RFK's Accidental Party-Crasher

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

On Feb. 22, 1965, Mrs. Blanche Griswold rushed across the tarmac at the Saranac Lake airport, amidst upstate New York's Adirondack mountains. She had just checked her luggage and thought she was going to miss her plane, a connecting flight to her vacation in Florida.

She didn't waste any time looking closely at the craft she was boarding, perhaps because there was no line and it looked like it could shut its hatch and depart at any moment. At the door, the widow Griswold, a 58-year-old insurance agent, was stopped by a man who looked like he ought to be a Fed (he was). The man asked where she was going. She said 'Florida,' and he didn't stop her. She climbed aboard.

It struck her as odd how small the cabin was, even for a shuttle. That's when she saw Robert Kennedy, the state's new U.S. senator. A celebrity sighting, but not too strange -- Lake Placid's skiing attracted all sorts of famous people. And wouldn't ya know it, there was his sister-in-law, Jacqueline... and a few other Kennedy-looking types... and a lot of kids.

Hmm. Didn't know they all took the shuttle like that.

Mrs. Griswold realized something was wrong when she saw the tables between the seats (depending on where she sat, there might have been a map of the United States). What a waste of space. She waited for someone to come for her ticket.

"This plane isn't supposed to make money," someone told her. "This is the Kennedy plane."

Mrs. Griswold was aboard The Caroline, the twin-engine Convair 240 that John F. Kennedy had traveled 225,000 miles in during the 1960 presidential campaign.

In all, it was a pleasant flight. She spoke with the senator and his sister-in-law briefly, the children ran around and they ate lunch. Mrs. Griswold alighted at JFK International and caught a connecting flight to Miami.

To the papers, Robert Kennedy remarked, "She was a very nice woman. But she thought it was very crowded for a commercial plane."