Every young boy and girl in
America couldn't help but notice and admire the President's glamorous first
lady, Jacqueline. I was very disappointed she was not visiting Tampa
along with her husband. At that
time, so many teens around my age looked up to the President as a father
figure…we all watched the news and read the newspapers just to see what he had
I had to practically beg my
mother to take us to MacDill Air Force Base because she wasn’t all that
excited about our project. She
finally gave in, though…I was unrelenting.
We got to MacDill about 5a.m.
and talked our way through the Dale Mabry gate.
That early in the morning the guards were tired, not so vigilant, and I
guess they figured we couldn’t be much of a security risk at our ages.
Our car was directed to a large
hangar on the east side of the runway, not far from where the President’s
plane, Air Force One, would land. The area
had been designated for use by members of the press.
My mother dropped us off and returned home to her comfy bed.
Some airman saw us and let us into the hangar and told us to sit down and
we did, for what seemed to be days. After
all, it wasn't even dawn and the President’s plane wasn’t going to land for
over six more hours.
For a teenager, sitting still in
a chair for that long seemed like a prison sentence It was not something I was accustomed to doing, but the
single thought of meeting President Kennedy made it more than worth while.
After an eternity of waiting, an
Air Force officer entered the area and questioned us about what we were doing
there. After explaining we were
bona fide representatives of the Buchanan Junior High School newspaper (complete
with I.D.!), he hinted that our best shot at getting close to JFK would be at
the MacDill Officer’s Club some distance away.
By that time, the President’s arrival was getting close so we made a
bee line for our best vantage point.
We had chosen MacDill Air Base
because we wanted to be there for the arrival of the President but you needed
press credentials to get close enough to see detail. But we were able to catch Air Force One landing and the
president walking off the plane from quite a distance as we were making our way
to the Officer’s Club.
JFK was taken by limousine to
the Officer's Club, and by the time we finally arrived, he had already gone into
the building for lunch and a meeting with ranking military people at the MacDill
command. My heart raced as and Clem
and I waited for the second when he would emerge and we would finally get a
chance to meet our hero and leader.
I came fully prepared to record
the Chief Executive’s every movement with my Kodak Brownie with the old 620
film and a built-in flash (which wasn’t necessary that day) and my Bell and
Howell 8mm movie camera loaded with a full roll of film, two-and-a-half minutes
worth. The still camera stayed
around my neck and I carried a case-type bag around my shoulder with the movie
It was necessary to juggle the cameras back and forth, which was easy because I could take a still picture and drop the camera…then grab the movie camera. Exactly how I pulled it all off escapes me to this day but I do know I was more concerned about being able to shake Kennedy’s hand than about getting stills or movies.