33. The President Relaxes

Depression-era demands led to the hiring of four new presidential secretaries even as Hoover reduced the number of press interviews, conferences, and social events. The first chief executive to install a telephone in his office, Hoover joked that there were only two activities in which a president could enjoy some measure of privacy – fishing and prayer – and no man could pray all the time. After he built a fishing retreat in the Shenandoah Mountains with $120,000 of his own money, the embattled president still held front-porch conferences with congressmen and economic advisers.

To control his weight, a game of medicine ball was adapted to "Hoover Ball" that followed rules similar to tennis. For thirty minutes each day, seven days a week, Hoover and his "Medicine Ball Cabinet" heaved a six-pound medicine ball across a volleyball net, burning three times as many calories as tennis and six times that of golf.

This sports-loving president rarely relaxed in public. One afternoon he watched a sandlot ball game, cheering on the kids at play and informally chatting with them afterwards. Colleagues urged the president to return the next day to be photographed because it would help his public image. Hoover would do nothing of the kind. It was one thing to relax, quite another to perform.

Playing Hoover Ball on the White House lawn