Oral History Interview with
Military associate of Harry S. Truman in the Missouri National Guard, 1906-11; Captain of "C" Battery, 129th Field Artillery Regiment in World War I, 1917-19; and subsequently, he served in the U.S. Army Reserve Corps with Mr. Truman. In 1938 Marks was appointed Veterans Placement Officer for Missouri, Veterans Employment Service, U.S. Employment Service. He was made Staff Field Officer in 1947 and in addition to that position was Associate Chief of the Service from 1950 until 1953, when he retired. Mr. Marks has been a close personal friend of Mr. Truman since World War I.
Kansas City, Missouri
September 19 and November 27, 1962
by James 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.
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 It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.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 May, 1963
Harry S. Truman Library
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Oral History Interview with
Kansas City, Missouri
September 19, 1962
by James R. Fuchs
FUCHS: Mr. Marks, I imagine your name is Theodore Marks, is that correct?
MARKS: Theodore, but they call me "Ted." Nobody calls me Theodore.
FUCHS: Have they always called you Ted since you came to this country?
MARKS: Yes. Mr. Truman once in a while will say, "Hello Theodore," but we laugh and that's it. He likes to kid me, you know about those things.
FUCHS: Have you a middle name?
MARKS: No, no middle name. When we were born in England, they didn't look for middle names. It was John Jones or whatever.
FUCHS: What year were you born and where in England?
MARKS: November the 7th, 1882, in Liverpool, England.
FUCHS: And then, you lived in Liverpool most of your life in England?
MARKS: Yes, then we moved to Nottingham -- the lace industry there. It was well-known for the lace manufacture.
FUCHS: About what year was that?
MARKS: I was about eleven or twelve years old at that time, when my folks moved.
FUCHS: Did you have any brothers and sisters?
MARKS: Yes, I had three brothers and two sisters.
FUCHS: I see. And then your folks came over here about what year? Maybe you can remember better by how old you were when you came over?
MARKS: I was twenty-one -- twenty-two, somewhere around there.
FUCHS: How long had your folks been over here then?
MARKS: They had been over here about two or three years, if I remember right. You see I had served in the Grenadier Guards.
FUCHS: You were in the Grenadier Guards?
MARKS: Yes, I ran away from home when I was seventeen and enlisted in the Grenadier Guards and became a corporal.
FUCHS: Seventeen -- that would have been about 1899. You joined the Guards and your folks came over here a few years after that.
MARKS: Yes, a few years after that. My father came over with my eldest brother and then he sent for my mother and my two sisters and my other brothers. I came over by myself.
FUCHS: They came to Kansas City immediately when they...?
MARKS: Yes, my father met some fellow on the train and he told him that Kansas City was a good town to come to and that's why he came here, and he never left Kansas City.
FUCHS: You mean on the train after he got in this country? Where were they headed for at the time?
MARKS: Well, he was going west somewhere; I don't know where he was going. They didn't know at the time.
FUCHS: You served in the Guard then from the time you were seventeen until...?
MARKS: I served three years. Yes, I was in the Second Battalion, Grenadier Guards and Lord Gordon Gilmoor was the commanding officer; Lord Peel was another officer; the Honorable Gathorne-Hardy was another officer in our regiment. While I was in the Guards, of course, we stood on the outside and took all we could bear from the
civilians watching us. I understand now they put them on the inside of the gates of Buckingham Palace.
FUCHS: I think there was recently something in the paper about the people heckling them.
MARKS: Yes, that's what I saw. When we were there, of course, we stood on the front gates and the boys and girls would come up and touch your buttons or something like that, you know. And then we used to go up to the Bank of England. It was an old custom. The bank was well-guarded but they decided to send a guard up to the bank every evening. We would march up the Thames embankment to the bank and we would ask each other, "Who's the officer of the guard tonight?" If we knew he was a sportsman, we anticipated riding up on the bus; however, if he was struggling along, why, we would walk. And I won't tell you the names we used to call him to ourselves.
FUCHS: Well, that's very interesting. Then did you leave the guards to come to this country or did you get out and pursue some other occupation over there for awhile.
MARKS: No, I left the Guards and came to Liverpool and stayed there a while and then came over to this country.
FUCHS: Did you start your occupation as a tailor while you were in England?
MARKS: Yes, I was a tailor in England. In those days, of course, we used to sit on the floor and make coats.
FUCHS: Was this after you were out of the Guards, or before?
MARKS: After I was out of the Guards.
FUCHS: About how many years did you practice tailoring in England before you came over?
MARKS: Well, of course, as a youngster my father had a workshop in one of the rooms in the house and when we came from school we'd have to go up and thread needles so he wouldn't have to thread them.
FUCHS: Oh, your father was a tailor?
MARKS: Oh yes. My two brothers were tailors as well. One brother stayed in England. He raised two boys; one came over to this country recently and he was a lieutenant in the second war, in the English Navy -- my brother's boy in England. He was here recently to see us, my sister and I. He's up in Canada now. He's something with the schools up there. He's a very smart young fellow.
FUCHS: Then what year did you come to the United States?
MARKS: 1906. Yes, 1906
FUCHS: You landed in New York?
MARKS: I landed in New York. Came steerage into New York and got on a train and didn't know where to go.
FUCHS: Had your folks anticipated your coming?
MARKS: Yes, but I decided to come to see the folks first and that's where I met a fellow on the train and in talking to him, he said Kansas City was a good town to come to.
FUCHS: You knew your folks were here.
MARKS: Yes, I told him that I was coming here. He told me it was a good town to be in. So, that's how I came to Kansas City.
Upon arriving in Kansas City, I met a fellow named Trenary and he had a boy in the National Guard, and Trenary was the chief mechanic, and he told me it would be a fine thing for me if I would join the National Guard and get acquainted with some people. So, I met him one night and went down to the battery at 17th and Highland where I met a corporal. I was told to go upstairs to the battery clerk's office. Upon arriving there
I saw a corporal sitting at the desk who wore glasses. He said, "What can I do for you?"
I said, "I'd like to enlist, sir."
He said, "How long have you been in this country?"
"About six months, sir."
"You speak pretty good English for the time you've been here."
And I thought, "What kind of country is this to come to?"
FUCHS: You say that this man you met here was the chief mechanic of the battery.
MARKS: Battery -- National Guard.
FUCHS: Oh, they had a position they called a mechanic?
MARKS: Yes, in those days -- chief mechanic.
FUCHS: What were their duties?
MARKS: Well, we had guns there -- three inch guns -- and if anything went wrong he could tinker around with them. Yes, he knew the guns. He had a son in the National Guards. He was a bugler -- Ira Trenary.
FUCHS: You said you had been. In the country about six
months. Had that time been spent mostly in Kansas City?
MARKS: Yes, in Kansas City.
FUCHS: You were here sometime before you went and enlisted in the National Guard?
MARKS: It was probably about six months and I met this fellow and he knew my father and we were discussing the service, and I was very much interested in the military and I wanted to get acquainted with the fellows here, so I enlisted. Of course, Harry Truman was the battery clerk.
FUCHS: Did any more words pass at that time, between you and Mr. Truman?
MARKS: No, not at that time. I was taken downstairs to the drill. They were drilling that night. Captain George R. Collins was the commanding officer, and he introduced me to the battery members and I was one of them.
FUCHS: Did you have to pay twenty-five cents, I believe it was, a night to drill? There's something I've seen -- Mr. Truman wrote about in his Memoirs, where he said they went out to some hall and paid twenty-five cents a night for the privilege of drilling. I wondered what
that had reference to. You don't recall anything about that?
MARKS: No, I do not. It may be that they went to drill somewhere and they charged them for it; I wouldn't know. I don't remember.
FUCHS: You didn't have that experience.
MARKS: No, I did not have that experience.
FUCHS: Were you living at home at the time, with your folks?
MARKS: Yes, with my folks.
FUCHS: Were you practicing tailoring at that time?
MARKS: Yes, I was a tailor and got a job in Kansas City. Started out at twenty-five dollars a week, which was comfortable in those days.
FUCHS: You weren't working with your father then as a tailor?
FUCHS: Was he a practicing tailor.
MARKS: He had a store on -- 13th and Walnut -- on 13th Street.
FUCHS: Your father had a store there, you say, but you didn't go in with him. Where did you work?
MARKS: For Bergfeldt and Roueche. They were tailors for a number of years -- high-class tailors. In those days they used to charge seventy-five dollars for a suit, which was quite a large sum. I belonged to the Merchants Tailor's Association later on when I went in business for myself. We would meet once a month and discuss the problems we were having in fitting people and it was quite interesting. Each one would say something about his difficulties and that's where we could straighten them out. It was a great help -- that was the Merchant Tailor's Association.
FUCHS: About what year did you go in business for yourself? Was it before World War I?
MARKS: Yes. I closed my business to go down to the Mexican border. Then I came back and opened up again, and six months later I closed again and went overseas.
FUCHS: Well, Mr. Truman, as you know, served two three-year hitches, from 1906 to 1911. Do you have any memories of him at various drills or any other meetings that the Guard had during that period?
MARKS: No, I didn't at that time because he was up in the office most of the time during the drill night, and we
would be drilling down in the basement or out in the field.
FUCHS: He spent his time as a corporal in the orderly room?
MARKS: In the orderly room because there was plenty to do there with the records. Occasionally he would come down and drill.
FUCHS: Well now, there were other corporals, did they pass the duty around or did he have a assignment as -- I don't know what the title would have been -- as orderly room officer there?
MARKS: Battery clerk. He was a non-commissioned officer -- corporal, I believe at the time.
FUCHS: He was the battery clerk for Battery B and that was then the 2nd Missouri Field Artillery?
MARKS: At that time it wasn't called the 2nd Missouri; that came later on. It was just Battery B of the Missouri National Guard.
FUCHS: And there was one battery here and another...?
MARKS: Another in St. Louis. Battery A was in St. Louis; Battery B in Kansas City; and Battery C in Independence.
FUCHS: Was that all the National Guard that there was in the state?
FUCHS: As you say, Mr. Truman spent most of his time in the orderly room, so you didn't really have much contact with him in those years.
MARKS: He would come down once in a while for drill, but there was quite a number of things to do in an office when fellows were enlisting -- keeping records -- making out papers for them. So he didn't have too much time; but he did drill occasionally on the first floor, we had a drill room.
FUCHS: Who were some of the other officers or non-commissioned officers at that time?
MARKS: Lieutenant Boxley was one of them; he was a very fine officer. Dr. Pittam was the medical officer; George Collins was the captain at that time.
FUCHS: That was the ranking commanding officer?
MARKS: George R. Collins was the ranking officer of the battery. He was very strict and had a good battery
at that time.
FUCHS: Were there other non-commissioned officers, that you recall in addition to Mr. Truman?
MARKS: I don't remember.
FUCHS: You were a private in the ranks, at that time.
MARKS: Yes, at about that time, I was a private in the ranks.
FUCHS: You say that in 1916 you went to the border with Pershing?
MARKS: I don't know about Pershing. We went down on the Mexican border in 1916. I was in business and closed my business and went down with the battery. Of course, I was supposed to go, so I went down there with them, and was first sergeant on the Mexican border. Spent six months on the Mexican border. Then, I came back and opened up my business again. Then in the spring, I closed it again to go overseas.
FUCHS: I believe I earlier said 1906 to 1911 -- actually Mr. Truman was in the Guard from 1905 until 1911 -- in those years you don't have a great many recollections of seeing him, and then in 1911, of course, he was back on the farm and he dropped out of the Guard; then he came back in
1917. Between 1911, when he was out of the Guard, and 1917, do you have any memories of contact with him during those years or did you sort of lose track of each other.
MARKS: Well, I'd see him occasionally. I don't remember. I can't think