Saturday, January 30, 2010

"Brush with Fame"

My local clay organization's newsletter has a short questionnaire for members. Each month, two or three responses are published. The first question is, "Have you ever had a brush with fame?"

I wondered, did they mean Your fame or an experience with someone famous?

That set my mind on a spin-trip.

The first thing I thought of was, when I was in grade school, I met and shook hands with both Harry Truman and Thomas Hart Benton. I don't recall whether the event was the opening of the Truman Library or if it was "Thomas Hart Benton Day", but I seem to remember it was the latter. It was a rather small gathering; a short ceremony. I can still hear that unmistakable Truman voice. Mr. Benton, however, was a very soft-spoken man and said little. What struck me was that both men were not very tall. As a matter of fact, I remember feeling shocked.

Shaking hands with them was a real contrast. Although Truman had a firm enough handshake, it was that of a man who did no manual work; a rather small, soft hand. While Benton's hand was muscular, squared in shape and very robust, even though you also knew he was a shy man, really.

Several years earlier, I had written a letter to Harry, in spite of my parent's political leanings, asking for a picture and an autograph. I received a response, written on White House letterhead with an official picture and a printed signature. The letter did have an original signature of Mr. Truman's secretary. Even so, I was thrilled.

Benton's murals in the Missouri state capital were some of my earliest memories. My grandfather had been appointed to Jefferson City to complete an unfulfilled term of Clerk of the Legislature when the man who had filled the position died. We had made the trip to visit him with my grandmother, aunt and parents during one legislative session. One of my most vivid memories of that trip was the huge murals in the capital building.

So, meeting them both later, well, it was impressive.

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