Due to the Corona Virus, it’s been over a year since Patty and I traveled. Recently, we decided to gradually return to some degree of normality starting with a weekend trip to Key West. There we came upon a hidden gem proving one does not need to travel far to find points of interest.
THE LITTLE WHITE HOUSE
In 1890, a structure was built to house naval officers for the submarine base.
By 1911, the building was transformed into a house in time for its first Presidential visit by William Taft who arrived by Flagler’s Overseas Railroad in 1912.
During WWII, the inventor Thomas Edison spent six months in the house where he developed 41 underwater weapons for the Navy.
With the war raging in Europe, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his new running mate Senator Harry Truman were elected in 1944. In 82 days, Truman would become President with the death of FDR.
After 19 months in office, Truman’s doctor suggested he go to a warmer climate for health reasons. In November of 1946, he visited Key West, the first of 11 visits. In all, Truman would run the country from Key West for a total of 175 days during his term of office. It was there that he would regain his health starting each day with a cocktail (for high blood pressure) followed up by a daily swim.
Since there was only one phone line to the house, the USS Missouri would dock at the old submarine site just outside the “Little White House” for communications. Truman brought along his personal piano for each trip. At the house he also had a hand-crafted table that flipped into a card table so Truman and his guests could enjoy “an illegal,” poker game every evening. During each game, a traditional deer handle knife remained on the table and was passed in front of the next dealer. If he chose not to deal, the knife would pass to the next person. Movement of the knife would continue until someone picked up the deck of cards. This is where Truman adopted his famous term “The Buck Stops Here.”
During his presidency Truman lead the country in these monumental events:
The WWII surrender of Germany on May 7, 1945; the decision to drop two atomic bombs on Japan August 6 & 9, 1945 and the surrender of Japan on September 2, 1945. Other accomplishments during his term were the Marshall Plan for the economic recovery of Western Europe, the Truman Doctrine to eliminate communist threat in Greece and Turkey, the creation of the United Nations (UN), and the formation of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
Truman would pack his own station wagon and drive home to Missouri. There was no Secret Service protection for ex-Presidents nor pension. Though he received many opportunities to make money as a speaker he refused claiming he should not prosper from his service to our Country.
As for Key West, he would return several times but never stayed at the “Little White House” again, even though it was available for free. Truman is now rated the 5th most important President who served our Great Nation.