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Tag Archive: Kansas City Chiefs

Feb 16

Like an obvious truth, Kansas City tends to be “discovered” on a regular basis, and I just discovered it again. In a dusty box in the basement, I found this recently: A 1982 magazine article titled ‘KANSAS CITY: The Boom Town That Blossomed’, by the late Tom Ladwig, Mizzou ad/journalism professor.

An introduction to his story:

As writer and ad-man extraordinaire, Tom Ladwig once penned, “Like an obvious truth, Kansas City tends to be ‘discovered’ on a regular basis.”

Kansas City was discovered again by many this past baseball season when the Kansas City Royals took the world by storm and made it to the World Series in October of 2014. For some, they discovered this surprising city for the RoyalsKKfirst time.

When I found the late Tom Ladwig’s story in a box of old magazines, I was delighted. Not only does he create a picture of how this town grew and blossomed, but it’s a timely tale in its own way. When he wrote this in 1982, he spoke of how Hallmark’s Donald Hall made a mind-boggling investment creating the new Crown Center in what was a badly blighted area. Ladwig wrote about the then relatively new Harry S Truman Presidential Library and the “plush” Harry S Truman Sports Complex as well as the Kemper Arena, “a snow-white, pillar less, space age building”.

It was interesting to me that he wrote about these as new, shiny, state-of-the art landmarks in Kansas City that we now consider antiquated. Now, they have either been remodeled a couple of times or are in need of a face-lift. We certainly don’t think of them as new.

Read on and enjoy this 1982 description of Kansas City-The Boom Town That Blossomed. It’s all seems new again.

KANSAS CITY:

The Boom Town That Blossomed

By Tom Ladwig

Published in March 1982 Edition of Ford Times, The American Road, Dearborn, MI

Tom Ladwig

Tom Ladwig and his beloved typewriter

(To read a related column by Kay Hoflander

 about Tom and his typewriterclick here.)

 

Like an obvious truth, Kansas City tends to be “discovered” on a regular basis. Many years ago, Andre Maurois, the French author and no-nonsense intellectual wrote, “Who in Europe, or in America for that matter, knows that Kansas City is one of the loveliest cities on earth? And yet it is true.”

What most Kansas Citians know (and visitors discover) is that their city has more tree-lined “promenades” than Paris, gushes with almost as many fountains as Rome and certainly has more hills. It’s greener than Ireland and is indeed a lovely city.

Kansas-City

French fur trader Francois Chouteau was the first white settler in the area. That was in 1821. When the Missouri River flooded his trading post he left for furrier pastures.

Independence, Missouri, a few miles to the east, had all the profitable Santa Fe Trail business. John C. McCoy, a Baptist minister’s son with a sharp eye for profit, opened an outfitter’s store at Westport, four miles south of Chouteau’s post, and grabbed that good Santa Fe business from Independence. McCoy’s store still stands, now restored as Kelly’s, a popular bar.

While all this was going on, “One-Eyed” Ellis was minding his own business down by the river, selling booze to the Osage and Kansas Indians and picking up a stray horse or cow now and then. He also acted as a sort of justice of the peace when the occasion arose.

A nearby farmer, Gabriel Prudhomme, got himself killed in a barroom brawl and his 257-acre farm (now downtown Kansas City) was put up for sale. McCoy didn’t miss a lick. He and 13 friends bought it for $4,220. They wanted to build a city, or at least, a town.

Because “One-Eyed” had a cabin close by with a hickory fire and booze, and because of his quasi-legal status, the group went there to choose a name for their town.  Besides, “One-Eyed” had a handy reference tool—a blue-backed Webster spelling book. He was named chairman of the group. One fellow who wore a slit-tailed coat wanted to name the town “Port Fonda” after himself. That was voted down. Another suggested “Possum Trot” and another “Rabbitville”. An argument flared. “One-Eyed’s” spelling book was no help.

But in the end, he saved the day, or the city, as it turned out. He suggested, perhaps as a compromise, the name “Kansas” after his good customers. And so the town was named. Later, in 1853, it was officially designated Kansas City.

It became the hottest boomtown on the frontier. It was “wide open” and by 1857 public sentiment grew against open saloons and public drunkedness. There were 1,500 souls there spending $135,000 a year on liquor, a staggering figure in more ways than one. Robert Van Horn, a newspaper publisher, suggested editorially it might be a good idea to start some local distilleries. No use letting that good money go out of town.

With Van Horn promoting, the Missouri River was bridged and a rail link established between Chicago and the West. That did it. Business boomed and Kansas City shed its fur-trapper, Buffalo-hunter, Indian-fighter image and entered a period of opulence and the finer things of life. Gun-fighters Jesse James, Wild Bill Hickock, Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday mingled with white-tie wealthy in the opera house, theaters, fine restaurants and gambling palaces. A library, a medical school and an Academy of Science were established, and permanent commercial and public buildings were built. Police and firemen were decked out in uniforms. Civilization had arrived.

At the turn of the century, the city boldly butted heads with Chicago, Cincinnati and Cleveland for the 1900 Democratic National Convention—and got it. No sooner had the award been announced than Kansas City’s new convention hall burned to the ground. The city’s spirit was such that 90 days later the hall had been rebuilt in time for William Jennings Bryan to receive the Democrats’ presidential nomination on July 4.

Newspaperman Henry Haskell, who established the Kansas City Star’s editorial policy (and picked up two Pulitzers along the way), said there were two things that made Kansas City great. The first was the great bend of the Missouri River and the second was William Rockhill Nelson, the Star’s publisher. Another noted publisher, William Allen White, said “Nelson was a traitor to his class, a rich man willing to attack the rich, especially if they were slumlords thwarting his dreams for a beautiful Kansas City.”

Nelson nagged, berated and abused the city into making something of itself. He made possible the William Rockhill Nelson Art Gallery, which along with the Mary Atkins Museum of Fine Art, forms the cultural core of a four-state area. In fact, the Nelson is the largest art museum west of Chicago and is ranked among the nation’s top half-dozen. It houses perhaps the largest collection of Oriental art outside Asia.

In 1907, J.C. Nichols, another fellow with a penchant for quality, bought a 10-acre hog farm and turned it into the beautiful Country Club district. He wasn’t just compulsive about quality; he was downright fanatical about it.

In 1922, Nichols took a 55-acre tract and developed the Country Club Plaza, a Spanish-style marketplace and now the oldest shopping center in the United States. It has become a way of life for thousands, with its waterfalls, tree-lined walks, wrought-iron fenced courtyards, gardens, fountains and statues. But best of all, eight gigantic enclosed parking areas make it a pedestrian delight The Plaza is still the standard by which other such centers are measured.

Joyce Hall, up in Nebraska, heard about that 1900 convention hall rebuilding feat and decided Kansas City was for him. He came down and founded the Hallmark greeting card empire. Donald Hall, a son, heads the firm today and has opened up spectacular new frontiers of his own.

He’s made a mind-boggling investment in the city—building an 85-acre “city-within-a-city” on a once-blighted area, which touches Prudhomme’s old farmstead. Taking its name “Crown Center” from the Hallmark logo, it has two major hotels (one with a 60-foot natural waterfall in the lobby), an elaborate shopping center, restaurants, an office complex and condominium towers.

The late President Harry S Truman learned his way around politics in Kansas City during the 1920s and ‘30s. (The Harry S Truman Library and Museum is located in Independence, just down I-70).

Kansas City never could do things halfway. While all the spectacular growth was under way in the 1920s and ‘30s, a corrupt and well-oiled political machine under Pendergast took over city hall. The Kansas City Star stopped all that in the late 1930s by exposing the Pendergast skeletons in city hall closets.

When Harry Truman decided to run for his first office, Pendergast gave him this advice, “When you are after votes, don’t wear a coat and pants that match.” Must have worked.

The Pendergast period had its brighter side—“Kansas City Jazz.” It developed in the Prohibition-era speakeasies and spawned such stars as Count Basie, Charlie “Bird” Parker, Benny Moten, Mary Lou Williams, Hot Lips Page, Julia Lee, and Baby Lovett.

Walter Cronkite honed his reportorial skills on a Kansas City radio station and in the old United Press bureau here. Ernest Hemingway credited Pete Wellington, the Star’s city editor, and his stylebook for developing the Hemingway style. He worked for the paper before World War II.

Joan Crawford, Burt Bacharach, Ed Asner, Ginger Rogers, Thomas Hart Benton, Jean Harlow, Walt Disney and Goodman Ace were all Kansas Citians who have fiddled with the national psyche at one time or another.

And Lord knows that Kansas City roast beef is the best in the land. And besides the Lord, Calvin Trillin (who writes about food for The New Yorker and Nation) says: “The best restaurants of the world are, of course, in Kansas City. Not all of them; only the top four or five.” Trillin says the best single restaurant in the world is Arthur Bryant’s Barbeque. Bryant’s, a battered cafeteria in the shadow of old Municipal Stadium, has served thousands of ballplayers and newspapermen, along with several presidents, Jimmy Carter, the latest.

Each autumn, the American Royal Livestock and Horse Show take over the city. More than a million people see purebred animals from all over the world pose and prance.

Most of the city’s 1.3 million-plus souls are involved in some way in some sport. Their enthusiasm has produced the Harry S Truman Sports Complex, a plush stadium that is home for the football Kansas City Chiefs and the baseball Royals. The Kings were the roadblock the Houston Rockets had to get by last season to reach the National Basketball Association finals. Their home is Kemper Arena, a snow-white, pillar less, space age building that was the site of the 1976 Republican National Convention.

Some consider Kansas Citian Tom Watson the best pro golfer around. In the winter, while his fellow pros go to warmer climes, he sets up shop on a carpet in the greenskeeper’s shed at the country club, whapping balls through its garage doors onto the snowy hills.

But if sports are big in Kansas City, the performing arts are bigger. A couple of years ago, the nonprofit performing arts groups (theater, opera, dance, symphonic music, jazz, the Starlight Theatre and Theatre League) amassed three times more paid admissions than the football Chiefs and the basketball Kings.

The new International Airport is a marvel, with as little as 85 feet distance from plane to car, and you never walk much farther.

Kansas City has a young look and has the vibrant beat of youth. Young people come with the idea they can do anything they’re big enough to do. And they can—except for one thing.

They cannot tell a Kansas City native that the Gateway Arch of St. Louis is the “Gateway to the West.” That distinction belongs to Kansas City.

 

 

 

 th-1 th-2 th

 

Editor’s Note: Tom Ladwig-authored books available here.

 

 

Feb 02

The Super Bowl is a mind-boggling American holiday

“Men, I want you just thinking of one word all season.
One word and one word only: Superbowl.”
– Bill Peterson, American football coach, known as the “Coach of Coaches”

Throughout most of America and in many places around the world, millions of us are thinking of one word right about now, well actually two, Super Bowl. We probably thought of it all season, too.

I don’t know if this is true, but a sports pundit said recently that more people would watch the Super Bowl this year than voted in the last presidential election.

The numbers from food consumed to the cost of television commercials become even more mind-boggling than the number of viewers.

Take a look at these numbers, for example:

  • CNBC notes that 1.25 billion chicken wings will be consumed this weekend.
  • SBNation.com explains that Super Bowl Sunday is the second biggest day for food consumption trailing only Thanksgiving Day, a holiday that is all about food. SBNation adds that the average viewer will consume 1,200 calories just during the game alone (I’m feeling fat already.).
  • According to the Nielson Group, Americans will consume 8 million pieces of pizza,
  • 46 million pounds of potato chips and 71 million pounds of guacamole.
  • I couldn’t find statistics on beer consumption, but seriously, if we are eating 8 million pieces of pizza, a lot of folks are going to get thirsty.
  • If you are going to order a pizza, call early. Last year, Pizza Hut, Dominoes and Papa John’s received twice as many takeout orders than on any other day of the year, that according to Bleacher Report.
  • As for total number of viewers–111 million last year.
  • The expected number of viewers in 2012, again according to Bleacher Report, should exceed last year with people watching in 232 countries speaking 34 different languages.
  • Television commercials will make up more than 45 minutes of the game-day broadcast. Ads will cost more than $100,000 per second with each half-minute spot costing 3.5 million dollars.
  • According to the online ticket price broker TiqIQ, the average price for a Super Bowl ticket in Indianapolis is $3,984.73.

Super Bowl Sunday with its mind-boggling stats is more than a game; it’s an American holiday that millions celebrate with their own traditions even though most of us don’t really have a horse in the race, if you will. More than likely, as in the case of Kansas City Chiefs fans, your team didn’t make it to the Super Bowl.

Still, we love to watch the game, the highly creative commercials and the unpredictability and pageantry of the half time show.

The Super Bowl is a holiday we look forward to all football season, and it is a day, admit it, that most of us do not want to spend alone. It’s depressing not to celebrate.

Some people prefer small gatherings of family and friends, fun parties for small children that nearly resemble birthday parties, or large, raucous parties.

One thing all these celebrations have in common is our outright love for chowing down on fatty, greasy, high-calorie food, when for one day at least, we do it without a shred of guilt. It is accepted. It is the norm.

In fact, a vegan told me she eats pepperoni pizza on Super Bowl Sunday without giving it a second thought and actually looks forward to eating it all year. She has to, she says, it wouldn’t be the Super Bowl without a pizza. It’s a national tradition.

And consider this thought from Americanfood.about.com as you consume your 1,200 calories during the game: “If you are wondering where all this festive frivolity leads to the following Monday, there’s a 20 percent increase in the sale of antacids and an estimated 7 million employees will not show up for work.”

Super Bowl Sunday only happens once a year, so buy some Tums, eat pizza, chicken wings, nachos, chips and salsa, fries, and of course, the guacamole.

Go for it, I say, but please don’t call me in the morning.

Dec 30

Top reasons why it’s time for 2010 to end

“Ring out the old, ring in the new,?Ring, happy bells, across the snow:?The year is going, let him go;?Ring out the false, ring in the true.”?–Alfred, Lord Tennyson, 1850

Last year about this time I offered my top ten reasons why I was ready for 2009 to end. The year passed so quickly as they all seem to do, and now it is time for another year to come to a close.

Here are my top ten reasons why I am ready.

10. Too much 3-D. Although Avatar was released at the end of 2009, it was in movie theaters for half of 2010. Agreed, it is a good movie with great visual effects, and granted, 3-D was cool the first time around. However copycat 3D movies flooded the theaters soon after Avatar was released making some movie-goers perpetually dizzy and the rest of us wondering why.
9. The pits of a sports moment–Vuvuzela noisemakers at World Cup soccer. Thankfully we won’t have to listen to this for another four years. If you missed the controversy over these loud plastic trumpets, imagine the sound of a swarm of bees combined with a monotone bullhorn that never stops blasting and you’ll get the idea.
8. One word–Wikileaks.
7. Two words—Lady GaGa.
6. Three words—Justin Bieber’s hair.
5. Fall from grace:
•Tiger Woods– sadly, a continuing fall
• Brett Favre–smart quarterback with no clue about text-messaging
• Jesse James—Sandra Bullock married him because?
• Hollywood stars Lindsey Lohan, Paris Hilton, Charlie Sheen and Mel Gibson—in trouble again and this year it was worse than a bad sitcom rerun
• John Edwards—self-explanatory.
4. LeBron James’ live television announcement, “The Decision.” James: “I’m taking my talents to South Beach”. Come on, man.
3. Jersey Shore, Snooki and “The Situation”–enough said.
2. YouTube video: The confused referee at the Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans football game on September 26th. On second thought, I don’t want this one to end. It’s so funny I’ll be watching it well into 2011.
1. My number one reason for wanting 2010 to end–the Kansas City Chiefs will be in the playoffs in January of 2011, and I can’t wait for that day to arrive. Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star describes exactly how we Chiefs’ fans are feeling right now: “Kansas City deserves this. You deserve this. We deserve this…The Chiefs are in the playoffs for the first time since January 2007 — back when Herm Edwards still had hope and Bob Barker still had a TV show…Kansas City finally has a football accomplishment to celebrate.”

“Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right.”–Oprah Winfrey

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