July 25, 2017

LIFE AFTER PRESIDENCY: THE TRUMANS COME HOME

The election for President of the United States of America in 1952 was a blow out for Dwight David Eisenhower. Adlai Stevenson, the Democrat, lost the Electoral College -- 442 to 89. The Democrats won  the south. President Truman would not have done much better. He decided in 1950 that the job sucked. The USA didn’t have a presidentfrom noon until half past on January 20, 1953, when Eisenhower was inaugurated.

After power nap at the residence of Dean Acheson the Trumans left Washington D.C. that evening at 6:30. Approximately 1000 people were at the D.C.’s Union Station to see the ex-president off. His parting words to the masses were, “In all my career, and it has been a long one, I’ve never had an experience like this. This is the first time I’ve had the experience of being sent home in a blaze of glory. I’ll never forget this if I live to be 100 and that’s what I expect to do.” He made it to 88.

Silver Springs, Maryland, was his first stop and several hundred people showed up to see him. Next stop was Martinsburg, West Virginia. In Cincinnati, Ohio the train stopped for 15 minutes, just enough time to buy a newspaper. A reporter shouted, “Ask the president to look this way!” Harry replied, “I’m just Harry Truman. I’m not the president anymore!”

The next morning at a stop in Seymour, Indiana, Mrs. Truman could be seen through the windows eating breakfast while Harry greeted the crowd that had gathered. As the train started to pull away Mrs. Francis L. Jordan of Seymour handed Harry a package of home country smoked sausage from her freezer for his first breakfast at home. Harry smiled and said, “Well thank you. Bless your heart.”

There was a short stop in St. Louis to change trains, something which would never have happened to a sitting president. At the train station in Independence 10,000 people, one fourth of the population, waited in 40 degree temperatures for the 6:30 train that would be 20 minutes late. Also waiting for the couple was the American Legion Band and Mayor Weatherford. As Harry and Bess stepped from the train bright lights for the TV cameras and the sound of the Missouri Waltz filled the air. The mayor’s speech was quick: “Welcome home neighbors, and you’ll always be Mr. President to us!”

The former First Lady stepped forward to say a few words. “Thank you all very much. We are delighted to be here. It is a wonderful welcome.” She tried to continue but her eyes teared up and she stepped back from the microphone. The Trumans then entered the mayor’s auto and drove north with a police escort. People lined the streets and cheered as the former First Couple drove home.

On the front porch of the Truman home Harry was reacquainted with Sgt. Arthur Bell, a current member of the Missouri State Highway Patrol and former member of Battery D 129 Field Artillery, WWI, who was to be his security detail. After a few more photos on the front porch the Trumans retired after a very long day.

The town pretty much left the couple to themselves until the official reception to be held on February 5th. From getting off the train until the gala Harry was busy. First there was his visit to the Grandview property he was considering to be the site of the Truman Library which was expected to cost $1.5 million. $100,000 was already in the bank. Next he got an office in Kansas City. He did a lot of walking with the press who were trying very hard to get him make a statement about Eisenhower’s negative comments but he didn’t take the bait. Many of his walks were 14 blocks leaving some of the younger pursuers out of breath. He loved it.

On Thursday, February 5, 1953, at the RLDS Auditorium 650 people broke bread with one of the best presidents in the country’s history. Bess wore white pearls and Harry wore a blue suit with a white carnation. Turkey dinner was on the menu. Tickets were $3.50. The orchestra struck up the Missouri Waltz, after which Mr. Truman gave a ten minute speech. Mrs. Truman thanked everyone and everyone went home happy.

Among the notables in attendance were the mayors of the local cities, among them Rudy Roper of Sugar Creek.

The event was broadcast nationally on television, radio, and newsreels that were shown before the feature presentations at movie theaters. The media covering the gala included Paramount, Twentieth Century Fox, MovieStone, Pathe, Metro, United Press TV, local television news, and more.

These were the days before former presidents received a pension. Harry’s take home pay was now $112 dollars a month for being a Major in the Army.

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