Numbers appearing in square brackets (ex. ) within the transcript indicate the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the oral history interview.
See also John K. Hulston Papers.
Opened October, 1988
Oral History Interview with
January 11, 1988
by Niel M. Johnson
JOHNSON: I'm going to start out the way I usually do, by asking you to give us your full name and the date and place of your birth and the names of your parents.
HULSTON: My full name is John Kenton Hulston, and I was born March 29, 1915 in Dade County, Missouri. My father was John Fred Hulston and my mother was Myrtle King Hulston.
JOHNSON: Do you have any brothers or sisters?
HULSTON: No brothers, no sisters, no deceased brothers or sisters; I'm an only child.
JOHNSON: Do you want to summarize your education for the record?
HULSTON: I went to a country school, Limestone School No. 39, in Dade County. We moved to Ash Grove, Missouri in 1924,
and I finished grade school and high school at Ash Grove, Missouri. Then I went to Drury College for four years, graduating in 1936. Then I taught school for two years at Ash Grove, taught history and coached the basketball team. In 1938 I entered the University of Missouri at Columbia Law School, where I graduated in 1941.
JOHNSON: I know that some of this basic information is in the books, the two autobiographies that you have written. Let's mention the titles of those right now.
HULSTON: I wrote An Ozark Boy's Story, which covered my life from 1915 to 1945, and that was published by the School of the Ozarks Press at Point Lookout, Missouri, in 1971. The next book was An Ozark Lawyer's Story, which covered the years 1946 to 1976, and that was published by the Western Printing Company of Republic, Missouri in 1976.
JOHNSON: If we're fortunate we'll probably get some confessions from you that are not in the two books. There is one question before we leave the subject of education;
in your elementary and high school years, was there any particular teacher that you think influenced you in your later career?
HULSTON: In the high school?
HULSTON: And in elementary school. There was an eighth grade teacher named Miss Lena Runyan. She was a maiden lady and she influenced me greatly because of the imposition of study habits. I became interested in using the school library that was used primarily then by the high school students. I think that she was responsible for my introduction to the use of books and a reasonable amount of sustained effort, and not deviation from study.
In high school, I had some good teachers, but the one that influenced me most was a vocational agriculture teacher named Joe C. Moore. I wasn't an agriculture major in high school, but he, with his conversations and at the drug store meetings for a Coke, and that sort of thing, sort of sowed the seed for me to go on to school.
Then there was my high school coach, Forrest Abbott.
I played basketball at high school, and of course, you are always greatly influenced by your coach, especially if you make the team. He had very good habits and he instilled good living habits in all of the students and I think that was a great help.
JOHNSON: What subjects did he teach?
HULSTON: He taught business subjects. He taught business subjects and I learned to type under him, and I learned to keep books and know the difference between a debit and a credit under him, which has been very helpful.
JOHNSON: You had a high school history teacher?
HULSTON: Yes, we had a high school history teacher; his name was Russell P. Robberson. He is now a lawyer in Austin, Texas, and he was...
JOHNSON: He's still lawyering?
HULSTON: He's still lawyering. He may be retired, but his name still appears in Martindale Hubbell. Of course, we used Muzzey's history of America. The interesting thing, Niel, was that in our class we had a relative of
[David] Muzzey, who wrote the history book. She was a descendant from John Chandler, who with his father was one of the few father-son combinations (six, I believe) according to an authority on Lexington and Concord -- that fought in both the skirmish at Lexington and the Battle of Concord. So we were very fortunate to have classmate Mary Chandler Galbraith there to tell us about the Muzzey-Chandler relationship in Colonial days.
JOHNSON: Your father's occupation when you were growing up was what?
HULSTON: First he was a farmer. Then he was a small town general merchant in a store at South Greenfield, Missouri, three miles from our farm, which handled food and dry goods, farm implements, furniture and the whole thing. In 1924, a man named Orville L. Howser persuaded him to join Howser in the Ford agency for Model-Ts at Ash Grove, Missouri. That's when we moved to Ash Grove, Missouri. My father and Mr. Howser were the Model-T agents, and it proved to be a great boon because people at that time in that area of the country were converting from
old "Dobbin" and mules to the Model-T. Most of them could afford one, because the popular Ford Touring car sold for in the neighborhood of $390.
JOHNSON: How long did he have a Ford agency?
HULSTON: He had the Ford agency until 1933 when he decided that Chevrolet was making a better car. Ford had put out a V-8 car, and it used a quart of oil with every fill-up of gasoline. The competition was killing my father because they would say to the prospective buyer, "Will eight hogs eat more than six?" My father couldn't answer that question, so he decided he would join his competition rather than to meet it, and he became the Chevrolet dealer in Ash Grove.
In the meantime, he had purchased Mr. Howser's interest, and Mr. Howser had moved on to Mount Vernon, Missouri.
JOHNSON: So you grew up essentially in Ash Grove.
HULSTON: In Ash Grove. The business was on the Main Street, in the Ford agency first and then the Chevrolet agency next.
JOHNSON: How big a town was it?
HULSTON: Ash Grove at that time was about 1200 people, and had the Ash Grove Portland Lime & Cement Company. It was headquartered in Kansas City but this was their home plant. They are now very large and remain head-quartered in Kansas City.
JOHNSON: You mentioned the library. Did they have a public library, or was the library in the high school?
HUSTON: No, just the high school. It was a pretty good one; they had lots of encyclopedias. The ones with the statues of naked men in Rome -- you could open the book, and it would just fall open to those.
JOHNSON: Your father got into politics apparently around 1934. Was that his first involvement?
HULSTON: No, that wasn't his first involvement. His first involvement was voting for Woodrow Wilson in 1912. When he was in Washington Township in Dade County, he was the Committeeman of Washington Township. That's Democratic, but Dade County is about four-to-one Republican over the Democrats, so he was in the minority. He became
well acquainted with a lawyer named Benjamin M. Neale, who was the county chairman, and he was a good worker for Mr. Neale. Mr. Neale, in the meantime, had moved on to Springfield, Missouri, because he became a very prominent lawyer, together with his partner Charles F. Newman. They moved from Greenfield, Missouri, 40 miles east, to Springfield, Missouri the county seat of Greene County, because they had become well-known over the whole area. I think it was Ben Neale who got my father interested in politics and caused him to run for the committeeman of Washington Township. Then, when he moved to Ash Grove, he found that Ash Grove was still about the same proportion, about four to one, or at least three to one, Republicans to Democrats. But he maintained his interest, and he had only been there I think two or three years until he was committeeman from Boone Township, named for Nathan Boone, the youngest son of Daniel Boone. So he was interested in Democrat politics, I'd say, from about 1928 as a committeeman.
JOHNSON: That's when he became committeeman, you say?
HULSTON: In Greene County.
JOHNSON: I see, and he had already been committeeman in Dade County.
HULSTON: In Dade County, in Washington Township.
JOHNSON: So presumably he was supporting Roosevelt and Cox in the twenties.
HULSTON: Yes, he always supported the Democrats' Presidential nominee.
JOHNSON: But those two counties are Republican, Greene and Dade?
HULSTON: Yes, they are. They are now in the gerrymandered Seventh (former Sixth) Congressional District that sent Dewey Short to Congress term after term after term, because they had decided to put all of the Republican counties in Southwest Missouri in that district and just gave up on it. Dewey Short for many, many terms was the lone Republican Congressman from Missouri.
JOHNSON: Just briefly, what accounted for them being Republican? What were the historical factors?
HULSTON: That's very interesting. I have gone into it.
You see, most of the people in Missouri, in part of Missouri, the Ozarks, came from Tennessee, or Kentucky, or North Carolina. Those, you see, are all southern states, for the most part. Tennessee was split a little during the Civil War, and so was Kentucky, but generally speaking, those are southern states. The question would be, if all those people came to Southwest Missouri from three predominantly southern states, why would they be Republican?
I think the answer was that the people that came were poor people. They came to buy land for $1.25 per acre, or whatever, and they didn't have any slaves. They weren't prejudiced in favor of slavery and against the Union at the time of the Civil War. Most of the people came in the 1840s and '50s, ten and twenty years before the war. I think the reason was economic; I think they were free thinkers. They weren't beholden to slavery, there weren't any slaves to speak of, and when they came they didn't bring any slaves with them to speak of, and they didn't have slaves when they were there.
Then I think another thing was that during the Civil War in Missouri, Missouri was a divided state,
very much so, and the Confederate Armies who had control of the Ozarks during a majority of the war comandeered their feed and their horses and their teams, their mules, and the hams and the bacon in the smokehouses. I think that the people just turned against the Confederates during the Civil War because of the fact that it was total war as far as they were concerned and it was a severe war and they suffered economically. They didn't receive any benefits from the concessions that they took from them. I think that was the final blow and I think that that was the reason why Southwest Missouri is still predominantly Republican.
JOHNSON: Would you say that they were probably more anti-slaveholder, or anti-big planter, than they were anti-slavery?
HUZSTON: The slaveholders and the planters homesteaded from the southern states, primarily from Virginia, along the Missouri River. They had the good sense to take on the fertile bottoms, because they had slaves, and they cultivated them [the fertile bottom soils]. The ragtail "Bob Muffin" people that came to Missouri didn't have
any slaves; they wanted wood and water. They wanted wood to build their cabins and keep their fires going, and they wanted a spring to furnish good water to drink for animals and for themselves, and do their washing. The people in Southwest Missouri looked for timber and a spring, and they didn't have any slaves and didn't have any fertile ground for most of them to till.
JOHNSON: Are they the ones that are called, fairly or not, "hillbilly" types?
HULSTON: Well, "hillbilly," you know -- they resent that very much down there. I think that a better term, and a term that I think we all accept down there in the Ozarks, in the old days was that we were Applachian-type people. But you know, Table Rock Dam was built down there in Taney County, and Norfolk Dam was built to the south of that, and the tourists have come in there and it is hard to find a hillbilly now. A lot of them have come from Chicago and just stayed. Now they're coming from Nashville, for country music, and staying.
JOHNSON: Is Branson, for instance, in one of those counties?
HULSTON: Branson is in Taney County. The county seat is Forsyth, but Branson is the leading city. I suppose Taney County is the archetype Ozark county in the eyes of Vance Randolph and the people who have become authorities on the Ozarks.
JOHNSON: Such as the book, Shepherd of the Hills.
HULSTON: Shepherd of the Hills is laid at Compton Ridge just outside of Branson.
JOHNSON: So some of your interest in politics came from your father. Did your party loyalties come also from your father's influence?
HULSTON: Yes, in my day if your father was a Democrat, you were a Democrat. That's changed now I understand. If your father's Democrat, you're liable to go to school and come out a Republican. But in my day, you took your father's politics and your mother's religion, usually.
JOHNSON: In 1934, your father was still a committeeman?
HULSTON: Yes, he was committeeman in Greene County. He was the committeeman for the western half of the county.
In addition to being a committeeman for Boone Township, he was chairman for the west half of the county, underneath the county chairman.
JOHNSON: Why, he was one of the leading Democrat activists so to speak.
HULSTON: He was the leading Democrat activist and he took it very seriously. But the people that traded with him, most of them were Republican; yet they respected him because he was the loyal minority. He was not an overbearing politician; he would laugh with them, and he crossed the lines for the local people, and the county people.
JOHNSON: Were Hiram Chinn and Ernest Scholten the other leading Democrats?
HULSTON: Yes. Hiram Chinn -- we all called him "Diggy," or "Dig;" I think it's because he came from Diggins, Missouri which is east of Springfield on the railroad -- I would say he was the number one politician, Democrat politician, in Springfield. Ernest H. Scholten, a member of the County Court at that time, was the number
two. Sam M. Wear probably was right along beside them.
JOHNSON: Sam was from where?
HULSTON: Sam was a lawyer in Springfield, Missouri, and his father, Hunter Wear, had been a lawyer in Springfield before him.
JOHNSON: You mentioned Ernest Scholten being a member of the County Court; that was a three-member court like here in Jackson County?
HULSTON: Exactly the same.
JOHNSON: Patterned all over Missouri. That means they elected a Democrat to the County Court; was he the only one of the three that was a Democrat?
HULSTON: He and another one on the County Court had ridden in on Roosevelt's coattails in '36.
JOHNSON: Did they give a majority to Roosevelt in that county in '32?
HULSTON: Yes, and they did in '36. In '32, it was 4,000
but in '36 he carried it big.
JOHNSON: Did they elect any more Democrats to the County Court in the thirties that you can recall, besides...
HULSTON: Yes, in '32 they organized the County Court by electing all members.
JOHNSON: In '36?
HULSTON: Yes, two of three, with E. H. Scholten the presiding judge of the County Court.
JOHNSON: I thought maybe I would just ask you to characterize some of these people that you've mentioned in your books, but perhaps haven't characterized. Lester Cox was another important figure that comes up in the records.
HULSTON: I did not know Lester Cox in 1934, but I became very well acquainted with him in 1946 when I started practicing law in Springfield. In 1951 he hired me as his lawyer for his 29 corporations. I remained his lawyer throughout his life, and was the lawyer for his family. I assisted in settling his estate, and I still represent his son and grandson.
JOHNSON: I see, so it’s been passed down.
HULSTON: So I knew Lester Cox as well as I had known anybody I guess, but not in 1934.
JOHNSON: Okay, let’s take a look at 1934. Even though you have written this up in your book, would you want to recount again your first meeting with Harry Truman
HULSTON: Oh, yes, I love to tell that story, Niel, and I’m awfully glad to get to tell it in this context.
I was home from Drury College as a sophomore, finished my sophomore year. It was on July 28, 1934 and I was at the garage on Main Street. I was in my father’s office, which was a very small office, and he received this telephone call from Springfield. It was Judge Scholten on the phone. I found out later from my father that Scholten and Dig Chinn had suggested to Harry Truman, who had come to Springfield to make a speech that evening at Grant Park which is in the north part of Springfield, that they should go out into the county that day and meet some people out in Greene County. So Scholten called my father, and that
was the telephone call asking if they could bring Harry Truman out to Ash Grove.
Of course, I think that’s the first time my father had heard of Harry Truman and he wanted to know who he was. I think he used the words, “Who the hell is he?” Then Dig Chinn got on the phone, according to my father, and told that Harry was a very fine county judge in Jackson County, and that he had Tom Pendergast’s support, and that he was going to be the next Senator of the United States and that he’d like to bring him out there to meet my father and let my father take him up and down Main Street and meet some of the people in town. So my father said, “Bring him on out here, but,” he said, “the best place for us to go is down to Everton.”
Now Everton is about seven mile, or eight miles west of Ash Grove, ands Ash Grove is very close to the Dade County line. Everton is over in Dade County, which as I told you before is four-to-one Republican. So, the arrangement was made that they’d drive on down. They did and the drove up in, I think it was, a Dodge coupe. I asked Judge Scholten’s grandson recently, who is a retired U.S. Army colonel, if his grandfather
had a coupe. He said, “Yes, my grandfather had an old Dodge coupe. I remember it.” Incidentally, the grandson is named Ernest Ferguson. He’s named after his grandfather Ernest Scholten. Scholten had a daughter who married a Ferguson.
So they drove up in front of the garage about 11:30, I would say, in the morning. It might have been closer to 11. Anyway, my father took Harry Truman up one side of the street and down the other. He took him in to meet the banker, John H. Perryman, who incidentally was a Democrat, and Mayor Clark Spencer, who was a Democrat, but he didn’t have very many Democrats to introduce him to in Ash Grove on Main Street. He got that tour done in time to get to Everton a little before 12 o’clock. We had a demonstrator; all dealers had a demonstrator, which always was a four-door, because they wanted to open the back door and let people in the back seat, the women folks and all. We had a black demonstrator and dad said to me, “John, you drive the car and Harry and I will get acquainted.” Judge Scholten and Dig Chinn went in Scholten’s car; they followed us in the black coupe. It’s only seven miles, I think, from Ash Grove
to Everton. My dad and Harry were in the back seat and I was in the front seat driving. But you ask my impression of Mr. Truman. When he walked in, he just looked like all the people that traded with us that wore a suit and tie. He had what I considered a very delicate handshake, whenever I shook hands with him.
JOHNSON: Did he wear a hat, by the way?
HULSTON: Yes, he had a hat.
JOHNSON: He wore a hat even as hot as it was.
HULSTON: Yes, even as hot as it was. I know I was impressed with the fact that he had his coat on and a tie and a white shirt. I want to tell you about the weather, and I think I'll stop and tell you about that now if I may. I have checked the records in Greene County', and in July 1934, every day except one, for the thirty-one days, the heat went over the 100 mark. There was only one day out of the month that it didn't go over a hundred, and the heat was at least 90 degrees when they got to Ash Grove. But Harry Truman was dapper as I remember. But I'm sure he had on a very light suit, because Mr. Truman knew how to dress.
Well, anyway, we started out for Everton. Of course, my dad was trying to get acquainted with him because he knew he was going to introduce him, and he wanted to say something about him. So, they talked a little bit. At that time we drove our cars, most of them from Kansas City, from the Leeds Plant out here in Kansas City; we drove them to Ash Grove. My father would bring up a drive-out team and most of the people he brought were men that had bought the car and they wanted to drive it, from the time they got it.
JOHNSON: Right off the assembly line.
HULSTON: Make sure, as they said, that somebody hadn't burned the motor out. So my father started talking to him about driving out those Model-Ts. He found out that Harry had been a farmer at Grandview, and he said, "Why, we always drove those old Model-Ts right out to Hickman Mills before we stopped." He said, "I've come by your place there many times." [Route] 71 was a gravel road then. He talked about it and asked him where the land laid. He asked, "It goes over all the way to the railroad?" And Truman said, "Yes." They talked about that, and how he stopped at Hickman Mills and checked these Model-Ts for water and oil, and see if they were too hot. We could only drive
a Model-T fifteen miles an hour until we got out to Belton, and then you could step it up to 20 or 25. So they made pretty good conversation. And then my father told us, of course, that he was a Mason at Melville, which after they burned it during the Civil War became Dadeville, in Dade County. And I remember the President mentioned to my father that he was a member of the Lodge at, I believe, Belton. I think it was Belton.
By the time we got down to Dyes Park at Everton which was on the south side of a little creek called Sinking Creek, which the railroad follows it, why he knew him pretty well. It was noon and people were standing around the church stands, eating fried in hog-lard hamburgers and fish sandwiches, and drinking red lemonade and red soda pop. There was a man in charge of the loudspeaker there by the name of Dr. Pharis. Believe it or not, he had been a medical doctor for the indigent people in Independence, under the County Court, when Harry Truman was County Judge his first term. So, believe it or not, Harry Truman met Dr. Pharis, who was a strong Republican, but I guess it didn't make any difference up there, because they had to hire a doctor. He was very happy to turn the microphone over to Harry Truman and my father. Because they had quite a crowd around the stands and because for the noon hour
it was a pretty good crowd, for a midday that hot, why they went right ahead with the speaking. My father introduced him. In short, you know, I just remember him saying that Harry Truman was a farmer and everybody at the picnic, of course, was a farmer, practically. My father said, "Now, you folks will want to be for this man because he's a farmer just like we are." Then he concluded by saying, "You know, his hands fit a plow handle just like an owl's claws fit a limb."
That just went over pretty big, and there was lots of laughter. Then Harry Truman said a few words. He acknowledged that he was a farmer and that he understood the farmer's problems and that he was a war veteran, that he had been overseas. He told them a little bit about Kansas City, Jackson County, and the County Court and how he had built some good roads up here, and he knew the people liked to have good roads. That's about all I remember. I think that Mr. Truman probably spoke 10 or 12 minutes, 15 minutes maybe. Then we went on back to...
JOHNSON: About how many people would have been there?
HULSTON: It's hard to say. As a kid, you know, if there were a hundred people, I would imagine that there were 500. I would imagine that it was somewhere between 100 and 150 maybe. It looked like an awfully big crowd to me.
JOHNSON: Some of them would have had mules and carts, or wagons there, or they all had automobiles?
HULSTON: By that time most people were driving either model-T Fords, or had a Chevrolet. Practically every car was a Ford or Chevrolet, except Benton Wilson, the banker in Dade County, I think, had a Buick.
JOHNSON: Your father must have been a good salesman.
HULSTON: He was a good salesman.
JOHNSON: To populate the county with Chevrolets.
HULSTON: Strangely enough, in 1941, the year before Pearl Harbor, he sold more Chevrolets in Ash Grove than the Chevrolet dealer sold Chevrolets in Springfield. The significant thing of that is that the 1946 quota because they quit letting the car dealers have passenger cars in '42 to 1946 -- in 1946 his quota of new cars
from Chevrolet was based on the number of cars he sold in 1941.
Johnson: Well, that helped.
HULSTON: The Chevrolet dealer in Springfield complained about that bitterly. He said, “Its terrible that a man out in Ash Grove would be getting more cars, more Chevrolets, than the dealer here in the city of 47,000,” at that time.
JOHNSON: Well, I get the impression that the Depression didn’t really affect your family very much.
HULSTON: No, we were fortunate in that we had a car dealership and everybody was trying to buy a car. They’d sacrifice nearly anything to buy a car. We were very fortunate in that we had a dealership with Chevrolets, which had become the leading car. In those days, pickup trucks did not sell. Hardly anyone had a pickup truck. The farmers bought...
JOHNSON: From where did farmers get most of their income? What was their crop?
HULSTON: In that area at that time the chief income was the milk cow.
JOHNSON: Oh, dairying.
HULSTON: Yes. Greene County and Lawrence County were very prominent milkshed counties for the whole state. The MFA and the Kraft people had plants in Springfield that took all of the whole milk and cream. I've heard it said that six Jersey cows for a farmer were equal to a paycheck -- the average paycheck -- that a man got working for wages. So, you see, nearly every farmer had a paycheck.
JOHNSON: Yes, well, there's a fairly steady market I suppose for milk. Prices may be a little more stable for milk than for other products.
HULSTON: Milk was fairly stable because that's one thing that people in the cities need -- milk, cream, and cheese.
JOHNSON: It was all hand milking I'll bet.
HULSTON: Practically. Well, the milking machine had come in, and if anybody had over a dozen cows, most of them would have a milking machine.
JOHNSON: Did they have electricity out there in the rural areas?
HULSTON: Yes, we had electricity. I think we got it in '33.
JOHNSON: That wouldn't have been REA then.
HULSTON: No, we had electricity; the Empire District Electric Company of Joplin had service to our area, so that some farmers had electricity. You see, Greene County is not a hilly county. Greene County -- part of it -- is on the so-called Ozark Plain, which is almost prairie. Greene County is a very fertile county.
JOHNSON: Good pasture land, then.
HULSTON: Yes, good pasture land. And nearly everybody had a few cows to milk. Then, of course there were beef cows and hogs and chickens. And a few people in the county up in our area, Ash Grove, worked for the Frisco Railroad in Springfield, because they had their main shops there. The Frisco shops were in Springfield. They took care of the building of all of the flat cars
and the box cars and the locomotives and the cabooses; they were all built in Springfield, Missouri.
JOHNSON: Do you have any idea how many cars they might sell in a year there?
HULSTON: No, I really don't. I know that on the 4th of July if he didn't sell six to eight new cars on the 4th of July, he felt like he had had a bad day.
JOHNSON: I notice this is July 28, 1934, that day you met Truman for the first time. That was my third birthday.
HULSTON: Oh, I see.
JOHNSON: So I'm sure I was celebrating that day too.
HULSTON: I guess I was 18 that day.
JOHNSON: To finish up that day, after that Everton talk...
HULSTON: He went back to Springfield. I don't have personal knowledge but I do know what happened from my father. I didn't go, but my father went to the speaking in Springfield which was at the Grant Beach Park, they call it, in north Springfield. Believe it or not, on that same
day, J. L. "Tuck" Milligan was in town, and he spoke at the southside park, Phelps Park.
JOHNSON: Just a coincidence?
HULSTON: I guess. I don't know who was following whom. But anyway it split the two Democrat factions. The Wear and Scholten and Dig Chinn faction was in favor of Truman, and of course, the so-called Dickey-Greenwade faction favored Tuck Milligan, because they were friends of Bennett "Champ" Clark our senior Senator. He was sponsoring Tuck Milligan as the other Democrat candidate for the nomination.
JOHNSON: You didn't mention Fred Canfil. Was Canfil there? He was chauffering Truman around wasn't he?
HULSTON: We all know, that read Truman, that Canfil was his chauffer, but since Scholten brought him down, I suspect -- this is just a supposition -- but I suspect that Harry Truman told Canfil to get some sleep. He was driving Harry Truman at night, and I imagine after that meeting in Springfield, if Canfil was there, he drove back to Kansas City, or to Independence that
night. They stayed at the Colonial Hotel, and I imagine that Fred Canfil was sleeping, while Harry was campaigning.
JOHNSON: Do you have any record of either of those two speeches, the one at Everton or the one in Springfield?
HULSTON: The one at Everton of course, was not recorded, and even the county newspaper, the Vedette, doesn't have it. The one at Grant Beach that night is mentioned in the Springfield paper. But no record is made of what he said.
JOHNSON: So the newspapers didn't quote...
HULSTON: They didn't quote. They told about who was for whom.
JOHNSON: He was promoting New Deal policies, there?
HULSTON: Yes, he made it very clear that he was Roosevelt's New Deal man, and of course, so did Tuck Milligan as far as that was concerned. But Milligan was running on his war record, primarily because he had been quite a hero, I think, under Bennett Clark, and he and Clark
were very close. But Harry Truman had built his fences too with the Veterans, the American Legion. The American Legion was very prominent in Greene County.
JOHNSON: Well, I think probably by this time in 1934 the New Deal programs for farmers had already started, so that maybe there had already been some parity payments, or subsidy payments.
HULSTON: I think they were buying up old cows by then, so the farmers could cull out their old cows and have a little bit of cash on hand. I really don't remember what else they were doing for farmers, except their morale was higher. But you see, farmers can be hurt worse by a drought than they can be hurt by low prices. A drought is a thing that farmers in those days dreaded more than anything else because that meant that they didn't have anything to sell.
JOHNSON: There was a drought in '34?
HULSTON: Yes, there was a drought in '33 and a drought in '34. Thirty-four may have been the worst drought year so far this century, because everything "burned up" as we say,
in July. All of the pastures burned up in July and they didn't have a hay crop, and they didn't have pasture to feed their stock through the summer and they didn't have hay to harvest. Usually you know they want two cuttings; they want a cutting in May or by June and then they expect another cutting in September. So they got their first cutting, I think, that year and they had some grass up until about the first of July. But then they had no grass after July and no hay crop after July. And that hurt the farmers worse than anything that year.
JOHNSON: So they were, on July 28, really...
HULSTON: Despondent. Very despondent. But the Everton picnic has by now already celebrated its hundredth year I think, so they still took time out to come to the Everton picnic.
JOHNSON: Did you get the impression that they did figure that the New Deal was their best bet for survival as farmers?
HULSTON: Yes. President Hoover had the name of doing
nothing, except saying prosperity is around the corner or something like that. And people had become very disillusioned with him. In Dade County, for example, I think it's safe to say that by 1934 a fifth of Dade County -- at least a fifth -- of the population had gone to California.
JOHNSON: Like Grapes of Wrath.
HULSTON: Like Grapes of Wrath. That's laid in Oklahoma, the dust bowl. Those that hadn't gone by 1934, another fifth had gone by 1936.
JOHNSON: You're helping your father, at least in your off hours, helping him with the business there?
HULSTON: Yes, I was the gasoline attendant, and...
JOHNSON: So he had a gasoline station there, too.
HULSTON: Gasoline pumps in front, two, high-test and low-test. I watched after the gasoline pumps, and washed cars in the back once in a while and helped get old cars ready to sell, clean them up as we'd say. Then once in a while I'd be permitted to sell an old car, provided it wasn't over $50.
JOHNSON: After that meeting with Truman I suppose he just said a few words to you. Can you recall?
HULSTON: Oh, no. I remember shaking hands with him and that his hand, I remember, was a delicate hand. You know, most people's hands that you shook, at that time, were horney-handed. I got ahold of this hand, and it made a difference.
JOHNSON: Well, if a politician shakes thousands of hands, perhaps he