Since it is getting close to another anniversary of the Kennedy Assassination, and after revisiting that in the last post I did on this web site, I thought I would expand on why I was at the Adolphus Hotel the day Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald.
Our wedding anniversary was the 23rd of November, and each year my husband and I went to Dallas for the weekend to celebrate, leaving children with grandparents and usually going in the company of our friends, the Littles.
Exactly a year before the assassination, four of us had gone to Dallas, and while we were there I had a luncheon at the Zodiac Room at Nieman-Marcus for nine of my college friends in order to introduce them to another friend, Noreen, who had just moved from Oklahoma City to Dallas.
Now Dallas is a friendly town. I was not surprised to find out that by the time of the luncheon, Noreen had already made the acquaintance of several of the women.
What was a surprise was the conversation at the lunch table. Two of the women were Phi Beta Kappa and all the others were college educated. I was horrified to hear them express the sentiment that not only should Chief Justice Earl Warren be impeached, he should be shot. The amount of fear, hatred and vitriol at that gathering was not only a precursor of what is going on today, but was actually more vehement. Much of the hatred and slanderous talk was aimed at President Kennedy. And this, in spite of the fact that economic conditions were relatively good and would continue to improve over the next decade. After all we had just come through the Great Bull Market of the fifties, the GI Bill had enabled young men and women to get an education they could not have otherwise afforded and they were buying houses, purchasing automobiles and having children at record numbers.
What is forgotten by everyone except historians and few pols like me was the fact that Kennedy was far from a universally popular president. Jacqueline was frequently put down as a snob and an elitist. Texas was especially problematic in the ’94 election, which was the reason Kennedy was there.
In addition, it is hard to imagine the influence the John Birch Society was having, nationwide, at the time. Its success in Texas was much greater than in neighboring Oklahoma, but even there we were aware of the influence beyond the border. Mrs. Johnson had been spat upon in Dallas, and Dallas County was the epicenter of the hate movement, with a particularly divisive and outspoken Congressman at the time.
Walking back to the hotel after the lunch, the three of us from Oklahoma, Noreen, the wife of the couple who had come down with us, and I, were aghast at what we heard. It particularly affected Noreen, because she was the only staunch, Southern California bred Republican of the three of us. The hate and fear was the subject of dinner discussion as we reported all this to our husbands.
The following year, the same four of us made the trip to Dallas. On Friday I remember picking up the Dallas Morning News with a faint sense of dread, looking at the details of the parade route. Waiting on the second floor of Neiman-Marcus for the parade, we had stadium seats at the huge windows in the shoe department. I found myself scanning the rooftops of the buildings across the street, as though I were a Secret Service agent. I forgot my own fear as we cheered the parade, and I went to try on a black silk dress. That is when every siren in the city went off. The men, monitoring the only television in the men’s department of the store, kept me informed during a fitting. When they came to say the President was dead, the little store clerk started to cry. “Why Dallas? she moaned,” and I remember snapping at her, “Where else!”
We stayed the weekend, watched the lonely white plane in the blue sky, went to church and tried to have a good time.
Recently in an argument with my son over conspiracy theories, he said to me, “But, Mom, you weren’t at Dealy Plaza. You were up on Commerce Street.” “Yes, I said, but you don’t understand what the atmosphere was like. It doesn’t MATTER if Oswald acted alone, although I believe he did. What matters is if it had not been him, it would have been someone else.”