Residents recall JFK's death


Vernon Summer lives on the same ranch he did Nov. 22, 1963, the day his closest neighbor knocked on the door to tell him that someone shot President John F. Kennedy.

"That's how we found out," he said. "I don't believe we had a television at the time. Pretty soon, the word got around.

"No one expected to see anything like it in their lifetime," Summer said.

When Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald to death at the Dallas police headquarters, Summer was invited to his neighbor's house to watch it on their television.

"They were rerunning it, and we went over and actually saw it," Summer said.

In 1963, The Steamboat Pilot, which was published every Thursday as a weekly newspaper, hit newsstands almost a week after the assassination.

Mention of the event was brief, "Schools in Steamboat were closed Monday out of respect for President Kennedy. ... Between 12:00 and 12:30 on Friday, radios in schools were listened to anxiously for more news about the president.

"After the news was received that he had died, some students broke into tears. Many of the afternoon classes were spent in discussing the tragic event.

"The whole world has lost a wonderful man and because of this we are saddened."

Ty Lockhart was a sophomore at Steamboat Springs High School when his teacher announced that the president had been shot.

"Like most people, I remember exactly where I was," Lockhart said. "I was in school, and I can tell you exactly where I was sitting to within 5 feet. Whenever I walk into that room, I think of it."

Other than a two-paragraph story, the headlines in the Steamboat newspaper barely mentioned the assassination.

"I was in college at the time in Gunnison," Jim Stanko said. "It affected us because the whole college shut down, but in these little communities, because it was so far away, it took longer for things to sink in."

More to the forefront were headlines announcing the opening day of the Storm Mountain Ski Area.

"A new intermediate trail has been cut by Jess Brenton and his dozer," the story reads. "The trail cuts across land owned by Carl Bashor and has been named Bashor Trail."

It was the second season ever for the new ski resort. A daily pass cost $3.50. A season pass sold for $50.

It was the week that Bud Werner left Steamboat for the Olympic Ski Team in Innsbruck, the week that Yampa Valley College requested to purchase 40 acres of town land on a hill west of Steamboat for $10 an acre. "Bye Bye Birdie" was playing downtown at the Chief Theatre.


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