50 Years After the Death of John F. Kennedy | A Hometown Remembers
“I even got my father, who was a strict Republican, to vote for John Kennedy .” James Kelley
A 1965 graduate of Barnstable High School, Wiley now lives in Parker, Colorado.
“My family attended St. Francis Xavier Church, and you’d always see the Kennedys there. One day, maybe a year before he got elected, we were running late and we ended up not being able to sit together. I ended up sitting by myself. I’d just gotten there when this tall man sits down next to me. I remember him looking at me and saying something like, ‘Good morning, how are you?’ and then flashing me this nice smile. Afterwards, my father said, ‘Did you know that was John Kennedy?’ I was just 12 years old, but from that moment on I was madly in love with him.
“I even got my father, who was a strict Republican, to vote for him. After he got nominated at the Democratic Convention, they had a big motorcade for him that came right through downtown Hyannis. We walked down to see it, and as Kennedy came by in his convertible,
my father yelled out, ‘Thataway, Jack!’ And he said it with a little fist pump. And John Kennedy turned around and waved to us. My grandmother, who came from Quebec and didn’t speak any English, was just so excited. She was like me, she loved John Kennedy.”
“I was well aware they were of a different social stratum than I was, but it didn’t seem to bother them and it didn’t bother me.”
For three summers Kelley, who grew up in Hyannis Port, worked as a summer police officer outside the Kennedy Compound. A retired private-school headmaster, he lives in Hyannis.
“Ted Kennedy was my age, and for a time we got to be pretty good friends. I’d watch movies at the Kennedy theater in the basement of their home at night. Mr. Kennedy [Joseph, the patriarch] had been in the film industry and got many films, so his library was about as up to date as you could get. It wasn’t unusual to find 20 or so kids from the neighborhood down there on movie nights. I’d play football at the Compound, and once in a while Ted and I sailed with Jack Kennedy on his boat, the Victura. He was a wonderful guy, just down to earth. I was well aware they were of a different social stratum than I was, but it didn’t seem to bother them and it didn’t bother me.
“But there came a time when I had to work, and I gradually slipped away from those friendships and experiences. One of the jobs I got was as a summer police officer in Hyannis Port. The place where I was stationed was right on the corner by Jack Kennedy’s house. Tourists would stream into Hyannis Port, and they hoped to see Jacqueline or Jack, and if it didn’t happen, they hoped they could leave with a piece of the fence or a rose from the rose garden. And they weren’t always pleasant to deal with. It got to the point where folks were hanging over the split-rail fence and the rose garden [and] Jackie finally decided to put up a high fence.
“And, of course, the people who lived there were often annoyed, because they were inconvenienced. They couldn’t walk down the middle of the street like they usually did, because some of the tourists were there, honking their horns.”
“I thought to God I was gonna die, and I screamed, ‘Peter Lawford!’”
A junior-high-school student in Barnstable whenKennedy was elected president, Hutchenrider is the town’s retired town clerk and still lives there.
“Our school was right down the street from the Armory. So, when they learned he was going to give a speech there, they allowed the whole school to walk down the street and go to it. The band played; we cheerleaders walked in front, cheering our way down the street. It was just so neat.
“When we arrived, we watched the cars pull up, and we saw the Kennedy family get out. Out of this one car came this tanned individual, tall with a white suit on. It was Peter Lawford. And I thought to God I was gonna die, and I screamed, ‘Peter Lawford!’ I was more impressed seeing him because I had seen the Kennedys while growing up.