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Maxine Williams Oral History Interview



Oral History Interview with
Maxine Williams

Has been a tenant on the Truman farm in Grandview since 1954, and lived in the Truman farm house from 1956 until 1983.

Grandview, Missouri
May 17, 1983
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, 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 It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.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 November, 1983
Harry S. Truman Library
Independence, Missouri


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


Oral History Interview with
Maxine Williams


Grandview, Missouri
May 17, 1983
by Niel Johnson


JOHNSON: We are looking at some photographs at the moment and I thought I would record comments about some of the photographs and what they show. I have one here that's a square snapshot that shows a patio, a concrete patio, off the back porch, the back door, that was put in by Mr. Williams after they moved here. Do you have any idea when that was done? That concrete patio?

WILLIAMS: No I don't.

JOHNSON: What year was it you moved to this house?



JOHNSON: The picture was taken in 1965, so the work was done sometime before that. Was there a concrete walk from the gate up to the back door before the patio was built?

WILLIAMS: That is one there in that picture, but I can't remember whether that was there, or whether we put it in.

JOHNSON: The photos also show that the kitchen part of the house was sitting on old stone columns or stone piers. Was that closed in?

WILLIAMS: He closed that in when he put that concrete in there.

JOHNSON: Was this porch enclosed when you moved there, or did you enclose the porch?

WILLIAMS: No, it was a screened porch.

This is the john; had three holes.

JOHNSON: This was to the west of the house and a


little south.

WILLIAMS: That photo shows the garage, and there's the john.


WILLIAMS: And there's those trees. Now there's the front of that barn right there, see it?

JOHNSON: Yes, that barn does look like this one. The barn in the background of this snapshot looks like the Library photos that we have labeled 67-1 and 67-2. Is this your son, one of your sons here, the baby?

WILLIAMS: Let me think. It must have been taken not too long after we moved here, because that's Rickie.

JOHNSON: And how old is he?

WILLIAMS: If he was living he would be 29. He was born in '54.

JOHNSON: In '54, so he's about two years old here


isn't he?


JOHNSON: So this snapshot was probably taken about 1956, just shortly after the Williams family moved here, and the barn does appear in the background. Also there's a clothesline in the background.


JOHNSON: Now that barn is a little bit to the north; it's west and a little north of the house. Do you think that was what they called the old hay barn?

WILLIAMS: Just before we moved up here they used it for a hay barn.

JOHNSON: Was it the only barn?

WILLIAMS: The only barn, besides the one that was over at Vivian's.

JOHNSON: There was Vivian's barn, and this was the


only other barn on the farm?

Is Vivian's barn still there?


I think this picture was taken after my youngest son was born.

JOHNSON: This is printed "May 1960."

WILLIAMS: I am not sure when the barn burned, but it was after my daughter got married. My granddaughter will be 16 in July. I'd say it burned at least 15 or 16 years ago. [The date it burned was November 6, 1966.]

JOHNSON: Do you know anything about that shed? Was it the chicken house?

WILLIAMS: As far as I know.

JOHNSON: This is your younger son, surviving son. What's his name?

WILLIAMS: Yes, Stephen. He mows for J.C. Truman and Commerce Bank, and he works for Dusselier's.


I don't know exactly where that's at, but it's out here.

JOHNSON: Okay, this was taken in 1959.

WILLIAMS: That's been 24 years ago, because that's when Stephen was born.

In this picture you can see just where that shed was torn up by the tornado, because it took most of the top of it off.

JOHNSON: This is a square snapshot with a toddler in a stroller and a little boy on a little bike, and the shed is there in the background. Was the rest of the shed dismantled afterwards?


JOHNSON: Do you know what that shed had been used for?

WILLIAMS: Hogs. When I moved here I think Vivian kept hogs in it.

JOHNSON: And this was to the northeast of the house.


WILLIAMS: Here's a full picture of the barn that burned. Yes, that is the same barn as in 67-1 and 67-2.

JOHNSON: Okay, but my impression is that there was another barn back there.

WILLIAMS: There probably was, probably went right straight down from that road. I think that Vivian talked about it once, but...

JOHNSON: Well, what happened to that barn?

WILLIAMS: It wasn't here when we moved here.

JOHNSON: So, sometime between, let's say, maybe 1940 and 1955 this big barn somehow disappeared.

WILLIAMS: It disappeared before we ever moved down on the highway in 1954.

JOHNSON: Do you remember the granary? It was at the corner of that farm lot back there.

WILLIAMS: Not to my knowledge.


JOHNSON: We talked about the barn being there. The hog house was there until it was taken out by the tornado. The hen house, which had been moved from its original location, was still there. In fact, it's there now, right?


JOHNSON: The outhouse was out here; that's been removed. Any other buildings that you recall being on the grounds that are no longer here? The garage is still here, of course.

WILLIAMS: Only those I have mentioned. When Clois Keith lived here he used the barn for his horses. It burned when he was living in the Vivian Truman house. They rented that house after Vivian died. The family moved Louella down to Louisburg, and they rented out the house to Keith.

JOHNSON: I believe Vivian died in 1962, and his widow survived for a number of years apparently.

WILLIAMS: Yes, she did. I used to drive them to town.


My husband and I would take them over to Independence, because he had arthritis.

JOHNSON: You mentioned once that he told you stories and you wish you could remember them. Do any of those come back to mind? Any particular episodes or comments or any anecdotes?

WILLIAMS: Vivian could sure tell you some stories. Actually, I did most of the listening in here and he was sitting in there visiting with my husband. You know how it goes.


WILLIAMS: We'd go over and bring them over for supper.

JOHNSON: Any particular things that kind of crop out in your mind at the moment?

WILLIAMS: Not right offhand. He used to tell me to run all those people off if they came up here and bothered me.

JOHNSON: There were tourists that were curious and


were coming up to the farm?

WILLIAMS: Oh sure. Well, you see, Harry used to come out here, and the TV people would go around the house with cameras and take pictures of him. My husband told me I ought to go out there and shake his hand and get on TV.

JOHNSON: Did you shake Harry's hand?

WILLIAMS: No. I was chicken.

JOHNSON: You do remember Harry Truman coming out here with his brother?

WILLIAMS: Oh, yes. He shook my older son's hand out there on the driveway. He came home and said, "Mom, guess who I saw out in the driveway?"

And I said, "Who?"

And he said, "President Truman." He said, "He stopped the car and got out and shook my hand."

JOHNSON: This would have been...


WILLIAMS: When he was in Baptiste Junior High School. I remember because it was when he was in football and he went to the store to get some spikes one evening.

JOHNSON: Do you remember why Harry Truman came out?

WILLIAMS: He used to come out here quite a lot. I know that's when he saw that porch, and he wanted it fixed.

JOHNSON: President Truman?

WILLIAMS: You know, it was when the boards were getting badly rotted.

JOHNSON: Okay, you're talking about the front porch?

WILLIAMS: The one that is facing west.

JOHNSON: Facing Blue Ridge Boulevard. And President Truman noticed that it needed repair.

WILLIAMS: Right, and my husband put a concrete floor in it, and fixed the top, and shingled it.


JOHNSON: The posts that support the...

WILLIAMS: They are original.

JOHNSON: They are still the same posts that have always been there. So it was President Truman's idea to put a concrete base in there?

WILLIAMS: I think he just wanted it fixed, because he was afraid that someone would get hurt on it.

JOHNSON: The roof would come down on it?

WILLIAMS: You know how old boards will rot.

JOHNSON: Speaking about the front of the house, you know that grove of maples...

WILLIAMS: They were bulldozed up.

JOHNSON: You mean many of those trees were bulldozed out?

WILLIAMS: Out in the front lot there.

JOHNSON: When did that happen?


WILLIAMS: When did Cooks live over there? My daughter Terrie was about 14.

JOHNSON: I see. She was born what year?


JOHNSON: Okay, so it would be about 1962 that they bulldozed those trees. Why did they do that, do you know?

WILLIAMS: I don't know. They bulldozed them over across the road you know. The only reason I can remember it, Mr. Johnson, I got to tell you. My daughter and the neighbor's daughter had ditched school, and my youngest son caught them ditching. They were playing over there on the trees. I didn't see them, but my son did. He said, "Mom, there's Terrie." Sure enough, she and Pat were there playing among the bulldozed trees. There was a lot of trees around here; that's what we liked.

JOHNSON: You may have seen these pictures. Here is


President Truman out here on the farm with that barn in the background. I suppose this is the barn.

WILLIAMS: That would be hard to tell.

JOHNSON: Do you remember the wooden fence here?

WILLIAMS: Well, they used to have a lot of wooden fences clear across there.

JOHNSON: They were still here when you came in '56?

WILLIAMS: A lot of them were.

JOHNSON: This was taken in 1953.

WILLIAMS: And those down there, especially, that runs from Clois' house to the barn, see.

JOHNSON: When did they take those out, do you remember?

WILLIAMS: After the barn burned. Had a big bulldozer down there, and just bulldozed it all. When the barn burned, I woke up and I could just


see this huge light. It scared me; I didn't know what it was.

JOHNSON: These pictures I have show the interior of that barn. Do you remember the interior looking like this with all those stalls?

WILLIAMS: Yes, they had stalls in it. I was only in it a couple of times and that was when I was very young.

JOHNSON: Did anybody ever salvage anything after that fire? Do you remember anybody picking up any remnants?

WILLIAMS: Some people got some milk cans.

JOHNSON: Milk cans? Did you get any?

WILLIAMS: I didn't get any.

JOHNSON: You didn't salvage anything from the barn?

WILLIAMS: I think the people that lived over there after Clois moved did get some of them.


JOHNSON: Here's a barn photo labeled 62-385. Do you recall ever seeing that barn?

WILLIAMS: No, sure don't.

JOHNSON: That's the one that Fred and J.C. Truman remember.

WILLIAMS: Well, it probably disappeared before we came.

JOHNSON: Yes, it must have.

That's a wire fence there too. Was there any wire fence over on the west side?

WILLIAMS: Yes. And there was a fence right straight from that rock post clear down, and Vivian had a little thing fixed there for his hogs to wallow in.

JOHNSON: We've got some pictures that do show some of those buildings from earlier days. Let's get back to the appearance of the house changing over the years. You mentioned the concrete base for the front porch, and the concrete patio


out here. You mentioned that you came in 1956, after the old well had been concreted over.


JOHNSON: But still there's an old well under the concrete there?

WILLIAMS: Right. There sure is, you can tell that when it snows because of the way