So… I was standing in the kitchen yesterday that coined that phrase.
In this house. On 219 North Delaware Street.
That is the Harry S Truman National Historic Site in Independence, Missouri. There’s a visitor’s center downtown, so I swung in there to check out any postcards, get my stamp, and get a ticket to take the tour of the home. Luckily for me, I’ve got the America The Beautiful parks pass, so the tour was free. That is the best $80 I’ve ever spent. Quite possibly in my entire life. But I was the only one in the center so the Ranger and I chatted about my trip. It’s always fun and rewarding to chat with someone who is genuinely interested in what I’m doing. And it’s all too easy to tell who’s asking because they want to know and who’s asking because they feel they have to. After our chat, he ran a slide show on Truman’s personal life in Independence for two ladies who eventually came in and myself.
Yesterday was a good day because I got to be a sponge all morning. I wasn’t around (obviously) to witness anything Harry Truman had done as President. The only thing I really knew was that he was the one who made the call to drop the bombs on Japan and essentially end World War II. So going into all of this, I knew nothing. The two ladies and myself met back up at the house to take the tour. It was only the three of us, so that made everything seem more intimate and personal with the guide. The house is set up exactly like it was when Truman lived in it. His canes are still in the corner. His roofing nails to hold down the tears in the linoleum kitchen floor are still there. His last car still sits in the garage behind the house. His overcoat and hat he put on to take his morning walks are still on the coat hanger by the door. Just surreal. The ranger giving the tour was great as well. One of the ladies thought she was a know-it-all when it came to Truman because of “all of the papers” she had written about him. Oh, and because she shook his hand when she was 11. So that was a bit of a downer to have to hear her try and one-up the ranger with any personal story or anecdote. But other than that, the tour was outstanding.
Afterward, I stayed after to talk to the ranger about my trip because he noticed my South Carolina license plate. He had come to Independence, MO from Three Rivers, CA where he worked the Kings Canyon & Sequoia National Park. So we talked about that some. And I told him how amazed I was by Yellowstone. And got to camp in Yosemite. He laughed and said Yosemite is like “Grand Central Station in the woods.” I wasn’t even there during a busy season and he was still spot on. But we talked jobs within the National Parks agency too. He was all for it and was doing a great sales pitch. He said that they’re tough jobs to get, as it’s the smallest government agency (only 16,000 employees of which roughly 2,000 are interpretive park rangers). He also said they’re hard to get because the market has so many vets in it right now with all of the guys and girls coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan, since they get priority. But told me to give it a shot if I really wanted to try. He said volunteering for a park somewhere is key, that the agency loves that. And even going seasonal instead of full time helps a bunch too. But he loved his job and that’s awesome to see. So that’s something to think about when I get out.
We parted ways and I drove up the street to check out Truman’s Presidential Library. I’d never been to one before, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect. But again, I got to learn a ton. Truman raised all of the money for it himself too, which is impressive. He even had an office he continued working at there. He’d walk since it was only half a mile from his house. Can you imagine someone like Clinton or Bush getting up in the morning and walking half a mile down a small town street to an office? It could never happen in today’s times. Secret service would be everywhere. There would be hoards of people lining the street every day. Assassination attempts would be made, I’m sure. Just crazy to think how fast times have changed with the globalization of the world and the instant speed and access of news. But the Library, rightfully so, was more about his Presidency whereas the house was more about his personal life. I got to learn about the bomb in WWII, his firing of General MacArthur, labor strikes, the beginning of the Cold War, his Fair Deal, recognizing Israel as a state, NATO… just TONS of stuff. Up until both Bush’s, Truman had the highest Presidential approval rating at 87%. And he still has the lowest approval rating at 23%. Yet the crazy thing is that today, he’s regarded as one of the top 5 presidents the country has had. And it’s easy to see why when you see how much he got accomplished and is still around today. Just very interesting stuff!
The library was full of cool stuff though. Like the Bible he was sworn in on.
A replica of his Oval Office.
And two originals I was really impressed with – the first being the original “Family Squabble” painting by Norman Rockwell and the second being an original copy of the famous newspaper forever tied to Truman’s second election.
And finally, he, alongside his wife, daughter, and son-in-law, are buried in the courtyard of the library. Just a humbling and educational experience. Definitely recommend it if you’re ever in the Kansas City area.
Just drove the rest of the day away from there. I stopped into Columbia, MO to see the Missouri Tigers’ stadium. But everything was locked up and it was getting dark. I pulled into Bridgeton, MO last night. It’s a suburb of St. Louis. Which, coincidentally enough, was named America’s Most Dangerous City yesterday. How fun is that right? Just in time for me to go see the Arch, Ulysses S Grant‘s Historic Site, and anything else I want to see. So I should definitely earn some street cred today – walking the most dangerous streets in the United States. Just more interesting stories to throw into my bag!
Until next time!