Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 28 Jun 2015.
I think it’s a miracle that there are any truths in family stories that are passed down considering how the passage of time and personal perceptions can lead to faulty memories. I have just discovered two faulty memories in my own life.
If you are a Baby Boomer or older you may remember where you were the day of John F. Kennedy’s assassination. I would have sworn on a stack of Bibles that I was in Sr. Martina’s first grade classroom at St. Mark’s Catholic School. It was morning, before our 10:00 AM recess, and my reading group was working away quietly doing our seat work while another group was sitting in a circle doing oral reading in the front of the room. I recall the principal, Sr. Jerome, opening the classroom door and sticking her head inside. She looked distraught with an expression I had never seen her display before. I knew something was wrong and one of my classmates shouted out, “Sister” which caused our teacher to look up from the reading group and notice the principal. Our teacher went to the door and a whispered exchange occurred. The principal left and our teacher sat at her desk with her head hanging down. We looked around at each other but no one dared speak. Sr Martina then told the students in reading circle to return to their seats. When they had, she explained that she had terrible news to tell us, someone had just shot the president. She asked that we say a silent prayer for his recovery.
After a few minutes she called my reading group to the circle. There were only 3 of us in our group as we had started school already reading – Laura Atzhorn, Dennis Barunica and me. We had just sat down when the principal came on the overhead speaker telling us that parents would be arriving soon as school was being dismissed for the day.
I remember being very happy that school was being cancelled as I really didn’t like it very much but I was also confused as to why this was happening, I didn’t connect the shooting with school closure. Within minutes my mom arrived to pick me up. I was so glad to see her I ran to the door to tell her that the president had been hurt. I didn’t say a word once I saw the look on her face. I could tell she had been crying. My mom was not a crier so this startled me. I got my coat and book bag from the cloak room and was quickly on my way home. On the way I asked my mom why she had been crying. She told me the president had been shot and was not expected to live. When we arrived home my grandparents and great grandma were watching TV, which was unusual during the daytime. No one spoke. I went to my room to change out of my uniform.
I would swear by this memory but the problem is, I wasn’t in first grade when President Kennedy was shot. I was in 2nd grade. My husband thought he was in 2nd grade and his memory would jive with mine since he is a year older than me. So both of our memories are wrong.
How we discovered our faulty memories is because he remembers the teacher he had and how she had informed the class. In looking at old photos, I discovered his 2nd grade teacher was really his 3rd grade teacher. If he was in 3rd, then I had to be in 2nd grade. Checking the year President Kennedy was shot confirms that I was in 2nd grade. My 2nd grade teacher, though, was not Sr. Martina, it was Sr. Michelle. Why would I confuse the two as one was very old and the other, very young? The only thing I can think of is that Sr. Martina served as a substitute teacher the day the president was killed. Sr. Michelle was absent alot and we had Sr. Martina in her absence as Sr. Martina retired after my first grade year. No way I can confirm my explanation for my memory lapse, though.
The time I thought the event occurred is also off. My cousins and I would walk home together at noon for a 30 minute lunch period. President Kennedy was shot at 12:30 PM in Dallas which would be the same time in northern Indiana, the Central Time Zone. So this event did not occur before recess as I had thought but after I had returned to school after lunch. Now I’m not even sure that I was in reading group because reading was always in the morning. Perhaps it was math, instead but I don’t ever recall going to the front of the room to work in math groups.
It’s understandable that you may not remember an event correctly from when you were 7 years old but my next faulty memory is from my late teen years. I would swear that my husband, then my boyfriend, barely missed being called up to serve in the Viet Nam War. Turns out, that’s not right, either.
The last draft lottery was held in February 1972. The draft ended in July 1973 but no lottery was held for men born after 1953. This means my husband never had a draft lottery number because the lottery was based on your birthdate and he was born after 1953. Our faulty memories must be based on remembering the number that was assigned to his birthdate in 1972 even though it didn’t affect him. We have spent our entire adult lives thinking he was close to being called for service and that was never the case. Wow, now I’m rethinking everything I think I remember!
Since these two memory lapses I decided to take a look at my family’s legends to see how accurate those stories are. I’ll be sharing what I discover.