John Fitzgerald Kennedy was assassinated on this day, 22 November, 1963. I was seven years old. Iain Hoffmann was coming up for his fifth birthday. Ann Hoffmann would have been two.
We heard the news while the family was waiting in our sitting room for the Number 16 bus. The television was on in the background and the story dominated the headlines. I may have been young, but I understood this was something significant. And because of the extraordinary advances in technology and communications over the century we were hearing the news live as it was happening.
|Waiting For The Number 16 Bus (Peter Hoffmann, 2008)|
Whenever a bus appeared on the horizon, there was great excitement-is it the Number 16 or is it a Number 4 or a Number 27? If it was the Number 16, then it was all hands to the pump. Right, switch the televison off-lets go! If it was the Number 4 or the Number 27-deflation, until the next Edinburgh Corporation bus appeared.
We were pushing our luck slightly because we had to leave the house and then cross the road to the bus stop which was opposite 8 Oxgangs Avenue. We depended on the bus stopping outside the dentist and doctors' surgeries. This was usually always the case because it was the busiest bus stop in Oxgangs. Our hit rate must have been 99% plus-I can only recall ever missing a bus once or twice. That must have occurred when a driver thought he was Jim Clark and there had been no one at the surgeries' bus stop. Can you picture our faces-gaily stepping out and the bus flying past!
Imagine being able to watch television whilst waiting for a bus. And more surreal still, watching and listening to the dreadful news that an American President had been assassinated and then walking across Oxgangs Avenue to get on a Number 16 bus. An extraordinary juxtaposition; one of the major moments in the 20th century-a moment in history which will never be forgotten and all the while in our small world at The Stair life carrying on as normal-or seemingly so, because each and every one of us of a certain age can recall the moment they heard the news-even someone as young as seven years of age. Life would never be quite the same again either at a universal level or at a local level. Life and Death in Oxgangs and Dallas..