Bob Mitchell: Were things better in Truman’s day?

Wednesday, August 23, 2017
Bob Mitchell Ozark Views & Comments

How would we be living today if some actions in lifestyles and regulations had been frozen in time a few decades ago? Or, maybe not stopped completely but permitted to slow down considerably over a few years.

Take, for instance, the article, “Harry Truman’s Excellent Adventure: The True Story of a Great American Road Trip” that was written by Matthew Algoa that could be considered the way it should be.

Here’s the short article for comparison with the way things are today.

Different

Harry Truman was a different kind of president. He probably made as many important decisions regarding our nation’s history as any of the other presidents. 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. His wife had inherited the house from her mother, and other than their years in the White House, they lived there during their entire married life.

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

He said no

When offered corporate positions at large salaries, Truman 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 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.”

Not expensive

As president, he paid for all of his own travel expenses and food. By contrast, 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 more often that not for sale.

Choices

Good old Harry Truman once observed, “My choices in life were either to be a piano player in a whorehouse or a politician. And to tell the truth, there’s hardly any difference.”

The author concludes his article noting, “I say dig him up and clone him!”

What’s better?

With these few simple facts in mind, which would most people prefer these days? I think they would like to see a return to some of the simpler ways of doing things, getting the more complicated requirements of life out of the way.

Truman’s administration, like noted previously, handled some of the most complex problems of the time, including ending World War II with the atom bomb, making the presidency stronger by eliminating some of those who would deface the position and standing against Communism.

I observed him

It was my honor to have been chosen in 1949 to represent Navy public relations at the Key Wast, Fla., base while Truman was using the Little White House near the piers of the submarine section as his vacation retreat. In fact, my office in the administration building was less than 20 yards from the front lawn location where a poker table was frequently located and the president and his close advisors would enjoy an evening of cards.

During his visits to the base, much of my work spilled over into the evening, which required a Secret Service representative to be in the office while I was there, that close to the president. There was never anything out of line with the group, only some hearty laughter when someone obviously won a fairly large hand.

After meeting him officially during one of his frequent visits to press conferences at the Bachelor Officers’ Quarters, he would always acknowledge my presence with the inquiry, “How are things in Missouri?”

Fishing worms

Fishermen used to seek out catalpa worms to use in their quest of catfish.

These worms, larger than today’s night crawlers, once were easy to come by simply by traveling east on 10th Street, near the location of the once Seven Valley Cheese Company, adjacent to Flat Creek.

It seems there was an outflow of some sort from the plant that went into the creek, but not before it flowed over the bank. This was a natural source of nourishment from the process of making cheese, resulting in the worms growing nearly to the size of small yard snakes. There was not any doubt about the popularity of the bait as was often evidenced by the diggings along the bank of the creek.

There was a requirement for those taking the worms to leave the bank in as good a condition as they found it. This wasn’t always the case, but at least the rule was in place and some people did pay attention and act accordingly.

Bob Mitchell is the former editor and publisher of the Cassville Democrat. He is a 2017 inductee to both the Missouri Press Association Hall of Fame and Missouri Southern State University’s Regional Media Hall of Fame.