Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Truman Library - Independence, MO

After another sumptuous breakfast at Fred's, we said farewell and I zipped over the border into Missouri. I was soon arriving at the beautiful Truman Library.  It is in perfect scale and scope for my taste and I think they got it just right.  There is a wealth of mid-century history portrayed in the films, displays and dioramas throughout the facility. It really is a concentrated lesson on U.S. and global events from the early forties to the mid-fifties. My visit there today is a major highlight of BikerBuck's 50-50 initiative.

Dioramas such as this one depicting the early 50's lifestyle were rich with edutaiment.

A stunning replica of HST's oval office.

I bragged to the docents about my Buck Stops pin that Perry and Sally gave me as a birthday gift some years back.

And the shirt that Thad and Jessica made up for my retirement celebration was the hit of the day.

This last Truman piece is not from the Library, but from an email I received later. Not sure who the author is, but it sums up my observations and feelings about President and Mrs. Truman.

Harry & Bess
Harry Truman was a different kind of President.  He probably made as many, or more important decisions regarding our nation's history as any of the other 42 Presidents preceding him.  However, a measure of his greatness may rest on what he did after he left the White House.

The only asset he had when he died was the house he lived in, which was in Independence Missouri .  His wife had inherited the house from her mother and father and other than their years in the White House, they lived their entire lives there.

When he retired from office in 1952 his income was a U.S. Army pension reported to have been $13,507.72 a year.  Congress, noting that he was paying for his stamps and personally licking them, granted him an 'allowance' and, later, a retroactive pension of $25,000 per year.

After President Eisenhower was inaugurated,  Harry and Bess drove home to Missouri by themselves.  There was no Secret Service following them.

When offered corporate positions at large salaries, he declined, stating, "You don't want me.  You want the office of the President, and that doesn't belong to me.  It belongs to the American people and it's not for sale."

Even later, on May 6, 1971, when Congress was preparing to award him the Medal of Honor on his 87th birthday, he refused to accept it, writing, "I don't consider that I have done anything which should be the reason for any award, Congressional or otherwise."

As president he paid for all of his own travel expenses and food.

Modern politicians have found a new level of success in cashing in on the Presidency, resulting in untold wealth.  Today, many in Congress also have found a way to become quite wealthy while enjoying the fruits of their offices. Political offices are now for sale (cf. Illinois ).

Good old Harry Truman was correct when he observed, "My choices in life were either to be a piano player in a whore house or a politician.  And to tell the truth, there's hardly any difference!

I say dig him up and clone him!

On a personal note, I actually met Harry Truman in 1960.  My parents and I took a flight from New York's LaGuardia airport to Ithaca, NY for my college interview at Cornell.  A few minutes before boarding, Harry Truman and his lone security escort walked up to the boarding area and waited off to the side for the flight.  My Mom quickly spotted the former President and could hardly keep still when we all boarded the DC3.  In mid-flight, she got up and walked back to his row and introduced herself as a great admirer and former campaign volunteer for his 1948 election.  Later, when I attended the Cornell Hotel School and worked at the Statler Inn on campus, I actually inspected the registration card that Mr. Truman signed when he checked in following that flight.  He stated his occupation as "Retired Farmer" and signed the card, Harry S. Truman.

 ...and now back to BikerBuck's 50-50...

I had some sketchy information about a short bike trail in Independence but was unable to find it right away, so decided to press on to the Mississippi River border in hopes of striking a proper ride in Hannibal, where I also want to peek in on the Mark Twain story.  At the town of Monroe, MO I was bewitched by the signs for the Mark Twain Lake and State Park so went about 25 miles afield to check it out.  Indeed there is a huge (20,000 acre) lake and sizable campground, plus a visitor center that houses the Clement house from the time of Samuel's birth.  Well the whole thing is in the final weeks of a major renno, but a nice Ranger let me peek inside the center and I could see the house still wrapped completely in protective plastic while the ceiling of the center is being replaced.
Looking through the main entry I could see into the space where the Cabin-in-a-Baggie is hangin' loose.

I did check out the camping options but decided it was not going to work so moved on and arrived in Hannibal at dusk, checked in to the Best Western and took to the streets. Small place, entirely devoted to things Twain, and mildly tawdry. Got a line on a possible trail very close by, but now have to decide whether to drop down to St. Charles tomorrow to pick up the Katy Trail, which is the Big Daddy of MO cycle trails.  Rain is in the forecast, will just have to see what the day hands me in the morning.

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