Four Days in November: 50 Years Revisited

The coffin of President John F. Kennedy lying in repose in the East Room of the White House. (Abbie Rowe, National Park Service, in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston)

Twenty-five years ago this week, being the perfectionist 12-year old kid that I was, I checked the VCR to make sure it was set to record at approximately 8:00 pm Central Standard Time. I knew what I was going to record was going to be a keepsake for archival matter.

Last night, I pulled out that videotape and watched it again. No damage and no wear and tear affected it. It was still in great condition. The program I taped still captivated me as it did on that week in 1988.

The title of the show was “Four Days in November: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy.” It was produced and aired on CBS and hosted by Dan Rather. It is posted below, in its entirety.

Today is the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. It’s an eerie feeling to say that because the assassination took place on a Friday, November 22, 1963.

Today is Friday, November 22, 2013. The same day…50 years later.

Four Days in November…permanently cemented into American history.

That weekend, Iowa was to host Notre Dame while ISU and Drake was slated to play each other. Thanksgiving was a week away. It was an ordinary day, that 22nd day of November, until 12:30 pm Central time.

What was to be another weekend to many became a blur, a nightmare, a roller coaster of disbelief, shock, sadness, and bewilderment.

David Brinkley said it best in his commentary: “It was too much, too ugly, and too fast.”

The evening headline in the Des Moines Tribune from November 22, 1963.
The evening headline in the Des Moines Tribune from November 22, 1963.

There have been three Presidents assassinated before JFK: Abraham Lincoln, James Garfield, and William McKinley. All three were within a 36-year span (1865-1901). Each one shocking, and terrifying, but this one, Kennedy, impacted this nation like no other. Why? Television and radio.

These days, we take television for granted. It’s available where ever we go. Social media gives us the news immediately, good or bad.  It wasn’t like that in 1963. Television showed its power on November 22, 1963. Three networks. That’s all it took.

CBS stayed on the air for 56 hours, with no commercials, which was unprecedented at that time. Walter Cronkite, Rather, Harry Reasoner, Mike Wallace, to name a few spearheaded the CBS coverage. NBC was led by Chet Huntley, David Brinkley, Edwin Newman, Frank McGee, and Bill Ryan. Ed Silverman, Don Goddard, and Ron Cochron handled the ABC coverage..

There were no hyperbole, fluff, hype, or any of the things we see today when a breaking story is being reported. Legendary broadcasters like Brinkley, Huntley, and Cronkite reported the story, gave you the facts, and offer sane and intelligent perspective. It was simple and professional. There was a duty to inform the public of what was taking place.

We were seeing history.

If you permit me, I have several thoughts as I re-watched the CBS special:

  • As the news broke of the assassination, the reporters kept their composure despite their shock. Cronkite’s pause when he read the official announcement spoke volumes.
  • CBS was the first television network to break in with a news bulletin at 12:40pm CST. ABC and NBC followed minutes later. Chaos ensued in the newsrooms as everyone was scrambling to get on air. People were running in and out of the studios gathering as much information from Dallas as possible.
  • As David Brinkley pointed out in his commentary, everything was going too fast for everyone. Within five hours after the assassination, JFK’s body, Jackie Kennedy, LBJ and Lady Bird Johnson were all back in Washington. Lee Harvey Oswald was captured in a movie theater, arrested for the slaying of Dallas police officer J.D. Tippit shortly after Kennedy was cut down. Before the night was over, Oswald would be charged with Kennedy’s death.

Then came Sunday. As Kennedy was lying in repose at the U.S. Capitol, Oswald himself is shot and killed by Jack Ruby. America was now in a state of bewilderment.  “This can’t be happening, is it?” 

  • The most powerful images, to me, was the public viewing at the Capitol and the funeral. A nation in mourning, as a riderless horse lead the flag-draped coffin of Kennedy, carried on a caisson solemnly heading towards Arlington National Cemetery. The band playing “Eternal Father Strong to Save” (Navy Hymn) and Chopin’s “Funeral March” in the background, as masses of people lined the streets, silent and somber, waiting to pay their final respects to a President, so vibrant and energetic.
  • Commentaries were devoid of political rhetoric and personal agendas. Yes, there were questions about why, what, and how did this happen, but the focus was to offer a freshly shocked nation words of understanding and reflection, like the one Edwin Newman provided. Those words, including those of Brinkley earlier and later on with Frank McGee were eloquent without contempt, poignant without malice.They are the words that can be applied to today’s world, just as they were echoed 50 years ago today.

We were witness to tragedy. We were witness to history.

Along with the CBS special, I strongly recommend another one, also titled “Four Days in November” done by accomplished producer David L. Wolper, of “Welcome Back Kotter” fame. Wolper did 3 films chronicling Kennedy which are top-notch and outstanding. This one is no different.

Dan Rather commented early on in the CBS special: “We make no comment on the past, we only bring it back.”  Rather and CBS felt the visual images were more powerful than words can describe.

He is right.

In closing, Frank McGee and Edwin Newman summed up this day 50 years ago. This dark grim chapter in our nation’s history. The “Four Days in November” America will always remember.

Daytime Memories Part I

Do you remember this character? How about the show she was on? Its time to jump in the time machine and take a look back at this show.

Earlier on Monday, I hammered out some thoughts about the pending end of daytime soap operas on television.  As you could probably tell (or not), I have a soft spot for these shows.  I spent a good part of my summers as a kid glued in front of the television.  I remember some of the story plot lines and characters, but the opening themes of each show is what got my attention every day. 

Who doesn’t forget the piano striking the eight most recognizable notes in television?  Or this 3 measure “tick-tock” one? 

I’m fascinated with television history and how it is a daily part of our lives.  We referenced it, talk about what we saw or heard, how it affects us, and our emotions towards it when it ends or changes. 

So, rather than write about it, we’re going to watch some stuff after the jump, starting with the first standard opening of “All My Children” from 1970. 

This was the original opening of AMC.  Notice that musical arrangement was different than the one that everyone remembers from the mid-70’s until around 1990. 

This is the version I grew up with.  Simple and clean. 

Around 1990, AMC changed the opening to show a photo shots of the characters, ending with Susan Lucci to close out the piece.  This was another favorite opening of mine.  There is an updated version, but I’ll let you look it up, as I have some more stuff to show you. 

“One Life to Live” was my favorite soap opera.  The story centered around the Buchanan and Lord families, namely Viki Lord Buchanan and Dorian Lord.  Here is a collage of the opening standards during the show’s long history. 

The second and third opening standards (the sun rising and the character montage) stood out in the viewers minds during between 1975 through 1991..  The vocals for the 3rd version (’84-’91) was done by Peabo Bryson, a best-selling R&B singer. 

OLTL lyrics sung by Peabo Bryson

We head over to NBC for this next one.  Search for Tomorrow originally began on CBS and then was picked up by NBC for it’s latter run until ending in 1986. 

This was the 2nd opening of SFT.  This theme was used from 1974 until 1981, when a more cool jazz-like version replaced it.

Another NBC staple was “Another World” that had a long run on the Peacock Network from 1964 to 1999.  The show mainly centered around exploits of Rachel Cory and her family. 

This opening ran from 1974 until 1981.  In late 1963, the creators of the show wanted to begin the series with a funeral.  So the creators had a meeting to discuss it.  The day that the meeting took place was November 22, 1963. 

The day that President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas.   

From 1981 to 1987, this was the third opening (and a favorite).  The last AW opening is the next one they used in 1987.  This one had lyrics sung.

I’m going to stop here for now.  There are a few more clips to gather and show later on this week hopefully. 

I hoped you enjoy traveling down memory lane. 

No More Cliffhangers

Susan Lucci, the queen of Daytime, is about to be dethroned in September. ABC has cancelled "All My Children" Oh the horror!

Housewives couldn’t get through their day without them.  Kids who were at home sick reveled in them.  College kids would crash between classes or study hour to catch up with them.  If you have been away from them, either for a week or 10 years, it usually takes about 10 minutes for you to know what’s going on in Pine Valley, Llanview, Salem, and Genoa City, among the small quaint towns with big secrets and interesting characters.

The world of the soap operas was dying a slow-moving death, until the last two years, when it accelerated.  “Guiding Light”“As The World Turns”, and now the news of “All My Children” and “One Life To Live” being cancelled have sped up the process of an era that is disappearing, without much fanfare except for the fans that have lived on the edge of their seats for each episode.

My grandmother’s daytime routine evolved around the television set during the summer when my cousins and I were young.  The child’s play of frolicking in the house would stop between 11:00 am and 3:00 pm when Victor Newman, Erica Kane, the Buchanans, the Bauers and the Spauldings, and the Quartermaines popped on the television set in her kitchen.

There were long-time shows (Love of Life“Another World“) and there were short-lived ones (“The City”“Santa Barbara”).  The ones with a big splashy opening (“Capitol”) to the opening that would “haunt” you (“The Edge of Night”).

Even with all of these memories, the soap opera genre was already struggling to maintain viewership…for nearly 30 years.  Here is a 1980 CBS Evening News story on the cancellation of CBS’ “Love of Life”, reported by a young Jeff Greenfield (who returned to CBS for a second stint in 2007).  Notice that the reasons given for the show’s ending is similar to what ABC’s decision to jettison AMC and OLTL later this year.

As viewers evolve, their television taste changes.  The daytime serials have tried to keep up, but it’s not enough to stay in the rat race with Maury Povich, Judge Lynn Toler, and The People’s Court.

SoapNet, a channel dedicated to daytime soap operas is about to get the ax as well, in 2012.  

The soap opera genre’s long journey into the fabric of American society is facing a grim, and all too common reality:  a quick and painful demise.  Which is unfortunate, but there are no perfect endings, as the Greenfield piece didn’t mention about “Love of Life.”  We never knew what became of the trial or the characters.  


News and Sports Links – April 14, 2010

Justin Schoen of eComegy. (Eric Rowley/Juice)

I have several projects on the docket and I’ll be out and about on this wet day.  Let us get to the business of finding out what’s going on over the past few days. 

Before I do, I want to thank all of you for being patient and allowing me to keep the “Life Disrupted” post up for a few days.  I hope that it was a source of inspiration for my fellow friends and acquaintances who knew her.  As I said, I didn’t know Ashley very well, however my friends Pete Jones and Shawn Harrington did.  I’ll let you read their words on their blog “Des Moines is Not Boring.”

  • I never thought this day would come, but it has.  ABC has announced that “All My Children” and “One Life to Live”, their daytime bedrocks, will be cancelled.  AMC will bid adieu in September, OLTL in January.  Time to bid adieu to Erica Kane and Viki Buchanan.  My childhood memories have now been permanantly dismantled (I’m kidding).  It might be a good time wax poetically on soap operas one of these days. 

 

Erica Slezak, the actress who plays Viki Buchanan, on OLTL.

 

  • With the NBA playoffs looming, popular and oft-controversial national Fox Sports columnist Jason Whitlock spent a few days with LeBron James‘ friend and manager Maverick Carter.  While Carter and James continue to recieve bad press for how LeBron left Cleveland, Whitlock learns that Carter is taking the lessons from the debacle and have started to put them to good use as a savvy businessman. 
  • Tim Epstein from the impressive Sports Law Blog writes an opinion about the Illinois Legislature reigniting the debate over the hotly-debated “multiplier” rule that was put in place by the Illinois High School Association in 2005.  Basically, the concept of the enrollment multiplier is that it requires actual enrollments of non-boundaried schools be multiplied by 1.65 in determining classification in athletics competition.  As a result, this pits smaller private schools against much larger public schools, as an effort to bring the number of state championships won by private schools more in line with their smaller numbers relative to public schools. The Legislature is working on an amendment to do away with the multiplier rule. 
  • Silicon Prairie News‘ (in conjunction with Juice) Christopher New profiles a fellow friend of mine Justin Schoen and his company, eComegy.  eComegy is a commerce and marketing consulting firm here in Des Moines.  
  • There is some movement at ESPN according to The Big Lead.  Josh Elliott shocked the Worldwide Leader by announcing that he is heading to join ABC’s Good Morning America.  TBL reports that Kevin Neganhdi will replace Elliott on the live morning SportsCenter.  

Apparently, Chris Berman felt that it’s way too early for a 5:00 am wake-up call!  

That’s it for now. 

I still can’t believe that my favorite soap opera character is going away. 

I’m going to miss Viki Buchanan! 

The Health of the Organization

I need help. 

I can’t think of another way in putting this out there but I will. 

Fundraising and talking is something I have feared for a long time.  I hate asking for money and public speaking is something I can’t do at all.  Marketing, well, I couldn’t market or sell you a lemon torte, though if enticed, I would buy one. 

I’m a volunteer and a board member for our local American Diabetes Association chapter here in Des Moines.  The past two years have been, to be politcally correct, tough.  We were the only chapter in America that was in the red last year.  We’ve struggled to get new volunteers, retain long time supporters, and be out front in the community. 

It’s not a very nice distinction to have. 

We want to re-introduce ourselves to Des Moines. Where and how do we start?

In January, we brought in a new executive director to help us assess the health of our organization.  I’m not afraid to say that we have an uphill climb.  No one knows who we are, what we do, and if we try to go out in the community, no one has interest in diabetes, in general, other than to say that their “uncle/grandfather/mom” had and died from diabetes, but never about what they learned about it. 

I hate asking for help, but I have to ask because every non-profit and charitable organization is getting support in Des Moines, financially and non-financially, KCCI will lend their name to every cause, celebrities love riding the coattails of organizations, and I feel like the only person in the world who wants to promote ADA, but I don’t know where to start. 

Why am I supporting the ADA?  Besides being a board member (the youngest) and lending my time as a volunteer (health fairs, office work, working events), I am a Person with Diabetes (PWD).  For the record, a Type 2 diabetic.  I have a full time job in managing how my body functions.  How much insulin do I need to take (Lantus or Humulog), is my glucose level okay for me to indulge in a salad, do my feet look swollen or feel numb, and on and on. 

Dick Clark, America's oldest teenager, was diagnosed with diabetes in 2003. Despite his stroke and limited mobility, he's still rocking-and-rolling.

I believe in the mission of the ADA.  It’s not just raising money to find a cure, as many people assume non-profit organizations only do.  The ADA have support groups, education programs, list of references to specialists, and materials that are as easy as a click of the mouse or a phone call away.  Yeah, we want to end diabetes, but for those who have it, like me, it’s not a death sentence.  Look at Patti LaBelle, Joe Frazier, Sonia Sotomayor, and Anne Rice.  They didn’t stop living when they were diagnosed with diabetes.   I haven’t stop either. 

How do I help ADA “re-introduce” ourselves to the community?

Lost about “Lost”?

Are you still lost about the ending of "Lost"? Join the crowd.

I was never into the television series “Lost”, but as a casual viewer, I wanted to see how the series would end Sunday night.  Several hard-core viewers were “lost” at the end of the show on how it ended.  Did Jack die and everyone got on the plane?  Did everyone die in the crash?  Did everyone survive, including Jack?

There is nothing wrong with an ending that doesn’t resolve or tie up all of the loose ends.  Most shows are not meant to end perfectly.  But, for most of us, it’s hard to accept that.

The late Patrick McGoohan said that it was good for viewers to be “outraged” when the ending they wanted to see is not what they expected.  It forces the viewer to figure out the ending in their own minds, and not accept the practical conclusion.

Some will understand what I wrote, many will not.  Maybe this entry from January about “perfect endings” will help.  Or confuse you even more.

“Be seeing you.”