Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Harry S Truman Little White House

Key West, FL

It doesn't look like a house from the outside.  Maybe that's because it was built in 1890 by the U.S. Navy to house the base commander and paymaster.   Yet inside with the aid of an engaging and well informed tour guide the house certainly felt like a Presidential retreat.

Truman spent 175 days in residence from 1946 to 1952 using it both as a retreat and functioning White House.  John F Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Colin Powell also either stayed in the home or used it for meetings.  And during World War I Thomas Edison lived there while conducting experiments and developing weapons for the Navy.

Don't miss the official website www.trumanlittlewhitehouse.com.  Among other things there's a list of 11 logs chronically Truman's visits to Key West.  I chose to read "Log of President Truman's Fifth Trip to Key West : Nov 7-21,1948.  Log No. 5. " It's a detailed view of exactly how he spent his time on this two week trip.  Here's a few highlights:

* The President lost his eyeglasses while swimming in heavy surf.  They were recovered later when he noticed them at the water's edge.

* Mrs Truman and Margaret left for Havana aboard the Williamsburg at 8:30 A.M.  The Ambassador and Mrs Butler first greeted them aboard the ship and then escorted them on a sightseeing tour of Havana.  The Trumans rested on the ship in the afternoon and returned to shore to an afternoon tea at the American Embassy.  At 11 P.M. the Williamsburg began the return trip to Key West.

* The fishing parties were often quite successful, catching barracuda and grouper.

* The president rarely watched the movies that were shown nightly in the living room.   However on the first night of his wife and daughter's stay he joined them to watch "Apartment for Peggy" starring Jeanne Crain.  He did often watch newsreels especially those reporting on his recent reelection.

* The morning of his wife and daughter's arrival the President shaved his vacation stubble.

There's a chart at the end of the tour showing the results of an historians' evaluation of Presidential leadership.  Fascinating to see that Truman's star has risen over time to now place him near the top at #5.

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