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JFK, LBJ and Texas

Papa Joe and I can remember what we were doing when the fatal shot was fired in Dallas – yes we are that old and no I am not talking about JR of TV fame, but President Kennedy.

The places we visited are probably most suited for the Papas and Mamas rather than the munchkins, although older children may be fascinated by seeing where President John Fitzgerald Kennedy (JFK) was assassinated. Younger children will enjoy the farm at the President Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ) Ranch and some of the activities at the National Park Visitor Centre there.

  • Fort Worth – Memorial 

On the 22nd of November 1963 President Kennedy was assassinated. In Fort Worth you can see a monument erected on the spot outside the hotel where he gave a speech to the crowds earlier in the morning.

kennedy memorial fort worth

Memorial Outside The Hilton Hotel – formerly The Hotel Texas

  • Dallas Dealey Plaza

The Kennedy’s then flew to neighbouring Dallas and while in the car on their way to lunch the president was shot. An X marks the exact spot where the first shot hit and another X marks where the next shot struck.

The shots were fired from the corner window of 6th floor of the Texas School Book Depository which is now home to the excellent  The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza.

kennedy dallas dealey plaza 1

The fatal shot was fired from the end 6th floor window of the left hand building

As we walked around the 6th floor of the museum, we saw a recreation of where Lee Harvey Oswald fired his rifle. It was incredible to stand at the next window and see exactly the same view that Oswald had. The computer simulation beside the window made us feel as if we were looking down on the presidential motorcade.

The Sixth Floor Museum also has good display about politics and life in the 60’s and about the Kennedy family. The free audio guides give you plenty of additional information.

There are fascinating sections about the assassination, arrest and murder of Lee Harvey Oswald and subsequent investigations and conspiracy theories.

On the fateful day in November, the Kennedys were meant to spend the night at Lyndon Johnson’s ranch. Although they did not get there, Papa Joe and I did go a few days after our visit to Dallas.

  • Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park

Just 50 miles west of Austin at Stonewall Texas in the Texas Hill Country, you can visit the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park and see where LBJ was born, the house he lived in when he was a US Senator and President, and also the cemetery where he and other members of his family are buried.

lbj ranch1The Lyndon B Johnson State Park is also here and has a large display about LBJ’s life and about the surrounding area. There are also a few activities for the munchkins to try.

lbj ranch farm cooking

The State Park also includes The Sauer-Beckmann Farmstead living history farm where people are dressed in period clothes and chat to the visitors about life in the area at the beginning of the 20th century when LBJ was born.

lbj ranch farm kitchen

It is a short walk from the visitors centre and you can stop on the way to visit the deer and other animals.

We then got a free visitors permit from the visitors centre so that we could drive past LBJ’s birthplace, the cemetery, and the air strip to the main house which became known as ‘The Texas White House’ . You can see one of the small jets that the president used – it had the call sign ‘Air Force One’ when he was using it.

lbj air force 1

There is a second visitors centre at The Texas White House and if you have time you can go on a tour of the house (Admission Fee). It is amazing how many telephones and TV sets were needed to stay in touch in the days before mobile phones and the internet. The kitchen has a pecan pie on the table (Pecan Trees grow all over the hill countery). Jacqui Kennedy had never had the pie and the staff were preparing one for her visit that night when news came through of the assassination.

Nearby Johnson City also has places to visit but we ran out of time – a good excuse to come back to Texas.

  •   Plaza Of Presidents  – National Museum Of The Pacific War

About 15 miles to the west of The LBJ Ranch is National Museum Of The Pacific War. Both LBJ and JFK served in the Pacific in World War 2. Their statues and details of their war service are commemorated in The Plaza of Presidents. Presidents Ford, Nixon, Reagan, Carter and Bush (the elder) also served in the Pacific and their statues are here as well as alongside those of Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR), Truman and Eisenhower (Ike).

JFK PT boat

JFK commanded PT 109 – this is a restored similar boat

  • Austin – The LBJ Presidential Library

Like many people we associate LBJ with The Vietnam War, however he was a committed democrat and believed in The Great Society. His tenure as president saw a great deal done for education, civil rights and welfare. His Presidential Library has displays about these issues as well as a a 7/8th scale replica of The Oval Office. We enjoyed our visit but it is not really one for the munchkins.

 

 

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