Right up there with odd historic artifacts is a pair of blue jeans that Jayne Blodgett Murray borrowed from a young John F. Kennedy — then her
lover — and never quite returned. She held them in her hands when we met last week in her native Mayville in Dodge County, where at age 88 she runs a bed and breakfast, River's Bend Inn.
It's a name she borrowed for her kiss-and-tell book from a few years ago, "The River's Bend: Memoirs of Mayville, Modeling and JFK's Blue Jeans."
To be clear, the future president lent her the bell-bottom Dubbleware jeans for horseback riding together at the Kennedy family summer home in Hyannisport, Mass. The pants ripped, and she took them home to mend. As the years passed, she wore them to work around the house and garden.
Jack, as Jayne calls him, was a congressman in 1949 when she was fixed up with him by her friend and New York roommate, Gloria Emerson, who was dating an old schoolmate of Kennedy's, Langdon Marvin. They had dinner at Kennedy's house in Washington. "After that, Jack called me to go out. He used to call me the kid because I was like 11 years younger," Jayne said as we sat at her dining room table. Assassinated at age 46, Kennedy would have turned 98 this month.
After high school, Jayne left Mayville for the University of Wisconsin-Madison, but after two years there and a chance meeting with someone.Photos on a train who had show business connections, she quit school and moved to New York, where she worked a couple years as a fashion model, which you just know had to be Kennedy's type. A brunet then, Jayne has silver hair now that frames her still-chiseled face. Jack Kennedy was not the only thing Jayne had going on. She was seeing two other men at the time, David and Harold, and pining for a former Mayville guy, Eric, a lifelong crush of hers. So she and Jack kept it light emotionally, if not physically, over the several months their relationship lasted. Sometimes Jack set up their dates via Western Union telegram. Jayne says she gave him feedback on his speeches. They shopped together and played Chinese checkers. She found him laid back and fun to be around, and he appreciated her Midwestern small town roots. Jayne still has letters where she describes their dates to her mother.
In the book, she tells of a night at Hyannisport where he knocked on her bedroom door. Her friend Gloria, who later became a well known war reporter and author, gave her some ultimately unheeded advice: "Whatever you do, don't sleep with Jack. If you play hard to get, you probably can marry him." "I was aware that Jack was a playboy and loved the thrill of the chase. His style was to go in and out of people's lives, and I wasn't about to wait around for him," Jayne wrote in her book. In March of 1950, Jayne married James Murray, a well-to-do businessman 20 years her senior. She met him at a party in the fall of 1949. Kennedy had to find out about it from friends, but he and Jayne remained enough in contact that she was invited to his wedding to Jackie in 1953, his inauguration and ball in 1961, and an Oval Office meeting later that year where she kissed him on the cheek.