Photos of JFK visit draw crowd in Barrington
Newly found photos of John F. Kennedy's Oct. 25, 1960, visit to Barrington High School opened a window Thursday to a historic moment 53 years earlier -- both for those who had been there and students whose parents hadn't been born yet.
The photos were formally donated to the school at a small ceremony attended by Class of '62 alumna Joyce Taillon who found them, along with members of her family, Barrington Unit District 220 officials and a throng of community residents.
Taillon said she discovered the photos in the spring of 2012 while going through albums that had been moved from her father's house to hers.
"I just opened one up and said, 'That's John F. Kennedy!'" Taillon said. "I didn't know they were there, but it didn't surprise me."
That's because her then 13-year-old younger brother, Rusty Anderson, was a big Kennedy supporter. Though he grew up in a Republican household, their parents allowed him to go to the event and campaign for Kennedy.
In fact, Taillon believes her mother was the one who would have taken the nine color snapshots in the album. Also there were four 11-by-14-inch professional-looking black-and-white photos. Taillon doesn't know who might have taken those.
After reading an article last spring by District 220 Superintendent Tom Leonard soliciting historic materials, Taillon decided to donate the photos. But she didn't get around to it.
Then, she saw an Oct. 25 Daily Herald story chronicling the anniversary of Kennedy's campaign visit to the Northwest suburbs, prompting her to proceed.
Though the timing of the ceremony might have seemed deliberately tied to the 50th anniversary of Kennedy's assassination Friday, that was entirely coincidental, Taillon said. A bigger factor was her ability to gather her family for the event, including her son who's on an academic visit to America from his longtime professorship at the University of Auckland in New Zealand.
Though Barrington in 1960 was largely a Republican stronghold, Kennedy's visit made sense for a lot of reasons, Taillon said.
"If you're running for president, are you going to campaign in the place where you already have all the votes?" she said.
Furthermore, Kennedy had a connection with young people everywhere -- as seen most clearly with her brother who died 10 years ago. Dwight Eisenhower was one of the older American presidents and young people recognized in Kennedy someone who was much closer to them, Taillon said.
Another person there that day and also present Thursday was Joan Quinn. She was a young mother in North Barrington pregnant with her second child when she and her husband decided to come see Kennedy on the spur of the moment.
While Kennedy spoke from the front steps of Barrington High School, they positioned themselves by the driveway. Quinn was able to shake Kennedy's hand as he left, but her husband had to make do with the hand of a Secret Service agent.
Though not overtly political, Quinn said she too was a Kennedy supporter in a Republican community.
"He was good looking," she laughed about the source of his appeal. "I thought he was going to win."
Quinn said while she wasn't pictured in any of the new photos, it was fun to see them. She said her memories of that day couldn't have been made any more vivid than they were by photos.
"I cried for days, especially during the funeral," Quinn said. "He just wasn't given enough time."
During Thursday's ceremony, Superintendent Leonard recalled he'd been in first grade when Kennedy was killed and he was inexplicably sent home. As his family wasn't there yet, he hid in the garage out of fear that Russia was about to invade.
"When your first-grade teacher starts crying, you know something is wrong," Leonard said.
Taillon said Kennedy's death was an earthshaking event even in Republican Barrington.
"Everyone who lived at the time was so deeply affected by Kennedy's death," she said. "No matter what your political affiliation was, it was a very sad day."
The photos will become part of Barrington High School's Future Presidents exhibit, which also records Barack Obama's April 17, 2006, visit.
The exhibit only contained one photo of Kennedy's visit until now, but it also includes an excerpt from the speech he made from the school's steps.
"You are citizens of this country," Kennedy told that crowd less than two weeks before his election. "You have to make the judgment on what you want this country to be. That is the issue you have to decide. What do you want? You live in this community. Your children go to school here. You are concerned about your survival as a free nation, and what we are now talking about is not popularity. It is the willingness of the people to follow us."