102. Around the Corner: Palmer Jr High

This is the site of the Independence Central High School, which was attended by Harry Truman & Bess Wallace. They graduated together in 1901. It’s a community center now. The building’s been altered some over the years since most of the original building burned in 1939, but it’s looked the way it does not pretty much since 1940. There really isn’t much left of the building Harry and Bess graduated from, but Margaret Truman would have gone to school here. By that time, a new high school had been built and this was building was called Palmer Junior High. It was named after Professor W. L. C. Palmer, whose wife, Ardelia, taught Latin to Harry and Bess when they were kids. Harry Truman gave an interview on one for the first walks he took after he retired from the White House. About this building, he said, “There’s our new high school. The old one where I went to school burned down, and all the records burned with it. Some people have the idea I never went to school at all. Now, with the records gone, I’d be kind of hard put to it to prove I really did.” He went on to say, “Of course, I could refer them to Mrs. Ardelia Palmer. She was my teacher in high school and still lives here in Independence.” In fact, if you look north across Truman Road, right beyond the Baptist Church playground, you can see a yellow house with white trim about halfway up the block on Pleasant Street. That’s where Mrs. Palmer lived. Harry Truman knew who he was going to see when he came back from the White House; it would be people he’d known—and who’d known him—for years. If he’d come back from the White House acting like he thought he was a big shot for having been the president, he probably would have looked a little foolish to some of these people, especially those that had known him since he was a little kid running around. Now, think about all the kids that went to school here after him. They had a lot to live up to. On election day they were allowed to come out on the front sidewalk and watch the Memorial Building right across the street because, even though Truman was the president, he’d come back to Independence to vote and the polls were in the Memorial Building, so all the kids would get to see their school’s most famous alumni coming out of the polls after voting for himself. Cross the street, walk down around to the front of the Memorial Building on the corner of Pleasant and Maple Streets and take a look.