I’ve been spending the weekend at the R&K Gun Show in Kansas City…..
Welcome back. This week my travels are taking me to the home of the Bannister Federal Complex and if you’re like me I’m sure most of you have never heard of it. According to Wikipedia this place is top secret and at any one time employs up to eight thousand people, close to three thousand of whom work on the United States’ nuclear bomb arsenal. The complex is also one of two sites where the IRS processes paperwork employing many of the remaining staff. I found that the federal government has a huge employment base in several areas of this city which is the 23rd largest in the country.
There are several other major employers here including Ford Motor Company, General Motors, American Airlines and a large pharmaceutical manufacturer. The city is also the headquarters for numerous agricultural companies, the Dairy Farmers of America, several professional sports franchises and international legal firms all of which enjoy this location at the center of the country along the mighty Missouri River. This is a place like no other and I’m sure by now you’ve figured out I’m headed to Kansas City, MO.
I could tell you about the architecture here or the two hundred working fountains which are spread out across town or I could also tell you how the city’s first newspaper was founded by Irish immigrants in the early 19th century. There’s also a lively arts scene here with world class museums, a resident ballet company and plenty of jazz and blues clubs. I’m sure you already know there are casinos here, six in all and each one bigger than the other. Green space is also important to Kansas City folks and with 214 urban parks, dozens of baseball diamonds and golf courses and thirty pools I understand why people love this town.
I’m here doing a book signing at one of the largest gun shows in the country and as always I’m on the lookout for history so here’s a couple of things you might find interesting.
It was 1919 when Walt Disney got out of the military service. He had been an ambulance driver for the Red Cross during World War I but now he was living in Kansas City. Walt had an idea and started the first animation studio in the country which he called Laugh O Gram. It didn’t last long and soon Walt and the company went bankrupt. Not one to give up Walt moved to Hollywood in 1923 where he started a new company called the “Walt Disney Company” and as you know, the rest is history
If you were traveling through Kansas City in the 1930s and had the means for a top of the line hotel there was one place that everyone knew about and that was the Muehlebach. When George E. Muehlebach opened the hotel in 1915 it immediately became known for its luxurious accommodations and fine dining. Throughout its long history it was common to see celebrities and world leaders staying at the hotel. From Ernest Hemingway and Babe Ruth to Elvis and the Beatles, they all stayed at the Muehlebach. Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover were guests and during Missouri native Harry Truman’s administration the hotel became known as the White House West because the President stayed there so often.
With the largest stockyards in the west located in Kanas City thousands of cattle were shipped in every day and the Muehlebach hosted many of the leading ranchers in the country. During the 1930s and ‘40s when the big cattle drives were all over, there were few options for bringing cattle to market and shipping them by train was the most efficient. There were two big ranches in northeast Oklahoma that shipped so many cattle that they had their own railroad shipping pens named after them. Freight trains from the Santa Fe railroad loaded with cattle from Buck Boren’s Round Top M and Running M shipping pens and the Mullendore Cross Bell Ranch shipping pens, accompanied by cowboys who were sent along to tend the cattle, headed for the stockyards in Kansas where their owners were usually staying at the fabulous Hotel Muehlebach.
Next week, more from Kansas City. Till then, I’ll see ya down the road…..