Kennedy Remembered

64 halfI 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:

halvesI picked up ten dollars’ worth at the bank yesterday and dropped them into the change box in the family car. I plan to spend them over the next few days.

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.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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7 Responses to Kennedy Remembered

  1. David D. says:

    I was going to attempt a liturgical tie-in to the JFK anniversary but I see Pray Tell beat me to the punch.

    Through the lone comment over there questions the accuracy of the Thomas Day’s account, it always amazes me that JFK’s funeral mass was apparently a low mass.

  2. John McGrath says:

    a new twist on the JFK assassination. May or may not mean anything. But the oath cited is intriguing. And the Ornage Order engaged in extreme violence, with government looking the other way.–232984301.html

  3. John McGrath says:

    Funeral Masses in those days in the US were always low Masses. No eulogy either. Simple, somber, about God, not the deceased.

    • David D. says:

      Except, as Mr. Day tells it, there was music albeit of the American Catholic devotional variety which, in my mind, is as musically unappealing and liturgically inappropriate as what one hears today in many parishes. That a major archdiocese could not or would not offer the mass in a more solemn, i.e., sung, form does not speak well of liturgical praxis at that time (the point which Mr. Day is trying to make I suppose). I recently had to arrange a requiem (no eulogy or homily just so you know) for a family member and even I was able to find musicians to chant the mass on a few days notice.

      I have nothing against the low Mass and understand its appeal. But to suggest that it is somehow more fitting for the requiem is suspect.

      • John McGrath says:

        You make a good point. Cardinal Cushing had a horrible, grating voice. Maybe that’s why there was no singing. I do know that Jackie (my aunt knew her well) wanted a very somber Mass.

  4. Liam says:

    I suspect there was another practical reason for the Low Mass: logistics. A low mass required fewer clerics and musicians – freeing up precious space at St Matthews – and much less rehearsal and was also more predictable time-wise and therefore security-wise (given the presence of all those foreign representatives). This was late November day, and the day was short, and the time available to get everything done by dusk was limited: as things happened, things only wrapped up at Arlington at dusk. So a Solemn High Mass would have thrown the logistics off.

    Cdl Cushing, with his barking longshoreman’s voice, did manage to preside at the Solemn High Mass in January at Holy Cross Cathedral, btw. Remember, the celebrant didn’t have to chant as much as he would in the OF…. the singing was largely delegated to musicians in the EF.

  5. Jon P. says:

    Your brother here does something similar but with two dollar bills and dollar coins. I use them as much as possible and despise the Penny & dollar bill.

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