George Lund says he is a bit sad now that the story has an ending.

George Lund says he is a bit sad now that the story has an ending.

In 1947, Lund was a “little bitty guy” of barely 15 years old, delivering The Examiner on his bike. His route mostly covered from Maple Avenue up to U.S. 24.

But, for about six months – “and kind of by mistake,” Lund says – the Truman Home at 219 N. Delaware St. became part of his route.

A good friend of Lund’s, John Southern, actually had the Truman Home on his route, but Southern had to take a leave of absence.

And that, so they say, is where history was made.

When Lund first delivered The Examiner to the Truman Home, no fence existed, so he delivered the paper to the front porch. No one was usually home, Lund says, and if someone was home, he or she didn’t come to the door.

However, Bess complained if Lund didn’t get the paper in the exact spot on the front porch, he says. Matters got complicated when the fence was installed outside of the home, and Lund says he quickly made friends with the Secret Service.

“I would say, ‘Be sure you put it in the right spot,’” Lund says. “So, they did, and they were very nice about it.”

Lund usually collected his customers’ bills on Saturdays, but when he went to collect from the Truman Home, no one came to the door. When the assignment ended and someone else took over the Truman Home deliveries, Lund asked that boy to give him the $7.50 owed by the Trumans.

Whether that payment was ever collected remains a mystery.

All that Lund knows is he never got paid – until Wednesday afternoon, in a special “We’re Just Wild About Harry” event at Tallgrass Creek retirement community in Overland Park, Kan., where Lund has lived for two and a half years.

And now, he says, the story he’s held onto dearly for years has ended.

Lund forgot about the matter – for a while. He graduated from William Chrisman High School in 1950 and attended the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kan., to study architecture. He served in the Air Force from 1955 to 1958. He had his own architecture business in Johnson County, Kan., until his retirement in 2006.

He never expected the story to reach national and international audiences – and Lund says he doesn’t want to rewrite the history of Harry Truman, who refused to file for bankruptcy following the failure of his downtown Kansas City haberdashery and spent the next 15 years paying off the debts.

Last year, Lund was just a student enrolled in a course with the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. He and his classmates, many of whom were alive and even of voting age when Truman was president, were asked to share their memories – and out came the story of the delinquent newspaper bill.

Tallgrass Creek decided to organize a “We’re Just Wild About Harry” celebration in May – the month of Truman’s birth – as a way for residents to share their memories of meeting Harry Truman.

And then, the Truman Library and Museum and the Truman Library Institute (the Library’s nonprofit partner) got involved. Archivists researched Lund’s memories, but were left unable to find anything that substantiated or disclaimed his story about the delinquent newspaper bill. The Examiner also does not have surviving records that would indicate whether the Trumans ever paid any paperboy the amount owed to Lund.

Following the death of Bess and Harry’s daughter, Margaret, in 2008, the Library and Museum received additional documents in its inventory, including canceled checks. However, the Library and Museum doesn’t have any record of any overdue notices like an unpaid Examiner bill, Truman Library Director Michael Devine says.

“We know that Bess wrote most of the checks from 219 Delaware,” Devine says, “and they seemed to pay their bills on time, but I’m sure, in this case, with the Trumans going back and forth to Washington, sometimes that would involve having the local paper sent to Washington – you couldn’t pick it up on the Internet in those days. This must have been one of those things that fell through the cracks.”

Devine himself worked as a newspaper delivery boy in the late 1950s and early 1960s. He remembers having to go around to his customers each week to collect their payments.

“But there were people, even in my neighborhood, where the family would be on vacation or out of town for one reason or another, so I’d have to carry that for a week or two,” Devine says. “So, I can sympathize with (Lund), but I can also understand how things would fall through the cracks.”

Although Lund says he never actually saw President Truman while delivering The Examiner, he did get to see Truman later on his famous neighborhood walks, and he did get to shake Truman’s hand.

“I forgave the president because I knew he had bigger things to do,” Lund says. “There were bigger problems than paying a little paper boy to deliver The Independence Examiner, so I forgave him for that.”

In turn, the Truman Library Institute made the payment in fun and as a goodwill gesture to Lund, says Judy Turner, the Institute’s development officer. Lund donated the $56.63 (the $7.50, plus accrued interest over 65 years) to Quilts of Valor, an organization that makes quilts and donates them to service veterans.

It’s a gesture, Lund said, that he believes Truman would be proud of.

“I was a pretty frugal guy, so it isn’t easy giving away money,” Niel Johnson, a well-known Truman historian and interpreter, told Lund as he handed over the payment Wednesday afternoon. “The buck stops here, and I think the buck stopped with you.”