I was excited to be going with my mother to vote before elementary school. It is November 1960, and I was nine years old, and the presidential race has been very heated. Richard Nixon the current vice president is running against John Kennedy.
My parents are backing John Kennedy for President. He is controversial because of being Roman Catholic and very young. I really like John Kennedy. He looks and acts so exciting. He has a beautiful young wife and a daughter. He is nothing like boring old President Eisenhower. Every day in social studies we had to read about Eisenhower.
My friend, Shirley, had been teasing me for many months about John Kennedy. Shirley would sing, “Nixon’s in the White House ready to be elected. Kennedy’s in the trash can ready to be collected.” Shirley would sing this over and over in a mocking tone.
Whatever my parents think is right is what I believed. Television is my best friend, being an only child, and every day I would see famous movie stars talking about John Kennedy. So I am positive that he would be the best president the country had ever seen. How could Frank Sinatra be wrong?
This is my first remembrance of going to the polling booth. Election day my mother drives to a house not far from where we live. There are United States flags stuck in the ground indicating that there is a polling booth on the property. My mother and I follow the flags around the side of the house to the garage. Inside of the garage many people are gathered around a folding table similar to those in the cafeteria at school. My mother approaches the Lady sitting behind the table and states her name. After signing a big book my mother is given an envelope with instructions from the Lady, “You just go behind the booth curtain over there and place your vote.”
A coarse burlap curtain covers the rickety homemade booth. Mama pushes aside the curtain and we enter the booth together. I observe the rough wood planks inside the booth making sure that I do not pick up a splinter. My mother pulls the voting card out of the envelope and shows it me. “See where it says John Kennedy? All you have to do is take this rubber stamp, ink it, and place the X in the box next to John Kennedy’s name. Do you understand this?”
“Yes, can I do this?”
“Sure, no one will know that you did this. You will get to know what it’s like to vote.”
“Okay.” Carefully I ink the stamp and place the X in the box for John Kennedy. “That was so exciting. Is he now president?” I asked my mother.
“No, we have to wait for all the votes to come in. We won’t know until tomorrow who is elected president. Don’t tell anybody that you placed this vote. This will be our secret.” Together we exit the booth. Mama places the envelope through a slot in a secured box. She then takes me to school.
First thing the next morning I see on television that John Kennedy has been elected president. I felt great pride in the fact that I had voted for him. I was excited to be living in the greatest country in the world with a dynamic young new leader.
I wanted to share this precious memory in recognition of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John Kennedy. I am grateful that he graced our planet.