Hail to the Chief! Honoring Truman's Legacy on President's Day

With President’s Day fast approaching, why not resolve to learn about former president Harry S Truman and his many ties to Independence, Missouri during the coming month? You might be surprised to discover that he and his family had more connections that reach throughout this fascinating city than you might imagine. The obvious first choice on your journey of exploration might be the Harry S Truman Home National Historic Site, at 219 N. Delaware. Begin in the Visitors Center at 223 N. Main, where you’ll buy tour tickets, watch a brief orientation film and have a chance to browse through books and souvenirs in the gift shop. If you’ve never visited the white Queen Anne two story Victorian house, you’ll be fascinated by the stories of the family told by National Park Service Rangers. Take a few minutes before or after your tour to step inside the recently opened Noland House, just across the street, which belonged to Harry’s cousins and where exhibits and interactive kiosks add even more color to the Truman story. Walk or drive along the Truman walking trail (brochures at the Visitor Center or online at www.visitindependence.com.) up Delaware to the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum at 500 W. U. S. 24 Highway. Don’t scrimp on time here; if you want to see and hear all the films, videos, oval office, exhibits, audio sound sticks, experience the “Decision” theaters and let your kids investigate the activities on the lower level. You’ll need several hours at a minimum. The “Talkin Truman” presentation for Saturday, February 9 will focus on the Truman and Wallace families of Independence. The program will begin at 11:00 a.m. and is included with paid admission. In partnership with the DAR, the Truman Library celebrates the birthday of Bess Truman every year with a special program and reception. This year, the celebration is set for Wednesday, February 13. The program will begin at 2:00 p.m. and the reception will follow immediately after. Both are included with regular museum admission.
You can meet and talk with “President Truman,” channeled by an historic re-enactor, on President’s Day, Monday, February 18, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. in the main lobby. Volunteers will also serve homemade cookies made from recipes which have been collected from the wives of former presidents, beginning at 10:00 a.m. until they are gone. As a dedicated fan of history, Truman was involved with initial preservation efforts for the 1859 Jail and Marshal’s Home, at 217 N. Main. When he learned that the two story brick building was to be destroyed, he made the first phone call for donations to J. C. Hall of Hallmark Cards to solicit money which would prevent the jail from being razed. Although the jail is now closed for tours through March, you can visit anytime from April 1 through the end of October, or return for holiday tours in December.
The President also appreciated the story of the westward trails. Harry was instrumental in the “Madonna of the Trails” project, which erected twelve larger than life statues of pioneer women along the Highway 40. You can see a wonderful pioneer woman statue at the National Frontier Trails Museum and learn about the people who made their way west along the Santa Fe, California and Oregon trails. With February serving as black history month, the trails museum is hosting an “African American Art” workshop at 10:00 a.m. on February 2 ($10 with reservations required) and “African Americans in the West” gallery walks every Thursday in February at 2:00 p.m. (included with museum admission.) Have you ever seen the incredible handmade Truman marionette on display at the Puppetry Arts Institute? Every detail is perfect, down to human hair which has been placed on his head. If you visit on February 16 or 18, you can also watch a “Pinocchio” performance, featuring the puppeteers of the Puppetry Arts Institute. Shows are offered at 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. and cost $5, which includes museum admission. If you can’t make the shows, be sure to walk around the museum and see the “Pinocchio Time” exhibit, which continues through July. If you’d like to finish up your Truman outing with a sweet authentic treat, stop by Clinton’s Soda Fountain on the Square for a phosphate or hand-dipped sundae. You can even sample Truman’s favorite combo – butterscotch topping over chocolate ice cream. With a tip of a hat to Harry’s time spent operating a haberdashery in downtown Kansas City, you can also stop in next door to shop for men’s furnishings at “Wild About Harry.” For a full calendar of tourism events in February, go to www.visitindependence.com.

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