Sixty years later, echoes of Truman

Dominican University business professor and River Forest resident Bob Miller recently returned from a train trip that retraced in part the route of Harry Truman’s 1948 campaign train. This is a portion of his report:

Sixty years ago, Harry Truman’s WhistleStop campaign train roared across the country in search of an election victory no one thought he could win. From Sept. 17 through Oct. 30, 1948 Truman traveled over 30,000 miles, across 28 states. He gave approximately 350 speeches to growing, enthusiastic crowds that surrounded the rear platform of “Magellan,” the dark green private car of his campaign train.

I’ve just returned from a train trip to New York aboard the silver-skinned “Lake Shore Limited,” trimmed appropriately enough in red, white and blue, given that we passed through several of the towns that were stops on Truman’s tour. An academic business ethics conference drew me to New York, and I chose to take the train as a form of research, seeking something of Truman’s spirit and inspiration for a new play I am writing.

One of the pleasures of a train trip is the slower pace with time to read and the opportunity to spark a conversation with perfect strangers. Many of the people I met on the train had deep feelings about the coming election, and their concerns echoed voter concerns of 1948: war and peace, housing and the economy, health care and education, government, conflicts of interest and civic responsibility.

Sixty years have passed, but the concerns remain similar. Mesmerized by the rhythm of the rails and the nostalgic call of the train whistle, I reread many of Truman’s WhistleStop speeches. I was struck by how his words resonate today, and wondered what he might say to us if his campaign train were to stop in the Oak Park-River Forest area the week before the election of 2008. I was surprised to realize he’d probably say the same thing to us today that he said to the voters of 1948, and his words are worth repeating:

“Most of us have three big things on our minds,” he said, “peace, prices, and places to live. … Now, those things are all tied together. To keep the peace in the world, the United States must remain prosperous and strong. To be prosperous and strong, we must keep our country from going through another boom and bust. To be prosperous and strong and to win the peace, we must have decent places for our people to live.

“These are likely to be critical years in American history, and in world history,” he said. “They are years which are likely to hold the answer to two great questions in the hearts of most of us today. These questions I can briefly sum up as: 1) war or peace? 2) hard times or prosperity? Real prosperity is based on justice. Real prosperity depends on fair treatment for all groups of our society. That’s a rule as old as the Bible. That’s what the Bible means when it says, and I quote: ‘We are … every one, members, one of another.’ That is the very thing the economists have found out about our economy, after 50 years of studying booms and depressions.”

Give ’em hell, Harry.

Cold noses, cold feet?

Seven canine couples have pre-registered for Oak Park’s mass mutt matrimony (muttrimony?) since mid-October. One couple even has a ring-bearer, says Matt Baron, spokesman for the event.

Downtown Oak Park is attempting to break the world record for dog couples married at the same time, which stands at 178. Anyone interested can grab a registration form at The charge is $5 per pup, and proceeds go to the Animal Care League.

The event, dubbed “I Do, Doggone It!” is slated for Saturday, Nov. 8 on Marion Street in Downtown Oak Park. Guinness World Records will send an official adjudicator out to the wedding, and Village President David Pope is slated as the “civil officiant” of the ceremony.

The event will run from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Speed dating will be offered for uncoupled dogs at a charge of $5, according to a press release.

Break a kneecap?

According to Eric Zorn’s blog in the Chicago Tribune, Village Players is in a pickle. During last Friday’s performance of The Medium At Large-a musical co-written by Julia Cameron, author of the best-selling book, The Artists Way, and starring Broadway veteran John Herrera-the play’s romantic lead, Tim Grover, stumbled as he exited the stage, jammed his knee into an armrest and shattered his kneecap.

It was literally a showstopper, since Village Players doesn’t have the budget for understudies. Grover’s knee will require surgery, and Village Players is searching for someone to fill the role this weekend.

Know any good baritones who are really quick studies?

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