Category Archives: Organizations

Fun with Family at King Louie West

The Arts & Heritage Center’s 1st Anniversary is on Sunday, June 10th. Come and celebrate anytime in the month of June! The Johnson County Museum, located inside the Arts & Heritage Center, is open Monday – Saturday 9:00 am – 4:30 pm.


After visiting the Johnson County Arts & Heritage Center last year at it’s opening, I had an episode of dejavu.

I had been to the building before, but it was completely different.  I hadn’t been there for fifteen years when my sons worked at the King Louie Bowling Alley and Ice Rink during their senior year of high school in 2002. They worked on weekends for gas money, and they said it was one of their favorite jobs.

King Louie

King Louie West  Source: Johnson County Museum Collection JoCoHistory.org

One of the boys worked in the snack bar cooking up any kind of fried food you could order and the other worked in the little shop where you could turn in tickets for prizes. They made lots of people happy and were even able to get a discounted bowling ball. The rest of the family used to go over while the boys where working and go bowling.

King Louie West bowling ball

One of the bowling balls the Kazmi boys bought while working at King Louie West. They were smooth balls so the owners could have custom holes drilled to fit their hand. Source: Melody Kazmi

This being near the end of the King Louie heydays I remember it being rather dark and considerably smokey-smelling. I remember it being very large, and usually not very busy when we went. Once my little girl even got to go down in the basement and go ice skating. I didn’t even know at the time that there was an ice skating rink down there!

It was the largest place of that type I have ever seen. Now that is has been renovated, cleaned, and made bright and shiny it has become a wonderful renewed source for the public to visit in a completely different capacity. But to me it will always be where my family and I spent some fun weekends bowling and skating and eating fried foods.

Six members of the Kazmi family

The Kazmi family, ca. 2002 Source: Melody Kazmi

-Melody Kazmi, Johnson County Library

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Buddy the Deaf Dog

Your dog can sit, but can it answer its own fan mail? Can it play piano and wear a stylish cap? Buddy could!

Buddy answering fan mail

Buddy answering fan mail in 1953 Source: Kansas School for the Deaf Collection JoCoHistory.org

“Buddy the Deaf Dog” was a touring stage act put on by Bob Parker and his famous performing dog Buddy.  Buddy and Parker made a splash in the 1950s, touring schools and stage events throughout the metro area and traveling as far as St. Louis. Buddy had total hearing impairment but, with some ingenuity and a lot of practice, the team were able to develop a series of tricks that were based on visual cues given by Parker. When asked how the two came to be, Parker claimed to have found Buddy wandering lonely on the plains of Kansas. He had a mean attitude and tried to bite Parker, but the two quickly became inseparable friends.

Bob Parker and Buddy

Bob Parker and Buddy Source: Kansas School for the Deaf Collection JoCoHistory.org

Buddy was particularly popular at Olathe’s Kansas School for the Deaf, where the duo performed a myriad of tricks meant to show that Buddy’s lack of hearing didn’t prevent him from excelling and learning new things. Some of Buddy’s best-loved tricks involved him writing letters, smoking a pipe, or joining Parker on the piano.

Buddy playing the piano

Buddy playing the piano Source: Kansas School for the Deaf Collection JoCoHistory.org

Buddy "smoking" a pipe

Buddy the Deaf Dog Source: Kansas School for the Deaf Collection JoCoHistory.org

The man behind the dog, Bob Parker, was born in 1899 as Parker B. Melluish in Ottawa, Kansas. Parker was a veteran of both World Wars, dropping out of high school to join the army at age 17. He fought in the Battle of the Argonne and was honorably discharged due to injury, at which time he joined the vaudeville circuit and toured the country as a song and dance man. When World War II arrived, Parker rejoined the service and took charge of theatre and entertainment for his regiment. He arranged USO shows, performed in variety programs, brought in the newest films, and was responsible for keeping up his company’s morale. He remained an active member of Olathe’s American Legion post and Veterans of Foreign Wars throughout his life. After World War II, he returned to Kansas and became a theater manager, touring with Buddy in his free time. He was a lifelong supporter of the Kansas School for the Deaf and continued his support long after he and Buddy had retired. Parker passed away in 1975 and requested that donations be sent to the school in his memory.

Bob and buddy perform

Postcard to Kansas School for the Deaf Source: Kansas School for the Deaf Collection JoCoHistory.org

 

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“An Ideal Home in an Ideal Location with Ideal Surroundings:” Richard Hocker’s Suburban Developments in Merriam, Kansas

By the turn of the 20th century, industrialization in Kansas City resulted in overcrowding, pollution, and disease. Looking to escape these less-than-desirable conditions, Kansas City’s upper-middle classes sought homes in new suburban developments in northeast Johnson County. The advent of the electric trolley led to “streetcar suburbs,” which made transit into downtown accessible and convenient.

One such suburban neighborhood was planned by Richard Weaver (R.W.) Hocker, who was a banker and real estate developer in Kansas City, Missouri. Envisioning early suburban development in Johnson County, the “R. W. Hocker Subdivision” was platted in 1910 for eight 5-acre lots. One of two houses originally built, the “Walker House,” was added to both the State and National Registers of Historic Places in March 2017.

3-story house with limestone porch

This image from Google Maps shows the Walker House as it appears today at 5532 Knox Street.

The Walker House is a single-family dwelling built between 1906 and 1911 (the Kansas State Historical Society estimated 1910). The home, located at 5532 Knox Street, was built as a “spec house,” short for “speculative,” essentially serving as a model for the neighborhood’s intended development. The home’s first occupant was Mrs. Azubah Denham, the wife of Rev. B.Q. Denham. Rev. Denham was a popular pastor in Johnson and Wyandotte Counties in the 1890s. Between 1904 and 1910, however, he had become infamous for adultery and indecency scandals in Buffalo and New York City. In 1911, Azubah Denham purchased the Walker House in her name only for $5,500 ($137,500 in 2015). In 1920, many working class families lived on less than $1,500 per year, so the home’s price illustrates the intended middle-class nature of Hocker Subdivision.

Architecturally, the Walker House is indicative of the Kansas City Shirtwaist Style, named for ladies fashion at the beginning of the 20th century. Shirtwaist dresses included a seam at the waist where the material often changed. The Shirtwaist influence is evident in the Walker House: a single-floor local limestone exterior, an upper floor and a half of cedar clapboard, and flared gable eaves on the eastern face and one-story porch. Inside, original woodwork, including oak and pine hardwood floors, contribute to the historic character. The Walker House originally sat on a large 5-acre lot, but today occupies just .31-acres.

Hocker Grove area of Johnson County atlas map

This excerpt from the 1922 Standard Atlas of Johnson County, Kansas, shows both of Hocker’s residential developments. The Walker House occupied Lot K, located in the upper right. (Johnson County Museum, http://www.jocohistory.org/digital/collection/atlas/id/138/rec/4)

Hocker also platted “Hocker’s Grove” in 1915. This neighborhood contained 1-acre lots for modest—but still middle-class—Craftsman bungalow homes. Just seventeen were originally constructed. Both neighborhoods were within a half-mile walk from the “Hocker Line,” an inter-urban, electric trolley that was speculated to extend from Kansas City to Lawrence and even Topeka (it reached as far as Mill Creek, to the east of Zarah, or about two miles west of I-435 today). By 1907, the trolley ran the the seven-and-a-half miles between Kansas City and Merriam. Residents could reach Union Station in 35-minutes, the intersection of 12th and Main Streets in 45-minutes, and make connections to Kansas City’s urban trolley line along Southwest Blvd.

Trolley station at Hocker Grove, 1915

The Hocker Line Trolley Station near Merriam. This image appeared in the 1915 Hocker Grove promotional booklet. (Johnson County Museum, http://www.jocohistory.org/digital/collection/jcm/id/5594/rec/25)

Hocker promoted his neighborhoods with the slogan, “The Home For You.” A promotional booklet printed in 1915 testified that buyers would find “an ideal home in an ideal location with ideal surroundings.” The booklet indicated that the “modest, artistic homes in a restricted neighborhood” were equipped with natural gas, fronted on macadamized rock roads, and were located in “natural and picturesque beauty.” Buyers could take advantage of flexible deferred payment plans, as well. The “restricted neighborhood” wording communicated to white, middle-class buyers that the area was reserved as residential for a twenty-five year span, and that no African Americans could purchase or lease the homes there for 100 years. This developer’s tool of racial segregation, often referred to as a “deed restriction,” was used throughout Kansas City and Johnson County’s suburban neighborhood developments, as well as across the nation during the 20th century suburban boom.

Hocker Grove homes located on the southeast and northeast corners of the intersection of Knox Street and Hocker Drive, 1915

These Hocker Grove homes are located on the southeast and northeast corners of the intersection of Knox Street and Hocker Drive. Both streets were called “Avenues” in 1915. Image from the 1915 Hocker Grove promotional booklet. (Johnson County Museum, http://www.jocohistory.org/digital/collection/jcm/id/5595/rec/27)

Hocker Trolley line map

An undated map of the route of the Hocker Line electric trolley. The trolley line followed the Frisco and Missouri, Kansas, and Texas Railroad lines. (Johnson County Museum)

Both of Hocker’s neighborhood developments were located near Hocker Grove Park, a 40-acre amusement park that Hocker planned and built with O.M. Blankenship between 1907 and 1908. The park was located on Hocker Drive, north of Johnson Drive today. This amusement park featured roller-skating, dancing under a large pavilion with a Wurlitzer automatic band organ (the pavilion doubled as a basketball gym), and was the site of balloon ascensions, professional boxing matches, and picnics. Families rode the Hocker Line from Kansas City to enjoy picnics in the natural setting. There was also a 2,000-seat grandstand for watching baseball games, an extremely popular sport at the time. A “Trolley League” soon developed with six semi-professional baseball teams.

Picture of the Hocker Grove 'Trolley League' baseball team, 1908

The Hocker Grove “Trolley League” baseball team, c. 1908. (Johnson County Museum, 1990.025.018)

Crowds skating at the Hocker Grove skating rink, 1908-1915

A postcard image of the Hocker Grove Park skating rink, c. 1908-1915. (Johnson County Museum, http://www.jocohistory.org/digital/collection/jcm/id/11817/rec/30)

Hocker was not the only real estate entrepreneur working in the area. Increased real estate competition in and around Merriam at the time of Hocker’s developments may have limited the construction there. After all, despite the beauty and convenience of Hocker’s two neighborhoods, only 19 homes were built between them. William B. Strang’s competing interurban trolley line and his suburban developments, most notably Overland Park, were located nearby and were equally convenient, beautiful, and middle-class in nature. Hocker died in 1918, and his amusement park closed the following year. After more than a decade of financial difficulty, the Hocker Line trolley closed for good in 1934. By then the automobile had become accessible for Johnson County families.

In the century since the construction of the Walker House in the R. W. Hocker Subdivision and the smaller Craftsman homes in Hocker’s Grove, most of the empty lots have been built upon, the large lots have been subdivided, and many historic homes have been remodeled or razed. Yet it is still possible to discern the beauty of the location and, with Interstate 35 following the Hocker Line into Kansas City almost exactly, the convenience remains evident. Hocker’s suburban dreams for his neighborhoods nestled between Merriam and Shawnee have been thoroughly realized today, if not during his lifetime.

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Remembering Glenwood

Glenwood Theatre, ca. 1968. Source: JoCo Museum.

Glenwood Theatre, ca. 1968. Source: JoCo Museum.

I always felt a sense of anticipation and excitement walking through the rectangular parking lot, over the gravel-filled medians into the Glenwood movie theater. Not only was I being transported to whatever fantasy world the movie created, I was also entering a forgotten and foreign world. The Glenwood had style: It featured a fire place and an indoor fountain, like those found outside at the Plaza. A vaulted ceiling with cathedral-esque windows allowed waves of golden sunlight to fill the lobby. And best yet, the actual theater might have been the biggest single room I had ever seen. Imagine that brief moment when the green preview shot would appear as a wobbly specter as the gigantic curtains parted way to reveal the majestic screen!

Glenwood Theatre, 1966 ca. Source: JoCoHistory.org.

Glenwood Theatre, 1966 ca. Source: JoCoHistory.org.

At the tender age of five in the year 1983, when we found movie times in the newspaper and had to wait in line to get tickets to a highly-anticipated blockbuster, my parents took my brother and I to see Superman III. You didn’t see a movie at the Glenwood: You experienced it. My personal list includes: Dune (1984, yes I saw Dune at the age of 6), Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984), Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985), and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986), Mosquito Coast (1986), Raising Arizona (1987), Tim Burton’s Batman (1989, opening day), Independence Day (1996), Batman and Robin (1997, Yuck!), and Contact (1997). Basically, the formative years of my movie watching developed at the Glenwood Theater.

The Glenwood (lower left) at Glenwood Manor Motor Hotel. Source: JoCoHistory.org.

The Glenwood (lower left) at Glenwood Manor Motor Hotel. Source: JoCoHistory.org.

The last movie I saw at the Glenwood was Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace in the summer of 1999. There was so much excitement and I was so eager to return to my childhood years of wonder. Sadly, not only was that movie terrible (even though I saw it four times) but the theater itself closed a year later. I couldn’t help but feel as though those two events were inextricable, as if the movie gods said, “Try as you might, those halcyon days will never return. But you’ll always have the ticket stubs.”

Learn more about the Glenwood and nation-wide cinema treasures: http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/1854

-Scott Stone, Johnson County Library

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Drum roll please!

In 2011 Zickos Corporation made the decision to close its doors. After more than 50 years, William Zickos, known as the father of acrylic drums and John Brazelton, President, ceased production of their acrylic drum set. Because Zickos and Brazelton valued their top quality product, they chose not to sell out to one of their competitors. They believed in their product and wanted to keep the integrity of the Zickos name.

From left to right: William Zickos, Gregg Gerson, John Brazelton, 2001 ca. Photo courtesy of gregggerson.com.

From left to right: William Zickos, Gregg Gerson, John Brazelton, 2001 ca. Photo courtesy of gregggerson.com.

In 1959 Bill Zickos worked at Toon Music in Prairie Village by day and by night he played drums for the Ed Smith Band at the New Orleans Room on Wyandotte Street. While working at Toon Music, he tutored 30-40 aspiring drummers. It was during this time Zickos had the idea of taking clear plastic sheets and molding them into a drum set. What he got was a drum that was not only innovative in style, but also produced a crisper, louder sound.

drums

At a time when Rock and Roll was up and coming, that louder resonating sound would prove to be very popular. One unique aspect of clear plastic drums was the way lighting illuminated through the clear acrylic creating a tapestry of color. This unique light show was very attractive to young musicians just starting out in this new rock and roll genre. When money was tight this was an advantage. One humorous point of interest was that the drummer, due to the transparency of the drums, would now be required to wear pants during a performance.

drum set

During the early years of production Mr. Zickos’ drum students were the first employees hired to build these unique drum sets. They were also the first to own them. While traveling from show to show they would become the original Zickos drum promoters. One such student included Mike Thompson, today a local well known talent in the Kansas City area.

Mike Thompson playing on a Zickos drum set. Photo courtesy of Mike Thompson.

Mike Thompson playing on a Zickos drum set. Photo courtesy of Mike Thompson.

For several years drums gained in popularity with other local drummers. It is believed that during one of these local performances the unique style and cool, crisp sound was noticed by Ron Bushy (drummer for the popular rock group Iron Butterfly). Bushy was so impressed he purchased a set for himself.

Photo courtesy of drumarchive.com.

Photo courtesy of drumarchive.com.

This drum set would later become a focal point of a drum solo during the classic 18 minute song, “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vidda.” Soon other groups would take notice and purchase Zickos innovative new drum set. Groups such as The Who, Beach Boys, Three Dog Night soon followed leading Zickos to open Zickos Corporation on 85th Street in Lenexa. Keith Moon of The Who, during an episode of Wide World In Concert: Midnight Special, played a 5 minute solo in which one of his acrylic drums was filled with water and goldfish.

-Terri Bostic, Johnson County Library

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A Favorite Pastime

Baseball. The crack of the bat, the roar of the crowd and an umpire yelling, “You’re out!” It is one of America’s favorite pastimes, and with the recent Kansas City Royals’ World Series success, a fan can feel the excitement in the air. What could be more exciting at this time of the year?

Zarah Baseball 2

Frank Russel and Harold Hines, players of the Zarah Ball Club, circa 1920-1925.

One hundred years ago, fans made a day out of a Sunday baseball game. It was a great outing for the entire family. Parents took their young children, and it created a lasting memory. They packed a picnic lunch and traveled to the park on the Interurban, our area’s own electric-powered streetcar system. The Hocker line ran farthest west, almost to the town of Zarah where Starwood Park was located.

Zarah Baseball 1

Edward “Babe” Garrett, player on the Zarah Ball Club, circa 1920-1925.

The Johnson County Baseball League included 8 towns: Olathe, DeSoto, Wellsville, Edgerton, Merriam, Overland Park, Shawnee and Lenexa. Even local companies, to improve relations with employees, created baseball teams. Eventually, with the desire to travel anywhere by owning an automobile, our Interurban’s popularity declined, but baseball has lasted!

Zarah Baseball 4

Kenith Anderson, player on the Zarah Ball Club, circa 1920-1925.

Today with spring upon us, each community is beginning to form its own annual team, bolstering community pride. So get out there and root for your home team!

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

By Jack Norworth (lyricist), Albert Von Tilzer (composer), Edward Meeker (singer), Edison’s National Phonograph Company (publisher) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

-Terri Bostic, Johnson County Library

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Rising from the Ashes

Class_at_Hickory_Grove_School

Photo pulled from fire damage at the Hickory Grove School

Fire has always been a concern for schools, especially when we’re talking about old school buildings. Fire drills were first introduced because of the numerous severe fires in schools. Of course today, we have the newest technology for early detection, but the early days of Johnson County were not so lucky.  Two such fires were in 1920 and 1949.

In January of 1920, a fire completely destroyed the Overland Park High School building. Sources are conflicting as to the actual date, but the Kansas City Star states the date as Monday, Jan. 26. At that time the building was located at Santa Fe Road and Robinson Street. According to the Kansas City Star, the origin of the fire is a mystery, but possibly caused by a gas explosion. Witnesses claimed to have seen a bright light around 2 a.m. toward the vicinity of the building.

Overland_Park_School_fire

Overland Park High School fire in 1920

This building, built from stone, was not the first school at the location. A wood structure called Pleasant Prairie was built there in 1873. Because enrollment increased over the years by 45% and costs increased 56%, it was felt a new structure was needed. So in 1909 a new stone structure opened. There were four rooms on the first floor and four in the basement, with an annex attached at a later date. Enrollment continued to grow.  Four teachers were hired and the costs totaled upwards of $9,000. But on that fateful morning in January 1920, the building and its contents were a complete loss. The district rallied again, and a new school of a larger scale was built.

John_Douglas_Patrick_inside_school_building

Pleasant Prairie School in 1899, the location where Overland Park High was later built.

Overland Park High would not be the last school to experience a devastating fire. The first Hickory Grove school, a one-room wooden structure, was built in 1865 and was once the largest school in the county. The name for the school was chosen because of the beautiful grove of Hickory trees on the site in Mission, Kan. This one-room structure stayed until 1916 when a larger one was needed. Stone structures were popular around this time, possibly from fear of fire, and this two-story stone school with two classrooms and one big community room on the ground floor was built.  The basement was converted to classrooms at a later date, with additions built in 1926, 1937 and 1946. The latest addition consisted of 11 more classrooms, a library, a gymnasium and increased cafeteria facilities.

Fire_at_Hickory_Grove_School

Fire at the Hickory Grove School in 1949.

On July 21, 1949, a fire erupted in the new stone building.  Children who were rehearsing a play had just left the building when J. M. Smothers, the assistant custodian,  was locking the doors when through the windows he saw a light coming from the auditorium area. He discovered the entire stage curtain on fire. Previously, he had sternly advised the college students who had been directing the play not to smoke backstage.

Fire_damage_at_Hickory_Grove_School

Fire damage at Hickory Grove School

Firefighters from different local communities rushed to help control the blaze. Fire trucks from Overland Park, Shawnee and Mission townships, Mission and Kansas City, Kan., hurried to the scene. Six pumper trucks with eight streams were directed on the 100-foot high flames. Seen for miles, the fire drew 500 people. Thick black smoke billowed above until the roof was consumed an hour later. The damage was estimated at $100,000, but the new $250,000 addition was saved.

On a happy note, the play was also saved and moved to another school. Just like the old saying, “The show must go on.”

-Terri Bostic, Johnson County Library

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