November 22, 1963

Billy B. and Chet were on the playground. Mrs. Kittinger came out to where her first-grade class was playing and gathered them together. She said that she had had terrible news…President Kennedy had been shot and had been rushed to the hospital in Dallas, Texas. She had tears in her eyes. Billy B. had just moved to Eldorado, Illinois…he was from Chicago. Chet said, ‘That does not sound good,’ and called his mom, Thelma. Billy B. did not have a telephone in his home…which he called the ghost house…as it was haunted. Billy B. had seen more than his share of change in 1963. His mom and dad, Neva J., and Junior had moved to Eldorado in a vain attempt to save their marriage. Junior had been a mechanic for Semi Trailers in Chicago and wanted to open his own Mechanic Shop in Eldorado. They had moved in with Neva J.’s sister, Wanda, and her family. Both families shared the large Victorian white house that was just across from Eldorado High School. Billy B.’s room was in a forgotten utility closet that was just wide enough to accommodate his Twin Bed. The first morning that he awakened he was colder than he had ever been…inside a house. The coal furnace had ceased to provide any warmth and the multiple fireplaces…had gone out. When he arrived at Hillcrest School for his first day…he discovered that almost all of his classmates had been to Kindergarten…but him.

Neva J. loved President Kennedy. When Billy B. arrived home, as school was cancelled as soon as the news of the assassination of the President came out…shortly after 1:00 P:M: Neva J. was crying so hard that Billy B. thought that JFK, as his mom called the President, was a member of their family. Everyone that Billy B. knew seemed to be extremely confident in their President. After the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962…many felt that with Kennedy in the White House…no harm would come to them. Chet remembered his dad, Carol digging a bomb shelter in their back yard in Parrish Addition…and their practicing hurrying to the shelter…in the middle of the night…pretending that the Soviet Union had dropped nuclear bombs on Eldorado… Chet kept some of his favorite Action Figures in the Bomb Shelter…in the event that nuclear annihilation was coming.

Life in Eldorado…seemed to change after JFK was killed. There wasn’t the exhuberence that there had been. People walked more slowly. Russia seemed very scary…again. The embers of the hopes of ending racism…seemed to dim… President Kennedy told us, ‘Ask not what your country can do for you…ask what you can do for your country’…but our mentor was gone…it was difficult to see pathway forward…

Hope is the strangest of animals. It comes to us as bold as a lion…and leaves us as meek as a lamb. We witness the brilliance of the Sun…and then the darkest of clouds obscures our view…until we forget what the Sun looked like…

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