News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Ramblin' Reck

November 11, 2013

RAMBLIN RECK: Recalling events of 50 years ago

TERRE HAUTE — Monday was Veterans Day and it seemed to be a good time to recall some events of 50 years ago.

I spent two years in the service, most of that time with the U.S. Army at Fort Dix in New Jersey.

In those days, the president of the United States spoke to the public in front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia on the July 4: Independence Day if you will.

John F. Kennedy was going to continue that tradition in 1963 and some of us in headquarters company decided to make the short trip to Philly. Ordinarily, we would wear civvies in our off time but we had our uniforms on that day since an area was reserved in front of the Hall for the military.

Thousands of people lined the route leading to the Hall, waving and shouting to the president who rode in a convertible and returned the wave, reaching out to touch some lucky people.

His address that day dealt with Europe and trade relations. The speech has been forgotten. The experience: unforgettable.

We completed our two years of service in August of 1963 and returned to the job we had prior to going in the Army — serving as managing editor of The Evening World in Bloomfield.

We had just returned from lunch on November 22 when the phone rang in our office. The boss’s daughter called and said the television was reporting that the president had been shot in Dallas.

We hurried to our UPI teletype machine in the back of of the building — it made a lot of noise — and the first bulletins were being sent. Early reports indicated the governor of Texas and others may have been hit. Eventually, the news came that the shot had been fatal to Kennedy.

That meant making over our front page, something that was not easy to do since our linotype operators had to set all the new type and hot metal had to be used to make a picture of the president.

Somehow, it was done and our front page had the basic news that evening complete with black border.

Most basketball games scheduled for that evening were postponed and I made my way to my apartment, just off the town square.

There were no smiling faces among the people in the downtown area and tears flowed from some.

We got home and turned on the television and watched events that unfolded the next three days. And wept, especially when John John saluted his father’s casket as it made its way through the streets of Washington.    

Tom Reck may be contacted by telephone at (812) 232-3231, by email at or by mail at 4284 South 5th Street, Apt. 3, Terre Haute, IN, 47802.

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