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Pansy Perkins and Pauline Sims Oral History Interview

Oral History Interview with
Pansy Perkins and Pauline Sims

Pansy Perkins - Friend of the Truman family in Grandview; member of Mary Jane Truman's Sunday School class; member of Order of Eastern Star; former Vice President and Cashier, Grandview Bank.

Pauline Sims - Friend of the Truman family in Grandview; member of Mary Jane Truman's Sunday School class; member of Order of Eastern Star; public school teacher.

Grandview, Missouri
February 2, 1981
by Niel Johnson

[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. [45]) within the transcript indicate the pagination in the original, hard copy 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 It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.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 July, 1981
Harry S. Truman Library
Independence, Missouri


[Top of the Page | Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed]


Oral History Interview with
Pansy Perkins and Pauline Sims


Grandview, Missouri
February 2, 1981
by Niel Johnson


JOHNSON: Miss Perkins, I think we'll start with some questions for you. Would you tell me when and where you were born, and what your parents' names were?

PERKINS: I was born near Belton, Missouri, May 13, 1904.

JOHNSON: Near Belton, on a farm?


JOHNSON: And when did you move to Grandview?

PERKINS: We moved to Grandview in 1916.


JOHNSON: What were your parents' names?

PERKINS: John R. Perkins was my father, and Melvina Perkins was my mother.

JOHNSON: Then you moved to the Grandview area in 1916. That's when you first got acquainted with the Truman family, or had you known about the Trumans before that time?

PERKINS: No, I didn't know them. We moved to Grandview and started to high school that year in 1916.

JOHNSON: You moved here with your parents, right?

PERKINS: Yes, we lived on a farm east of Grandview.

JOHNSON: If we can pin down that location, about how far east would that be?

PERKINS: Well, it was about 3/4 of a mile east of Grandview.

JOHNSON: About how far would that be from the Truman farm?


PERKINS: Well, it would be about a mile and a half.

JOHNSON: When did you first become acquainted with the Truman family? Do you recall the circumstances?

PERKINS: Well, we immediately moved our church membership to the old Grandview Baptist Church, and of course Mary Truman was very active in the church at that time. I became acquainted with her just right away. She was my Sunday School teacher. I don't remember the years, but she taught Sunday School.

JOHNSON: Do you recall her brother, Harry, ever being at the church?

PERKINS: Yes, periodically she would call or let it be known that she couldn't be there that Sunday because Harry was coming out and he wanted to come to church with her. So she had to miss Sunday School. So, yes, he came to church.

JOHNSON: Now what years are we talking about?


PERKINS: We're talking about from 1916 on, to about 1918, because I think he went to war maybe in 1917. But it was during that year that he was...

JOHNSON: That year just before he went into the Army?

PERKINS: That's right.

JOHNSON: And he lived out here on the farm. His sister, Mary Jane, was your Sunday School teacher, and once in awhile she would give the class to someone else so that she and her brother could go to church together?

PERKINS: That's right.

JOHNSON: Do you recall anything about that year in regard to Harry Truman?

PERKINS: Well, no, except that I just knew that he was a man that she was very, very fond of. And everything stopped in their home when Harry was going to come because they thought so much of him.


JOHNSON: Do you recall anything about Harry Truman's reputation in that year that you were acquainted with him back there in 1916-17? Did he stand out in any way?

PERKINS: Well, he was a very, very genteel and polite human being. He was the type of person that you just felt so at ease when you met him; he was so down-to-earth, and yet he was something else, too, even then.

JOHNSON: Do you recall when you first met him? Would it have been at church?

PERKINS: I think so; I'm quite sure.

JOHNSON: Do you remember him playing the piano?

PERKINS: Not at church. Mary played; she was our pianist for years.

JOHNSON: In the Sunday School?

PERKINS: Yes; at church too.

JOHNSON: Did they have an organ?


PERKINS: No, not then.

JOHNSON: So she had what would now be the job of an organist?


JOHNSON: You're one of the few that I've talked to that did meet Harry Truman while he was still living on the farm. Of course, that was the last year that he actually worked on the farm and lived on it.

At this point, maybe I should ask Miss Sims the same kind of questions. Do you want to tell me when and where you were born and what your parents' names were?

SIMS: I was born on a farm near Versailles, Missouri and my father was Reverend J. Ben Sims, and my mother was Laura Ida Jones Sims. I was born July 8, 1906.

JOHNSON: You were born near Versailles?


SIMS: That's down near what is now the Lake of the Ozarks.

JOHNSON: When did you move to the Grandview area?

SIMS: I went to school at Southwest Baptist College and Hannah Clements Montgomery was one of my classmates. It was through her that I came to Grandview to teach in 1927. I was here three years and during that time I was also in the same Sunday School class that Pansy was talking about, and Mary was the teacher. I can remember at least once or twice going out to the old home and attending parties, Sunday School class parties, out there.

JOHNSON: At the Truman farm home. And what years was that?

SIMS: That was between '27 and '30. I was here three years. Then I left and was gone for 12 years and then I came back here in 1942. I've been here ever since. It was during that time that I renewed my acquaintance with Mary.


JOHNSON: She was still teaching Sunday School from '27 to ‘30?

SIMS: Yes. Not all the time, I can't remember which years, but part of the time.

JOHNSON: What age level was that that she was teaching?

SIMS: Adult women.

JOHNSON: Miss Perkins, you would have been only twelve years old when you started in Mary Jane's class. So she was teaching the 7th-8th grade or 6th-7th grade then?

PERKINS: Well, I was ready for high school.

SIMS: Back in those days it was a small church and the age group wasn't just one or two years, it covered from teens up through early twenties or something like that.

PERKINS: But Mary taught, I would say, off and on from 1916 on.

SIMS: I think she was still teaching when I left here in 1930.


JOHNSON: I don't know if they had any lay preachers in those days. Did you ever hear Mr. Truman speak in church before the dedication in 1950?

SIMS: I don't know where I got the information, but I either read it somewhere, or it might have been Mary told me, that back during the years that Harry was here on the farm he was active in what at that time was called BYPU, the Baptist Young People's Union, a youth organization. As I say, I can't verify that but I know that somewhere I have received that information.

JOHNSON: In 1917, of course, Harry Truman leaves the farm to enter the Army. Do you recall anything about the time that he was in World War I? Did you visit the farm home in that period when he was gone?

PERKINS: I can't remember the dates, but I've been out there several times. I'm sure I was there.


SIMS: I can remember going out there at least once. It was in the wintertime; I can remember wrapping up to go. And we played tiddlywinks. I don't know why that comes to my mind.

JOHNSON: That would have been the late twenties you're talking about?

SIMS: That would be between '27 and '30.

JOHNSON: You played tiddlywinks on the farm.

SIMS: It was a Sunday School party, Sunday School class party. I think I recollect going in there another time or two, but that particular one stands out in my mind.

JOHNSON: Did you ever meet Harry Truman at the farm home at any time?

SIMS: No, I don't remember that I did. In fact, I don't know that I remember meeting him until after I came back in 1942. As I said awhile ago, I met him one night when he was the


Installing Patron at Eastern Star and I was the Installing Organist.

JOHNSON: Organist?

SIMS: It was a piano but they called the office organist.

JOHNSON: You say you can't recall just when your first visit was to the farm home?

PERKINS: No, I don't.

JOHNSON: But was it before or after World War I? Would it have been that first year that you were here?

PERKINS: It must have been after; I've just been kind of hazy about that.

JOHNSON: Do you recall anything about the farm sale out there, the sale of the equipment and livestock in 1919 after Harry Truman came back from the Army?



JOHNSON: Do you recall anything about that sale?

PERKINS: No, I know they had one.

JOHNSON: Have you heard, or do you know of any equipment or items from that farm, who might own any, or where they might be located?


JOHNSON: Mr. Truman apparently spent a few weeks out here at the farm and then of course did get married to Bess Wallace and decided to live in Independence at her mother's home. Do you recall when you first saw him again after he had gone away to the Army?

PERKINS: I just can't remember those dates. I know after he became Judge, I remember those Sundays that he would come out to see his mother and come to church with Mary.

JOHNSON: This would be in the twenties?

PERKINS: You see, his wife and daughter would be


gone to their church, and he would come out here and visit his mother awhile. She didn't come to church, and he would just come to church with Mary. I remember those Sundays.

JOHNSON: So usually he came out here without his wife, without Bess or Margaret?

PERKINS: Yes, because they went to their own church. I don't think he went to church with them very often. I don't believe he did, except on special occasions.

JOHNSON: So we're talking now about the 1920s?

PERKINS: Yes; it was sometime in there.

JOHNSON: Did he come out rather frequently to visit on Sundays?

PERKINS: Well, it was not uncommon I'd say. He was very faithful to see his mother sometime during the week.

JOHNSON: Did you get a chance to talk to him at all


then when he was here with his sister at church?

PERKINS: No, no, except just maybe to speak a few words to him or something like that. Then we didn't think too much about him, except that he was a County Judge. Like what was it his mother-in-law called him? I got the book Bess and Harry for Christmas and I am enjoying reading it so much.

JOHNSON: Do you recall anything about the farm itself, way back there in the early period? Do you recall anything about the kinds of crops they grew out there?

PERKINS: No; I was raised on a farm, but I'm the poorest farmer that ever lived. My father didn't believe in the womenfolks having anything to do about the farm.

JOHNSON: Didn't have to milk cows or anything?

PERKINS: Oh, we could have chickens, but we didn't


have anything to do with the farm work or anything.

JOHNSON: Have you heard of Harry Truman's reputation as a farmer, that he was scientific, and practiced conservation, and raised pure-bred stock and that sort of thing?

PERKINS: No, I don't think so.

SIMS: All people heard was that he plowed a straight row.

PERKINS: I remember one particular thing. Mary Truman said that they didn't even have a cow, that they all hated to milk so. She said, "We bought milk."

JOHNSON: She said they didn't have cows, and the reason was that they just hated to milk?

PERKINS: They hated to milk. I thought that was the funniest thing, people living on a farm and not having a cow.


JOHNSON: Well, they apparently had some cattle, but they must have been steers or beef cattle. I guess I hadn't thought about that. Did she say they bought milk for their use?

PERKINS: Yes, they bought milk. They bought milk at the grocery store.

JOHNSON: And that was a 600-acre farm, a lot of pasture land.

PERKINS: Yes. Well, I can understand. Just she and her mother, you know, and how well would they do, milking a cow?

JOHNSON: They may have had a few cows before he left for the Army, possibly.

PERKINS: Well, might have been.

JOHNSON: In the twenties at least. And apparently Vivian Truman was farming the land over there. I get the impression that a lot of that land was used for hay and for grazing in the twenties.


PERKINS: There was a great big barn out there that burned several years ago.

JOHNSON: Yes, that was sure unfortunate wasn't it?