• Old Photos: Kansas City Dragettes

    I feel a lack of historicity on this blog lately, so here are some photos of the Dragettes – Kansas City’s all-girl hot rod club.

    ©Time, Francis Miller

    I didn’t find anything relevant about the Dragettes but there is a newspaper article about the KCTA- Kansas City Timing Association which conducted the drag races at that time.

    It all began in 1955 when Eugene M. Pond, then Kansas City’s chief of detectives who now is chief of police in Wichita , became alarmed at the menacing hot-rod situation here. Motorcycle patrolmen were having a tough time coping with wildcatting, illegal drag racing, on city streets. High speed chases of 100 miles an hour or more were common occurrences.

    Pond held a series of meetings with motor-happy youngsters that resulted in formation of the timing accociation. The Kansas City Southern Lines offered a plot of land for $2 a year. A loan of $70,000, to be repaid from profits of the strip , was obtained from a patron group and a contractor agreed to contribute half the cost of grading and paving.

    Caught in a swirl of public enthusiasm, the strip was finished two months sooner than planned and suddenly, nocturnal cat and mouse episodes between dragsters and police largely disappeared. The situation has remained relatively the same ever since.

    ©Time, Francis Miller

    ©Time, Francis Miller

    ©Time, Francis Miller

    ©Time, Francis Miller

    ©Time, Francis Miller

    ©Time, Francis Miller

    ©Time, Francis Miller

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  • Where Rail Crosses Trail

    When the weather forecast for the weekend was published few days ago, I knew it was time to get out of town for few hours. Nothing clears out the mind like two hundred miles in rural Kansas on a first sunny and warm Sunday of the year. I started to look for a place to visit on the best Kansas travel resource but nothing grabbed my eye, so I just looked at the map and noticed a place called Admire, KS. I knew I had to go there and admire it.

    U.S. Route 56 leaves Olathe, passes through the armpits of Johnson County known as Gardner and Egderton and makes its way towards Oklahoma through the fields as far as the eye can see. Rolled down windows let the fresh air in and the smell of old hay, burning leaves and an occasional skunk filled up my lungs. I was on the way to Admire.
    By the way, have you ever been to Scranton, KS?

    Now you have.
    Much more interesting is the town of Burlingame down the road.

    Burlingame looks like a worn out Mayberry…

    …where Aunt B’s is the name of a restaurant.

    Aunt B’s niece is getting married next week, so you’ll have to eat elsewhere.

    Flower arrangements by Missy’s Flower Shop.

    Meat for the wedding is already stored in the Meat Locker.

    The Wedding announcement will be published in the cleverly named Newspaper (founded in 1863).

    On the guest list is the frequent customer and an old-timey lawyer…

    …who enjoys spending his lunch hour from 12 to 1 at Aunt B’s.

    Miss Jandi and her students will also be in attendance.

    Cheer-leading poodles are the only advertisement for her business.

    Church is conveniently located around the corner.

    Burlingame will have to wait for another visit, when I may be able to solve the mystery of the piano keys above the tire shop windows.

    I still had a long way to Admire.

    People in these parts still keep cannons in their front yards, just in case.

    Finally I was close to my goal. While taking this photo I drove into something that I can still smell on my car and can only describe as putrid.

    Admire was right in front of me.

    At least it was a god-fearing town.

    High school looks little over-sized for the population of 117 (0.56% Native American, 0.56% from other races, and 3.39% from two or more races. 1.13% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.) That’s .65 of a Native American, must be handicapped or something.

    Every tall structure begs you to admire it.

    Last Chance Cafe is the best and the only pizza deal in town.

    Another water tower was built mainly to display the town’s name.

    I had a short drive to Emporia…

    …where Jesus Christ wanted me to stop and accept him. Sadly there was no parking.

    A friendly cock pointed the way home.

    I felt tired but refreshed at the same time. With my head cleared up I settled down on the couch thinking about the roads, small towns, open spaces and partial Native Americans.

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  • Old Photos: Downtown Kansas City

    © Time Inc.

    © Time Inc.

    © Time Inc.

    © Time Inc.

    © Time Inc.

    © Time Inc.

    © Time Inc.

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  • Olympics America Didn’t Get To See

    30 years ago today 10-year-old me was sitting in front of our 12-inch black-and-white TV watching the opening ceremonies of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow. It’s safe to say that everyone else in the country was doing the same. Even though we had only 3 TV channels at that time and many shows enjoyed close to 100 percent rating, the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the Moscow Olympics were probably some of the most watched events in the Soviet TV history. Unfortunately outside of the Socialist-friendly countries not too many people had a chance to see any of the 1980 Summer Olympics and it’s a shame because the USSR, anxious to show the triumph of the socialist system made them some of the most enjoyable and sincere ceremonies in the Olympic history. Since then many countries used complex scenarios and spectacular special effects but none has achieved the level of pure joy and emotional connection the Soviet people managed to build into their Olympiad.

    Even today, so many years later, it’s one of the most nostalgic moments in the lives of my generation. Many people remember the games, beautiful opening ceremony and a tearful closing, a rare glimpse into Western life, with the first Soviet-made Pepsi, never-before-seen imported foods, crowds of foreigners, new construction in Moscow. Others talk about the measures the government took to round up and deport the homeless (and prostitutes) out of the city for the duration of the games, or how many parents received heavy-handed suggestions to send their kids to the out-of-town summer camps away from the “danger”. I didn’t know any of that at the time, and probably didn’t care being 10. All I remember is the summer, beach, friends, little cabin we rented near the sea, and a small TV. A happy place, long time ago, far away from here.

    Olympic Presentation:

    Athletes entering the stadium:

    Views of Moscow:

    Moscow getting ready for the Olympics:

    A 25-minute video of the Olympic torch and the Opening ceremonies.

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  • Johnson County,KS: Then and Now

    I am a big fan of the “Kansas City: Then and Now”  and “Kansas City: Then and Now 2” books. No matter where you live there is a history and as much as everyone makes fun of old people and their “back in my day” stories, they are actually very entertaining. These books tell the stories with photos of the past and present side-by-side and, unfortunately, the present is not always better then the past.

    I wanted to do something like that for a long time on a smaller more amateur level and with the help of the Johnson County History website I will try post some photos once in a while.

    A group of men gathered in front of an automobile at the ground breaking for Andy Klein Pontiac dealership.

    Here is what it looks like now (click for more):

    Then and Now

    Not really much of an improvement, but I am sure Mr. Klein would have been proud. The JoCoHistory website has some additional photos tagged “Andy Klein Pontiac” as well as Mr. Klein’s personal photos.

    A business like an auto dealership touches many lives and I imagine in the old days it was more personal then now. Over the years it has probably seen a lot of happiness and excitement on its sales floor. Wouldn’t you get excited buying this “General Motors Masterpiece” in 1955,or, should I say “back in the day”.

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