During Harry Truman’s term in the White House, he enjoyed listening to good music, spending valuable family time whenever possible, and he cherished his vacations at Key West, Fla. These things all helped to carry the enormous burdens of his presidency.


Perhaps, even more helpful was Truman’s insistence on a daily break for exercise. Usually, it was his trademark early morning walks; but when the Washington, D.C., weather was lousy, or an emergency made his walks impossible, he managed to squeeze in a few calisthenics or a swim in the White House pool. All of this activity amused reporters who often made light of it, but it seemed to have worked pretty well. Few presidents have been as chipper as Truman, and few seemed to have aged so well in office.


The press always had a field-day with Truman and almost hated to see him leave office. However, he was never so popular as he was during retirement. Nine thousand people crammed Union Station in Washington to see Truman off on the train that brought him home to Independence, and so many women managed to kiss Harry farewell that his face was covered with lipstick. Upon reaching Independence, another crowd of 10,000 greeted him as they stepped down from the train at the Missouri Pacific depot, and some 5,000 more jammed themselves in front of the Truman Home on North Delaware.


Truman, who never seemed to lack for words, managed a brief speech before disappearing inside the front door, but Mrs. Truman was simply too moved to utter a single word. Once inside the front door, she said, “If this is what you get for all those years of hard work, I guess it was worth it.”


Newspaper editors who had long lambasted Truman suddenly changed their tune and acknowledged that the man who had just stepped down from the presidency had been a hard-working, devoted servant of the American people. As Truman once said, “Some editors ate crow and left the feathers on.”


Retirement for a man with Truman’s energy and drive did not mean getting up late and loafing. He rose early, as always, and took his vigorous morning walk around the old neighborhood. Insatiably interested and curious, as always, Truman continued to take a half dozen newspapers, including The Examiner. He continued to be intensely interested in politics and what was going on in the outside world.


Truman also found, to his delight, that after years of being surrounded by servants and Secret Service men he was once again able to do things for himself; such as carrying suitcases, buying train tickets, (and even though he wasn’t too good at it) driving his own car.


Retirement gave Truman a chance to achieve a pair of serious ambitions – to write a long, factual account of his presidency in his memoirs, and to establish the Truman Library. Best of all, perhaps, Truman could look back with satisfaction on his achievements in office. Among his memories, he could ponder what was surely one of the greatest compliments ever paid one world leader by another.


The scene was a conference between Harry Truman and Winston Churchill aboard the presidential yacht “Williamsburg”, shortly before Truman’s term expired. Churchill looked up at Truman and said, “I must confess, sir. I held you in very low regard … (at Potsdam). I loathed your taking the place of Franklin Roosevelt.” Then Churchill went on: “I misjudged you badly. Since that time, you, more than any other man, have saved Western Civilization.”


Reference: “A Pictorial Biography of HST,” with text by David S. Thomson


Meet Ted and Katie

Shake hands and talk with columnist Ted W. Stillwell and KCTV-5 meteorologist Katie Horner at the Fort Osage Church of the Nazarene’s Community Day, 19333 E. U.S. 24 in Independence across from Little General, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday.