As the last precious days of summer began to ebb away, the Saturday morning dawned crisp, sunny and clear in the medieval city of York as a knot of people descended on the York Brewery, housed in an ancient building close to the beautiful old City walls and Barr gates.
The curious brewery building is filled with many twisting and winding staircases corridors and dead-ends and, despite having been there before for our last meeting (albeit an unbelievable four years ago!), it is remarkably easy to get lost; indeed its internal layout makes the TSBD seem like a doll’s house in comparison. I half-expected to encounter Sandra Styles as I ascended yet another set of stairs! Eventually we located our venue room, having wisely left a trail of breadcrumbs to ease our exit later.
As the delegates began to arrive – some ‘old’ faces and some new, numbering about fifteen in total – animated conversations were readily sparked and the chit chat was soon in full flow. Thankfully, Stuart Galloway had his experienced hand on the tiller, and soon gently called us all to order and cast off as we set sail for a day’s presentations and some spirited assassination discussion. Our programme had been altered as Bart Kamp was sadly unable to join us owing to some health issues, but the itinerary was still densely-packed and with sufficient variety to pique even the most jaded of JFK researchers’ palates.
The morning kicked-off with the third instalment of Paul Brown’s detailed “Fingerprints of Intelligence: D-Day in Dallas via Mexico City”. It was absorbing stuff and after his presentation on Oswald’s last few weeks at liberty, the discussion soon zeroed-in on the minutiae, from Oswald’s intriguing Select Service card to his interactions with Silvia Durán and the Cuban Consul General and then onto the never-less-than-fascinating business of the numerous dual sightings and the Oswald lookalikes making themselves busy in the Dallas area.
After the coffee break, in which the earlier conversations evidently picked up just where they had left off, Stuart Galloway, began his presentation “The Mafia and others strike back”. It illustrated a wealth of detailed information from the angle of organised crime and who might have stood to gain and whose lingering resentments could have given rise to the President’s removal. Stuart outlined the Pearl Street mafia and cantered through a repellent cast of criminal characters with some glee, generating much mirth when he described the grisly (yet strangely photogenic and ever-smiling) Johnny Roselli as “such a cheerful character”!
Stuart had been reading Mark North’s “Betrayal in Dallas” – a volume he highly recommends, incidentally – and this had clearly fired his imagination and prompted his delving deeper into the subject of the Mafia links. As often happens in DPUK’s gatherings, an interesting little gem unearthed itself during the presentation. Jack Ruby had worked briefly in the 1930s selling a handicapper’s tip sheet for horse races at the Santa Anita racetrack, in Arcadia, California. A lightbulb went off in the audience and, with the help of Google, it was revealed that this was the very same race track that Sirhan worked at some decades later! Stuart presented his dense material very cogently and made a sometimes indigestible subject easier to understand, though I did wish he could have had a longer slot as I developed a nasty case of writer’s cramp!
After a good lunch, we reconvened to hear Yorkshire’s very own Paul Jeffery present “A bodyguard of lies: The Seven Deadly Sins of Disinformation”.
Mike Dworetsky then took to the stage to analyse the timing of the shots, which is a subject guaranteed to engage everyone present, though in less accomplished hands you could easily become bogged-down in the mathematical detail. No fear whatsoever of that with Mike and it was another fascinating listen (very interesting to unexpectedly revisit the 1976 Alvarez “jiggle analysis” of the Zapruder footage), with a good deal of audience participation! It is a rare pleasure to sit and listen to a seasoned researcher such as Mike – he ruefully admitted his interest began as a young man in 1964! – present so effortlessly and with an evident knowledge carefully amassed over many years.
After the afternoon break for coffee, I presented a recent (if seemingly unnoticed) BBC radio documentary on the Warren Commission, rather nicely timed (if I say so myself) to coincide with the 54th anniversary of the foisting of your and my favourite work of fiction on the American public. I’d stumbled on the programme in the dark reaches of the night on the BBC’s World Service and I prefaced it with an overview of the Commission and its own idea of its merits and significance (“a Gibraltar of factual literature through the ages to come” anyone?). The discussion afterwards was another healthy one, with the motives and methodology of the Commission given close scrutiny and, happily, the subject did not close till good old Jack Ruby’s mother’s teeth and her fishbone fixation were given another airing!
Following me, Peter Antill took us on a very interesting byway of exploring the use of the Kennedy assassination in the world of video games – something which I, for one, knew little about. Peter deftly touched on the role of the assassination in film (which had me digging out my copy of “Executive Action” from 1973, when I got home) and then provided a number of audio/visual and interactive clips featuring not only Kennedy assassinated but also Call of Duty which has the slain President very much alive – having survived the attempt on his life – and rekindling his relationship with Robert McNamara! Peter – whose knowledge of firearms was touched on during his talk – displayed some evident rifle skills in attempting to replicate the 6th floor shots in one video game simulation.
Donning my hat as joint-Editor of the Dealey Plaza Echo, I had a word here and there with the presenters – some might unkindly suggest indulging in my own version of the ‘Johnson Treatment’ – and I am quietly confident that some of the day’s speakers might transform their presentations into articles for the wider membership to enjoy!
Stuart closed the day at a little before 6 o’clock and we all heartily resolved not to let another four years slip by before we all gather again. Soon the little group of merry assassination researchers made their tired, but very satisfied, way out into York’s cobbled streets and quaint ‘shambles’.
I surely can’t have been alone in leaving with my interest in November 1963 and the days leading to it very much reinvigorated and with a notepad full of scribbles and notes-to-self reminding me to reach down various dusty volumes relating to issues into which new life had been breathed during the course of the day.
It was a real delight to meet other members and put faces to names and it’s amazing how we all seem to drop into conversation like long lost friends, even though some of us had only just met for the first time – such is the power of a shared interest like ours. Newer members also seem to have taken a great deal from the day – one smiling delegate was heard to say as he left “I’m going home realising how little I know about the case in comparison with some!”)
All in all another successful outing for the northern contingent of DPUK. We all owe a huge debt of gratitude to Stuart Galloway, who planned the programme, liaised with the presenters, booked the venue and ensured everything ran smoothly on the day. On top of all that he remains the most genial of hosts – so thank you, Stuart! Roll on the next one!