Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum


Oral History Interview with
H. H. Halvorson

Kansas City, Missouri, realtor and business associate of Harry S. Truman in the Community Savings and Loan Association, 1924-32

Kansas City, Missouri
July 21, 1967
by J. R. Fuchs

[Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed]


NOTICE
This is a transcript of a tape-recorded interview conducted for the Harry S. Truman Library. A draft of this transcript was edited by the interviewee but only minor emendations were made; therefore, the reader should remember that this is essentially a transcript of the spoken, rather than the written word.

Numbers appearing in square brackets (ex. [45]) within the transcript indicate the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the oral history interview.

See also H. H. Halvorson Papers finding aid.

RESTRICTIONS
This oral history transcript may be read, quoted from, cited, and reproduced for purposes of research. It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.

Opened November 1967
Harry S. Truman Library
Independence, Missouri

[Top of the Page | Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed]



Oral History Interview with
H. H. Halvorson

Kansas City, Missouri
July 21, 1967
by J. R. Fuchs

[1]

FUCHS: Mr. Halvorson, we have been talking about the gentlemen who were on the board of directors and also the officers of the Community Savings and Loan Association. I wonder if you would identify them by name and tell me who they were?

HALVORSON: There was Joseph Cartella, who was a salesman for Schenley and Company, liquor dealers.

FUCHS: Was Mr. Cartella acquainted with Mr. Truman to any extent?

HALVORSON: Oh, yes, I don't know how great an extent, but he was acquainted.

FUCHS: C. C. Daniel was a director.

[2]

HALVORSON: C. C. Daniel was a director and I think he was from Independence; and his daughter-in-law still has what is known as the Central Storage Company in the Central Industrial District, which is the oldest public service warehouse in Kansas City. And it came through the Newby Transfer Company, and the Clagett Company, and Clagett was from Independence, as I remember.

The next one was myself.

FUCHS: Just to get it in the record, what is your full name?

HALVORSON: My full name, H. H. Halvorson, is Halvor Hull Halvorson.

FUCHS: Hull is your middle name. Is that a family name?

HALVORSON: That's a family name. It's my mother's maiden name.

FUCHS: When and where were you born?

HALVORSON: I was born in Butte City, Montana.

[3]

FUCHS: What year was that?

HALVORSON: 1879, March 9.

FUCHS: When did you come to Kansas City?

HALVORSON: I came to Kansas City in 1904 from Denver.

FUCHS: And what was your first job here?

HALVORSON: I went to work for the Kansas City Power and Light Company. Mr. R. A. Richardson, President, was the man who hired me.

FUCHS: Where were you educated?

HALVORSON: Well, I graduated from Maritime College and then from there I went to General Electric in the laboratory?

FUCHS: Where was the Maritime College?

HALVORSON: It was in Boston, Massachusetts, the Boston Navy Yard.

FUCHS: Did you study engineering there?

[4]

HALVORSON: I learned engineering. Of course, engineering of that day was at a time when we were emerging from using steam engines for everything to the time when motors and electricity were coming along. I went to work for two years at the General Electric Company. You had to have some preliminary education to go there. My brother became associated with the General Electric Company through me; I had charge of the arc light testing, street lighting.

FUCHS: I see. Where were you in General Electric?

HALVORSON: In W. Lynn, Massachusetts.

FUCHS: Then you came back to Kansas City and went to work for the Power and Light?

HALVORSON: No. I went from there to Denver, and I worked for Mr. Henry L. Daugherty who then was receiver for the Denver Gas and Electric Company.

FUCHS: What year was that?

HALVORSON: That was about 1902. I came here in 1904.

[5]

FUCHS: What did you do for the Power and Light Company in Kansas City?

HALVORSON: Well, I became a contract agent for it and power solicitor and a general man in the commercial department.

FUCHS: How long were you with them?

HALVORSON: Well, I was, off and on, with them for a good many years. They changed management, and so forth, and once or twice I left for a time and then went back again. Now I managed a chandelier sales office, took care of a sign business and things like that.

FUCHS: What sign business?

HALVORSON: Federal Electric Signs.

FUCHS: When you left Power and Light you went into your own business?

HALVORSON: Well, I did a lot of work for the Power and Light Company in shutting down power plants

[6]

and putting in the steam heating system, the underground system. When I did that, why, eventually I got into the real estate business, because I could make a good deal more money out of the real estate business than I could as an employee of a utility.

FUCHS: I see. Well, then, about what year would you say you started to deal in real estate, which was mainly industrial real estate?

HALVORSON: Oh, some fifty years ago. I forget exactly the date.

FUCHS: You mean, around 1917?

HALVORSON: Somewhere along there, yes.

FUCHS: This James H. Clinton, another director?

HALVORSON: As I remember, he had a drugstore on the corner there, right across from the courthouse.

FUCHS: Yes. Mr. Truman worked for him at one time.

HALVORSON: I wouldn't be surprised. And Mr. Garman,

[7]

I understood he was a plumber; and Mr. Barr was a county judge. And Mr. Homer Rogers was at Sheffield Steel Corporation. And of course, Lou Holland is well known; and this man here [Murray] Colgan, was Truman's cousin. I think his mother was mentioned as a younger sister of Mr. Truman's mother.

FUCHS: I see. Were the directors paid anything for their services?

HALVORSON: Oh, no, I don't know that even their meetings would be called very important. After all, Mr. Truman was, you might say the boss, subject to, not to me, but more to Salisbury and Metzger. Adamson I just forgot. I think he was a salesman for someone.

FUCHS: Were you well acquainted with Mr. Truman's cousin:

HALVORSON: I never even met him, but he was Mr. Truman's cousin. Metzger, I don't remember what he did, but I knew Metzger. He had two aunts he lived with

[8]

out there on the square right next to the Bundschu Store, and I made a lease with Kroger Foods.

FUCHS: There is a letter in the file mentioning a Kresge lease about which you went to Chicago to consummate the deal.

HALVORSON: I leased a building right next to Bundschu on the north side. I think it was Kroger. Kresge, I never had any dealings with. Kresge's is the ten-cent store, you know. It was a Kroger store.

FUCHS: You don't recall dealing for a Kresge lease in Chicago?

HALVORSON: No, that wouldn't be my deal at all. Then, of course, there was Salisbury, and Miss Henthorn.

FUCHS: It was Henthorn at that time, later Kiekert.

HALVORSON: That's her name now.

FUCHS: Yes. This Robert F. Crawford, just who was he?

HALVORSON: Mr. Crawford was manager there for a large

[9]

implement house on Union Avenue between Liberty and Hickory Streets. And when they sold that business, he was such a fine, popular man that I just went to him and suggested that since he was too young a man (perhaps 60) to return, why didn't he go to work for that Building and Loan Association and build it up out of the Central Industrial District, because he knew everybody and was very well-liked. He was a high-class man, too high-class a man, really, to have settled on such a small thing, but he was more or less retired. And he had a son-in-law there named Logan, who was a coffee broker, and so he went and got him in the building. You will find in my letter to Crawford that Crawford was really the business manager of the office in the Central Industrial District.

FUCHS: But there seemed to be some sort of a feeling between you and Crawford about the office and the whole operation there. One of your letters indicates that there was some ill feeling between you and Crawford?

[10]

HALVORSON: No, there was no ill feeling between me and Crawford, Crawford said a little bit about heat once in a while or some repairs or something like that, but Mr. Crawford and I never had any ill feelings at all, no.

FUCHS: I see.

HALVORSON: It may have looked that way in his letters. He wrote me letters that were kind of sarcastic and so forth, but he had been used to being quite an executive in his own stead. I think Crawford would like to have been in with us on the Savings and Loan Association. That Savings and Loan Association had a great potential out of that big area down there, which had about 20,000 daytime population.

FUCHS: What about Arthur Metzger? What type of an individual was he?

HALVORSON: He was a financial promoter. He promoted the Scottish Rite Temple at Linwood and Paseo, and the Ararat Shrine building at 11th and Central

[11]

Streets.

FUCHS: Was he capable?

HALVORSON: He was considered in Masonry quite capable, yes. He has a son named Jerome Metzger who is with Block [Metzger] and Company, and is president of the real estate board this year.

FUCHS: What did you think of him as a secretary for a savings and loan association?

HAVLORSON: Well, I would say that Salisbury seemed to keep that pretty well in hand. I don't remember that I had very much contact with Mr. Metzger. I had one real estate deal through his family connections. I lived right in this house at 630 W. 62nd Street, and it was a long ways for me to go out to Independence, you know. I didn't get out there too often.

FUCHS: What is that document you have there?

HALVORSON: Oh, that was something that came here the other day from North American Savings and Loan

[12]

Association. It was mentioned that Jimmy Pendergast started his association at the same time.

His North American name came from some other association, by changing the name, and he apparently was out of it about 1928. He didn't stay in it very long. I went there and asked them the other day about it and they didn't seem to know anything about it down there at the Association. The only thing they knew was that it started off in 1935, but before that they didn't have much record of it.

FUCHS: Well, what would you say about the statement that Salisbury made that Mr. Truman in 1932 wanted to turn things over to Jimmy Pendergast, who was president of the North American Savings and Loan Association of Missouri from 1928 to '38? And that's when Salisbury claims that he got Truman out of the association because Truman wanted to do this.

HALVORSON: Well, I would say that that was just a figment of his imagination because it don't prove up

[13]

that way; and the association was managed by a man named -- who first took it over and did something with it -- was, let's see, Frank M. Newchester. [Frank M. Muehlschuster]*

FUCHS: Newchester?

HALVORSON: Something like that, yes, and his son is still there.

FUCHS: You said that you thought Jimmy Pendergast was out of it by 1928?

HALVORSON: Well, I asked them in the office and they said, "There's no one living that knows anything about it. We've heard that Mr. Pendergast was the first president of it." But this clerk said, "I've been in here seventeen years and I've never had anybody mention his name except hearsay. But there was a man named Pete Kelley, that I heard was president of it at one time. And he was a kind of a political lieutenant of Jimmy Pendergast."

*See H. H. Halvorson Papers, North American Savings Association, Financial Statement, December 1, 1966, Truman Library.

[14]

I think James Pendergast, son of Mike, had too much business and was making too much money to be bothered with building up a savings and loan account of that size.

FUCHS: When did you meet Mr. Truman?

HALVORSON: Well, that's difficult to say. I knew him, you might say, as a taxpayer, when he was on the county court the first time.

FUCHS: Of course, that would have been 1923.

HALVORSON: And he was selling those memberships to the automobile club.

FUCHS: Did you actually come in touch with him at that time?

HALVORSON: I don't remember that I did. Then when he went back again as presiding judge it seems that he took interest enough in me to become interested in me and before I really tried to make any acquaintance with him at all. And I understood it, he knew that I was a friend of Mr. T. J. Pendergast

[15]

and I had pretty good standing in those days as a realtor.

FUCHS: You were quite close to Mr. Pendergast?

HALVORSON: Yes, I was very close to him. I think the first time I remember he was looking for a loan on his hotel known as the Monroe Hotel down at 19th and Main. And he called me in there and wanted to know if I would get him a loan. He said, "There's an undercurrent going around here with these loan men that they're not going to renew my loan, and I haven't got the money to do it." He said, "You go out and get me a loan."

FUCHS: Where were you working at that time?

HALVORSON: I was working in the real estate business.

FUCHS: Why would he call you if he hadn't known you before?

HALVORSON: Well, because he had known me this way. The First Ward councilman, Central Industrial District, John T. O'Neill, officed with me; and John T. O'Neill

[16]

was a very smart man and really quite a leader in the savings and loan association business. I don't mean in savings so much as in appraising and buying and selling real estate. And I had done John quite a few favors in the past and he took a liking to me; and one time when he needed an office he came up and wanted to know if I'd let him office with me. He was a real estate man, but he didn't have very much to do. Mr. O'Neill would just come in the office occasionally.

FUCHS: And he was acquainted with Mr. Pendergast?

HALVORSON: He was First Ward Alderman.

FUCHS: Well, then, I wonder why, if O'Neill was in the real estate business, Pendergast didn't ask him to get the loan.

HALVORSON: I don't know. He asked me to get the loan and I finally found somebody who would make the loan for Mr. T. J. Pendergast. He got to thinking of me from time to time and I thought of him from time to time, if I wanted a little help.

[17]

FUCHS: You helped each other, in other words.

HALVORSON: Helped each other, yes.

FUCHS: Did he do some specific favors for you in any way, that you'd like to mention?

HALVORSON: Oh, yes, one time I got interested in trying to locate a railroad mail post office, is what they called it. And so I went to him and asked him if he couldn't give me a letter, I think it was to Senator [James A.] Reed. I went down to Washington; I wanted to meet the Senator and I did. And he said, "Halvorson, I like you and any time I can help you, if you don't do any-thing to embarrass me, you can have anything you ask for, politically, provided, of course, that something doesn't oppose you, or something like that, where I couldn't keep my promise; but if I can help you, I give you liberty to use my name." That was about the extent of my acquaintance with Mr. J. T. Pendergast.

FUCHS: Did you get that railway post office?

[18]

HALVORSON: No. I didn't. They were going to build it down at the depot. As it is they located across from the depot, the main post office.

FUCHS: What was your interest in it, in what way?

HALVORSON: Well, I had options on land that would have made it possible to span the railroad tracks so that when the mail comes in it would drop right down into the cars. As it is, it's an expensive proposition to have the post office where it is today because they have to use conveyors underneath Pershing Road in there.

FUCHS: Your interest at that time was buying the land and selling it for the post office.

HALVORSON: Yes. I was interested in similar sites, and so forth.

FUCHS: Then Mr. Truman became acquainted with Mr. Pendergast. Do you know whether Salisbury's assertion that he introduced Mr. Truman to Pendergast could be correct?

[19]

HALVORSON: My opinion is that he didn't. Now, I base it on this. Mr. Pendergast asked me one time if I could get a site of land out here at Waldo. I said, "What do you want it for?"

He said, "Well, I have a young friend who is trying to promote an inter-urban between Waldo or the end of the street car line to go out to Grandview." Of course, I don't think he mentioned Truman's name, but he said, "If you could get him a loan [he had a certain property he wanted to buy there], I wish you'd interest yourself in it.

He said, "He's a fine young man and he's a friend of mine."

That's all he said.

FUCHS: Do you have any idea what year that would have been? Would it have been before he was judge the first time, which was in '23?

HALVORSON: I would say it was, but I forget. All these things happened back in the twenties and it's pretty difficult to remember.

[20]

FUCHS: I understand that. We just try to date things as best we can, you know, by relating them to something else.

HALVORSON: My position with Mr. Pendergast -- I was no weight politically, but I did have good clients, like the Power and Light Company, and I made appraisals for the Missouri Public Service Commission. He knew that I was doing a good service and he knew that I was responsible and so we became friends, you might say.

FUCHS: It's been said that Mr. Truman had a staff of salesmen working for him when he sold auto club memberships. Would you know if that's true and if so would you remember who any of the men might have been?

HALVORSON: He had an office with Ted Marks, who was a merchant tailor, in the Dwight Building.

FUCHS: That wasn't the Board of Trade Building?

HALVORSON: The Board of Trade Building, yes.

[21]

FUCHS: He was in the Board of Trade Building?

HALVORSON: It was all the same building.

FUCHS: It was?

HALVORSON: All owned by the same people.

FUCHS: I didn't know that.

HALVORSON: So. I went over to see him and when he came in my office he used my office much the same as he used Ted Marks' place of business.

FUCHS: Where was your office at that time?

HALVORSON: My office was in the Waldheim Building, 1520 Waldheim Building.

FUCHS: You mean he used your office when he was selling memberships in the auto club?

HALVORSON: No, only after he became with the Savings and Loan. You see, they opened up the Independence office and it wasn't really practical for him to go to the West Bottoms, Central Industrial District, and I would say this, that he probably went down

[22]

there only a few times and it was so much handier for him to drop into my office out there at 11th and Main. Now, I was coming out on the bus recently and a lady came and sat beside me and I said to her, I said, "Miss Edgar?" I hadn't seen her for years and years. And I said to her, "When were you working for me? Didn't you work for me when Mr. Truman used to come in the office?"

And she said, "I went to work for you in 1927 and worked there seven years."

I said, "What do you remember about Mr. Truman coming in the office?"

She said, "He just used to dart in and out of there and use the phone and maybe make an appointment or something like that. He was just as busy as he could be and he rarely spoke to me. He just came in and went out and he did that for a year or two ." But her name's in the telephone book. And I think that was the truth of the matter. The office was small, nothing big about it, although we did take at one time -- we used to let people come in there and pay their deposit rather

[23]

than mail it out to Independence or down in the Bottoms. I allowed people that I knew, if they wanted to pay postage to drop up there and leave it. And we'd just send it out to the office ourselves. That's the gist of that.

FUCHS: Do you recall anything more, to go back for a minute, about being with Ted Marks in the Board of Trade Building, and who else might have been working with him?

HALVORSON: Ted Marks was a merchant tailor and I think he was a captain in the regiment.

FUCHS: Yes, he was.

HALVORSON: And I think he was best man when Truman was married.

FUCHS: That's right.

HALVORSON....but I never knew Ted Marks. I don't remember even meeting him when I went in the office. He had tailors in there. It wasn't a big shop or anything like that. He was a good tailor

[24]

and well known and had a following from people he knew, but it was a very logical place for Mr. Truman's headquarters. You might say that my place was more of a headquarters than anything else. They couldn't get to Independence and they couldn't get down in the Bottoms, so I had a vacant office there and I just let him use it.

FUCHS: Well, now, Daniels implies that Truman started the Savings and Loan Association while he was in the Board of Trade Building and worked out of there.

HALVORSON: Well, he couldn't have been because it wasn't formed at that time and he got his charter out of the bank. So there was nothing for him to d o in Ted Marks' office except make his headquarters.

FUCHS: How did you come into the Community Savings and Loan Association?

HALVORSON: Well, I had bought the 1300 Union Avenue building down on Union Avenue and Mulberry and I desired one myself. And I saw the potential, as

[25]

you can see I think I have a picture here of that district.

FUCHS: Yes, you showed me that.

HALVORSON: Well, I have a bigger one than that, I think, too. Anyway, I got so interested in this Savings and Loan business that I thought that I could get into it myself; and I heard about him and I looked him up and I found that he had a charter and it was already formed, and so I just went out and kind of declared myself in with them.

FUCHS: Well, now, Daniels said that the association was organized on October 13, 1924.

HALVORSON: Well, that was it?

FUCHS: Were you with him that early then, as early as 1924?

HALVORSON: I was with him right from the start.

FUCHS: How did you hear about Truman and the association?

[26]

HALVORSON: Oh, let's see. We had already got kind of temporarily underway, starting it from tow; and I believe I told you that Mr. Pendergast called me down there one day and said that he heard that Truman and I were going into the savings and loan association together. And he said, "Well, my nephew Jimmy is going into the savings and loan association and I wish Truman and he would get together and put it together." He said, "Of course, Mr. Truman thinks he ought to go on his own and that's all right with me, but I don't want you boys to solicit savings of our boys in the court house and city hall because Jimmy's my nephew and he'll probably want some of that himself."

"Well," I said to Mr. Pendergast, I own this building down here on Union Avenue and Mulberry Street."

"My" he said, "Just the ideal place. Go to it. I'm for you." That's all there was to it.

FUCHS: But you told him you wouldn't be soliciting

[27]

from....

HALVORSON: No, we never did. We didn't have to. We had a good fertile field down there. We had the Livestock Exchange and everything down there.

FUCHS: The statement that Daniels makes is that, "The facts seem to be that Truman sold the stock and organized the association from the same Board of Trade Building offices in Kansas City from which he sold the auto club memberships and then moved his offices to Independence."

HALVORSON: Well, Ted Marks' was his headquarters, and that's where I met him. I would say that what he did do preliminary in moving from one operation, using Ted Marks' office, he went to the other until he made a deal with me in my office and became more in line with his business.

FUCHS: But a document which you have given me here, shows that the Community Savings and Loan Association was primarily created simply as a change of name of a South Central Savings and Loan.

[28]

HALVORSON: That's right, you've got it right there. Salisbury paid $700 for it.

FUCHS: So, it would have been difficult for Mr. Truman to have organized it from scratch if it was just a name change.

HALVORSON: He and Lou Holland and those fellows bought that business, that bank, didn't they?

FUCHS: Yes, but that was in 1926.

HALVORSON: Well, they may not have bought the bank in 1926 but they were buying up their own paper when they bought that bank.

FUCHS: How would you explain that?

HALVORSON: Well, how I'd explain that was, the attorney for that was Mr. Ernest D. Martin, whose letter I got gave Mr. Truman and he wanted to sell me some of Mr. Truman's notes at one time.

FUCHS: Oh, is that true. Now, these notes were approximately -- what date would they have been?

[29]

HALVORSON: Oh, I wasn't interested at all and when I say Truman's note I say that group -- it seems a group was in that bank and it wasn't Mr. Truman, particularly. I don't think Truman had any great deal of money in that bank.

FUCHS: Well, when they started to use your building, were they already using the building at 204 North Liberty in Independence?

HALVORSON: Oh, no, they didn't go in there until after he became chairman of the county court.

FUCHS: Presiding judge, I see.

HALVORSON: Then it became necessary for him to have an office out in Independence because the court house was there. The other court was downtown in Kansas City, Missouri, and he had to expedite things and, as you know, he spent time in both court houses.

FUCHS: Well, I think I saw a letter in the file which implied that there was some feeling because he had put the main office in Independence.

[30]

HALVORSON: Well, it gives him a little more dignity to have started it out there than it does down in the Central Industrial District, but as I told you, those are details -- who cares? If it pleases him to put it that way, it doesn't displease me in any way, shape or form.

FUCHS: Then you didn't really feel that the main office should have been in the Central Industrial District?

HALVORSON: No, not after I saw the political drift, that he was really going to go right along in politics, and in fact it was Salisbury's intention and mine, too, to help get him back into politics. He was very much on his own there for a period. He didn't have any job, or any income particularly, and we started in to let him have the first savings and the commissions and so forth. We were interested in getting him going.

FUCHS: Well, now, there was a limited partnership agreement of April 21, 1926. What arrangement was there

[31]

in documents prior to that time?

HALVORSON: Well, you've got it all in the files there.

FUCHS: That's the earliest one that I could find, though. What I'm asking is, what was the arrangement from, say, '24 to 1926, which is the year of the partnership agreement?

HALVORSON: Oh, I don't remember. The whole thing was so flimsy; we were so small and starting from tow. We were just in our infancy getting started.

FUCHS: Well, then, in 1927 there was a limited partnership agreement and contract to take over the contract between the Community Savings and Loan Association of Englewood, Missouri and Mr. Truman it said was "experienced in the sales of savings and loan stocks and has a force of salesmen available." And so he was to be made salesman and general manager, and he was sharing primarily in the commissions. Now what was his experience and who would the force of salesmen have been?

[32]

HALVORSON: My experience in the whole thing was, I made a pretty good living out of it and we were not living to the true spirit of a building up of a savings and loan association in the Bottoms, which I was very much interested in; but I took it gracefully and just kept my position with them, but I didn't do very much work in the whole thing at all. At the minute I thought Salisbury was very capable and he was, and Mr. Truman had the friends and our man, Crawford, was doing the work and Truman, after the first year and a half had already -- and he was presiding judge of the county court -- he didn't have very much time to devote to it either -- county matters and roads, and putting people to work and so forth was an important factor.

FUCHS: The documents show that there was a company called The Community Investment Company. I wonder if you'd outline what you remember of that and that company's function?

HALVORSON: There was another company?

[33]

FUCHS: Rural Investment Company, and the records you gave me show that the Community Investment Company was later called the Rural Investment Company.

HALVORSON: That's true. I don't know why they picked that, but they did.

FUCHS: They dealt with insurance and sale of stocks. What was their function primarily?

HALVORSON: I think that was one thing. They took the insurance end of it but I think Judge Barr or someone like that was interested in the insurance. I don't know. I never got anything out of it and I don't think many of the boys did particularly. Every savings and loan association generally does business with some insurance company. I don't think that any of them have their own insurance, you know. They have to do business and get commercial insurance. Well, now, for instance, I never did charge up anything against the savings and loan association. I bought a bankrupt bank's fixtures and fixed up a regular bank room in my

[34]

building. I intended to put a savings and loan association down there, a real estate office, and so forth. You might say that the beginning of Kansas City was in this district.

FUCHS: Yes.

HALVORSON: That was the best corner down there in the district, and I had it as a business corner. It was the only corner for a business between there and the stockyards, and I had fixed up what I thought was a pretty good buy.

FUCHS: Well, the records which you gave me the other day seem to show that you never recovered very much. You were out rent, and you were out fixtures, and you never got much for stock. Did the others realize money from this, to any extent, Salisbury, Metzger and Truman?

HALVORSON: I don't know about Metzger, Salisbury, as executive secretary, or vice –president --whatever his position was – Salisbury....

[35]

FUCHS: Manager.

HALVORSON: ....Manager -- Salisbury made it a business. In other words, he looked after the whole thing. It really was the developing of a business to Salisbury and the rest of us were kind of on the fringe.

FUCHS: Was Salisbury's salary the main thing that he got out of it, what he took out as his salary?

HALVORSON: He sued the company. He was drawing a good deal more money out of it than I thought he was, but I didn't say anything about it. I'm very passive, I don't get into quarrels.

FUCHS: What was the main quarrel between Mr. Truman and Mr. Salisbury? It seems that there was some sort of personal feeling?

HALVORSON: Well, it was really, I think that Salisbury was a little jealous of Truman. That was what I kind of thought. Then I thought, too, that they seemed to fuss, which I told you I thought was a

[36]

byplay in the first place.

FUCHS: What did they fuss about?

HALVORSON: Well, Salisbury wanted to be county purchasing agent, and Truman didn't have the authority to make him that. He was county judge, but there was a man behind Mr. Truman who tended to call the shots on who got the positions. And Salisbury got kind of peeved with him about that, and then Mr. Truman says, I think in that book, that he paid Salisbury three thousand dollars and gave him the management of a school fund.

FUCHS: Well, he claimed that he got the job as purchasing agent, but Mike Pendergast didn't like it, so Truman fired him. Then he says he gave him a job to collect interest due on county school funds. Do you think that that ...

HALVORSON: Well, that's probably a better interpretation of it than I could give offhand.

FUCHS: Do you recall that he did act as purchasing agent for a while?

[37]

HALVORSON: Well, Salisbury did. In fact, these farms that he had down there on the Little Blue, were bought with money that was borrowed from the county school fund. And of course they had to be paid back. There was no political matter about it. It had only one advantage that as long as the interest was paid there was never any calling of the loan as due on a certain time. In other words, if you paid your interest, it just rocked along. It was a good deal. It was convenient to people to borrow money that way. You know, if you want an early spring, you want to borrow money in the fall, you know, have it due in the spring.

FUCHS: Well, then Mr. Truman's original contract was to run for five years which would have taken him up to 1930, and in 1930 there was a move to incorporate the investment company. At that time the documents show that just you three, Halvorson, Metzger and Salisbury were going to incorporate, or that you formed a new partnership, actually.

[38]

HALVORSON: The new partnership was that -- I think you'll notice in those papers, that Truman never could quite qualify as to what his investment was. Metzger, Salisbury, and myself knew exactly, and so Mr. Truman signed the paper, and we did it all together, and it was said that whenever he could show for the records, just what he had in it and so forth, why, then we would balance our books on that basis. The fact of the matter is, Truman was gaining in stature all the time and he was drifting away from the responsibilities of this thing; and whether he was hanging onto us or we were hanging onto him, I wouldn't say; but in other words, we didn't know just how we all four stood on the partnership deal. However, the amount of money involved would be just called "pin money" today.

FUCHS: Yes. The records seem to indicate that he was more or less trying to disassociate himself by the thirties and yet he was still involved, and then he assigned an interest to you, and you didn't

[39]

accept it.

HALVORSON: I didn't accept it.

FUCHS: But his was in the investment company, the Rural Investment Company.

HALVORSON: The Rural Investment Company, and I didn't know very much about the details and so forth. I wouldn't take an assignment of anything that had money behind it, and not become involved in something I didn't know about. In other words, it was a matter of self protection.

FUCHS: Yes.

HALVORSON: I don't mean to imply that there was anything irregular. Mr. Truman may have been careless about keeping up, and the situation was so strained between he and Salisbury that I think at one time he said Salisbury could run it into the ground as far as he was concerned.

FUCHS: Yes, he did write that. But in 1931, you wrote Harvey Burrus, and you said that Metzger wouldn't

[40]

stay in the association if Mr. Truman did, and you said that Salisbury was willing to make up, but that you thought that Mr. Truman was of an opposite viewpoint at that time, in other words, he wouldn't make up; and you said that Harry Truman "has done considerable to retard the growth of the Association and has caused withdrawals of stock certificates to the amount of $25,000 -- that is, he so states," that is, so Mr. Truman states.

HALVORSON: I knew nothing about that whatsoever. I don't think that Mr. Truman did anything vindictive, or did anything to hurt the association. I've seen lack of interest, but I wouldn't say that he did anything further than -- he was kind of washed up on us. He was just standing a little big higher than we were.

FUCHS: In a letter that Salisbury wrote you on December 30, 1931, he said, "As you know from experience, he [meaning Mr. Truman] is long on promises and short on performance." What would you say to that?

[41]

HALVORSON: I would say that applies to all politicians. That's a campaign promise.

FUCHS: Do you think he was that way in respect to the Savings and Loan and the Community Investment Company?

HALVORSON: Well, I don't think that any politician graduates from that standpoint. He doesn't qualify it in the conversation, but you know what he means is that he's going to do those things that are convenient for him to do. Oh, no, I have no criticism of Mr. Truman.

FUCHS: What would you say was the last date that you were involved in with the association, after it was converted to be a Federal Savings and Loan association in July 1934, or...

HALVORSON: I don't think I had anything to do with it after that.

FUCHS: I see.

What about the Citizens Security Bank of

[42]

Englewood, do you have any more comments about that?

HALVORSON: Well, I would say, it seemed to have been a great muddle of affairs out there, and I think it was referred to one time as a bank that probably was looted from within and without.

FUCHS: You don't think there was any culpability on the part of Truman in that situation? Was Mr. Truman not involved in anything, as far as appropriating assets to his own benefit?

HALVORSON: Who'd say anything about him. I wouldn't say that about Salisbury or anybody else. I would say that they may have spent a little more money than they had or they borrowed some money and they were doing the best they could to work out. That's what I would say about it. There were hard things said about it, of course, as you know, and the newspapers said so. But I knew nothing about it, and in fact I never even heard of the bank, only that Lou Holland was in it.

[43]

FUCHS: Of course, the story in newspapers at the time was very simple; the story as Daniels gives it is a little more detailed but it's still relatively simple. The records you showed me today seem to indicate that the Community Savings and Loan was somehow involved in the Englewood Bank. The only thing I can conclude is that there was a little more to this story of the bank and the savings and loan association than has been written before. Would you say that is correct?

HALVORSON: Yes, but the proof of the Savings and Loan Association is, regardless of all us fellows, whether we were on the square or not, is that it paid off every dollar it ever had in there at a premium; and that's the Indian sign, when a man pays his debts, why, it doesn't make any difference, he becomes honest again.

FUCHS: Why did Salisbury get in trouble with the Government?

HALVORSON: I think Salisbury got in trouble over some

[44]

oil company, as I remember. He got in some oil company and he borrowed some money from the Savings and Loan Association and put in interest in his mother's estate. Of course, his mother's estate was quite heavy and it was divided into units, and I think he put his unit in as collateral instead of borrowing his money commercially from the bank. In other words, he took it out of his own affairs but he did put the collateral in it so that there was no cheating, not anything that you could say would be irregular, except the Savings and Loan Association made the rules and he was violating them.

FUCHS: Yes, he was indicted, but not convicted on the counts regarding the petroleum company statement, but he was convicted on making a false statement or affadavit that there were no suits pending against the savings and loan.

HALVORSON: As I remember, the headquarters of the savings and loan associations in this district, was handled out of Des Moines, Iowa, or some other

[45]

place anyway, and the man who made the survey, audited it, had a heart attack and died just at that time. And it was an unfortunate break more than anything else for Salisbury. There was so much said about it that I went to Vivian Truman and I said, "Vivian, I wish you'd tell Harry to cut out this attack on Salisbury."

And he said, "I can't do that. Harry is against him."

I said, "It isn't a good thing. The Kansas City Star called me and asked me what was the matter with our savings and loan association and I told them nothing that I knew anything about, and they said, 'Well, we've searched through your things thoroughly and we can't find out anything about your circulation that isn't all right. It looks to us Mr. Salisbury just walked over to the penitentiary and they opened up the door and he went in."' They didn't see any reason for him being there.

FUCHS: The thing that I'm interested in is that Truman had said that he sent a wire in 1939 -- now this was

[46]

after he was out of the association, was a United States Senator -- he wired the Federal Home Loan Bank, I believe it was, examiners, about the affairs of the association. One, how was he aware of what was going on inside the association at that time; two, did he do this out of vindictiveness?

HALVORSON: They had, as you know, their feelings got to be so bitter, I wouldn't say that Mr. Truman was what you would call vindictive, but I wouldn't say that he was forgiving and forgetting. As to Mr. Truman. You asked me a question about my opinion of Mr. Truman, I believe, didn't you?

FUCHS: Yes, I do want that, but I wonder how would Mr. Truman really know, as a senator in Washington, what was going on inside the association unless somebody asked him to look into it, and if so, who did that, or did somebody make records available to him?

HALVORSON: I would say somebody muddled it up. It looked like Salisbury had other enemies besides

[47]

Mr. Truman.

FUCHS: You don't know who?

HALVORSON: I don't think there's any doubt about that. No. I'm one of those kind of fellows, I like everybody. I never found anybody that I didn't like. I may leave them alone. And I didn't like some of the things that Salisbury did, you might say that I didn't like his country bookkeeping, but if he panned out and paid his bills and nobody's lost any money I wouldn't say there was anything wrong with it.

FUCHS: What is your opinion of Mr. Truman?

HALVORSON: Well, my thinking about him was that he was a very ordinary citizen like all the rest of us, when he started in, but he grew in stature rapidly, more rapidly than people realized. I would say that you can hardly criticize a man who has reached the heights that he did. That's like a soldier criticizing the head of the government, you know, and so forth, you wouldn't do it, in

[48]

other words, soldiers don't criticize a President, he's Commander-in-Chief of the army. Now, I have kept so little an account of Mr. Truman, but I did think that his dropping the bomb on the Japanese, I thought it was warranted. He did the right thing. And then I thought, although I was always a great admirer of General MacArthur, I think he did the right thing. I would say, off-hand, if he did as you say about Mr. Salisbury, it's probably because he did the right thing. Now, that doesn't mean that he wanted to do it, but he got himself in such a position he had to do those things. He couldn't stand around and be worried to death over....isn't that right?

FUCHS: I agree with that.

HALVORSON: In other words, I think that Mr. Salisbury was his own enemy and made his own troubles. But I didn't criticize Mr. Truman for what he did, and I think that up to a point he had to.

FUCHS: I just thought that as a United States Senator by '39 he had other things on his mind, and I

[49]

wondered how he had brought to his attention this Community Savings and Loan Association, which as you said, was pretty small peanuts?

HALVORSON: Well, no, I don't blame him a bit for doing it. I didn't like it particularly, but I believe he was compelled to do it. In other words he couldn't be harassed too long on one thing.

FUCHS: But you wouldn't know who was harassing him?

HALVORSON: Probably Salisbury's--I understood Salisbury was pretty quarrelsome out there and had scuffles with some other people. Who can tell, you know.

FUCHS: The records seem to show that Metzger was not exactly an admirer of Mr. Truman, at least toward the end of their association there. What was the basis for that?

HALVORSON: Well, Metzger was kind of unknown to me. I saw very little of him. He was a promoter of buildings and so forth, and just what he actually did, I don't know.

[50]

FUCHS: What would you say as to Mr. Truman's sagacity as a businessman?

HALVORSON: Well, I would say as a small businessman it wasn't too good, but I think he got to be too big for such a small business, that's all I could say.

FUCHS: When he was county judge he appointed you as chairman of the County Park Board, I believe. How did that come about and do you have any comments about that?

HALVORSON: Well, Salisbury's mother was, I think, a historian, a state historian or something of the kind, and Truman wanted to have a park board. We had a park out at Sibley, I believe, and we had one or two pieces of property given us as county parks that people do, leave their property for public use; and we had no money and Mr. Truman talked to me and appointed me as chairman, and Mr. Herb Woolf and other prominent people were on that committee. And my particular position was, Mr. Truman said, he said, "We've got these two or

[51]

three parks and they've got to be looked after and kept clean and go ahead and take Edgar Hinde and find some place for him to mow grass or something so you can keep him on the payroll."

FUCHS: Edgar Hinde more or less worked for you.

HALVORSON: He was working for me to o.k. what he did. He was a fine fellow and I had no reason to bother him very much, and I did try and see several people about giving some land in the public interest, and I don't think there's ever been a finer thing than for a man to dedicate a piece of ground for a public park or anything else.

FUCHS: Did you get some specific designations that you could name?

HALVORSON: Well, we had one out there, Hill Park.

FUCHS: Oh, did you work on that?

HALVORSON: I worked on that, and it seems to me I got disgusted about that. We had two or three nice walnut trees on the property, but by the time it

[52]

got to be a park the lumber was sold. It required almost the supervision by somebody to do those things. Another thing, he was interested in rights-of-way for railroads and I didn't know if I was looking up potential railroad property or I was looking up park property. I think you might say that it died kind of a natural death. The honor was about all there was to it.

FUCHS: Now, there was something about a right-of-way through his farmland at Grandview, I believe. Were you concerned with that and could you comment on it?

HALVORSON: Well, that's a little ambiguous the way you have it. The highway right-of-way I believe he said they didn't get paid for that. But the other they got paid for.

FUCHS: I was just wondering about the right-of-way he said he donated when the road was going through there.

HALVORSON: Well, the road that went through there, I

[53]

think they paid him $30,000 for it.

FUCHS: Was that the railroad or the road?

HALVORSON: The railroad. But I handled that for the railroads, and it seems to me that I billed him. I didn't do that for nothing. Thirty thousand dollars was a pretty good price and I just sent him a bill for $1500. I remember Miss Mary seeing me and I think she gave me a check for $500.

FUCHS: Did you ever get the balance?

HALVORSON: Truman didn't own any of the land, particularly. That was land that he had some interest in the fee.

FUCHS: Well, Miss Mary would have owed you the balance of $1000 then?

HALVORSON: Well, that or the mother or maybe Vivian. As much as my work was mostly in the nature of an appraisal and $500 was a fairly good price for what I did, that was the commission of a standard

[54]

broker, I never said anything about it to anybody.

FUCHS: I believe later on when the county road system was being built up there were other rights-of-way there. You don't know about that, the road rights-of-way? I think that was the one that he said he didn't accept money for.

You said that Mr. Truman was very close to George R. Collins. Would you go into Mr. Truman's relationship with George Collins? Before we turned the recorder on you told me a little bit about that.

HALVORSON: Well, George R. Collins was really a promoter of railroads, that is, he wanted to see a railroad between here and St. Louis. The railroad business all went to Chicago, and it's always been as hard to get to St. Louis from Kansas City as to go twice as far and go to Denver. And Collins -- you've seen his letters -- if that railroad had actually been built and been controlled it probably would have been the very largest earner of money of any railroad of its size in America. Now, I

[55]

understood that Mr. Roosevelt was very interested in seeing that railroad built; but railroad interference is still going on, and that railroad hasn't been built and the railroads, the Santa Fe and the Union Pacific are still trying to get into St. Louis. It looks like it's never going to be finished.

FUCHS: Collins was, of course, associated with Mr. Truman in the military, and you feel that this association led to Mr. Truman's becoming interested in the railroad, and as a senator he continued this interest.

HALVORSON: Well, I think it went a little further than this. Collins had this property down, as I told you, in Sugar Creek; and he used to take his detachment down there and it went right by where Mr. Truman lives. And a strong friendship developed because Mr. Truman took an interest in military affairs and he and George became very close friends. And I think he saw the potential of the man and tried to promote him, too; he was using him all through his political life as he could.

[56]

FUCHS: I see.

HALVORSON: I don't think Mr. Truman ever went out of his way particularly for George.

FUCHS: Well, I think that's about all I have unless you have some further comments that you would like to make about Mr. Truman, or his business?

HALVORSON: No. I don't think it behooves me to make any comment on him.

FUCHS: The comments you made about what Mr. Salisbury said about Mr. Truman as a soldier the last time you visited him were interesting, but we didn't have the tape on then. I wonder if you could go over that? You said that Mr. Truman, according to Salisbury, was not quite a disciplinarian, whereas some of the accounts that are given, is that he was very much the disciplinarian.

HALVORSON: I know that this Mr. Daniels said just the opposite, that he always hit the target right on the nose and that kind of thing.

[57]

FUCHS: But you think maybe that Salisbury might have been right in that Mr. Truman was not as much a soldier?

HALVORSON: I think he was, yes.

FUCHS: He didn't think Mr. Truman laid them right on the target as Daniels says?

HALVORSON: Another thing, I think Salisbury was only under fire, actual fire, about two days. And he and Mr. Truman built up a pretty good war story.

[Top of the Page | Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed]


List of Subjects Discussed

    Adamson, V.N., 7
    Ararat Shrine, Kansas City, Mo., 10-11

    Barr, Robert W., 7, 33
    Block and Company, Kansas City, Mo., 11
    Board of Trade Building, Kansas City, Mo., 20-21, 23, 24, 27
    Bundschu Store, Independence, Mo., 8

    Central Storage Company, Kansas City, Mo., 2
    Citizens Security Bank of Englewood, Mo., 41-43
    Clinton, James H., 6
    Clinton Drugstore, Independence, Mo., 6
    Colgan, Murray, 7
    Collins, George R., 54-55
    Community Investment Company, 31
    Community Savings and Loan Association:

      board of directors, 1-2, 7, 8
      Central Industrial District office, 9, 27, 34
      Community Investment Company, and the, 32
      formation, 1924, 24-28
      headquarters moved to Independence, Mo., 29-30
      reorganization, 1930, 37-38
      Rural Investment Company, and the, 33
      Salisbury, Spencer, activities in, 1939, 44-49
      Salisbury, Spencer, borrows money from, 44-46
      Truman, Harry S., appointed general manager, 31
      Truman, Harry S., connection with, 1930-31, 37-40
      Truman, Harry S., as a member of board of directors, 21-23
    Crawford, Robert F., 8-10, 32

    Daniel, C.C., 1-2
    Daugherty, Henry L., 4
    Denver Gas and Electric Company, 4
    Dwight Building, Kansas City, Mo., 20

    Federal Electric Signs Company, 5

    Garman, F.E., 6-7

    Halvorson, Halvor H.:

      Biographical data, 2-6
      Citizens Security Bank of Englewood, comments on, 41-43
      Community Savings and Loan Association:
        Activity as director of, 32
        A. Metzger, partnership with, 37-38
        As member of board of directors, 1-2, 7
        As an organizer of, 24-28
      Crawford, Robert F., relationship with, 8-10
      Engineer, education as, 3-4
      Federal Electric Signs, connection with, 5
      Jackson County, MO, Park Boards, appointed chairman of, 50-51
      Kansas City Power and Light Company, duties as an employee of, 5
      Pendergast, T.J., conversation with re savings and loan association organized by nephew of, 26
      Pendergast, T.J., relationship with, 15-17, 19-20
      Post office, Kansas City, MO, interest in selling land for, 17-18
      Real estate broker, as a, 6
      Truman, Harry S.:
        Aid to in return to politics after 1924 defeat, 30
        Evaluation of, 47-48
        First acquaintance with, 14
        Used office of as director of Community Savings and Loan Association, 21-22, 27
      Truman, Martha Ellen, farm, fee for right-of-way appraisal on, 53
    Henthorn, Vera H., 8
    Hill Park, Jackson County, MO, 51
    Hinde, Edgar, 51
    Holland, Lou E., 7, 28

    Jackson County MO Park Board, 50-52
    Jackson County MO park system, 50-52

    Kansas City Power and Light Company, 3-5
    Kansas City Star, 45
    Kelly, Peter J., 13
    Kroger Foods, 8

    Marks, Ted, 20, 23, 24, 27
    Martin, Ernest D., 28
    Metzger, Arthur, 7-8, 10-11, 34, 37, 49
    Metzger, Jerome, 11
    Monroe Hotel, Kansas City, Mo., 15
    Muehlschuster, Frank L. (F.M. Newchester), 13

    Newby Transfer Company, Kansas City, Mo., 2
    North American Savings and Loan Association, 12, 13

    O'Neill, John T., 15-16

    Pendergast, James M., 12, 26
    Pendergast, Thomas J., (Tom):

      Halvorson, Halvor H., relationship with, 15-17, 19-20
      Monroe Hotel, seeks renewal of loan for, 15-17
      Truman, Harry S., friendship with, 18-19

    Reed, James A., 17
    Richardson, R.A., 3
    Rogers, Homer, 7
    Rural Investment Company, 33, 39

    St. Louis-Kansas City Short Line Railroad Company, 54-55
    Salisburg, Spencer:

      capability of, 32
      Community Savings and Loan Association:
        borrows money from, 44-49
        formation of partnership with A. Metzger and H. Halvorson, 37-38
        helps organize, 24-28
        manager of, as, 34-35
        member of board of directors, as, 7, 8
        relationship with, 1939, 44-49
      county purchasing agent, Jackson County, Mo., as, 36-37
      county school fund, money borrowed from, 37
      Federal Government, sentenced to penitentiary by, 44-49
      tried by for mishandling of savings and loan association funds, 44-49
      Truman, Harry S., differences with, 12-13, 35-36, 39-41, 44-47, 56-57
      Truman, Harry S., political career aided by after 1924 defeat, 30
    Scottish Rite Temple, Kansas City, Mo., 10
    South Central Savings and Loan, 27

    Truman and Barr, insurance, 33
    Truman, Harry S.:

      Board of Trade Building, Kansas City, Mo., office with Ted Marks in, 20-21, 23, 24, 27
      business activities after defeat in 1924 election, 30
      businessman, as a, 50
      Collins, George R., relationship with, 54-55
      Community Savings and Loan Association:
        appointed general manager of, 31
        connection with, 1930-31, 37-40
        headquarters of moved to Independence, Mo., by, 29-30
        member of the board of directors, 7, 12-13
        organizer of, as an, 24-28
      evaluation of, 47-48
      Halvorson, Halvor H., appointed chairman of Jackson County Park Board by, 50-51
      Halvorson, Halvor H., first acquaintance with, 14
      Halvorson, Halvor H., used office of, 21-22, 27
      Kansas City Automobile Club, salesman for, 14, 20-21
      payment for railroad right-of-way through family farm, 52-53
      Pendergast, Thomas J. (Tom), friendship with, 18-19
      political career aided by Spencer Salisbury and H. Halvorson after 1924 defeat, 30
      Salisbury, Spencer, differences with, 12-13, 35-36, 39-41, 44-47, 56-57
      soldier, World War I, as a, 56-57
    Truman, Martha Ellen farm, railroad right of way through, 52-53
    Truman, Mary Jane, 53
    Truman, Vivian, 45, 53

    Waldheim Building, Kansas City, Mo., 21
    Woolf, Herbert, 50

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