Portrait of a Troublemaker: A Rare Glimpse of John F. Kennedy's Life at Choate

John F. Kennedy sat in chapel a sinner, but not for the kind of offense we would one day associate with him. This was long before he met Jacqueline Bouvier and made at least half of the population melt in seeming perpetuity. In the early 1930s, his crime was decidedly juvenile.

Aided by the sons of America's most influential families, young Jack—then a student at Choate—had successfully snuck firecrackers onto his elite boarding school's Wallingford, Connecticut campus, and headed straight for the bathroom. That morning, during the obligatory daily assembly, long-suffering headmaster George St. John held up the defenseless victim—a badly injured toilet seat—for all to see.

St. John railed against "the muckers," as he labeled the culprits, which Jack took to heart, though not in the way the headmaster likely intended. Inspired, the future president named his band of first-class troublemakers "The Choate Muckers Club."

"What makes the whole problem more difficult is Jack's winning smile and charming personality," wrote Earl Leinbach, the housemaster of his dormitory at Choate. Jack proved to be an immensely frustrating, totally irresistible high school student—a confusing combination for the school's faculty and administration.


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