, Derry, New Hampshire


November 22, 2012

Column: Remembering a day that shocked the nation


On Monday, the day of the funeral, the streets of Derry were empty. All the stores, factories and offices were closed. Only Sam Prescott, the owner of the Benjamin Chase Company in Derry Village, refused to close his business. He was a man with a most unpleasant personality and profits ruled his view of the world; he saw no need to lose money by closing up the mill. Sam rarely ever met his workers because he almost never came to his office before 5 p.m.

My very Republican Dad hatched a plan to honor his fallen leader, the Democrat Jack Kennedy — at Sam Prescott’s expense. My Dad and I drove to the mill earlier then usual on Monday morning. There Dad met each worker as they drove into the parking lot. Dad quietly told each of them to punch in at the time clock and then go home. Dad and I waited in the office until noon when Sam got out of bed to make his usual telephone call to see how things were going. Dad told Sam that all the men were at work. In the background, the owner could hear the usual sounds of a busy mill. In truth there was only one saw working and I had just started it up at 11:59 a.m. Dad also fudged the daily inventory sheets to indicate the usual number of wooden garden labels were turned out that day.

Dad then asked Emile Rice, an elderly Derry Village neighbor, if he would join the conspiracy by sneaking into the building by an unlocked back door. Then, he was to punch out all of the time cards exactly at 5 p.m. When Sam arrived — as he did every day at 5:05 — he found the main door locked. Inside, he found that the time cards stamped to indicate that all the men had given him a full day’s work plus their usual hour of overtime. He was happy and never found out that he had given 40 workmen a day off with pay so they could honor their fallen president. I was real proud of my Dad that day.

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