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  • 203. The Political Education of Harry Truman - Community Savings and Loan

    Now don’t get confused. You should be at stop 203, which is at 204 North Liberty Street. Harry Truman wrote in his high school notebook that, to be successful in modern politics (this would have been in the late 1890s), a man must be loyal to his party, even if they are all thieves and saloon keepers. Harry Truman was loyal to a fault, but the fact is that sometimes he was loyal to people who didn’t always deserve it. This building, at 204 North Liberty Street, is where Harry Truman learned that, just because someone says they’re your friend, doesn’t always mean you can trust them. And that was a hard lesson for him to learn. In 1925, Harry Truman became involved in a company called Community Savings and Loan, the main office of which was located in this shop front. He had two business partners, Spencer Salisbury and Arthur Metzger. Metzger was a member of the Harpie Club and Truman had known Salisbury in World War I. His involvement with Salisbury was a sign that Harry was not always the best judge of character when it came to his friends. Salisbury belonged to an old, well-to-do Independence family. He was lively and talkative, but people also sometimes called him “a little slick.” Lots of people called him “Snake-eye” Salisbury. Even his own sister said he was “kind of a cold bird.” Asked long afterward why Harry ever associated himself with the man, Edgar Hinde, another member of the Harpie Club replied, “Anybody who’s ever been a friend of his...they’ve got to hit him right in the face before he’ll drop them.” It turned out that Salisbury was cheating Truman in the Savings and Loan business. "My private business has gone to pot," Truman wrote. "I'll be worse than a pauper when I'm done." So Harry got out, and he ended up making an enemy out of Salisbury. Privately Truman wrote that Salisbury “used me for his own ends, robbed me, and laughed at me. It nearly makes me a pessimist.' And to top it all off, even though Truman never said anything publically against Salisbury, Salisbury spoke critically of Truman both privately and in public. So Truman was loyal, which was a good thing, because he would have to be loyal—and partisan—if he was going to make it with the Pendergast machine, but he also learned that loyalty had its risks. The other thing he got from the Savings and Loan venture was a taste of what it’s like to have somebody talking bad about you. Everybody hears rumors and stories about politicians. Some are true and some aren’t, but the stories do get back to family members, and that had to bother Truman, because he didn’t want those he cared about to be embarrassed by him in any way. And there was no one he cared about more than his wife. For this next stop, if you’re standing in front of the former Community Savings and Loan shop, look north on Liberty Street towards the Trinity Episcopal Church. It’s 2 ½ blocks north on the east side of the street. You can walk up there is you want, but you don’t have to, because you can see it from here. If you look up there, you’ll notice a real tall, pointed steeple – that’s the Catholic Church. The Episcopal Church is between you and the Catholic Church. It’s a one-story church with the smaller steeple that has a little belfry tower at the peak. See the water tower? Look straight down from the water tower and you should see it. When you’ve found it and you’re ready, push 204 on your phone.