I remember it well. In fact it is one of my earliest memories.
I was four.
I was playing some game, not sure if I was a cowboy or a spaceman but it involved jumping off the couch and landing on a wicker chair nearby. The wicker chair was too light, overbalanced and I ended up on the floor minus one of my front teeth.
As my mother comforted me and with a towel at my mouth to stem the blood I can clearly recall the images coming through from Dallas on our recently inherited black and white TV. It was of American cops spaced at about 20 yards crouching as a camera swept along the route that John F Kennedy had taken in an open topped car earlier that day.
A journey which was to have been his last.
A friend of mine, sadly no longer with us, wrote the following article on his blog in 2006 about the Kennedy assassination:
This photograph shows Jack Ruby (nee Rubinstein) attending the press conference held in the Dallas Police Station just hours after the Kennedy assassination – a press conference in which Lee Oswald was paraded as the assassin. Ruby was just a face in the crowd at that time. (He is the man with glasses on the rear right of this photograph).
Less than 48 hours after this photograph was taken, Ruby returned to the police station and shot Oswald to death.
The picture is a still taken from a piece of moving film – when the film moves on a few frames then another face in the crowd, just a few feet from Ruby, can be seen to be a very young John Ravenscroft, then an unknown Englishman struggling to make ends meet as a labourer in the cotton industry, later to become John Peel, probably the most famous and certainly the most revered English disc jockey of all time.
Peel tells the story of how he came to be in the Dallas Police Station on 22 November 1963 in his autobiography, ‘Margrave of the Marshes’ published after his death in 2004.
But fascinatingly, he first tells of an occasion in 1961 when he actually met, shook hands and spoke with John F Kennedy, then Senator Kennedy, Presidential candidate. Kennedy noticed that Peel had a camera and invited him to take a picture – this is the picture Peel took (which I’ve lifted straight from the book).
Peel was working in Dallas on 22 November 1963, quite near to where the assassination occurred. When the news came on the radio he went immediately to the scene and was actually present in the Dealey Plaza area while it was being crawled over by dozens of police and FBI agents in the immediate aftermath of the killing. He seemed to be allowed to wander about on the pretence that he was a reporter from the Liverpool Echo, his accent doing the trick.
Later in the evening he went to the Dallas police station, and again using the Liverpool Echo routine, was able to blag his way into the afore-mentioned press conference. When the police brought Oswald into the room, Peel’s impression was that Oswald was genuinely bewildered. “He was either a damn good actor or he was innocent”.
Thus John Peel was one of the very few persons (perhaps the only person) to have been within touching distance at one time or another of all 3 major players (Kennedy, Oswald, Ruby) in the crime of the century.