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The Man for the '60s

July 16, 2010 | 10:01 am

July 15, 1960, John F. Kennedy
Photograph by Wayne F. Kelly / Los Angeles Times

July 15, 1960, John F. Kennedy

July 15, 1960: Presidential nominee John F. Kennedy arrives at the Coliseum. 

If you didn’t live through this era, if all you know about JFK is the womanizing and the Rat Pack, then maybe this photo is nothing more than an interesting and somewhat ironic curio. But if you’re of the right age and recall those scant years of optimism before LBJ’s “My fellow Americans”  and Nixon’s “I’m not a crook,” this photo is heart-piercing.

Today, we know that Camelot was nothing but a movie set of plywood and 2 by 4s, with the carpenters, grips and makeup crew waiting just out of the frame while Jackie Kennedy showed us the White House and John John played under his father’s desk in the Oval Office. And most of us have learned far more than we care to know about the many transgressions of the Kennedys, who had more dirty laundry than a Motel 6. 

One ride in a convertible in Los Angeles in the summer of 1960. Another ride in a convertible in Dallas in the fall of 1963. The 1960s were not a more innocent time. It is only some of us who lost our innocence in them.