A crowd formed in a busy hallway at Barrington High School on Thursday afternoon for the unveiling of never-before-seen photographs of John F. Kennedy’s visit to the high school in 1960.
The photos were donated to District 220 by Joyce Taillon, a North Barrington resident and 1962 BHS graduate who recently found the historic pictures while sifting through a family album. The two sets of both color and black and white photos also feature Taillon’s late brother, Rusty Anderson, who was a Barrington High School student at the time of Kennedy’s campaign visit.
“My brother was a strong Kennedy supporter at age 13,” Taillon said. “These photos were in the family collection and they were in my father’s home. I opened up the one album and thought, ‘Wow, that’s John F. Kennedy and Barrington High School.’”
Taillon, who was joined by several family members, said the experience of finding and donating the photos brought back fond memories of her brother.
The photos will be scanned and put on display in the high school’s Future Presidents exhibit, which features photos of President Barack Obama’s visit while he was a senator as well as Kennedy’s 1960 visit.
“I thought this was the perfect place for these photos,” Taillon said. “It sort of all just fell into place.”
Former Station Middle School Principal Don Thompson, who was a senior at Barrington High School in 1960, also took part in the unveiling.
“[Kennedy] had great appeal to the youth at that time,” Thompson said. “I remember he remarked about this being a Republican territory, but he was here to see his friend, Berney Ross.”
Thompson explained that George (Berney) Ross was a crewman on the patrol torpedo boat that sunk in the Pacific Ocean prior to Kennedy’s run for president. Ross introduced Kennedy to the Barrington crowd on Oct. 25, 1960, just 10 days before he was elected president.
According to an article in the New York Times the next day, Kennedy talked from the high school’s steps to a crowd of about 2,000. He spoke about his opponent, denouncing what he saw as Richard Nixon’s role in the nation’s decline in prestige.
Students crowded near the same steps Thursday to be the first to see the newly unveiled photos.
“We don’t have a memory of him, but his face is so iconic,” Barrington junior Alicia Parrish said. “You really get a sense of how important it was. It’s really neat.”
Senior Kelsey Vogt said seeing former Barrington students in the photos provided a personal connection.
“I thought it was really cool that we got a president to come to our school,” she said. “And the fact that her immediate brother is in them is really special.”
Barrington High School Principal Steve McWilliams, who introduced Taillon and her family, said the photos are a great addition to the high school.
“This celebrates a rich history at Barrington High School,” said McWilliams, noting that the photos serve an important reminder of the past.
Just about everyone who was alive remembers where they were 50 years ago Friday when Kennedy was shot on Nov. 22, 1963.
District 220 Superintendent Tom Leonard was a first grade student at the time.
“I knew something was wrong because my first grade teacher was crying,” he said.
Leonard said all students were sent home that day.
“For Barrington, Kennedy coming here was a big moment in time,” Leonard said.
The photo unveiling commemorates the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination.