Ode To Camelot

Published: Thursday, December 5, 2013 at 08:59 AM.

            I really hadn’t thought about it in years. You get caught up with family, earning your keep, trying to get by each day, living…….you sometimes lose perspective of the bigger picture. The recent wave of news coverage made it all come back, rolling over me as if the fifty years had been a few days. And I wasn’t especially enamored with John F. Kennedy. 

            Of course, at sixteen, if he didn’t play football with us, live out on our end of Stonewall Street or have a “presentable” sister that was of a dateable age, we weren’t paying much attention. The biggest thing I remember as he was campaigning for the presidency was his religion. I don’t reckon any of us had ever seen a Catholic. Seems silly now; but I remember more debates around town about his religion than taxes, foreign policy or who his vice- president might be. Some up at the City Café believed the Pope would be running the country if JFK was elected. The recent flashbacks to the Kennedy era and his brief time as president didn’t dwell on how divided the south was over this issue. Maybe that is just as well. And it turned out to be a moot point. That, I think, is an oft missed quality of the man.

            The regulars at the Café also allowed that the Kennedys were rich beyond belief and they were simply trying to buy the office. That was another hot “talking point” of the political season. But shucks, that didn’t sway us much either way. Back then we measured a man by his works, not his bank account. Being from Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, would normally have worked against him, but his opponent was from California……so that was about a wash!   

            We did watch in 1960 the much ballyhooed national televised debates between the aspiring candidates. They were in black and white. I don’t remember any of the questions. Nor do I remember one answer. It was pretty grainy on our small TV. Buddy, at school on Monday, did point out that Richard Nixon looked like a crook as he kept cutting his eyes over at Kennedy.

            I do remember being impressed with the “ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your county” line in his inaugural speech. That was the first statement from a president that I ever rolled over in my young mind. It was a pretty good one to start with……

            We all noted the difference between the popular, but aging Ike, and the youthful and energetic Kennedy. We weren’t sure where the New Frontier was going to take us but we all realized here was truly a changing of the guard. 

I don’t think I’d even heard of Vietnam when Kennedy was elected. I certainly didn’t understand the confusion and embarrassment over the Bay of Pigs fiasco which occurred early in his watch. I never thought about joining the Peace Corps which he promoted tirelessly. And the construction of the Berlin Wall seemed like a crazy side show of the Cold War to us. 



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