Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

Truman, John Anderson, 1851-1914; Ross, Charles G. (Charles Griffith), 1885-1950; Twyman, Elmer Davis, 1885-1957; Palmer, Ardelia Hardin, 1876-1968; Truman, Bess Wallace, 1885-1982; Ewing, Myra; Truman, Mary Jane, 1889-1978; Noland, Margaret Ellen Truman;
Biography; Presidential family; Horses; Schools; Sunday schools

Longhand Note of President Harry S. Truman, Not dated. President's Secretary's Files - Longhand Notes.


My first memory is that of chasing a frog around the backyard in Cass County, Mo. Grandmother Young watched the performance and thought it very funny that a two year old could slap his knees and laugh so loudly at a jumping frog. Then I remember another incident at the same farm when my mother dropped me from an upstairs window into the arms of my Uncle Harrison Young, who had come to see the new baby, my brother Vivian.

We moved from the Cass Co. farm to the old home of my mother's father in Jackson County. Grandfather Truman lived with us and he made a favorite out of me as did my Grandfather Young.

I can remember when my Truman Grandfather died. All three of his daughters were present, Aunt Ella, Aunt Emma and Aunt Matt. I was four years old and was very curious about what was happening. Grandpa Truman was a grand man and petted me a great deal. He was a strong Baptist and violently anti Catholic.

I was also a great favorite of Grandpa Young's. He'd take me to the Belton Fair with him and I'd sit in the Judges stand and watch the races-Grandpa was a judge. My brother Vivian was two years my junior and he had lovely long curls. Grandpa and I cut off his curls one day by putting him in a high chair out on the south porch. Mamma was angry enough to spank us both, but she had such respect for her father that she only frowned at him. One day after the hair cutting episode I sat on the edge of a chair in front of the mirror to comb my hair-I fell off the chair backwards and broke my collarbone, my first but not my last broken bone. Later in this same room I was eating a peach and swallowed the seed. Almost choked to death but mamma pushed the seed down my throat with her finger and I lived to tell about it.

Vivian and I used to play in the south pasture-a beautiful meadow in blue grass. At the end of the grove was a mud hole. This grove was row on row of beautiful maple trees a quarter of a mile long and six rows wide. We a little red wagon which we took with us on our adventures in the pasture. We finally wound up at the mud hole with a neighbor boy about our age and I loaded Vivian and John Chancellor into the little wagon hauled them into the mud hole-and upset the wagon. What a spanking I received. I can feel it yet! Every stitch of clothes on all three of us had to be changed scrubbed and dried and so did we!

My father bought me a Shetland pony about this time and a beautiful little saddle-my brother's granddaughter has the saddle now. I'd ride with my father on my little Shetland and he on his big horse. He'd lead my pony and I felt perfectly safe-but one day coming down the north road toward the house I fell off the pony and had to walk about half a mile to the house. My father said that a boy who was not able to stay on a pony at a walk, ought to walk himself. Mamma thought I was badly mistreated but I wasn't in spite of my crying all the way to the house. I learned a lesson.

When I was five and Vivian was three we were presented with a sister-Mary Jane, named for her grandmother Truman. We heard her cry upstairs and thought we had a new pet until our father told us we had a new sister.

When I was six, Vivian three and Mary one year old we moved to Independence. Mamma was anxious we should have town schooling. About this time my eyes became a problem and mamma took me to Dr. Thompson in Kansas City. Dr. Thompson was the brother-in-law of Dr. Charlie Lester the son of the family physician in Civil War times and himself the family doctor by succession. Glasses were fitted by Dr. Thompson and I've worn the practically the same prescription ever since. When I first put the glasses on I saw things and saw print I'd never seen before. I learned to read when I was five but never could see the fine print. I've been "fine printed" a many a time since I've been able to read it.

When I was eight I started to school at the Noland School on South Liberty Street. My first grade teach was Miss Myra Ewing, a grand woman. That first year in school made a profound impression on me. I learned to get along with my class mates and also learned a lot from Appleton's First Reader, learned how to add and subtract and stood in well with my teacher.

In my second school year Miss Minnie Ward was my teacher she was a good teacher and a lovely woman.

Along in January my brother and I had a terrible case of diphtheria-no anti-tocsin in those days. They gave us epicac and whiskey-I've hated the smell of both ever since.

The family sent Mary Jane to the farm so she wouldn't catch the disease. Old Letch the husband of our cook and washwoman Caroline Simpson took Mary Jane to the farm in a big farm wagon driving a fine team of horses. It took nearly all day to make the trip and it was not known for two more days, when old Letch returned.

Aunt Caroline (Aunty we called her) and her husband Letch worked for us from the time we moved to Independence. There were five children in auntie's family-an older girl named Amy whom I never saw, Sam, Horace, Claude and Delcie. Sam (fat Sam) afterwards became the fireman at the County Home and stayed there until he died. Horace went insane as did his father, Letch. Claude became an efficient Pullman porter and died on the job. Delcie is still alive, a cripple from her teens.

My brother and I recovered from our illness and I went to summer school to catch up to the third grade. A new school house had been built in the meantime, the Columbian. Next door to the school lived a lovely old lady who had helped nurse me to health after my terrible experience with diphtheria. I was paralyzed for six months after the throat disease left me and my mother wheeled me around in a baby buggy. My arms, legs and throat were of no use but I recovered and went back to school and skipped the 3rd grade. Then went to the fifth with Aunt Nannie Wallace as the teacher. She was a wonder of a teacher-had been at it for thirty years and knew her job.

When we first move to Independence my mother took us to Sunday school at the Presbyterian Church. I was six years old. In my Sunday School class was a beautiful little girl with golden curls. I was smitten at once and still am-she's Mrs. Truman and the mother of the loveliest daughter "in the world."

After a seventh grade course at the Columbian School we all went to High School at the old Ott School on North Liberty St. We had wonderful teachers, Prof. Palmer, Miss Hardin (afterwards Mrs. Palmer), Miss Tillie Brown, Miss Sally Brown, Miss McDonald and Prof. Patrick, Prof. Byrant & Prof. Baldwin, Supt. of Schools. All of them made a contribution to the knowledge and character of the students. It was a great class. Besides the present First Lady, there were in it Charles G. Ross, a great journalist and press secretary to the President, a great physician and surgeon, Dr. Elmer Twyman, son and grandson of great doctors. His father was our doctor in the diphtheria case along with Dr. Charlie Lester. I slammed the cellar door on my foot and cut off the end of my big toe on the left foot. Mamma held it in place until Dr. Tom Twyman, Elmer's father put some iotofona [iodoform] on it and it stayed put and got well!

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