This house, known as the Southern House, was the Secret Service command post for the Truman detail. By 1970, Harry and Bess Truman were 86 and 85 years old. Remember that the year before, 1969, the first moon landing had taken place, and the astronauts set up its base in the Sea of Tranquility on the moon. That’s where the Secret Service command post its nickname; the agents called the Truman detail “Tranquility Base.”
If you were a Secret Service agent here at the Trumans’ place in the early 1970s, you really didn’t have a whole lot to do. The Trumans didn’t have much of a domestic staff – their old part-time cook was pretty much it – so the Secret Service agents often helped out in little ways around the place. They mow the grass sometimes. They’d replace burned out fuses, drive Bess to the grocery store, things like that. One time a raccoon got into the attic and Mrs. Truman wanted it captured alive, so the Secret Service agents had to catch the raccoon.
When Margaret came to visit with the grandsons, things could get a little livelier. The little boys would set off alarms, get up on the roof of their grandparents’ house and the agents would have to get them down, or they’d be over here at the agents’ house wanted to know how everything worked. One time the agents saw what looked to be machine guns poking out of the bushes around the Truman home and stormed the yard with their weapons out, ready for a gunfight, but the maching guns turned out to be toy guns in the hands of little boys playing “army” in the weeds that just looked real at a distance.
For the most part, though, things were pretty quite. And as the chances of getting to see the Trumans dwindled, even the sightseers came around less. They never stopped completely, though; people are still coming around today, right? You’re probably one of them. But it’s nothing like it was when the Trumans first came back from the White House.
Still, thought, the very acceptance of the Secret Service protection in their later years was the sign that the Trumans had admitted that their old life was over for good. It was inevitable. Things were going to be different as time went on, of course. Everybody knows that. But, still, as you get older, it’s kind of hard to see things change sometimes. Walk back across the street so you can get a good look at the Truman home again, push 112 on your phone, and we’ll wrap this up.