When he was already president, John F. Kennedy used to visit the house of his brother Robert, then attorney general of the United States. The house had a large patio and two swimming pools, one for beginners and one larger.
But as the hostess herself, Ethel Kennedy, called it, the house was a “madhouse,” dirty, messy, and unpredictable. And it can almost be said that this was inevitable because eight children lived there who were not exactly little angels.
To this we must add that they were very fond of animals and more than one visitor could confuse the house with a zoo: iguanas, snakes, little birds in cages, horses, rodents.
They also had, for a brief period, a coati. The days of the coati in the house ended once he attacked Ethel, biting one of her legs when she was showing the house to some journalists.
And a seal, which ate ten pounds of fish daily. One day the seal appeared at a store a mile away, terrorizing the owner and his customers. She was sent to the Washington Zoo.
Children and animals were everywhere, inside and outside; riding horses, jumping into the pool, blowing up balloons, which popped behind you. And to complete the picture, a jukebox (coin-operated music-playing device) was installed near the large pool, which always played at maximum volume.
John Kennedy once held a conference with high-level advisers by the large pool, while the jukebox blared its music, as usual, at full volume and the children jumped into the water after a fast run. What important issues will they have discussed at that meeting?
Those who made up the close circle of the president were very well aware of his informality in dealing with some matters of state. And it had always been that way. At just 29 years old, Kennedy managed to be elected to the House of Representatives (Lower House) of the United States Congress. Many wondered if he was mature enough for the job. Kennedy surprised (to say the least) some old Representatives, showing up to the congressional dining room in slippers and wearing a tattered sweater, often being mistaken for a page. To avoid these embarrassing situations, Congress decreed that henceforth pages must wear a blue pinstripe jacket with a black tie.
Kennedy had a secretary, almost his own age, named Mary Davis, who thought his new boss had a “pretty laid-back” demeanor. She soon found out that he preferred talking about football to discussing the details of pending legislation, and that he made no secret of his boredom during meetings with his colleagues. Davis spent much of her time making phone calls, trying to locate items her boss had lost in taxis, planes, stores: coats, cameras, radios. At that time, Kennedy rarely carried a briefcase. “Thank God,” Davis said, “he would have lost it too.”
But that informality came from long before. As he passed adolescence, the young Kennedy adopted a habit that he inherited from his mother: he never carried money with him. But do not think that he had decided to use only credit cards instead of cash, as many do today. At that time credit cards did not exist; we’re talking about the 1940s. But that didn’t stop him from going out with friends or with women, whom he had asked out, who were often in trouble paying for taxis, meals or movie tickets. Some of his friends realized that the only way to see the money back from him was to send their own bills to the office of John’s father, Joe Kennedy, one of the richest people in the United States.
REFERENCE: “Bobby Kennedy,” by Lester David and Irene David; “Biography – John F. Kennedy”, by Joyce Milton.