A man of means by no means
January 13, 2010 11:16 AM Subscribe
posted by stupidsexyFlanders (56 comments total)
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One hot June morning in 1953, a retired couple from western Missouri packed their Chrysler New Yorker with 11 suitcases and started driving east. A few hours later, they stopped at a diner in Hannibal, Mo., and ordered fruit plates and iced tea.
“We thought we were getting by big as an unknown traveling couple until we went to the counter to pay the bill,” Harry Truman later wrote of that lunch. “Just as we arose from the table some county judges came in and the incog was off.”
And thus began an excellent adventure of a type that happened once and will never happen again: The Harry and Bess Truman Ex-Presidential Road Trip
The op-ed's author's book site
is worth a look for some interesting artifacts including the Truman itinerary
. There's some great color in a Kai Ryssdal interview (transcript
). The WSJ review of the book is here
, and somebody made a youtube travelogue
of the journey that includes before/after pics of some of Harry & Bess's stops.
: Perusing these links you may wonder why a former U.S. President was staying in motels, with the former First Lady logging their gas mileage from the shotgun seat. There was no pension for a former president at that time
, the lecture circuit didn't exist yet, and after leaving office Truman's only income was his Army pension -- $733.79 in today's dollars. He was offered corporation positions but turned them down for ethical reasons
. He took out a personal loan from a Washington bank shortly before losing his job, and he and his siblings sold their family farm shortly thereafter.
The Former Presidents Act of 1958
, which applied retroactively to all living ex-presidents at the time, was passed largely out of Federal sheepishness at Harry Truman's financial straits; it provided him annual payments of $177,402.68 in today's dollars. (The other living ex-president at that time, multimillionaire Herbert Hoover, didn't need the money but accepted it to avoid embarrassing Truman.)