Pike students gather in the basement of the school's former location at 5 Porter Road to hear news of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963.
Fifty years ago today, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. On that historic day, Dan Currie '65 was a 7th grade student at Pike. Below, he recalls the hours immediately following the tragedy and the impact it had on him and the Pike community:
On Friday, November 22, 1963, I was a 12-year-old seventh grader at The Pike School in Andover, Mass. Sometime around two o’clock that afternoon, the whole school was unexpectedly instructed to gather in the basement auditorium. Then William Harding, the headmaster of the pre-prep day school (that was still housed in an old, converted Victorian mansion at 5 Porter Road before it would be moved to a new, modern location in Andover the following year) called the assembly to order. I’ll never forget what happened next. Mr. Harding said: “Today is a very historic day.” And before he could utter another word, I thought to myself for some strange reason: “Great! They have found a treasure chest under the front steps of the school.” But instead, his next words were: “The President of the United States has been assassinated.”
Like everyone, I was completely stunned. My subsequent memories are sketchy. Students were told to return to their homerooms from where we would be dismissed for the weekend. I remember being one of the last to exit the auditorium and, as I did, I looked to the back of the room where most of the faculty usually sat. There, seeming so alone, was my English teacher Mrs. Graber whom I liked very much because she was young and nice and pretty (to me, she looked a little like Olive Oyl, Popeye’s girlfriend, which was a good thing). As she stared into the sudden vacant distance, I had never seen anyone look so sad and I felt very sorry for her.
I returned to Mr. Stevens’ homeroom on the second floor. I don’t believe I spoke to anyone, or that anyone spoke directly to me, for the next two-and-a-half hours or so. I do recall hearing Mr. Stevens, a math teacher, discuss with someone something about a sniper, and a rifle, and an elevated window. But I just wanted to be home with my father and mother. Accomplishing that involved a daily routine of being driven in a school van for about a half hour to where I would be dropped off in the park at the corner of Nesmith and Andover Streets in Lowell, where usually my Mum would promptly pick me up. On this day, I had to wait longer than expected. Every minute seemed like an hour. Finally, my Dad and Mum pulled up with my sisters in the car. All I remember next is that I immediately lost it. I burst into inconsolable tears (which I years later shamefully realized must have intensified my family’s unimaginable grief). I think I then spent much of the following three days huddled in the spare bedroom of my Uncle Larry and Aunt Mary Joy McCartin’s house on Belmont Avenue in Lowell, with my knees two inches from a black and white TV.
The next thing I remember it was Sunday afternoon around 12:30. My Dad was playing baseball with friends and neighbors in the yard at our house at 17 High Street in Chelmsford. Dad was slugging the ball a mile. Then Mum opened her bedroom window to tell us that Lee Harvey Oswald had just been shot. I remember thinking: Good (although it was not). The game went on. But nothing would ever be the same.
Mr. and Mrs. John F. Kennedy on the Hyannis Port Yacht Club pier several days after Senator Kennedy became the Democratic nominee for President in Los Angeles on July 13, 1960. Alumnus Dan Currie '65 appears behind them with his arms folded.