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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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Flights and Phantoms, Part 2: Lives Lost

January 3, 1949, was like any other cold January day when 1st Lt. Neal R. Webster started his navigation training flight from Omaha to Tulsa and then back again.  But on the return trip, his luck did not hold.  He was cleared to fly from Tulsa to Topeka, but during the flight, the fog thickened, and because of zero visibility the Topeka airfield was forced to close.  So Webster had to change route, and Lowry Air Force Base, the technical training base in Denver, notified the next closest airfield, Olathe Naval Air Station.  With only 150 yards of visibility, they readied for the possibility of a rough landing.  Just the  previous week crews in Washington, D.C.,  had faced a similar situation when they had to guide President Truman’s plane during low-visibility conditions. They were successful, and the Olathe airfield used the same techniques to prepare for Webster’s landing, but with more tragic results.

Aerial view of New Century AirCenter

Aerial view of New Century AirCenter, site of the former Olathe Naval Air Station.

Low on fuel, Webster was in constant communication with the Olathe tower.  Those in the tower were steering him in, but because of the limited visibility the building came upon him all too soon.  He flew right into the side of the Administration Building, just past Hangar 43.  The engine shot from the plane and sailed into the air knocking a hole in the building’s roof. The plane was instantly engulfed in flames, rising higher than the roof of the building.  Because of the fog these flames were hardly discernible.  Bricks were strewn everywhere, even breaking the plate glass windows on the south wing.  Damage included a bulge in one office’s ceiling and the side wall suffered extreme damage.  A deep furrow was created along the length of the building, and later parts of the plane would be found as far as 200 yards away.

Administration Building of the Olathe Naval Air Station, circa 1945

Administration Building of the Olathe Naval Air Station, circa 1945

The ground crew rushed to assist and immediately extinguished the fire. Since the front of the plane was completely demolished, they were forced to pry the pilot and an unexpected passenger from the underbelly of the wreckage.  Webster was pronounced dead at the scene, but the unknown passenger was alive and rushed to the base hospital.  He regained consciousness but died six hours later.  Initially the only trace of this person’s identity was an illegible signature on the flight forms.  His baggage later revealed he was Pvt. Thomas Ruse from Lowry Air Force Base.

A man in uniform stands before a Naval Air Transport plane, circa 1945

A man in uniform stands before a Naval Air Transport plane, circa 1945

Immediately following the accident strange occurrences started happening.  One eye-witness claimed that someone walked from the plane crash, but that person was never found.  Witnesses started claiming to hear whistles, footsteps, voices, locks refusing to lock and doors opening unaided.  More than once people have claimed to see a man in all white on Hangar 43’s catwalk.  Dubbed the “Commander,” his purported sightings have caused some to question whether or not Webster still walks at the site of the Olathe Naval Air Station.

The Naval Air Park at New Century AirCenter

The Naval Air Park at New Century AirCenter

While the Olathe Naval Air Station was officially decommissioned in 1969, Johnson County acquired the property in 1973.  New Century AirCenter, as it is now titled, includes a business park with over 64 companies, a rail center and the airport. Also onsite is the Naval Air Park, a small park honoring 16 Navy and Marine service members who trained at the station but “did not return from deployment.” Along a winding path are street signs commemorating the names of these 16 aviators.  All lives lost continue to be honored in memory and encapsulated in lore through the present day and beyond.

See more photos and learn more about the history of the Olathe Naval Air Station from JoCoHistory.org at http://bit.ly/ONAShistory.

-Terri Bostic, Johnson County Library

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Flights and Phantoms, Part 1: Olathe Naval Air Station is Constructed

As a result of the United States’ involvement in World War II, the Navy felt an additional Kansas station was needed to train young flyers. So in 1941, the Olathe Naval Air Station was established. The original 640 acres included a county airport and land that had been established for the rich and elite. However, with the onset of the Great Depression, only two homes were built. Being the perfect location, papers were signed, and the land was sold.

Aerial view of the Olathe Naval Air Station Administration Building, circa 1945

Aerial view of the Olathe Naval Air Station Administration Building, circa 1945

In 1942, the first cadets entered the basic training program. Among them was John Glenn, who would later be one of NASA’s first astronauts and a celebrated American icon. He took his first solo flight in a military plane from the Olathe base. In John Glenn: A Memoir, he mentioned his first days, “Walking around on duckboards while the construction crews finished pouring concrete for the sidewalks. … The paint was still drying in the barracks.” By November 17, 1942, Glenn and the first group of cadets left for advanced training elsewhere.

View from inside an Olathe Naval Air Station hangar in 1949.

View from inside an Olathe Naval Air Station hangar in 1949.

At first, the base only operated out of a few structures on the premise, but by 1948, it had expanded to 19 buildings. Those included were the main Administration Building and three gigantic hangars, including the infamous Hangar 43. Throughout the years there have been many testimonies of paranormal activity connected to this hangar. While numerous deaths have occurred on site, the one usually associated with hauntings  is that of a young Air Force pilot who crashed in 1949.

-Terri Bostic, Johnson County Library

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Pulling at Merriam’s Heartstrings

KC Strings

K.C. Strings 5842 Merriam Dr, Merriam, KS 66203

In a cute, quaint part of downtown Merriam, Kansas, sits an equally cute and quaint shop called K.C. Strings Violin Shop. The shop itself is very much like a violin, adorned with warm varnished wood. K.C. Strings is a full service violin shop, which includes services for the entire violin family: viola, cello and bass. You can purchase or rent an instrument that has been constructed right there in the shop or you can have your instrument repaired or altered. While many Johnson Countians use their services, they also have clientele all over the world, from beginners to professional musicians.

PS Anton

Anton Krutz, owner of K.C. Strings

Anton Krutz and his father, Misha Krutz, opened K.C. Strings in 1992 in Merriam. They both hail from Leningrad, Russia, now Saint Petersburg. Misha played for the Kansas City Symphony for 30 years. Anton grew up in Johnson County, and after graduating from Shawnee Mission West, he went to trade school to learn the art of making violins and then went on to study restoration in New York.

KC Strings combo (2)

You can hear the passion Anton has for these instruments when he says things like, “When you have a symphonic sound of strings there is an emotion produced within people that is unrivaled by any other instrument.” Krutz is also aware that it is often the artists and musicians who history remembers. “Small towns that have artistic endeavors within them leave a legacy … the arts give meaning to humans.” This is what makes K.C. Strings a gem in Johnson County. If you are ever in downtown Merriam, you may hear the melodic sounds of someone testing out one of the instruments at K.C. Strings.

While K.C. Strings has plenty of history of its own, a fun fact we learned while talking to Anton is that the K.C. Strings building used to be a Johnson County Library. Pictures on JoCoHistory.org show the temporary headquarters of the  Library, which is now the studio section of K.C. Strings. It just goes to show there’s always another story behind each new facade.

Then & Now Library Headquarters (2)

Then & Now: Once the temporary headquarters for Johnson County Library, now home to K.C. Strings

-Beth Edson, Johnson County Library

Photos: Helen Hokanson, Johnson County Library

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