I still remember riding my bike past the post office on my way home Nov. 22, 1963.
Over the course of millenia, certain days have established themselves as watershed moments in history. Everything that came before that day is different than everything that came after – more or less. We wake up in one world and go to sleep in a different one.
Nov. 22, 1963, is one of those days. I was 10 years old, and it’s the second day of my life that I remember precisely right down to the date. It was a cold but sunny day, and Mrs. Kearns wasn’t in front of her fifth-grade class at Little Falls, New Jersey, School No. 1. We had a substitute teacher – a very old substitute teacher. She was very nice, but she was … old. We kind of spent the day yanking her chain.
Somewhere around 1:30, the principal, Mr. Laux, stepped into the classroom, which was very unusual. He looked very grim, and he told us that the president had been fatally shot that afternoon in Dallas, Texas.
That was when it became interesting that the substitute teacher was very old. After the news sank in, she started talking about another sunny day back when she was a little girl. She remembered walking past the train station in her hometown when a man started shouting over by the water tower by the tracks, where the steam engines were refilled with water.
The guy was shouting, “President McKinley has been shot!”
It has occurred to me that we are all walking, talking time machines. On Nov. 22, 1963, I encountered a time machine that took me back to a sunny day in September 1901 – and now that story has reached forward 116 years and into your head.
President John Kennedy was not the only historic man who died that November day in 1963. Aldous Huxley, the great philosopher and novelist who gave us “Brave New World,” died in Los Angeles at the age of 69. And C.S. Lewis, chronicler of Narnia and author of many other great fiction and nonfiction books, died in Oxford, England, one week before his 65th birthday.
Nov. 22, 1963, would be a momentous day even if all that happened were these three prominent deaths. But it became one of those watershed days – when the world turned course completely – because of something that happened that day that was not as sad.
You see, on Nov. 22, 1963, in the United Kingdom, a record album was released … called “With The Beatles.” It was reworked into “Meet The Beatles” for U.S. audiences, and it became the portal that introduced most Americans to those game-changing musicians.
All these incidents combined make the date a watershed. Before and after Nov. 22, 1963, are wholly different worlds.