By Linda Wisch-Davidsohn
Reflections of Nov. 22, 1963
I celebrated my 16th birthday almost one week before President and Mrs. Kennedy’s planned visit to the Fort Worth and Dallas area on Nov. 22, 1963.
There was a flurry of excitement in the Wisch household, since my parents, Rene and Jimmy, would attend the breakfast honoring the president and first lady at the Hotel Texas, which was hosted by The Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce. Approximately 550 people attended — a mélange of prominent citizens, politicians, clergy and journalists — the women were anxiously awaiting the first lady’s arrival. Prior to the breakfast, President Kennedy addressed about 3,000 citizens who began gathering outside the hotel at approximately 5:30 a.m. The venue was tight since JFK and Jackie were due to arrive in Dallas around noon for a parade and festivities.
That Friday, Nov. 22, 1963 emerged as a dreary, rainy and cold day that had a sense of foreboding about it. Fort Worth was pumped to see the president and first lady. The climate in Dallas was not so friendly, as I recall.
Adlai Stevenson was ambassador to the U.N. at the time. He visited Dallas in October 1963 and was attacked by members of the crowd to which he spoke. The presidential visit had been scheduled since September 1963.
An avid reader, I remember a full-page ad placed on Page 14 in The Dallas Morning News with the header: “Welcome Mr. Kennedy to Dallas.” The ad had a maudlin black border around it. Its content was not appropriate (in my young opinion) for welcoming our president and first lady. There were 12 to 14 nasty questions that seemingly undermined President Kennedy’s policies. The ad was signed by The American Fact Finding Committee, which named Bernard Weissman as its chairman. The publisher of The Dallas Morning News at the time was E. M. “Ted” Dealey, who felt that the ad was consistent with a plethora of critical anti-Kennedy editorials and op-eds that were featured for several weeks in his newspaper. Dealey approved and accepted the ad in advance because it lined up with editorial views of The News. The Warren Commission later determined that both “Bernard Weissman” and “The American Fact Finding Committee” were bogus “fronts,” and that Joseph P. Grinnan, an oil broker and local leader of The John Birch Society, paid for the ad with approximately $1,500 funded by three men — H. R. “Bum” Bright, an oil man (who later became owner of the Dallas Cowboys); Nelson Bunker Hunt, a son of H. L. Hunt; and Edgar Crissey, an insurance company executive.
Some of my classmates and I were sitting in our English class (at Fort Worth’s Paschal High School) when an announcement interrupted the day’s lesson. President Kennedy had been shot while driving in a motorcade down Elm Street in Dallas. There was silence in the room. None of us knew what to say or do — President Kennedy’s dreams were our hope for our future. Could they be shattered so quickly with a senseless act? Within the hour, we received confirmation from the media that our president had been assassinated. Jackie’s attire for the day would signify a memory for all of us who witnessed reruns of her trying to shelter her husband’s body in her arms. I shall never forget her grace and courage either. I am certain that school was dismissed early that day. All of us were in a state of shock. How could a day that was supposed to be so good turn out so wrong? We were glued to our black and white TVs while the footage was played and re-played. Lee Harvey Oswald would be apprehended after mortally shooting officer, J. D. Tippet. Many of us attended religious services that evening to seek comfort and solace. The nation was in mourning. We clustered in groups, singing folk songs, trying to comfort one another. On the Sunday following JFK’s assassination, Oswald was being transferred to The Dallas County Jail. Once again, many of us watched in horror as the alleged presidential assassin was assassinated by Jack Ruby, a local club owner.
It is said that the late Stanley Marcus (head of Neiman-Marcus at the time) and a Kennedy supporter, reflected on those times. “The News, in my opinion, was almost single-handedly responsible for the prevailing state of mind in Dallas at the time of the assassination.”
It is now 50 years later, and although our moments in Camelot were brief, in my humble opinion, I am still trying to make sense of it all.
What follows is the Dallas Doings column written by Clare from the Nov. 21 edition of the TJP.
‘Dallas Doings,’ Nov. 21 1963
“Mr. and Mrs. Julius Tills and family expect to occupy their lovely new home at 6872 Greenwich by Thanksgiving. The Stanley Pearle and Ellis Carp families are giving their homes a new look for the season. Many others are building new ones. Happy living all!
“Mr. and Mrs. Walter Dworkis had a happy surprise for their tenth anniversary when Mr. and Mrs. Mike Cohen hosted them for dinner and a special cake at Club Village. Others seen dining out at very special places were: Mr. and Mrs. Marvin Labovitz of Fort Worth, at Dominique’s. Also of Fort Worth, Mr. and Mrs. Sol Saginaw and Mr. and Mrs. Louis Bogart with Dallasites, Mr. and Mrs. Bill Naxon at Old Warsaw.
“November 23 will be a great day for Paul Kaplan and his proud parents, Mr. and Mrs. B. Kaplan, 10428 Church Road. His Bar Mitzvah at Temple Emanu-El will be attended by his grandmother, Mrs. Sig Kaplan, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Sommers and Mrs. James Kaplan, all of Brooklyn, N.Y., and Mrs. Larry Feldman of Little Silver, N.J. After the service there will be a luncheon in Linz Hall, at the Temple for Paul and guests.
“The engagement and December 29 wedding date of Miss Brenda Lou Frucht and J. Stuart Brand was announced at an Open House on October 28 at the home of the bride-elect’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Archue Frucht of Houston. Mrs. David Lewis and Mrs. Harvey Lewis of Houston gave a kitchen shower in Houston for the bride-elect. Many other Houston parties and showers are planned for the Thanksgiving weekend. Dr. and Mrs. Louis Shlipak hosted an evening party last Saturday at their home, 2623 Hudnall, for the engaged couple. The wedding of Miss Frucht and Mr. Brand, son of Mr. and Mrs. Albert Joseph of Waco, will take place at Cong. Beth Yeshurun in Houston.
“CRIB CROWD NEWS is always happy whatever the season. This week brings two little dolls and two small gallants.
“Helaine Frances Golman chose November 5 to join her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Larry E. Golman and brother, Mark Edward, at 4833 San Gabriel. Proud grandmother, Mrs. Morris Geller of El Paso came for the welcome. Mr. Jake Golman of Dallas and Mr. Morris Geller of El Paso are the grandfathers.
“Mr. and Mrs. Gerald B. Darver, 4502 Abbott, became members of the new parents fraternity on November 5 when they welcomed Paulanne. Mr. and Mrs. A. Darver and Mr. and Mrs. M.G. Gurentz of Dallas are the happy grandparents.
“On November 7 little gallant Adam Martin Kahn was welcomed into the happy circle of sisters and brothers, David, Peter, Jill, Judy, Martha, Susan, Mickey and Debbie. Mr. and Mrs. Bernard Kahn, 6115 Royal Crest, are the proud parents of this happy group. Mr. and Mrs. Meyer Selzman of Cleveland and Dr. and Mrs. William Schaffer of Middletown, Ohio, are the proud grandparents. Great-grandmother Mrs. Elda Selzman also lives in Cleveland, Ohio.
“The other little gallant is Scott Howard Zale who was welcomed by his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Stanley Zale, 3130 Tower Trail, on November 9. Brother Andrew Gary joins the welcome with proud grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Frederick Schatten and Mr. and Mrs. Abe Zale of Brooklyn, N.Y. who were here for the Bris November 16 at Tiferet Israel. Great-grandfather, George Feinberg also lives in Brooklyn. Rabbi Sidney Weinschneider was officiant.
“Tiferet Israel was the scene for the November 11 Blessing and Naming ceremony for Robin Rene Benjamin, new little daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Benjamin. Grandfathers Phil Benjamin and Isaac Goldstein attended. “The November 10 Bris of Seth Eli Naxon, son of Mr. and Mrs. William Naxon at their home, 9410 Baxtershire, was attended by Fort Worthians; Mr. and Mrs. Sol Saginaw, godparents of Seth Eli, Mr. and Mrs. Jimmy Wisch, and Mr. and Mrs. Leon Brachman. Lou Glasser of Tyler also attended. Mr. and Mrs. Naxon flew to Charlotte, N.C. last week for a visit with family who were unable to attend the Bris, 4215 Cochran’s Chapel Road.
“Mr. and Mrs. M.M. Donosky left last week for a dream trip that will take them skimming the clouds to Boca Raton, New York on to Rome, Istanbul, Tel Aviv, Teheran, Bombay, Bangkok, Hong Kong, and Christmas in Manila with her nephew, E.C. Geeslin, then on to Tokyo, Honolulu, Los Angeles and home well into 1964.
“A belated but happy birthday to Miss Kelly Kay Tills on her birthday Oct. 12.”