Kennedy’s Valley visit

On Oct. 9, 1960, Patrolman Sonny Schuyler was in his third month with the Girard Police Department, sitting at his usual post near the intersection of State and Liberty streets when the department was contacted by the U.S. Secret Service.

“Here I was this young guy just starting out and they say the Democrat candidate for the presidency, John Kennedy, was going to be coming through,” Schuyler said.

After giving a speech in Youngstown and on his way to deliver an address in Warren’s Courthouse Square, Kennedy’s motorcade came slowly through Girard along State Street.

“I was on the east side and the other officer – Joe Standahar – was on the west side,” Schuyler said. “All of a sudden, here he comes.”

The vehicle rolled to a stop along State Street and quickly drew a large crowd.

“They flocked and rushed right in so fast, they pushed me and Joe right on top of the car with (Kennedy),” Schuyler said. “We stood right behind him as he gave a short speech.”

Before he had become one of the most iconic American figures, Schuyler remembers having a good feeling about Kennedy’s chances as he spoke to the assembled crowd.

“He was obviously just a senator then, running for president,” Schuyler said. “But, we felt he was going to win.”

Kennedy spoke for about five minutes, Schuyler said, before shaking the officer’s hand and moving on to Warren.

“We had no idea he was going to be stopping in Girard,” Schuyler said. “It was pretty amazing to have a guy who was all over the newsreels and stuff right in front of us.”

Later that night, thousands of supporters were waiting for Kennedy as he took the stage in downtown Warren.

Warren resident Clementine LaPorter, who still lives in the same Arbor Drive home, was one of the many faces in the crowd on the bright Sunday sun.

“From east down Market to west and going both ways, all you saw were people,” LaPorta said.

LaPorta worked for Kennedy’s election committee and was determined to get as close as possible to her political hero.

“I don’t know how I got as close as I did,” LaPorta laughed. “I must have whittled my way down there, but I took a picture of him and he was literally right in front of me.”

Kennedy told the people of Trumbull County that the time was now for a Democrat president. After two terms of Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower, the remarks resonated with LaPorta.

“We passed out fliers and we stood outside in the cold at the precincts and gave out the information leading up to that election,” LaPorta said. “We were really committed and to see him there was amazing.

“This man had so much charisma,” LaPorta said. “You couldn’t even see a blade of grass or anything when he was down. There were so many people.

“He was a great man.”

Additionally, campaign worker and “Kennedy girl” Elaine Wallace, then 35, watched from the square as Kennedy spoke to the assembled masses.

“I was there with my good friend Angie Holloway and we were right up front,” Wallace, a resident of Warren, said. “He was an amazing speaker.”

As a “Kennedy girls,” Wallace and Holloway dressed in white blouses matched with white straw hats in support of Kennedy’s campaign. The title was assigned to a group of women who worked for the election committee and were employed by the courthouse.

“I’ve always been really into politics,” Wallace said. “I don’t know how we got that close, but it was neat.”