(Gayla Brooks’s November Back Story column tells the story of five men who forged a unique bond during their childhood days in Oak Cliff and are still friends today.)
Perhaps the most momentous experience for the group involved two of the friends, Larry Stevenson and Pat “Skipper” Eskew. It happened on Nov. 22, 1963, at Dealey Plaza.
Stevenson recollects, “We both turned in notes, from our parents, to Adamson, to be at the Kennedy parade, but we actually drove over to Kimball to see and visit our girlfriends.”
The two Adamson friends decided to enter the Kimball High School auditorium, where the students who remained in school that day were congregating to watch the president’s arrival at Love Field, on portable televisions that had been placed on the wide stage. What the two guys didn’t expect, however, was that school’s principal, the legendary W. P. Durrett, would come in and sit down beside the two “visiting” Adamson students. Known for his steel-trap knowledge of “all things Kimball” — including all the enrolled students, amazingly, “Daddy D” didn’t recognize the two outsiders but, instead, struck up a brief conversation with the boys. Much to the boys relief, the unknowing principal eventually left the auditorium, which allowed the guys a brief visit with their girlfriends, before leaving the auditorium when the girls were required to return to class.
Obviously, FE girlfriends trumped seeing the President of the United States!
But, with little else left to do, Stevenson said they made the decision go ahead and drive Downtown to see the parade — a decision that provided each with a unique personal story of the Kennedy assassination.
“Larry and I were on the other side of the railroad tracks, standing on the edge of the new Stemmons Freeway and hoping to get a chance to shake JFK’s hand,” recalls Eskew, “when the [presidential] limo came by at full speed, with Secret Service agents standing up holding automatic weapons and no sight of Kennedy.”
“We knew something was up,” he continues, “so we climbed back up over the tracks and came upon some [uniformed and un-uniformed] police officers who gave us the news.”
They were asked to look for shell casings from what the officers assumed at that time were from the shooter’s rifle — shot from behind the fence overlooking the grassy knoll. Stevenson and Eskew did as asked, searching on their hands and knees through the grass underfoot but discovering nothing. Amazingly, to temporarily retreat from the ongoing confusion of the hour, the two teenage friends soon ducked inside the Texas Schoolbook Depository, before officials determined it to be the shooter’s location and then secured the building.
Eskew still ponders whether or not the officers were just, as he puts it, “pulling our chain during a panic situation.”
“I think there was a conspiracy of more than one gunman,” he says. “Also, my dad worked at the typographical company and personally knew Oswald.”