108. Around the Corner: Allen House

This is the Allen House at 616 West Maple. Margaret remembered playing with the four Allen girls when she was a kid. She wrote that they and several other girls all lived within “calling distance” of each other and were “rarely separated expect to be washed, fed, or put to sleep.” Margaret later wrote, “We resented these occasions deeply.” Margaret remembered her and the Allen girls making little boats out of walnut shells and using the faucet to turn her grandmother’s uprooted flowerbed into a series of canals and rivers. They wrote and produced plays and put on circuses for the adults, charging a dime to get in. The girls published a weekly newspaper, which lasted five weeks. The highest selling issue carried a story about Margaret’s Uncle Frank (who lived behind the Truman home, remember) bending over in the garden and splitting his pants. Circulation skyrocketed with that issue because Frank tried to buy up the entire edition. Margaret wrote, “It was in demand all over town!” As Harry and Bess would have known, Independence was a good place to grow up. Margaret, however, was not destined to spend her entire childhood in Independence. When she was ten years old, Margaret said, “We packed our trunks and set out for that city which had hitherto been merely hearsay, a dot on the map in the geography book, a ten-letter word.” Her father had been elected to the United States Senate and they would be moving to Washington for at least part of the year. Margaret would no longer be within “calling distance” of the Allen girls. Mrs. Truman told a reporter, “Oh course I’m thrilled to be going to Washington, but I have spent all my life here on Delaware Street and it will be a change. I was born on Delaware Street and was married to Harry here sixteen years ago when he came back from the World War. We never have had or desired another home.” The really interesting thing about that comment is that Bess apparently thought of 219 North Delaware as home so strongly, that she forgot that she had been born several blocks away on Ruby Street. Both Harry and Bess, though, wanted Margaret to spend at least half the year growing up in her home town. So the routine was that all the Trumans would go to Washington after the Christmas holidays and Margaret would go to school there for the Spring semester. Then, after school was out for the summer, Bess, Margaret, and Bess’s mother would come back to Independence and stay there through the end of the year so Margaret could go to school here. Margaret would have gone to Jr. High back at Palmer, but she went to high school almost right across the street from where you’re standing. Go on to the next stop.