating dogs against rabies. Although the village is in the mountains, the temperature is close to 90°F. After a while, Doug and his two Guatemalan assistants take a break from the dogs—they will vaccinate 300 today—to advise a group of farmers. Later they will sit down to a lunch of tortillas, black beans and coffee.
The President finishes his speech and walks back toward the hotel for a Chamber of Commerce breakfast. Along the way he stops to shake the hand of 16-year-old Mary Ann Glicksman. Isn't she supposed to be in school? he asks. When she says yes, he smiles and says, "Tell your teacher the President of the United States says to excuse you."
The thought of having to handle dishes while wearing white gloves puts waiter Ossie Richie in a panic. "What if I drop something on the President?" he wonders. Mindful that it isn't often a sharecropper's son is chosen to serve breakfast to a President, Richie, 23, is determined to do the job right. But he knows that so much could go wrong.
Last night, for example, while working his regular job at Fort Worth's exclusive Town Club, Richie was so preoccupied with the President's visit that he absentmindedly locked a group of poker-playing bigwigs in a back room for 15 minutes. There will be hell to pay for that later. But now, after grooming and rehearsing all night, Richie is a picture of perfection. His black Sunday shoes have been spit-shined so you can see your face in them. His brand-new white shirt is gleaming. His tan waiter's waistcoat with its brass buttons is spotless.
Standing before the American flag, on a platform overlooking the hotel's packed banquet room, Richie clenches his fists to make sure his gloves are tight. He hears applause as President Kennedy enters with his wife. Then, to Richie's amazement, the President reaches out to shake his hand. Lightheaded with excitement, Richie pours the President a cup of coffee and serves him his eggs. As he bends over, though, Richie suddenly senses his suspenders are slipping. He considers reaching inside his jacket to make the needed adjustments, but a quick glance at the Secret Service men standing silently nearby tells him that wouldn't be a good idea. "They might think I'm reaching for a gun or something," he says to himself. "Bad things could happen to me real fast."
Mary Ann Fischer, mother of the celebrated Fischer quints, feels like a star. She and her husband, Andrew, are being driven through New York's hectic streets to tape the TV show I've Got a Secret—in the same limo that President Kennedy had used two weeks earlier. "My wife will never believe this," the excited driver is saying. "First, I have the President in my car, then the parents of quints. Unbelievable!" Mary Ann, 30, smiles at the celebrity treatment, but her thoughts wander back to the babies, already ten weeks old but still in the hospital back in Aberdeen, S.Dak. Although born two months prematurely, all are doing well—thank God for that. She hopes one will be home by Thanksgiving and that all ten of her kids will be together by Christmas. That would be something to celebrate.
Cheers go up at the Chamber of Commerce breakfast as Jackie arrives with her Secret Service escort. She is wearing a pink wool suit with navy-blue lapels, and a pink pillbox hat.
In the audience is Dr. Marion Brooks, a Fort Worth physician who is a leader in the black community. Dr. Brooks is a late addition to the gathering. Originally, the group had not included blacks but eventually invited 50.
By mid-morning, the Rev. Colin Gracey is at his desk in the Trinity Episcopal Church in Concord, Mass., working his way through the stack of mail that piled up during the week he was in jail. Gracey was arrested in Williamston, N.C., for taking part in a march against segregation, sponsored by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Two days ago, the 28-year-old clergyman drove all night long in his dilapidated 1953 blue Ford station wagon, arriving back in Concord at 7 A.M. He is happy to be home with his wife, Susan, and their three little girls. But he is also tired and preoccupied. His mind keeps drifting back to the previous evening, when he was summoned to a church meeting and questioned for nearly an hour about his reasons for participating in the freedom march. A number of church members had been upset by a photograph in the local paper that showed the new curate walking arm-in-arm with a black family. Staring out the window at the gray slate roof of his church, Gracey reflects on the fact that civil disobedience is hard for some people to understand. But he believes the President is committed to the cause of racial equality, and the young minister will not forsake his own commitment to activism. Instead he hopes to do a better job of explaining to his critics in this town, whose very name is synonymous with freedom, why he feels compelled to speak out against racial injustice.
The Kennedys are back in their suite preparing to leave for the flight to Dallas. The President telephones onetime Vice-President John Nance Garner in Uvalde, Texas, to congratulate him on his 95th birthday.
An eager young television correspondent, Dan Rather, 32, is CBS News bureau chief in New Orleans. He has been assigned to set up the network's coverage of the President's visit to Texas, and after working through the night, he had been given an urgent, unrelated request. The CBS Evening News, with its anchorman, Walter Cronkite, has recently been expanded from 15 minutes to a half hour, and the editors were concerned about not having enough material to fill out the broadcast. At the last minute they called Rather and asked him to cover John Garner's birthday. After flying at first light from Dallas to Garner's ranch in a small charter plane, Rather and his cameramen filmed an interview as Garner came out on his porch to greet Miss West Texas Wool and have his picture taken with her. As Rather looked on, the elder statesman, holding a glass of bourbon in one hand, reached over to pat Miss West Texas Wool on the backside with the other. Now, back in Dallas, Rather smiles as he remembers the scene.
At home in McLean, Va., with his wife, Ethel, Attorney General Bobby Kennedy, 38, has planned a working lunch with a Justice Department official. Ted Kennedy, 29, the junior Senator from Massachusetts, is presiding over the Senate, while his wife, Joan, 27, visits a beauty parlor in anticipation of their fifth-anniversary dinner that night. At the White House, preparations are under way for John-John Kennedy's third-birthday party on Monday, just three days from now, and Caroline's sixth on Nov. 27.
The Kennedy party departs for Dallas on Air Force One. Vice-President Lyndon Johnson and Texas Governor John Connally are aboard Air Force Two, already airborne. According to LBJ's executive assistant, Liz Carpenter, the talk on the Johnson plane is about the reception awaiting Kennedy in Dallas. Someone calls it "the most anti-everything city in Texas."
In Vietnam's central highlands Sgt. Jerry Sims, 33, rips open a box of C-Rations and practically inhales a can full of ham and lima beans. Mildly aware of his own body odor, ever present in the steamy jungle, Sims straightens his camouflage jungle fatigues and places his prized green beret on his head. Then he slings his M-16 rifle over his shoulder and turns a watchful eye toward 100 fiercely independent mountain tribesmen—Montagnards he has been assigned to train as an anti-Communist guerrilla force.
Despite the hardships of his duty, Sims, a high school dropout, considers himself a lucky man. Before he enlisted in the Army in 1946, he had been hanging out with a bad crowd in Youngstown, Ohio. Two of his old buddies were later convicted of murder; one was sent to the electric chair. But now, after 17 years of distinguished service in West Germany and Korea, Sims is an intelligence expert in the Army Special Forces. Like most of the 12,000 Army men currently in Vietnam on President Kennedy's orders, Sims is proud to help stop the spread of Communism in Southeast Asia. And as a Green Beret, he is a member of an elite corps of guerrilla fighters that Kennedy hopes will prove more effective than conventional forces.
Sims and his Montagnards settle down for a watchful night, with ambush patrols on the alert for Vietcong.
Mary Travers, 27, the husky-voiced blond centerpiece of Peter, Paul and Mary, the country's favorite folk trio, is sleeping in. Last night's concert in Fort Worth was another sweet success, and tonight's performance is about an hour's drive away in Dallas. Later, after breakfast, she and Paul get into their rental car. Peter and a friend are planning to follow in another car. President Kennedy will be in Dallas today, too, and Mary remembers the gala concert the group played for him almost two years ago. Afterward, during a party at Vice-President Lyndon Johnson's home, Jack Kennedy linked arms with Gene Kelly for a lively song-and-tap-dance version of "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling." Mary replays the fond memory in her mind as Paul guides the car onto the highway a little after 11:30 A.M. It is a sunny Texas day. The road is flat, and the riding is easy under a vast canopy of clearing blue sky. They are listening to the radio.
Touching down at Love Field the President is pleasantly surprised by the size and exuberance of the waiting crowd. He remarks that the throng doesn't look anti-Kennedy.
Ramona Lucero is a nervous wreck. She and four classmates are in the stage dressing room at Bernalillo (N.Mex.) High School, where Miss Rael the Spanish teacher, is showing them how to apply mascara. In a few hours, Ramona, 16, and the other girls will be performing in a talent show in front of 500 students, parents and teachers. The winner will be crowned homecoming queen on Saturday night at the big basketball game and dance. For Bernalillo (pop. 2,600), a small town on the Rio Grande with no movie theater or bowling alley, basketball is everything, and being elected homecoming queen would be the next thing to heaven.
Miss Rael is pouring on the hair spray, and the girls are coughing and laughing like crazy, but it doesn't make them any less nervous. Ramona is trying to feel confident, but she can't help worrying how her version of "Moon River" will sound compared with the acts of the other girls. She decides to concentrate instead on the clothes she'll be wearing—the $9 gold four-inch heels (her first pair) and the $18 yellow wool suit her mother bought at J.C. Penney's and hemmed a little below the knee, just like Jackie Kennedy's. After the contest, Ramona knows, the school band will lead a parade through the dirt streets of town. It will be really cool to be riding just ahead of the floats, in one of the convertibles the Albuquerque Chevy dealership has loaned the school for the big day. There will be a pep rally tonight and a bonfire, and tomorrow the big game and the dance.
After landing at Love Field the Kennedys climb into the open limousine for the motorcade through Dallas. Because he wants the crowd to see him, the President has decided to dispense with the limo's optional top.
The Beach Boys
They are hot on the charts and in concert, but this morning Brian Wilson, 21, Mike Love, 22, and Al Jardine, 21, of the Beach Boys are still zonked out in Wilson's rented Hawthorne, Calif., house. There is virtually no furniture in the place, and Love is asleep on the floor. He and Wilson were up most of the night, working on a song titled "Warmth of the Sun." Brian kept playing around with the melody, which was haunting and mystical, and all Mike could think of was "the loss of someone you love."
The Stars, Present and Future
Gary Hart, 26, a third-year student at Yale Law School, is in his New Haven, Conn., apartment preparing for an afternoon job interview with a Denver law firm. Bill Bradley, 20, the Princeton basketball star, is studying in his university library carrel. Folksinger Joan Baez, 22, is shopping for groceries in Carmel, Calif., American bandstand host Dick Clark, 33, has arrived in Dallas with a bus load of musicians for a one-night-only performance of his Caravan of Stars. In London, earlier in the day, a shaggy-haired group called the Beatles, who had recently returned from their first European tour, released their second album, With the Beatles. Their first U.S. single, "I Want to Hold Your Hand," is scheduled for release in January.
Kennedy halts the motorcade briefly to greet a group of children waiting at curbside. They stand behind a sign saying, "Mr. President, please stop and shake our hands." He does. Riding with her husband two cars behind the President, Lady Bird Johnson observes with pleasure that there is no indication of hostility.
Taking a breather during practice at the Redskins' stadium in Washington, D.C., wide receiver Bobby Mitchell, 28, wonders when his team will summon the will to win. The Redskins have lost seven straight National Football League games and look ragged now as they practice for Sunday's game against the Philadelphia Eagles. Still, Mitchell, the first black man to play with the Redskins, is happy to have quieted redneck fans with the brilliance of his play after joining the club the year before. His work off the field is going well too. A few months ago, after making several appearances with Attorney General Robert Kennedy in an effort to persuade young blacks to stay in school, Mitchell was invited to a formal gathering in the White House and was astounded when President Kennedy entered the room and immediately walked past several dignitaries to shake his hand. Nothing could ever compare to the pride he felt at that moment.
Right now, as he goes back on the field to run some pass routes, Mitchell has more mundane matters on his mind: His timing with quarterback Norm Snead is off just a hair. "With a perfect pass," he thinks to himself, "there is no way anyone can catch me."
The Dallas Trade Mart, where the President is to have lunch and make a speech, is electric with anticipation. There are presents for both of the President's children, including a big teddy bear for the birthday boy, John-John.
Waiting his turn at the helm of a flight simulator at a Boeing plant in Seattle, Ed Dwight, 30, sips his coffee in silence and listens as a dozen of his fellow astronaut-trainees banter among themselves. The first black accepted in the space program, Dwight feels like a pariah. Sure, some of the guys sidle up to him occasionally. He assumes they figure it might be to their advantage to stay on good terms with him, since President Kennedy has taken a personal interest in his career. But others, Dwight believes, have decided to give him the cold shoulder. Despite having logged more than 2,000 hours as an Air Force test pilot, Dwight himself sometimes jokes that President Kennedy "picked me out of a turnip patch" to become an astronaut. But he will never forget how deeply honored he felt in November 1961, when he received a personal letter from Kennedy asking him to apply for the space program. Come what may, he plans to prove himself worthy of his Commander in Chief's high regard.
Standing outside St. Ann's School in the Little Mexico section of Dallas with her class of 7th and 8th graders, Sister Audrey, 28, looks proudly over her 54 breathlessly expectant students. Up at 5 A.M. for morning meditation, chores and Mass, Sister Audrey had said a special prayer that President Kennedy would be safe in Dallas and would help bring hope into the lives of these Hispanic children, the poorest of Dallas' poor. Later the Roman Catholic nun could barely contain herself when Sister Maria, the principal, told everyone that the presidential motorcade would pass right by St. Ann's. Sister Audrey fielded question after question from her class, particularly about the Secret Service. "Why would the President need protection coming past our school?" one boy asked. Now, after the children have patiently braved the cold for an hour, a wild cheer goes up as the motorcade comes into view. President Kennedy waves to Sister Audrey's students and mouths, "Hi, how are you?" Later, the sisters led all the students in a prayer of thanksgiving for having seen the President.
The limo starts slowly down the slope in front of the Book Depository. Often, as the motorcade wound its way, the slow-moving press and VIP buses in its wake had backfired. Some parade-watchers had jumped at the sound, then laughed at their own skittishness. People had been making macabre jokes about the anti-Kennedy feeling in Dallas.
Insurance salesman Ed Crissey is meeting his lawyer and a friend for lunch in a little restaurant in downtown Dallas. He expects the place to be less crowded than usual, since most of the regulars will be three blocks away watching the Kennedy motorcade. For his part, Crissey, 40, is content to watch the procession on the evening news. He senses that "something is going to happen" today, that there is going to be some kind of confrontation, and he wants people to see him in a public place well away from the motorcade. If there is trouble, the former military intelligence officer, a member of the right-wing John Birch Society, suspects he might be held partly responsible. For it is he, along with multimillionaire Nelson Bunker Hunt and oilman H. R. "Bum" Bright, who, in today's Dallas Morning News, took out a full-page ad, with an obituary-black border, asking why Kennedy is soft on Communism. Sitting in the restaurant now, Crissey is telling himself he doesn't want anything serious to happen today. But he doesn't regret the ad—it's gotten to the point that right-minded citizens have to speak out.
It is early afternoon in New York, and actress Elizabeth Ashley, 24, has just opened her eyes. Lying next to her, still asleep in her one-bedroom basement apartment, is George Peppard. They have been lovers for more than a year, but he has been in Europe for weeks. She looks down at him contentedly. She can't believe her good luck: She is starring in Neil Simon's smash hit Barefoot in the Park, with Robert Redford in his first leading role, and only two weeks ago they were invited to a late-night party given by President Kennedy's sister, Eunice, and her husband, Sargent Shriver. The President was one of the guests. At one point he thrilled her by asking, "How does it feel to be the newest star on Broadway?"
Could she be imagining all this? Ashley wonders. No, out on the coffee table in the living room there is proof positive. The cover of this week's LIFE carries her picture.
But the newest star on Broadway has to be at Mr. Kenneth's in half an hour to have her hair done. Thank God there's no matinee today. Careful not to wake Peppard, she slips into a pale long-john shirt, farmer overalls and Tony Lama boots. Without makeup, she puts on her Navy pea jacket, a brown tweed stevedore's cap and, of course, the requisite dark glasses. Stopping at the bedroom door, she reflects once more on how far she has come. Little Elizabeth Cole from Baton Rouge, La. Starring in a Broadway show. Making love to a movie star. Hobnobbing with Kennedys. What more could anyone ask? How much happier could anyone be? It would take something truly terrible, she thinks, to darken this day, this golden time in her life. She blows the sleeping Peppard a kiss and heads out the door.
At Alexander Ramsey High School in Roseville, Minn., some members of the senior class are gathered in the band room for a special slide-show presentation about the Civil War. Many of the 100 students gossip during the show about what they will do that evening after the big basketball game between the Ramsey Rams and the Moundview Mustangs. Patty Andrews, 17, plans to borrow her father's Volkswagen bug to go cruising with her best friend, Marilyn Holmquist. But as the music quickens toward the end of the slide show, Patty and Marilyn listen raptly to a narrator's solemn description of the scene at Ford's Theater in Washington on April 14, 1865. A hush falls over the students as they look at an image of Abraham Lincoln in the presidential box, oblivious to the presence behind him of a lone gunman, John Wilkes Booth.
In Dealey Plaza, Dallas, a shot rings out.
The junior prom he had looked forward to, says Dick Benson, was "sad and very subdued." Six years later he went to Vietnam, where he lost a leg and the use of one arm when a booby trap exploded under him. Now 41, he still lives in East Berlin, Conn.—with his wife, Gail, and their daughter.
LoRaine Leland's wedding to fireman John Davidson went ahead as planned. They have two children, and this week will celebrate their silver anniversary. Inevitably, LoRaine, 45, is reminded each year of how tragedy intruded on what should have been the happiest day of her life.
Author Saul Bellow, 73, won the 1965 National Book Award for Herzog. Divorced from Susan, he married Alexandra Ionescu Tulcea in 1974.
Roger Little, 51, marked the opening of hunting season last week by stalking deer with two of his sons. He has eight children from three marriages. The head of the magnificent buck he shot in November 1963 is mounted in his photography studio in Calumet, Mich.
As secretary-treasurer emeritus of the United Farmworkers' Union, Peter Velasco, 78, still champions the cause of migrant farmworkers. He lives in La Paz, Calif., with his wife, Delores Neubauer, a former nun.
Rosemary Weekley, 33, is married, has two children and lives in LaGrange, Ga., where she works as a pediatric nurse.
Doug Frago, 48, left the Peace Corps in 1965 to become a farmer. He rejoined the Corps in June 1985, and has become its associate director for international operations.
Ossie Richie, 48, is a bartender at the same Fort Worth hotel, now renamed the Hyatt Regency.
After raising their quintuplets, and their five other children, Mary Ann Fischer, 55, and her husband, Andy, were divorced in 1980.
The Rev. Colin Gracey, now 53 and chaplain to Northeastern University in Boston, remains a vigorous social activist, lately in the cause of the environment.
Dan Rather, 57, who came to national prominence through his coverage of the Kennedy assassination, now commands a $3 million a year salary as anchorman of the CBS Evening News.
After completing two combat tours in Vietnam, Jerry Sims was still a staunch supporter of American involvement in the war, and retired as a master sergeant in 1967. Now 58 and the grandfather of five, he owns an electrical contracting business in West Palm Beach, Fla.
Mary Travers, 52, continues to make music with Peter Yarrow and Paul Stookey. Going to Dallas is always difficult, she says. "For me it's the place of remembrance."
Ramona Lucero, 41, was not elected homecoming queen, and remembers there wasn't much joy for anyone in that night's festivities. The mother of three children, she still lives in Bernalillo, N. Mex., and teaches in the elementary school.
The Beach Boys endure but rarely play "Warmth of the Sun" anymore because it reminds them of JFK's death. "That song had so much impact for me," says Mike Love, 47, "I can hardly listen to it now."
In 1983, wide receiver Bobby Mitchell, 53, was elected to the National Football League Hall of Fame. He is assistant general manager of the Washington Redskins.
Three days after the assassination Ed Dwight was unceremoniously dropped from the astronaut training program. "When my protector was killed, I was out," he says. Dwight, now 55, is a successful Denver-based artist whose work has included bronze busts of Martin Luther King Jr., Hank Aaron and jazzman Charlie Parker.
Still working with disadvantaged students, as a school administrator at Sacred Heart School in San Francisco, Sister Audrey, 53, believes the assassination robbed the poor of hope. "My students had seen him and taken him into their hearts," she says. "It could have made a real difference in their lives."
While he continues to support conservative causes, Ed Crissey, 65, now draws his inspiration from the Bible. "I'm a fundamentalist," he says, "and proud of it." While he defends his role in placing the anti-Kennedy ad, he says he regrets the President's death.
When Elizabeth Ashley and her co-star Robert Redford went onstage to play Barefoot in the Park the night of JFK's murder, they were determined to get the audience's mind off the tragedy. "I remember Redford saying, 'Let's really try and get them to laugh,' " says Ashley, 49. Married in 1966, she and George Peppard were later divorced.
When the principal of her high school abruptly stopped her class's Civil War slide show to announce, "The President has been shot," Patty Andrews didn't know at first whether he was talking about Abraham Lincoln or John F. Kennedy. Now 42 and married to her high school sweetheart, she is a school secretary in Plymouth, Minn., and the mother of two daughters. "We were all so innocent, so carefree before Kennedy was killed," she says. "We grew up real quick."
—William Plummer and David Grogan, with Denise Lynch and bureau reports
September 28, 2016
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