50 Years After the Death of John F. Kennedy | A Hometown Remembers
“My dad owned a taxi company in Hyannis, and all of us kids, my sisters, my brother, myself, had to help out with the driving. I was only 16 at the time—you were supposed to be 21 to have a taxi license—but my father knew the police chief in town and was able to work something out. Dad had a contract with the Kennedy family, and most Friday nights I’d go and pick up John Kennedy; he was a senator then, at Barnstable Municipal Airport. Then I’d drive him back on Sundays. He got to know who I was, was interested in what I was going to do after high school, where I was going to go. And we talked about sports. But never politics. I think he was liberated from the Washington drudgery, and didn’t want to get into it much.
“During the election I shipped out [with] the Merchant Marines. The guys on the boat knew he was my candidate, and they’d always ask, ‘How’s he doing?’ When he got elected, I had something to crow about. And I did.”
“We’d be going 80mph on these back roads—the FBI, the Secret Service, the press—nobody would stop you.”
Beginning in 1955, Caldwell worked as a photographer for the Cape Cod Times for 39 years. He lives in Hyannis.
“Once he announced he was running for president, I practically spent 80 hours a week covering him. One time I was standing by the gate near the Compound, and this local police officer who’d been hired for the summer stops this guy and says, ‘Say, you can’t go in there.’ The man looks over at me and says, ‘Hey, boy’—and here I am, 40 years old, not exactly a kid—’tell him who I am.’ I said, ‘That’s Lyndon B. Johnson.’ The officer went, ‘Oh, uh, you can go in.’
“I went to every press conference. You’d show up and there’d be crowds of people at the fence who’d been there since 8:00 in the morning, just hoping to catch sight of the President or Jackie. When he flew in from Washington, the Times would have one photographer at his house and then send me to Otis Air Force Base to catch him as he landed. Then we’d convoy back to the Compound. We’d be going 80mph on these back roads—the FBI, the Secret Service, the press—nobody would stop you.
“Even as a Republican, I couldn’t help but like him. We became friendly. On occasion I’d be at the Compound for work, taking pictures on the father’s lawn as Jack and his brothers played football. Then the ball would come your way and the next thing you knew you were in the game. It was a fun era.”
“I’d taken pictures of Kennedy, and then when I’d meet a girl I liked, I’d give her a picture of the President.”