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Stanley R. Fike Oral History Interview

   

Oral History Interview with
Stanley R. Fike

Jackson County, Missouri journalist; friend of Harry S. Truman; Administrative Assistant to Senator Stuart Symington, 1952-76.
May 10, 1972
Jerry N. Hess

[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 It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.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 1979
Harry S. Truman Library
Independence, Missouri

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

 



Oral History Interview with
Stanley R. Fike

 

Washington, DC
May 10, 1972
Jerry N. Hess

[1]

HESS: All right, to begin this morning, Mr. Fike, would you tell me a little bit about yourself; where were you born, where were you educated and what are a few of the positions that you have held?

FIKE: I was born in Warrensburg, Missouri on June 7, 1913. My father was a missionary for the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. When I was born, he was at home but had been traveling in the West. Dad was born in 1883 in Missouri

[2]

near Joplin. His father, a miner, took the family to Cochise County, Arizona territory, in the early nineties. Dad went to Graceland College, Lamoni, Iowa, joined the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, met my mother at Graceland. They were married at her home, Tabor, Iowa, in 1908, then lived in Cochise County for four years, became a missionary and brought my mother and my older brother and sister back to Warrensburg in 1912. I was born there in 1913.

As a further background, when I was born my mother was getting $25 a month to maintain the home and take care of the two, then three, children. Six years later, when the sixth child was born, she was getting $110 a month, but the church was having a hard time and she was six months behind in getting the $110 a month. This background shows the comparative value of the dollar then and now, completely aside from the Harry S. Truman story, of course.

[3]

But my father left church appointment in about 1920 or '21, and the family moved to the Independence area in the summer of 1923. I went to the Bristol grade school, now in Independence but then and now a part of the Kansas City school system. I was graduated from the seventh grade at Bristol in June, 1926. There was no eighth grade in the Kansas City schools; and then went to East High School in Kansas City, and was graduated there in 1930. Went for a year, and part of another year to Junior College in Kansas City in '31.

When I was a senior in high school I was editor of the high school paper, the East High Echo, and became very much interested in newspaper work because of my work on the high school paper which was printed at the Blue Valley-Inter-City News, later the Inter-City Press, Inc., only a mile from our home at 1401 Hardy Avenue.

The manager of the plant was a man from Independence, by the name of Harry Falk. I spent

[4]

so much time at the newspaper taking the copy and checking proofs for our high school paper that in January, 1930, Harry Falk asked me if I would like to work for the paper. I was to do some writing for the paper, but principally as a printer's devil, sweeping floors, washing presses and so forth.

HESS: Do you recall the name of the principal of East High School at that time?

FIKE: Yes, the principal of East High School was Clifford H. Nowlin, a very fine gentleman whom I kept track of until the time of his death in the 1950's at the age of ninety-three or ninety-four. I have in my library at home a copy of a book which he wrote, My First Ninety Years, a wonderful gentleman.

But Harry Falk asked me in January if I would like to go to work for the printing plant as--writing as I say, and doing some proofreading and

[5]

that type of thing and also sweeping floors and washing presses. I told him I would, then asked how much would it pay.

And he said, "Well, you work after school and on Saturdays and it would pay four and a half dollars a week." Which was pretty good pay in 1930 for that kind of job. I probably would have gone to work for him for no pay at all, because I was that much interested in newspaper work. I started in January, 1930, and worked with that organization through successor organizations until January, 1953.

HESS: Where was their plant located?

FIKE: The plant was located in the Byam Building in Fairmount. The building was named for, and owned by, a local political leader by the name of Frank Leslie Byam; everybody called him Les Byam.

HESS: Is that building still standing?

[6]

FIKE: The building is still standing and our printing plant was located in the basement there at that time. Les Byam had a drugstore on the first floor and then there were doctor's offices upon the second floor; we were in the basement as I said.

Well, I started to work there and spent a lot of hours, I don't think I had any regular hours, just supposed to go there as soon as I got out of school and could get to work, then stayed as late in the evening as there was anything to do. The long hours were the reason that I later dropped out of Junior College. I enjoyed the newspaper work so much, I wasn't much interested in Junior College after I was graduated from high school in June 1930.

I continued at the Inter-City Press with added titles, responsibilities and partnership over the years until the 1st of January of 1953 when I came to Washington with Senator Symington.

[7]

The business went through bankruptcy in the summer of 1931 when I was out of a job for three weeks while the paper was being sold at auction. I was hired by the new owners. After that it started to expand slowly, then changed a great deal during those years, added additional papers and expanded greatly.

HESS: A lot of people were going bankrupt at that time weren't they?

FIKE: That's right. The paper and plant were sold at a Sheriff's sale, in 1931, for twenty-one hundred dollars as I recall, about one-fourth of what was owed.

But I first met Mr. Truman either in the spring of 1930, or the summer of 1930, when he came into the office of the newspaper. At that time our newspaper was the Blue Valley-Inter-City News and it covered the unincorporated area between Independence, Missouri and Kansas City, Missouri,

[7a]

with additional circulation in what was called the Blue Valley of Kansas City, the area along the Blue River there.

HESS: The Sheffield Steel area?

FIKE: Yes, around Sheffield Steel and northeast Kansas City.

HESS: What was the occasion for his visit to the newspaper office?

FIKE: Well, he and Harry Falk had been friends for a number of years and he often visited the Fairmount district. The first time I ever heard him speak, I'm sure, was at a meeting of the Kansas City East Suburbs Kiwanis Club. Later the name was changed to the Inter-City Kiwanis Club.

HESS: Was Fairmount included?

FIKE: Yes, Fairmount included. The Kiwanis Club then met on Wednesday noons at the various churches in the area. It still meets on Wednesday noon,

[8]

now at Jerry's Cafe in the Fairmount business district, about a mile west of the Truman Library.

HESS: About what year was that that you heard him speak?

FIKE: This would have been 1930.

HESS: In 1930?

FIKE: Yes, no later than the summer of 1930. The Kiwanis Club each year would invite the members of the County Court to come out, visit with the club, and Judge Truman would be the speaker.

HESS: This was, of course, at the time that Mr. Truman was Presiding Judge.

FIKE: That's right. Harry Truman would be the speaker and he would talk about the problems of the county at large and also what the County Court was doing as far as our area was concerned. This was unincorporated; therefore, the County Court would be the most important governing body, administrative

[9]

body for this area. The Inter-City district was an area with twenty-five to thirty-five thousand population without any city government at all. It was a part of the Kansas City school district, but adjoined Independence---between the two cities, hence Inter-City.

HESS: When did you first hear of Mr. Truman?

FIKE: Oh, I suppose I'd heard of him as a boy going to school, but I really didn't know him. I had not been active in politics at all, and hadn't paid much attention until I went to work for Inter-City News in January, 1930, at the age of 16.

HESS: And he was first elected to the County Court in 1922, served until ‘24, and then he lost an election as you know in '24...

FIKE: That's right. He was first elected as Eastern Judge in 1922, then was defeated for reelection in 1924.

[10]

HESS: ...and then came back in '26 with his election as Presiding Judge and served until '34 when he was elected to the Senate. He came to Washington in '35, and was elected in '34.

FIKE: That's right. He was reelected for his second term as Presiding Judge in November, 1930, the year that I went to work for the newspaper, and I'm sure that a part of his trip to talk to the Kiwanis Club that year was in connection with his reelection campaign, although this was sort of an annual affair. He came out there to talk each year, to make a report to this area. The area looked to the County Court for maintenance of its roads. As I recall Les Byam was a road overseer at that time as a part of his political activity.

HESS: Well, as you know, Mr. Truman considers that one of the high points of his administration