Sunday, January 1, 2012

Harry Truman's Excellent Adventure

Harry Truman's Excellent Adventure by Matthew Algeo is the story of a road trip that Harry and Bess Truman took shortly after leaving the White House in the early 1950s.

Truman's trip was the last of its kind. Afterwards, subsequent ex-presidents have had much closer Secret Service detail that wouldn't allow the flexibility and freedom the Trumans experienced.

The Trumans drove from Missouri to DC and then to New York City, where their daughter Margaret lived. Along the way they stopped at roadside restaurants delighting the unsuspecting public. They also surprised police officers-can you imagine the shock of the officer who pulled the President over? It seemed that the Trumans would have preferred more anonymity, but were good sports and kind to those they met along the way. The book also highlights some of the differences between life in the 1950s and today. The places at which the Trumans stayed, purchased gas, and ate were mom and pop establishments, and they drove on pre-Interstate highways.

Not only was the book about the trip itself, it was also a bit of a biography of Truman. As Truman was the last of the presidents without a secret service detail, he also was one without a pension from his days as president. He needed money because the only retirement he had was from his days as a soldier in WWI. Truman didn't want to sully the role of the president by working so he relied on others in many ways.

This was a fairly short book and it wasn't a deep look into Truman, but it covered a lot of information I didn't know about him and the presidency.

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