JFK Scored Touchdown in Fans’ Hearts

Fans sit in the stands as they cheer on the Harvard Crimson football team at a Nov. 16 Harvard-UPenn game. (Kyle Plantz/BU News Service)
Fans watch the Harvard Crimson team take on UPenn, Nov. 16, 2013. (Kyle Plantz/BU News Service)

By Kyle Plantz
BU New Service

CAMBRIDGE — Fifty years ago in October, U.S. President John F. Kennedy paid his final visit to Boston, a place he called home. During his visit, he made an appearance at Harvard Stadium, where he was one of 15,000 fans who showed up to cheer on his alma mater.

The Boston Globe called Saturday Oct. 18, 1963, a “sun tan” day as Kennedy came to the stadium watch the Harvard Crimson take on the Columbia Lions.

“I was there the day Kennedy came to the football game,” said Albert George, 70, a life-long resident of Cambridge. “I was about 20 years old at the time and although I never actually saw the president, I still felt his presence there. Security was obviously tightened, but it never disrupted the energy of the game that day.”

George said he kept scanning the crowds for a glimpse of thepPresident, but he seemed to blend in with the crowd.

“I think I was trying to find him [Kennedy] more than I was actually paying attention to the game,” he said. “It was half-time before I even knew what was going on.”

“It would be a different atmosphere if [Barack] Obama came to a Harvard game,” he said. “Security would be so severe that it wouldn’t even be worth it to go to the game. With Kennedy, he was from here. He knows the area. He came home to support his team and it just shows how much he loved the area he’s from.”

Tabithalee Howard, 34, of Cambridge, said although she was not alive for the “Kennedy game,” her parents and grandparents have been Harvard football fans for as long as she can remember and her grandparents were among the 15,000 fans there in October 1963.

“My family never misses a game,” she said. “So naturally they were at the game Kennedy was at. From the stories they’ve told me, it was a really fun day. They said something special was in the air that day. It was like his presence there got the people even more excited for the game.”

Howard said her family has always been huge Kennedy supporters.

“Growing up as a Democrat, naturally my family loved Kennedy and everything he stood for,” she said. “I guess having him back in the place that he’s from got people all jazzed up about having the chosen one return to show that although he’s in the Big House now, he still cares about where he comes from and loves everyone from here.”

Robert Creamer, 72, of Cambridge, said he worked at the ticket booth the day that Kennedy came to watch the game.

“I remember at our staff meeting that day before the game, our bosses briefed us on what protocol was going to be that day and how to handle security,” he said. “We all had jitters in the hope that the president would come through our line, but of course that was crazy. He would have his own line to get in, but it would have been nice if he bought a ticket at the booth like everyone else.”

Creamer said he could feel that everyone was very excited about the game and Kennedy being there.

“A lot of people asked me if I saw him yet and I said ‘no, not yet. But if you do, let me know so I can get a picture,’” he said. “It was more than just Kennedy being at a football game supporting his team. It showed that no matter what your background, where you go in life, home will always have a special place in your heart. Kennedy was a big-wig now and he could have forgotten about us, but his whole family is from here and he truly knew that this was his home and he needed to support it in anyway the he can, even if it is at a football game.

“My only regret is that it was a tie game, 3-3, and Harvard didn’t win for him,” Creamer said.

One Comment so far:

  1. I was at that game that day, sitting on the Harvard side with my parents. I was 14 and in the middle of the game the band started playing “Hail to the Chief” and I looked left and there was the president with a small entourage walking down the center aisle to a seat. I remember being stunned by how red his face was and how big his head seemed. I think it was his hair that was striking. It was also stunning to see his famous face. He watched only part of the game then when he got up to leave the Columbia band (Harvard was playing Columbia) began playing “Hit the Road Jack!” I thought they didn’t like having the president sit on the Harvard side. It was a month before he died.

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