10 things you might not know about the Kennedys

Tribune staff reporter

Three Kennedys have run for president, and the last of them died Tuesday.Is the myth of Camelot gone with the death of Edward "Ted" Kennedy? Too soon to say. Chris Kennedy chose not to seek a U.S. Senate seat from Illinois but was named last week to the University of Illinois Board of Trustees -- a rather adventurous job this year. Here are 10 little-known facts about a very well-known family.

1. The Kennedys' matriarch, Rose, was the daughter of a Boston mayor and visited President William McKinley at the White House as a child. But raising nine children might have been more intimidating. She maintained a system of index cards listing her children's weights, shoe sizes and medical conditions.She scheduled meals in two shifts: one for the young children and another for the older children and adults. The family sometimes went through 20 quarts of milk in a day.

2. Considering the liberal reputation of the Kennedy family, some might be surprised that the patriarch of the family, Joseph Kennedy Sr., was friends with red-baiting Sen. Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin. McCarthy was a guest at the Kennedys' home, hired Robert as a Senate staffer, and even dated two Kennedy sisters, Patricia and Eunice.

3. President John F. Kennedy commonly went through three or four shirts a day.

4. When John F. Kennedy received the Roman Catholic sacrament of confession, he attempted anonymity. Visiting a church, he would line up with a group of Secret Service agents who were Catholic and would try to slip into the confessional unrecognized. That sometimes worked, but on one occasion Kennedy entered the booth and the priest greeted him with "Good evening, Mr. President." Kennedy answered, "Good evening, Father," and quickly left.

5. Chicago's Northwest Expressway was renamed the Kennedy Expressway a week after President John F. Kennedy's assassination in 1963. Chicago's Wilson College was renamed Kennedy-King College in 1969 in the wake of the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr.

6. Benjamin Smith was the ultimate seat warmer. When John F. Kennedy was elected president in 1960, his replacement in the Senate was his old college pal -- Smith, the mayor of Gloucester, Mass. Two years later, Smith chose not to run for the seat, clearing the way for JFK's brother Ted, who had just reached the minimum age of 30.

7. When the Kennedys played touch football, Eunice was a quarterback. The four Kennedy men all played football at Harvard. Joe Jr. and John were not outstanding, nor was Robert, who broke his leg crashing into an equipment cart during practice. Ted was the best, a tight end who received a smattering of interest from the Green Bay Packers but chose politics instead.

8. The last of Robert Kennedy's 11 children, Rory, was born six months after her father's 1968 assassination.

9. Air travel has always been a curse for the Kennedys. The most recent incident -- the death of John Kennedy Jr. in 1999 -- is well-remembered. But there are other major accidents that are less well-known. Ted Kennedy broke two ribs and three vertebrae in a 1964 crash. His sister Kathleen died in a1948 plane crash in France. The first-born son, Joe Jr., volunteered for a World War II mission called Operation Aphrodite in which he flew a bomber laden with 21,170 pounds of high explosives. The idea was for the crew to bail out and for the bomber to be directed by radio controls to its target in France. But it exploded prematurely, killing the first great hope among the Kennedy brothers.

10. In her elder years, Rose Kennedy sometimes played golf all by herself at the Hyannisport Club, carrying her own clubs for nine holes.

Sources: "The Kennedy White House: Family Life and Pictures, 1961-1963" by Carl Sferrazza Anthony; "John F. Kennedy on Leadership: The Lessons and Legacy of a President" by John A. Barnes; "Grace and Power: The Private World of the Kennedy White House" by Sally Bedell Smith; "Joseph McCarthy: Re-examining the Life and Legacy of America's Most Hated Senator" by Arthur Herman; "John F.Kennedy: A biography" by Michael O'Brien; "Football: The Ivy League Origins of an American Obsession" by Mark F. Bernstein;; and Tribune archives.

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