The true Truman
Frank Cotolo
You think a President Obama is going to be a different kind of President? Harry Truman was the definitive different kind of President.
After his presidency Harry's uniqueness shone. He retired from office in 1952 and all he and his wife Bess lived on was a U.S. Army pension of $600 a year. The Trumans lived so lean that Harry had to name his hunting rifle after his wife because he could not afford another name.
Members of Congress under the Eisenhower administration were told that Harry was paying for stamps and personally licking them. So, Congress sent over a government-employee to lick the Trumans' stamps and envelopes. Eventually, Congress gave Harry a pension of $25,000 per year, to be paid until another Democrat was President or at the time Harry's death, or until the time of the murder of a President who was a Democrat, whichever came first.
After President Eisenhower was inaugurated, Harry and Bess drove home to Missouri by themselves. There was no Secret Service agents following them. When they forgot to fill the gas tank they had to hitch rides for a thousand miles. Most people were happy to help the ex-President and his wife with rides. Except for Japanese drivers.
Harry was offered corporate positions at large salaries but he declined. One declination went like this: "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 you don't have enough money in your corporation to hire every one of them. Even if you did, then who would collect the trash?"
When the Trumans got to their house, a modest home bequeathed to Bess by her mother, Harry immediately inquired about getting into his mother's will. Bess, meanwhile, inquired about getting into her father's will. But her father's will was weak and he died penniless, having spent his last few dollars on a lawyer who was writing Harry's mother's will. But when Harry's mother died and left him a million dollars, he gave it all to a local charity for lost children, none of who were ever found.
In 1971, Harry turned 87. Congress was going to award him the Medal of Honor but 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. And let's not bring up that big bomb again, all right?"
In his autobiography, which he published himself by handwriting each copy, Harry wrote: "My choices in early life were either to be a piano player in a whore house or a politician. And to tell you the truth, there's hardly a difference, exceptin' I ain't never met a whore could play the piano worth a plug nickel."
Frank Cotolo can be found hosting the talk and interview programme Cotolo Chronicles.
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