November 22, 2013

Letters to the editor: JFK changed many in life and death

Nov. 21, 1963: I couldn’t wait for tomorrow. Couldn’t fall asleep. Tomorrow CBS News was going to show a British documentary called “Beatlemania.” I had thought of nothing else all week.

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Sen. John F. Kennedy addresses a crowd at Portland Stadium during a campaign visit to Maine in 1960.

Press Herald file

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I was 12. For all the hype, I had no idea how hard I was about to fall in love with George and Paul and Ringo, and, especially, John Lennon, with the kind of passion only a pre-adolescent girl can bring to it. I was finally lulled into sleep by the song “Deep Purple” on WMEX, the singers crooning softly about gentle romance within the safety of sleepy garden walls. It was the No. 1 song that week of November 1963 ...

Tomorrow came, but “Beatlemania” didn’t. CBS News had other things to report that day. I had to wait to fall in love with the Beatles until we had mourned the passing of another kind of innocence, this one a national rite – but also a personal one. Camelot, that kingdom with its pretty garden walls that had enchanted me as a 12-year-old, was gone, and the pain of that loss, for me, is forever mixed up with my own rite of passage from childhood to adolescence.

Five years later. I had fallen for another Kennedy – Robert – and my Beatles worship had transformed into political passion: anti-war, pro civil rights. Robert Kennedy embodied all that, and he was poised to become the Democratic candidate just as I was about to be released from high school into a heady summer of peace activism and political campaigning.

I couldn’t wait for tomorrow.

To read the full version of this essay, click here.

Amy MacDonald


In the year 1960, my friend Mary and I were walking up Park Street in Portland to Congress Street. We were on our way to the Portland Public Library to study and do our homework. We were juniors at Portland High School.

Looking over at the front door of the Lafayette Hotel we saw a good-looking guy dismounting the stairs. Clean cut, well shaven, impeccably dressed and (ahem), handsome as they come and with a beautiful smile on his face. I turned to Mary and said, “that is Sen. John F. Kennedy” who was scheduled to speak in downtown Portland that night.

The senator strolled down Congress Street with two extremely well-dressed men walking on each side of him. Just the three of them. So I said to Mary, “Let's go talk to him.” And we strolled right up to him, and he put out his hand to give us each a heart-melting shake and he said, ”nice city, Portland, you have here” and we shakily said, “Yes”!

I then said, “Good luck, senator," and he said, "Thank you very much girls.” And off he strolled with that unforgettable grin.

Anyone who had been on Congress Street that night could have walked right up to him and greeted him. He was not in a bullet-proof car, or tightly encircled by Secret Service agents, or worried about terrorism, etc. Mary and I have our memories, but we also now have a loss of what could be one of our best freedoms – a simple walk down any street in America!

Martha Pillsbury

Cape Elizabeth


On Friday morning, Nov. 22, 1963, I was a special ed teacher at School #28 in Rochester, N.Y. The class was in a happy mood because of the upcoming weekend and Thanksgiving holiday.

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