The Key West President
It started in November 1946. President Truman’s physician, Dr. Wallace Graham, diagnosed physical exhaustion and ordered him to take a warm vacation.
With the Boca Chica Airbase nearby, and the submarine base an easy to guard and private venue, Key West became the choice.
Over five and half years, 11 trips, and 175 days, the mid-westerner became the adopted “favorite son” of Key West. Beyond just vacationing, President Truman adopted his own style of island living.
He would say the work would follow him, and indeed he worked. He brought much of his staff and cabinet members into Key West, which later (and now) became known as the Truman Annex.
At one point telling his wife, Bess, “I’ve a notion to move The Capital to Key West.” Reportedly, one of Truman’s most famous quotes was, “If you want a friend in Washington DC, get a dog.”
Well, he found that warmth, not just from the sunshine but from the environs and people in Key West.
Photographs started filtering out of the tropical, colorful, shirts he wore. The President and his staff became so swamped with gifts from people around the country they had to put them on the lawn every day for staff and others to take.
But it’s that informality that became endearing, as well as that inner toughness.
The navy had brought in sand to build up a small beach for his use. Deepwater fishing trips, poker games, walks through town, regular ocean swims all created an environment where the most powerful person in the world led our country.
Certain “code words” emerged, such as “round-up a quorum” which meant that a poker game was going to start up. Although those games were frequently used by the President to “size up” people. It was also beneficial that the Presidential yacht, Williamsburg, was docked nearby.
Sooo…let’s size this up. Doctors orders….deep sea fishing, poker, whiskey, warm weather, and the warmth of the people, and lead the free world post-WWII.
Ok, maybe we don’t need you to lead the free-world (yet) but we do need you to find that best you. Kick it back a little, toss on that comfortable shirt, and get on down here.
Hey…it’s the ”Doctor’s Orders”…either that or an apple a day. Just like “Give em’ Hell Harry”, maybe a little touch of our island is just the right medicine.
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