A Fourth Grade History Lesson

(in four chapters)

by Charles Johnson

-based on events of that day- the JFK assassination-  in the fourth grade classroom in the elementary school I attended.

One chapter each day on Nov. 1, 8, 15 and 22, 2013  

@ charliesixty.wordpress.com

To appear in full version in Hometown Focus, Virginia, MN on Nov. 22, 2013





Paul leaned against the wall with his broom, smiling and waving to the students as they entered the building.  They were coming in from lunch recess, having burned off the calories from Mrs. Hildy’s famous hamburger gravy and mashed potatoes.  He watched them head for their rooms to hang their coats in the cloakrooms and to sit at their desks for the rest of the day.


He noticed the teachers collect their students as they came out of the lounge, having had the last of their lunches.  Paul knew that the kindergarten would busy themselves with the art work that Mrs. Carza had laid out for them.  The third graders were following Miss O’Hara to their room.  In Mrs. Fillian’s second grade room, Mr. Harvey was warming up his Irish tenor voice with a Thanksgiving song, ready to continue his Friday schedule of weekly music classes.  The first graders would be listening to Miss Rossi as she explained how they would be getting a visit from the school nurse.


Broom in hand, Paul left this active first floor and climbed the steps to the second, ready to start his Friday afternoon sweep down.  He got there just in time to see Mrs. Pricket, known for her strict classroom management, herd her fifth graders into her room under total silence.  Paul turned to the right as sixth grade teacher and school principal Mr.Clawmer closed the door to start a good, solid history lesson.  The fourth graders were in their room, waiting for Mr.Pacetti to get there, which should be any moment now.


Parkview Elementary School was ready for a late November afternoon of the great American routine of reading, writing and arithmetic.


The long-handled broom was a good 4 feet wide, allowing Paul to make three passes and have the floor fully swept.  He pushed the broom down the right side, making sure to catch-all the dust along the way, aiming directly at the fifth grade room.


Paul heard the phone ring in the teachers’ lounge.  There was the sound of a polite answer – a man’s voice.  In just seconds, there was an immediate change in tone; that of ghastly surprise and shock.  Paul came to an uneasy stop; it sounded like Mr. Pacetti, sounding extremely agitated about something.  A ‘goodbye’ was said, the phone receiver clacked hard as it was returned to the cradle.  The door opened with a sudden flourish.  Mr. Pacetti dashed out, making a beeline for his classroom.  He signaled for Paul to follow him as he rushed by.


Mr. P, as the kids called him, flung open the door to his classroom, motioning Paul to stand at the door.  With deliberate purpose, he moved directly along the blackboard to his desk at the opposite end of the room.  He uttered a fantastically unbelievable and desperate statement as he moved.


“If you know how to pray, kids, go ahead.  The president has just been shot!”

(next Friday:  Chapter 2: THE WAIT