Harry Truman’s Excellent Adventure

Harry Truman’s Excellent AdventureHarry Truman's Excellent Adventure by Matthew Algeo
Published by Chicago Review Press on 2011
Genres: Biography & Autobiography, Presidents & Heads of State, History, United States, 20th Century
Pages: 268

On June 19, 1953, Harry Truman got up early, packed the trunk of his Chrysler New Yorker, and did something no other former president has done before or since: he hit the road. No Secret Service protection. No traveling press. Just Harry and his childhood sweetheart Bess, off to visit old friends, take in a Broadway play, celebrate their wedding anniversary in the Big Apple, and blow a bit of the money he’d just received to write his memoirs. Hopefully incognito.
            In this lively history, author Matthew Algeo meticulously details how Truman’s plan to blend in went wonderfully awry. Fellow diners, bellhops, cabbies, squealing teenagers at a Future Homemakers of America convention, and one very by-the-book Pennsylvania state trooper all unknowingly conspired to blow his cover. Algeo revisits the Trumans’ route, staying at the same hotels and eating at the same diners, and takes readers on brief detours into topics such as the postwar American auto industry, McCarthyism, the nation’s highway system, and the decline of Main Street America. By the end of the 2,500-mile journey, you will have a new and heartfelt appreciation for America’s last citizen-president.

One of the books that went with me on my Kindle this past vacation was Harry Truman’s Excellent Adventure. I’m not old enough to remember the Truman administration (having just celebrated my 39th birthday for the 25th time) but I know Harry was a Mason and that alone piqued my curiosity. Neither a history nor a biography, this book focuses on the road trip taken by Harry and Bess after he had left office. It’s an easy read and will take you back to a simpler time when long-distance road travel was easy and fun. It will bring back the days when you stopped to eat at diners or family restaurants and a gas station attendant ‑ filled your car with gasoline and washed the windows, thanking you for your business afterward. There’s nothing about Freemasonry in the book but it’s a fun read for both young and old alike.