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.
Marshall residents share a memory
about the day JFK was assassinated:
Brenda Byrnes was a third-grader: "We were in our little auditorium at school watching a movie, and the principal came in and stopped the movie, and we all said 'Awwww.' The principal scolded us and said we had to go to our homeroom. It was my birthday party - what a party! All my Catholic friends were praying the rosary."
Mary Jacobs: "I was in my eighth-grade English class. The principal came in and announced it, and we all went home."
John Allen: "I was in an eighth-grade geography class. I still remember the teacher, Miss Hallidge, she totally fell apart. They sent us home."
Kathryn Eveslage was high school senior: "I was in boarding school. It was in study hall, and there was a TV in there that was never turned on except for the six o'clock news, and all of a sudden, the principal came in and turned it on. We watched the 5:30 and 6 o'clock news, then we had an hour break and a two-hour study hall."
Don Bleloch: I was actually 27 at the time, working as an accountant. I was home from work sick in my apartment in Chicago, and my then-girlfriend called and told me."
Al Greig: "(I was) at the University of Minnesota, Morris, taking a piano lesson. It seems like someone stepped in the room and told us a tragedy had occurred."
Margaret Greig: "I was in Mankato and just getting ready to go to work at Emmanuel Hospital. We had the TV on and Walter Cronkite... I just stopped dead in my tracks."
Jess Nelson: "It was Miss Letourneau's seventh-grade math class. It came over the loudspeaker in Hosterman Junior High in New Hope. Miss Letourneau started crying, and class was kind of at an end."
"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."