Dallas: visiting JFK’s last day

I wasn’t sure what else there was to do in Dallas, Texas apart from pay respects to John F. Kennedy, stand on the grassy knoll at Dealey Plaza and visit the 6th floor JFK Museum.

So before I get into what else there is to do in Dallas and three great neighbourhoods to visit for eating, drinking and shopping, or the many day trips from Dallas you could take if you have the time, I shall regale you with my first assumption about this city made me hum the Dallas TV theme tune as we landed into Dallas-Forth Worth airport.

We stayed at the Magnolia Hotel, about six blocks from downtown’s Dealey Plaza on Main Street. This is the street JFK’s motorcade drove down on that fateful day on November 22, 1963.

Adoring fans lined the streets and on one of the rare occasions that she travelled with her husband, Jackie Kennedy was also with him.

Dealy Plaza, Dallas
They drove down Houston (left) and around this corner and down to the underpass.

They turned onto Houston Street and drove in front of Dealey Plaza which stands still in time today. It was built in 1940 and named after George Bannerman Dealey who was a civic leader and publisher of the Dallas Morning News.

At the corner of Elm and Houston, Lee Harvey Oswald was waiting. He was holed up on the 6th floor of the Texas School Book Depository Building behind boxes that were stacked in there due to refurbishment. He had been in the job only a month.

I took the photo above from the 7th floor, directly above where Oswald sat. No cameras are allowed on the museum floor, so tourists also come up here for the view.

Grassy knoll Dallas
From the grassy knoll looking up at the Texas School Book Depository where Oswald was staked out

The “grassy knoll” is a small hill down the road on the right just before the triple underpass and got its infamy from a journalist who was reporting on the shooting having seen police rush up this hill as it was first thought the shots had come from here. That turned out to be a red herring and most likely was due to the echo.

On the road there are two painted X’s. The first marks the first shot that went through the president’s throat and the second, only about two seconds later, went through his head – from the back, as Jackie watched.

The spot where JFK was murdered
X marks the spot

Within 90 minutes they had arrested Oswald after the murder of a police officer in another location, but as we all know, within 48 hours he too had been assassinated by a man named Jack Ruby who had mafia connections and we’re left with conspiracies up the wazoo about who, why and what.

Triple underpass at Dealy Plaza, Dallas
The president’s car sped off toward the triple underpass

The 6th Floor Museum is dedicated to John F Kennedy and his final day. It’s US$18 (adults) to get in and you get an audio guide with headphones as you walk around the very room that he was shot from.

It’s quite sobering with 100 other people walking silently around you as you read the reports, see the photos of what else he’d been doing that day and watch video.

I watched the movie of Lyndon B. Johnson being sworn in as president onboard Air Force One as Jackie stood beside him, her face drawn with the emotion of the day. For her it must have been happening at a cracking pace and yet probably in slow motion. Funny how time stands still yet whizzes by in moments of trauma.

You see her sitting next to her husband and turning just in time to see his head get partly blown off, the motorcade then sped up and whisked him to the hospital where he was pronounced dead within hours, and then only moments later a new president was sworn in.

The images of little John Jr saluting his father’s coffin covered in the US flag in front of dignitaries from around the world made tears run down my cheeks.

This is a must visit for any historian and Kennedy fan.

Dallas CityPASS

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