Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum


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Interior of Clintons Drug Store

Each vase was filled with colored water and oil in layers. How they kept those colors from mixing I don't know. Then the vases were surrounded by displays of patent medicine that had to be cleaned and dusted, and once a week the windows had to be washed and redecorated.

"You walked through the front door onto a tile floor with showcases on each side and a soda fountain on one side in front. Behind the cases on one side were interminable rows and rows of bottles with those Latin abbreviations on them. One in particular I remember because Mr. Clinton told me to be careful not to break it. He said no more Icy Toed Feet were to be obtained. The mark on the bottle was Ici. Toed. Foet. I never found out what it was.

"In the closet under the prescription case, which faced the front and shut off the view of the back end of the store, was an assortment of whiskey bottles. Early in the morning, sometimes before Mr. Clinton arrived, the good church members and Anti-Saloon Leaguers would arrive for their early morning drinks behind the prescription case at 10 cents an ounce. They would wipe their mouths, peep through the observation hole in the front of the case and depart.

"The procedure gave a 14-year old boy quite a viewpoint on the public front of leading citizens and 'amen-corner praying' churchmen.

"There were saloons aplenty around the Square in Independence and many leading men in town made no bones about going into them and buying a drink. I learned to think more highly of them than I did of the prescription counter drinkers.

"After a few months at this morning and night work, my high school studies became rather heavy, and my father suggested I quit my job and study harder, which I did." (Note: Clintons Drug Store is still standing and is a soda shop today on the Independence Square.)

In the fall of 1901, after graduation from high school, Mr. Truman worked for a contractor as a timekeeper on the Santa Fe Railroad. He kept his job until the contract was finished, living in hobo camps along the Missouri River where the Santa Fe ran.

Mr. Truman became familiar with hobos and their viewpoints, and learned what it meant to work 10 hours a day for $1.50. The contractor paid 30 cents an hour for a wagon team of horses and a driver.

"The pay-off took place in a saloon either in Sheffield or Independence," Mr. Truman recalled. "The object in paying the men in the saloon was to give them a chance to spend all their money right there and guarantee their being back to work on Monday morning. The checks were time checks and were signed by me as timekeeper. My pay was $35 per month and board, and I received a very down-to-earth education in the handling of men."

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