Carolina History Project
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JFK 1963-1993 Display:  A display I put on at Eastover Elementary School for the 30th anniversary of the infamous Kennedy assasination on Friday, November 22nd, 1963
Back in 1993, yours truly, Dirk Allman, was working as a teacher assistant at one of Charlotte-Mecklenburg's older schools, Eastover Elementary, which was built around 1935, in Charlotte, North Carolina.  In the hallway was a rather spacious display case, with sliding glass doors, that had been built into the wall some decades back.  It was not far from the main entrance and the school office.  And I thought to myself, "You know, this would be a good spot to do a history display in."  (Heaven only knows, even back then, I had piles of old stuff lying around at my disposal.)  I hadn't been working at the school very long, and decided if I would ask the then principal, Mrs. Myrna Meehan, if I could do just such a display.  It was November of 1993, and the 30th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination in Dallas, Texas was coming up.  There were so many news reports and commemorations about the tragic incident being shown on television at the time.  And I thought to myself, "Yes, I think I can recreate the year 1963 in that display case space."  It would be a time capsule of the era.  I already had in my possession several copies of old Charlotte Observer and Charlotte News newspapers that people kept when that awful day happened.  (Many folks saved them!)  Though thirty years later, they were browned, some-what tattered and yellowed with age, they would make the backdrop for my exhibit.  Now mind you, the Kennedy assassination was two years before I was born.  But in order to understand history, one must be able to think abstractly...and go back to a time that one never knew.  (Hence, why history is taught in the first place.)

As an aside here:  in the past people would ask me, "Why do you do this stuff?  You weren't even born yet?"  (Yes, ignorant people kept asking me things like that.)  My best answer to them went something like this:  people still listen to Beethoven, classical operas and even read Edgar Allen Poe, but obviously there is no one living today from that time.  Yet, people still enjoy these things regardless of not having lived at the time when these artistic and literary works were first made.  I'm also sure there are folks who like to watch the American Movie Classics channel on cable TV who sure weren't around when most of those films were first shown, but they sure do enjoy them.  And thanks to such venues, people will still know who Humphrey Bogart is 5oo years from now!  (Maybe?)  

So, why would I want to do an exhibit for elementary school kids.... about JFK's times and unfortunate demise?  (I mean after all, it's not the happiest subject to talk about.)  I did it because it was there, I had a space to do it in...and I took the opportunity...and grabbed it.  (Plus, like I said, the topic was timely with the 30-year anniversary.)  I was surprised when Mrs. Meehan let me do it.  But she never regretted it.  It was the beginning of many "historical displays" I would do for many years and many places afterwards, locally anyway.  (Although, really, the first historical exhibit I had done prior to this one was for the 50th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor back in 1991.  It was held at Central Piedmont Community College and my display got on two television news spots!)  

And also, by discussing this part of my life, perhaps people would realize that I just didn't keep all of this "pell-mell" junk around for nothing.  That the stuff I have found and kept over the years, which to many may have looked like a bunch of hoarded stuff from the Great Depression...was unto a small branch office of the Smithsonian Institution!  These photos are from Eastover Elementary School back in November of 1993.  See for yourself how well I did.  I was very proud of it.  The teachers loved it...although the exhibit didn't "fit" into any particular core curriculum...or taught answers to a "national test."  And most importantly, the children may  not have known what it all meant, but they were fascinated by it.  Enjoyed it.  Those kids are in their twenties now.  And occasionally, I still run into a student that never forgot me.  Could there be a reason why?  Read on.

Well, how does it look?  (The collage format is my favorite art form.  I guess that's a left-over from the 1970's.)  OK, if you remember 1963...this ought to take you back.  Remember the LP record?  Here's Chubby Checker and Bobby Rydell doing a duet album; Ray Charles doing country and western; Paul Tripp's Birthday House TV children's album.  And then there's the Lawrence Whelk Tenth Anniversary album...from 1964, I think.  OK, I was off a year there.  You can see the fading torn Charlotte News and Observers with the latest horrific news of Kennedy's death.  (Notice the juxtaposition of it all?)  There are supermarket ads for the daily groceries, the color comics from the newspapers, 45rpm records, period magazines, a viewmaster, a bottle of unopened Wildroot Cream oil (it was such old stock that the oil and lanolin had long since separated) and a Dr. Pepper institutional syrup bottle.  There's even old letters (with 4-cent postage) and postcards...and even a church fan from the Mutual Ebony Burial Association (of Marion, North Carolina.)

Yes, here is a close-up of the above photo which shows a mourning Jackie Kennedy...along with the latest news that Lee Harvey Oswald had been shot by Jack Ruby.  Something that was seen on "live" TV.  The "Orpheum" movie broadside is probably from the 1950's as that "Giant" was big in 1955.  Also you see the Broadway hit "Gypsy."  So it was a little out of place here, but somehow it "fit."  Although "Music Man" would have shown in theaters around 1962.  So, it was close to the time.  The other movies must have been "reruns."

Here the local newspaper has an ad for Charlotte, North Carolina A&P grocery stores:  In Memory of President John F. Kennedy--All Charlotte A & P Stores Will Be Closed Monday, November 25, 10:30am to 1:30pm.  As that it was around the Thanksgiving holiday, you will note the turkey motif for First Federal Bank...offering 4% interest on savings.  (Try getting that kind of interest on your savings account today!)   

Yes in the photo below, The Charlotte Observer proclaims that the "President Lies In Arlington."  The long since defunct Charlotte News (our town's afternoon paper until about 1985) tells in bold headlines, "U. S. Buries It's President."  You see the newly sworn-in President Lyndon Johnson wearing a fedora.  The latest movie listings are shown.  You see the official white house photo of President Kennedy.  Below the newspapers, is a school textbook for how to make speeches, a snowdome from Florida...and a worn paperback copy of the Cold War classic Fail Safe which was later made into a movie with Henry Fonda.

In the photo above, more headlines:  The Charlotte News--"City To Shut Down For Funeral."  Supermarket ads for Park and Shop.  LP records (called vinyl now) of Robert Goulet, Nat "King" Cole, Ricky Nelson, The Kingston Trio and R & B artist Dee Dee Sharp doing a gospel album.  (She was famous for singing "The Mashed Potato.")  There's even an early "solid-state" table model radio that would have broadcast such music.  You even see retro Christmas cards, an Esso gas station map...and a vintage Pepsi bottle.

Here is a close-up of the headlines:  The Charlotte Observer:  "President Johnson Leads World In Mourning of Kennedy Slaying."  The Charlotte News:  "Johnson, Foreign Heads Confer As Flame Burns At JFK's Grave."  At Park 'n' Shop, which used to be on Wilkinson Blvd, but is boarded up now, hens are at 29 cents a pound, while Thanksgiving turkeys hold at 35 cents a pound.  Grapes are 10 cents a pound, sweet potatoes at 5 cents a pound, and lest we can get four rolls of toilet tissue for 19 cents!

And we can't forget the "spin-o-rama" records.  The TV listings are in front of Ricky Nelson's picture.  (I remember when he died in a plane crash on January 1st, 1985.  He was on the verge of making a popular comeback.  His twin sons carried on in the entertainment business with a band called Nelson.)  Note "twisting-dancer" cake toppers on top of the radio...and the 45rpm record behind it.  For the "record," people under twenty years old, have never played vinyl 33 1/3 or 45rpm recordings.  They are now an obsolete technology.  And by the way, since I did this display over a decade and a half ago...I can't remember where I put most of this stuff!  Oh's around here... somewhere.  ;-)

When my mother was cleaning out a kitchen cabinet a few decades back, she found this sort-of postcard advertising H. F. Porter Plumbing Company, 3041 S. Blvd., Charlotte, North Carolina.  The "tires" seen on the panel van are actually hose washers.  It's from 1963 as well.  The plumbing company, I am sure, is long since out of business. 

Early 1960's souviner Washington D. C. postcard of our 35th president.  "Ask not what your country can do for you--Ask what you can do for your country."

Just a note here:  most of these items found on this website are now, due to age, in the public domain and are from my private collection.  Items of a more recent vintage, used in part for newsworthy commentary and/or educational purposes, are covered under the Fair Use Act of the U.S. Copyright Office.  Thank you. 

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