Oral History Interview with
Kansas City, Missouri, realtor and business associate of Harry S. Truman in the Community Savings and Loan Association, 1924-32
H. H. Halvorson
Kansas City, Missouri
July 21, 1967
by J. R. Fuchs
[Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed]
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. ) within the transcript indicate the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the oral history interview.
See also H. H. Halvorson Papers finding aid.
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 It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.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 November 1967
Harry S. Truman Library
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Oral History Interview with
H. H. Halvorson
Kansas City, Missouri
July 21, 1967
by J. R. Fuchs
FUCHS: Mr. Halvorson, we have been talking about the gentlemen who were on the board of directors and also the officers of the Community Savings and Loan Association. I wonder if you would identify them by name and tell me who they were?
HALVORSON: There was Joseph Cartella, who was a salesman for Schenley and Company, liquor dealers.
FUCHS: Was Mr. Cartella acquainted with Mr. Truman to any extent?
HALVORSON: Oh, yes, I don't know how great an extent, but he was acquainted.
FUCHS: C. C. Daniel was a director.
HALVORSON: C. C. Daniel was a director and I think he was from Independence; and his daughter-in-law still has what is known as the Central Storage Company in the Central Industrial District, which is the oldest public service warehouse in Kansas City. And it came through the Newby Transfer Company, and the Clagett Company, and Clagett was from Independence, as I remember.
The next one was myself.
FUCHS: Just to get it in the record, what is your full name?
HALVORSON: My full name, H. H. Halvorson, is Halvor Hull Halvorson.
FUCHS: Hull is your middle name. Is that a family name?
HALVORSON: That's a family name. It's my mother's maiden name.
FUCHS: When and where were you born?
HALVORSON: I was born in Butte City, Montana.
FUCHS: What year was that?
HALVORSON: 1879, March 9.
FUCHS: When did you come to Kansas City?
HALVORSON: I came to Kansas City in 1904 from Denver.
FUCHS: And what was your first job here?
HALVORSON: I went to work for the Kansas City Power and Light Company. Mr. R. A. Richardson, President, was the man who hired me.
FUCHS: Where were you educated?
HALVORSON: Well, I graduated from Maritime College and then from there I went to General Electric in the laboratory?
FUCHS: Where was the Maritime College?
HALVORSON: It was in Boston, Massachusetts, the Boston Navy Yard.
FUCHS: Did you study engineering there?
HALVORSON: I learned engineering. Of course, engineering of that day was at a time when we were emerging from using steam engines for everything to the time when motors and electricity were coming along. I went to work for two years at the General Electric Company. You had to have some preliminary education to go there. My brother became associated with the General Electric Company through me; I had charge of the arc light testing, street lighting.
FUCHS: I see. Where were you in General Electric?
HALVORSON: In W. Lynn, Massachusetts.
FUCHS: Then you came back to Kansas City and went to work for the Power and Light?
HALVORSON: No. I went from there to Denver, and I worked for Mr. Henry L. Daugherty who then was receiver for the Denver Gas and Electric Company.
FUCHS: What year was that?
HALVORSON: That was about 1902. I came here in 1904.
FUCHS: What did you do for the Power and Light Company in Kansas City?
HALVORSON: Well, I became a contract agent for it and power solicitor and a general man in the commercial department.
FUCHS: How long were you with them?
HALVORSON: Well, I was, off and on, with them for a good many years. They changed management, and so forth, and once or twice I left for a time and then went back again. Now I managed a chandelier sales office, took care of a sign business and things like that.
FUCHS: What sign business?
HALVORSON: Federal Electric Signs.
FUCHS: When you left Power and Light you went into your own business?
HALVORSON: Well, I did a lot of work for the Power and Light Company in shutting down power plants
and putting in the steam heating system, the underground system. When I did that, why, eventually I got into the real estate business, because I could make a good deal more money out of the real estate business than I could as an employee of a utility.
FUCHS: I see. Well, then, about what year would you say you started to deal in real estate, which was mainly industrial real estate?
HALVORSON: Oh, some fifty years ago. I forget exactly the date.
FUCHS: You mean, around 1917?
HALVORSON: Somewhere along there, yes.
FUCHS: This James H. Clinton, another director?
HALVORSON: As I remember, he had a drugstore on the corner there, right across from the courthouse.
FUCHS: Yes. Mr. Truman worked for him at one time.
HALVORSON: I wouldn't be surprised. And Mr. Garman,
I understood he was a plumber; and Mr. Barr was a county judge. And Mr. Homer Rogers was at Sheffield Steel Corporation. And of course, Lou Holland is well known; and this man here [Murray] Colgan, was Truman's cousin. I think his mother was mentioned as a younger sister of Mr. Truman's mother.
FUCHS: I see. Were the directors paid anything for their services?
HALVORSON: Oh, no, I don't know that even their meetings would be called very important. After all, Mr. Truman was, you might say the boss, subject to, not to me, but more to Salisbury and Metzger. Adamson I just forgot. I think he was a salesman for someone.
FUCHS: Were you well acquainted with Mr. Truman's cousin:
HALVORSON: I never even met him, but he was Mr. Truman's cousin. Metzger, I don't remember what he did, but I knew Metzger. He had two aunts he lived with
out there on the square right next to the Bundschu Store, and I made a lease with Kroger Foods.
FUCHS: There is a letter in the file mentioning a Kresge lease about which you went to Chicago to consummate the deal.
HALVORSON: I leased a building right next to Bundschu on the north side. I think it was Kroger. Kresge, I never had any dealings with. Kresge's is the ten-cent store, you know. It was a Kroger store.
FUCHS: You don't recall dealing for a Kresge lease in Chicago?
HALVORSON: No, that wouldn't be my deal at all. Then, of course, there was Salisbury, and Miss Henthorn.
FUCHS: It was Henthorn at that time, later Kiekert.
HALVORSON: That's her name now.
FUCHS: Yes. This Robert F. Crawford, just who was he?
HALVORSON: Mr. Crawford was manager there for a large
implement house on Union Avenue between Liberty and Hickory Streets. And when they sold that business, he was such a fine, popular man that I just went to him and suggested that since he was too young a man (perhaps 60) to return, why didn't he go to work for that Building and Loan Association and build it up out of the Central Industrial District, because he knew everybody and was very well-liked. He was a high-class man, too high-class a man, really, to have settled on such a small thing, but he was more or less retired. And he had a son-in-law there named Logan, who was a coffee broker, and so he went and got him in the building. You will find in my letter to Crawford that Crawford was really the business manager of the office in the Central Industrial District.
FUCHS: But there seemed to be some sort of a feeling between you and Crawford about the office and the whole operation there. One of your letters indicates that there was some ill feeling between you and Crawford?
HALVORSON: No, there was no ill feeling between me and Crawford, Crawford said a little bit about heat once in a while or some repairs or something like that, but Mr. Crawford and I never had any ill feelings at all, no.
FUCHS: I see.
HALVORSON: It may have looked that way in his letters. He wrote me letters that were kind of sarcastic and so forth, but he had been used to being quite an executive in his own stead. I think Crawford would like to have been in with us on the Savings and Loan Association. That Savings and Loan Association had a great potential out of that big area down there, which had about 20,000 daytime population.
FUCHS: What about Arthur Metzger? What type of an individual was he?
HALVORSON: He was a financial promoter. He promoted the Scottish Rite Temple at Linwood and Paseo, and the Ararat Shrine building at 11th and Central
FUCHS: Was he capable?
HALVORSON: He was considered in Masonry quite capable, yes. He has a son named Jerome Metzger who is with Block [Metzger] and Company, and is president of the real estate board this year.
FUCHS: What did you think of him as a secretary for a savings and loan association?
HAVLORSON: Well, I would say that Salisbury seemed to keep that pretty well in hand. I don't remember that I had very much contact with Mr. Metzger. I had one real estate deal through his family connections. I lived right in this house at 630 W. 62nd Street, and it was a long ways for me to go out to Independence, you know. I didn't get out there too often.
FUCHS: What is that document you have there?
HALVORSON: Oh, that was something that came here the other day from North American Savings and Loan
Association. It was mentioned that Jimmy Pendergast started his association at the same time.
His North American name came from some other association, by changing the name, and he apparently was out of it about 1928. He didn't stay in it very long. I went there and asked them the other day about it and they didn't seem to know anything about it down there at the Association. The only thing they knew was that it started off in 1935, but before that they didn't have much record of it.
FUCHS: Well, what would you say about the statement that Salisbury made that Mr. Truman in 1932 wanted to turn things over to Jimmy Pendergast, who was president of the North American Savings and Loan Association of Missouri from 1928 to '38? And that's when Salisbury claims that he got Truman out of the association because Truman wanted to do this.
HALVORSON: Well, I would say that that was just a figment of his imagination because it don't prove up
that way; and the association was managed by a man named -- who first took it over and did something with it -- was, let's see, Frank M. Newchester. [Frank M. Muehlschuster]*
HALVORSON: Something like that, yes, and his son is still there.
FUCHS: You said that you thought Jimmy Pendergast was out of it by 1928?
HALVORSON: Well, I asked them in the office and they said, "There's no one living that knows anything about it. We've heard that Mr. Pendergast was the first president of it." But this clerk said, "I've been in here seventeen years and I've never had anybody mention his name except hearsay. But there was a man named Pete Kelley, that I heard was president of it at one time. And he was a kind of a political lieutenant of Jimmy Pendergast."
*See H. H. Halvorson Papers, North American Savings Association, Financial Statement, December 1, 1966, Truman Library.
I think James Pendergast, son of Mike, had too much business and was making too much money to be bothered with building up a savings and loan account of that size.
FUCHS: When did you meet Mr. Truman?
HALVORSON: Well, that's difficult to say. I knew him, you might say, as a taxpayer, when he was on the county court the first time.
FUCHS: Of course, that would have been 1923.
HALVORSON: And he was selling those memberships to the automobile club.
FUCHS: Did you actually come in touch with him at that time?
HALVORSON: I don't remember that I did. Then when he went back again as presiding judge it seems that he took interest enough in me to become interested in me and before I really tried to make any acquaintance with him at all. And I understood it, he knew that I was a friend of Mr. T. J. Pendergast
and I had pretty good standing in those days as a realtor.
FUCHS: You were quite close to Mr. Pendergast?
HALVORSON: Yes, I was very close to him. I think the first time I remember he was looking for a loan on his hotel known as the Monroe Hotel down at 19th and Main. And he called me in there and wanted to know if I would get him a loan. He said, "There's an undercurrent going around here with these loan men that they're not going to renew my loan, and I haven't got the money to do it." He said, "You go out and get me a loan."
FUCHS: Where were you working at that time?
HALVORSON: I was working in the real estate business.
FUCHS: Why would he call you if he hadn't known you before?
HALVORSON: Well, because he had known me this way. The First Ward councilman, Central Industrial District, John T. O'Neill, officed with me; and John T. O'Neill
was a very smart man and really quite a leader in the savings and loan association business. I don't mean in savings so much as in appraising and buying and selling real estate. And I had done John quite a few favors in the past and he took a liking to me; and one time when he needed an office he came up and wanted to know if I'd let him office with me. He was a real estate man, but he didn't have very much to do. Mr. O'Neill would just come in the office occasionally.
FUCHS: And he was acquainted with Mr. Pendergast?
HALVORSON: He was First Ward Alderman.
FUCHS: Well, then, I wonder why, if O'Neill was in the real estate business, Pendergast didn't ask him to get the loan.
HALVORSON: I don't know. He asked me to get the loan and I finally found somebody who would make the loan for Mr. T. J. Pendergast. He got to thinking of me from time to time and I thought of him from time to time, if I wanted a little help.