Saturday, November 22, 2008

Remembering JFK, 45 Years Later

The photograph above was taken in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963, 45 years ago today. It depicts President John F. Kennedy and his wife Jacqueline, along with Texas Governor John Connally and his wife Nellie en route from Love Field Airport to the Dallas Trade Mart, where the president was scheduled to give a speech. The photo was taken at approximately 12:25 pm, as the motorcade passed in front of a new Safeway store at 3707 Lemmon Avenue. Just minutes later, the limousine would make its fateful turn into Dealey Plaza, and the course of history would be forever changed.

This photo was taken by Safeway Dallas Division employee Jack Zeller, who was assigned to follow up on the Lemmon Avenue store’s grand opening which had taken place the day before. Zeller had his camera along to take pictures of the new store for the company magazine. The president’s motorcade route and approximate timing had been published days earlier in the Dallas papers (something that would never happen today), and in a bit of serendipity, would pass right in front of the Safeway. As you can see, he managed to capture a fine picture as the Lincoln Continental passed in front of the store.

If anyone finds this combination of retail history and that tragic moment in American life to be in poor taste, please forgive me. I do think, however, that there is something moving and patriotic in the fact that one would be proud enough of the president to want to photograph him in front of their business. And it reinforces my appreciation of the risk our presidents assume in interacting with the public, even with today’s far stricter security practices.

I can remember the sense of pride I felt (and still feel, when I think about it) in grade school at having been born during the Kennedy administration. Our class was roughly split between Kennedy and Johnson era babies. More than once it came up as a topic of conversation in class, although certainly none of us had any personal memories of his presidency - just some facts, our parents’ memories, and exposure to the growing Kennedy legend. To be sure, this admiration was by no means limited to those of us born during his presidency.

Would President Kennedy be revered in the same way had he lived to finish his term, or been reelected in 1964, or if he were still alive today at age 91? I’m not sure that’s even possible. Then as now, the country faced monumental challenges, including the Vietnam War, the Cold War and the struggle for civil rights, just to begin a list. More likely, he would have ended up with the mixed legacy that most presidents seem to have. But perhaps he would be. Who’s to say?

One thing is assured - that John F. Kennedy stands as a symbol of America’s promise, forever young and vibrant, frozen in time.

Pictured below is a similar scene from a happier day. Taken on March 23, 1962, President Kennedy’s motorcade is shown passing the Berkeley, California Safeway en route to the University of California to accept an honorary degree and speak at the University’s Charter Day ceremonies at Memorial Stadium. Over 93,000 people were on hand for the speech – a record for both the University and the President.

14 comments:

  1. What a poignant photo, Dave -- a true example of a moment frozen in time. Thank you for sharing that with us.

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  2. Dave, it seems almost hard to believe that 45 years have gone by. I remember sitting in my 5th grade classroom when the custodian came in to report that the president had been shot.

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  3. I wasn't alive during the 60s but I admire them for all the struggle the decade survived. This is a well written and memorable post, Dave.

    The photos are simply fantastic. I love the design of the Safeway store in the first photo. Any idea if eitehr these locations still stand?

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  4. These photos are incredible. Great post.

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  5. Dave

    It was called the Dallas Trade Mart, not the Trade Center.

    This is a fantastic photo, I would imagine this photo has never bee seen before??

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  6. Poor taste? Not at all. This is an wonderful photo. I thought I'd seen every photo of JFK taken in Dallas that day, but this one was new to me.

    I didn't know that Safeway once had stores in Dallas. I know that they bought Randall's and Tom Thumb, but had no idea they traded under their own name long ago.

    Thanks for that amazing bit of history.

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  7. Kendra - You're welcome, and thank you. I'm grateful to have come across it. It's amazing how those events resonate after all these years, especially as each 5-year anniversary milestone is passed.

    Larry - It was almost impossible to for me to imagine that type of shock as I was only a few months old when it happened.(Until 9/11, of course, but by then I was in my late thirties.) My parents went into detail about it when I was older, about the disbelief that something like that could happen.

    Didi - Thanks very much. As far as I know it still stands, most recently as a Tower Records store.

    Richard - Thanks!

    Anonymous - Thanks, and I will correct the post. I believe that part of it is or was called the "Dallas Market Center" more recently, but it was originally called the Trade Mart as you say.

    The photo appeared only once to my knowledge, in the Safeway News, a very small print run company publication.

    54197pe - Thanks. I've seen a large number of photos taken that day, but previosly unseen ones do seem to turn up once in a great while.

    Safeway closed down their Dallas division in 1987, then bought their way back in with Randalls/Tom Thumb 12 years later.

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  8. Just FYI....

    As a former Safeway employee, I know the reason Safeway shut down their Dallas division in 1987. It was due to the attempted forced take over by the Haft family. Safeway had to go deep into debt to avoid being 'gobbled up' by the Haft family, and therefore had to sell off many of their divisions.

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  9. Wouldn't this location have become an AppleTree, then?

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    1. Don't know about Dallas, but the stores in Austin did.

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  10. Such a classic photo!! I shopped this old Safeway during it's incarnation as a record store in the 1990s and early 2000s; Tower Records, I believe it was. Unfortunately, both Safeway and Tower's have gone bye-bye in Big D. I was but a toddler of a little less than 4 when the tragic event occurred in my home town. Dad worked in downtown Dallas for a place known as Meletio Electric, directly across the street from Dallas' classic rock n roll AM station, KLIF. I still have 'The Faithful Hours' 33rpm recording of KLIF's coverage of 11 22 1963. Since then, I've always been interested in the events and characters of that historic day. Interesting enough, this photo taken in front of the 'new' Safeway was taken only STEPS away from the 'Vegas Club', owned by Jack Ruby; managed by his sister, and as well, the 'Lucas B&B' restaurant where Ruby and Oswald 'supposedly' met before Kennedy was assassinated. As a matter of fact, both the 'Vegas Club' and the 'Lucas B&B' were almost DIRECTLY behind the photographer, just behind, to his North & East.

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  11. Great photo!! I last remember the old Safeway as Tower Records during the late '90s/early 2000s. The photographer's position is just Southwest of some other landmarks of interest: The Vegas Club and the Lucas B&B were both within walking distance from the photographer. The Vegas Club was owned by Jack Ruby and managed by his sister and the Lucas B & B is the famous place where Jack Ruby and Lee Oswald were supposedly seen together before the assassination. WOW! Wish I had a Poster copy of this photo!! It's Classic!!!!

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  12. Bunkey - Thanks for those great historical notes! It's amazing, almost 50 years later, how new information continues to turn up on what has to be the most well-documented day in modern history.

    And yes, it was later a Tower Records, a chain that's now gone in its entirety, unfortunately.

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  13. So many parallels. Jack Zeller was our neighbor in Casa View. His wife June and their two sons, Johnny and Jimmy were my early childhood playmates. Jack was very good to us kids, we always got the new food products before they were available to the mass mkt. We were his guinea pigs :). Secondly, at 9 years old, I was in uptown when Kennedy’s motorcade passed through. My mother insisted that my dad take us to see the President. We were standing at the corner of Harwood and McKinney. I’ve not found any pictures or videos of us standing there, but I’m absolutely certain those exist in someone’s picture album, as I remember vividly folks from across the street with cameras.

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