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Mildred Lee Dryden (Mrs. William J.) Oral History Interview

Oral History Interview with
Mildred Lee Dryden (Mrs. William J.)

Participant in Harry S. Truman's first campaign for the Senate, 1934, and Senator Truman's personal secretary, 1935-45.

Washington, D.C.
September 26, 1963
by James R. Fuchs

[Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed]


Notice
This is a transcript of a tape-recorded interview conducted for the Harry S. Truman Library. A draft of this transcript was edited by the interviewee but only minor emendations were made; therefore, the reader should remember that this is essentially a transcript of the spoken, rather than the written word.

Numbers appearing in square brackets (ex. [45]) within the transcript indicate the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the oral history interview.

RESTRICTIONS
This oral history transcript may be read, quoted from, cited, and reproduced for purposes of research. It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.

Opened May, 1964
Harry S. Truman Library
Independence, Missouri

[Top of the Page | Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed]



Oral History Interview with
Mildred Lee Dryden (Mrs. William J.)

Washington, D.C.
September 26, 1963
by James R. Fuchs

 

[1]

MR. FUCHS: Mrs. Dryden, when did you first become acquainted with Harry S. Truman?

MRS. DRYDEN: I wouldn't be able to tell you that because I've known him, I suppose, ever since I can remember; I am from Independence.

FUCHS: You knew him long before he came into politics, or became county judge?

DRYDEN: I knew him when he was first county judge. I knew him through my father.

FUCHS: I see.

DRYDEN: My father was in politics and that is the way I happened to know him.

FUCHS: Was your father a lawyer?

 

[2]

DRYDEN: No, no. He was just interested in politics. He didn't even hold a political job of any kind. As a matter of fact, he was leader of one of the wards in Independence -- Democratic ward.

FUCHS: Did he belong to the Pendergast organization?

DRYDEN: Yes.

FUCHS: He was of the "Goat" faction?

DRYDEN: Yes, very much so.

FUCHS: When did you become associated with Mr. Truman?

DRYDEN: When did he file for the Senate -- it would be in 1934.

FUCHS: Yes.

DRYDEN: I went to work for him just the day or the day after he filed for the Senate, and I think that was in the spring, some time in May. I thought it was going to last about six weeks and I was just going to be in the campaign. As a matter fact, I'd never been in a campaign; I didn't know what in the world I was supposed to do. When I started out I was the only one he had at first and we had headquarters across the street from the courthouse in a

 

[3]

little pace called Puckett's Vegetable Stand and I was in there by myself several weeks. Then they opened up headquarters in Kansas City, at 12th and Oak. Then, of course, we had a lot of other people there.

FUCHS: Who were some of them?

DRYDEN: That is where I met Fred Canfil and, well, to tell you the truth, I don't remember any of the other names. But, of course, I wasn't associated with them after the campaign and after he won the nomination. I didn't see those people any more. They were just people from Kansas City who worked in the headquarters. I think most of them were volunteers but we had a few paid employees. But, my association with Fred Canfil went on from that time -- I knew him up until the time he died. But the other people I just don't remember.

FUCHS: There have been several accounts which stated that you worked as a secretary for Mr. Truman as county judge.

DRYDEN: That is wrong, because I didn't. He was county judge when he filed for the Senate, of course, and had been for a number of years. After he won the nomination, there was an interim. The primary was in August and then I

 

[4]

worked in the general election until November. At that time I went to work for the county auditor. It was just sort of a fill-in job for me. That is when I knew I was coming to Washington, so I worked for the county auditor, Fred Mayer, up until the first of January -- I came up here the third of January. I was the first one up here and I think the President came the next day. I came on the train and I don't remember how Mr. and Mrs. Truman traveled -- maybe they drove. We had our office at 248 Senate Office Building. It was a small office, but we were quite fortunate. Another senator, I believe he was a Republican, had been defeated and we were able to get his suite of rooms down the hall -- Room 240.

FUCHS: Mr. Messall had actually been employed prior to January?

DRYDEN: No, not for Mr. Truman. He was with Congressman Lee, of the 7th District, prior to that time.

FUCHS: I thought perhaps that the account was straight that Mr. Truman had made a verbal agreement.

DRYDEN: Perhaps.

 

[5]

FUCHS: He did have a verbal agreement prior to January 3rd when you came in...

DRYDEN: Just as soon as he was elected he immediately started looking for a secretary, but Mr. Messall did not actually go on the payroll until January; none of us did.

FUCHS: Then it's not true that you had previously worked for Mr. Truman as his secretary. My understanding of these accounts was that through the years you had been a secretary to him as a county judge; I just want to clarify the record on this.

DRYDEN: No, that is wrong because I wasn't connected with him at all until he filed for the Senate in May, '34.

FUCHS: Could you give me a small autobiographical sketch of yourself, your background, where you were born and worked before you came into Mr. Truman's employ?

DRYDEN: I wasn't working when I went to work for him. I had worked before at the Pantages Theatre in Kansas City -- I've only had three jobs.

FUCHS: You were born in Independence?

 

[6]

DRYDEN: Yes. I worked down on film row for a short time for Educational Films and then I went with the theatre, and I was with them until they closed the theatre.

FUCHS: Did you have secretarial training in Kansas City?

DRYDEN: Yes, just about two years, I guess, before I went to work for him.

FUCHS: You went to one of the business colleges in Kansas City?

DRYDEN: Yes. The Dickinson Secretarial School.

FUCHS: Did you ever hear him speak of going to a business college?

DRYDEN: No. I don't know that he did; he might have, but I wouldn't know about that. He went to law school.

FUCHS: Yes. Did he ever talk about his experiences there?

DRYDEN: No. I don't remember that he ever talked about it at all. There wouldn't be any occasion. As a matter of fact, I think he sort of planned when he came to Washington to continue his study of law, but he was so busy he didn’t have time for it.

 

[7]

FUCHS: He did mention that?

DRYDEN: I don't remember that he ever mentioned it to me personally, but it was sort of talked about that he -- I think, perhaps, I even read it in the paper or something. That's about all I remember about it.

FUCHS: Your maiden name was Latimer, wasn't it?

DRYDEN: Yes.

FUCHS: Are you related to "Honey" Latimer?

DRYDEN: Yes, I'm about a third cousin.

FUCHS: I see. I know that Mr. Truman has bought motor cars from Honey when he was in the Dodge Motor Car business.

DRYDEN: He used to buy them from my cousin before that -- my first cousin, Charles Haines, who has the Haines-Hodges agency for the Buick now. At that time it was Chrysler.

FUCHS: Then he switched. Well, he did have Chryslers, of course, and he did buy some Dodges from Honey. But he was just a third cousin of yours.

DRYDEN: Just a third cousin. I only have one first cousin and that is Charles Haines.

 

[8]

FUCHS: I see. This first headquarters in Kansas City, you say that was across from a vegetable stand?

DRYDEN: No, that is wrong; it was in Independence.

FUCHS: In Independence, excuse me.

DRYDEN: It had been Puckett’s Vegetable Stand. It was all open in front, no doors or else they were wide doors and they would have them open so the whole front of the store was completely exposed. Of course, that was in the summer. The first week I was there I didn't see Mr. Truman. He was out making speeches and I sort of dreaded having him come in because I didn't know what all the work was going to entail and I didn't have many visitors -- some of the men from the courthouse would come over, because we'd just started; we were not in operation at all. I just spent most of the days waiting for someone to come in. I was all alone. That lasted two or three weeks, I guess and then, of course, they were organized, and knew what they were going to do so they opened headquarters in Kansas City. We had several floors there. There was a women's division, entirely separate from ours. It was the Democratic Women's organization in Kansas City

 

[9]

and they had their own floor. Our headquarters were actually where Mr. Truman was. The Women's Division didn't have anything to do with our work. During that time, I actually worked for Fred Canfil because Mr. Truman would be out of town all the time. He would come back and forth but I took dictation from Fred Canfil most of the time.

FUCHS: What was Canfil's title?

DRYDEN: I suppose he didn't have any title. I can't think what it would be...

FUCHS: Was he considered the campaign manager?

DRYDEN: He was the campaign manager at the headquarters.

FUCHS: What type of an individual was he? What were your first impressions of Fred Canfil?

DRYDEN: He was a character all by himself. It would be hard to describe him. He was very loud and blustery and most people when they first met him would be a little afraid of him. But that was just all a front; he wasn't that way at all after you knew him. I was always very fond of Mr. Canfil, very fond. It's too bad he is gone, because

 

[10]

he could tell you a lot of things. I have had the impression from reading different things (I hope I'm not being too outspoken about this), a lot of people who claimed to know Mr. Truman quite well didn't know him nearly as well as they said they did. Now that is really -- I guess I should say that off the record, but I guess that happens with every person in public life, especially a President or someone important. All of a sudden people know him real well, however, Mr. Canfil did know him well.

FUCHS: Yes. Well, that's a very interesting observation. I wish you could say such things on the record and then if you want to you can put them off the record for any period of time, but I think this has a certain amount of importance.

DRYDEN: That has always amazed me. It seemed to me right after he was President people were just climbing all over each other to get an interview to tell what they knew about him, and actually the exaggerated a great deal.

FUCHS: Who were some of these that you recall?

DRYDEN: Oh, my goodness, I'm not going to tell you. I'm not

 

[11]

going to tell you that.

FUCHS: Well, that would be interesting. Someday the historians...

DRYDEN: I'd make a lot of enemies if I told that.

FUCHS: But that wouldn't necessarily have to be known. You could close that until fifty years after you're dead, if you wish. In other words, if you know certain people that say they knew Fred Canfil and they maybe did harm to Fred Canfil's reputation, why, you'd be doing him a favor by someday opening this and saying that this individual didn't really know Fred Canfil.

DRYDEN: At that particular time, I will say this, Mr. Canfil suddenly came on the scene in 1934, but he had known Mr. Truman a good many years before that. I think it started probably when they were in the war together, the First World War.

FUCHS: Was he in Mr. Truman's battery?

DRYDEN: I think not; no, he wasn't, because most of the men in the battery didn't know him. When we opened our headquarters all of a sudden Mr. Canfil just sort of appeared

 

[12]

on the scene. People used to say little mean things about him. It was just because they were jealous of him; they wanted to be in his spot because he did a magnificent job for Mr. Truman.

FUCHS: Was he sometimes referred to as "Major" Canfil?

DRYDEN: Yes, he was a Major.

FUCHS: Was he in the Reserve Corps?

DRYDEN: I think he was, yes.

FUCHS: Did you ever see him in uniform?

DRYDEN: Did I ever see him in uniform? No. I don't remember that I ever saw him in uniform.

FUCHS: I just wondered if he had participated in the Reserves with Mr. Truman.

DRYDEN: Well now, he might have. That part I wouldn't be able to tell you. I don't know.

FUCHS: Any particular anecdotes that you remember about Mr. Canfil and Mr. Truman in the campaign there that stand out in your memory, that would be of interest or add a little

 

[13]

footnote to history?

DRYDEN: I remember one thing, it has nothing to do with Mr. Truman, but Mr. Canfil would be so busy, and he'd have all the mail to dictate, and I'd be at the courthouse and he'd come out there -- this is the Independence courthouse; we have two courthouses, you know, which is quite unusual in the County Seat. He would come out to Independence, and on the way back to Kansas City he'd dictate to me. I remember that quite well; it made me feel right important.

FUCHS: Why would you have been out to the courthouse in Independence?

DRYDEN: Now you know, that is a funny thing; I cannot remember why I was out there.

FUCHS: This was during the campaign?

DRYDEN: This must have been after the primary that I did that. I don't mean that I did it every day, but occasionally we'd be out there and on the way back to town -- it was sort of like a movie, you know, like these impossible things you see in the movie where the girl or woman is taking dictation under impossible circumstances, well, that's the way it was.

 

[14]

FUCHS: You took shorthand and you'd do it in the car while you were driving back?

DRYDEN: Just a few times. But that sort of stayed in my memory.

FUCHS: Do you recall Fred Canfil doing a lot of driving for Mr. Truman?

DRYDEN: Yes, he used to drive quite a bit for him, back and forth.

FUCHS: Do you recall him taking Mr. Truman around to various towns in the campaign? Or who did Mr. Truman's driving, perhaps I should put it that way? Did he drive himself, or...

DRYDEN: I don't know about that. Mr. Canfil used to do quite a bit of it but I think that would be, perhaps, over the weekend, when we didn't have our office open, say maybe they would go out for Saturday evening or something. But he did a lot of driving, yes. I remember that because he used to drive so fast.

FUCHS: What about Mr. Truman's driving?

DRYDEN: He used to drive pretty fast, too. He made mighty

 

[15]

good time from here to Independence when he would have to go back, but he was a good driver, not reckless I mean, but he drove fast.

FUCHS: How did Mr. Canfil happen to come to Washington to be an investigator for the Truman Committee?

DRYDEN: I don't know. I guess Mr. Truman just wanted him, so he came. That is all I know.

FUCHS: Do you recall who the woman was who was principal leader of the woman's division of campaign headquarters there?

DRYDEN: Yes, I do. It was Mrs. William M. Boyle, Sr. She lives right here in Washington now. If you'll remember, Mr. Boyle, William M. Boyle, Jr., was chairman of the Democratic National Committee. He has passed away but she lives here on Connecticut Avenue. She's quite old now, but she was head of the Women's Division, and that's about all I know about that because I didn't know anything about their work.

FUCHS: You don't know if she'd been a particularly close friend of Mr. Truman's?

DRYDEN: Well, in a political way, I guess she was.

 

[16]

FUCHS: Mainly it was that she was interested in Democratic politics?

DRYDEN: That's true.

FUCHS: Do you recall a William P. Harvey?

DRYDEN: William P. Harvey...now what did he do?

FUCHS: Well, it's my understanding that he was publicity manager for Mr. Truman in that campaign.

DRYDEN: Is he still living?

FUCHS: That I can't tell you.

DRYDEN: Because there was a man that was in publicity but the name Harvey doesn't mean a thing to me. You see, that was back in '34 and that is quite a long time ago. My main concern was to see that he was elected. The name Harvey does sound familiar though. I know there was a man that used to work in the office. He was sort of heavy set like Mr. Canfil, but he's passed away, if that's the one.

FUCHS: Do you think he was writing speeches, or who did write Mr. Truman's speeches in that campaign for the nomination?

 

[17]

DRYDEN: He wrote a lot of speeches himself. All through the years he wrote his own speeches -- most of them, until he formed the Truman committee and then when it became quite burdensome, you can understand that, he wouldn't have time to; oh, naturally, he edited all of them, but he wouldn't have time to sit down and write a speech after he got into the committee. Of course, that was quite a long time after that. I would say that he wrote a lot of his own speeches and other than that I don't know who participated in them.

FUCHS: Do you think someone else did, on occasion, help him write speeches in that campaign?

DRYDEN: Any campaign like that is such a whirlwind, and especially after the primary, because before that you're more or less on your own, but once one wins the primary and one is working to be actually elected, one wouldn't have too much time to devote to writing speeches. One wouldn't have enough time left to get out and make them. So at that time he had help, but I don't recall who they were. I just don't.

FUCHS: Do you remember that he did more campaigning for the

 

[18]

primary nomination than he did for the actual election against the incumbent Republican?

DRYDEN: No, I wouldn't say that he did more. It was just about the same.

FUCHS: Did you attend any of the speeches that he gave?

DRYDEN: No. I was working in the headquarters; I didn't have much time to hear any speech.

FUCHS: Did you observe anything about Mr. Truman's cousin, Ralph Truman, during that campaign?

DRYDEN: Yes, I can tell you about that.

FUCHS: We'd be very happy to have you do so.

DRYDEN: I was amused. I recently read an article about him in our [Independence] Examiner. We take the Examiner. The other day, it seems that they had some sort of a ceremony out there. Well, I can remember a time when they didn't even speak. You know he was against Mr. Truman, Ralph Truman was, very much so. Mr. Truman was quite bitter about that at that time. Naturally he would be, his first cousin against him. But I think that was all forgotten in after

 

[19]

years.

FUCHS: Could you elaborate on that to any extent, in that campaign, Mr. Ralph Truman's participation?

DRYDEN: He didn't participate in ours at all, he was against him.

FUCHS: Yes, I understand that; I understand that he managed "Tuck" Milligan.

DRYDEN: Yes, he did, so you see there was quite a breach there.

FUCHS: Did Mr. Truman have some kind words to say for him?

DRYDEN: No, he didn't; he didn't have any. As a matter of fact, I don't know, maybe I shouldn't tell this. After all the poor man is dead now, but Mr. Truman wrote a letter after he won the election -- quite a bitter letter. I know because I took it. I don't even know why I should remember this -- I didn't know there would ever be occasion to remember it -- and said he never wanted to see him again, or words to that effect. It was quite a letter just cutting him out of his life at that time, but you couldn't blame him.

 

[20]

FUCHS: No.

DRYDEN: At the same time, this makes me think about that, Mr. Canfil was accused of having a slush fund that he carried around in a little black bag. Well, we had a lot of fun out of that because he didn't have anything in that bag, but it was just one of those things that mushroomed and built up. You know, I think the Star -- you could probably get this out of the Star, or some of the newspapers, about Fred Canfil and his little black bag and there wasn't a word of truth in it, there really wasn't.

FUCHS: If there wasn't money in it, what did he carry in it?

DRYDEN: I don't know. He might have had a little money; I mean, everybody has campaign money, but he certainly didn't have any slush fund; we didn't have very much money.

FUCHS: Do you recall the charges that Ralph Truman made in regard to a slush fund?

DRYDEN: No, only just what I've just now told you. If I had read it in the paper I could recall at the particular time and the reaction that Truman had to it, because it was quite a dreadful accusation when it wasn't true. And

 

[21]

as I've said, we needed money. I remember one thing, I just don't recall his name at all, but he was one of the paid employees. If you'll remember, that was during the depression, and a lot of people that we had up there were desperate for money and so they were paid, not very much, but paid employees -- they had to be paid to live, and this particular boy ran out of gas and he didn't have enough money to pay for it until he got some more by coming back to the office. So, as I remember, he lived out south someplace, and it was down hill most of the way to where he lived and he used to try to coast as far as he could in order to save his gas because he was making such a small salary. So you can see, we didn't have any slush fund, we couldn't possibly have had. Many times we ran out of stamps, and we had a hard time getting stamps. It was really -- we had financial worries.

FUCHS: What was the source of most of your funds and who did most of the fund raising, as you remember?

DRYDEN: I don't remember who did it. Just various ones in the various Democratic clubs, men that were interested in politics. I do remember how it started out, however. We'll have to go back to Independence now -- the headquarters

 

[22]

there, when it first started out.

The men around the courthouse -- we always called them the "boys around the courthouse" -- of course, that was just a term, got up a fund, for one thing, to pay me; I was the only one they paid at the time. They didn't have any payroll, but they would be the ones who would pay me. A man by the name of Cleveland was the one that paid me.

FUCHS: Do you recall his first name?

DRYDEN: I think his name was Bill; I don't know whether he's still alive. At that time he was custodian of, I think he was custodian of the courthouse in Independence.

FUCHS: Who were some of the others who participated in the initial fund raising there?

DRYDEN: Edgar Hinde was one...do you have any of the names of the men in Independence then, I can tell you. If I could just see the list of names from Independence. Whatever it was it was just a small campaign fund.

FUCHS: And that started it off.

DRYDEN: That started it off. Then when we went to Kansas City,

 

[23]

naturally, all the Democratic clubs over there, I assume, perhaps donated, or at least were instrumental in getting more money, but we didn't have any money to start out with. The vegetable stand, I keep calling it that, was donated, or at least the men around the courthouse arranged for that. They probably paid some rent. Of course, we didn't have it very long. I wish I could think of more people. Edger Hinde is one of Mr. Truman's closest friends and incidentally was one of my father's closest friends.

FUCHS: What about Rufus Burrus?

DRYDEN: No. I should say not. I don't remember Rufus Burrus doing anything about the first campaign, not a thing. Now he knew Mr. Truman. He was active in the Reserves, I think, but he didn't have anything to do with any fund raising that 'I know of. I don't remember seeing him. I've always known Rufus too.

FUCHS: What about Polly Compton?

DRYDEN: Yes, Polly Compton was active.

FUCHS: Dexter Perry.

 

[24]

DRYDEN: Oh. Dexter Perry. Yes, Dexter Perry was very instrumental in it, and all those boys that were in what they call -- the poker...

FUCHS: The Harpie Club?

DRYDEN: The Harpie Club, yes. All of those would be the ones that could be named as assisting in the first campaign.

FUCHS: Do you remember any of the other members of the Harpie Club or do you have any other knowledge of the Harpie Club that might be of interest?

DRYDEN: No. I don't.

FUCHS: Where were they meeting at that time?

DRYDEN: It was on the south side of the square upstairs. My father used to belong to it, but it wasn't called the Harpie Club then. This was after my father passed away -- my father passed away in '28, so it was after that. I wish I could remember some of those men. I'd like to give them credit for it, because quite frankly so many people are taking credit who do not deserve it.

FUCHS: Just precisely where was this vegetable stand in relation to present day buildings, do you know?

 

[25]

DRYDEN: Well, I would say it's about three doors from the -- let's see, it would be the southeast corner of the courthouse. The east side is Main Street and right on the corner, there was a little Jewish store -- I can't remember the name of it now. And about two doors up, on what would be Lexington Street, and it was just right across the street from the courthouse on the south side of the square. As I've said, I was in the headquarters by myself, most of the time, only all the boys from the courthouse came over occasionally, but I used to sit there and look out and wonder when Mr. Truman was coming in. As I said, I was sort of frightened, because I didn't know just what we were going to do -- I had never worked in a campaign before. Now you understand this is before anything started, the first week; but he was out of town making speeches all week and then when he came in he called me over to the courthouse where he had his office, you know as judge. So from then on, I was all right; I sort of got my bearings, period. It is funny how I can remember the first week I worked for him and I can't remember anything in between for the next eleven years.

 

[26]

FUCHS: Well, what were your specific duties when you went to work in Washington in Senator Truman's office?

DRYDEN: I was his private secretary.

FUCHS: Did you just take dictation and type letters?

DRYDEN: I took dictation and I made all of his appointments; I answered the phone, let's see, what else did I do, oh, I distributed the mail and selected what I thought he should see, and things like that.

FUCHS: Many of the letters you handled yourself?

DRYDEN: Yes, matters about legislation you write one letter. We would receive hundreds of form letters that have all been just taken out of the telephone book, you can send the same letter to them...I mean, there's only one way to say something about a piece of legislation, you're either for or against it.

FUCHS: He would normally sign all those?

DRYDEN: Oh, yes, he signed practically everything. Yes, he saw all the mail.

FUCHS: Did your duties change much over the years?

 

[27]

DRYDEN: They didn't change at all that I can remember. No, they didn't change.

FUCHS: You didn't do the filing?

DRYDEN: No, well, now I'll take that back. When we first started out, each one of us did our own filing. We had another woman in there by the name of Jane Taylor, just the first year; she left to go back home to get married.

FUCHS: Where was she from?

DRYDEN: She was from Kansas City, but she was employed after he was elected; her father got her in.

FUCHS: Who was he?

DRYDEN: James Taylor. I don't know if he's still alive or not.

FUCHS: Did he have particular significance to Mr. Truman or...

DRYDEN: I don't know, I never heard of him until he started coming up to the headquarters and just talking to us and the first thing I knew he had his daughter in Washington.

FUCHS: Her principal duties were?

DRYDEN: Well, she was -- I guess you'd call her -- I hate to call

 

[28]

anyone a stenographer -- we were all secretaries, but I was Mr. Truman's personal secretary.

FUCHS: Jane Taylor is still living?

DRYDEN: Yes, but I don't know where and I don't even remember her married name. I couldn't tell you about that.

FUCHS: She wouldn't be a particularly good source of information?

DRYDEN: No, she was just there a year.

FUCHS: Could you tell me more about Victor Messall?

DRYDEN: Well, he was Mr. Truman's secretary for the first six years.

FUCHS: You were his personal secretary and Victor's title corresponded with what contemporary title?

DRYDEN: Well, at the moment you would call him -- if we were on the Hill now -- I believe he would be called "administrative assistant." You see, they have a different set-up from what we used to have. He answered a lot of the mail, post office matters, and so on.

FUCHS: Did he organize the office -- systematize the work?

 

[29]

DRYDEN: Yes, I would say he did, because he had had that experience over in Congressman Lee's office.

FUCHS: What is your opinion of Victor Messall? Was he a good administrative assistant, to use the new term?

DRYDEN: Yes, I think he was quite good.

FUCHS: What principally occupied his day as you remember it?

DRYDEN: Oh, answering the mail...just the regular office work that we have in any Congressional office. We didn't have any speeches to write. I understand now that the administrative assistants write the speeches and he didn't; of course, Mr. Truman didn't make as many speeches in those days as he did later on, or not as many as the men up on the Hill do now because they do a great deal of traveling around and making speeches. Mr. Truman would make speeches occasionally, but it isn't anything like the way -- as a matter of fact, I don't know how they get away from their work on the Hill the way they do, because Mr. Truman certainly didn't. He was too busy. When he was Grand Master of the Masons, that took a lot of his time; I don't mean away from his Senatorial work, it didn't do that, but he made speeches at that time, just for

 

[30]

that one period; I think it was a year, or something like that. But he wrote all those speeches.

FUCHS: You don't recall, am I correct, Mr. Messall writing any speeches, working on any speeches?

DRYDEN: Well, I would hesitate to say, because I just don't remember that part. Now he might have helped, yes. But as I've said, there just wasn't that kind of work during those days that Mr. Truman had later, when he became chairman of the committee. Now, of course, when he went on the committee, the staff, for instance, Hugh Fulton, and a man by the name of Herbert Maletz and Bill Boyle and, let's see, who else...Rudolph Halley, wrote the speeches. I mean they participated; I won't say they wrote they wrote the speeches. They participated with Mr. Truman. But at that time, of course, there was a lot more speech-making than there was in the first term.

FUCHS: You would say that Mr. Truman was around his office a great part of the day, generally...

DRYDEN: No, he would be in committee meetings. Oh, he was meticulous about going to committee meetings. He would come in early in the morning and I was supposed to come in

 

[31]

before the rest of them did to take his dictation. But he was there much earlier than I was.

FUCHS: What time did you start?

DRYDEN: About 8:30. And then you see, we would be there without any interruption. That would be the time that he did most of his dictating to me. And then, of course, the committee meetings always start at 10, and in the meantime, he would have appointments, he would have people to see; that was my duty, to see that people who called to make an appointment didn't all crowd up together. You cannot tell a man to come in at 10 o'clock and then maybe have ten others coming in at the same time -- the appointments had to be staggered. The committee meetings were at 10 and 10:30 a. m. and he always attended his committee meetings.

FUCHS: Did you keep an appointment calendar of a certain type?

DRYDEN: I kept his appointments on a memo pad. Just the names and time of appointment;

FUCHS: You don't think there would be anything existing of his appointments over the years that you worked for him?

 

[32]

DRYDEN: No, there wouldn't be anything like that.

FUCHS: How did you find Mr. Truman as a boss?

DRYDEN: He was the best man I ever worked for. I've never been able to reconcile the man I worked for and the man I read about in the paper. For instance, his salty language and losing his temper, and so on. Never in all the years that I worked for him did I ever see him lose his temper. He was always soft-spoken and very considerate to his office staff. So. I don't know. If he ever used any profanity -- you read about it all the time -- it was either something that developed later or he might have used it when he was talking to men, you know. Most men are prone to that -- just like slang with them; but never in front of any of us did he ever use any profanity, and I just don't quite like to hear people say "Oh, he certainly does use a lot of profanity."

FUCHS: Were you acquainted with James Aylward?

DRYDEN: Oh, yes, he was National Committeeman at that time.

FUCHS: Was he in evidence around Mr. Truman's office to any extent, or is there anything you recall in connection with

 

[33]

Mr. Aylward?

DRYDEN: When Mr. Aylward had business with the Democratic National Committee in Washington he usually dropped by our office, too. He was quite influential, you know, back home, and they were quite good friends at that time. I suppose he's not in politics as much as he used to be. That I wouldn't know. But at the time, he was a very important man, at least I thought he was. I guess everybody else did because he was National Committeeman from Missouri.

FUCHS: Mr. Truman came in early and then he had you come in a little bit early to take dictation...

DRYDEN: Yes, that would be about the only time in the day that he had time, of course.

FUCHS: What time did you leave in the evenings?

DRYDEN: Well, I didn't have any regular hours. We'd leave around 5:30, 6:30 -- lots of nights we worked.

FUCHS: Did he usually stay after you left?

DRYDEN: Lots of times he was there -- if we left, say, around 5:30, many times he was there after we left.

 

[34]

FUCHS: How did he get to the office, do you recall?

DRYDEN: Well, he drove his car and then there would be times when he'd walk quite a distance and then take a bus. He liked to walk, you know, even in those days. He really liked to walk. He did a great deal of it, but he also drove his car.

FUCHS: He didn't, as you recall, normally ride down with Vic Messall?

DRYDEN: I don't remember.

FUCHS: The reason I asked is that one writer has said that was the case and I just wanted to establish whether you remembered that.

DRYDEN: No, I don't remember that part about it at all.

Oh, to go back to the way his day would start out, he would get down there early -- I suppose he was just about the only Senator, then, who would be there that early -- and he'd always read the Congressional Record. When I walked in he was either reading the Record or writing a letter to his mother and his sister. Now that was every day, practically. I remember one time, when I came in I said, "You make me feel ashamed," because he

 

[35]

wrote home so much and I'd probably be owing a letter home, you know

FUCHS: Did you see him reading other things around the office?

DRYDEN: Oh, yes, his mail and other material.

FUCHS: Did you see him read books there?

DRYDEN: What kind of books do you mean?

FUCHS: Well, I mean, history books, or did he do most of that at home?

DRYDEN: Well, I think he did a great deal of that at home, but he had that quiet hour, you might call it, before anyone came in, when he had time to concentrate and do things that he wanted to catch up on.

FUCHS: Do you have an recollections of his first days in office as a senator that stand out in your memory?

DRYDEN: The first days?

FUCHS: The first few days, when you first started in Washington?

DRYDEN: No. I wouldn't be able to put that in words because we were all so excited and busy getting the office in operation. I remember how nice he looked in his morning

 

[36]

suit.

FUCHS: You went to the swearing in?

DRYDEN: Oh, yes.

FUCHS: Who else was there?

DRYDEN: Oh, his family -- everybody in the office, and some friends.

FUCHS: Who else was in the office at that time?

DRYDEN: Well, just the ones that I named. Bud Faris was only there a year.

FUCHS: Who was Bud Faris?

DRYDEN: He was from Kansas City and his father was a good friend of Mr. Pendergast.

FUCHS: Was his father in politics in Kansas City?

DRYDEN: Yes, I would say he was right active. Jane Taylor, whom I've already mentioned, Vic Messall, and myself made up the office staff.

FUCHS: Was that the first year?

 

[37]

DRYDEN: The first year. Oh. I've forgotten one -- Catherine Bixler -- her name is Rohde now. She worked for Congressman Lee, with Vic. When you open an office, you don't know just how many people you need. So Catherine came in on a temporary basis because she'd had experience, but stayed on as a regular employee.

FUCHS: Immediately?

DRYDEN: Yes, within the next few days. She had had experience in Congressman Lee's office and naturally we were