Yes, I Think He Did It Alone

In 1976, the House of Representatives established a Select Committee on Assassinations to investigate the murders of President John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King. Among the things the Committee sought was a thorough examination of all photographic evidence in the Kennedy murder. At that time it took a mainframe computer to do what probably could be done on a personal computer today — that is, scan, enhance and thoroughly analyze the images. The image enhancement would be done at the Aerospace Corporation in California. The agreement with the National Archives, which had custody of the Kennedy assassination evidence in Washington, stipulated that the photographic records must be in the custody of the Archives or an Archives employee at all times. For two days I was that employee.

The only copy of the photographs, film, x-rays, etc., was brought by courier to California and put in a safe within a secure area at the National Archives facility in Laguna Niguel, where I worked at the time. The image enhancement was being done in El Segundo near Los Angeles International Airport, some 60 miles away. Each day we opened the safe, verified that each item was present, put the briefcase and “suit” box (think of a four-inch high pizza box) into the trunk of a rented car and I made the commute.

That first day (it was Easter week 1978) I followed the procedure carefully even taking the materials with me to lunch, thinking to myself “if the people around me only knew what I had.” It was fascinating to see the enhancements and hear the analysis of the few experts working on the project and sworn to secrecy (as was I). Late in the afternoon I packed everything back up, put it in the trunk, returned to the office and locked it all in the safe. I remember thinking on the way home, this stuff would be worth a million dollars or more on the black market. Am I being followed? Am I in danger?

The second morning we began the inventory. Everything was there, of course. Except — EXCEPT! — on one x-ray, right in the middle of the damaged part of President Kennedy’s skull, there was a bubble. I didn’t remember any damage to any of the x-rays. Now it looked as if this one x-ray had been too close to heat and the image had been burned. How did this happen? Where had I put the box that this could have happened? Was the computer console in the lab too hot? Was there a problem with the exhaust in the rental car that the trunk floor got excessively hot? My god, somehow I’ve damaged the only copy of a piece of evidence in the most important murder of the 20th century. My boss was visibly shaken. I was hyper-ventilating. My career is over. I’m a footnote in the Kennedy conspiracy books.

There was nothing to do but put the briefcase and box in the car (inside with me this time) and make the drive to El Segundo. It was a lonely 90 minutes. Once there I trudged in and immediately confessed my crime.

“Oh, that. Some doctor got it too close to a lamp years ago.”

The photographic and forensic experts I talked to were convinced the photographic evidence at least was consistent with one shooter — Oswald. As a reward for my participation in this project I later examined the other evidence including Oswald’s clothing (blood stained) and his Mannlicher-Carcano rifle.

Pat Boone

… is 82 today.

Boone had a grandchild at the same school NewMexiKen’s children attended about 35 years ago. He showed up at “Back to School Night” once or twice, and I have to admit he was about the handsomest, youngest looking grandpa you’d ever see. Of course, he was only 48 or 49.

It’s hard to believe I was ever so young I thought 48 was old enough that someone could “look good” for 48?

Only Elvis sold more records than Pat Boone in the late 1950s.

Note: Above revised to correct date and age. 

Too Stupid to Vote

That would be me. From 2004 —


NewMexiKen went to vote this afternoon in the New Mexico primary. The precinct officials and I were troubled when my name did not appear on the roster of eligible voters. I voted last election; what could be wrong? The precinct captain called the country clerk’s office. It seems I had declined to state my party so, of course, I don’t get to vote in the primary.

Doh.

Why Thunderstorms Scare Me

Twenty years ago today I made the round trip from Northern Virginia to Blacksburg to bring Jason, official youngest son of NewMexiKen, home from Virginia Tech for the summer. It was about a 550 mile drive, so not long after I got home from dropping Jason and his stuff off, I collapsed in my Arlington townhouse’s second floor bedroom; exhausted, but not really asleep.

As I lay there dozing on-and-off a little after nine a thunderstorm blew in. I began listening to it, the lightning closer and the thunder right behind and increasingly loud. I was counting the seconds to see how far away the strikes were, when, BAM, the lightning and thunder came in the same instant.

“Wow! That was close.”

I got up to look out the back and front windows to see which large tree it had hit. Not the one in the back open space. Not the even bigger and older one across the street. Odd I thought. It had to be that close.

I went down the two stories to the basement to reset the circuit breakers that had popped. Coming back through, I began the inventory of damaged electronic gear. No phones worked. The TV was screwy and the VCR was blasted. Sitting in the living room I heard a loud static-like sound upstairs and concluded the clock radio had come on, but didn’t work, or maybe the station was off the air. I headed back up, but the noise wasn’t coming from the radio. I started back down again, confused.

Above the stairway landing was a pull-down stepladder to the attic. As I passed — for the third time since the lightning strike — I looked up. Through the seam around the molding I could see what was making the crinkly sound.

Flames!

It was a townhouse with a common attic so I immediately alerted neighbors on both sides and had one of them call the fire department (remember, my phones didn’t work). Foolishly (though there was no smoke), I went back in to get my wallet and car keys from the top of the bureau in the bedroom upstairs. I also grabbed a couple of envelopes with utility payments — but not my State Department ID (which I later thought was an interesting psychology).

The nearest fire station was only a few blocks down the street but they were already out on a call. It was ten minutes before the next nearest engine company arrived. You think waiting for a computer to load a program or waiting for a red light to change is long? Try standing in the pouring rain waiting for the fire trucks when your house is on fire.

The firefighters arrived, vented the attic, went out of their way to protect some of my furniture, and stopped the fire just in time to keep the slate roof from crashing through the burned-out attic and destroying the place top down. Even so there was water and smoke damage all the way down to the basement (water gets into walls and runs across ceilings). It took $50,000 and several months to rebuild the place (I was a renter, but I did return after it was rebuilt). State Farm handled my personal claim with courtesy and generosity. I got a lot of new stuff.

The fire inspector the next morning told me that lightning strikes are about 2000°F. This one hit the faux chimney about 20 feet from me.

Always Remember: Half of the American Population Is Below Average

First posted here eight years ago today.


You can fool some of the people all of the time

In 1938, wallet manufacturer the E. H. Ferree company in Lockport, New York decided to promote its product by showing how a Social Security card would fit into its wallets. A sample card, used for display purposes, was inserted in each wallet. Company Vice President and Treasurer Douglas Patterson thought it would be a clever idea to use the actual SSN of his secretary, Mrs. Hilda Schrader Whitcher. The wallet was sold by Woolworth stores and other department stores all over the country. Even though the card was only half the size of a real card, was printed all in red, and had the word “specimen” written across the face, many purchasers of the wallet adopted the SSN as their own. In the peak year of 1943, 5,755 people were using Hilda’s number. SSA acted to eliminate the problem by voiding the number and publicizing that it was incorrect to use it. (Mrs. Whitcher was given a new number.) However, the number continued to be used for many years. In all, over 40,000 people reported this as their SSN. As late as 1977, 12 people were found to still be using the SSN “issued by Woolworth.”

Interesting Facts About Social Security Numbers at Money, Matter, and More Musings

The 40,000 are the same sort of people that some politicians would have manage their own social security investments.