A modest but memorable brush with history
COLUMBIA, Mo 6/24/13 (Profile) -- Columbia resident Janice Yates, a 1944 Mizzou alum and Pi Beta Phi sorority member, recalls the day she met a future U.S. President -- one of the greats -- just seven months before he took office.
Harry S. Truman's daughter Mary Margaret was a Pi Phi at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. while her cousin Jeanne Rogers was a Pi Phi at the University of Missouri in Columbia. Jeanne and Margaret, as she was more commonly known, grew up in Independence, Missouri and were close friends.
"In the Fall of 1944, during pre-Rush festiivities, Jeanne invited Margaret to the Pi Beta Phi chapter house, at 511 E. Rollins St. in Columbia," Yates told the Heart Beat. "Margaret was so charming and so much fun. She helped develop our skits, made costumes for us, and even sang for one of our Rush Week parties. Her rendition of Remember was especially lovely."
"The day after Rush Week ended, I had front door duty. The door bell rang and when I opened the door, there stood then-Vice President [elect] Harry S. Truman with a Secret Service agent on either side of him.
"He was very humble and simply said, 'I'm Harry Truman and I'm here to pick up my daughter, Margaret.'
"I invited the three men in and seated them in what I thought was our most elegant room, 'The Blue Room.' Then I went up stairs to get Margaret. She was ready, but she thought her suitcase was too heavy to carry down our winding stairway. I went back down to get some help, and as a Secret Service agent went up with me, I had to call out to the girls, 'Man on Second, Man on Second,'" warning the sorority members that a man was on the second floor.
"All of us Pi Phi's gathered around Margaret to say goodbye and wish her well. We went downstairs to the vestibule where her father and the other Secret Service agent joined us. I held the front door open for them and noticed that Harry Truman was smiliing. I think he was pleased his daughter had made so many new friends.
"A chauffeur helped us load the limousine and they drove off.
"We felt very honored to have had the Vice President of the United States visit us. Seven months later, he became President."
-- Jan Yates lives in Columbia. She is still active in Pi Phi events, including a complete renovation of the house on Rollins finished this year.