NEW YORK (Reuters) - It’s not PT-109, but President John Kennedy is said to have driven his former speedboat as if it were the small warship he famously commanded in World War Two.
Now the 17-foot mahogany boat acquired by the late president’s father, Joseph Kennedy, in 1961 leads a list of Kennedy memorabilia, including letters, cigars, a bomber jacket and a couple of his rocking chairs, to be auctioned next month.
“It was won by Joseph Kennedy in a church raffle,” said Arlan Ettinger, president of Guernsey’s auction house, which plans to sell the boat and other items on Oct. 6 and 7.
The boat, “Rest of Us,” became part of a flotilla at the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, that included a larger vessel, “Ten of Us,” named for the 10 family members who used it at the time, Ettinger said.
“When he won this ... the family had expanded,” which explains the boat’s name, he added.
The Kennedys were a well-known seafaring family, and the country’s 35th president was a war hero who commanded PT-109, which was rammed by a Japanese destroyer, leaving Kennedy and his crew shipwrecked on a Pacific island.
After Kennedy’s assassination on Nov. 22, 1963, “Rest of Us” remained in the Hyannis Port area, first with Senator Edward Kennedy and later the Bilezikians, a wealthy retailing family, before being sold to its current owner, Peter Eastman.
When Senator Kennedy, known as Ted, was getting ready to sell the boat in the mid-1980s, he knew it needed some work and took it to local shipbuilders Mike and Brad Pease, Eastman said.
“Ted Kennedy told the Pease brothers, ‘Yeah, my brother used to drive this thing like a PT boat, he was a little rough on it,’ meaning it might need some work,” Eastman said.
The boat has been fitted with a 1986 Ford V8 engine and is “totally operational,” he added.
Guernsey’s, which has held two previous Kennedy memorabilia auctions, is also offering two swords that were owned by two naval officers serving in the Kennedy White House and used as part of the catafalque that held Kennedy’s coffin.
A bomber jacket with the presidential patch bought to replace the fraying one Kennedy often wore is also being sold, along with a draft of a letter to former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, with hand-written notations, offering to name a Polaris submarine after him.
Churchill declined the offer.
Reporting by Peter Szekely; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Leslie Adler