Thursday, November 21, 2013

On my way home from school on Nov.22, 1963

By Manfried Rieder Starhemberg

On the evening of November 22, 1963 I was walking home from school with my friends Martin Abel and Heinz Kretzky when we saw a large group of people gathered around the local Phillips TV and radio shop. The place customarily had a large television console in its window and two speakers mounted outside so that people could enjoy some free entertainment. Not too many folks back home in Linz, Austria, could afford a television set and even those who had one grumbled about the high taxes the government had levied on the use of a radio or TV set. Our programming was pretty crappy then also as we had the official stations and with some decent antenna manipulating one could possibly get the station from Munich which did nothing but American programming such as "Father Knows Best" or "Lassie".
I was not interested in the goings on because I was deeply engrossed in my friend Martin's recounting of his almost-date with one of the prettier girls in our class. "Something must have happened" exclaimed Heinz suddenly. "Those people are crying". So we moved closer and and Austrian commentator had just come on and even though we could not see the TV screen through all the people pressed against the glass, we did get the gist of what was happening. The young American president Jack Kennedy had been shot in Dallas.
For me this was the clue to split from my friends and I raced three blocks up our main street to the offices of the "Linzer Volksblatt", one of three daily newspapers published in my hometown and one where I had begun to apprentice as a "Aspirant" which meant "aspiring reporter" but in reality they only let me do movie critics of films none of the real writers had any desire to see. And the weekly poetry reading not even the almost retired 80 year old art writer lady would ever go to.
The paper was Bedlam. Senior editors had been found at their favorite and well known haunts and kicking and screaming were deposited at their desks. The mostly absent owner/publisher was there, "Stop-Press" orders were flying around like confetty, so did the yellow ribbons of the teletype machines. Pages boys raced and the old Lynotype machines were brought back to live. Ludlow headline makers heated up and the man who ran the photogravure machine was at his stylus. The "Edition-of-the-Year" was about to take shape.
They did not need or notice me so I sadly left and went home where my father opened the door with tears in his eyes, embracing me with a big hug and the words: "What a terrible thing - and so unexpected". I felt the same way, having followed this presidents life with great interest especially as I was allowed my first ever actually published piece to be a synopsis on the aftermath of the Cuban missile crisis.
"We did not expect this, especially today" exclaimed my dad and my grandmother was sobbing uncontrollably, supported by two elderly aunts.
"Strange", thought I, these people had never shown the slightest interest in anything other than the local harvest or who would get married next or did not show up in church last Sunday.
"I heard about it on the TV" I explained, wondering how the news had come into our just electrified old house which did not even have a radio until my other grandfather bought that large Grundig with the big green "eye" on top in 1964.
They all looked at me with astonishment. "There is no way it could have been on TV", my father exclaimed. "Your grandfather was a fine man but he certainly was never important enough nor would he want to be on television on the day he died..."
R.I.P. Josef Alois Stuetzner and John Kennedy.

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