The Woodward News

November 22, 2013

Area residents recall JFK assassination

Rachael Van Horn
Woodward News

Woodward, Okla. — Dale Waugh of Laverne, remembers the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated like it was yesterday.

“I was in grade school at Buffalo and we was out at recess, playing baseball,” Waugh said. “(Mr.) Hoeffler hollered at everyone to come into the gymnasium and someone took a radio in there and for the rest of the day, we listened.”

Today, Nov. 22, marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination and the day has people looking back at their lives and reminiscing about a time when such an event stopped the nation in its tracks.

Waugh is not unlike almost anyone old enough to remember that most inauspicious day, Nov. 22, 1963.

Even though the event happened 50 years ago, when you ask, “Do you remember where you were and what you were doing that day,” the answer is offered in an emphatic tone. “Yes, ma’am I sure do,” they usually say.

Waugh went on to tell how the event impacted his home throughout the next three days.

“We was too broke to have television, so we walked a mile up to my neighbor’s house for the funeral and watched it on that ol’ black and white television.”

Mark Jones of Laverne had stayed home from school that day because he was sick.

“I was watching television, a black and white one, and it came up right then,” he said. “My mom was in the kitchen and I went in there to tell her.”

Woodward City Manager Alan Riffel was in the fourth grade in Carmen Elementary School.

“I was in the grade school upstairs auditorium,” Riffel said. “The teacher had sent me after some chairs and folding chairs that were in the storage up there. I came out and one of my classmates was walking in and said that the news had just come across that the president had been shot.”

Riffel said the rest of the day, the entire school watched as events unfolded.

“We listened to the radio till we went home from school and then of course through the rest of the weekend - Oswald was killed Sunday morning and the funeral (Kennedy’s) was the next day,” Riffel said. “We watched it all in glowing black and white.”

Laverne bank teller Myrna Love remembers the event clearly.

“I was working at the Panther Cove, a restaurant in Follett, Texas, she said. “Someone came into the eating establishment and said the president had been shot. I was 18-years-old and getting married the next month.”

Laverne tag agent Oleta Lemmons remembers hearing the news and feeling the need to just get home.

“There was a TG&Y then in Woodward. Pam was a baby and I was in there shopping with my mom. They announced it on the intercom system and we immediately came home to Laverne,” Lemmons said. “There was such a hush in that store when they made that announcement.”

Retired Navy veteran Butch Harmon remembers it was a Friday when it all happened.

“I was at Laverne High School and it was right after dinner when they passed the word around that he had been shot,” Harmon said. “Course, no one believed it to begin with. But then, that evening, I was at an FFA Greenhand initiation and Mr. Shackleford - he was the superintendent then, stood up and made the announcement. I was always fascinated by President Kennedy.”

While the nation appeared to be glued to a radio or television set that day, some were too remote to have any knowledge very quickly about the assassination.

One such person was Dean Carnagey, now of Laverne. In those days, Carnagey didn’t do much work that didn’t involve a horse.

“We was working up in the Flint Hills of Kansas,” he said. “I don’t think I knew about it till we got in and saw the television that night.”

Others, though they were young, still remember the emotion that played out in the adults who were usually stoic, hard working people of the Panhandle.

But that day revealed the closeness many felt to their leader, said Patti Moser of Lavern.

“We lived up north and we were outside playing and we came in and my momma was watching that little console TV and was just crying,” Moser said. “I remember wondering why she was crying because I was young and I thought, ‘He isn’t even related to us.’ But then we watched that TV and I started knowing, he was like our family, he was our leader.”