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  • 201. The Political Education of Harry Truman - Clinton

    This is Clinton’s Soda Fountain, at 100 West Maple Street. Originally, this was Clinton’s Drugstore. This is where Harry had his first job and it’s the place where he learned his first lesson about human nature. This building is about growing up and wising up. Harry worked here for a few months when he was about 14 years old. That would have been in 1898. This is how Harry later described the place and his job: My first paying job was opening up a drugstore in Independence for Mr. Jim Clinton at six-thirty in the morning, mopping the floors, sweeping the sidewalk, and having everything shipshape when Mr. Clinton came in. When everything was in order, there were bottles to wipe off and shelves to dust. There must have been a thousand bottles to dust and yards and yards of patent-medicine cases and shelves to clean. At least it seemed that way, because I never finished the bottles and shelves by school time and had to start the next morning where I’d left off the day before. By the time I got around them all, it was time to start over. How I hated Latin-covered prescription bottles and patent-medicine shelves! Now here’s the important part. He wrote: In a little closet under the prescription case, which faced the front and shut off the view of the back end of the store, was an assortment of whisky bottles. Early in the morning, sometimes before Mr. Clinton arrived, the good church members and Anti-Saloon Leaguers would come in for their early-morning drink behind the prescription case at ten cents an ounce. They would wipe their mouths, peep through the observation hole in the front of the case, and depart. This procedure gave a fourteen-year-old boy quite a viewpoint on the public front of leading citizens. There were saloons aplenty around the square in Independence, and many leading men in town made no bones about going into them and buying a drink. I learned to think more highly of them than I did of the prescription-counter drinkers. The lesson he learned: Some people are not as honest as they would like you to think they are, but that doesn’t mean one has to be like them. So, like most normal people, Truman gravitated towards friends who he believed shared his values and experiences. Walk on to the next stop, stop 202.