The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

From Harry Truman: A lesson in paying it forward, one glove at a time

Harry S. Truman at the back of a train, probably during a whistle-stop campaign tour in 1948. The president made an impression on a young intelligence officer named Meredith P. Davidson, who shared a story Truman told him about losing a glove. (Library of Congress) (Library of Congress)

Talk about a loss leader. Already this week I’ve had two columns about losing things, from socks to earrings. And today I’m going to continue the theme.

But we’ll start with a win: World War II, in which the allies were victorious. Meredith P. Davidson fought in the Pacific during that conflict. Davidson — “Dave” to his friends — was in Army intelligence. Later, he joined the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), staying with the organization when it became the CIA. Among his jobs was briefing presidents.

One of his first jobs was in Harry S. Truman’s White House.

“As a young, fresh-faced vet, he was essentially a map-carrier during his first briefing with Truman,” wrote Meredith’s son, H. Dudley Davidson of Rockville, Md. “Truman often gravitated to the youngest (most nervous) members to help them feel at ease.”

It wasn’t always easy to feel at ease. Dudley said that during his father’s first Oval Office meeting, Meredith was carrying a map — of locations in war-torn Korea — that was too large to fit on the president’s desk.

“Dave,” Truman said, “let’s just put it on the carpet.”

Meredith obliged.

“Here he is on his hands and knees with Truman,” Dudley said. His dad was nauseous with nervousness.

And the loss? Truman delighted in telling Meredith a story about his 1948 whistle-stop campaign tour, when the candidate traveled the country on a train, speaking from the last car and waving to the crowds. Truman said that at one stop, he accidentally dropped one of his favorite gloves — given to him by his wife, Bess — onto the rail bed just as the train was pulling away from the station.

Said Dudley: “Without skipping a beat, he quickly threw the other one down near the dropped one.” Truman told his father, “There are few things more disappointing than finding just one nice glove on the ground.”

Dudley’s father used to tell this story often, finding in it a glimpse of Truman’s character — along with what Dudley calls the president’s “famous Midwest frugality.”

Jeff Beaudry of Laurel, Md., may be a bit frugal himself — or at least someone who hates to see a perfectly good item tossed out. When he moved into a house in Cheverly, Md., in 1993, the small kitchen still sported its original — and beautiful — 1930s knotty pine style.

“We had to replace the kitchen because of a code violation, but I was so broken up about it that I kept all the cabinet doors, even after they had been torn out,” Jeff wrote. “I kept them for more than 15 years, even after we had moved to another home.”

When a handyman came to do some work in Jeff’s garage, he saw the knotty pine cabinet doors and asked about them. It turned out he had a friend who restored knotty pine cabinets. Would Jeff be willing to part with his collection?

“Well, of course, I was, because apparently my fervent wish had been to see those knotty pine doors reintegrated into daily use in a kitchen somewhere,” Jeff wrote. “So the friend came and took them, so that finally I understood why I had been hanging onto these things for all those years.”

One last lost-and-found story: Mike Creveling of La Plata, Md., thinks he must hold the record for the longest time between losing a shoe and finding it. Since the 1980s, he has dutifully changed the oil in his lawn mower, leaving it in an open bucket in his cluttered garage.

After 40 years, he found the initiative to clean up the garage. “I carefully drove the bucket to the county oil recycling facility and was reunited with a lost shoe, plus a nice pair of pliers I’d also lost track of,” Mike wrote.

The shoe was in the bucket because he’d stepped in it one dark night while looking for the pliers, which, in surprise, Mike had dropped in the bucket.

He left the oily shoe at the dump. Wrote Mike: “The pliers I kept — 100 percent rust free!”

Celebrate good times, come on

These area high schools have reunions on the calendar:

Annandale High Class of 1972 — Oct. 14 and 15, 2022. Visit

Herndon High Class of 1982 — Oct. 7-9. Contact Mel Smith Monk and Robynn King at

Richard Montgomery High Classes of 1960 to 1969 — July 17. For information, call Bob Khuen at 301-509-7840.

Potomac Senior High, Oxon Hill, Class of 1972 — Sept. 24. Visit or search “Potomac Class of ’72” on Facebook.

Wheaton High Class of 1971 — Oct. 1. Email