11/12/10 - posted by Paul Judge

At age 10 the presidential election of 1960 was the first such race that I was old enough to be aware of.

Coming from a working class Irish Catholic Democratic family Kennedy was the man. Thus I parroted the thoughts and inclinations of my parents. Yet the myth that Kennedy would receive a unanimous Catholic vote was hardly the case indicated in the straw polling among my classmates at St. Thomas the Apostle elementary school. While waiting in line to play four square or tether ball during recess and lunch time debates showed a considerable number of kids voicing their parent's support for Tricky Dick and the Republican ticket. I remember especially Johnny Harlas and Jimmy Shaw showing particularly sharp prowess debating the strong points they'd heard about Vice President Nixon. They even wore campaign buttons with their candidate's face on them that seemed to add heft to their loyalty. The anxiety I felt about whether 'our guy' was going to win the election was only a hint of the same anxious partisanship I'd learn to feel about future candidates as well as cheering for hometown sports teams in the decades to come.

I remember accompanying my mother to the polling place four doors up the hill in the garage of Mr. & Mrs. Mien's place. Surely some of you remember those large green mechanical voting booths that the City delivered and set up at each precinct to allow people to cast ballots in the post war years? To us as kids they seemed mysterious and Wizard of Oz-like machines. I loved stepping into the booth with my mom or dad as they drew the overhead handle that closed the heavy curtain behind us so their ballot was cast in privacy. The entire face of the machine was labeled with the candidate's names running for office and ballot measures. The small individual levers that were pulled to mark a vote made a strong impression on me. Voting in elections was about ones civic responsibility. Wow, the power to pull those small levers was one of those far off cool things adults got to do and that kids couldn't.

As a family that November night in 1960 we tuned into Chet Huntley and David Brinkley to view the election returns from New York. I went to bed and awoke to the news of Kennedy's victory in the morning. You can view a flashback to that election here (…and tell me that there wasn't something unnerving when Richard Nixon smiled.):

NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams _ Remembering JFK's Election Day http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xfkkl7_nbc-nightly-news-with-brian-williams-remembering-jfk-s-election-day_news

The following January our mom let us stay home from school to watch President Kennedy's inauguration. We watched his famous speech and the parade that followed. I didn't realize yet that the presidential tune, “Hail to the Chief” wasn't President Kennedy's personal music score. It was very jarring a few years later to hear the piece played for LBJ after he assumed the office and subsequent presidents. One of the features in the inaugural parade that made an impression on me was seeing a PT Boat towed along the parade route similar to the one the Kennedy had commanded during the war. Another impression was seeing the colorful Old Saint Mary's Cathedral Marching Band and Drill Team from San Francisco. At the far end of the same decade in high school I'd make friends with Esther Louie and learn that she had marched in that parade as the youngest member in the band.

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