Oakwood Country Club


When Truman was courting Bess Wallace, he would often have gone north on Grandview Road to get to Dodson (at about 85th Street and Prospect Avenue) to catch the interurban trolley into Kansas City, where he caught another trolley to Independence. He probably rode by the construction site of the Oakwood Country Club in horse and buggy several times in 1912, and after the club was finished, he probably looked over at it and wondered what went on inside.

Many years later, an old man now rather than a young one and a former President of the United States, Truman sometimes came to the club for dinner and a card game with friends such as Eddie Jacobson, A. J. Granoff, and Ernie Peiser. (Author's interview with Kenneth Krakauer, 1999.) Truman liked to tell stories at these events about how Eddie Jacobson and his other Jewish friends in Kansas City kept his campaign train moving in 1948 by giving money at crucial times. (Tracy Thomas and Walt Bodine, Right Here in River City, 1976.) Eddie Jacobson invited television journalist Randall Jessee to one of the gatherings with President Truman at Oakwood Country Club in about 1954. Louis McGee, Emmett Scanlon and some others made up the party. When Jessee found out that dinner was going to stretch out into a late night poker game, he worried that he would miss a telecast. When Truman found out what was on his mind, he told Jessee, "Oh, don't worry about that. You're doing the right thing, playing poker with me. Whenever you're in doubt, just tell them to go to hell and do what you think's right. That's the way I settle these things…. You can play poker with me if you want to." Jessee remembered that Truman's game was not too strong that night. "…He stayed in every pot when he should have gotten out of a few. My theory is that the election of 1948 ruined him. He thinks he can draw out on anything after that and so he stays in the pot when he should back off a little bit once in a while."

Truman had a special weapon, though, which he used to improve the odds. It was a game called "Vinson." The game puzzled Jessee and everyone else. "It was Justice Vinson [Fred M. Vinson, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court from 1946 to 1953] who started this, and it's low ball, high ball, I never did understand. [Truman] was pretty good at that, because nobody else understood what we were doing. So everytime we played Vinson, he would win…. It was dealer's choice…. So, Mr. Truman, about every time he was dealer, he'd say, 'Well, we're going to play Vinson now.'" (Mr. and Mrs. Randall S. Jessee oral history interview, Truman Library, 1964.)

Oakwood Country Club is located at 9800 Grandview Road, aout 12 miles south and east of downtown Kansas City.