Just Wild About Harry - POTUS 33 In Bremerton

After a year-long break, I'm back with some new/old photo composites -- This time venturing back to my home county.

A recent eBay find netted some terrific snapshots of Harry S. Truman's visit to Bremerton, Washington on June 6th of 1948. This was the visit where many believe Truman's famous catchphrase "Give 'em hell, Harry!" was first shouted by a man in the crowd gathered on Pacific Avenue below the Elks Club (the present-day Max Hale Center) . A couple other towns tell a similar story but Bremerton's claim is pretty strong, or at least no worse than competing versions.

The photos from before and during Truman's speech are easy to match with present-day Bremerton -- Many of the buildings, including the terraced rooftop outside the Elk's Club still exist. The photos of Truman and his traveling companions stopping shortly before arriving in Bremerton took a little more digging. At first glance, it's just a nondescript country road.

Newspaper stories during the presidential visit mention Truman leaving Olympia early that morning with his friend, Washington Governor Mon Walgren (no relation to the famous senator). One story in particular mentioned the group -- a car of staffers and a Cadillac convertible for the dignitaries -- taking Highway 3 through Shelton. A note on the back of the photo lists Bremerton's mayor L. "Hum" Kean among the group. Given the direction they were coming from and the need to add Bremerton's mayor to the group it seemed like they must have stopped somewhere just outside the city.

Truman appears to be having an animated conversation with Bremerton mayor, Hum Kean.

This ended up being correct. The house seen in the background is in the town of Gorst, just south of Bremerton where Highway 3 meets Highway 16. Not the first place that comes to mind for a presidential visit but the brickwork on the house's back porch is still clearly visible today, though it's just peeking through dense trees and bushes. Several shots in the series show Truman, Walgren and Hum Kean chatting and milling about while a few onlookers enjoy their brush with fame. The image of a US president just hanging out with a small handful of people on a country road is remarkable compared to the huge contingent who travel with presidents today.

After his visit to Bremerton, Truman and Walgren boarded the governor's yacht, Olympos and left for Seattle while reporters followed on a specially chartered ferry. After giving a short address in Seattle Truman and his entourage visited  Fort Lewis before returning to Olympia, completing their loop.



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