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Swimming with John F. Kennedy

Swimming with John F. Kennedy

Aug. 22, 1962: Eva Ban takes one of many phone calls after appearing on front page of the Aug. 20, 1962, Los Angeles Times in a photo with President Kennedy. Son Peter, 13, is on left and daughter Agi, 10 is in background.

An Aug. 23, 1962, L.A. Times story explains:

A measure of fame — all because of President Kennedy’s dash into the surf at Santa Monica on Sunday — has come to a reluctant West Hollywood mother.

Mrs. Eva Ban, wife of architect Alexander Ban, has been getting telephone calls from friends all over the United States.

They recognized her as the laughing woman in a bikini in a picture taken by Times photographer Bill Beebe in the Pacific on the day the President excited beach crowds by his appearance.

“It was only by chance that I happened to be there,” Mrs. Ban explained Tuesday.

“The reason I was in the water and in the picture was because I was looking for my 13-year-old son, Peter. He ran into the water after the President and went out farther than he ever had before. I was worried.

“The reason I was laughing in the picture was because of what one woman was yelling, ‘Mabel I touched him.’ The President was laughing about this too.”

Mrs. Ban said that when she finally found young Peter he told her he swam out to the President and asked him to shake his hand.

“Oh, no, son, I’ve had enough. Let me swim now,” the President answered.

“Guess what?” Peter told his mother, “I got to talk to the President.”

Mrs. Ban said it was the most important event in her son’s experience.

“If anyone deserves recognition, it is Peter, not I,” she laughed.

A similar photo was published in the Aug. 23, 1962, Times accompanying the above story. The photos of Eva Ban, above and below, were recently scanned from negatives at the Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive at UCLA.

Aug. 19, 1962: This is the famous photo by former Times staff photographer Bill Beebe. Eva Ban is on the right with a white towel on her shoulder. Credit: Bill Beebe / Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive / UCLA

Beebe recently added some additional information about how he made this photo:

I had been assigned to cover the front door for anyone of significance who showed up. [Staff photographer] Nelson Tiffany, dressed in a suit and tie (we all were) covered the beach, and another photog (whose name I can’t remember) covered the Lawfords’ fenced backyard swimming pool, etc. from a neighboring second-floor balcony in case JFK went swimming. [Actor Peter Lawford was married to Kennedy's sister, Patricia.]

Thankfully, there was a vacant lot on the Lawfords’ north side that was close to the entry doorway. I had a close relationship with the local FBI agent and the Santa Monica police and lifeguards. If JFK decided to go swimming in the ocean, I’d asked them to give me a high sign so that I could join in.

Art Verge, the lifeguard who manned their patrol boat, waved to me that the president was about to enter the surf for a swim. By the time I got there, he was well on his way and out of range for a photo.

When he began his return to the beach is when he was mobbed by beach-goers. Having made many photos of rescues from the surf while dressed, getting wet was nothing new to me. So I took off my shoes and handed them to a former Mirror reporter friend who had moved to the Examiner and asked him to hold them for me. He did, and I went in after realizing the best possible photos could only be made where JFK was being mobbed.

I got pretty wet all the way to my pants pockets and my jacket, but it was worth it, as I’m sure you must agree.

For more, check out this previous From the Archive post: John F. Kennedy takes a swim, which includes a video interview with Beebe.

Aug. 22, 1962: In another frame recently scanned, Eva Ban is on phone, with son Peter, 13, on left and daughter Agi, 10,  in the background. Credit: Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive / UCLA

1 Comment

  1. December 14, 2012, 12:09 pm

    You know what JFK was thinking!

    By: Robert A.

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