My pleated skirt and JFK’s assassination
I was 15. I was on stage dressed as a woman, acting the part of Isobel in Jean Anouilh’s Ring Round the Moon. I remember wearing a navy blue New Look pleated skirt and worrying about my flat chest and over-long legs.
My parents were in the audience and so I was doubly embarrassed. The play began at 7.00pm, and in the first half we attracted a good few laughs.
We reached the interval around 8.00pm. We didn’t mingle with the audience. We stayed firmly behind the curtain for last-minute briefings.
When we returned for the second half, the atmosphere had changed dramatically. There were a lot of empty chairs, and people seemed to be crying. We staggered through the rest of the play.
In the hubbub afterwards we were told America’s president, John F Kennedy, had been shot, almost certainly fatally.
We wept. Everyone wept except, it seemed, my father. For us, Jack Kennedy was one of the first people beyond childhood images and Elvis, who had somehow touched our lives.
Ever since, I have wondered how the audience found out that he had been shot. There were no mobile phones, not even a telephone kiosk on the school premises. Even transistor radios were rarely carried around.
On that night, people had used the interval to go outside for a smoke. Had they met someone who had been listening to a radio in some other part of the school - or met someone who had been phoned?
By whatever means they found out, ever since 22 November 1963 I have found myself cast back into that pleated skirt and the strange 20s hat - hearing, for the first time, that the American president had been shot in Dallas, Texas.
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