Editor’s note: With the presidential campaign heating up, an Anna High School graduate recalls the time when a president made a stop in Sidney.
SIDNEY — The President was going to make a whistle stop election campaign appearance in Sidney the year I was a junior at Anna High School. Somehow I heard, maybe on WLW Cincinnati, or read , possibly in the Sidney Daily News, that he would be in Sidney. He being Harry S. Truman, the only in-office president I have ever actually seen.
This would be on Monday, Oct. 11, 1948. Truman’s campaign train would stop on the railroad tracks, just north of Michigan Avenue. And coincidently behind the Monarch Machine Tool factory where my dad worked.
What made this exciting and interesting to a high school junior I no longer remember. It wasn’t that I was an ardent Democrat. Quite the contrary. My dad was a die-hard Republican who really detested Franklin D. Roosevelt. Dad never approved of Roosevelt’s farm policies of the early depression years, like dumping milk and slaughtering baby pigs in order to raise milk and pork prices. That was dad’s description of those policies. Likewise he had little use for Roosevelt’s successor, Harry Truman. Dad would say that Truman was feisty and that some people liked that.
What must have been important to me was that Harry S. Truman was the most important and powerful person in the nation, and this might be my only chance ever to see such a person. So three of us juniors at Anna High School, Ernie Diehm, Bill Grillliot and myself told the school principal , Luther Fogt, that we were cutting school and going to see the president. He gave us his informal and off the record blessing and away we went.
The Old Dixie highway, U. S. 25, ran right through Anna, a block and a half from the high school so we hitchhiked to Sidney. Can’t remember who picked us up or what kind of a car it was. We got to Sidney OK and walked from the Court House to the Michigan Avenue railroad bridge.
A small crowd was gathered down at track level and we joined them. As I remember the campaign train was due to arrive in the early afternoon hours, in the range of 1 to 3 P.M. The Sidney High School marching band was there, I think in uniform.
The three of us from Anna climbed up a telephone pole to get a better view of it all. The pole was wooden, with those triangular climbing cleats fastened to it. We were not challenged by any law enforcement, security or secret service personnel. Those were innocent days.
The campaign train rolled in. President Truman appeared on the rear platform of the last car and spoke to the crowd which now must have numbered in the high hundreds if not low thousands. Can’t remember if there was a sound system in use or not. At any rate, my two buddies and I could hear the President quite clearly.
He spoke of the excellent war production efforts of Sidney defense plants, including the Monarch, just up the embankment from the railroad tracks.
He also spoke Of the “good for nothing Republican Congress” and the need to replace it. At this point someone in the audience bellowed out ” GIVE ‘EM HELL, HARRY!” And Harry replied ” I AM! I AM!”
Truman’s speech was short — something like 20 minutes. The Sidney High School band played “The Missouri Waltz” and the train pulled away. It was headed north to Lima, next stop.
Anna High School had dismissed classes so the students could line the railroad track a hundred yards west, and get a glimpse of the campaign train. The students — including my brother Jay and sister Judy — waved as the train rumbled by but no one stood on the platform or looked out of a window.
Life went on as usual after that day. According to author David McCullough, the tide of the 1948 election appeared to turn from Thomas E. Dewey (Republican) to Harry Truman on that day. See page 689 of McCullough’s excellent biography “Truman.” You can read Truman’s prepared remarks in “The American Presidency Project, John Wooley and Gerhard Peters, ” “Rear Platform and Other Informal Remarks in Ohio, October 11, 1948.”
And on that day the Cleveland Indians defeated the Boston Braves 4-3 in Boston to win the 1948 World Series. Bob Lemon was the winning pitcher and Bill Voiselle the loser.
The writer is a member of the Anna High School Class of 1950. He currently resides in Denver, Colorado.