Thursday, July 7, 2011

JFK: The Day I Saw The President

John Kennedy was easily my favorite president. He was the favorite of most Mexicans because he spoke to poor people and he was Catholic. My mother kept a picture of him and Jacqueline on her altar, right alongside the Sacred Heart, and the Virgin of Guadalupe.

It was 1962, and I was working as a florist in a small flower shop on Telegraph and Ashby Ave. in Berkeley not far from the University with the manager, Doug. It was mainly a "bucket shop" but we did do flowers for funerals, weddings besides selling flowers in bunches.

I had heard that JFK was going to visit the University, but I had no plans to see him since I was working that day. We had the radio on listening to music as we normally did when the announcer cut in and began to give a street-by-street rundown of the President's entourage.

"The President is now on Shattuck Avenue heading towards the university", said the announcer with a voice of anticipation. Shattuck was only about four blocks west of Telegraph Avenue. That meant they would be crossing Ashby Avenue in minutes!

"Doug, I gotta go see the President, is it alright? I'll be right back?" "Sure, say hello for me", he joked. I tore off my apron, rushed out the front door and started running. "What if I miss him?" I thought to myself. "What if he has already passed when I get there!"

I arrived at Shattuck Avenue to find that crowds had already lined both sides of the street. I pushed my way through the crowd until I found a space where I could see the cars. He had not arrived yet, but I could tell by the screams and claps that he was near!

Several black limousines sped by. But which one was he in?! Then, I saw his face through the backseat window. He was waving at the people. He looked right at me and waved. I furiously waved back.

I felt a thrill, a rush. I had just seen the President of The United States!! "Just wait till I tell my mom", I thought to myself. The trip back to the flower shop was uneventful. I went back to stripping thorns from roses and leaves from carnation stems, and consolidating flowers into buckets, but with a renewed sense of vigor.


V said...

Very cool. Have you checked out "The Kennedys" miniseries yet? It's pretty intense, a little dramatic to the point of being a soap at times, but still pretty entertaining. And man, I wish I was still living in Berkeley where things are actually happening!

Rick Rivers said...

No I haven't as I have limited Direct TV service. I hung out in Berkeley as a young dog, a bohemian when I was at art school in Oakland way back when. Loved it. What another world it was for me! I think you might have inspired a future post, V.