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Where did the likes of Harry Truman go?
When I was a kid my parents took me and my brothers on the road trip of my life. We spent an entire month in a car or staying with family or nights in a motel. We started out in Stanislaus County and ended up in Washington, D.C. and back.

Being a kid who had a passion to study the presidents, one of the highlights was stopping in Independence, Mo., to see the famous house on Delaware Street. It's the home where Harry Truman lived.

It was 1975 and Harry had been dead for over three years. From behind the wrought iron fence and gate, we sensed that Bess was at home since the inside lights were on and she rarely went anywhere.

Last May I finally got to go inside the home, led by a park ranger. The first room was the kitchen. Very plain. A small table is where Harry and Bess ate every day. I was struck by the simplicity of the kitchen. It was no fancier than my grandmother's kitchen. The appliances were far from fancy. The linoleum that Bess had patched instead of replacing was still in place.

The entire house was just as they left it. Harry's hat and coat were hanging on the coat drive by the back door where he hung them after returning on his last walk before he died in 1972.

I love Harry Truman. He was a humble man and a straight shooter. He didn't parse words; he said what he believed and didn't put it through any filters. And he had the common sense of a Missouri dirt farmer. (By the way, Harry actually passed through Ceres early on the morning of Sept. 23, 1948 on a whistle stop through the Valley where he stopped at Modesto and Merced).

Harry Truman was never a millionaire. In fact the house wasn't even his. Bess inherited it from her parents.

When he retired from office in 1952, he had no presidential pension and his income was a U.S. Army pension of $112.56 per month. Congress, noting that he was paying for his stamps and personally licking them, granted him an 'allowance' and, later, a retroactive pension of $25,000 per year.

After President Eisenhower's inauguration, Harry and Bess drove home to Missouri by themselves. They had no Secret Service protection. Imagine the surprise of people as Harry and Bess pulled into diners and motels across the land - by themselves.

Corporations licked their chops to add him on as CEO. A Florida real-estate developer invited Harry to become chairman, officer, or stockholder, at a figure of not less than $100,000. He declined all of them, stating later that "I turned down all of those offers. I knew that they were not interested in hiring Harry Truman, the person, but what they wanted to hire was the former president of the United States. I could never lend myself to any transaction, however respectable, that would commercialize on the prestige and the dignity of the office of the presidency."

That's a far cry from the $300,000 Bill Clinton charges for for a speech. In 2007, Clinton received approximately $1.16 million from the U.S. Treasury - his telephone stipend alone came to $77,000. All former presidents are also entitled to free, round-the-clock Secret Service protection for themselves and their families. The cost of providing protection for ex-presidents and their families is estimated to cost taxpayers $20 million a year.

Truman turned down a Congressional Medal of Honor in 1971, writing to one congressman, "I don't consider that I have done anything which should be the reason for any award, Congressional or otherwise."

As president he paid for all of his own travel expenses and food.

This is such a foreign concept today. Ex-presidents, cabinet officials, senators and congressmen and other government officials get all they can.

Wouldn't it be amazing to see a return to the days when public servants refused to use taxpayer money? For a high ranking official to say, no thanks, I'll pay my own way, would not only be refreshing but would lower the tax debt on Americans. The people they represent don't have the luxury of sacrificing beyond what they already are.

Is there any way to go back to such an era?

It's not just presidents. All areas of government need to curb spending. City halls need to quit waste and school districts need to stop catering lunches for special occasions.

Dang it, it's the people's money!

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