Columbus Day in New York City is traditionally celebrated with a large parade up Fifth Avenue with many bands, floats and organizations marching. The parade attracts hundreds of thousands of spectators and the NYPD is out in force ensuring safety and order. Politicians often attend the parade since this October celebration precedes Election Day. A good part of the parade route borders on the east side of Central Park.
As a New Yorker, I have attended the parade on many occasions and I particularly remember a Columbus Day past and I believe the year was 1966. On that day, my buddies Roy, Owen and myself being out of school decided we would go to Central Park and the parade for the day. We were about 15 years old at the time and lived in an industrial section of Long Island City, Queens; it was a 10 minute subway ride to get to Manhattan.
Parades in New York are always fun and for inner city kids, Central Park is the wilderness. We were in Central Park when all of a sudden hundreds of New York’s Finest in military fashion invaded an open field and formed a tremendous circle. The three of us were amazed and perplexed, things were quiet and there was not the hint of an emergency. Clueless, we were trying to figure what was going on.
A few moments later, we heard a helicopter and simultaneously a number of limousines pulled up to the police perimeter. The Presidential helicopter then came into sight and touched down in the landing zone set up by the circle of cops.
The three of us were amazed when out stepped President Lyndon Johnson and then New York Senator Robert F. Kennedy. Most people were at the parade and other than the large police presence; few people were around to see the President land. The President, the Senator and the members of their group promptly sped away in the motorcade.
It was the only time in my life that I have seen the President of The United States and the first of a few times I have seen a United States Senator. Senator Kennedy was particularly well liked in New York and unfortunately he would be tragically lost several years later.
It is still a treasured memory and I assure you the three kids from Long Island City were awe struck.
I was inspired to write this story after reading a very well done article regarding Lyndon Johnson by Mike Powers. Mike is an excellent writer and you can enjoy his article on link below.
Book Review – The Path to Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Volume 1 by Robert A. Caro