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  • Becoming a Man

    Becoming A ManSchooling and self-education created a strong foundation for Truman's future, but he still had much to learn about making his way in the world. As a young man, Truman tried his hand at several jobs. Like his father, he hoped to "strike it rich." Expecting that financial success would help him win Bess Wallace's hand, he pursued several business ventures that failed. During this time he also became a Mason, and embraced the brotherhood and principles he found in Freemasonry.

    Odd Jobs

    After graduation from high school at age 17, Truman did not find a job right away. He briefly attended a commercial school in Kansas City, where he "studied debit and credit and Pittman shorthand." When his father lost everything speculating on wheat futures, Truman had to go to work to help support his family. He held a couple of brief jobs before landing at the National Bank of Commerce in Kansas City in 1903. The work seemed to suit him, and in 1905 he moved on to work at Union National Bank for more pay. Though successful as a bank clerk, in 1906 he left the bank to help his father run the Young farm.

    Truman in the haberdasherySome Other Business

    After being turned down before, in 1913 Truman proposed to Bess again, and this time she said that if she ever married anyone, it would be him. They became secretly engaged. Truman, at 29, was still trying to succeed on the farm. He wrote to Bess, "Do you . . . want to be a farmer? Or shall I do some other business?" To marry, Truman needed to have money in the bank. After his father's death in 1914, he pursued two risky investments hoping for a big payoff: a zinc mine in Oklahoma, and then an oil drilling and speculation scheme headquartered in Kansas City. Both left him in more debt than before.

    Joining Freemasonry

    During his years on the farm, Truman joined the Masonic Order. Both of his grandfathers were Masons. So were many of the great men he admired: Mozart, Andrew Jackson, and George Washington. The Masonic Order offered ethical guidance, companionship, and acceptance among other Masons, wherever he might travel.

    "The Scottish Rite has done its best to make a man of me,
    but they had such a grade of material to start with that
    they did a poor job I fear. It is the most impressive ceremony
    I ever saw or read. If a man doesn't try better after seeing it,
    he has a screw loose somewhere."