JFK: fifty years already?

This Friday marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F Kennedy and every other media, including the BBC, is featuring stuff like “what were you doing when JFK was shot?”

While I may have forgotten many things in my life, the night that President Kennedy died remains sharply clear in my overloaded memory.

I was then 18, newly enrolled at the brand new University of York, Yorkshire, England.

I was staying in “digs” rather than college as the new university was still in the process of building its colleges known as “halls”.

My address was 51 Penyghent Avenue and my landlady was a very kind, newly divorced woman — Mrs Katherine Wainwright — with two young kids.

The university’s first term was barely into its 6th week but young folks like me made friends quickly. This boy called Colin Baker who was reading political history persuaded me to go watch From Russia with Love with him. Films have never been my preferred date outings but since it was a Friday night and it was the first time he asked, I went along.

It was a ho-hum date. But when I got home and was half way up the stairs to turn in for the night, the real excitement or horror of the night began. Mrs Wainwright, the landlady, called out from the living room.

“Have you heard that President Kennedy has been assassinated?”

Of course I haven’t. So we sat up a long time talking about it, joined by the other two who lodged in the same house: Rina, a Polish girl but naturalised Briton, and Eunice Fisher, my room mate who was from Doncaster.

The next morning, I rushed out and bought all the newspapers I could lay my hands on from the nearby newsagent. Telegraph, Daily Mail, The Guardian and The Times.

I sat on a nearby park bench devouring the various reports and commentary.

One phrase stuck with me: “yesterday he was president, today he belongs to the ages”.

I love the phrase for the concise way it described the temporal nature of life and power. And wish time and again, I had noted down the name of the newspaper and the reporter who penned that.

Today, I realise that I needn’t have bothered.

Googling the phrase, in the hope of striking pay dirt, I discovered the phrase “he belongs to the ages” isn’t original. It had been written first for President Lincoln who, like Kennedy, had been assassinated while in office.

Guess plagiarism and re-cycling are as old as mankind 😆 !!!


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