CHAPTER TWENTY FIVE
Revised July 17, 2020 by Lawrence Eugene Vaughn Jr.
- Boonville MO
- Our First Home
- KWRT Radio Days
- Ice Cream Shop
- Marriage and Mice
- Assassination of Our President
- The Presidential Visit to Dallas
I moved to Boonville in 1963, almost straight out of the Carolina School of Broadcasting. Boonville isn’t too far from Louisiana, Missouri, where my parents lived, but far enough away to be “away from home.”
Boonville sits high atop wooded bluffs overlooking the Missouri river just off I-70 almost half-way between Kansas City and St. Louis. Native Americans inhabited the area for 10,000 years, and in the early 1800’s, Daniel Boone’s sons, Nathan and Daniel Morgan, came upon the salt lick in present day Howard County, just across the river. The Boone brothers settled and opened shop, thus the original Boone’s Lick name.
Throughout the 1820’s and 30’s the town was home to river trade and a jumping-off point for the Santa Fe Trail. Because of its prime location on the river, Boonville was sought after by both the Confederates and the Union armies during the civil war, and saw two civil war battles and two occupations. It features multiple historic markers throughout the town.
As a newbie radio announcer for KWRT, one of the first orientations I got was that Cooper County, in the Boonville area, is pronounced more like “Cupper,” DeKalb is pronounced “De Cab,” and “Boonslick” refers to all the area surrounding Boonville.
Boonville is quite proud of their Katy Railroad Depot, the only remaining Spanish Mission style depot built on the MKT Railroad. Built in 1911-1912, the depot is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Our First Home
I was nineteen years old when I got married, less than a week before my twentieth birthday. My bride was eighteen years old. We were married in Louisiana, Missouri, in the First Baptist Church sanctuary. I had rented a nice and roomy upstairs apartment above a single family home in the 1300 block of Main Street on a hill high above the downtown area. The views from the double hung windows provided excellent views of the town, which was particularly spectacular after a fresh snow fall. The apartment had oak hardwood floors and trim, with a bedroom, kitchen and living room.
We had very little in the way of possessions. Wedding gifts, of course, provided tableware and cookware. There were few kitchen appliances, but Lea knew how to make things work in the kitchen, so we did alright with what little we started out with. My aunt Charlotte White had given us a refinished, round, coffee table for the living room, which later moved with us to Danville, Illinois in 1965.
KWRT Radio Days
KWRT was named for its owner, William Robert Tedrick (the WRT in KWRT). He and his wife Audrey operated all facets of the station, and Don Shepard was the engineer and sign-on announcer. Don and Audrey had a mid-morning hour long talk show where they discussed the news, current events and upcoming activities.
Bill Tedrick was the station’s sales department and public relations specialist. Sharon Stoecklein was the traffic manager and receptionist. I served as news director, announcer, and liaison to the police department and city hall.
One memorable special event that I did the announcing for was the Heritage Days fishing contest, which was held at a lake near the radio station. The fishing contest was for children, most of whom fished from shore, but some were in small fishing dinghies and inner tubes.
I was in an Amphicar, a German made vehicle that transitioned from earth to water, which was outfitted for remote broadcasting by our engineer. It allowed me to float, or drive up, to children so I could interview them.
The Amphicar was manufactured in West Germany and marketed from 1961 to 1968. It offered only modest performance compared to most contemporary boats or cars, and after operation in water, required greasing at 13 points, one of which required removal of the rear seat.about:blankREPORT THIS AD
Boonville has more than 400 antebellum and other architectural sites on the National Register of Historic Places, including the 46-acre Kemper Military School Campus, and celebrated Boonville Heritage Days each summer with a weekend event that included a parade, craft booths, and a carnival. On the last evening there was a glorious fireworks show.
Periodic public events held at Kemper Military School were also special broadcast events as dignitaries made appearances, A private military school located in Boonville, Kemper was founded in 1844, and closed in 2002. Known as the “West Point of the West,” the school’s motto was “Nunquam Non Paratus” (Never Not Prepared).
I sold some radio commercials, mostly to give me a reason to produce them, because I liked adding in sound effects and music beds. I also contacted recording artists’ agents and arranged to do live telephone interviews during my afternoon shifts, a practice I had started while at WIST radio in Charlotte. It was during this time that I became interested in the volunteer fire department, but I didn’t have the opportunity to attend the annual recruit training because of duties at the radio station.
Ice Cream Shop
The sports announcer for KWRT was Cal(vin) Aisles, owner of a soft-serve ice cream franchise in Boonville. He also owned an apartment building not far from downtown where I initially rented a studio apartment from him. It had a kitchenette, so I usually cooked a TV dinner before heading out to cover evening meetings for local news. I also worked early morning store openings for Cal, prepping the ice cream machines, ovens, toasters, and general restocking while cooking to-go breakfast items.
There were no convenience stores or food trucks in those days, so Cal sold breakfast food items that were not on the regular menu of the ice cream franchise, which the franchisor didn’t allow, so he eventually had to give up the franchise and go independent.about:blankREPORT THIS AD
Many of the food items he provided are just normal everyday carry out breakfast items today, ranging from sausage patties and cheese on a hamburger bun to Italian sausage on a hot dog bun, and scrambled eggs and crumbled bacon or sausage in an ice cream cone. But, still today, that franchise company doesn’t offer breakfast items.
Marriage and Mice
Lea and I were married February 8, 1964 in the First Baptist Church in Louisiana, Missouri, by my Uncle Virgil Vaughn, who had also married my mother and father back in 1942. Ours was a pretty modest wedding, attended by our families and a few invited friends, on a wintry Saturday afternoon.
Our wedding night was spent at a 1950s era motel in Bowling Green, Missouri. Lea had an awful night, as the ductwork made popping noises as it expanded and contracted as it heated and cooled.
She thought the noise was mice moving around in the ductwork, and could not rest well. no matter how I tried to calm her. It was a long and frightful night for her, with little sleep. The next morning, however, we arose to a spectacular fresh snowfall that had blanketed the countryside.
Nevertheless, I had to return to work on the next day, so after checkout we went to lunch and then drove to our home, an apartment in Boonville, which I had just recently rented. It was located on the second floor of a private residence at 1316 Main Street. Our life together started there in those simple furnishings, supported by the meager income I made as news director for the local radio station.
Assassination of Our President
November 22 marks the anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1963 at Dealey Plaza in Dallas, TX. Most of us felt a tragic trauma that day so horrible we wouldn’t experience it again until September 11, 2001.about:blankREPORT THIS AD
I was a young man, a recent graduate of the Carolina School of Broadcasting in Charlotte, North Carolina, working as an announcer and reporter for KWRT, Boonville, Missouri on the day of the assassination.
Serving in my first full time job, I felt privileged to receive the title of news director. I didn’t mind that the title brought with it responsibility to attend city council and other night time business and social meetings, checking the police blotter each morning, covering weekend events, and keeping up on all local area news. After all, I was grossing $65 a week!
It was a much simpler time. 1963 was before wireless anything. There was no internet. The White House and Moscow had just earlier that year agreed to have dedicated hard-wired telephones installed to provide fast communication between the two world leaders. Alcatraz Penitentiary closed after 29 years of operation because it was too expensive to continue operating, and US car maker Studebaker closed business and ended production. The United States Postal Service launched the Zipcode System during July of 1963.
KWRT subscribed to the Associated Press news service, which is how we obtained current news to broadcast to our audience. AP reporters in far-flung news bureaus around the world could send text through teletypewriter machines connected continuously by telephone lines to printers used by local reporters, approaching real-time reporting of breaking events. The AP service included an hourly national news summary, periodic regional news reports, weather, and human interest summaries.
The Associated Press News Printer at KWRT in 1963 was located in a nearly soundproof wooden cabinet just outside the broadcast studio door. The cabinet had a door that lifted and swung back so the printed news could be reached and torn off at the printer carriage. Below the printer, on the floor, sat a large rectangular cardboard box with hundreds of feet of fan-fold newsprint paper that fed up into the carriage and under the letter keys.
A few minutes before the top of each hour, we would rip off the newsprint and quickly read through it to select stories for our 5-minute “local, regional and national” newscast. The printer was equipped with a bicycle-like bell that could be remotely rung by the network to signal a special bulletin, or news flash, then being printed.
It had started out as a normal newsday. We were more focused on events in Maryville, Missouri, where the Governor had just ordered the State Highway Patrol to enforce a strict curfew on the campus of Northwest Missouri State College.
For two consecutive nights more than 1,000 students had marched on downtown Maryville in noisy, stone-throwing demonstrations alleging that the college was serving poor quality foods.
The Presidential Visit to Dallas
We had reported earlier that the president was in Fort Worth with his wife, Jacqueline, America’s sweetheart, and that he would be making a speech at a Dallas luncheon. A light rain was falling there, but a crowd of several thousand stood in the parking lot outside the Texas Hotel where the Kennedys had spent the night.
The president made some brief remarks to the crowd, and the presidential party then left the hotel and went by motorcade to Carswell Air Force Base for the thirteen-minute flight to Dallas.
Arriving at Love Field, President and Mrs. Kennedy disembarked and immediately walked toward a fence where a crowd of well-wishers had gathered, and they spent several minutes shaking hands. Texas Governor John Connally and his wife, Nellie, were already seated in the presidential limousine as the Kennedys entered and sat behind them.
Since it was no longer raining, the plastic bubble top had been left off the presidential convertible. As was proper protocol, Vice President and Mrs. Johnson occupied another car in the motorcade distanced from the president.
The procession left the airport and traveled along a ten-mile route that wound through downtown Dallas on the way to the Trade Mart where the president was scheduled to speak at a luncheon. Crowds of excited people lined the streets and waved to the Kennedys.
The Local News
The big news story that morning had been the continued student rioting at Northwest Missouri State College. A curfew had been announced and a contingent of State Highway Patrolmen had been deployed to quell the disturbance.
Then the teletype alert bell began ringing almost constantly that early Friday afternoon as one of the greatest tragedies in American history unfolded!
Associated Press staffer James Altgens was photographing the presidential motorcade, and became an eyewitness when President John F. Kennedy was shot just after noon on November 22, 1963.
The presidential limousine turned off Main Street at Dealey Plaza around 12:30 p.m. As it was passing the Texas School Book Depository, gunfire suddenly reverberated through the plaza. High powered bullets struck the president’s neck and head and he slumped over toward Mrs. Kennedy. The governor was also hit in the chest.
Altgens’ quick phone call to the AP’s Dallas bureau became the first news bulletin about the shooting distributed across AP’s teletype circuit. Hours of frantic reporting followed, supplying local reporters with information as events unfolded.
Milton Wright was a young Department of Public Safety State Trooper in 1963. He was driving the “Mayor’s Car,” also called “Dignitary Car #1,” a 1964 white Ford Mercury Comet Caliente 2-door convertible with red interior, in 4th position behind the Presidential Limousine when the shots rang out.
Dallas Mayor Earle Cabell was in the front passenger seat, his wife, Elizabeth Cabell in the left rear seat, and Congressman Raymond Roberts in the right rear. Separating him from the Presidential Limousine were Dallas police motorcycles, Presidential secret service follow-up car, the Vice Presidential car, and the Vice Presidential secret service follow-up car. Behind him were press pool vehicles and other VIP cars and police escort motorcycles
A few moments later, Secret Service agents frantically waved the motorcade to go ahead. The Vice Presidential car and protection detail peeled away to protect the Vice President, leaving Wright directly behind the Presidential car which Wright closely followed to Parkland Hospital. When they arrived, he helped lift wounded Texas Governor John Connally out of the limousine’s jump seat.
Wright was quoted as saying, “As soon as we got the Governor out (of the car) a secret service guy ran right up in the car and pulled President Kennedy over to one side,” said Wright. “I could see the side of his head was partially gone.” Wright helped put the president on a gurney and then stood guard outside while a medical team worked to save him and Governor Connally.
Little could be done for the president. The bullet was well placed, and the damage too extensive. Last rites were administered, and at 1:00 p.m. U.S. President John F. Kennedy was pronounced dead. I recall clearly the horror I felt when that report came in. There were many questions to be answered.
There was, and still is, much speculation about the assassination. The president’s body was quickly taken to Love Field in a hearse and placed on Air Force One. Before the plane took off, a grim-faced Lyndon B. Johnson took the oath of office, administered by U.S. District Court Judge Sarah Hughes at 2:38 p.m. Though seriously wounded, Governor Connally did later recover.
If you aren’t familiar with the rest of the story, just a few minutes earlier, police had arrested Lee Harvey Oswald, a recently hired employee at the Texas School Book Depository.
He was being held for the assassination of President Kennedy and the fatal shooting of Patrolman J. D. Tippit on a nearby Dallas street, as Oswald tried to escape the scene. On Sunday morning, November 24, Oswald was scheduled to be transferred from police headquarters to the county jail under heavy security.
The transfer was being broadcast on national television. Viewers across America, still in shock from Friday’s events, suddenly saw a man aim a pistol at Oswald and fire at point blank range. The assailant was identified as Jack Ruby, a local nightclub owner. Oswald died two hours later at Parkland Hospital.
A Dallas jury found Ruby guilty of murdering Oswald, and Ruby was sentenced to death. Later, he appealed his conviction, had it overturned, and was granted a new trial. Before the new trial took place, Ruby became ill and died of a pulmonary embolism due to lung cancer.
A Painful Day
As I was approaching the end of my shift on that fateful day, I knew that there would be many folks leaving work and wanting more details of the day’s events. I arranged with the station management to do an extended newscast at the 5:00 hour, putting aside our normal “drive time” programming. Audrey and Don were planning a special talk segment following the report so they could accept phone calls from the public.
I gathered news bits from the various Associated Press reports of the day and put together a stack for Audrey and Don, and another for me to use in the newscast. I selected 31 full or partial pages of news stories for my extended report, and after delivering the newscast, decided to keep the pages, rather than discarding them, as was the usual practice for news that had already been delivered. Those 31 pages wound up going into some storage device at home that I no longer remember.
But, 52 years later, while searching for and cleaning out things that no longer were worth keeping around, I came across a “Larry’s Papers” box that my wife had assembled. In the box were those 31 pages of news from the Associated Press. Reading through those pages recently, and recalling anew the dread and horror I felt that day, I am happy they got preserved because, for me, they bridge time to when America really admired their President and First lady, popularized by most Americans as “Jack and Jackie.”
We also came to a whole new appreciation for the Secret Service Presidential Detail. There was much heroism displayed in those days by people from all walks of life, including the law enforcement officers at the scene and the medical team at Parkland Hospital.
Below is a scan of the first page of the report made at 5:00 p.m. Friday, November 22, 1963. These 31 pages are now kept in a special notebook in safekeeping to, perhaps, someday, be of interest to my grandchildren who might have more than just a passing interest in an historic event of long, long ago.
It was in December, 1964 that Max Shaffer telephoned the studio while I was on duty one afternoon at KWRT. He was manager of a radio station in Danville, Illinois, south of Chicago, and had been visiting his son who was attending Central Methodist college in nearby Fayette, Missouri. He had been surfing radio stations while driving, and landed on KWRT during my shift, and gave me a call to see if I would be interested in moving to the area south of Chicago. It sounded like a great opportunity, and the starting pay was $25 dollars a week more than I was earning presently.
Next Chapter: Danville to Indianapolis