Memories of a Thirteen Year Old
I was that thirteen year old. I was in the crowd for President Kennedy’s visit to Cork. Schools were closed for the day and my mother felt that my older sister and I were old enough to make our own way into the centre of Cork for the occasion but my younger brother, to his disgust, was not allowed to go (he was eleven at the time).
My sister and I walked the mile and a half into town and then split up (neither wanted to be associated with the other) and I found a spot on the South Mall with a view of the City Hall. We waited for ages – suddenly there was a cheer but it did not seem quite right and I soon saw why – it was to mark the stately progress of a large and cross looking Garda on a bicycle who was presumably delivering an important message. He had the look of a man who would have baton charged the crowd if he thought he would have got away with it.
The crowd, now in high good humour, resumed its impatient wait and eventually there was a further cheer – more heartfelt on this occasion – clearly this was the real deal. However, I was nonplussed to see that we were now cheering a large truck with cameramen hanging over the tailgate and it took me a moment to realise that the President’s car was immediately behind the truck. TV was still a novelty in Ireland and most of us had no idea of the technical processes involved in bringing pictures to the screen.
There was a brief glimpse of the President waving to the crowd – he made, even in this brief glimpse, a memorable impact due to his tan and his very white teeth: remember, this was before sun holidays and most Irish people were either pasty white or, if they had been out in the sun too long or suffered from blood pressure, were brick red, and as for their teeth, least said soonest mended: suffice it to say that a then current advertising slogan “You’ll wonder where the yellow went when you brush your teeth with Pepsodent” did not cause offence.
The car, open topped, chrome plated and and large, also made an impact. I remained to listen to the speeches, which were broadcast over a PA system, but I have no recollection of these, Eventually (too soon) it all ended and even at thirteen I knew that I had been present at something special. But, all too soon, it was late November.
- in Cork