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From the Cuban Missile Crisis to rising tensions in Vietnam, John F. Kennedy calmly handled many large-scale calamities during his time as president.
And it appears he handled parenting crises with the same aplomb – even when it involved an incident that sends shivers down the spines of many nervous parents: a playground accident.
Tom Wells, the Secret Service agent assigned to young Caroline and John Jr., recalled one day when John Jr. was out playing with his sister and her friends during a White House school day, but disappeared by the time the president went outside to greet the children.
“The president would always come out of the office in the morning when they had recess for the children,” Wells tells PEOPLE in this week’s cover story, which offers a tender peek at intimate Kennedy family photos once owned by nanny Maud Shaw, and were auctioned off last week. “They would all run over to the president, he would greet them, talk with him, what have you.”
On this day, Wells recalled that John Jr. had just fallen off of a jungle gym and “knocked a tooth out, one of his front teeth,” Wells said, explaining that Shaw and another Secret Service agent had rushed the toddler to the doctor.
“The president came out just in a matter of a minute and clapped his hands. John wasn’t there so he’s looking around and asked Caroline where John was. She really didn’t know – she knew he’d fallen but she didn’t know what had actually gone on.”
“I was right standing close by,” Wells continued. “I told the president John had had a little accident, knocked out one of his front teeth and he was taken to the doctor.”
Unperturbed, the president didn’t panic when he learned the news.
“The president stopped, looked for a minute, said, ‘Well, that is a baby tooth isn’t it?’ and I said, ‘Yes sir’ and he said, ‘Well, he’ll grow another one.’
One more crisis averted.
For all the intimate photos and exclusive remembrances of JFK, First Lady Jackie and their life with two small children in the White House, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands now