Debarking from his helicopter, the President made for his room and quick changed into sports clothes. Then he would scoop up Caroline and assorted nieces and nephews and wheel off in the golf cart to the local candy emporium two blocks away. “Friday evening he’s a regular,” reported owner Bob Garbutt. “He isn’t down in the chopper fifteen minutes before he’s over here.” The President’s orders: “Give the kids what they want.” Then he’d fall to leafing through magazines on the newsstands while young Kennedy’s called out for licorice, chocolates and ‘sugar daddies.’ His two month bill for newsprint and goodies ran to $70 (about $540 in today’s world).
Secret Service agent Mugsy O’Leary once said that “nobody loves kids like Bob and the Boss.” All the Kennedy’s had a tribal way with children, but Uncle Jack was it for the little Kennedy’s—and not because he was the President, an eminence which some of them comprehended vaguely. He was the bona fide PIed Piper uncle. One smart clap of his hands, as he boarded the golf cart bound for the ocean-front dock and a day of sailing, and every junior Kennedy able to walk materialized out of nowhere—streaking out bushes and houses, deserting the trampoline and butterfly-chasing, knowing that that was a signal for a roller-coaster ride. They yelled as they ran, “Jack! Jack! Jack!” Once when Uncle Bobby banged up a cart fender in reckless driving, the little JFK partisans chanted, “We’re going to tell Uncle Jack on you.”
JFK’s golf cart rides seemed to appeal more than everything else to the children. My first view of his phenomenon came from the Ambassador’s front port where I had nearly punctured myself by sitting on a chair on which someone had left a spiked horseshoe. Photographer Stanley Tretick was with me. Within sight, actual count, were eight bikes; two babies; one in a buggy and another crawling in the grass; three nannies in crisp white uniforms. Then a white golf cart comes whizzing by at such speed, it blurred before the eyes. The cart overflowed with minor Kennedy’s—were there six, eight, ten?—but there was no mistaking the Kennedy at the wheel who wore knockabout clothes and sunglasses. It was the President. First impression: His driving hadn’t changed with his office. As a Senator and as a candidate, he drove his gray Oldsmobile convertible like a Grand Prix racer. He zoomed in and out of rush-hour traffic, ran red lights, and screeched around corners while chatting as pleasantly as though he were safe in an armchair at home. His passengers closed their eyes and prayed, ignoring the speedometer reading. Only two persons seemed unfazed by this hair-blown Barney Oldfield. One was Kenneth O’Donnell, the other was Jackie who never seemed ruffled by her husband’s vehicular near misses.
Stanley Tretick’s golf cart picture [top], in color, appeared on the cover of LOOK magazine January 2, 1962, and no picture ever taken of JFK so exudes the youth, the zest, the vitality, and the pure hunger for life that this one does. He is squinting into the sun, the breeze brushing his thatch of hair. His broad grin is an excited one. He is clad in a blue polo shirt, sailor pants, and blue socks, and he is guiding the flying cart nonchalantly with one hand while the other arm embraces his nephew. In his lap, a niece is clutching the wheel, while a total of eight small-fry Kennedy’s look ahead to coming hazards with expressions of gleeful fear. The picture radiates danger, thrills and fun with the Pied Piper. That was the way it was in Hyannis in the brief summer days of JFK. —LOOK magazine’s Laura Berquist