Well, folks, I finally, after two aborted attempts in past years, made it to Dealy Plaza to visit the place where President Kennedy was murdered way back in November of 1963. Named for George Bannerman Dealy (1859-1946), a newspaper man who rose to civic prominence in Dallas, the plaza was constructed by the Works Projects Administration between 1934 and 1940, the same years as our Stanton Theatre was constructed by the same administration.
If one has ever seen photos or film of Dealy Plaza, and millions of us have, the lens does not capture distances like the human eye does. If you are one of those who believe a man named Lee Harvey Oswald, seated in a sixth-floor corner window, fired three shots from a rifle in less than six seconds and hit his target with each shot then that is your belief and I am not here to dissuade anyone from whatever they believe about that day; but I can offer some insight into the actual site.
The most striking thing that occurs to anyone who has done any hunting or target shooting is that from that window to the large white X in the center lane of Elm Street is not far. It is in fact only 88 yards, 264 feet; I’ve made shots at that distance and further. In fact, Dealy Plaza, from Houston Street at the top to the overcrossing at the bottom of the slope, is only about two football fields in length. At the end of a long day, I was glad I made the effort to visit this place that played such a short but prominent role in our nation’s history.
On my last day in Indian Territory (Chickasaw Nation mostly) my daughter and I visited the Oklahoma Bombing Memorial in downtown OKCity. When I was last at this site it was one month to the day after America’s first homegrown terrorist parked a rented moving van packed with a homemade bomb in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building and walked away. The blast killed 168 people, 19 of whom were children in a daycare. At the time of my first visit the area was still vacant, the cleanup of debris and repairing of surrounding buildings still in the early stages.
Today there is a beautiful memorial, with an empty chair with each victim’s name, the children’s chairs half size. There is a long reflective pool adjacent to the chairs and just past that the Survivor Tree; a lone tree in the parking lot that withstood the blast and is today a symbol of resiliency of both nature and humankind. It is a very serene memorial, but very much like my experience in Dallas I found the images of the site belie the actual size. The whole place is, again, much smaller than one would imagine.
I arrived back in KC on the first day of the Fair with all the hoopla that event brings to the town, and to the block where I rent a room. Seventh Street is not a wide street, in fact one of the narrowest streets in the burg, and come this time of year every inch of available parking space is used. This includes the driveways and front yards of residents on Seventh Street and surrounding blocks. The charge for parking in this once-a-year violation of city ordinances is acceptable to many as the SVF parking lot on Division Street fills early and the walk from as far away as Broadway can be tough on strollers and the elderly. And if a long walk isn’t daunting enough, there was the long wait to enter once arriving at the fairgrounds.
On Friday evening, a friend who is a long-time wrestling fan and I were not capable of standing for both check-in and the matches knowing the chairs would fill quickly. I am a big supporter of the local fair, in fact once spent eight seasons back in the ’90s working there, and have great memories of those days and many days before and since, but that does not mean I was at all pleased with the long wait lines on Friday and Saturday evenings. The two lines ran from the gates to Division Street with families loaded with bags and strollers that, along with purses and backpacks and pockets, all have to be either accounted for. And all this with only two security stations in operation. I would hope this bottleneck is not there next year no matter what it takes for rectification.
Anyhoo, long-time buddy Oliver and I returned to the house where I rent just in time to catch a brief bit of excitement on the street. As part of the TV generation, I suppose I have seen a hundred Western scenes where a lawman on horseback chased a bad guy who was afoot, but not until last Friday evening did I see the real thing; and mind you I just returned from Oklahoma. Oliver and I were sitting in the front room with the front window shades open and the front door wide open when I heard a loud, irregular sound from the street when a guy ran almost into the front yard but was cut off by a sheriff’s deputy on horseback.
When the guy dodged across the street, the rider spun the horse and finally pinned the runner between two cars at the curb across the street. It was a few seconds of excitement unlike this street has ever seen; as this street has seen some stuff over the decades. It was no more than a minute later when the sirens were heard and another 30 seconds and four units were on hand and the bad guy (alleged, if arrested he is presumed innocent until proven guilty) was cuffed and gone. The whole incident shut down the street for about five minutes was all, efficient work by sheriff’s department and probation. And the horse, of course.
Take care. Peace.