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Kadner: Bulletin: President Kennedy is dead

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Updated: December 23, 2013 2:31PM



John Murphey’s hands shake slightly as he holds out the yellowed pages in his hand that spread the news 50 years ago that President John F. Kennedy had been shot.

“My father-in-law, Jim Boutet, was a newsman for WIND radio (AM-560) in Chicago, and he was on the news desk that day,” said Murphey, a Chicago attorney.

“He saved the teletype pages, the news bulletins, that came over the UPI (United Press International) wire that day and wrote a few comments on the backs of some, the front of others.”

After Boutet died at 73 in 2004, Murphey found the teletype pages among his belongings. He stuffed them inside the pages of a book he was reading about the Kennedy assassination and only recently discovered them.

The first teletypes say nothing at all about the shooting but almost scream off the page.

“Bulletin ... Precede Kennedy .. GET OFF ... GET OFF ...”

Those are pleas from teletype operators to their colleagues throughout the country to keep the wires clear. Other breaking news throughout the nation no longer was important.

And then there’s the first real bulletin: “DALLAS--AN UNKNOWN SNIPER FIRED THREE SHOTS AT PTOUX.”

PTOUX was the teletype abbreviation for president of the United States. All the letters on the teletype are capitalized.

Not long afterward there is a “FLASH.” “Kennedy Seriously Wounded ...”

That’s followed by more warnings from teletype operators to “STAY OFF ALL OF YOU. STAY OFF AND KEEP OFF. GET OFF.”

“This was the first word that anything had happened,” Boutet wrote on the back of the page, “but no one (at WIND) saw it on the wire because I was on the air and it was lunch time in the station.”

He explains that the garbled statements about “KEEP OFF” are a record of teletype operators “fighting it out to get the message through.”

At 12:40 p.m. Central Standard Time, the following message is punched out by the keys on the teletype machine: “A sniper seriously wounded LDJPBDIXENT Kennedy in downtown Dallas today ... perhaps fatally.”

Fifty years later, those last two words still send a chill up the spine.

Boutet was handed that bulletin toward the end of his 12:30 p.m. news roundup.

That would be followed by another bulletin: “President Kennedy is dead.” Written on the page by Boutet are the words, “respect,” obviously a reminder to himself, and “stay tuned for further details” for his listeners.

At 1:37 p.m., the next item reads: “More Kennedy Bulletin XXX IS DEAD.”

“He was shot to death by an assassin in the streets of Dallas. He was 45,” the teletype reads.

Boutet wrote the number 6 over the 5.

“He was so proud of the fact that he caught the error by the wire service before he went on the air,” Murphey said. “He knew Kennedy was 46, not 45.”

Murphey, a municipal lawyer who represents Country Club Hills among other towns, recalled that Boutet left WIND after it briefly became a Spanish language station to work at WGN.

“He was the news guy for the Eddie Schwartz show at WGN,” Murphey said.

Back in the day, teletype machines were electromechanical typewriters that printed out news from across the world using phone lines. Most news organizations, broadcast and newspaper, subscribed to either The Associated Press or United Press International wire services.

The teletypes usually were housed in a room away from the broadcast studios, or in a far corner of a newspaper office, because they were so loud.

Special stories, those that merited urgent attention, triggered alarm bells initiated by the teletype operators sending them out. A five-bell signal was considered “urgent,” a major breaking story. Stories of the utmost importance, the very rarest of events, would trigger 10 bells.

On the day President Kennedy was shot, teletypewriter machines in newsrooms across the nation would have been sounding alarms in a manner few had heard.

“My father-in-law dedicated his entire life to gathering the news,” Murphey said. “He understood the historic significance of what was happening.”

He said he has considered giving the teletype pages to a history museum.

“But when something like this goes into a museum, who sees them?” he said. “Just a few researchers. They wouldn’t allow people to hold this stuff in their hands, to feel it, to get a sense of the history.

“So I decided to hold onto it and show it to people. There’s plenty of other stuff for the history museums, and they probably have rooms full of stuff collecting dust.”

Murphey said he became a Kennedy conspiracy buff for a time, believing there had to more to
the assassination than one gunman.

Murphey was in seventh grade when Kennedy was assassinated and believed a lone gunman, “a nut job” couldn’t have killed the president on his own.

“Lee Harvey Oswald was a pathetic, unbalanced and very angry young man,” he said. “The conclusion I reached is that even a nobody loser like him could meet his moment in time.

“I have spent hours pouring over the books, investigations, about that day, using all my legal knowledge and finally reached the conclusion he did it alone. There was no conspiracy.”

Murphey spends his time now enjoying the knowledge that his father-in-law, in a respectful and factual way, informed Chicago radio listeners about a tragic event in U.S. history.

I’m tempted to say that those who didn’t live through that day can’t possibly imagine its impact.

But most of you have lived through 9/11. My father, he had Pearl Harbor.

President John F. Kennedy is dead. Fifty years after the words were first spoken, the feeling of loss remains.



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