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‘Harry Truman’s Excellent Adventure’
November 18, 2013 - Mike Donahey
If one is looking for an interesting story about one of our country’s best and most colorful presidents, then “Harry Truman’s Excellent Adventure — The True Story of a Great American Road Trip” by Matthew Algeo, comes highly recommended by this writer.
In brief, the story details Harry and Bess Truman’s round trip adventure (it truly was) from Independence, Mo. to New York in June 1953.
Interstates are but on the drawing board, and America’s roadways are dominated by “mom and pop” motels and restaurants, as the Holiday Inn chain is but two years old. The former president is truly citizen Truman, having finished just months before the four-year term he had won dramatically in 1948 over his Republican opponent — the supposedly unbeatable Tom Dewey.
The Trumans, after some planning, got in their Chrysler New Yorker and Truman “did something no other former president has done before or since: he hit the road” wrote Algeo.
The author goes to great detail to describe the fun — and history behind the 2,500-mile trip. He not only researched the escapade from local lore and newspaper accounts, he traveled the route himself. He stayed in many of the same hotels/motels and ate in several restaurants as the Trumans themselves. That was quite a feat, considering the Truman's trip had taken place some 55 years before Algeo wrote the book (it was published in 2009).
Adding significant color is that the author interviewed several former motel or restaurant owners or law enforcement folks who met the Trumans. And despite their advanced age, they provided much detail about the famous first couple.
Alego, a public radio reporter, has a readable style, interweaving history and humor, so much so that I had a hard time putting the book down. Read it if you want a snapshot of what America was like in a simpler, less hurried time, when there was not a McDonald’s or Starbucks on every corner.
The book is available at the Marshalltown Public Library.