JFK’s Special Connection to Cape Cod

By Kim O’Connell
BU News Service

BOSTON — The John F. Kennedy Museum in Hyannis has a special exhibit on display commemorating the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s assassination.

A statue of President John F. Kennedy stands in front of the museum in Hyannis, Mass. (Kimberleigh O’Connell/BU News Service)

The exhibit is called “Days of Joy, Days of Sorrow.” It showcases the president’s final summer with his family on the Cape, as well as his last visit to Cape Cod that October.

Hyannis was a special place for President Kennedy and his family. He once said, “I always go to Hyannisport to be revived, to know again the power of the sea and the Master who rules over it and all of us.”

In 1928, President Kennedy’s parents, Rose and Joseph Kennedy, purchased a summer home in Hyannisport, now called the Kennedy Compound. The Kennedys still own homes there and spend summers and holidays there from time to time.

The Cape was a place for the president to get away from it all. It was a place where he could relax, reflect and spend time with his family. His weekends there were filled with lots of activites such as cruising Nantucket Sound, swimming, horseback riding and golfing at the Hyannisport Club.

“The time President Kennedy spent in Hyannisport during his youth and presidency were among the happiest days of his life,” Senator Edward Kennedy said at a reception when the museum opened in July 1992. “This exhibit will enable visitors to understand why he valued his ties to the Cape so deeply.”

The exhibit uses the Cape Cod Times newspapers from  November 1963 to tell the story of Kennedy’s assassination and show how his death deeply affected Cape Cod.

A diary where visitors can share their thoughts on JFK and describe their experiences when they heard the news on Nov. 22, 1963. (Kimberleigh O’Connell/BU News Service)

There is a diary in the center of the room where visitors are invited to share their thoughts on President Kennedy and describe their experiences when they heard the news on Nov. 22, 1963. The entries are written by people of all ages, but every message speaks of the devastation, sadness and utter shock that came over them on that day.

Barbara Blume, the museum docent, was 19 and a student at Bradley University in Illinois when she heard the news.

“I was walking from my 12 o’clock psychology class to my 1 o’clock French class,” Blume said. “When I walked into my French class, my teacher threw his cigarette at us and said, ‘Get out of here. You just killed the best president you’ve ever had.’ We had no idea what was going on. We all gathered in the quad and we heard that President Kennedy had been assassinated. It was about 10 minutes after one; we didn’t know if he was dead.”

Cape Cod Times newspapers from November 1963 displayed in the museum exhibit. (Kimberleigh O’Connell/BU News Service)

Blume was a Democrat and had loved President Kennedy since she was a sophomore in high school.

“I was crushed, absolutely crushed,” Blume said. “The world stopped. All you did was watch TV constantly. Classes were closed. People went home. There was a great deal of tears.”

Kennedy’s death shook the world, forever changed the country, and devastated Cape Cod — a place with which he would forever be synonymous.

Cape Cod was his oasis, the place where he could escape the stress of the presidency and attempt to live a normal life.

Kennedy said: “I always come back to the Cape and walk on the beach when I have a tough decision to make. The Cape is the one place I can think and be alone.”

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