State Lunch—a light-hearted memory of President Kennedy


It was near the end of my first year in New York City, Columbus Day to be exact. I was working as an electrical engineer for TelePrompTer Corporation. It had been a difficult year for me. I was homesick for Chicago and there were very few other people my age at the company. To make things worse, my college friend, New York roommate and office partner had been transferred to our facility in southern New Jersey. With him gone, I was officially on my own.

Harvey stuck his head into my office. He was about my age, a native Brooklynite of Jewish heritage. I knew him just well enough to know that he was the epitome of a Jewish kid from Brooklyn in every favorable connotation that can be associated with that background. He had an unbounded enthusiasm for life, a gregarious personality and he spoke perfect Brooklynese.

“Hey! Da pres-den’s drivin’ by a block from heya. Les take a oily lunch an’ git a look at ‘em.”

I smiled inside every time I heard him speak.

“Yeah, let’s go!” I told him. It would be a change of pace, something different, maybe even something to write home about.

It was a hot day and the small crowd that had gathered to watch President Kennedy was on the far side of street, in the shade. Harvey and I stood on the sunny side of the street for a moment, contemplating what to do. Suddenly the motorcade approached slowly from the right and there he was: The President of the United States, John F. Kennedy, sitting high on the back seat of a convertible, waving to the crowd… on the shady side of the street.

Harvey perceived that we were being ignored and suddenly his spontaneous Brooklyn nature kicked in. He stretched his six foot frame to about six-four, standing on the very tips of his toes. He cupped his hands around his mouth.

“Hey JACKeee-bay-BEEE!” he shouted at the top of his voice in perfect Brooklynese.

I wanted to die. I wanted to slither, but there was no place to slither to.

But in an instant the President of the United States turned, laughed aloud and waved at the two of us with a broad grin.

“Yeah!” exclaimed Harvey.

We walked back to the office, Harvey chattering all the way, as if we were returning from a State Dinner. A quiet, conservative engineer from the Midwest and an impetuous kid from Brooklyn; we made a very unlikely pair and so we became good friends.

Showing 13 comments

  • Ann

    I remember us driving through Hyannis Port the summer of 1960 and seeing big signs reading “Welcome John F. Kennedy, Native Son.” Wonderful story, Jim.

    • jimpadar

      Thanks Ann… those were more simple days but unfortunately the “simple security” of those days proved tragically fatal.

  • robin

    How amazing, up close and personal to the President, you are a man of many surprises!

  • Ed Hammer

    I could hear the Brooklyn accent as I read the story. Great imagery, Jim!

    • jimpadar

      Thanks Ed. I’m waiting to hear from Harvey to see if he thinks I overdid the Brooklyn dialect. 🙂

  • Bill Blethen

    Hi Jim,
    I remember our days in NYC well and always regret leaving you a bit stranded but it sounds like Harvey filled a void.
    Bill Blethen

    • jimpadar

      Have no regrets Bill. It was just the way things worked out and something neither of us had any control over. In the long run it probably forced me to become a little more independent… until they transferred me also and I got a new place a few miles from you and your new wife! 🙂

  • Rich

    Great story as usual Jim. Just think. If you would have stayed with TelePrompter Corp. you no doubt would be on a first name basis with our current president.

    • jim brown

      Great story, it calls to mind my wife taking me to midway airport to see canidate Kennedy.. She thought it was a great moment and now that i think about it; it was a great moment.

      jim brown

  • Chris Padar

    That is a bit different than when I saw President Obama in New York in September of 2009.

    Sorry for the poor quality. It was a camera phone. The President is in one of the armored limos early in the video.

  • Bill Nolan

    Many memories Jim, from the good old days at Maxwell Street (Area 4) Homicide/Sex Unit hopefully a lot of the old timers will be able to attend the Area 4 “End of Watch Party” on 13 Dec 2011. The best 12 years of my career were at Area 4 Homicide with the best of the best. We all remember our clear up rate always in the 90 percent through hard work and no time and a half for overtime. Merry Christmas to all.
    Bill Nolan

    • jimpadar

      what was the old song:

      “Those were the days my friend.
      We thought they’d never end…”

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