Friday, April 29, 2011

Just Wild About Harry

We have moved to the Campus RV Park in Independence, Missouri near Kansas City so we could visit the library and home of President Harry S. Truman. Truman was raised here and after serving in WWI was elected County Judge (Administrator) in 1922. In 1934 he was elected to the US Senate and served until 1944 when he was chosen to run as Franklin D. Roosevelt's Vice President.

This is the home of his wife Bess' family where the Trumans lived their entire life from the time they were married in 1919, except when he was serving in Washington, DC. After leaving the White House in 1953 the Trumans got on a train and returned to Independence for the rest of their lives. Truman never took advantage of his time as President by serving on corporate boards or lending his name to products because he thought that would be demeaning to the office. His only retirement income was his small military pension until, five years after he left office, Congress passed a pension law to help him out financially. Harry died at the age of 88 in 1972 and Bess in 1982 at the age of 97. She is the oldest surviving First Lady. The house is exactly as it was when they lived here because Bess willed the house to the government upon her death. Harry's clothes were still in the closets and his coat, cane and famous hat were hanging by the door. There were over 50,000 items on the property including a 1972 Chrysler Truman had purchased six months before he died. No interior pictures are allowed but a few can be seen on the park service site.
Here we are with all the people who were on the tour. It was a great personal tour with a very well informed park service ranger. The ranger was also fortunate to be working the day presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama visited in 2008 and was quite pleased to be able to take him on a private tour.

Another day we visited the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum. The library traces his life from his birth in Lamar, MO through his childhood in Independence, to his political rise to the Presidency and his return to Independence for the remainder of his life. The lower level of the library focuses on his family, early years, political career, the 82 days he was Vice President and his post presidency life. Above is one of his cars, his Democratic Convention delegate tags, White House china, a hat from the Truman Walking Club and the type of artillery that was under his command in WWI.

This is part of the Truman walking trail in Independence. Top right is the Clinton Drugstore Building were Harry got his first job. Top left is the Church where Bess and Harry were married. Bottom left is a law office with a painting of Truman. Bottom right is a statue of Truman in front of the Jackson Courthouse where Truman oversaw the 1932 renovation and expansion. The outline in the middle is on all the signs showing the Truman related attractions in Independence.

This is about Truman's first four months as President from April 12, when he was sworn in, to VJ Day on August 15. In that time the war with Germany ended, the United Nations Charter was signed, the Potsdam Conference with Great Britain and the Soviet Union was held, and the atomic bomb was dropped on Japan to end the war. All of this by a President who had only met twice with Roosevelt during his 82 days as vice president. Another section deals with the controversy about the dropping of the atomic bombs. Personally, I have always felt this was the correct decision because I may not have been born as my father was preparing to be sent to Asia for the invasion of Japan which would have been necessary if Truman had not made this choice.

Another sections deals with postwar America. Many of the things in this display are right out of my childhood.

These sections dealt with the recognition of the new Jewish state of Israel, the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe (pic of PA native George Marshall) and the Truman Doctrine to contain communism. The 594 miniature planes suspended from the ceiling symbolize the Berlin Airlift that kept Berlin from falling into Soviet hands after WWII.

This is a display of the 1948 Presidential election when Truman overcame a divided Democratic Party (the segregationist Southerners supported Strom Thurmond) with his Whistle Stop Tour of the country. This is the election that produced the famous Chicago newspaper headline Dewey Defeats Truman.

Another section deals with America's fear of the spread of "the bomb" and Communism to other countries. There was the false fear spread by Senator Joe McCarthy that there were Communists infiltrating the US government. He was like today's "Birthers" and Give Em Hell Harry referred to him as a son of a bitch. This false fear did bring a low point to the Truman Presidency when he signed a law requiring people to sign a loyalty oath to hold a job. There was a section on the Korean War and Truman's firing of popular general Douglas MacArthur.

This is a replica of the Oval Office in the White House as it appeared during Truman's time in office. The famous "The Buck Stops Here" sign tells the story of the decisions Truman had to make that led the country through a very difficult time in our history from ending WWII, to the post war economic boom, to setting our path as the world leader we are today. The Truman family had to move out of the White House during his term because it was in such bad shape that his piano started to come through the floor. Only the exterior walls were left standing while the entire interior was rebuilt.

This is the courtyard and eternal flame where the Trumans and their daughter and son-in-law are buried. Across the courtyard is his office where he greeted visitors after his retirement. One of those important visitors was President Lyndon Johnson who came to the library to sign Medicare into law in 1965. He wanted Truman to be at the signing since Truman had proposed universal health care during his time in office. I bet the Repubs will go to the temples of Wall Street for the signing if they get their way and repeal this law that allows our parents and so many others to live their senior years without the fear of how their medical bills will be paid.


PalmsRV said...

When we were there in 2009 they were remodeling the house and it was closed to tours.

Jim and Bobbie said...

Well written post, Jim. Truman is one of my heroes; we'll definitely put this on our Bucket List.

Miss you both. Tell NanC I'm doing fine with my new diet.


Merlene + Dan Goan said...

Looks like a great place. We're not that far apart...we're in Indiana. Safe travels!