JFK: Never to forget

MARSHALL – It was a moment no one could forget. As Americans mark the 50th anniversary of the day President John F. Kennedy was fatally shot in Dallas, Texas, many people can remember exactly where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news.

Area residents Tony Doom, of Marshall, and Clark Field, of Clarkfield, are no exception. However, their memories of Nov. 22, 1963, are perhaps a little more unusual. They were on a local radio broadcast interrupted by news of Kennedy’s assassination.

“We didn’t really know what it was right away,” Field said. “Everybody was shocked.”

In 1963, Doom was working as a radio announcer. Although the station he worked for was based out of Fergus Falls, he would also do remote broadcasts from locations like the grocery store Field managed in Ashby.

“Our town was too small to have its own newspaper, so we’d advertise once a week on the radio. We’d do a show,” Field said.

On Nov. 22, the radio show was going on as usual, Doom said.

“Then all of a sudden, in my headset I heard I was being cut off by my news director,” he said.

Field said it wasn’t until a few minutes later that they learned President Kennedy had been shot in Dallas.

The news was a shock, Field said.

“I was a Kennedy man anyway,” he said, which made the news worse.

“I was stunned,” Doom said. He doesn’t really remember how he and Field continued the broadcast that day. “I think we must have mechanically finished our show.” Afterward, he said, “I remember driving back to Fergus Falls in a stupor.”

Field said he remembered other people in the community also reacting with shock, after either hearing announcements or watching the news on television.

There may have been several reasons Kennedy’s death had such an impact on people, Doom and Field said.

“(Kennedy) was young,” Field said, so “it was something you didn’t expect, that was for sure.”

Field said for him, part of the impact may have been that he was a young man himself at the time.

“Assassinations were something that had been happening since the beginning of time but not in my lifetime,” he said.

Doom said Kennedy’s death was more personal for him, because Kennedy’s 1960 presidential campaign was what first got him interested in politics. Doom and his college roommate attended a “bean feed” that the Kennedy campaign held at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds.

“We were apolitical at that time,” Doom said – in fact, Doom was still too young to vote. “It was the very first political event I ever attended, and it had a huge impression on me . . . It really inspired me to follow the campaign.”

Doom said Kennedy also resonated with Catholic voters and especially with a generation of young people who were just becoming politically active. At the time Kennedy was elected, he said, the U.S. had gone from having one of its oldest presidents, Dwight Eisenhower, to one of its youngest. Doom said his own interest in the 1968 presidential campaigns of Hubert Humphrey and Eugene McCarthy came out of the spark of inspiration from the Kennedy campaign.

In a sense, he said, “I think a lot of us from that era were throwbacks to the Kennedy era.”

Doom said he has had the chance to visit both the Eternal Flame commemorating Kennedy in Washington, D.C., and the site where Kennedy gave his famous 1963 speech to the people of West Berlin. Both places brought back some powerful memories, he said, especially the Eternal Flame.

“I had an instant flashback” to the day of the assassination, Doom said. “That was overwhelming.”