You have probably heard of the Zapruder film, but my guess is that you have never heard about the Gambone film.
I was a young, Catholic high school student in Pittsburgh in 1960 when I heard that John F. Kennedy was coming there for the first time in the presidential campaign. I knew I’d have to skip school and sneak my parents’ 8-millimeter camera out of the house to make it to the “Golden Triangle” by his expected 3 p.m. arrival. I wanted to capture the motorcade on film, then run up next to the car and be the first person to shake his hand and welcome him to my city. I was not thinking about the Secret Service protection.
Three hours passed, and no Kennedy. I was sitting on the ground in the first row when the rumor spread that he was running late coming from Wheeling, W.Va. But then somebody yelled: “I see the cars coming over the bridge!” I jumped up and started filming in the twilight. When his convertible reached what I thought was an appropriate distance, I went under the wooden barricade, camera rolling, and actually reached his car, which had slowed to a crawl. Someone later told me that his protection detail had taken out guns but that the candidate had waved them off. I saw his tanned face smiling at me as he extended his hand. I could see in an instant that the crowds in West Virginia had ripped his shirt under his suit jacket trying to get a piece of history. I reached up and yelled: “Welcome to Pittsburgh, Mr. Kennedy!”
Fifty years later, I’ve been unable to locate the film I took that day. However, I have never forgotten the strength of Kennedy’s handshake and the radiance of his smile.
James V. Gambone, Orono