Remembering Lake Charles on the Day of Kennedy’s Assassination

It was the end of November, less than a week until Thanksgiving. Seaport Seafoods, Child’s, and A&P were all having pre-Thanksgiving sales. Mothers were standing in line at Muller’s so their children could see Santa on Saturday.

LaGrange Jr. High’s PTA was preparing for a performance of a comedy entitled “Here Comes Charlie.” People were discussing the political rallies that had been held at the Marion High Gym and Watson’s Café. Gills Long, a gubernatorial candidate, had already started his day speaking in
cities surrounding Lake Charles.

As game show enthusiasts settled in to watch Password that Friday, the news that President Kennedy had been shot was announced. All Lake Charles residents were shocked that something so terrible happened in the United States.

However, if one just opened the newspaper and glanced, it looked like an ordinary day. Ads ran with no messages of sympathy. Weekend events weren’t cancelled. Even McNeese held classes scheduled Saturday. The only ad that didn’t run after the assassination was for Billup’s Supply that sold “Shotguns of all kinds.”

Everything seemed to change when Monday came. Businesses closed and flew the flag at half mast as Kennedy was laid to rest. Sam Tarleton told of the friendliness Kennedy brought to Lake Charles. He observed that all bumper stickers reading “Had Enough, Vote Republican” and “Ban the Brothers” were removed from the backs of cars as he recalled Kennedy’s 1959 visit to the city.

Classes at McNeese and the Catholic schools were canceled. McNeese postponed its football game with southwestern Louisiana. Churches across town held memorial services. As the week went on, more stories of Kennedy started to appear.

Charles Murphy, who served as a deputy in the Calcasieu Parish sheriff’s department told stories of his boyhood friendship with Kennedy. He remembered that the Kennedys were a very close family in everything they did. He told of how he and Kennedy rehashed old time during his 1959 visit.

The former managing editor of the Lake Charles American Press wrote a poem called “Loaded Tongues” and many residents couldn’t believe that just last week they were admiring a picture of John Jr. sitting in a rocking chair. The assassination and burial of President Kennedy made it a sad
Thanksgiving in Lake Charles.

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