Tuesday, May 29, 2007

May 29, 1917:

John Kennedy's Birthday

John F. Kennedy was the first president born in the 20th century, as all of his successors so far have been. But Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan were all born before Kennedy, who was young indeed when he took office -- famously the second-youngest president after Teddy Roosevelt.

Hazel Hanback (born 1918), a long-time employee of the federal government and member of the board of trustees of George Washington University, had this to say about young Mr. Kennedy in an oral history interview for the university in 1996. She met him in Boston shortly after World War II:

“But meeting Mary Rourke is very interesting, because on Saturdays we all stuck together… the guys… all men, and one lady and me... And sometime we’d buy apple pie and baked beans, take it somewhere to eat, and Mrs. Rourke invited us to her apartment which I think was 122 Booten Street. So, on Saturday nights we’d all get around and talk about everything, but mostly about the business and what was going on and everything. So one day she said there is somebody I want you all to meet. So I want you to come up to dinner. It’s the same address but it’s a different apartment. I want you to meet a young man whom I’m very fond of and I think he’ll go far in the world.

“So at the appointed time on a Saturday evening, like 6 o’clock, and we had gone down and bought an apple pie and whatever, so we truck up to this apartment. This young man opens the door, his shirttail was hanging out, kind of dirty, he had filthy tennis shoes on, his hair was hanging five thousand different ways and he had a big pitcher of Manhattans in his hand. 'Come in!' and we went in this tiny apartment which looked like it had never been cleaned and she said 'I want you to meet John F. Kennedy.' So we spent the evening with John F. Kennedy and his Manhattans. We made baked beans out of cans to go with the apple pie. You know, I didn’t know that I was meeting a future president of the United States, but one does have bonuses somewhere along the way. I never shall forget that. I was not impressed. You had to go through his bedroom to get to his bathroom. All the clothes were on the floor, his shoes, his clothes. I mean you just had to step over them. It was like a hazard trail. But it was interesting. He was very nice, very affable. We did a lot of laughing, over what I don’t know, but it was fun.”

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