It was Friday mid-morning and I was in Seaside California, part of the Monterey Peninsula. I was standing in the office of one of my clients. I owned a small advertising agency based in Monterey California and I had made the decision to accept a position with Westinghouse Broadcasting in San Francisco California at KPIX-TV the CBS affiliate for the bay area. I was wrapping up some details with my clients and this was the last meeting before I headed to San Francisco. I expected to drive to San Francisco on Sunday and start a new phase of my career. My client was apparently delayed and so I sat in his office at his desk and speculated on what changes would occur in my and my family’s life with the move to “the big city.”
The TV was on in the office, a small TV with rabbit ears and it was always on but I wasn’t really paying attention. Suddenly I heard a bulletin that said; shots fired, that’s all I caught initially but a little time later the bulletin said; The President has been shot. Again not much detail but I didn’t even know the President was in Dallas or for that matter why he would be there. I didn’t vote for Kennedy but I accepted that he would be a good President. I thought Jackie was an affectation, prettier than most Presidents wives but more a clotheshorse than a contributor to the image of the President’s campaign. I was wrong.
The next thing I saw and heard on that small TV was Walter Cronkite say: the President is dead. I don’t remember the rest of Walter’s words just the President is dead. I had a sick feeling, I felt very heavy, I wasn’t a big supporter of Kennedy but that wasn’t the issue, it was that some one or some entity had killed our President. It didn’t make sense, I said out loud to no one in particular; that’s stupid. I wasn’t even angry, just disappointed and I felt as if things had changed but I couldn’t articulate those changes. Stupid, stupid kept running though my head.
I called my wife and ask if she had heard the news and she had not. I don’t know why I said I’d be right home, like that was going to help something. I left a note for my former client and said I would call him, I later learned he got caught up in the news coverage and never did show up for our meeting.
I spent the rest of Friday and Saturday like most people watching the TV coverage of events leading up to the assassination and the process of transferring the government to Johnson.
Sunday I got in my car and drove to San Francisco. I was booked at a small hotel on Van Ness Avenue in the city right across from my new place of work, KPIX-TV.
Monday morning I walked across the street and “reported for duty.” The station was in chaos and I was thrown into the process of saving commercials dollars. Group W had decided to eliminate all commercials during the coverage of the events surrounding the assassination. I mention the fact that we didn’t run commercials because some of the TV stations in San Francisco did in non-news programs or in clusters at breaks between programs to retain the revenue. It was thrilling to be part of providing coverage of what was in our opinion the most important event in our country’s history since the assassination of Lincoln.
I didn’t realize then but that was the beginning of the television age and the desire of the American public to know everything that was happening in our country and the world immediately. It was November 22, 1963 fifty years ago today.