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Harry Truman drops in for a visit

The Spirit of Tehachapi


June 22, 2019

Photo provided

It was a sunny day in the fall of 1948 in Tehachapi and I was fairly new at my job in the Bank of Tehachapi located at 113 S. Green St. I was now a teller/secretary in the only bank in town. I had come from knowing everyone's telephone number at the local switchboard to finding out their bank balance which, of course, we kept a secret.

On that previously mentioned sunny day, someone came into the bank and said "President Truman's train will be coming through in about 30 minutes." It didn't take us long to lock up the bank and head for the Depot.

President Truman's visit was not a regular speaking visit but one to have his train serviced at the Tehachapi "watering hole." He was on what was termed his "Whistle Stop Tour" throughout the country to campaign for his election, in 1948 for his own term. He had assumed the Presidency in April 1945 after the death of Franklin Roosevelt. Roosevelt had died shortly after being sworn into an unprecedented fourth term, on Jan. 20, 1945. It was the atmosphere in political scenes that Truman would never be elected on his own right. He said, "Well , I'm sure going to give it a try."

He traveled by train, 31,000 miles and made 353 speeches. Thus, we found President Harry S. Truman in back of our Depot in his special train which was called U.S. Car Number One and given the name of Ferdinand Magellan. Now they have Air Force One for our President.

The Presidential U.S. Car One was stopped behind the Depot by the loading dock. There were only about 20 of us standing there looking up to the end platform. It was a thrill to see him step out onto the end of the car. The newsreels did not do him justice, for in color he was a striking man with silver grey hair and a blue serge suit.

Using no microphone he spoke clearly and said, "It's good of you people to come here just to see the President."

Then he turned and said, "I'd like for you to meet my family." Entering from the car Mrs. Truman and daughter, Margaret, came out. "This is my wife, Mrs. Truman," he said. "She's the boss!"

Bess Truman just smiled and nodded and made room for her daughter while her husband introduced his only child, Margaret Truman. She acknowledged the crowd and took her place by her mother.

I don't remember any other specific conversations that went on. A few people in the crowd called a few questions to him but it was a very genial atmosphere. A buzzer sounded from within the car and the Secret Service men stepped onto the train. I had not been aware of their presence before that moment.

We waved to Harry S. Truman and the moment was over. The President was to also wave to students from the local grammar schools who had lined up on the curb to bid him welcome. Mr. Wells, the principal, was very thoughtful to see that historical moments could be captured for the children to remember in later years.

We returned to the business of the day at the Bank of Tehachapi but the memory has lingered on these many years later. By the way, Truman did win the election by a narrow margin. The Chicago Tribune, trying to scoop the other papers took a chance and printed Thomas Dewey as the winner. What a TYPO that was!

One lasting memory for me that Mr. Wells instigated was on Dec. 8, 1941, the day after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. It was a Monday morning and Mr. Wells brought the whole student body into the auditorium to hear President Roosevelt's radio broadcast declaring war on Japan. I was in the eighth grade that year. That historical moment still lingers in my memory thanks to the foresight of Mr. Wells.


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