Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Missouri's Favorite True Man--Harry S. Truman

When looking for things to see around Kansas City, it didn't take us long to find that Harry S. Truman is one of Missouri's favorite sons. This state's only U.S. president, he was raised and lived most of his life right down the road from us. We had planned to bike to the family farm, but the hilly terrain didn't complement Denisa's biking skills. (That's a nice way to say that Denisa wasn't tough enough to bike up all those hills.) So we made the drive to the farm house--cruising over those hills was easier in the car. Harry Truman wasn't raised here, but he lived on the farm for eleven years, starting when he was 22 years old. He moved back into this house with his parents and grandparents to help run this large acreage.

Now in the middle of the city of Grandview, Missouri, this farm house has a Sonic drive-in right across the street. All but 10 acres of the 600-acre farm have been sold to become retail and residential space. This 10-acre plot has been preserved as part of the Harry S. Truman National Historic Site, including the house and these stone corner fence posts.

We don't miss many national monuments and historical sites, but this one has no visitor center and the house is locked. It would have been a two-minute stop if it wouldn't have been for the audio tour available through our cell phones. The light-hearted host on the audio tour gave many insights to parts of the farm and the eleven years that Harry Truman lived here. For example, one dark night he went outside and ran right into the black water pump, knocking off his iconic glasses. He painted the pump white the next day, and it has been easier to see at night ever since. It's that kind of on-the-farm common sense that made him a good president.

We also made the trip to Independence, Missouri, where young Harry often visited the aunt and uncle that lived in the house pictured below. Displayed inside are many more Truman artifacts, and is another part of the national historic site. The most important point about this house is its location--right across the street from where Bess Wallace's family lived with her grandparents.

Bess and Harry's courtship would begin when he made the trip across the street to return a cake plate. They courted for nine years, which included the years that Captain Harry S. Truman served in Europe during World War I. They married when they were more than thirty years old, and came to live in this house with Bess's parents and grandmother. President Truman was the only U.S. president that didn't own his own home. But this house came to be called the Truman "white house" because he came back here to live after his presidency.

We always enjoy learning about the personal aspects of a president's life. Independence has a nice downtown that includes a walking trail that points out interesting places associated with President Truman's life. Denisa is sitting in front of Clinton's Soda Fountain, where young Harry once worked. He earned a whopping $3 per week, opening the store at 6:30 a.m.

When we took the Truman house tour, the very enthusiastic guide told many stories about Harry S. Truman. He was known for his honesty and integrity, and the gracious way he treated a domineering mother-in-law. Young Harry had seen action in World War I, but he is most famous for ending World War II with his presidential decision to drop the bombs on Japan. He made it clear that the crew on the military airplanes should take no responsibility for the destruction it caused. He personally pointed out to them the famous slogan on his desk, "The buck stops here."

Independence, Missouri, is also known as the starting place for many settlers heading west. We didn't take the horse-drawn wagon tour of town, but it looked interesting. The wagon master was in costume and in character. He commented that Denisa looked like a sturdy woman that would be a suitable partner for the trip west. That's what every woman yearns to be called--sturdy.

Independence, Missouri is also known for being significant in the eyes of more than one religious group. This massive building is part of the Mormon religion.

In fact, we were standing on a hill right across the street with a marker that explained we were on the temple site. In 1831, Joseph Smith Jr. dedicated this hill for the temple in the city of Zion, "where this church believes the Lord will come to His people in the Last Days."

In the same neighborhood, we drove to see this interesting building with a swirly top.

We could see that unusual spiral for miles, and we kept driving until we found it. This is the world headquarters for the "Community of Christ"--formed when there was a split among the Mormon followers.

So our day's trip to Independence, Missouri, turned up many interesting places. We enjoyed learning more about this little town that holds such significance for many--including a well-respected true man, known as President Harry S. Truman.

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