UPDATED 6/02/2011

Where Were You? 

Few events stamped an indelible memory as the assassination of President John Kennedy on November 22, 1963. Our brief journey to Camelot ended that day as the death of our youngest leader was broadcast nationwide. American life changed direction for all of us in some way.

Thanks to you folks who were willing to share your thoughts about that day. Any additional comments are welcome and will be added at the bottom of the page. Just email me at:

I remember it well. I was 11 years old, and we were out of school because of Parent/Teacher conference in grammar school. I don't remember which school, but do remember looking out our big window (we lived in a triplex on 28th street across from the swimming pool) and seeing a big black cloud. Dad said "Is it going to rain?" Of course it was the PR Hotel burning.
   I went to work with my dad, Loyd Drennan, to Camp San Luis Obispo and remember coming home early because of the shooting. Also remember having to go down Vine street because you couldn't get to the center of town due to all the fire trucks and hoses ~ Kerry Drennan

Ginnie and I were listening to FM radio KPIG this am and Travis T, a commenter, old groaner and digester of  news- as he sees it, asked if we remembered the significance of this date. He reminded his listeners that anyone under 55 probably would not.
   Early the morning of the 22nd the Paso Robles Hot Springs Hotel caught fire and later in the day Kennedy was shot in Dallas. We talked about where we were, Ginnie at her Grandmother Cockrell's house and I was in sales at Ennis Business Forms. Ennis shut the plant down and sent all home around noon. Many of the supervisors and pressmen were volunteer firemen and weren't at work anyway.  Most of us went downtown to watch the progress on the fire.  Late that evening I sat on Sid Nichols Chevrolet window ledge and watched a crane remove the sign from the top of the burned out hotel. The end of an era in so many ways. What were you doing?  ~ Jack and Ginnie Guffey 
I was at Cal Poly.  I got into my blue '59 Volvo which was parked on the dirt lot to the north of the Electrical Engineering buildings, near where one dark night Keith Rhyne got up out of the bushes in the Frankenstein mask and a coed threw all her books and papers in the air and fled to her dorm.  I turned on the radio and heard the news, drove to 1134 Peach, the house where I roomed with 5 others. Wildman, Rhyne, Ressler, Dunn, McCracken.  (sp?). They all watched TV and listened to the AM/FM radio and to a short wave radio while I worked on my homework.   ~ Gary Smith
I was in class and the mood was very sober. We were shocked and nobody knew what would happen next. It showed our immaturity as teenagers. When there is a major tragic event, children will wait for direction. That's where we were at that instant of time. It was as if all of that training to find a nuclear shelter kicked in. We were waiting for our marching orders. ~ Tom Birks

I forget whose class I was in at Paso High at the time, but many of us wandered outside to the senior lawn to try to process the importance of losing a president. It must not have been high on my priority list, because I made a stupid wisecrack remark about it to Jeanette, who had to scold me for my idiocy.  ~ Dave Skinner
I was in Fresno at the time and working for the Division of Highways.  Naturally, my racing came first and we had a good paying "open-competition" race coming up that weekend in Los Angeles, Ascot Park.  I had called in sick so I could get things ready for the trip south.  When I heard the news, I knew that the race, along with all other sporting events, would be canceled.  Needless to say, all State of Calif. offices were closed immediately but I lost a day for calling in sick.  (That added insult to an already horrible situation!)  ~ Dick Woodland
I was at Cal Poly living at the Peach St. house.  Came home from a class and saw people gathered around the TV  - and Gary doing his homework. I don't think I went to any more classes that day.  ~ John Wildman
I was walking across the football field for band practice for the halftime show for the game that night when the first announcement came over the loud speaker. J.B. made a 'stupid wisecrack' then went back to blowing on his sax - I couldn't believe it! After band, Bev and I sat on the bench (did you join us Diana?) instead of going to class. Mr. Quaid knew exactly where we were - he could see us through the window. We finally went to the office to get a pass to go on to class. The office secretary was so upset she ok'd our pass. Not a whole lot was going on there anyway. That's when the second announcement came across the loudspeaker.  ~ Pat Fell
Pat, George and I had this conversation last night.  As I remember, the Banner Girls were practicing, or beginning to practice, in back of the band room building on the 24th street side.  The announcement was heard and I remember feeling an overwhelming sense of sadness.  Mr. Buck asked me why I was upset… my explanation seemed confusing to him; his reaction was perplexing to me.  It appeared that he did not understand why a young girl would be visibly shaken by the announcement that our country’s president had been shot.  I had always been so sheltered living in Paso that an announcement of that magnitude was probably the worst I had ever heard.  Wish that was still the case. I vaguely remember sitting with you and Bev…  but my memory of that day after having heard the initial announcement is just that… vague.  I do think Mr. Quade was teaching government class the next period after band and it was Mrs. Hanson who was in the office.  ~ Diana Harris Phillips

That morning I was at my favorite class of hard learning discussing the geometry of reverse English with Willard Jordan the owner of Carl’s Billiards. I remember trying to concentrate on a important shot that may have won me 50 cents and at the same time watching the TV when the terrible news was reported. I laid down my pool stick and called my mom to console her as I knew she was very fond of President Kennedy. My wonderful wife of 47 years will be thrilled when she reads that I let you all know where I was when this terrible event happened. ~ George Phillips

I was in Keber’s Spanish class with sister, Barbara.  Didn’t they let school out then..?  Seems that we saw some of those now familiar scenes on television.  An important development in the ending of the age of innocence and the beginning of the awareness of vulnerability… ~ John Barclay
I was in class at Cal Poly when another professor came into our room and made the announcement. He said all classes were cancelled for the day and we should all go home. I went back to our house at Peach St. and watched everything unfold on the TV with my roommates. Keith, John, John, Mike and Gary.  ~ Tim Ressler
I had just been discharged from the Navy a couple days before and was at Bill Hale's Richfield Service Station on Spring Street helping Larry Peterson do some background noise's for a commercial he was doing for KPRL. We had KAFY on in the background, I don't remember the song it was playing, when the station broke in to say that the President had been shot in Dallas Texas. We listened not believing what we were hearing. That's the day America's innocence's died!   ~ Bill Tappan
I was at Cal Poly with Gary and the hoodlums listed in Gary's answer.  I was coming home from class and McKracken(the short, stocky guy who  roomed with Dunn) was sitting on the Peach St house front steps with his head in his hands; he looked up as I came up the steps and said "the President was shot!"  PS:  Gary was always doing homework; he had to study a lot to keep up with the rest of us.  ~ Keith Rhyne

I, too, was at cal poly, walking across one of those same dirt parking lots when another student ran by me, shouting out that the president had been shot. I think I first returned to the dorm to watch TV, then I think we all might have ended up at the peach street house - not positive, though.  My roommate, Marilyn, and I might have stayed on campus and watched it there, in the down stair's lounge, as the events unfolded.  Again, I think we can all remember where we were when we first heard - the following few days are less clear.
~ Carol (Mills Allison)

I was in Spanish class with Señor Izawa at Roosevelt high school in Hawaii. I remember Señor Izawa being called out of the classroom, and when he came back into class, with a look on his that I will always remember, he gave us the news! Since we were in Hawaii, our President was already pronounced dead! All in shock and tears, and school immediately shut down! We gathered out front for an hour, most crying, many saying nothing! Life for a 17 year old had been forever altered!  ~ Kathy Allen Cliff, Pat Allen's sister

I remember the day very clearly! We were anchored in Kowshung, Taiwan harbor. I was on the aircraft carrier USS Iwo Jima lying in my bunk at 5:30 AM when
General Quarters was sounded. All the ships crew were already on board so we set sail for open water in the South China Sea. We were told that the President of the United States had been assassinated and we were on alert for orders in the event a possible invasion or attack should occur. We stayed on high readiness for 3 days after which we were cleared. 
~ Don McCostlin

When my clock radio went off that morning, KPRL was all a buzz about the Paso Robles Hot Springs Hotel fire. I jumped in my car and drove down town to watch for a while before heading to school. Of course none of us knew that event would be trumped by something much bigger. I was in study hall when the first announcement came through. It seemed like it just hung in the air and I believe most of us were in a state of shock and disbelief. My first thoughts were maybe he's just been wounded and he'll be alright, but then the reports came in that he was dead. We all learned in school about the assassination of President Lincoln, but now we had our own up close and personal tragedy. I remember feelings of insecurity....what will happen next? It was pretty heavy stuff for my young brain. I can't remember if they closed the school that day. If they didn't, they should have. I don't believe anyone was in a learning mode after the announcement. ~ Don Dahl

I was in metal shop when the word came to us over the intercom, I think. I was stunned and couldn't believe it.     ~ Neil Heely

I was in Mr. Marseglia's Economics class. It was announced over the school intercom. I don't really remember what we did. I for one was shocked that such a thing happened to our President.  ~ Barbara Skinner

I remember all too well where I was that day. I was sitting in study hall. I'm sure you all remember that class was far from quiet, especially when the teacher left the room for a smoke break. LOL.  The announcement came over the intercom. I was having a hard time hearing because of the chatter, so I yelled at everyone to be quiet and listen, the President has been shot. They all said I was crazy. The announcement continued, finally saying he was dead. We sat there in disbelief and shock. Study Hall ended, and we passed to our next class. I remember walking into economics, Mr. Marseglia's, I think. He was in tears. The rest of the day was quite somber. I don't remember much after that. It was a day you don't ever forget.  ~ Donna "Wallace" Barkdull. Class of '65.