Friday 22 November 2013

An infamous anniversary

This post really has nothing to do with cycling.

50 years ago today, 22nd November 1963 (also a Friday) US President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was assassinated, in Dallas, Texas.

I first heard of it the following morning.  The shots were fired at about 1pm, Dallas time – 7pm UK time – and death was confirmed about an hour later.  By the time the news percolated to the BBC, as an eight year old child I was no doubt tucked up in bed.

They say everyone remembers where they were when they heard that President Kennedy had died.  In my case, certainly, that is true.

I was sitting in the back seat of my parents’ car when I heard it on the radio.  My father was driving, and my mother, brother and sister were not with us.  We were on the High Street in Lee-on-Solent, just passing the library.  I asked “Daddy – who is President Kennedy?” and my father told me that he was president of America.  I don’t recall feeling any great emotion over this news, but it was plain to hear that it was a truly momentous event so it must have struck me somehow.

The car was a Morris Oxford, sky blue, registration XXB 273.

It was unusual in those days for cars to have radios, and in fact ours didn’t either, but it did have a shelf on the dashboard to rest your home transistor radio, and an aerial lead to plug into the radio’s aerial socket – a fairly common arrangement then.  I assume my father had it installed because he used to drive down every week to his posting at the Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose, not far from Falmouth in Cornwall, and would appreciate having something to listen to.  (Driving then was even more male-dominated than it is now, and married women must have been used to not having use of a car when their husbands were at work)

I don’t really recall what we were doing in the car, or where we were going (it was a Saturday, so not to school) or why the rest of the family wasn’t with us.  What remained etched in my mind was just the scene.  How likely is that I would recall such trivial details, so long after the event, if the event itself  had not made a profound impression?

On a lighter note.

Tomorrow is the 50th anniversary of the first screening of “Doctor Who”.  The first episode was in black and white, and starred William Hartnell.  The Doctor had an assistant even then, but I don’t remember who.  As a scene-setter, the Tardis departed 60s London and arrived in what was evidently the early stone age, outside a structure which might have been inspired by the houses of Fred & Wilma Flintstone and Barney & Betty Rubble.  Which is not to say that Dr Who had the comic overtones which it started to acquire in later years.  As an eight year old, I was quite frightened.
I understand the BBC have made an anniversary episode linking back to William Hartnell, played on this occasion by David Bradley (Filch, in the Harry Potter movies) as Hartnell is long since deceased.  Bradley is a fair likeness, if a little craggier and somehow harder in appearance.

Who can tell me, in which episode did the Daleks first appear?

Answer: Episode 2.

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