From Missouri to New York and back again, this recounting of an amazing journey chronicles the road trip of a former president and his wife and their amusing, failed attempts to keep a low profile. Diners, bellhops, and cabbies shouted out “Hiya, Harry!” whenever they recognized the former president, and, out for his daily constitutional on the streets of New York, Harry even stumbled into the sidewalk shot of the newly launched Today show. Along the way there are brief detours into relevant topics, such as the postwar American auto industry, McCarthyism, the development of the nation’s highway system, and the decline of Main Street America. By the end of the 2,500-mile journey, readers will have a new and heartfelt appreciation for America’s last citizen-president.
Public radio reporter Algeo (Last Team Standing) brings the 1950s into focus with a fascinating reconstruction of Harry and Bess Truman's postpresidential 2,500-mile road trip. "I like to take trips any kind of trip," Truman wrote. "They are about the only recreation I have besides reading." Between 2006 and 2008, Algeo retraced their journey with stopovers at some of the same diners and hotels the couple visited. When Truman left the White House in 1953, he returned to Independence, Mo., rejecting lucrative offers he felt would "commercialize" the presidency. His only income was a small army pension. Acquiring a 1953 Chrysler, the Trumans set out with no fanfare and a curious notion of "traveling incognito." However, reporters and newsreel cameras soon turned their vehicular vacation into an ongoing media event. The book benefits from extensive research through oral history interviews and papers at the Harry S. Truman Library, and Algeo's own interviews with eyewitnesses. With deliberate detours, this book is a portal into the past with layers of details providing unusual authenticity and a portrait of the president as an ordinary man. 20 b&w photos, 1 map.