No tweets, emails or breaking-news alerts on mobile devices notified the Ripon Commonwealth Press of the Big Story out of Dallas Nov. 22, 1963.
At 12:50 p.m. that Friday, a passing pedestrian escaped the drizzle long enough to poke his head in the Commonwealth’s Blackburn Street office to announce that “the president has been shot.”
Four years and 10 days earlier, 27-year-old Edward Kennedy had walked in that same doorway to promote the presidential candidacy of his older brother. ...
Around 2 p.m., a merchant hastening past delivers the grim news that the president died.
... As it continues “to rain a steady tattoo,” the Commonwealth observes five days later that flags throughout Ripon immediately are lowered to half staff.
A local resident recalls recently seeing the movie “Suddenly,” in which Frank Sinatra plays the part of a sniper who spots himself high in a building as he waits for a fictitious president to drive by. “But our president was very real,” Commonwealth publisher Doug Lyke reminds in a column describing how the birthplace of the Republican Party reacted to news that the nation’s 35th president was slain.
A man walks across Watson Street with a transistor radio to his ear as if listening to the World Series, afraid of missing any of the sad, unfolding drama.
Ripon High School guidance counselor Bruce Ehr informs students of the news through a public address system that reaches every room in the building on Metomen Street, where Ripon Middle School is now. The radio is then connected directly to the PA system so classes can hear the latest developments.
... At 3 p.m., about two hours after doctors at Dallas’ Parkland Hospital declare the president dead, Ripon Mayor John P. Adamski officially proclaims a week of mourning in Ripon, and calls for the closing of all city offices and businesses on Monday.
Ripon High School Principal John Zei observes: “ ... we were concerned as to what reaction the assassination would have on the students. We constantly talk about democracy and its proper procedures and then something like this happens.”...
Auto salesman Bob Sweeney’s assessment is simple. “I think we lost probably one of the greatest presidents in the history of the United States.”
People dribble in and out of Ripon’s churches to pay their private respects to their fallen leader.
... Almost every seat is filled for Ripon College President Fred Pinkham’s hastily announced service at Ripon College’s Red Barn theater Saturday afternoon.
“There was no smiling or joking as usually takes place in this building,” the Commonwealth reports of the 600 students, faculty and townspeople who attend. “A mixed college/high school band, quickly brought together, is draped in black, and a mixed college chorus sends shivers up and down sensitive backs with its expression of ‘America the Beautiful’ ...
“Most appropriate prayer is expressed by the Rev. Louis Zick, who makes the point that clings to the minds of all reasonable men that ‘this is a time for oneness of spirit regardless of color, creed, nationality, politics of religion.’ Amen.”
— Tim Lyke
To read the entire editorial, see the Nov. 21, 2013 edition of The Ripon Commonwealth Press.