Whistle stop 1948
On Board the Truman Special
The crowd has been collecting ever since 6 a.m., when Mrs. Riszinski and the two smaller Riszinskis arrived wiht sandwiches. By 7 o'clock, Mr. thurston has grown tired trying to drive boys off the water tank. The Central High School band, with Jay Gaylord Beaufort, the musical director, arrives at 7:30. It is necessary to tune up the instruments, and director Beaufort has the sliding trombones run through that difficult place in "missouri Waltz."
Now Old Man Clark, the station agent, come out of the telegraph room. The train has left Seminole and will be here in 22 minutes. the sheriff and his two assistants push people back. There is a stir in the crowd, which by now numbers 500 and is growing every minute, as another jeep drives up all the way from Fort Hugo with soldiers in helmets, carbines, radio telephones, and everything.
Litle boys pinch themselves: this is the real thing. The tracks are guarded. Children have been warned back of a rope line. A yellow dog wanders about. The women all chatter at once. The men shout to each other. All the stores on Main Street are closed. That Bourgholtzer girl is lsot again; you can hear her over most of this end of the platform.
The railroad track stretches straight and true for a mile toward Seminole junction. The station safety signal swings down and the warning bell starts ringing. Here she comes! There are two plumes of smoke, this is no ordianry train. "Jimmy!" say the boys togethr, "two engines!"
Now everything happens very fast. The crowd pushes forward; Archy Shaw, the sheriff, and assistants push back. The soldier grips the butt of his carbine. Everybody looks to see if everybody else has a bomb. The yellow dog yelps.
The Central High School band, with its blue uniforms and plumed hats (which were hurried up from Chicago especially for this occasion and the money initially advanced by the Henry Howell Cooper Post of the American Legion until collections are all in from parents) is ready for the moment. Katie Comstock, who is trigger-happy at the clarinet, involuntarily blows a perfect F-sharp which she has been trying for all morning.
What a train! It has been slowing down for three miles back, but the first of its 18 cars flash by as though they would never stop. There are rumbles and grindings and puffs and pants. You can see inside the cars as they slow down: there are people eating; there is a man shaving. There is a car of men at type-writers. With a grinding jerk the train stops, with the rear platform smack inf ront of Katie Comstock's white horsehair plumed hat.
Musical director Beaufort gives one imploring, compelling look which would be the envy of the conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. It says "give!" The Central High School band goes into "Hail to the Chief!" with a verve and brio that surpasses even itself, and if they are not all playing exactly the same note at the same time on account of the plumes in the front rank getting in the way of the sight of the rear rank, well, what difference does it make in all other noise, yells, dust, and confusion?
The platform on the rear car is filled with important-looking people. The loudspeaker begins to blare. And then suddenly HE is there: there is a perfect scream of excitement in which the shrill treble of the girls easily dominates.
Now ther are a great many rear-platform dignitaries saying "It is a great privilege," one after another, for what seems to be no good reason. One of the small boys fall off the water tank. A bunch of American Beauty roses, the twelfth of the day, is presented and graciously received.
"The Next President of the U-ni-ted States . . .!" says a voice.
Another yell, and after that there is a lot of talk, occasionally with statistics in it. Afterwards, Johnnie Fairfield, who is quiet and has a precise mind, is sure that one of the numbers was "twenty-five billions of dollars," but what it relates to he has no idea.
"And now," he says the Great Man, "do you want to meet my family . . .?"
Whoopes goes the crowd, all eager attention again. The candidate's family is more important than anything the candidate says, and probably influences more votes in North Seminole. There are gracious smiles and American Beauty roses from the rear platform, and answering grins from all around on the ground beneath.
A curious "beep. . . beep. . . beep" sounds from the rear car and all the tired-eyed, unshaven men who must be reporters, who have been writing on yellow sheets against the dusty side of the car, stir frantically.
There is a toot far up on the track. The candidate's train picks up speed and departs. The Central High School band gets into its waiting truck. Mrs. Bourgholtzer's girl is lost again.
The above was published in the Monitor Oct. 2, 1948.m