For as long as I can remember, my family has always subscribed to a daily newspaper. We children were all young readers. My brother and I were already sharing the paper by the time I was in the second grade.
One day, I can remember reading in the morning’s newspaper that Harry Truman was elected the 33rd president of the United States. Following the death of President Franklin Roosevelt, Truman as vice-president had been his replacement. After the election I had, of course, heard the news on the radio the night before, but it didn’t become a reality to me, until I read it.
From that day forward my political education began. Since the days of Lewis and Clark I’ve always thought of Missouri as a special place; the fact that a man from the state where I was born was elected to lead the country, became a big headline in my small life. When I recently came across the details of Truman’s upcoming May birthday, it brought back memories.
I was living in Kansas City at the time. And it was not until I was older that I got to visit the Truman Library. By that time, Lyndon Johnson was president, and that visit represented my first opportunity to see a president and his First Lady in person. Having a Presidential Library in my own state was the icing on the cake.
I have a major disagreement with our regional historians. While I realize the Civil War is considered by nearly everyone to be the most important event in our history, I nevertheless award that position to The Opening of the West. I consider such happenings as the pioneering of the Santa Fe Trail as a major event.
I enjoy all the little details of Missouri’s founding as essential. I like to play in the stuff of Missouri’s history.
I grew up with my great-grandparent’s recollections of Jesse James and the Dalton boys. And yes, I still remember the exact location of that hardware store that everybody claims that they recognize Jesse James from. And yes, I still remember the names of the people the Worker’s Progress Administration (WPA) interviewed that day back in Forever.
The wonderful thing is remembering all the old stories. I could listen forever to the stories of the Pony Express riding day and night across the country to California. It’s a lot more entertaining than NASA flights, just because you had to ride it on your own.
Missouri has a lot of stories. Taking the time to hear them is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon. The good news is I remember most of them. Oh, happy day.