Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Old Postcard Wednesday--Truman Summer White House, Independence, Missouri

When next Wednesday's old postcard is published here we will know who won the 2008 Presidential election.

Did You Know?
The office of the vice president became vacant when Harry Truman succeeded to the presidency in 1945. The office remained vacant until Alban Barkley of Kentucky was elected as Harry Truman’s vice president in 1948.
- from National Park Service website

Harry S Truman National Historic Site opened to the public on May 15, 1984. In her will, Mrs. Truman donated the site to the United States. Today, the National Park Service preserves and interprets the home of President Truman. Completed in 1885 by Mrs. Truman's grandparents, the fourteen-room Victorian house provided a home to four generations of the family. When Mr. Truman became President, the house became the "Summer White House." (NPS DESCRIPTION AND PHOTO)

The Truman Home is located at 219 Delaware Street in Independence (Truman Home Visitor Center is at Truman Road and Main Street). It is not a part of the Truman Presidential Library.

One of twelve Presidential Libraries administered by the National Archives and Records Administration, the Truman Presidential Museum and Library is located elsewhere in Independence at Highway 24 and Delaware. Click here for the online version of Harry S. Truman: The Presidential Years. And here for the online version of Harry S. Truman: His Life and Times. Both are permanent exhibits at the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum.

This is fascinating insight into Truman's impression of the real White House, from a diary entry dated January 6, 1947:

Arose at 5:45 A.M.[,] read the papers and at 7:10 walked to the station to meet the family. Took 35 minutes. It was a good walk. Sure is fine to have them back. This great white jail is a hell of a place in which to be alone. While I work from early morning until late at night, it is a ghostly place. The floors pop and crack all night long. Anyone with imagination can see old Jim Buchanan walking up and down worrying about conditions not of his making. Then there's Van Buren who inherited a terrible mess from his predecessor as did poor old James Madison. Of course Andrew Johnson was the worst mistreated of any of them. But they all walk up and down the halls of this place and moan about what they should have done and didn't. So-you see. I've only named a few. The ones who had Boswells and New England historians are too busy trying to control heaven and hell to come back here. So the tortured souls who were and are misrepresented in history are the ones who come back. It's a hell of a place.

Read my annual message. It was good if I do say it myself. Outlines by me to begin with, the cabinet, the little cabinet, Sam Rosenman, the Chief Justice all added criticisms. Clark Clifford did most of the work. He's a nice boy and will go places.

- excerpt, President Harry S. Truman's 1947 Diary Book

From the National Archives website this is a recording of President Truman addressing the American people on September 1, 1945, after the signing of the terms of unconditional surrender by Japan. (You can listen to other podcasts of presidential addresses at the website.)

Decision to Drop the Atomic Bombs

Since President Harry S. Truman neglected to even once mention the victims of the two bombs in his address to the nation that day I'm letting one of them speak through his poetry, through time.....

At the First-Aid Station

Who weep although you have no ducts for tears
Who cry although you have no lips for words
Who wish to clasp
Although you have no skin to touch
Limbs twitching, oozing blood and foul secretions
Eyes all puffed-up slits of white
Tatters of underwear
Your only clothing now
Yet with no thought of shame
Ah! How fresh and lovely you all were
A flash of time ago
When you were school girls, a flash ago
Who could believe it now?
Out from the murky, quivering flames
Of burning, festering Hiroshima
You step, unrecognizable
even to yourselves
You leap and crawl, one by one
Onto this grassy plot
Wisps of hair on bronze bald heads
Into the dust of agony
Why have you had to suffer this?
Why this, the cruelest of inflictions?
Was there some purpose?
You look so monstrous, but could not know
How far removed you are now from mankind
You think:
Perhaps you think
Of mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters
Could even they know you now?
Of sleeping and waking, of breakfast and home
Where the flowers in the hedge scattered in a flash
And even the ashes now have gone
Thinking, thinking, you are thinking
Trapped with friends
who ceased to move, one by one
Thinking when once you were a daughter
A daughter of humanity

- Toge Sankichi

Toge Sankichi, born in Japan in 1917, started writing poems at the age of eighteen. He was twenty-eight when the A-bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. He died at age thirty-six, of leukemia resulting from the A-bomb. He became
the leading Hiroshima poet in Japan due to his first hand experience of the bomb, and his realistic insight gained from the experience. He had a passion for peace.

Additional information about the bombs, including interviews with survivors, is available
here. I said a prayer after spending some time at that site.


Don't Feed The Pixies said...

I started this post thinking about how Paul McCartney reacted to the Liverpool home they renovated to mark where he grew up by saying that his family didn't have half the things on display as they had so little money - then the mood changed.

I loved how you took the line from Truman thinking about all those tortured presidents still walking the halls condemned by their actions and led it to the victims of those actions. The poem was so vivid and touching.

An odd note to finish on - but did you know the bomb they dropped on Hiroshima was codenamed "little boy"? The pilot is recorded to have said "I have become the bringer of death" as he pushed the button (a quote from the cockpit is sampled on the remix of the OMD song "Enola Gay" which is about the incident) - you have to wonder what nightmares plagued him...

Darlene said...

This is an excellent post about a man who was hated in his time, but loved now. History has a way of righting some wrongs.

How many times have you heard, "Give 'em hell Harry"?

Naomi said...

Of the many important and moving posts you have offered us, this one rises to the top. I am impressed by the way you have woven together today's issues (Then there's Van Buren who inherited a terrible mess from his predecessor as did poor old James Madison) with our country's history.

Then you remind us of America's unclean hands in dropping the bombs on Japan. The voices you chose are thunderous--theirs and ours.

Carlos Lorenzo said...

I first thought the stately mansion was pretty and then I sat and listened to what Truman said. That was pretty interesting. I thought, man, I wouldn't like to be in his shoes. After the previous introductory stats by that off voice, you couldn't think of any justification for this act. Then I thought, let's hear what Lydia has to say about it and then I read this touching poem, so sad, so terrible, so unfair and cruel. If you have to pay for your sins somewhere else, Truman must have been sentenced for eons.

Buddha said...

I love coming to your blog.
As an emigrant there is so much I don't know about American history. So every time I read your posts I get a little richer.
Thank you!

Lydia said...

Your comments were so interesting as a follow-up to the post. Thanks so much. If you get any free time to do so, click on the last link where there's more info on what you were referring to.

Thanks for being here. Come to think of it, I've heard "Give 'em hell Harry" many times. I think the first was actually from my step-father, although I don't remember what he was referring to!

Well, after your high compliment I considered leaving the Wednesday post up for one more day, but I had this other one as sort of an addendum to post afterward. I'm thrilled with your comments.

Thanks for listening to the podcast along with me and others. It sure is an insight into history that the internet affords us. For some the voice was familiar from their own lifetime. For others of us the voice preceded our time here. As to the poet, I think his voice rings clear and true through his words to this day...

You're so kind to tell me that! Now I must admit something. Today I scanned through pages and pages at your blog hoping that my eyes would find a post concerning your birth country or your emigration. I apologize for not finding it, and I still hope to have the answer soon.



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