by Corky Carroll
I was in third period typing class that morning. Don’t remember who the teacher was. There are certain teachers from HS that stood out in my memories. Mr. Neil, made stuff I didn’t care about interesting anyway. Mr. Hunter, he surfed and borrowed a board from me. Miss Brickner, had her as a freshman. She was hot looking and I had “thoughts” about her. Mr. Combs, water polo coach (I hated water polo but liked him.). Don’t remember who I had in that 3rd period typing class though. Sometime during the hour the principal came over the P.A. and announced that President Kennedy had been shot. And then not long after that he had died. Jackson Browne and I are the same age. He has a line in his song, “Running on Empty,” that goes, “in ’65 I was seventeen and called the road my own.” I always related to that. First because at that time in my life I had moved out of my parents’ house and had a cool little pad in Dana Point. I was making a living in the early years of Professional Surfing and pretty much had it “going on.” Besides that, I have always used that line as the measuring stick to my age and what year it was that something happened. If it was 1970, for instance, I would add forward from ’65 to see how old I was then.
I met Jackson in ’63 at the Seal Beach Pier, although we didn’t get to know each other until we ran into each other at the Four Muses Folk Club in San Clemente later on. But this is not about that. But it is about a day in Seal Beach in 1963. It’s the fall and, as my birthday falls in September, I had just turned 16. And I had just got my first car, a 1958 TR-10. This was a kind of small VW Beetle kinda job that was made by Triumph. I was still living at home in Surfside and going to Huntington Beach High School. Although, that was the year they closed HBHS to remodel and opened Marina HS. So, we were moved over there.
Friday, November 22, started out like most other days for me. I woke up just before dawn and paddled out in front of our house to get in an hour or so of surfing before going to school. It was great growing up where the first sound I heard each day was the sound of the surf and the first smell was of sweet salt air. I could tell how the surf was without even having to open my eyes…. The sound told me.
The rest of that day at school is a blur. It was a strange and sad day with parents picking up kids early and just a whole lot of confusion. “What is going to happen?,” kinda stuff.
When I got home I went surfing and put it out of my thoughts. I had been looking forward to my date with Margaret Ferguson that night. Margaret was a very pretty long-haired “beatnik” kinda chick. She was older than me, 20 I think. It was during a span when I was 15 and 16 that I had a run with older chicks. The summer before I had dated a girl when I was in Hawaii who was going to UC Santa Barbara and I think delighted in enlightening me in things that I had not known much about yet had a great desire to know MUCH more about. There was one other and then came Margaret. I was going through a physical, social and emotional growth spurt, so to say.
We had gone out a few times during the previous summer to see “art” movies at the Bay Theater in Seal Beach. She lived there with her mom. I rode my bike over there and we walked to the movies. But now she had moved out and had her own apartment, and I had a car. Needless to say, my little 16-year-old mind had interesting ideas on how that night was gonna go. I had two things on my mind. Surfing and chicks.
I got to her place all set for a great night. She opened the door and her mom was there and they were both crying. I asked what was wrong. She looked at me in shock and said, “where have you been, don’t you know that President Kennedy has been killed?”
Well, I did of course. But I was 16. At that age things of such magnitude don’t register the same way they do when you are a bit more mature and the world as a whole has more importance. So, the date was off, and I went home disappointed. We never went out after that. Looking back, it was definitely one of those days you always remember in your life. I am not sure which shook me more though, JKF or the unhappy ending with Margaret Ferguson.
What is really blowing my mind at this moment is that was SIXTY years ago. Geeze. Somebody pass my meds.