I have no memory of this day fifty years ago. My parents were both Roosevelt Democrats so it seems likely they both voted for and supported the president in the 1960 elections. But I don’t recall anything of their reaction to the events of 11-22-63. I wasn’t yet in school, so I have no baby boomer memories of hearing this tragic news in class.
To honor the president’s memory, a coinage law was set aside in 1964. Any circulating coin design is supposed to last twenty-five years, and Ben Franklin’s head had only been on the fifty-cent piece since 1948. Putting JFK on the half dollar required congressional approval, which was quickly given so the coins could be put into production. The idea was floated to put him on the quarter, but the Kennedy family rejected the suggestion to retire the first president.
By the release on March 1964, people stood in long lines at banks in big eastern cities to get their rationed portion. A combination of several factors virtually put the fifty-cent piece into practical retirement. People hoarded the Kennedy halves for two reasons: to honor the president, and because of rising silver prices.
More halves were minted with the date 1964 than the entire 1948-1963 Franklin series. But despite this, half dollars have totally disappeared from pocket change.
Except from mine:
When I was driving home from the young miss’s school drop-off, I stopped for a coffee in the drive-through. I told the clerk as I handed her three coins that I knew she was probably going to put them in the bottom of her till anyway, but she could consider giving them out in change as a remembrance of the president. She didn’t even know who was depicted on the coin; she had to look at it. (The other interesting thing about using halves is that many salespeople think they are dollars.)
You probably won’t see a Kennedy half in change today. Even if you live in my city. But if you see one, think about passing it on.