Monday, February 20, 2012

Beardless President Truman Gets Shaving Permit During Muskogee Visit

"Chief Injustice" Bob Hurst pins a shaving permit
on President Harry S. Truman
Muskogee was busy celebrating the Indian Centennial when the nation's 33rd President Harry S. Truman rode into town during his whistle stop presidential campaign on September 29, 1948.

Truman's special eighteen car presidential campaign train arrived at the KATY Depot about 12:35 p.m. and Mayor J. Ollie Lee officially greeted the President, who then shook hands with members of a reception committee.

The Secret Service set the estimated number in the crowd gathered at the depot, along East Okmulgee Street, and in Spaulding Park at 50,000 strong, swarming into Muskogee to see the "warhorse whose favorite rhetorical pastime was to "give 'em hell.' "  "Just how many persons saw or heard the President during his 45 minute visit couldn't be accurately judged, but indications were that local Democrats hadn't been overly optimistic in predicting a crowd of 25,000" reported the local newspaper.

In keeping with the spirit of the Indian Centennial celebration, beardless men and women wearing cosmetics were considered to be "villains." At the depot, Truman was confronted by a group of bearded men, members of the "Court of the Brush," which was organized for the celebration. But, Bob Hurst, the "Chief Injustice," allowed the nation's commander-in-chief to "escape from justice" while in Muskogee by pinning a shaving permit on the beardless U.S. President.

Truman received repeated applause as his forty-three vehicle "auto-caravan" moved slowly along the East Okmulgee route from the depot to Spaulding Park accompanied by shouts of "There He Is!"

Arriving at Spaulding Park, Truman was greeted by costumed Indians from Bacone College. The group reportedly included two nationally known Indian artists, Dick West and Acee Blue Eagle and the President shook hands with them. Truman's wife Bess and daughter Margaret were greeted by the "Hazing Harpies," the feminine equivalent of the "Court of the Brush." The "Harpies" gave feathers to the Truman women which entitled them to wear cosmetics while in Muskogee "without fear of punishment."

Governor Roy Turner and former Governor Robert S. Kerr who was running for a U.S. Senate seat at the time shared the platform in the park band shell with Truman.  "I certainly am most happy to be in the wonderful town of Muskogee." Truman told the very large crowd. "I don't know where all these people came from, but there must be everybody in Oklahoma here."

Muskogee Phoenix and Times Democrat

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Thomas J. Presley

He was 17 and in the ninth grade when he began service for Grant and Carolyn Foreman in 1916. Presley heard about the job through his uncle W. C. Esco, a friend of Judge Thomas.   Back then, the home was on the edge of town and Presley milked the family cow, fed 250 chickens and 175 pigeons and cared for the large yard, and also kept an eye on things at the Foreman home while they traveled during the summer months.

Presley was born in Broken Arrow and came to Muskogee with his parents in 1908 when there were no paved streets and 12th Street was considered out in the country. He attended Tullahassee Mission School and Muskogee schools.

Working and finishing his education wasn’t too difficult for Presely because he had grown up on a farm where there were eight to ten cows to milk every morning and evening.  The Foremans only had one cow.  A good student, when he graduated from High School the Foremans encouraged him to go to Meharrys Medical College in Nashville where he studied dentistry.
Paying his way through college by waiting tables and working summers as a Pullman sleeping car porter on a run from Chicago to Portland for the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad, he enjoyed traveling to large cities.

Setting up an office in Bristow in 1927 after taking the general board, he struggled for a few years then returned to Muskogee where the Depression brought an end to his dental career. In Muskogee he worked with a Dr. Wallace for a short time but when the Foremans decided to take a trip overseas they asked him to stay at their house as a caretaker.  He decided to take the job.

The Foreman’s came to depend on the quiet, man as the years went on.  Their dependence was so great that Grant Foreman went to great lengths to get a deferment for Presley when World War II broke out.

Presley lived in the out building on the property until marrying his wife Irma in 1943. After that he rode his bike or walked to the Foreman home each day.

Cooking was another of the chores handled by Presley at the request of Carolyn Foreman.  Although he had no special training or instruction, he managed to prepare good food regardless of what was ordered.  Carolyn was very frugal, keeping supplies in locked cabinets.  She was also very particular about the cooking, voicing her criticism when it was necessary.
Thomas Presley cared for both Grant until he died in 1953 and Carolyn until she died in 1967, using the medical knowledge from his dental school years to tend to them.  For several years after Carolyn died he continued to care for both the house and the yard until his own failing health forced him to stop.