Archive for Wednesday, May 29, 2013

KCK better than ever

May 29, 2013

It just dawned on me that 50 years ago, Jean and I moved to Kansas City, Kan. I left a job as an advertising salesman for the McPherson “Sentinel” to become publications supervisor for the Board of Public Utilities. Looking back, KCK has changed tremendously and, yes, it is a far better city than it was five decades ago.

In those days, KCK city limits extended to about 48th Street. Everything changed with the annexation “wars” later in the decade when the city limits were expanded. Annexation gave KCK room to grow and certainly leaders of those days would have a hard time believing that the Legends, the NASCAR track, Community America Ball Park and everything else in western Wyandotte County exists.

The BPU offices were located in city hall which is now an apartment complex. Later that year BPU moved to 1211 N. Eighth Street. Of course, it is now located on Minnesota Avenue.

If you were around in those days, everybody shopped on Minnesota Avenue. Virtually every chain store and a couple of movie theatres were located on Minnesota Avenue. Going “over town” meant a trip to downtown Kansas City, Mo. While downtowns are floundering, I think the Urban Renewal fiasco of the early 1970s killed Minnesota Avenue. If you remember, Minnesota Avenue was lined with what some called “art,” but it didn’t draw shoppers, actually deterring access to stores and parking.

Residents tended to shop in their neighborhoods and I remember that Jean and I thought going to Wyandotte Plaza was a major trip. I might be wrong, but I believe that the first “shopping center” was Tower Plaza located at 38th and State Avenue. Many people shopped at the “new” Milgram’s Store at 18th and Parallel. Indian Springs Shopping Center didn’t come into existence until the early 1970s.

We rented a house on Maggie Lane just off 45th and State. The other day, I decided to indulge in a trip down memory lane, but I couldn’t find Maggie Lane. I made a quick check on the Inter-net and the street is still listed. It was an extremely small two bedroom house and later in the year we bought a home at 2739 Haskell. The realtor proudly advertised that it was in the “Blessed Sacrament and Parker School Districts.” I drove by the house and it hasn’t changed much, but I didn’t remember that the streets were so narrow. Parker School is still there although I doubt many students walk to school and come home for lunch. At that time there were six high schools in KCK: Wyandotte, Washington, Rosedale, Argentine, Sumner and Ward. Wyandotte was the perennial state basketball champion. Sumner wasn’t an Academy, either. The KCK schools changed in the early 1970s.

Our youngest daughter, Angie, was born at St. Margaret’s Hospital. Now, both St. Margaret and Bethany Medical Center are gone. We belonged to Central Christian Church at 18th and Washington Blvd. and it, too has changed.

If you wanted to swim, about your only choice was the Wyandot Swim Club on Parallel. The Bonner Springs Aquatic Center was the first public swimming pool built in Wyandotte County in 40 years.

The Townhouse Hotel was one of the “gems” on Minnesota Avenue. You knew you had arrived if you were invited to the top floor “Terrace Club.” The hotel started downhill when a Holiday Inn was built at Fifth and Minnesota. Of course, the Holiday Inn is long gone now.

Yes, KCK went through some down years, but like the proverbial phoenix, it has come back and is going strong. However, it certainly isn’t the city that we moved to in the 1960s, and I believe that is a good thing.

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