I’m a newspaper throwback kind of guy. If you read this space regularly that comes as no surprise.
I can live without pay phones, Duncan yo-yo’s, VHS recorders, telephone answering machines, Silly Putty, a AAA TripTix and maybe even my Royal electric typewriter but don’t take my daily newspaper away from me.
Begrudgingly, I understand the economics of the business no longer works. Today’s younger generation have no time or interest in reading newspapers; by and large, even my contemporaries have moved away from the hard copy newspaper and now get their news off a PDA or television screen.
Waning readership means circulation numbers are down so advertisers have found other places to spend their monies. Once vibrant newsrooms now have as much activity as a Kamala Harris campaign office. The economic hardship of the industry is, in part, being passed along to the public in newsstand pricing: the failing New York Times is $3; the Wall Street Journal costs $4 a copy and USA Today, on its last legs, gets $2 for news so stale that it should be rebranded USA Yesterday. Even the New York tabloids — the Daily News and Post — are a buck and a half and two, respectively. Most people no longer find value in the printed word and are finding better things to do with their pocket change. It’s enough to make Perry White shout “Great Caesar’s Ghost” from the roof of the Daily Planet.
To me, a dinosaur, there is nothing like the morning ritual of opening the crisp pages of a freshly delivered newspaper. Since moving to Nevada I am down to two dailies on the driveway every morning. The Las Vegas Review-Journal is a wonderful newspaper. Being in the Pacific time zone there’s never a ballgame that finishes too late to be included in the morning paper. We also get the Wall Street Journal delivered, which I enjoy more each day.
Not so long ago, when we were still in Alabama, we got up to four wrappers delivered every day, which even I admit was a bit over the top. The Wall Street Journal, USA Yesterday, the Tuscaloosa News because we needed a regional daily, and the thrice-weekly Birmingham (Almost) News, because old habits die hard.
Enjoying two good, readable newspapers a day is my wheelhouse. Except on Thanksgiving morning. The Wall Street Journal didn’t publish, and for the first time all year, the Review-Journal had early deadlines and padded the issue with loads of advertising inserts so their employees could enjoy the holiday. Good thing they weren’t working for me.
I had a void. A big one. I knocked off the RJ before going to the gym and came home to my fruit, granola, yogurt, hardboiled egg and energy shake with nothing to read. Post-workout is WSJ time. Not this day though. Sitting nearby was the New York Daily News from November 23, 1963, the day after President Kennedy was killed. The pages have turned yellow and feel extremely fragile. Like those who gather at high noon on Thanksgiving day to listen to all nineteen minutes of ‘Alice’s Restaurant’, I bring it out that copy of the Daily News every year around the anniversary date of the assassination. So, needing something to replace the Journal, I figured a newspaper is a newspaper even if this keepsake is fifty-six years old.
The edition that hit Long Island that fateful morning was the three-star of five editions the Daily News used to publish. The front page screamed “President Is Slain” and subheaded “Johnson Sworn In on Plane; Suspect Kills Cop , Seized.” The later five-star edition was re-plated to say “Kennedy Assassinated” and “Johnson Sworn as President; Left-Wing Suspect Seized.” Both used the same picture of LBJ with Mrs. Johnson and Mrs. Kennedy. It cost five cents.
So, over three cups of Sumatra and that fine fruit salad, here’s what else was in that newspaper behind the sensational headlines. It’s not easy thumbing through something that old while trying not to tear every thin, parched page:
Page 2- About President Lincoln’s assassination a century earlier, poet and journalist Carl Sandburg once wrote: “….for the rest of their lives men remembered where they were, what they were doing when the heard the news.” Women probably did, too.
I was eleven years old in 1963. If you are over 25 there have been at least one of two seminal moments of American history in our lifetime, 11/22/63 and 9/11/01, that left an impression on us that will never leave — where we were and what we were doing when we heard the respective tragic news. Though I remember every detail of both of those days, and in fact was part of the Washington DC 9/11 evacuation mandate, JFK was more impactful to me because of my age and naive innocence of the world.
Also on page 2 was a note that President Johnson took umbrage with journalists who referred to him as a “back-room political operator.” Touchy-touchy Mr. President. Not sure today’s media climate would have been a fit for Mr. Johnson.
Page 3- New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller and New York City Mayor Robert Wagner order a “30-day period of mouring.”
Lee Harvey Oswald, 24, was described as a “Soviet-loving young Texan who once tried to renounce (his) U.S. citizenship to become a Soviet citizen.” He was apprehended from a Dallas movie theater after he killed J.D. Tippit, a Dallas police officer. The movie he ducked in to see was “Cry Battle” but, on the lam, I don’t think he was too picky about what was playing.
Page 4- Representative Joe D. Waggoner Jr. (D-LA) said prophetically, “I don’t know what this country is coming to.”
Page 5- There are only 26 shopping days until Christmas.
Page 6- The Soviet Tass news agency blamed “extreme right-wing elements” for JFK’s killing. The Reds seem to have their wings a bit tangled.
Sir Winston Churchill said, “The loss to the United States and the world is incalculable.”
French Prime Minister Georges Pompidon exclaimed: “It is atrocious. It is frightful. I am overwhelmed,” while Italian President Antonio Segni said, “It is a grave loss for all mankind.”
West German Chancellor Ludwig Erhard was on his way to Washington for a meeting with the President. “The news fills the German people with deep grief,” he sighed.
Page 7- Local NY leaders also express their dismay. “It’s the worst thing that happened in our country in my lifetime,” Manhattan Borough President Edward R. Dudley, who was described by the newspaper as a “Negro”, said. With no qualifying tag, everyone else quoted in the story must have been white guys.
JFK was the fourth President to be assassinated while in office joining Lincoln in 1865, Garfield in 1881 and McKinley in 1901.
Also on the same page was the news we had been waiting for – over in London Raymond Knibb “won” a divorce from his wife because she “tramped down all the dahlias in their garden.” Good for him.
Page 8- Joseph L. Dailey, a Negro cab driver, said “It’s the first time I cried with white people.” Meanwhile, Hyman Stein said, “I was in El Paso a couple of weeks ago. I’m not surprised. Those Texas are a rough bunch down there.” There was no mention that Stein was Jewish.
Page 10- Busch Jewelers marked down a quarter-carat diamond ring from $90 to $69.50. You can have it for $2.50 down and $1.75 a week. There are 14 convenient locations around the City.
Page 13- There is a reminder not to jaywalk in NYC.
Page 17- The Daily News editorialized that “We shall see what the consequences of the assassination of President Kennedy will be.” History will only speculate. Reality is there are so many ‘ifs’ in that scenario that we’ll never know.
Page 22- Playing on Broadway that weekend was “A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum,” “Barefoot In The Park,” “How To Suceed In Business Without Really Trying,” “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” with Kirk Douglas and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolff?” The theaters went dark the night of the shooting.
At the famed Apollo Theater in Harlem, Sam Cooke headlined with Mary Wells and Ruby & The Romantics. They played three shows at 2, 7 and 10 pm.
Page 23- It cost 89 cents to get into a movie. Showing was “Under The Yum Yum Tree,” “Take Her, She’s Mine,” “Fantasia,” and “Lawrence of Arabia”.
Also on page 23, apparently it was a slow day for the gossip columns as Charles McHarry told us that “New York Giants quarterback Y.A. Tittle passed the salt and pepper to a dining companion at Peter’s Backyard.” Must have been a rare Tittle pass that wasn’t intercepted.
Page 28- The media page chronicled that although everyone was tuned in to Walter Cronkike or Huntley and Brinkley for the Dallas coverage, it was actually radio station WABC-77 that first broke the assassination news during the Bob Dayton show. The number one song in the nation was “I’m Leaving It All Up to You” by Dale & Grace. “Dale” was Robert Dale Houston, who was in Dallas and waved to President Kennedy on Main Street just moments before the shooting.
Page 29- The State Office of Transportation reported that riders wanted “better service” on the Long Island Rail Road. They are still waiting.
Page 30- Sports- Horse racing at Aqueduct was canceled for the weekend. The American Football League postponed all their Sunday games. College football left it to the respective schools on whether to play or not. Most didn’t. The National Football League played its entire seven game schedule. Commissioner Pete Rozelle was told by the White House that’s what President Kennedy would have wanted. Fifty-plus years later the League still gets criticized for that decision.
Page 31- William Ford bought the Detroit Lions for the relative bargain price of $6 million. Mr. Ford thought he got a good deal until he saw the Lions play.
Page 32- Rocky Marciano, clearly not punch-drunk, predicted that “television relay satellites” would one day be a financial bonanza for the boxing game.
The agate type reminded us of the penthouse/outhouse status of the city’s two baseball teams. The Yankees won the American League pennant in 1963 but got swept by the Dodgers in the World Series. The Mets, in their second season, finished with 51 wins and 111 losses, only 48 games behind the Dodgers. It still was a big improvement from 1962 when they went 40-120. Nobody dreamed only six years later they’d be World Champions.
Page 33- A story out of Mobile, Alabama that officials of the Senior Bowl “declined specific comment on whether Negroes will be invited to play in the annual football all-star game in January.” NBC threatened not to broadcast the game if they are excluded.
Also Italian heavyweight contender Sante Amonti, scheduled to fight Floyd Patterson on January 6, 1964, had his tonsils removed.
Some things never change. The NBA standings that morning show the Knicks at 6-12, last in the four team Eastern division. Today the Knicks are 4-19, last in the 15 team Eastern conference.
Page 34- It was a bad day for a couple of college football coaches. Holy Cross head coach Dr. Eddie Anderson was hung in effigy from a tree on the campus quad for a record of 1-6-1. Don’t see many effigy hangings anymore. Out west, Montana State fired Ray Jenkins with a career record of 14-41 whose program was hurt by “institutional athletic deemphasis”, no doubt making the job very attractive to future candidates. “Institutional athletic deemphasis” must be what the New York Giants are doing this season.
Page 35- The stock market reacted with a “sharp drop” when the JFK news hit the NYSE trading floor at 1:30 pm. The market was humming along with a three point gain until it plunged 21 points at 2 pm. Trading was halted ten minutes later. It was the largest market loss since May, 1962 when “near-panic selling” resulted in a 35 point loss. The market closed on 11/22/63 at 711. It closed this past Friday afternoon at 28,015. Yes, thank you President Trump.
The Wall Street Journal has resumed regular delivery so my yellowed, parched November 23, 1963 New York Daily News, which cost me five cents, is back in the hibernation drawer for another year.
Over a half century later, it’s still the best damn nickel I’ve ever spent.