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tv   Trumans Little White House  CSPAN  August 19, 2018 7:39pm-8:00pm EDT

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sort oft of -- that is the dilemma women have in the marine corps when they graduate from boot camp. that is the culture they are brought into. atwatch afterwards tonight 9:00 p.m. eastern on c-span twos book tv. book tv. 2's >> america's 33rd president escapes life in washington, d.c. by visiting what he calls the little white house in key west, florida. next we take you there as we hear the stories of how president truman spends his time at this historic retreat. ♪ ♪
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>> the little white house got its name partly through an accident. partly through just the fact that franklin roosevelt had had a little white house. in our particular case, president truman was at everglades city dedicating the everglades national park in december of 1947, and the press corps started yelling at the president, are you going to return to florida? he responded by saying, of coarse i am coming back, -- of course i am coming back i have a , little white house in key west. the house at that time was painted gray. the navy took this as a clear indication the president was returning so they painted the building all white. it is no longer navy grey, it is all white for the little white house. i would like to welcome you to the harry s truman little white house.
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it is florida's official presidential museum and has been used by seven american presidents. it is camp david south. the little white was built as the navy commander's home in 1890. it served a number of various commanders over almost a 100 year span, but it was slightly interrupted by presidents taft, franklin roosevelt, harry truman, dwight eisenhower, john kennedy, to bill clinton. -- jimmy carter and bill clinton. the department of defense says we seem to have a continuum through american history. this building was the largest building on the naval base. this was 9000 square feet. consequently it was built originally as the paymaster and commander's home, but by 1911 , the new base commander
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realized things were getting snug so he merged into a single it into a single dwelling of all most 9000 square feet. at that time, key west was the command headquarters for the seventh averill district which -- seventh naval district which covered key west to charleston. admiral nimitz is here, admiral chester nimitz is here expecting -- inspecting the base. he finds our base commander moved to smaller quarters because he is a bachelor and does not want to bounce around in 9000 square feet by himself. he left this large home sitting vacant. nimitz sees this house sitting vacant and is impressed by the research being done by the u.s. navy, so he gets home to washington to learn the president of the united states has a hacking cough he cannot shake. he immediately speaks up and says, i have a perfect vacation venue. it is warm and secure, i am sure you would love key west.
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that is why the president came. he came strictly for a week of r and r. they were here relaxing with his friends. they are swimming and resting and soaking up the sun, and the president is writing to his wife about how wonderful a place it is. that his cold has disappeared in just a week's time. as he leaves key west after that first week, he promised our city commissioners, whenever i get tired, i will be back. 12 weeks later, he is back. each november december and february and march the president would take up residence one week, two week, three weeks at a time and the little white house literally becomes the functioning white house of the united states. president truman on his first vacation to key west is invited by the navy to go out on a captured german sub. the u2513.
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president truman and 60 have his -- of his closest staff go out on this captured german sub. the captain of the sub is a missouri native, so they felt every bit of confidence that he would look after them. as fate would have it, they submerged to 450 feet and the sub springs a leak. the staff wrote in the official logs, which happened to be on our website, that they were not the least bit concerned because we have a missouri captain and we knew he would look out for them. in the next breath, they were not denying submariners the extra $.50 or one dollar in pay because it obviously was a hazardous job. after a time, the instruments reengage and slowly go to the surface. they crack the hatches and president truman's staff scramble up on the wet deck.
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he walks up and sees them sitting there with soaking wet trousers and says, i see you are hiding your lack of apprehension. >> the president started coming in 1946 and the navy had not put any money into fixing the place up. by 1949, the president had been here four times and following the defeat of tom dewey, the navy realized the president would be coming back more often. they hired the premier interior decorator of miami beach and the house reflects the remodel of 1949. he made no consultation with the president. he simply wanted to create a timeless venue, something that would be acceptable to the guests that would be coming to see the president, and he picked colors that were popular at the time. green walls, taupe, gray, tomato red.
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the house had 20 years of admirals living in it. from 1953 to about 1974. many of the things that had been done for truman were discarded. it was our task to restore the house as it was and of course, although we had the records of what was bought, they did not necessarily tell us who it was from. we found this fabric that is shown in the drapes and on the couch, turned out to be a waverley print. none of us knew that. we happened to find a scrap of this fabric on ebay. we found 200 yards of fabric and we ended up needing 187 yards to complete the task. the paintings on the wall i had been led to believe were stolen, until one day we found a notation that they had been loaned by the naval academy. the naval academy had no idea what i was talking about and so finally we found the list of
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collection numbers from the truman library. we approached the naval academy for the paintings and they informed me they were worth $1 million and we were definitely not the president so we were not getting them. they shot high resolution scans so all of the paintings are exactly as they are in the photographs when president truman was here in the house. the little white house is a very pure restoration to the time when president truman was using it. at the moment, we are in president truman's living room, his library. during the daytime it was his office and every evening it became a movie theater. he has a staff of 59. seven are playing poker, so what do you do with the rest of them? they ran first run films in the living room. there is many neat things about the little white house and the living room is somewhat iconic in the number of pieces that are
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actually connected with president truman. ♪ [piano plays] his piano is in the corner. rarely did the president have the piano here in key west. he had instead, that piano came on board the presidential yacht, the uss williamsburg. in a occasion it could be brought into the house and that is the way it was when the president was here as president. president truman was an extremely talented musician. at the age of six they found he had incredible music talent and -- musical talent and he enrolled in music lessons for the next 10 years. they expected him to become a concert pianist and around the age of 15 or 16 he dropped out, saying he is not quite good enough. we believe he dropped out to save the family the cost of the expense.
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he regularly played the piano and he loved playing mozart and chopin for memory. -- from memory. he was an extremely fine pianist. in 1953, the uss williamsburg was decommissioned. president eisenhower felt it was a luxury he did not need. being a navy vessel, all of the artifacts were scattered. in 1964, about 10 years later, our base admiral put out a directive -- i want the piano. amazingly, admirals get what they want. they found the piano in storage in washington, had it shipped back to key west, and president -- had it restored, and president truman was surprised to find his old piano in the little white house. this is where the president came to relax. the president told everyone he was on vacation, working vacations, but on vacation in key west.
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it turns out, it was all a lie. both the president and his staff were lying to each other. harry would get up on vacation at 7:00 in the morning, read the newspaper, come downstairs, have a glass of orange juice with a shot of bourbon. he would then go out walking 10 blocks at a pace of 120 paces a minute. that is cardio if ever i heard of it. then he would take up his position at this little desk. every day or every other day, large mail bags would arrive containing correspondence, legislation, sometimes books the president asked to have brought to the key west, and he would run the country. -- run the country from this desk. after several hours, the president would insist they would all go swimming because it was important that his staff rest. his staff were working like fiends behind his back thinking, at least the president is
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relaxing. the president was doing exactly the same thing because every night he would take a stack of work to his bedroom and work into the wee hours thinking, at least my staff is resting. it finally came to a head when he he wrote to his cousin, confessing that vacation is a farce. i am signing my name 200 to 500 times a day on vacation. the work of the president never ends, it follows you wherever you go. it kind of brings back the -- this iconic symbol, the buck stops here. harry truman made it famous because he believes all responsibility ends at the president's desk. the only person he can pass responsibility to his god. it comes from the wild west. in the wild west, a bone handled knife, a buck knife was placed in front of the dealer. when it was not your return or you did not want the
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responsibility, you passed the buck knife to the next dealer. that is who indicated the dealer. harry truman being a poker player would know that. the buck stops here is the sign that ended up on his desk. this is one of multiple copies the president received. the original one is at his library in independence, missouri. the one thing people rarely get to see is the back of the sign. the back of the sign says -- "i am from missouri." why is that important? it reminded harry truman, don't ever get a swelled head. do not think you are better than the people who elected you because one of these days you will be going back home. harry never, ever lost that concept. he never forgot who he was nor where he was going, and he always was one of us. at the moment, we are in the
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harry s truman little white house, what we call the rec room. a wrap around porch, or if you are old enough you might call it a florida room. this is where the president relax with his staff after hours. probably one of the most iconic things in the house is this poker table. it was made for the president in our cabinet shop as a gift from the navy in 1949. the president had early been here for four other vacations prior to that, so president relaxed by playing poker with his closest staff. they played cards from about 7:00 to 11:00 every night. to president truman, this was a teambuilding exercise, all about camaraderie that had nothing to do with winning or losing. we are fortunate that to two of his staff are still living. one made eight of the 11 trips with the president to key west, and said when they boarded the plane in washington they threw $50 into the pot.
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during the month, the banker would save back part of the winnings so if they ran out of money, the banker advanced you more money. it was all about camaraderie. not about winning or losing money. he did not feel anyone ever lost more than $20 playing cards with the president. resident truman regarded the big white house as the great white jail. he felt he was constantly under everyone's eye, so by coming to key west he could come with his closest staff, let down his hair. sometimes some of the staff but -- would let their beards grow for a couple of days. they certainly at times used off-color stories and they certainly could have a glass of bourbon and visit back-and-forth without any scrutiny from the press. we know for a fact that president truman shared his decision not to run for reelection with his closest staff sitting at this table.
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for the next six months, not one person leaked the story. resident truman share that -- had shared that information so they would have the opportunity to leave government service and get a job before everyone else left government service, so he was looking out for his closest staff. he had great fun with his staff, although he personally did not like fishing, he would go out fishing with his staff in order to bet on the biggest catch, the longest fish, things like that. a sportswear company said a desk -- sent a case of hawaiian shirts to the president with the thoughts that the president is wearing our shirt and we will sell a lot of shirts. president truman wore those free shirts his first year and that -- then organized what they call the loud shirt contest. it was the official uniform of key west. it was hunt all year long for the craziest tropical shirt you can find. the president was often seen
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wearing these wild, loud shirts. the press corps followed suit. they wore loud shirts too and they formed a little group of which president truman referred to them as the one more club, because they were always hollering, "just one more." the house is very simple. if you go to europe, you go to palaces. if you go to -- when we were allowed to go -- to the big white house, it is formal and very presidential. the little white house reminds many of our visitors of their mom's house with their -- or their grandmother's house or perhaps a favorite aunt. it is very humbly furnished. it is a very subtle elegance about it. i think the number one thing is that people coming in just go, i
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could live here. this feels like my house. it really is the people's house in so many ways. it is not a palace by any means. they get it. harry truman was trumanly human. he was one of us. it would have been out of keeping with his character had they had gilded furniture or something. it was just inconceivable to harry truman to ever have anything like that. >> you can watch this and other programs on the history of communities across the country at cities tour. this is american history tv, only on c-span3. >> c-span's washington journal, live every day with news and policy issues that impact you.
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morning, gideon rose, editor for foreign affairs magazine, on their latest stories on the future of the internet. then, matthew hennessy, author of zero hour for gen x, on the millennial impact on all addicts, culture, and technology. be sure to watch washington journal live at 7:00 eastern monday morning. join the discussion. arrived byan bus has boat in hawaii for the 39th stop of our 50 capital store. where on the island of oahu visiting the capital of honolulu with the help of our spectrum cable partners. >> we are excited to have you here in hawaii. can share in -- we the culture. i think this is a great opportunity for showcasing hawaii across the nation. welcome and a low have --
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aloha. i want to think c-span and the impressive buffet is going all over our nation. while in hawaii i know the van will enjoy the beauty, sunshine, and the aloha of the 50th state. i am sure c-span will witness and build the a -- the aloha spirit as part of its 50 capital store. governor of the state of hawaii, do hereby proclaim august 15 to the 22nd 2018 c-span week in hawaii. congratulations. >> watch more of our visit to hawaii during hawaii weekend, october 6 and seventh on c-span, to, or listen on the c-span radio app. >> next on the presidency, the
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nnual harry s. truman legacy symposium focuses on russia and the cold war. anelists talk about the 33rd president's relationship with british prime minister winston in chill, the u.s. position berlin and the origins of nato a ch mr. truman considered signature accomplishment. the harry s. truman little white harry s. truman foundation both in key west, florida, co-hosted the event. first of two parts. it's about two hours. well, thank you, and thank you all for being with us this morning. thank you for inviting me. it's my second trip to the it's veryte house and good to be back here in key west. my presentation today is ntitled the iron curtain speech, the sinews of peace and prose.wer of in the spirit of looking at


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