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More history on Dexter

To the Editor:

I am enjoying the series on the history of communities in Dallas County. They are interesting and fun to read!

One very significant chapter in the history of Dexter, however, seems to have been over looked, and I’d like to add it “for the record.”

In 1948, President Harry Truman visited the Dexter community for a major speech at the National Plowing Match. More than 100,000 people turned out to hear it. The speech, part of Truman’s famous “whistle stop” campaign, got extensive national newspaper and radio coverage at the time, as well.

It was a fiery speech on farm policy and farm politics. It is still quoted, even today, by Democrats in political campaigns across farm country because much of what he said then still rings true.

Truman later said that the moment he looked out on the huge crowd gathered to hear him speak in Dexter he understood how wrong the pollsters were and that he was going to win the 1948 election. “Boys, you just don’t get 100,000 farmers at milking time for a speech unless they are with you,” he said.

The size and enthusiasm of the Dexter crowd convinced Truman he was going to carry farm country and with it, the national election, and he did.

Dexter is in the national history books and is still part of the national political conversation because of this event.

On a related note, here’s a less significant, but interesting, little known, fact from Dexter’s history: Iowa’s current US Senator Tom Harkin lived in Dexter for awhile as a teenager. After being orphaned, he lived a relatively short time in Dexter with older family members. He worked at the ice cream shop they owned and operated on the highway that runs through town.

I remember, as a child, seeing him working there when my Uncle Walter Roberts took me there for a summer time treat. Neither of us, of course, had any idea that the young fellow scooping ice cream and working the counter there in Dexter would one day be a US Congressman, a leading US Senator, and even a presidential contender - or that I would spend a portion of my professional career as a grown up working for him.

Barry Piatt

North Bethesda, Md.

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