50 Years Later Prominent Culver Citizens Remember
By Lynne Bronstein
November 22, 2013 marks the 50th anniversary of a dark moment in American and world history-the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 35th President of the United States.
The events of that day, the shots that rang out during a motorcade in Dallas, have been the subject of numerous books, films, magazine articles, official government reports, and unofficial speculation.
While the tragedy still has impact and continues to generate portrayals in the media (such as the current film Parkland, about the events at Dallas' Parkland Hospital where JFK was taken after being shot), more recent national traumas would seem to have eclipsed the JFK assassination in the public imagination.
For those who were not born yet or were too young to be aware of the impact of the events of November 22, 1963, here are some remembrances by prominent citizens of Culver City:
Andrew Weissman, City Council member:
"I remember 11/22/63 quite vividly. I was a 7th grader at Culver City Junior High School and I had just finished gym class. Coach Latham came on the PA system in the locker room and announced that President Kennedy had been shot. Shortly thereafter, when I was in my history class, Dr. Marsh, the junior high principal, came on the PA system and told us that President Kennedy had died.
There was a stunned silence and tears in the classroom. The rest of the day was spent talking about his presidency and the cold war implications of his death. Television that weekend was nothing but news coverage regarding the assassination and I remember watching the live broadcast from the basement when Lee Harvey Oswald was shot by Jack Ruby on Sunday.
I was only 13 years old and had no real experience to draw upon that prepared me for that moment. I was reminded of this and equally unprepared for the experience on 9/11 when watching the Twin Towers come down."
Julie Lugo Cerra, Culver City Historical Society:
"The day JFK was shot I was on campus at UCSB, where I was a freshman. Everything closed down, and we all went back to our apartments or dorms where we sat, transfixed on TV. We were such carefree, hopeful youths until that day, when it just felt like our worlds crashed down around us. And hope became a precious and rare commodity for some time."
Steve Rose, Culver City Chamber of Commerce:
"I was in a Culver City High School senior lit class when the principal announced on the PA system that the President had been shot and killed. We stayed in school for the remainder of the school day but not much was accomplished. That entire Friday and the weekend was just a series of watching events unfold on black and white television.
"I can remember going to a Los Angeles Rams football game at the Coliseum on Sunday and the NFL was criticized for not canceling the game. Also there was a student sitting in back of me who said 'Oh, big deal.'"
Jozelle Smith, columnist:
"I had been working at a semiconductor company in Culver City and was on maternity leave. Unfortunately our baby only lived two days, so I was at home, still in my pajamas, keeping busy by cleaning out the linen closet. I had the radio on, and heard the news. I was shocked and immediately called my mother and father, my husband, and friends at work, knowing that they probably hadn't yet heard.
"It was like time had stopped. I rushed to turn on the television, and it seemed like I didn't leave it for days. I still have the Los Angeles Times newspaper headlines printed the following day. It was all anyone could talk about. 23 years later when I was in Dallas, ready to come home from a city council-related trip, I made time to visit the Book Depository, standing at the window overlooking the highway on which President Kennedy's car was driving when he was shot. It was mesmerizing."
Nancy Goldberg, Culver City School Board member:
"Culver City in 1963 enjoyed a small town intimacy. We lived on Woolford Street, and we all knew each other. Our kids played together, and newcomers were welcomed with coffee klatches and smiles.
"We had moved in to Culver City in 1962 when our youngest was six months old. In the space of one year, I was sharing babysitting and recipes with my neighbors.
"On November 22 I had agreed to help hem my neighbor's dress, and I recall switching on the television to watch JFK's triumphant arrival in Dallas while I pinned and marked her gown. Two other neighbors, Miriam Slater and Edith Weiner, came over for coffee and we were chatting about our kids and other local happenings when I apparently let out a groan that alerted them to the TV. I had seen the first bob of his head backward and, apparently, sent forth that groan. The four of us were transfixed by the images on the TV screen; it was quite surreal.
"I can't remember whether I finished hemming that gown. I do remember entering the most solemn interval of my life. As the reality of our dying President penetrated our otherwise happy, frivolous world, we all four wandered outside where many of our children were playing. The children mirrored our sorrow quickly and became abnormally quiet.
"Up and down the street, we commiserated with one another on our great loss. Esther Siegel and Selma Troop looked teary eyed and struggled to regain their composure. In an unearthly calm, the husbands began to arrive home, many released early from their jobs. Employers sensed the enormity of the assassination and responded.
"Finally, all cried out, three of us and our families decided to go the Temple Emanuel in Beverly Hills where a memorial/condolence ceremony was being prepared. The formal ceremony did subdue some of the pain, but the deeper more lasting, internal version of that pain would never subside.
"Every November 22, the events of that day resonate in my mind, and I recollect the community support and sharing of that unforeseen pain. We handled a great national tragedy with our humanity and, as a result, established relationships that have continued to death in most cases.
"For myself, November 22 evolved 30 years ago into a much brighter memory. My first grandson, Michael, was born on that day. I'll always be sad when I recall the first President that I helped elect was assassinated on that day, but an element of joy now overlays that agony. Joy can cancel out sadness."