The story behind a renowned photo — and missing hats

Until the time of Kennedy, men still wore hats. Fedoras. Politicians wore them.

Ray Crippen

Editor’s note: Former longtime Daily Globe Editor Ray Crippen died Dec. 27, 2015. We will continue to publish previously run “Isn’t That Something” columns on Saturdays, until further notice, as a tribute to Crippen and his knowledge of local and regional history. The following column first appeared July 7, 2007.

WORTHINGTON — Jim Vance was publisher of the Daily Globe . Jim liked flying in his own airplane, which was the Daily Globe’s airplane. Jim also admired President John Kennedy.

So it was — 45 years ago this summer — announcement came that JFK would appear at the dedication of Oahe Dam on the Missouri River near Pierre. Jim decided to make the flight. He obtained press credentials. Roger Nystrom, intern photographer, went along to get photos for Globe readers.

This comes to mind from a column David Kranz wrote earlier this month recalling that big day in South Dakota.

We all know a lot of photography is luck. Twenty-four people line up to take a picture of a grove. One. Two. Three. You are No. 24. Everyone gets a photo of trees and tall grass. It is just your good luck that as you snap your shutter, a deer bounds from the grove. You have a picture of a deer in flight and everyone says, “Great photo, great photographer!”


Roger Nystrom spent a couple of hours at the Oahe Dam site getting pictures of John Kennedy, George McGovern, Pierre Salinger — a whole array of celebrities. Jim Vance had his own camera along and he took one picture. (“I wanted to get my own, personal picture of Kennedy.”) Just as Jim snapped the shutter, a somewhat older woman reached out from the crowd to pat the President’s cheek. It is a memorable photo and it won great acclaim, a prize, I believe. The photo still is on display at the Daily Globe.

I know this story well. You can imagine I heard it more than once.

David Kranz told of how JFK was moved to attend the South Dakota event. Jamie Damon was a fourth-grader at Pierre. Her father was a construction worker on the dam. For a school assignment, Jamie wrote a letter to the president inviting him to the Oahe dedication.

Just as we all know about great photos, we all know how these letters work. Twenty-four kids write letters/invitations to the President of the United States. Your kid is No. 24. Twenty-three boys and girls get a printed thank you. It is just your luck that your child’s letter strikes just the right chord at just the right time. Here comes the president!

I am interested in the photos from the Kennedy visit which are preserved at Pierre. Little Jamie Damon is wearing white anklets and white gloves. Somewhere between JFK and George W. Bush, little girls stopped wearing gloves. Most of them did.

The president has no hat. Of course. John F. Kennedy, with that head of a million fine hairs, did not wear hats. In a point of fact, JFK killed the American hat industry. Oh, I think JFK killed the world hat industry.

Until the time of Kennedy, men still wore hats. Fedoras. Politicians wore them. Before JFK, Hubert Humphrey and Orville Freeman came to town wearing hats. Some farmers and working men would wear their old felt hats in the fields and on their jobs after (rarely) they got a new hat.

After John Kennedy, men quit wearing hats. Walter Mondale wore no hats. Richard Nixon wore no hats. George W. Bush wears no hat.


Jamie Damon’s mother, in a photo from the Oahe Dam dedication, is wearing long white gloves, nearly to her elbows. This most certainly was fitting and proper.

I don’t believe it was Jackie Kennedy who influenced the women of America to give up hats. Oh no. Jackie Kennedy liked hats and she wore hats, as on that dirty day at Dallas, Texas.

It was near this time, however, when women also put hats aside. I remember Marilynn Kannelis went to Mass on summer Saturdays at Milford, Iowa. Marilynn would put a handkerchief on her hair. Women still were expected to wear a hat at Mass. The handkerchief counted.

In the congregation I know best, women wore hats Sunday by Sunday until a new, young pastor came to town. His wife came to her first Sunday worship at Worthington with no hat. That was it.

Except for — oh, Iris Kluever, Edie Jensen. Iris and Edie wear hats, and more power to them. They look terrific. Dorthy Rickers never gave up on hats.

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