Iowa was chosen to host the 1948 National Plowing Match, giving the little town of Dexter nine months to get ready for it. They decided to invite Gov. Dewey to be their main speaker.
So they sent a delegation to ask the President if he’d consider coming. He eventually decided to make “whistle stops” in several towns to speak along the Rock Island train route.
The train arrived at the Dexter station about 11:00 the morning of September 18.
The Dexter band, led by drum majorette, Thelma Blohm, played “The Iowa Corn Song” for the President, followed by “The Missouri Waltz,” since Truman was from Missouri.
President Truman, his wife Bess, daughter Margaret, and other dignitaries, including Plowing Match princesses, rode in a dozen convertibles, followed by the Dexter band, with the Iowa Highway Patrol last.
President Truman’s convertible was a powder blue Cadillac.
Dexter’s streets had been scrubbed and the main street lined with flags and banners. Store owners decorated their windows to welcome the President.
The parade wound north on Marshall Street to the highway, west to the Drew’s Chocolates corner, then north a mile and a half to the Weesner farm, where the contests and conservation and other demonstrations were underway. Cars (including our gray 1939 Chevy with a “city horn” and a louder “country horn”) lined the roads and driveways.
The President was met by ten acres of humanity, estimated at 75,000 and 100,000 people.
The platform awaiting the dignitaries had been built by local World War II veterans who were enrolled in the G.I. night school at Dexter, including John Shepherd, Warren and Willis Neal, Glenn Patience, and Earnest Kopaska.
Truman’s noon speech was carried live over WHO-Radio. (You can watch part of the speech on YouTube, or at the Dexter Museum, which has a display about that historic day, including two of the original tote-boards.
I was in the crowd, a four-year-old perched on Dad’s shoulders and told to look at the man on the stage. I didn’t realize until I was older that I’d seen my first U.S. President.
The dignitaries were treated to home cooking in the shade of a tent.
We brought our own food and found a picnic spot under a tree. It was a hot day and Aunt Evelyn Wilson had brought a little tub for cousins (ages 2 to 6) to cool off in. Aunt Darlene Scar had brought enough potato salad to share.
I wonder if Governor Dewey wished he had accepted Dexter’s invitation to speak to the crowd assembled that day.
In spite of the blaring headline the day after the election in The Chicago Daily Tribune, “DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN,” Truman won!
Marker to commemorate Truman’s visit.
I took for granted that Truman reboarded the train until someone remembered Truman’s car going through Adel on his way to Des Moines . This is from local historian Bryon Weesner: “The president’s train (Rock Island supplied the engine, but the rest was standard Pullman and the Presidential Ferdinan Magellin) was backed into Des Moines after he made his way to the show site.
“After delivering his speech and touring, he delivered another set of remarks and then the motorcade (30 brand new Cadillac convertibles) drove then Highway 6 back into Des Moines, then on Hickman down what was Harding Road (now MLK) back to the Rock Island Depot where the group reboarded the train which was then further backed into east Des Moines (Rock Islands Short Line Yard) and then headed south into Missouri down the Rock Island’s Spine Line and on to Kansas City.”