Oral History Interview with
Leader of Girl Scout Troop, Bryant School; first Executive Director, Jackson County Historical Society; and friend of President and Mrs. Harry S. Truman.
February 21, 1989
Niel M. Johnson
Oral History Interview with
Leader of Girl Scout Troop, Bryant School; first Executive Director, Jackson County Historical Society; and friend of President and Mrs. Harry S. Truman.
February 21, 1989
Niel M. Johnson
As an electronic publication of the Truman Library, users should note that features of the original, hardcopy version of the oral history interview, such as pagination and indexing, could not be replicated for this online version of the Hazel Graham transcript.
Opened May, 1990
Oral History Interview with
JOHNSON: Mrs. Graham, I'm going to start by getting some background. When and where you were born and what were your parents' names?
GRAHAM: I was born in Kansas City, Missouri, just up the hill from today's Plaza district, in 1913. My father was Ernest Brace, and my mother was Grace Brace. I started to school at the old Sweeney School, which is just beyond the Plaza a couple of blocks. I lived in Kansas City until shortly before high school age, and I had my high school training in Lee's Summit, Missouri.
JOHNSON: What was your father's occupation?
GRAHAM: He had been in charge of the storehouse for the Terminal Railroad, but he was a person who liked very much to be his own boss, and he wanted to have a small acreage where he could have a large strawberry patch and that type of thing. So we moved to the Lee's Summit area, just at the edge of town. Of course, it was not the time in history to make that kind of a move, but he did.
JOHNSON: That would have been about what year?
GRAHAM: Well, it would have been in the early twenties.
JOHNSON: Did we get the exact date on your birth?
GRAHAM: July 10, 1913.
JOHNSON: And then you moved to Lee's Summit.
GRAHAM: Just before high school age.
JOHNSON: So you went to high school in Lee's Summit.
JOHNSON: And you graduated from high school there?
GRAHAM: Yes, graduated from high school in Lee's Summit.
JOHNSON: And then what did you do?
GRAHAM: I went to Kansas City to earn enough money to go to college. I was extremely fortunate in being able to get a job at the Lucerne Hotel, which was a residential hotel on Linwood Boulevard, they hired me to be switchboard operator.
Very shortly after that, I started keeping books for the hotel, at the switchboard. Before too long, the property changed hands; this was in Depression days. An insurance company in Dallas, Texas took the property over on an unfulfilled loan. The Brookside Hotel in Kansas City was taken over the same day that they took the Lucerne Hotel over, and they wanted to take the manager of the Lucerne out to the Brookside immediately. They asked me if I would become the manager of the Lucerne Hotel. So, overnight I became manager of a hotel with 40 employees and, with their help, was able to succeed.
I called them all together the next morning and told them exactly what had happened and told them that I could not do it, but we could do it. And we did.
JOHNSON: What did that do to your college plans?
GRAHAM: Well, by the time I had enough money saved to attend college, which I was so interested in doing, college graduates were not making anywhere near what I was making, and I couldn't afford it. My parents were having problems at this time; their health was very bad, and it just simply was impossible for me to go on to college. So I never received any college work at all.
JOHNSON: During the Depression, then, you are manager of the Lucerne.
GRAHAM: The Lucerne Hotel.
JOHNSON: And how long did that last?
GRAHAM: I was there until 1939, when Kenneth Graham and I were married. We had not intended to be married the last day of June; we had intended an earlier wedding in June, but the building changed hands again, and they persuaded me to stay and train the new people. So the last month before I was married I trained a new group of people coming in to manage the hotel, and it was never managed as a luxury residence hotel after that.
JOHNSON: Is that still there, that building?
GRAHAM: The building is there, but it has been used for many things since then, including underprivileged housing. Of course, Linwood Boulevard today is not a desirable place.
JOHNSON: But in the twenties that was an upper-class area.
GRAHAM: It was the place to be.
JOHNSON: So you're married in 1939.
GRAHAM: We were married in 1939, and we moved to Independence in 1940, for Mr. Graham to become the manager of the Herald Publishing House.
JOHNSON: Was his background in business, as a business major?
GRAHAM: No, he majored in political science and journalism. He came to the publishing house from KMBC [radio station].
JOHNSON: Where did your husband graduate, what university?
GRAHAM: Kansas University, KU.
JOHNSON: So you moved over here to Independence to . . .
GRAHAM: We moved out to Golden Acres.
JOHNSON: Golden Acres, where was that?
GRAHAM: It was the subdivision at that particular time. It is just off of Noland Road at Gudgell, two blocks east.
JOHNSON: And now you're a housewife, or are you doing . . .
GRAHAM: I did not work at all, outside the home, from the time we were married, until I went to the Historical Society. We raised two daughters and that covered a longer period of time than it would for some families because there's six years difference in the two girls.
JOHNSON: So you had two children, two daughters. And what are their names?
GRAHAM: Donnis Graham is the older one and Karen Graham Wade is the younger one.
JOHNSON: And one of them you mentioned is an architectural historian; she majored in architectural history and is director of a museum.
GRAHAM: Yes. And the other daughter followed more closely in her father's footsteps. She is employed at the University of Kansas.
JOHNSON: In the forties, during World War II and later on, you lived in Golden Acres, and then you moved to . . .
GRAHAM: We moved to Delaware [Street] in 1947.
JOHNSON: And what was the address there?
GRAHAM: 610 North Delaware.
JOHNSON: What impelled you to do that?
GRAHAM: Because Golden Acres at that particular time in history was not in the Independence school system, and we had our older child ready to go to school. I had helped establish, through the Independence Young Matrons, a kindergarten in the system of Independence, at Bryant School. They had never had kindergartens. So we were very anxious to move into the Bryant School area.
JOHNSON: That's where Margaret Truman went . . .
GRAHAM: That's where Margaret went to school too.
JOHNSON: Did both of your daughters then go to Bryant School?
GRAHAM: Yes, both of them went to Bryant School. I had a scout troop, all through the time that our younger daughter was in school, that became very active at the Jackson County Historical Society.
JOHNSON: Had either of you met the Trumans or known the Trumans at all by this time?
GRAHAM: Well, only like everybody else that knew them. I don't remember even what year it was, but my first intimate contact with him was when I took my Girl Scout troop, which were just Brownies at that particular time--they were in the second grade--up to the square in Independence. There was a library right in the center of town, just barely off the square at that time, and they had a story hour. I was walking there with my Brownie troop up to the library. Mr. Truman was home at that time, and he came out to pick up the paper just as we were walking by. He came out to the sidewalk to speak to the children. He knew some of them because some of them lived close to him, and he called them by name. Then, the ones that he didn't know he would say to me, "What's her name?" and I was supposed to supply the name for each one of them. He talked to every child in that group, and asked them where they lived and how was their family.
JOHNSON: When was this?
GRAHAM: Well, let me think. My daughter was born in l947 and she was in second grade at this time.
JOHNSON: So it probably was 1954, or possibly '55.
GRAHAM: It was in that era. He was very cordial to them and there was absolutely no reason, nothing for him to gain by it, except just being nice to children.
JOHNSON: Well, now when you were living down there on Delaware . . .
GRAHAM: We were just a little over a block from their house.
JOHNSON: Once in a while there would be crowds gathering at the Truman home, while he was President, for instance on his first trip back home.
GRAHAM: The fence was not up at first.
JOHNSON: Right. That was put up I believe in '47; that would have been about the year.
GRAHAM: Well, at least it was not locked when the children and I were there. He didn't have to stop for anything.
JOHNSON: Do you recall being part of any crowds there at the home while it was the summer White House?
GRAHAM: Oh, yes. I remember when the crowds got so thick sometimes and they would go up and try to take splinters off of the house. We were all incensed in the neighborhood that people were so rude.
JOHNSON: That's why they put the fence up there. People were trying to get souvenirs, one way or the other.
GRAHAM: Yes. And then they would take things off the tree. They'd break little branches off the trees. This was one of the reasons why Mrs. Truman became so averse to going out in the yard.
JOHNSON: You didn't meet any of the Trumans then until after they had come back from the White House?
GRAHAM: We didn't get really closely acquainted with them until after they were home, after the White House years, because they were only here for short times and naturally they saw their close friends.
JOHNSON: Were you well-acquainted with Mrs. [Ardis] Haukenberry, or the Nolands?
GRAHAM: We worked very closely together because Mrs. Haukenberry was the secretary for the Historical Society for many years and she and I worked closely together. Mrs. Helena Crow was our Membership Chairman in the early days and she was a member of Mrs. Truman's bridge club. In fact, there is a rather interesting little story about that.
At the time they put the fence up and they had some guards there, Mrs. Crow had been in the habit of going down to see Mrs. Haukenberry. And she'd walk down through the alley to Mrs. May Wallace's home. Somebody on the loudspeaker said, "You are not permitted to walk down this place. This is not public property." Mrs. Crow said, "I was so taken aback that I just said out loud, 'I have been walking down this road for many years, and I intend to keep on.'" And she did.
JOHNSON: Did you ever meet the Nolands?
GRAHAM: Oh yes, oh yes.
JOHNSON: Did you ever talk about genealogy? Mary Ethel Noland was a genealogist for the Truman family.
GRAHAM: Yes, that's right. She was very much interested in all history and of course contributed a great deal to the Historical Society. Mrs. Haukenberry gave things that the Nolands had left after they were gone and she was living in the home herself. When I first knew Mrs. Haukenberry, it was before she had moved into the Noland home; she had her own home.
JOHNSON: Were there any stories about the Trumans that you heard about while you were neighbors there, while you were on Delaware that perhaps are not on the record, or in black and white?
GRAHAM: Well, they've told me many stories, and I'm sure some of this is on the record. Mrs. Haukenberry has told me many stories when I would be there in her home about when Mr. Truman would come over there at the time he was courting Mrs. Truman and stay with them [the Nolands].
JOHNSON: She still had the piano in that house, did she not?
GRAHAM: Yes, he loved to play the piano. And she loved to tell the stories about those times.
JOHNSON: After Mr. Truman came back from the White House, was that your first meeting with him, when you and the Girl Scouts were there?
GRAHAM: That was the first time. I had not met him personally.
JOHNSON: You mentioned the Young Matrons. What organizations did you belong to at this time?
GRAHAM: I was very active in the Independence Young Matrons until I became so involved with the Historical Society that I really didn't have time. But the Junior Service League and the Young Matrons furnished a great number of the volunteers for the Historical Society. In fact, we could not have possibly progressed to the point that we did, had it not been for volunteers, and I was always very, very appreciative of everything the volunteers did.
JOHNSON: How about the bridge club? I believe you called it the Tuesday Bridge Club, or Bess Truman's Bridge Club.
JOHNSON: Did you ever belong to that?
GRAHAM: Oh, no, no. This was older women and most of them had been girlhood friends. Several of them have talked to me about their trip to Washington, to the White House though.
JOHNSON: Yes, that was something.
GRAHAM: They told that with a great deal of relish.
JOHNSON: Okay, this is '54 or '55. What would have been your second, or next encounter?
GRAHAM: Well, I do not remember what year it was, but the first time that Mr. Truman really gave me advice was after we had started our tour of the early areas in and around Independence for the fourth graders. We had a tour that was set up with the supervisor of children of that age in the school system. Alberta Wilson Constant wrote the original script that we used to tell the children what they were doing and visiting. We took the children in their own school bus. They would arrive at the museum after they had just made their first appearance at school and taken their attendance. We would put a volunteer on the bus. That was when the Junior Service League and the Independence Young Matrons became so helpful, because they were the volunteers who took these children on their memorable trips.
JOHNSON: You're talking about the first year the Historical Society's museum was in operation?
GRAHAM: Oh, no, no. This was not the first year;, this was later than that. We didn't have this much going right at first. When I first went to the museum, I was the only employee they had. My Girl Scout troop felt that they had to come up and help me. The year I went there, it was their first year in junior high school.
JOHNSON: You're talking about the museum in the old jail, are you not?
GRAHAM: Yes, the jail house and the County Marshal's home. That's where my office was as the director of the Historical Society.
JOHNSON: Okay, we're talking about the sixties. What year did that operation start?
GRAHAM: We reopened the old jail museum in l959, which was just a hundred years after it had been built in l859. But I did not start until 1960. When I went to work they had gotten enough money to pay for the building, and some of the restoration that had been done. They were in the process of finishing the restoration when I started. I do not recall exactly how long it was before we had it sufficiently ready to go into the fourth grade program, but when I first was there, I was the only employee they had. I had nobody to sweep; I had nobody to clean. On weekends when I could not be there myself I hired high school seniors to stay at the desk; they were usually boys, and they made a great contribution. They helped me, as well as having a job that helped them. They took care of weekend visitors.
JOHNSON: This story about Harry Truman making a phone call . . .
GRAHAM: That was in 1959, when he made the phone calls.
JOHNSON: Right, to renovate the jail house museum. Do you want to relate that story again?
GRAHAM: Well, this is Mr. Truman's story to me, telling me what happened. He said that there was a whole battery of telephones set up in the jail. It had not been used as a jail for some time, but it had been used during the worst days of the Depression as a food pantry to give money and food to people that were destitute. It had been used during some floods to bring people in and even let them stay there, and it was very, very dilapidated, and run-down. So there was a great deal of work that had to be done on it, before we could even start making it a museum. First, they had to raise enough money to buy it, and keep it from being torn down. So they started out by having a campaign to raise enough money to do this. People were asked to come in and sit and make phone calls. They were going to make enough calls; to get the money that they needed.
Mr. Truman was to make the very first phone call, he was going to call Joyce Hall, of Hallmark, in Kansas City. This had all been set up ahead of time, and so Mr. Truman came in. They took photographs of him, and I'm sure you have photographs in the Library of that time, because there were many of them taken and they were in all the newspapers of the area. He made a call to Joyce Hall and asked him if he would contribute to this project. Joyce Hall said he would be glad to give $l,000. So they finished that; the press left and the photographers, and Mr. Truman got ready to leave. These other people then started taking over the phones; they had a whole battery of phones set up to make the calls, and Mr. Truman felt a little guilty. He said, "Well, I better make some calls myself; this was all set up for me." So his story to me was that he sat down to make some calls. He made three calls and each time he said, "This is Harry Truman;" without exception each time the person he was calling said, "I'll bet," and hung up on him. So Mr. Truman said, "As a fund-raiser I was absolutely no good unless it was all set up ahead of time."
JOHNSON: You mentioned some advice that he gave you . . .
GRAHAM: This was several years later. This was after Mr. Truman was staying at home, and I cannot give you the date on this at all; I really can't.
JOHNSON: You are "activities director." Is that the title you had up there?
GRAHAM: Executive Director. Right at first, they called me the coordinator. We were very unsophisticated for a few years; we were just laboring to keep going, and I was the coordinator of all of the activities at that particular time. Later they called me "executive director." But he knew that I was responsible for setting up the program with the school children, when they went on a tour, arriving at the museum in the morning, and a guide getting on their bus. The very first thing the guide said to them was, "Did you bring your 'best pretenders' with you this morning?" Fourth graders always had their best pretenders with them, so we always had a good response, lots of pretenders. They were told then, "Well, if you brought your best pretenders with you, you can go on a covered wagon trip today. Then later you can even start out on the Santa Fe Trail. You'll have certain provisions with you; you'll know how long it's going to take you to get where you want to go and you'll know some of the problems you're going to have on the way. Now, in order to do this we have to pretend that we don't see these cars that are going by out here at all. There may be a few covered wagons that we'll see on the way, but not very many even of those. But we don't see the cars at all." And the school children entered into this beautifully. We would take them to various sites, first starting out at the Missouri River. Our first stop, before we did anything else in town, was to go out to the place just above the old landing.
JOHNSON: Was that on River Road then?
GRAHAM: Yes, down at the foot of River Road.
JOHNSON: "Cement City," as they call it?
GRAHAM: Yes. We told them about the people coming in there. From that particular spot you also can see over to Kansas City, and if you're looking carefully, you can tell that the ground over there is a little bit different than this. There's a flat part before the hills start over by where Westport was later.
The reason that Independence did not remain the center for all this travel going West was that the landing for Independence was built on sand, and during floods it washed out frequently. People would come and they couldn't make their landing until some temporary things had been put in for them to do that. They also had to go several miles into Independence. The first railroad in this part of the country was built from the landing down there on the river into Independence. They called it a railroad, it was some wooden tracks that mules pulled carts on to bring things into what is the Square in Independence today. We tell them this story and we tell them that there were Indians across the river there. Then we tell them to look to the west where the old Westport Landing was. For those who do not know this, Westport Landing was not where Westport is today. Westport Landing was quite a distance from Westport today, but it was the closest landing to Westport, so it was called the Westport Landing. It was built on solid rock; it didn't wash out when they had floods, and that was the reason the main traffic eventually went on down to Westport.
Then we would bring the children back in to Independence and tell them they're traveling on what was an old animal trace, and then the Indians used it as an Indian trace because it's on top of the hills and you can see in both directions. You're not going to be surprised by some predator suddenly appearing in front of you. They're traveling on the old, old trace that the Indians even used before the white man came. Today this street is North River Road.
JOHNSON: These are the guides that are giving them all of this information as they are on the bus?
JOHNSON: Did they ever get some of this information from Harry Truman?
GRAHAM: No, not at that particular time. Then the tour would come into town and we'd go by the historic things in town, any number of them. We would go by the Truman home. We'd always stop there and tell them about Mr. Truman and the important things that he had done. He was well aware of this tour because they stopped each day in front of the house.
The first time that I talked to him about it in detail was at a party at Bill Duke's home. Mr. Duke lived down the street, north about a block on the same side of the street as the Trumans, and across the street from where we lived. Mr. Duke's first wife had died and he had married, several years later, the lady that he was bringing to town. He wanted the neighbors to meet her. So Mr. Duke gave a party and the Trumans were at this party. Mr. Truman asked me to come over and sit on a little hassock type stool beside his chair so he could ask me. "What are you telling those kids out in front of our house?" I told him what we were telling them, and then he told me what I should be telling them. We added a lot of what he told us to what we were already telling the children.
One of the main things that he said was, "Now, you do need to tell them the history." He was very pleased that we were going back and telling them all of this history. He said, "There's one thing that maybe you can work in with the history, and that is to let them know how Government works. If they understand how government works, they will grow up to elect the kind of people that will give them the government they want. I think we need to work this in, to what we're telling them," he would say. So we added that to our talk to the children.
JOHNSON: Did he ever say anything, or add anything to your information about the trails here and about the railroad from Wayne City Landing?
GRAHAM: I can't think of anything that he added to that. We talked about these things a number of times..
JOHNSON: Did he talk about his grandfather, Solomon Young, being a freighter on the Oregon Trail?
GRAHAM: No. Of course, that day [at the Dukes] we would stop and talk to other people; this was not an uninterrupted conversation that we had, by any means. But finally I said to him, "You know, Mr. Truman, I don't believe you'd have ever gotten into the White House if it hadn't been for the old jail." He said, "What do you mean?" I said, "Well, didn't you gain your first fame in politics for building such a wonderful hard-road system in Jackson County? Everybody knew when they got to the county line because the roads got better. Weren't you responsible to a great extent for that hard-road system?" He said, "Well, I guess so." And I said, "Well, who did the labor on those roads? Was it not the chain gang out of the old jail?" He said, "You're right." I said, "Well, you might not have ever been to the White House at all if it hadn't been for that old jail." He said, "You're right."
JOHNSON: I guess that's something I hadn't thought of, that they apparently provided much of the labor.
GRAHAM: Yes they did.
JOHNSON: Do you know the address of the Duke home?
GRAHAM: I don't know their address without checking.
JOHNSON: Were you in on the reorganization of the Historical Society in l959?
GRAHAM: No. I did not go in until 1960, but I was the first full-time employee that they had.
JOHNSON: So you didn't work with the archives that they had in the Truman Library?
GRAHAM: Well, I sent many things over there, because people would bring things in. Of course, I was very, very close to Alberta Constant who was very active at that particular time. She was the main person who got them started.
JOHNSON: Well, you're much better acquainted with Harry Truman, I suppose, after this conversation with him at the Dukes. When did you have another chance or opportunity to meet with him?
GRAHAM: Every time we would run into each other, he would say, "What are you telling them today?" But there are some other things too.
There was a little boy who lived right next door to us; and this was after Mr. Truman came back from Washington, and the Library was already built, and he was going to the Library rather regularly. I had been to the Library that day to take something because we always worked back and forth. If they got something that should have been for us, they would give it to us, and if we got something that should be for them we took it to them. That was one reason why I was at the Truman Library so much. I had been to the Truman Library and was on my way home, and when I came to College Street crossing Delaware, Mr. Truman was sitting there, apparently headed toward the Library. It was just at the corner, and a little boy, Mikey Hahn, was sitting across the street, across Delaware, with his feet dangling down into the storm sewer. He was preschool age, and they were talking. Mr. Truman waved to me as I went by. I went on up and parked out in front of our home, because I was not going to stay very long, and went back out into the yard to pick up the paper. I looked down and there was Mr. Truman still sitting down at the corner talking to Mikey.
After a few moments, Mikey came running up the street, and I said to him, "Do you know who you were visiting with down the street?" He said, "Yep, a nice man." He had no idea other than, "a nice man." I told him who he was visiting with. This, I think, illustrates Mr. Truman's great interest in children, which I think is something that has never been picked up by people writing about him. I think there is something, though, they have blown all out of proportion, his use of foul language, because this was not a great part of him. I never heard any of it from him in any way.
JOHNSON: Did you get involved in guiding tours at the Truman Library?
JOHNSON: But you did meet Mr. Truman on occasion in the Library and you heard him give talks to the school children in the auditorium?
GRAHAM: I never heard him because we were so busy ourselves, but of course, I was very well aware that they did because many children from out of town would come to the museum and then would go out to the Library. I have another interesting experience about a young man that had been out to the Truman Library. He was a stranger in town, and he was of high school age. He came into the museum, and he was just beside himself with joy. He said, "I've got to talk to somebody; I've got to tell somebody what happened to me!" He had been out to the Truman Library and spent quite a little bit of time inside going around, and he wanted to take some pictures of the outside of the Library. So he went outside and just about the time he got around to the side of the building, Mr. Truman pulled up to the back entrance, the north entrance. (They had a terrible time with me learning how to call it the north entrance instead of the back door, and then they changed it and called it the executive entrance.) But anyway, Mr. Truman pulled into the north entrance, and there were photographers and newsmen; something had happened in the world that they wanted his opinion of, and they were really after him, yelling at him questions as he was walking from his car up to the door. He stopped as he always did and talked to them, and then after a little while he dismissed them and they knew that they should just as well go on when he dismissed them.
Mr. Truman stood there for a minute, as they were all leaving, and there was this young man. I would judge he was not beyond the age of senior in high school, and he was trying to take a picture of Mr. Truman. Mr. Truman motioned to him, and the young man came over to him. Mr. Truman was standing on the steps at the door, ready to go in, and he said, "Young man, I saw these men giving you an awful lot of trouble. Did you ever get a picture?" And he said, "No, they just kept pushing me aside." And Mr. Truman said, "You come on in here." So the young man went in with him; Mr. Truman took him into the building and said, "I want to tell you I'm sorry for the way they treated you."
JOHNSON: So he took the young fellow into his office?
GRAHAM: Just took the young man into his office and said, "Now, you go ahead and take whatever you want in here." Well, Mr. Truman sat down behind his desk and the young man got a picture of him behind the desk, and Mr. Truman said, "Do you want to take anything else of the room? Just go ahead. Take whatever you'd like." The young man said, "I tried not to be too selfish and take up too much time, but he sure was nice to me." That, to me, is another example that he wasn't only kind to little children; he was kind to all young people.
JOHNSON: Especially those, I guess, when he felt were being shoved aside, or mistreated.
GRAHAM: Yes, and very helpful. Another incident was when they first started taping his answers to school children when he would appear there at the Library, when it was convenient for him to do so. He would come in and talk to school children and give them a chance to ask questions.
This story was told to me by one of the Library employees. One day, Mr. Truman had been talking to a group of children, a rather large group of children in the Library, where they saw the film program and then Mr. Truman talked to them. He gave them a chance to ask questions, and there were several questions asked. Then he said, "Now, has anybody else got a question?" There was a little boy, who looked very much smaller than the others, in the front row, and Mr. Truman said, "Did you want to ask me something?" Mr. Truman had felt that he wanted to ask him something, and he said, "Do you want to ask me something?" The little boy couldn't even talk; he tried to but he couldn't get it out. The boy next to him said, "Mr. Truman, this boy wants to know if you ever get scared. He gets so scared he can't talk when people ask him questions and things, and he wants to know if you ever get scared when you have to talk to people." They told me that there was a silence on the tape, and then Mr. Truman said, "Young man, when you have to say something important to people, if you don't get scared, you better not say anything." There was another short pause, and he said, "One time I was making a very important speech, and I was so frightened,"--so scared, he really said--"that I thought I was going to be sick before I could get off the stage."
People there at the Library, at the time, said they felt like they must check into that further, and so they got out the film of the Inaugural address. The minute Mr. Truman finished his Inaugural address, they said he left the stage for a short time, and they feel that that might have been the time he was referring to. We don't know; at least I don't know that it was, but anyway Mr. Truman . . .
JOHNSON: Okay, any more anecdotes or stories about him?
GRAHAM: Well, Mr. Truman was always very anxious to speak to everybody in the neighborhood as he walked around, and if you didn't get out where he could talk to you, he often waved to you. Before he had to use the cane to lean on, he always had the cane and he waved with the cane. It was a normal thing to see Mr. Truman waving to somebody with his cane.
In those days we didn't have as much air-conditioning as we have today; so I have been awakened any number of mornings by hearing this "tap, tap, tap," [through the open window] because he swung his cane as he walked, and it would go tap, tap, tap.
JOHNSON: On the sidewalk.
GRAHAM: On the sidewalk. And I can remember looking out our bedroom window one morning, not thinking that I was going to be seen, but he did see me and he waved his cane to me.
JOHNSON: Yes, those morning strolls were sort of famous. In fact, the Park Service now, I guess, tries to follow that up.
GRAHAM: He and Mrs. Truman were interested in our particular home location because back on the double lot, which is bigger than it is today, Mrs. Truman's grandparents had their home and she had spent a great deal of time with her grandparents as a child. She's told me about playing under the old burr oak tree that was in our front yard, as a child, and she always was talking to me about the burr oak. Incidentally, the burr oak tree is registered as one of the two better examples of burr oak in the county.
JOHNSON: Well, in fact, wasn't that her childhood home at one time?
GRAHAM: Yes, she lived with them at one time.
JOHNSON: Where was that in relation to your house?
GRAHAM: I don't know what the address was. Our address was 610 North Delaware, but it was set back from us; the property went back further. She indicated one day that she thought it went clear back to Union, but then she said that maybe it didn't.
JOHNSON: But you were on the same lot then that she had lived on?
GRAHAM: The lot that her grandparents had had was larger than the lot we had.
JOHNSON: But you had a part of that large lot?
GRAHAM: Yes, and the tree was on our lot.
JOHNSON: I've heard about that oak.
GRAHAM: Mrs. Truman always asked me if we had any trouble with the oak tree.
JOHNSON: Is it still there?
GRAHAM: It's still there. It was struck by lightening a few years ago, and we lost part of it, but it is still there and it's still a handsome old tree.
I don't believe we've gotten on the tape how I happened to become acquainted, as closely as I was, with Mrs. Truman. Because of her not wanting to go out and be bothered by strangers talking to her, she would ask me to order things that we carried in our gift shop at the museum or that I could order special from our buyers, for her to give to her grandchildren. So I took many things down that were history-related because she was just as much interested in her grandchildren knowing about history as her husband was, and she was always getting things that she thought they might be interested in to send to them, and I would take them down.
JOHNSON: What kind of items were these?
GRAHAM: Books, maps, this type of thing.
JOHNSON: Souvenir, gift items too?
GRAHAM: Oh, some souvenirs. She usually had a pretty good idea what she wanted, and so . . .
JOHNSON: So local history was one of her interests too t