The President Visits Pottsville

With President’s Day approaching it is a time to reminisce about the first time a President of the United States visited Schuylkill County.  The day was October 20, 1952.  Maybe you can reminisce but I can’t as I was not there.  Even if I had been there I would have been too young to remember anything.  I was only a toddler.  My thoughts would have been about getting a Mr. Potato Head for Christmas – it was the brand-new toy that was introduced that year and would sweep the nation.  Now that is something I can personally reminisce about….Back to the blog about when a President of the United States visited Schuylkill County…

From my research, the crowd that filled the streets to greet President Harry S. Truman at the downtown train station in Pottsville on October 20, 1952 was estimated to be between 12,000 and 20,000.  When Mr. Truman alighted from the rear car of the lengthy 18 car Presidential train, his arrival marked the first time a sitting president visited the Schuylkill county seat.  Ulysses S. Grant, whose portrait adorns the fifty dollar bill, had been to Pottsville, so I read, but his visit was after he left the presidential office.  John F. Kennedy spoke at Garfield Square as a United States Senator running for the presidential office.

Among others there to greet President Truman was The Victory Band of Coaldale, so it was not just a Pottsville crowd.  Other bands in attendance were the “G. Frank Brumm All Girls Drum and Bugle Corps” of Minersville and The All-Girl Drum and Bugle Corps from both Tremont and Girardville. The President was on a whistle-stop train campaign tour of Pennsylvania, and as he appeared downtown surrounded by many newspaper reporters, secret servicemen and local politicos, such as Judge James Curran and county Democrat leader James Ryan.  Mayor George Heffner personally welcomed him.  The streets were all decorated in red, white and blue with flags everywhere.  The Chief Executive was greeted by shouts of “We Want Harry!” even though the President was not running for re-election but campaigning on behalf of Adlai Stevenson, who would soon be defeated by Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Republican candidate and war hero. Before President Truman entered his bullet-proof limousine for the ride to the stadium, his daughter and only child, Margaret was presented white orchids and roses from a group of women representing the garment labor unions.   The secret service had checked out all of the buildings in the downtown and along Market Street, along with the inhabitants.  Later when the President spoke at the Pottsville High School stadium the crowd was estimated to between 6,000 and 8,000 and was considered disappointing as the stadium’s capacity was 9,000.  However the weather was unseasonably bitter cold that evening which could have been a factor in keeping attendance down.

Harry S. Truman, although president in the age before twitter and the internet, he was known for sending out some caustic remarks that were thought to be unbecoming to the office.  The President wrote a letter to a newspaperman who criticized his daughter Margaret, a fledgling musician, as follows:

I’ve just read your lousy review of Margaret’s concert. I’ve come to the conclusion that you are an “eight ulcer man on four ulcer pay.”  It seems to me that you are a frustrated old man who wishes he could have been successful. When you write such poppy-cock as was in the back section of the paper you work for it shows conclusively that you’re off the beam and at least four of your ulcers are at work.  Someday I hope to meet you. When that happens you’ll need a new nose, a lot of beefsteak for black eyes, and perhaps a supporter below!