The Pasttimes of Presidents
The Pasttimes of Presidents

The Pasttimes of Presidents

Larry Holzwarth - October 25, 2019

The Pasttimes of Presidents
Richard Nixon preferred bowling, though he dutifully took up golf as Eisenhower’s vice president. Nixon Library

24. Richard Nixon brought bowling back to the White House

A bowling alley was installed in the White House during the Truman Administration, though Truman did not care for the sport. It was used by staff with his approval, but in 1955 during the Eisenhower Administration, it was moved across the street to the Executive Office Building. When Richard Nixon entered the White House in 1969 he ordered another bowling alley installed, underground near the North Portico. The alley built for Nixon was a single lane and was paid for by friends of the president and Mrs. Nixon, both of whom were avid bowlers. They used the bowling alley often.

Bowling was not Nixon’s only means of relaxing during his presidential terms. He took up golf as Eisenhower’s vice president and played during his presidency, but the socializing which is a large part of golf made him uncomfortable. He enjoyed watching professional football and even designed plays which he gave to Miami Dolphins head coach Don Shula before Super Bowl VI. Nixon allegedly called Redskins head coach George Allen with play suggestions as well, though confirmation by any of the parties involved was never forthcoming.

The Pasttimes of Presidents
Gerald Ford with Liberty, his Golden Retriever when he took office. Ford Presidential Library

25. Gerald Ford relaxed with exercise, sports, and parlor games

Ford was the first man to enter the Oval Office as President without having been elected as either president or vice president. His presidency followed one of the nation’s greatest political scandals, and was controversial from the start. After he pardoned Richard Nixon cries of a corrupt deal were loud and long. Ford found solace in participating in sports. He made frequent use of the White House swimming pool, as well as the pool installed by Nixon at Camp David. He also played tennis and golf and made several skiing trips during his short tenure in office. Ford was also an avid reader.

For relaxation, while in the White House residence, Ford was another stamp collector, though his collection was never as extensive as FDR’s, and he did not dedicate as much time to the hobby as his predecessor had. He played bridge, as well as other card games, and collected pipes, which he smoked throughout his presidency. To date, he was the last pipe smoker to occupy the White House. Ford was a gifted athlete, though some poorly timed falls during his presidency left many with the impression that he was clumsy. He enjoyed ballroom dancing, which is a clear indication that he was anything but.

 

Where do we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

“Dancing with General Washington”. Article and video, George Washington’s Mount Vernon. Online

“Violins”. Article, Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. Online

“Tiny clues let Montpelier identify Madison’s chess set”. Joshua Barney, Chess Daily News. February 4, 2011

“John Quincy Adams: Family Life”. Margaret A. Hogan, Miller Center, University of Virginia. Online

“Presidents at the Races”. Article, The White House Historical Association. Online

“History & Culture”. Article, Martin Van Buren National Historic Site. National Park Service. Online

“John Tyler: Family Life”. William Freehling, Miller Center, University of Virginia. Online

“Abraham Lincoln Is the Only President Ever to Have a Patent”. Owen Edwards, Smithsonian Magazine. October 2006

“Places to Go”. Article, Andrew Johnson National Historic Site. National Park Service. Online

“The Man Who Saved the Union: Ulysses S Grant in War and Peace”. H.W. Brands. 2012

“James A. Garfield”. Article, The Independent. January 18, 2009. Online

“Chester A. Arthur”. Article, The White House Historical Association. Online

“Who Really Won the Election of 1876”. Mike Orgill and David Drazin. Croquet World Online Magazine. November 2, 2008

“TR: The Last Romantic”. H. W. Brands. 1997

“Golfers in Chief: The presidents who played golf, from Taft to Trump”. Bill Speros and Brentley Romine, Golf Week. February 18, 2019. Online

“The Floating White House”. Lawrence L. Knutson, The White House Historical Association. Online

“Warren G. Harding: Campaigns and Elections”. Eugene P. Trani, Miller Center, University of Virginia. Online

“President Herbert and Lou Henry Hoover’s Rapidan Camp, Virginia”. Article, National Park Service. Online

“FDR’s Stamp Collection: A Childhood Hobby He Took to the Oval Office”. Jordan Steffen, Smithsonian.com. August 4, 2009

“Truman”. David McCullough. 1992

“President Eisenhower: The Painter”. Sister Wendy Beckett, The White House Historical Association. Online

“Whatever happened to the Presidential Yacht?” Oliver Sharpe, Town and Country Magazine. July 17, 2017

“Presidential Vehicles”. Article, Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park. National Park Service. Online

“The White House Bowling Alley”. Article, The White House Museum. Online

“Gerald R. Ford”. Article, The White House Historical Association. Online

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