“Oneontans Shocked, Hurt, Angry over President’s Death” was the headline at the top of the city page of The Oneonta Star on Saturday, Nov. 23.
“People in Oneonta who hadn’t shed a tear in years remembered how to cry Friday when they learned of the assassination of President Kennedy,” the story began. “They wept unashamedly.”
For many adults and families, one reaction to the president’s death was heading to their house of worship. Most simply opened their doors, lit candles and let their parishioners mourn privately. A spontaneous chapel service involving more than 400 students at Hartwick College began once the horrible news was learned. Chaplain Robert Heffner and Assistant Professor Bernard Johnpoll conducted services.
SCHOOLS STRUGGLE to SHARe THE NEWS
The shooting took place during the school day, so depending on the school, news was either gently told, or withheld so parents could tell their kids when they got home.
Oneonta High School and Junior High students were told. Both schools were then found on Academy Street.
Chestnut Street School Principal William Swain said he felt it was best to tell the children. Swain was also the principal at the Plains School, once found at the corner of Winney Hill Road and Chestnut Street, and informed those students as well.
“It hit the kids harder than you might think,” he said.
Bugbee School children were also told as soon as the death confirmation was made.
Center Street, Mitchell Street and Valleyview children and teachers were not informed of the tragedy during school hours. Nader Towers now occupies the site of the former Mitchell Street School.
“Principal Thomas D. Coady said he ‘thought it was best the children learn of it from their parents to avoid possible repercussions from the children.’”
“Miss Gertrude M. Eldred, Valleyview principal, and Miss Lucille B. Houck, principal of Center Street said they shared Mr. Coady’s opinion.”