Numbers appearing in square brackets (ex. ) within the transcript indicate the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the oral history interview.
Opened October, 1994
January 15, 1988
by Niel M. Johnson
Mr. Lagerquist discusses his educational background, his military service and his Government career in the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Department of Labor and the National Archives before coming to Kansas City to work on the Truman papers in 1953 when President Truman left office and returned to private life. He first worked on the Truman papers at the Federal Courthouse in Kansas City while Truman had his office in the Federal Reserve Building. The papers were moved to the Memorial Building in Independence in the fall of 1954 when James R. Fuchs came out from Washington, DC to help Mr. Lagerquist with processing the Truman papers - White House Central Files. He discusses all sorts of archival terms and processes including declassification of security classified documents and the evaluation of the Truman Library and its growth especially after the opening of the President's Secretary's Files after the death of President Truman in 1972.
Names mentioned by Mr. Lagerquist include Dean G. Acheson, Eugene Bailey, Thomas Hart Benton, Dennis E. Bilger, Philip C. Brooks, James F. Byrnes, Oscar L. Chapman, Donna Clark, Harry Clark, Jr., Clark M. Clifford, Rose A. Conway, Thomas Corcoran, John T. Curry, George H. Curtis, Ben Cutcliff, Margaret Truman Daniel, Jonathan Daniels, Robert Donovan, Dwight D. Eisenhower, George M. Elsey, Robert H. Ferrell, Frank Freidel, James R. Fuchs, John Gimbel, Robert Goe, Dr. Wayne Grover, Alonzo Hamby, Willie Harriford, W. Averell Harriman, Anita Heavener, Francis Heller, Betty Hershey, Jerry N. Hess, William Hillman, June William Holloway, Louis A. Johnson, Herman Kahn, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Richard Kirkendall, Catherine Lagerquist, Walter Lagerquist, Walter Lagerquist, Jr., Dr. Richard W. Leopold, David D. Lloyd, Robert N. Lovett, Dr. Francis Lowenheim, Helen Luckey, David McCullough, Donald McCoy, Douglas MacArthur, George C. Marshall, Joseph Mehl, Joseph Mehl, Jr., Richard B. Miller, Charles Morrissey, Erwin J. Mueller, Charles S. Murphy, David Noyes, Charles Warren Ohrvall, Thad Page, Milton Perry, Doris A. Pesek, Monty Poen, Kenneth Prescott, Jack Romagna, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Julius Rosenberg, Clinton Rossiter, Theodore Schellenberger, Cecil Schrepfer, Arthur Schlessinger, Jr., Nikolai Sevachev, Ruth Springston, John R. Steelman, Harry S. Truman, J.C. Truman, Henry Ulasek, Harry H. Vaughan, George Wallace, George Washington, Robert Weatherford, Lawrence Yates and Dr. Benedict K. Zobrist.
JOHNSON: I'm here in the Library interviewing Philip D. Lagerquist. What does the D stand for?
JOHNSON: Just some brief background, Phil. I know that you probably consider this peripheral, but we'll do it very briefly. When and where were you born?
LAGERQUIST: August 31, 1917 in Evanston, Illinois.
JOHNSON: And your parents' names?
LAGERQUIST: My father's name was Walter and my mother's name was Catherine.
JOHNSON: Walter; I understand he was an economics professor?
LAGERQUIST: At Northwestern.
JOHNSON: I know you at least have one brother. Is that all your brothers and sisters?
LAGERQUIST: One brother.
JOHNSON: And his name is?
LAGERQUIST: Walter also.
JOHNSON: And your education, briefly, to summarize it; what schools did you attend?
LAGERQUIST: I attended a public grade school in Evanston, and then we moved to Westchester County when I was eight years old, I guess.
JOHNSON: Around New York City?
LAGERQUIST: Suburban New York City. Went to public schools there and then in high school I went to a private school, Horace Mann School, which was connected with Columbia University.
JOHNSON: Was your father transferred up there?
LAGERQUIST: He took a job with a bank.
JOHNSON: So he got out of teaching.
JOHNSON: Is Horace Mann a boarding school? Did you board there?
LAGERQUIST: No. It was a day school, like Pembroke.
JOHNSON: Did you commute?
LAGERQUIST: Well, it was not a long commute. Yes, I commuted.
JOHNSON: Then what did you do?
LAGERQUIST: Then I went to Yale, to college. Graduated in economics. Then, almost immediately after I got out of college I went into the Army.
JOHNSON: Do you remember why you chose Yale?
LAGERQUIST: My father went there; that's part of it.
JOHNSON: Your father's alma mater.
LAGERQUIST: I suppose there were other reasons.
JOHNSON: How about professors at Yale? Were there any that were especially memorable and influential?
LAGERQUIST: I don't think so. None that I can say now.
JOHNSON: In economics.
LAGERQUIST: Well, my major was economics, but I took a lot
of history and other courses. My subject fields were pretty broad. It was a degree in humanities really.
JOHNSON: Did they require a senior thesis, a big seminar paper, or anything like that?
LAGERQUIST: As I recall, there was some sort of a requirement, a senior thesis.
JOHNSON: Did you do any research at that time in original or primary materials?
LAGERQUIST: I don't think so.
JOHNSON: I know they've got some good manuscript collections there at Yale.
LAGERQUIST: You're probably thinking of the Beinecke Library. That was built since I was there. Yes, they do have a large manuscript collection.
JOHNSON: So then you got your BA in 19...
JOHNSON: The spring of '41, and then you say you went into the Army.
JOHNSON: Were you drafted?
LAGERQUIST: I volunteered for the draft. See, that was before the war. You could volunteer for the draft; at that time you just went in for a year and got your year over, and then you would go on about what you wanted to do. Of course, the war was started by the time...
JOHNSON: In other words, instead of being a year it ended up how long?
LAGERQUIST: Four years; almost four years.
JOHNSON: In other words, if you had not enlisted in early '41, you probably would have been drafted in '42, and that might have been three years instead of four.
LAGERQUIST: Well, I also might have been shot. I might have gone someplace where I would be shot at.
JOHNSON: What did you do while you were in the Army?
LAGERQUIST: I was assigned to the Quartermaster Corps. I had basic training at Camp Lee, which was a Quartermaster Corps training camp; it's now Fort Lee I think. Just as soon as I was through basic training, I was sent down to Jamaica, in the West Indies. Ordinarily, later on, if you hadn't had any leave before you were sent overseas you got a furlough, a month's furlough, or two weeks furlough, something like that. But that was something that came later on, so I
didn't get home for several years.
JOHNSON: You didn't even get a furlough after basic?
JOHNSON: You were still in the Quartermaster Corps. In the West Indies?
LAGERQUIST: Yes. In Jamaica.
JOHNSON: So you served in the West Indies.
LAGERQUIST: Mostly in Jamaica, and then a little while in Puerto Rico.
JOHNSON: Do you remember when you were sent down there?
LAGERQUIST: It was in '42.
JOHNSON: You were there until?
LAGERQUIST: I was there until '44. Then, my last year I was shifted around from here to there, and I was back at Lee for a little while, for about a month. But my last year in the Army I was at Jeffersonville Quartermaster Depot, which is right across the river from Louisville, Kentucky.
JOHNSON: Just in general terms, what kind of work did you do in the Quartermaster Corps?
LAGERQUIST: It was clerical work mostly. When I first went down there it was working in the section of the Quartermaster department that processed food and distributed food, that sort of thing. Then, for a while I was in a sort of a bookkeeping job. My last job was in personnel. I was taking care of the personnel records for...
JOHNSON: Your last year or so.
LAGERQUIST: Well, both down there in Jamaica and also when I got back here to the United States.