Someone commented in a previous issue of TLC that he/she would like to hear about what people are doing now, after having experienced our unique and life-forming education while growing up in Lexington. Here is a brief tidbit.
As foundation administrator for Butler Manufacturing Co. in KC for 14 years, I am reluctantly looking forward to a move in December of this year from the BMA Tower and its magnificent view of the KC skyline to a new international headquarters building currently under construction in what we are calling "The Yards," as in Stockyards and opposed to the more common reference, The West Bottoms, where the view will obviously less spectacular. Yes, it is a Butler Building, immediately north of the Livestock Exchange Building on Genessee St., that houses The Golden Ox. Butler Buildings and those familiar grain bins (no longer manufactured by Butler) have come a long way since our youth, and the new building will showcase the modern capabilities of the company’s products. Butler is celebrating is 100th anniversary this year, and some folks like to think of this move as "going home," as the new facility is very close to the original office site. While that terminology may kindle warm, nostalgic emotions among some, it brings to mind something quite the opposite for me: July 13, 1951, Black Friday. The Flood of ’51.
As manager of the Missouri Water Co., my Dad worked tirelessly around the clock during that flood to protect the city’s safe water supply. He did not come home for 3 days, I remember, soliciting volunteer help from towns folks and Wentworth cadets to sandbag the reservoirs to keep out the flood waters. He recently remarked to Susan how grateful he was when her dad posted a large sign on the window of the Advertiser-News that said, "The water is safe to drink."
One day, out of the blue, Minerva Estabrook called my Mother and said she was going to drive up to Kansas City to look at the flood waters, and did she, Duncan and I want to ride along. Well, we all remember Minerva in her blue jeans and plaid shirts, hoisting herself into that open-cab Jeep. I think Mother may have hesitated to accept the invitation, but then said, "Sure!" So we piled into the Jeep, an adventure in itself, and off we went to view the devastation and destruction of homes and businesses, and death of all those animals in the stockyards: 300 cattle and 1000 hogs. I vividly remember standing on the overview of the park at the end of 10th Street (yes, another one!) in KC, viewing miles of stagnant black water that filled the Livestock Exchange and the American Royal Buildings with 18 feet of water. The stench was sickening. We stood there briefly, trying to identify familiar buildings and roads, but soon piled back into the Jeep and rumbled on back to Lexington where the water was safe to drink. I’m sure that each of you, too, have memories of The Flood of ’51.
And now, 50 years later, you can see why I am not overjoyed to be moving to "The Yards." Nothing has existed on those stockyards since the flood, and the Kaw River, within close proximity of the new Butler headquarters, will always be something to watch closely in spite of its 30-foot dyke. Retirement, you say?!
From Jim O'Malley:
There seems to be a lot of comment in our TLCs about Jimmy Alkires' place on
10th street. Jack Gueguen, Mike McDonald, Harry Dunford, Deloris Bryant,
and Barbara Jarman have shared some memories, so maybe Slick Heathman and I
should add ours. Here's what I know about 10th St. Prostitution has
been a part of Lexington since at least the riverboat
days. North 10th street was the major thoroughfare from the riverfront to the city. Hotels, inns, boarding houses, residences, livery stables, taverns, and whorehouses were all part of the scene as visitors were hauled up 10th St. from the boats to town. In 1936, just before my 5th birthday, my family moved to a little house at 133 N. 10th St. (owned by Paul Russell, of "Russell's Lumber Yard") and we lived there until June, 1942, when I was about to turn 11. The house is still standing, though it's been changed a lot. If you stand in the back
entrance of the "Bank of America" (Commercial Bank) in Lexington and look past the south end of the parking lot you can see it plain as day. In the 30s & 40s it was in an ethnically mixed neighborhood with Irish, Italian, Swedish, Greek, and African-American residents. We had friendly neighbors and never locked our doors. To our south was a lot that was
owned by the water company. On the other side of the lot was Helen Higgins' whorehouse. Helen's, as it was called, was later bought by Jimmy Alkire. As a kid I never knew exactly what they did at Helen's but I thought it was some kind of dance hall. My first indication that it must have been some kind of dance hall was during the summer of '37 when my playmates and I were playing in the water company lot and I heard their juke box playing a record of Bing Crosby singing "Blue Hawaii," accompanied by the background sounds of lots of couples laughing and seemingly having a good time. There was an alley behind Helen's that ran north & south past our house that the neighborhood kids used for summer games. We would play a game called "Shinny" which was a kind of field hockey played with tin cans and broom handles. Our shins took a beating during the games. Maybe that's why we called it Shinny.
Anyway, playing out in that alley we were in a good position to see the goings and comings of the customers. Believe me, it was like an upper class supper club. The men were well dressed and well behaved. No rough neck stuff or profanity. The prostitutes were the same way. Always well dressed and well behaved. One of the famous ones at that time was a lady named Betty Sheldon. Few people knew her real name. Her professional name was "Betty Boop." Betty Boop was a popular cartoon character of the time. Betty also had a sister who worked at Helen's, but I forget her name. Though I was just a boy I knew Betty because on several occasions she came to our home. Once, my dad had been injured in an accident at work and was off work for many months. She came over to our home with a pot of soup when she heard dad was injured. She came to the door dressed to the nines. She was very formal and proper. She could have passed for a minister's wife! Betty married a lawyer and moved from Lexington. Helen Higgins married a man who worked for Warner Bros. Motion Picture Studios. (He scouted locations) and moved to Tucson. Later, she returned to MO and lived in Richmond, where she died. A closing note about Jimmy Alkires' place. In 1955 there was a raid by a drug taskforce on Jimmy's place and drugs were found there. The place was closed and later torn down. The prosecuting attorney during this time was Warren Sherman, Jr. Warren lives in Blue Springs and I'm sure he can fill you in on the details.
There was another house of ill repute that was off the alley in back of Ford
and Rush's Drug Store, just down the alley from Helen's. This was
Louise Love's. Louise lived in a little house, . It looked
like it had maybe two rooms. When I was a soda jerk at the Ford and
Rush Drug Store during my senior year ('48-'49) I used to watch Louise come in
The poor woman looked very sickly. She was thin and pale, wore heavy rouge, had her black hair bobbed (like Prince Valiant), and looked like she had consumption, or some other terrible illness. Her eyes were dark and sunken. I have no idea what happened to her. She looked so pathetic! I think I'll say a little prayer for her......what a sad, sad lady!
OK, Slick, now it's YOUR turn to share about Jimmy's and Louise. One closing note: Is anyone interested in hearing about the time that Pretty Boy Floyd and his buddy came to Lexington?
Jim: You bet we would!
From Wally '55 Hulver:
Margueritte Shehan '56
Liz Bertz Fenner:
In response to some of the questions in the last TLC, the tinshop on Franklin was Marr's Tinshop, owned by Bill Marrs. Also, in the 60's and early 70's it was "rumored" that a lot of unusual traffic took place at the brick home on Franklin next to Walker's Drugs. The home was occupied by Esther Stapleton.
Also, surely I'm not the only one among us who attended a one-room rural school for eight years. Elm Park, about a mile west of Route O, five miles south of Lexington was my Alma Mater. I still remember how "huge" the old high school building seemed to me. On the first day, Coach Carmichael sent us from our Social Studies class to be sure we could work the combination locks on our lockers. I wasn't sure I could find my way back to the classroom. (I'm still not very good at directions!)
D.E. and his bosom buddy, Delbert Fauss, were in the hall checking out the newest crop of country kids when we came in from the bus. He told me some years later that he saw me and said to Delbert, "My God, who's that?" Eventually, he found out!
Please remind all the '51-'52 graduates again of the reunion on Labor Day
weekend. It is still not too late to send in the reservation.
And so we come to the end of another, hopefully more complete, TLC. I remember Mr. Fennell (first name was Bill, I think). I also remember the little stage in Mrs. Seiter's room. I think she directed only the dramas, and Miss Mautino took care of the Minstrels and, later, the Variety Shows. What I remember most about Mrs. Seiter's room was sitting in there during lunch hour practicing our songs for the Minstrels. It was truly joyous singing. There were some medleys that I am betting would be automatic (finishing one song and going right into the other), even after all these years, to those who participated. I am convinced there was not one shred of meanness intended in our Minstrels. Blackface was simply a costume, not a means of putting down anyone. Agree?
Your dedicated but sometimes inept scribe,