November 22

I was in the fourth grade on November 22, 1963. I didn’t quite grasp what was going on, except Miss Liles was weeping when we came in from afternoon recess. And Miss Liles never showed any emotion — just a scowl she’d earned from a  couple of decades of teaching. I could sense this was an unfamiliar challenge for her: telling a bunch of fourth graders the President has been assassinated and for all she knew, we could be going to war by supper.

My mother came to pick me up; she too, upset, but for some reason she was talking about the day Roosevelt died. My brothers, who sometime read this blog, remember things from our childhood far better than I do. They may recall what the next few days were like. All I can remember was watching lots of TV. However, watching lots of TV describes most of my childhood.

But I do recall this: all those memories are in black & white TV. Much later, when  the Zapruder film became the iconic imagery of that day, I began to realize that November 22, 1963, was in color. But in my memories of that day, it’s still all black & white. I’m not sure, but I seem to recall our TV set — one of those wooden encased cabinet kind that sat on the floor back when TVs were thought to be furniture — was a Sylvania.

Recently, looking through the suggested titles of streaming video on Netflix, I ran across the 1964 documentary, Four Days in November, produced by David L. Wolper. I can’t recall ever seeing it, although I understand it is shown regularly on the History Channel each year.

It’s a documentary in an old school style, more “March of Time” newsreel than what we now see with news-anchors or Ken Burns-style interviews with historians, or worse, the modern TV news magazine style. Four Days in November has no interviews with historians or academcis, just footage of news coverage and several reenactments of events by the people who originally participated in the events. And a booming-voiced narrator, Richard Basehart, backed by a score composed by Elmer Bernstein.

This documentary captures the gravity of the event, as I observed it through a TV-screen as a fourth grader. No conspiracy theories. No backdrop of coming events that would change the world, for good and bad. It captures the moment, as I recall it, when November 22 comes around.

Below is an embed I found on YouTube that includes some highlights that provide a sense of what the movie is like.