JFK turned in her direction, winked and flashed a big Kennedy smile. Nana was forever smitten. And that’s it. Although no camera captured the exchange, it has become part of our family’s legend. Let’s impose the 24-7 cable media culture on this same incident...

  When U.S. Sen. John F. Kennedy campaigned for the White House in 1960, he toured the St. Louis area and his motorcade passed through Wood River, Ill.   Here he would have a chance encounter with Gaetana Raimondi, my grandmother, or Nana, as we preferred to call her. The encounter says everything about the difference in the hopeful political atmosphere of that time compared to the nasty, personal and media-driven atmosphere of our time.   Members of St. Bernard parish were thrilled to learn that Sen. Kennedy was going to ride right down Ferguson Avenue, our main drag. The nuns wouldn’t let the kids out of school to see the event – I suspect our pastor supported Richard Nixon -- but our stay-at-home moms and relatives all lined the curb to see the future president.   As Kennedy’s limo passed in front of Phoebe Goldberg’s dress shop, Nana – four-feet-ten inches of energy topped with gray hair pulled into a bun – clapped and shouted “Oh Johnny-Johnny” with great enthusiasm. (Enthusiasm was her constant companion.)   JFK turned in her direction, winked and flashed a big Kennedy smile. Nana was forever smitten. And that’s it.   Although no camera captured the exchange, it has become part of our family’s legend.   Let’s impose the 24-7 cable media culture on this same incident.   A student would have recorded the exchange on a digital camera and posted it on an Internet political blog, where the local TV station news director would find it. He would assign an earnest young reporter with a Rod Blagojevich makeup job to interview Nana.   She would have blurted something about why she was so enthusiastic about Kennedy’s candidacy – he was Catholic after all. The reporter would have asked about the people who were afraid a Catholic president would take orders from the pope. She would have said, well of course he’ll take orders from the pope, because that was how things worked in her world.   It would have appeared on the St. Louis TV news that night, and it would have been fed to network headquarters in New York. There, a savvy producer would have ordered a background check on Nana, only to discover she was a Sicilian immigrant who failed her citizenship exam because she had problems speaking English -- although she was a legally registered alien and married to a naturalized citizen.   AP would also find that her husband voted in every election, but they let him take a grandson into the booth to help him read the ballot. They would be shocked during their scripted banter time to quote a neighbor: One of Tony Raimondi’s favorite lines is how he voted for the person who paid the most money.   What’s more, they would discover Nana regularly entertained a man with the same last name as that of the St. Louis Mafia family. He made Sunday deliveries of olive oil, black olives, Parmesan and Ricotta cheeses right to her front door. Hmmm, what does one have to do to get such service?   They would further learn that her son-in-law, a grocer in St. Louis, was related to an alderman with major connections to the powerful Mayor Raymond Tucker Democratic machine. (Wink-wink: Note the similarities between Raimondi and Raymond.)   Fox or CNN would have sent a crew to their house at 318 East Penning Ave. (now a parking lot), and grandpa would have threatened to punch someone out, as he was on occasion wont to do – making for some almost-violent footage.   My late aunt – she would have curdled Hillary Clinton’s toes in a one-on-one -- would have come to Sunday dinner even angrier than Grandpa, and she would have punched somebody. There would have been much talking loudly and much eating, also loudly, and Nana would have been upset and my mother would have cried.   And a week later, the media people would have forgotten all about it.   Steve Trosley is available at steve.trosley@journalstandard.com. Mr. Trosley is the publisher at The Journal-Standard in Freeport, IL, and former publisher at the Norwalk Reflector in Norwalk, Ohio.