Happy Birthday Mr. President

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!

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6 Responses to Happy Birthday Mr. President

  1. Harold west says:

    I was 4 and playing in a neighbors sandbox when my mom called me inside and told me the president had died. I remember the family watching a lot of tv the next week and being sad for his kids because they didn’t have a dad anymore.

  2. Chuck Boyer says:

    I was an 8th Grader at Holy Name. At the time of the first radio announcement, I was in ‘shop’ class at Duquesne High School. The school made broadcast the live radio feed. The room was absolutely still. I can still recall the scene as surreal. We all just looked at each other. I think that we were told to go back to Holy Name. But, I recall running past the memorial, and telling the old fellows seated there what had occurred. There were just blank stares. I just wanted to get home. I’m sure there was a lot of conversation on the bus ride home between Denny Kerrigan and me, but can’t recall. I was a news boy at the time, and remember waiting and waiting for the paper to arrive. It must have been after 5:00PM by the time it finally arrived. I will never forget that headline (above). Don’t know that i will ever forget the next few days. Parents would sho us outside to play while they watched the tv. Then, they would let us view the news. The craziest of all was coming home from mass on Sunday morning, turning on the tv, and seeing Ruby murder Oswald on national television. Seeing an actual murder committed just never leaves the pysche.
    The funeral procession with the riderless horse, Mrs. Kennedy, Caroline and John is also indelibly inscribed.

  3. Sharyn Kelley Manns says:

    I was at home when a neighbor ran in our house to tell us. Worked at the “bingo” at the Serbian Club – it wasn’t cancelled & to my surprise – the usual crowd was there! Swore I’d never play bingo, and to this day, I haven’t.

  4. I was working at the Daily News. Oddly enough on the day Ruby shot Oswald on live TV, my boyfriend at the time was at home, and he called and told me before we heard about it at the newpaper!

  5. Lou Weber says:

    I was 12 years old and a student at St Joseph’s school. I also remember the nuns taking us from class and walking us over to church to pray. We were there for about an hour and them marched back to school and dismissed.

    • Don Peck says:

      I was out side of Air Force One’s hanger when we got the word. I liked him as a man, he would always ask how those mills up in Pittsburg area were doing and was my father working. When he took office the mills were down.

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