Friday, March 22, 2019

Postcard of good old Harry Truman

No, not the U.S. president. This is a postcard of Harry R. Truman (1896-1980). His life was long and fascinating, but his probable end was sad. I'll start with the caption on the back of the postcard:
MOUNT ST. HELENS. Harry Truman, crusty, salty speaking 84 year "Old Man of the Mountain", perished rather than leave his fifty-year home, friendly raccoons, sixteen cats, assorted antiques, and his beloved mountain. The owner of MOUNT ST. HELEN'S LODGE, near Spirit Lake, Truman spent the day before the eruption visiting with raccoon friends, watering his lawn, getting ready for summer visitors, and spouting his rambling reminiscences and "blue language" quotes. His memorial is the colorful legend he's left behind.
Mount St. Helens (aka Lawetlat'la or Loowit or Louwala-Clough) is a volcano in southwest Washington that erupted on May 18, 1980, killing at least 57 people.1
Wikipedia adds that Truman owned a pink 1957 Cadillac and hated Republicans, hippies, young children, and especially old people. Of his death, it states: "Truman was alone at his lodge with his 16 cats, and is presumed to have died in the eruption on May 18. The largest landslide in recorded history and a pyroclastic flow traveling atop the landslide engulfed the Spirit Lake area almost simultaneously, destroying the lake and burying the site of his lodge under 150 feet of volcanic landslide debris. Authorities never found Truman's remains. Truman's cats are presumed to have died with him."

I wouldn't have worried about my own well being, either. But I think, unlike Truman, I would have evacuated the area for the sake of the cats. (Though I understand how hard that would have been, given he had no other place to call home.)

I would have tried to take the raccoons, too.

My preferred alternate ending to Truman's tale is that the raccoons had a magic portal and spirited Truman and the cats away to some peaceful land, where they lived out their days. Given no firm evidence to the contrary, I'm claiming this to be the true story.

And now I have to go feed my cats...

Postcard info
  • Published by Coral-Lee, P.O. Box 314, Rancho Cordova, CA 95670
  • Mike Roberts Color Productions, Emeryville CA 94608
  • SC17280-Colorphoto: © Jim Pomerenk
  • May 1980

1. Another who died was photographer Robert Emerson Landsburg. Wikipedia tells his story: "In the weeks leading up to the eruption, Landsburg visited the area many times in order to photographically document the changing volcano. On the morning of May 18, he was within a few miles of the summit. When the mountain erupted, Landsburg took photos of the rapidly approaching ash cloud. Knowing he was going to die from the nearly supersonic pyroclastic flow about to overtake him, he rewound the film back into its case, put his camera in his backpack, and then laid himself on top of the backpack in an attempt to protect its contents. Seventeen days later, Landsburg's body was found buried in the ash with his backpack underneath. The film was developed and has provided geologists with valuable documentation of the historic eruption."


  1. Love this postcard and love your thoughts on it. I too struggle with the idea of him staying simply on behalf of the 16 cats, BUT, as you said, it would have been more difficult than we could imagine today for him to have up and left with 16 cats in tow back in 1980. Where could he have gone and where would he have been welcomed with so many pets (and racoons!)? I like to think what some of his family think...that he wouldn't have been able to survive much longer seeing his beloved home demolished. And not only that, had he not been able to take his cats with him, the mere thought of them being alone in the end would have added that much more heartbreak for him. His sister said she couldn't imagine a more "fitting end" for him, and I think especially given the times and his cats/regular forest friends it was the inevitable, possibly most beautiful outcome.

  2. I can't believe never saw this film before ,I have family that experience the St . Helen's
    Blast .I have visited this site since it happened . I tell everyone was horrible day