Let’s face it, when a person reaches a certain age, one’s paradigm shifts from what “is” to what “was.” There is such comfort to be able to reminisce about those times when life was simpler, friends were numerous, and we were still surrounded by our parents, siblings, extended families and caring neighbors. I will never tire of remembering those times.
Remembering certain occasions during my youth most often brings joy; however, there are memories of some events that trigger great sadness. Oddly, those tragic incidents are the ones that we often remember with striking clarity.
It was 50 years ago, on May 19, 1962, that Marilyn Monroe sang “Happy Birthday Mr. President” during a birthday celebration in his honor at Madison Square Gardens in New York City, ten days before the actual day of his 45th birthday. Monroe sang the traditional “Happy Birthday to You” lyrics in a sultry voice, with “Mr. President” inserted as Kennedy’s name.
Monroe continued the song with a snippet from the classic song, “Thanks for the Memory”, for which she had written new lyrics specifically aimed at Kennedy. Afterwards, President Kennedy came on stage and joked about the song, saying, “I can now retire from politics after having had Happy Birthday sung to me in such a sweet, wholesome way,” alluding to Monroe’s delivery, her racy dress, and her general image as a sex symbol.
The song and Monroe’s performance have been remembered for numerous reasons, but mostly due to the fact that it was one of her last major public appearances (Monroe died August 5, 1962).
Tuesday, May 29th would have been President John F. Kennedy’s 95th birthday. It has been over 48 years since his assassination on November 22, 1963, yet that day will forever be indelibly etched in every U.S. citizen’s mind. In my lifetime, there has been only one other event that equals the impact of that day in November, that day being September 11, 2001.
It is with vivid clarity that I recall the events in MY day in 1963 when we first learned of the shooting in Dallas, Texas. I was in the 7th grade at Holy Name. Sister Mary Immaculate was our teacher. Shortly after 1:30 Eastern Time, Sister Mary Daniel entered the room along with her class of 8th graders, followed shortly by Sister Clementine and her 6th grade class. Sister Mary Danial told us we were going to watch the news reports about what had happened in Dallas, Texas just minutes earlier. She then broke the news to the students about the shooting of President Kennedy. I was only 11 at the time, but I still recall being numbed by the news. Even now, it all seems rather surreal. It was as if the world started to move in slow motion, and the events that occurred in the days that followed all seemed just as surreal.
It was a Friday, and school was dismissed early that day. Parents waited for their children outside the school. Moms were crying. People flocked to the church that day. The entire city of Duquesne moved in disbelief for the days that followed, and the streets were practically deserted.
At our house, and virtually every home in the nation, people were glued to their television sets for hours on end. Events unfolded before our eyes, and we were witness to history as it occurred. Iconic images of the events will be a part of history forever.
I’d be very interested to hear how you remember that tragic day in November 1963. Where were you? Who were you with? What were you doing, and how did that day and the days that followed unfold in your life? Please share, and in the meantime, Happy Birthday Mr. President!