DALLAS (Reuters) - Over chardonnay and bourbon, patrons in plush leather chairs at the Kennedy Room in Dallas talked on Friday of conspiracy theories and of a city repairing its reputation to mark the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination.
Many seeking to remember the occasion had sought out the JFK-themed bar, where a picture of the president and his wife hangs among shelves of liquor and a mantel above a fireplace holds volumes of books on his presidency.
Earlier in the day, Dallas, which had shunned official memorial of the November 22, 1963 assassination, held its first official commemoration - a decision widely praised among the dozen happy hour patrons at the wood-paneled bar.
“The legacy of the assassination has tied us to the event and it has also made Dallas a better place,” said Michelle Newsome, an executive suites saleswoman at a local sports venue.
Dallas was a pariah city after the assassination in its Dealey Plaza but has since become a place of remembrance for the 1,000 days of the Kennedy presidency, a period described as a “Camelot” of youthful idealism.
“A new era dawned and another waned a half century ago when hope and hatred collided right here in Dallas,” the city’s mayor, Mike Rawlings said, at the memorial.
The Sixth Floor Museum, which focuses on the assassination and Kennedy’s presidency, has become one of the city’s largest tourist attractions.
“Honestly, there is nothing to celebrate about the anniversary,” bartender Natchely Bosadas said as she poured happy hour drinks to contemplative patrons.
Talk at the bar a few miles from where Kennedy was slain was focused more on events half a century ago, with the CIA and assassin Lee Harvey Oswald dominating conversations, than any hot topic making headlines.
“There is still so much that is unknown and so many documents that are being kept secret,” said lawyer Henry Simpson, who was a teenage student in Dallas at the time of the assassination.
“But if JFK were in Dallas today, I think this would be the place he would be,” Simpson said.
Editing by Eric Walsh