As vice president of the United States, Harry Truman assumed the nation’s highest office upon the death of the 32nd president, only five months into Franklin D. Roosevelt’s fourth term in office. It became a very daunting job and many American’s admired his efforts, while others simply loathed him. But, the determined new president pushed forward to end World War II and return the country to a peace time economy during that first term.
Then, Truman launched his famous whistle stop campaign for re-election in 1948 on his own merits traveling from coast to coast and speaking to crowds on the rear platform of his train car, the “Ferdinand Magellan.” As the election night returns began to roll in, it looked as if Harry S Truman was going to lose the race; in fact, the major newspapers and radio networks across the nation had already given the win to New York governor Thomas Dewey.
However, here at home people were a little more optimistic and began to assemble around the Truman home hoping to get a glimpse of the “Man from Independence.” Cars were slowly cruising up and down Delaware and Van Horn (Truman Road).
People filled the front yards and sidewalks on both sides of the street that night and began a repertoire of songs hoping to bring Truman out on the front porch. They chanted “we want Harry, we want Harry,” and sang such songs as “The Missouri Waltz,” “I’m Just Wild about Harry,” “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow,” “Hail, Hail the Gangs All Here” and “Happy Days Are Here Again.” Photographers were standing on top of cars prepared to take pictures and radio engineers were ready to turn the microphones over to the president. Neighbors across the street from the Summer White House played host to the newspaper and radio newsmen (before television) and at the J.W. Luff home at 224 N. Delaware, a radio on the front porch blared out the latest election returns as the night wore on.
Finally about one o’clock in the morning, the front porch light flipped on and Margaret Truman stepped out with a smile and the noisy crowds suddenly became deathly silent. So quiet in fact, you could have heard a pin drop! “Dad isn’t here!” she exclaimed with a gleam in her eye. Margaret was dressed in a black skirt and a black jersey blouse and wore low-heeled suede shoes and looked as though she had been sitting by her radio and comfortably listening to the election returns all evening.
“You know he would have come out when he heard you singing if he had of been here,” and then motioning with her arms as if in despair, but with a happy tinkle in her voice, she said “I don’t know where he is.” She thanked the audience on her father’s behalf and started back into the house, when someone asked her to favor the crowd with a song. She turned around with a smile and said, “Sorry, but I just can’t tonight.”
Page 2 of 2 - The news that the president was not at home tonight was not only a shock to the crowd, but the newsmen as well, and the crowd began to slowly disassemble. But today, we all know where Mr. Truman was on that night, don’t we. He had escaped the crowds early on and split for Excelsior Springs and had checked in at the Elms Hotel to get a good nights sleep. However, his peace was broken in the wee hours of the morning when he was awakened and informed by his aids that he had indeed won the election and was quickly whisked away back to Kansas City.
Reference: Files of The Examiner.
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