The Day I Didn’t see JFK

The day I didn’t see JFK was the day I took the oath to become a U.S. citizen.

Recent news and discussions about standing for the national anthem and other shows of patriotism brought back memories of my naturalization ceremony.

My parents and other family members became citizens in about 1958, five years after our arrival from England. I received automatic citizenship at that time with my parents, but when I turned 15 I had the opportunity to go back and take the oath on my own at the Federal Courthouse in Toledo, Ohio.

Toledo Federal Courthouse, site of my swearing-in

Toledo Federal Courthouse, site of my swearing-in

My parents took me out of school on a Friday in October, 1960. I remember little about the ceremony, but afterwards we learned that John F. Kennedy was making a campaign appearance in Toledo later that day. We went to the announced location, where a crowd was gathering, and waited. And waited. And waited. Like many other candidates, JFK was running very late, and there was no announced ETA.

Problem was, my high school had a football game that night, and if we stayed any longer I’d miss the game. We usually didn’t have championship football teams, but that game would determine the season league championship.

Since it was my day, my parents let me decide whether to stay or go, although I’m sure they were secretly, breathlessly, hoping I’d choose history over football. I gave it careful thought; I was very torn. I chose the game.

My team lost.

If I had it to do over again, of course I would have stayed. The great irony is that I’ve had zero interest in sports since high school. Ask my husband. (Maybe it was the heartbreak of that loss.)

I was going to include a shot of my naturalization certificate but it says on the front, “IT IS A VIOLATION OF THE U.S. CODE (AND PUNISHABLE AS SUCH) TO COPY, PRINT, PHOTOGRAPH, OR OTHERWISE ILLEGALLY USE THIS CERTIFICATE.” The photo is terrible, anyway.

Instead, here’s a shot from the yearbook, the year Norwalk High School’s football team was 6-1 in the Northern Ohio League and Shelby was 7-0.

The almost NOL championship team, Norwalk Ohio, 1960.

The almost NOL championship team, Norwalk Ohio, 1960.

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