JFK's prankster past uncovered

China Daily | Updated: 2017-05-27 07:25

Exhibition reveals ex-president's high-school hijinks

BOSTON - Years before he captained the torpedo boat PT-109, ran for office or set the United States on a path to put a man on the moon, president John F. Kennedy was a troublesome teen whose hijinks nearly got him kicked out of his prestigious boarding school.

The scion of a wealthy Boston family, Kennedy spent his midteens at Connecticut's elite Choate Rosemary Hall, where he excelled at history and literature - but infuriated the headmaster by organizing pranks as a member of an unofficial school club known as "The Muckers".

Those details of the early life of the 35th president, whose term was cut short by an assassin's bullet in Dallas in 1963, emerge in a new exhibit at Boston's John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, commemorating the 100th anniversary of his birth on May 29, 1917.

JFK's prankster past uncovered

Pages from a high-school scrapbook show he loved ancient history, music and football, as well as "beefing", slang for arguing. Despite his later fame as an orator, he never got higher than a C-plus grade in public speaking, according to the school.

"Got shot at today for calling an old farmer a bad name," reads an entry written by a 17-year-old Kennedy on Oct 19, 1934. "Almost got hit."

The scrapbook pages are among 40 JFK relics never before publicly exhibited, with notes extending to his years at Harvard University and the London School of Economics, before his World War II service aboard torpedo boats and well before his first successful run for Congress in 1947.

Kennedy went on the serve in the Senate before being elected president in 1960.

"That's why I so love this scrapbook, because it is so revealing about who he was at the time," said Stacey Bredhoff, the museum's curator.

Kennedy and his prankster friends went head-to-head with Choate's headmaster, George St. John, in his years at the school. The "Muckers" club took its name from a speech in which St. John excoriated pranksters, using the label applied to Irish immigrants whose only work was shoveling up horse manure.

The group took the idea and ran with it, commissioning gold shovel pins and hatching a plot to pile horse manure in the school gymnasium.

"George St. John got wind of it and even though the prank never was actualized, it was enough that they would even consider such a thing, so he threatened to expel them all," but eventually relented, said Judy Donald, the school's archivist.

Donald added that an oft-told tale of a young Kennedy blowing up a school toilet with a powerful firecracker, known as a cherry bomb, is not true. The incident did occur, but it was the work of another student a decade later.

"St. John was understandably angry," Donald said. "But JFK was not responsible for that one."


 JFK's prankster past uncovered

John F. Kennedy and his wife, Jacqueline Kennedy, with their son, John Jr, on Dec 8, 1960.Associated Press

(China Daily 05/27/2017 page9)

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