Dallas - A Time to Remember


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July 12th 2021
Published: July 17th 2021
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April, 2019 -- In retrospect, it was a mistake not to devote an extra day to see Waco on this Texas trip. The day we spent exploring the ‘new face’ of Waco was pretty much a whirlwind tour – plenty to see and do to fill up a day, but one day is not enough time to get a real feel for this city. In fact, in hindsight, a lot more time was needed to see and get a feel for Texas as a whole. I would have liked to see New Braunfels and Grapevine; and, though it would have been way off our north-south-north course, I would have liked to have seen Odessa for personal reasons but it was too far west. So, the last full day in Texas began with a drive back to Dallas where this trip began.

This expansive city is home to well over 1,000,000 people, and the Metroplex area of over 9,000 square miles is covered by a network of roads both big and small. Oddly enough, driving into Dallas was easy and signage was good.

As the Texas Rangers baseball team was scheduled to play at home that same evening, some real thought was given to attending the game and I’m sure I would have enjoyed going. However, the Globe Life Stadium is actually located in Arlington which is about 20+ miles away, and we had not pre-purchased tickets so unfortunately this idea was scrubbed. I would have liked to add the Globe Life Stadium to my list of visited major league ball parks.

Visiting the 561 ft. tall Reunion Tower which overlooks Dealey Plaza was also considered as a possibility, but that too slipped off the list. All that aside, I was most interested in seeing sites of national historical importance in Dallas – first, the former Texas School Book Depository, now home to the fabulous Sixth Floor Museum; and, secondly, I wanted to walk in Dealey Plaza which has been designated a National Historic Landmark. Both of these sites are located in the West End Historic District of Dallas.

Nearly 60 years ago on November 22, 1963, our 35th president, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, was assassinated while his motorcade made its way through Dealey Plaza, a park and the place where many people had gathered to watch the President and Mrs. Kennedy pass by that day. The event so shocked the nation that many aspects of this tragedy still linger on the national conscience. Many feel it was the day when the ‘innocence of the nation’ was lost – a difficult term to explain not only to those who do not live in the US, but also to a much younger generation of Americans.

The event continues to be a subject for research and many issues related to it are still being debated today. Even now, documentaries about the assassination as well as movies about it are not uncommon. In fact, Director Oliver Stone who made the 1991 movie “JFK” will be premiering his new documentary, “JFK Revisited: Through the Looking Glass” this year in Cannes.

For people of a certain age, this momentous event in American history still carries the question, ‘Do you remember where you were and what were you doing when you heard that President Kennedy was shot?’ I was in grammar school at the time and I still remember our teacher making the announcement to our class although we were too young to grasp the implications.

In fact, for anyone that is already familiar with some aspects of President Kennedy’s assassination, the
parking lot we used while visiting Dallas was bound on one side by the wooden fence at the top of “the grassy knoll”; this spot faces Dealey Plaza and was identified by several witnesses that claim to have heard a gunshot(s) emanate from (from behind the fence on the grassy knoll) on that fateful day in November, 1963. One witness claimed to have heard at least 3 shots. It’s claims such as these and other evidence which lead to the speculation, as yet thought to be unproven, that there was a second shooter in addition to Lee Harvey Oswald, the man accused of the assassination.

For anyone who has yet to visit it and has an interest in the what happened that day in November, 1963, the Sixth Floor Museum is definitely a ‘must see’. It is one of the most excellent museums I have ever visited, and frankly, I would visit it again in a heartbeat. Because of its popularity with visitors, pre-booked, timed tickets ($16 ea. in 2019) are a necessity to be sure to see it on the day of your choice. An excellent audio guide was included in the price.

To be clear, the building which houses the Sixth Floor Museum, was at the time of the assassination, used as the Texas School Book Depository but a more recent sign over its front door identifies it as the Dallas County Administration Building. This 7- story brick building housed school books in 1963, and its position has a clear view overlooking Dealey Plaza where President Kennedy’s motorcade was traveling that day on its way to a luncheon at the Dallas Trade Mart. Dealey Plaza itself is a park now straddling roads and was created in 1890 (pre-dating the 1901 Texas Book Depository Building itself) and is sometimes referred to as the “birthplace of Dallas” or “the front door of Dallas.”

The Texas School Book Depository Building played a key role in the evidence against Oswald, because he worked there and his gun was found there; these important pieces of evidence added to the mountain of facts surrounding President Kennedy’s assassination. From evidence gathered at the scene, it was determined Oswald had a direct line of fire at President Kennedy from a 6th-floor window -- hence the origin of the museum’s name.

This museum is comprehensive and so well done. While watching the iconic Abraham Zapruder tape (Abraham Zapruder was a Ukrainian-born American business man), I surprised myself by becoming emotional though I’ve seen the film footage of President Kennedy being shot many times.

One museum exhibit involved the actual window on the 6th floor from which Oswald fired those split-second shots at the President. (Oswald himself was assassinated by Jack Ruby before he could come to trial.) However, questions still surround Oswald and the shooting -- did Oswald have the skill necessary to deliver several accurate shots at a moving target at this distance; how many rounds was Oswald able to fire in a specific time period using a Mannlicher-Carcano bolt-action rifle; were other shooters were involved; was there was a high-level conspiracy to kill the President; were the Mafia or Cuban government involved? These are all still hot topics of debate these many years later.

Many official documents relating to the assassination were sealed and now fall under the JFK Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992. Many feel the Warren Commission investigation and the Warren Commission Report on the assassination are questionable even now. One particularly doubtful conclusion of the Warren Commission Report has to do with what has been
termed the "Magic Bullet" theory -- one bullet that was deemed responsible for 7 wounds in 2 people. Anyone seriously interested in the Kennedy Assassination will find reams of information online though I'm not sure any of it can definitively/conclusively prove exactly what occurred that day. We spent about 2 hours in the museum as it is large and there is so much to absorb in the many photos, timelines, displays, exhibits, and videos – and, I just didn’t want to miss any of it.

A quick stop was made at the museum gift store but I bought only a magnet here since I now think twice before bringing home souvenirs. Still on cognitive overload as we left the museum, the walk across the Elm Street and Commerce Street over to Dealey Plaza itself was short. It felt incredibly surreal to be in the spot where so many onlookers watched the President’s motorcade pass, hear shots ring out, and realize that the President was wounded, in fact mortally wounded. On the sidewalks edging the plaza, touts tried to sell guided tours or copied handouts but already being familiar with a fair bit of history surrounding the assassination, there was no need engage any of those vendors.

By the time we left the museum and Dealey Plaza it was a good time to break for lunch. We wandered through more of the historic West End sightseeing and looking for appealing places to eat until we came to N. Market Street where several restaurants were clustered. We decided on Gator’s Croc & Roc, mostly because it looked unusual and because of the young man just outside who was working hard to draw in potential customers. Selecting a restaurant based on just one of these factors had worked well once in Dubrovnik, Croatia, so why not Dallas? Unfortunately, Gator’s was just OK at best. Gator’s restaurant interior certainly was a mixture of the colorful, gawdy and the unusual, but the food and service were just OK. I wouldn’t make a repeat visit to Gator’s and would look for a place with a real Texan menu next time.

On the way back to the Sixth Floor Museum area we walked by the Dallas Holocaust/Center for Education and Tolerance. Opened in 1984, the museum is “dedicated to preserving the memory of the Holocaust, and to teaching the moral and ethical response” (from the West End Association webpage). It seemed odd for such a museum to be located in this deep south city, but we decided to take a look, and the reasonable senior admission fee also included an audio guide.

We spent the better part of an hour wondering around the museum although it wasn’t too large. This museum is moving to a new building close by which was already in the process of being built. Although this museum didn’t have the impact that the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. has, it is still worth a visit if time allows and you’re interested in the subject as I am. This museum was far less crowded than its Washington, D.C. counterpart which was a bonus. I admit I like history and it would have been my college major if I hadn’t given it up for an even less lucrative and less rewarding discipline which I eventually ditched. What’s more, I’ve learned much more history by traveling than I ever did in college.

Probably a visit to more downtown Dallas sites could have been fit into the time we had, but the plan was to return the rental car

The Oath of Office - Lyndon B. Johnson being sworn in as president on Air Force One. Mrs. Kennedy to his left.
to the airport on this same evening, call the pre-booked hotel for an airport pickup, then check into the Comfort Inn DFW North Hotel (a bargain with a pre-booking rate of $72 including taxes) for one evening. This plan would save time and hassle in the morning before checking in for the return flight home. Dinner this evening would be at no place special. We grabbed some nondescript fast food from a nearby restaurant we could walk to before settling in for the night.

I had no trouble falling asleep as I usually do, but woke in the night to the sounds of some serious thunder, rain and lightning. This was the first less than perfect weather we had while visiting Texas, and maybe it should have been an omen – that and seeing those storm shelters along I-35 on the way down to San Antonio!

DFW (Dallas – Ft. Worth International Airport) is enormous and at the same time was so well thought out and engineered. The road network surrounding the airport is equally impressive. Regardless, they continue to improve all aspects. The final morning in Texas, having no rental car return to worry about, we took the free hotel shuttle to the airport. From the hotel to our gate took only 30 minutes! Though it was sunny when we left the hotel, the flight was initially delayed for 45 minutes probably due to weather. We used the extra time to get a cup of Peet’s coffee – good stuff! Finally, the crew called for boarding the flight and everyone was seated, but this was only minutes before hearing the pelting rat-a-tat-tat of a hail shower on the plane’s metal exterior. From the plane window we could see that there was a very heavy, sweeping rain blowing across the tarmac. No flights were being allowed to taxi onto the runways.

We were forced to remain onboard at least an additional hour and told to stay in our seats. No beverages or food would be served. We were eventually told that all(?) planes had to be inspected for damage from the hail storm, but it was still raining heavily and the weather looked as if it could change rapidly. We still were not allowed to leave the plane until people began to rowdily complain and demanded to be let off. At one point the airplane crew told
us we could leave the plane, but if we did so, we would not be allowed back on board. I’m sure people were very upset at being confined and surely some would miss connecting flights because of this long delay.

An hour or more later we were told we must now get off the plane and so the waiting room at the gate was flooded with passengers not really knowing what to do or expect next. The airline officials made us believe the flight would depart eventually so we stayed in this area, but this was nothing more than a distraction as that never happened. Finally, at some point a good deal later, they told us to go to another gate to check in once again, and people were literally running, pushing and shoving to get there first.

That too was a distraction or maybe just plain lies or incompetence because no flight was leaving for our destination from that gate – a totally different flight with a different destination was leaving from the gate!! To make matters even worse, other flights were taking off from the airport by this time. Finally, after probably 5 or 6 hours
in the airport, we heard the announcement that our flight was being canceled!! The airline crew said we would have to re-book another flight. The line at the counter to do this was very long and very slow.

Pretty much exhausted, and more than a little upset with the airline, we made the decision to call the same hotel we had stayed at the previous night to see if a room was available and happily it was. The hotel’s free shuttle once again collected us from the airport and deposited us at the hotel. The hotel shuttle drivers were very pleasant which helped a lot.

Throughout the evening effort was put into trying to re-book a flight. Not trusting our original airline any longer, we had to book and pay for a flight on a different airline the next day. But very late in the evening we got a surprise call from the original airline offering us a red-eye out of Dallas. Well, it was far too late to get this kind of news at this point; we had already paid for the room for the night, and paid for flights on a different airline by then. Since
they eventually did offer us a flight, as useless as that was at this point, no compensation was forthcoming but I didn’t care – I just wanted to leave Dallas. We had never before or since had a problem to this degree with an airline no matter where we traveled. Although the weather was to blame, the airline could have handled the situation so much better and the airlines personnel were so much less than gracious – was it just incompetence, miscommunication, prevarication?– pick one or all. While the weather cannot be controlled, I would never fly into or out of DFW again unless it’s totally unavoidable precisely because of the unpredictability and rapid change of the weather there.

Lastly, I have to mention that throughout the trip we saw literally hundreds of miles of roadwork going on everywhere that we traveled all the way from San Antonio to Dallas. But all along the roadsides wildflowers were in bloom – the famous Texas bluebonnets, Indian Paintbrush, and others with vivid colors ranging from red to yellow to orange to deep purple and lavender -- so an overdue thanks go to Lady Bird Johnson for that beauty. Along with the
Alamo, the Sixth Floor and Texas Ranger Museums, and of course, Dealey Plaza, it is the wildflowers which I will remember most about in Texas.

(Many photos are of displays and exhibits in the Sixth Floor Museum. The remaining photos are mine.)


Additional photos below
Photos: 32, Displayed: 32


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17th July 2021
Presidential Motorcade photo from the Sixth Floor Museum

Historial memories
A tragic day.
17th July 2021
Presidential Motorcade photo from the Sixth Floor Museum

Historical memories
Thanks for reading!! It certainly was a tragic day. It was surreal to walk in Dealey Plaza and the museum was excellent.
18th July 2021

Dallas
Such a sad day for America, and the world. I have seen Oliver Stone's "JFK" film, and a documentary on the assassination. There still seem to be so many unanswered questions. I imagine a visit to the Sixth Floor Museum would have been very insightful and informative. I am sorry to hear of your flight issues going home, and the poor service encountered there - how stressful for you, and not the best end to what seems to have been an amazing trip. I'm glad the Texan wildflowers seem to stay more firmly in your memories 😊
18th July 2021

Dallas
Alex, Thanks for reading my final blog on Texas! You're so right, it was a very sad day for America. In spite of all the books, films, documentaries, reports, etc., I don't think we'll ever really know everything about the assassination and who was (really) behind it. But if you ever visit Dallas, I think you'll like the Sixth Floor Museum. We've been very lucky with nearly all our flights during traveling over the years, so I guess every once in awhile you have to expect getting one like this!
18th July 2021

What a way to end a trip.
You must have been so glad to be home! We’ve had bad weather delays twice at Dallas - definitely an airport to avoid if possible!
18th July 2021

What a way to end a trip
You're so right, Lesley! I was glad to get home after that!! I never knew that the weather in Dallas was so changeable, so quickly!! Thanks so much for continuing to read my blogs. Sure hope you & Julian are doing well!!
19th July 2021

Fascinating read
I found all of this fascinating, but especially your visit to the Sixth Floor Museum. It sounds absolutely excellent and would be a must if I ever go to Dallas. It's a shame though that your holiday memories were soured by such a terrible journey home. Maybe you should 'name and shame' the airline? Nobody can change bad weather but they can certainly change a bad attitude, and that company and its staff clearly need to do just that!
19th July 2021

Fascinating read
Thanks so much for reading along, Sarah! It certainly was a shame that our original return flight ended up being a nightmare and ended the trip on a down note -- particularly because of the plane crew, and the airline's airport staff callousness. (Unfortunately, that's the airline I have 99% of my frequent flyer miles with too!!) However, if there is a next visit, I will not make the mistake of flying into/out of Dallas if at all possible!! I know you would love the Sixth Floor Museum, or at least I hope you would!!
14th August 2021
The Sixth Floor Museum - once the Texas School Book Depository

Texas School Book Depository
I have seen the movie JFK, I have read Jim Garrison's own story about his works on uncovering what led up to the shooting in Dallas, I have seen a documentary about the assasination and I have read the novel 11.22.63. One day I want to see the Dealy Plaza myself. That would be really cool. Thanks for writing about it and letting me know a bit more about the museum. /Ake
14th August 2021
The Sixth Floor Museum - once the Texas School Book Depository

Texas School Book Depository
Ake, thank you so much for reading my latest blog and for your nice comment. The subject of President Kennedy's assassination is something that a person could read about and study for a lifetime yet never really find a definitive answer to all the questions surrounding it. It sometimes seems to be an enigma. Your own study and consideration of it is impressive. I really do hope you are able to visit the Sixth Floor Museum and Dealey Plaza some day! Visiting them was a remarkable experience for me! Best wishes, Ake!!

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