By Anne Marie Amacher
DAVENPORT — When John F. Kennedy was running for president of the United States in 1960, Mary Wahlig remembers her parents talking politics and supporting Kennedy because he was a Catholic candidate.
A fourth-grader at the time, Wahlig said she didn’t remember her parents being very vocal about politics until Kennedy’s run for president. “They went to the caucuses and everything. They really supported him because he was Catholic.”
When he was elected, she wrote a letter to the White House and received a photograph of the new president. She still has the photo.
Wahlig made a scrapbook of Kennedy newspaper clippings she collected during the campaign, his presidency and assassination. She said her scrapbook is nothing like today’s scrapbooks. Back then, scrapbooks consisted of white sheets of paper to which you could attach newspaper clippings and photographs.
Many of the clipping were of Kennedy’s visits to Iowa. One picture showed candidate Kennedy in Des Moines eating corn. He was in the state to talk about farming issues of the time. When Kennedy came to Davenport, Wahlig remembers going downtown to watch the parade in which he rode.
When she was a sixth-grader at St. Vincent School in Davenport, Wahlig remembers her friend returning from lunch on Nov. 22, 1963, to say President Kennedy had been shot and killed. “I remember telling her she couldn’t be telling the truth.” She still couldn’t believe it happened when she found out it was true.
As news spread and the Sisters teaching at the school learned of it, classes were dismissed for the rest of the day. “The nuns were crying.”
This week, the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s assassination, Wahlig planned to share her scrapbook with her students. The students will listen to an audio of Kennedy’s inauguration speech, which they may be familiar with. They’ll also read age-level books on the life of President Kennedy and compile a timeline. The teacher planned to have students write a paragraph about the president’s life and what was required to become president.