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Remembrances > Camelot Comes to Dayton
Camelot Comes to Dayton
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61 posts
Apr 14, 2013
6:11 PM
I was an 8th grader at St. Mary School at Xenia and Steele Avenues in the fall of 1960 - in the middle of the Kennedy/Nixon campaigns for President. We knew days ahead that candidate Kennedy was going to make a speech from the portico of the Old Montgomery County Courthouse around noon in the middle of October. Most of the people of that section of town were workers and somewhat attached to the Democratic Party. The fact that Kennedy was young and a Catholic gave his candidacy an extra boost among us 8th graders. Many of us wanted to go see Kennedy, but didn't have the guts to skip school and take the consequences. So like most adolescents, we went to work on our teacher, Sister Hildegarde, also the principal. By the morning of the speech, we got Sister Hildegarde to ask Monsignor Beckmeyer if we could be released to go downtown. She somehow pulled it off and BJ (for Bernard Joseph Beckmeyer) said OK. Sister Hildegarde was one of the few women, maybe only woman, BJ respected and listened to.

My best friend Bill Brun and I left school about 10:00 o'clock or so and took the #6 trolley bus from Lorain Ave. downtown. I don't remember if we told our mothers what was up, but I suppose we did. The intersection of Third and Main was already blocked off when we arrived. Trolley buses had been rerouted along Jefferson and Ludlow, Fourth and Fifth. The crowd was already forming in the streets. We took a place in front of some barriers along the Third Street side of the Old Courthouse. The wait for Kennedy seemed to go on forever. Bands played, local politicians spoke and the crowd grew huge and packed in Dayton's major intersection. It was beautiful fall sunny weather.

The campaign buses arrived to unload press and more politicians, including Kennedy, sometime after 1:00 p.m. They parked on Third Street near Ludlow. Kennedy must have made his way on foot through the back of the Courthouse to the front portico. The campaign had spent the night in Middletown. The crowd went crazy with cheers when the introductory speeches ended and Kennedy stepped forward. His speech, of course, thrilled us.

When the last cheers died down, Kennedy went back inside the Courthouse. The Dayton motorcycle police, meanwhile, started to clear a path along Third Street towards Main. Kennedy emerged from the back of the Courthouse and into a waiting convertible. Bill Brun and I made our way to the front of the police line corridor that the motor patrolmen had created for the convertible. Candidate Kennedy sat on the convertible's boot on the driver's side as it edged its way toward Main St. I saw candidate Kennedy in all his youth and vigor. He was handsome, tanned and hatless. The wind tussled his reddish brown hair and he moved it back into place with one hand while he held his other hand out for the crowd to touch. I gave the hand a light, quick grip as it went by. I was thrilled.

I hold Kennedy in a special place in my memories ever since that day. No modern-day revelations about his sexual dalliances and foibles dims them. Many Catholics, myself included, felt his election marked our acceptance as "regular" Americans despite that we still lived a somewhat separate existence in our local parishes and schools. I assume Black Americans had some of the same feeling when Barack Obama was elected President.

Truly Camelot came to Dayton on that beautiful fall day in 1960. In my mind, it has never left.

Dick DeBrosse

Last Edited by rdebross on Apr 15, 2013 11:53 AM
91 posts
Apr 14, 2013
9:02 PM
Loved your story Dick, especially since we lived in the same neighborhood as St. Marys (Church Street) and my kids were attending Ruskin School at that time. I remember Kennedy coming to Dayton at the time, and my thinking that he was wasting his time because the people would never elect a Catholic president. What a surprise, come November! I, like you thought he was a great president and I was a faithful follower of all things Camelot, but I was really disappointed in his misbehavior with the ladies. I always thought Jackie was one of our classier first ladies.

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