John F. Kennedy in The Hague

Let’s suppose you are the son of a rich American businessman and politician and you are travelling through Europe. You visit The Netherlands and you want to stay the night at The Hague. In which hotel would you make a reservation? Des Indes? The Kurhaus? At the very least, you would book yourself into a 4-star hotel.

In 1937 John Kennedy took a 2-month tour of Europe with his friend Kirk LeMoyne “Lem” Billings. In his diary of the trip, he kept a list of all their overnight stays. He made the entry: “Hague – Salvation Army – 40 cents”. So no top-of-the-bill accommodation for the future president of the United States of America.

The tour

kennedy in den HaagJohn “Jack” Kennedy was at that time a Harvard University student and he wanted to see the Old World. As the threat of war in Europe grew larger, his father (soon to become U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain) advised him to go “before the shooting starts”.

John and Lem set off on June 30 1937. In New York Harbour, their Ford convertible was hoisted aboard the liner Washington. The crossing and transport were quite expensive, but once in Europe,  they didn’t spend much money on accommodations or food. They stayed in cheap hotels and hostels, including those of the Salvation Army.

They travelled amongst others through France, Italy and Germany. The visit to The Netherlands occurred at the end of their tour.

Dog and Juliana

Kennedy in Den HaagIn Germany they added a dog to their company, a Dachshund they named ‘’Dunker”. John adored the animal and if it had been up to him, he would have bought another one. But it turned out he was allergic, so they had to sell their companion in The Netherlands.

Earlier that same year, The Netherlands had celebrated the marriage of Princess Juliana to Prince Bernhard. Images of this royal wedding had also reached the US and apparently had stuck in John’s mind. In a letter to his mother he wrote that everybody in The Netherlands looked like Juliana and Bernhard. He starts the letter with the joke: “We are now at The Hague, visiting Princess Juliana”.

The Hague and onwards

Jack and Lem visited The Hague’s city centre and went to Scheveningen and its harbour. At the end of their second day, they sold the Dachshund and then set out for Antwerp.

John F. Kennedy became President of the United States of America in 1961. But, as we all know, he was assassinated in 1963. Juliana became Queen of The Netherlands in 1948 and abdicated in 1985. If Kennedy had lived longer, he might have been able to pay her a (state) visit after all.

Diary of the European trip

I will tell you more about visitors to The Hague during my city walks and bicycle tours.

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Jacqueline Alders 3

Blogger Jacqueline Alders
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