This week I discussed the word SELFIE which was chosen as the Oxford Universities Press Word of the Year. Today’s word is HOND which in English is ‘dog’ or ‘hound’. I chose HOND because of this cute dachshund (teckel in Dutch) in the photograph. The dog was bought in Germany by John F. (Jack) Kennedy when he was on tour through Europe with his friend Kirk LeMoyn (Lem) Billings (1916-1981) in the year 1937 from 1 July till 3 September.
This picture was taken by Jack’s friend Lem in the centre of The Hague, on the Plein near the statue of William of Orange (father of the Netherlands).
Jack had become very fond of the dog which he called ‘Offie’ after an American diplomat (Carmel Offie) in Paris. Unfortunately Jack turned out to be allergic to the ‘hound’ as Jack called the dog, and they sold Offie to a Dutchman while they were in The Hague. They received five guilders for the ‘hound’.
The adventurous American couple only spent one night in The Hague. They chose the cheapest possible hotel, the Salvation Army. You can still visit it in de Wagenstraat. Forty cents was the cost of their stay.
All this information can be found in the diary that Jack kept during his European journey. He gave it the title ‘My Trip Abroad‘. I read this fascinating document in the digital archives of the Kennedy Museum in Boston.
Most of the diary is a factual report of where the two friends went, what they saw and what they spent. In Amsterdam they visited the Rijksmuseum where Jack admired ‘Rembrandt’s famous Nightwatch which has had such an interesting history’. When they were in a hotel in Munich on August 18th 1937 Jack wrote this interesting observation:
‘Had a talk with the proprietor who is quite a Hitler fan. There is no doubt about it that these dictators are more popular in the country than outside due to their effective propaganda.’
Unfortunately Lem and Jack did not enjoy The Hague. Kennedy wrote on Tuesday August 24 1937:
‘Got up and went over to the American Express where we ran into a man who was interested in us giving him the hound. We decided to think it over, first having a look around the Hague which was sort of dull….’
After they had made up their minds, they sold Offie, the hound, to the person they met on de Plaats. Then they left dull the Hague and drove off to Antwerp.
Almost a quarter century later this 20-year old tourist would make history when he became the 35th president of the United States. And another few years later he would come to an early and dramatic death.
I’ve only seen my mother cry twice in her life. The second time was when Queen’s Freddy Mercury died on 24 November 1991 and the first time was, yes, you guessed right.