NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Fifty years ago on Tuesday, one of the most commonly used words in New York suddenly began to disappear.
The word was "Idlewild," and it was the name of New York's international airport. On Dec. 24, 1963, the airport's name was changed to John F. Kennedy International Airport, commemorating a young president who had been assassinated just a month earlier.
At an airport ceremony on Dec. 24, 1963, the 800 guests included JKennedy's brother Ted and sister Jean Kennedy Smith. Then-New York Mayor Robert Wagner, in his unique style, said the purpose of the gathering was to honor a man who was "a brilliant practioner of intercommunication, a young sage of understanding and a tireless searcher for peace."
The airport renaming provided a rare honor that enables the former president's name to be recalled hundreds of thousands of times each day in conversations throughout the world.
In the ensuing years, air travel, particularly international air travel, surged, even as the world's greatest international airline, JFK-focused Pan American World Airways, disappeared. In 2013, its terminal finally disappeared too as Delta (DAL), which had become the primary international carrier at JFK, moved to new quarters.
In the next few days, JFK's annual passenger total is poised to reach 50 million for the first time. In 2012, the airport handled 49,292,733 passengers, making it the 13th busiest airport in the world and the sixth busiest in the U.S. JFK is also the No. 1 U.S. international gateway. Nearly half of its passengers are international passengers.