This Friday, 23rd November, at about 5 am or so, Central Australian Time, about 12:30 on the 22nd November Texas time, it will be the 50th anniversary of an event which forms one of my earliest childhood memories.
I was only three years old, the day my father hurried home from work later that day in rural South Australia, and turned on our new TV. I still remember the grainy black and white footage of a big black car with no roof, and an announcer describing the assassination of JFK. There was to be no more of "ask not what your country can do for you". The leader of the free world was dead.
Even at three years old, I knew there was a cold war. We knew about Cuba, the missile crisis and the Bay of Pigs, atomic bombs, etc. Didn't understand a thing, but it was on the news every night.
I reckon my dad was genuinely scared.
Naturally, we all thought the Soviets did it, and a real war, with atomic bombs, would result.
If the conspiracy theorists are right, and it wasn't Oswald acting alone, the authorities were still right to say he was on his own. The free world was terrified of what would happen next. Even us little kids in outback South Oz. The situation could easily have escalated. People really feared that fingers would stab the big red buttons, and do something that couldn't be undone ever.
Didn't happen of course. Instead, Australia went "all the way with LBJ" as he settled for fighting communism in some Asian country we'd never heard of. By the time that little adventure came to a halt, I was only a couple or three birthdays away from conscription and a free ticket for a tour of French Indochina.