JFK WAS A HIGH SCHOOL PRANKSTER
BOSTON: Years before he captained the torpedo boat PT109, 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 family here, Kennedy spent his midteens at Connecticut’s elite Choate Rosemary Hall, where he excelled at history and literature, but infuriated the school’s headmaster by organising 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 John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum here, timed to commemorate the 100th anniversary of his birth on May 29, 1917.
Pages from his high school scrapbook show he loved ancient history, music and football, as well as “beefing”, slang for complaining or arguing.
“Got shot at today for calling an old farmer a bad name,” reads an entry written by a 17year-old Kennedy on Oct 19, 1934. “Almost got hit.”
The scrapbook pages are among 40 Kennedy relics never before publicly exhibited, with notes extending to his years at Harvard University and the London School of Economics, before his World War 2 service aboard torpedo boats and well before his first successful run for Congress in 1947.
Kennedy went on to serve in the Senate before being elected president in 1960.
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, 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 actualised, 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.