by Dick Kraus
Staff Photographer (retired)

Following the solemn procession bearing the body of our fallen leader, I gathered my gear and headed for the airport. Everything from there on in at the Capitol was to be pooled.

I arrived back at my paper in the early evening and started processing film. I was never a heavy shooter, having been raised with the discipline of the 4x5 Speed Graphic. Plus, we were only issued 20 exposure rolls of film in those days. In spite of this, because I was carrying two days worth of shooting, I did have a lot of film to soup and we didn't have machine processors. We were shooting black and white in 1963, and the film was hand developed in 35mm stainless steel Nikor tanks. The film had to be hand wound onto spiral reels. Most of our tanks held only 4 rolls of film but we did have a couple that held 10. It took me the better part of an hour to load all the reels and then they were placed into the tanks, covered and turned over and back every 30 seconds to agitate the film in the D-76 developer. After 6 minutes and 45 seconds, I shut the darkroom lights and door and when the timer sounded at 7 minutes, I opened the tanks and removed the reels of film, passing them through a water bath and then into a large tank of fixer. We weren't supposed to inspect the film until it had been fixed, washed and dried, to minimize scratching. But, who could resist? I unwound a few inches from several reels to prove to myself that I had been there and actually had images.

Another hour went by, huddled over light boxes with the Photo Editor and several News editors who were anxious to see what I had. As negatives were selected, I made hastily scribbled notes of what they contained and as the film went into the print room, I began the tedious job of captioning .

The Director of Photography came over to the captioning area and outlined our plans for the funeral the next day. He was sending another photographer, Bob Luckey, with me. He wanted us to catch the first shuttle out of Laguardia Airport at 6AM. Luckey was to go to the White House to photograph the family leaving for the funeral mass at the nearby church. Then he was to cover the departure of the casket and the mourners from the church and then the funeral procession that led to the cemetery. I was to go to the Pentagon to pick up credentials waiting there for me and board a press bus there that would take the media to Arlington National Cemetery for the burial.

Luckey also listened as the plans were laid out, and we agreed that we would meet at the airport an hour earlier and grab breakfast together. He asked if he should call me before he left his house, and I told him that it wouldn't be necessary. I'd meet him there at 5am.

It was well after midnight by the time I got home. I peeked in on my sleeping kids, kissed my wife and grabbed a quick shower and was asleep before my head hit the pillow.

My next recollection was a ringing phone and the sun streaming through the bedroom window. I answered the phone only to hear Luckey say' "Oh shit! I figured I'd get your wife telling me that you had left an hour ago. It's after 5 and our plane leaves at 6." I was too groggy to think straight, but I assured Bob that I'd make it. Just in case though, I told him to get on the plane and if I didn't get there on time, I would take the next flight out. And then, stupid me, I went into the bathroom and leisurely shaved and brushed my teeth as though I had all the time in the world. I realized later, that I could have done these things on the plane or in Washington. I grabbed a cup of coffee and cranked up my Volkswagon Beatle for the 35 mile trip to the airport. As I got on the parkway, the realization sunk in that I couldn't possible get to the airport on time to make the flight. And even if I did, by the time I parked and made my way to the proper gate, I would miss the plane. I coaxed every bit of RPM out of that tiny engine and as luck would have it, all the usual traffic jams failed to materialize and someone was pulling out of a parking place right in front of the shuttle terminal as I pulled up. Thank heaven you could buy your ticket on the plane, so I didn't have to stand in line for that. I raced to the gate; flew past the startled gate attendant and ran out onto the field. They didn't use the rampways that they have now, but had a moveable stairway to board the Lockheed Constellations. The stairway was being pushed from the side of the plane as I came barreling down the tarmac and a stewardess on the plane was closing the door in preparation for take-off. I hurtled up the stairs and jumped the gap of several feet, into the arms of a lovely but flabbergasted stewardess.

As I took my seat next to Bob, all he could do was sputter, "I never thought you could do it,


Dick Kraus





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