S: Kansas City, Missouri May 3-7, 2011
FC: Kansas City, Missouri "A Grandaughter" By: Bonnie Given
1: To Mom, with Love. Cheers!
2: My granddaughter, Laura Beth, came over one evening in April, my birthday month, and told me that she had an all-expense, first class air and hotel trip to Kansas City for me and her. We would be flying on Delta, leaving Augusta, Tuesday morning at 8:30, returning after midnight Saturday, with use of a wheel chair! We would be staying all week on the eleventh floor, which is the Concierge’s floor, of the International Hotel. She had already made plans for us to see the special Monet exhibit there, a ballet program, and a tour through their new Kansas City craft beer distillery!
3: I, of course, was surprised about these plans and told her that this was too much to accept, that this year was not even an important birthday! She had already put my name on purchased tickets, so my job was to be thankful, to stay well for a month, and look forward to visiting Kansas City. No one I knew had ever taken a vacation there, but why Kansas City, I asked? “Because there is a special Monet exhibit there, and only there, and since you inspired me first about Monet since I was a little girl, we have to go – just you and I!” “It is your reward for being such a good grandmother.”
4: Looking back now, it is hard to believe how enjoyable it was for both of us. We found more interesting events daily from everyone we met who was interested in a granddaughter planning a trip from Augusta, Georgia to Kansas City for her ‘aged’ grandmother??? | What a joy, what a trip, what a memory, and what we both learned cannot be known. To think that I stood on the banks of the Missouri River where the Kansas River runs into it, where Lewis and Clark stood to look out across the horizon, as they did 300 years ago, is simply overwhelming. | I felt ten feet tall seeing the grandeur and expanse of what they say. Right there, we were experiencing the adventure of those explorers before us.
5: I am getting ahead of myself – it is hard to wait to tell you more.
6: It was 53 degrees when we arrived at noon, Central Standard Time – a little chillier than we expected, very clean air, and delicious water from their two rivers, the Kansas and the Missouri. After getting our rental car for the week, checking into our hotel, finding a pricey restaurant for lunch in the County Club shopping district, there was not time for anything other than doing a little shopping before heading back to our hotel.
7: After visiting the Concierge’s room, we changed our plans to go out for dinner that evening, going back to our room for an early bedtime. I to bed and Laura Beth to read a book she had started on her Kindle, which was so nice, since it had a built-in light.
8: Tuesday, nothing was planned until 2:30 for the Monet exhibit and we were excited to find out about the Princess Diana clothing exhibit at Union Station, the second largest train station in the country and that it opened at 10:00 in the morning – enough time to see that, too.
9: There were 150 objects in nine galleries chronicling her short life and humanitarian work, including her famous wedding dress! Always fashion conscious, the materials and jewels in every garment she wore were very extravagant, but finished in an understated way. Not her wedding dress however; it was really over the top with jewels sewn all along the borders and in the veil, gorgeous beyond my words of description.
10: Then, off to the Monet exhibit at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. The Museum is giving many tours and hands-on activities to explain Monet’s painterly techniques, highlighting discoveries from a recent examination of the Nelson-Atkins ‘Water Lilies’ panel. Their work has shed new light on Monet’s creative process-specifically how he painted, what pigments he used and how his composition evolved. There was also a little book on display of the one I first gave to Laura Beth when she was four or five or maybe even six years old, which, she told me, she still has and cherishes.
11: But first, we had to eat lunch and decided to do this in the Museum’s café. As we were walking toward the Café, we met three interesting ladies, who I thought they had been at the Princess Diana exhibit earlier, since they looked so familiar. They were so interested in us and wanted us to be sure to see the important places of Kansas City and Mary even invited us to visit her before we left as she lived out on the Santa Fe Trail in an historic house. But that visit will be another time.
12: The three panels of the WATER LILIES triptych were displayed together from three museums, Cleveland Museum of Art, St. Louis Art Museum, and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, for the first time in more than 30 years. The large panorama painting was displayed in a long, wide room – without foreground, nor horizon line of form. A modern design still copied.
13: He was certainly ahead of his time. One falls in love with the reflections on the surface of the water in the pool. The three panels were hung low making it easy for us to feel we were on the brink of the water. Each panel was 78 inches by 167 inches.
14: Thursday morning, a rainy day, found us on our way to find our third temporary exhibit that we found out about – guess where? In the Kansas City Star newspaper in the Concierge room! It was the 42nd consecutive Symphony Designers’ Showhouse, presented by the Kansas City Symphony Alliance! They have given millions through the years and this year, their goal of a new performing arts center will be realized at the new Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.* (They have a web site where you can hear a rehearsal of ‘Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1’ for acoustic tunings. What joy it was to see the elegant spaces accomplished by the hard work of the professional designers and artists in Kansas City. What exquisite aesthetics, lighting, colors, fabrics, and luxurious accents in every room. The Alliance re-organized this year, opening membership to men and women of all ages and inviting the Friends of the Symphony into the group. They acquired a grand Sunset Hill 1911 home for their 2011 Showhouse , which was up for sale for $1.6 million dollars. A Westover Landmark home, built for Dr. and Mrs. D. Walton Hall and family, who lived in it for over 40 years. The current owners have moved to Philadelphia and offered it to the Alliance for their month long project. It was fun meeting the friendly ladies who were working that day, who were eager to tell us of other places to see in their fabulous city. They, too, were excited to learn our story and that we had come so far to visit them, but it was time for lunch.
16: We rushed out to get the famous Kansas City BBQ for lunch after that and then to visit the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank. Missouri has two Federal Reserve Banks, with a number of branches covering a vast territory. (The Director, Thomas C. Hoenig, is 65 this year and has to retire. I can only imagine what an asset he will be to the community in retirement.)
17: We had to give them our driver’s licenses for temporary name tags that they hung around our necks. There were many displays and exhibits in this huge, sturdy building. One was a gold bar which could be picked up with levers. It was heavy for being only 7 by 3 5/8 inches – 27 pounds and worth varies daily but is around $400,000 right now.
18: We also could see how they count the money, shred the money and the machines to shred the money. The Truman Coin Collection of 463 coins consists of examples of coins produced by the U.S.Mint during every presidential administration. President Truman leased office space on the eleventh floor of the Bank’s previous headquarters to chronicled his years of his administration in a two-volume set of memoirs, “Year of Decision” and “Years of Trial and Hope.” Look all this up the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City web site. You can see the massive cash vault and the gold bar there, too.
20: My day was not done, yet! Laura Beth had scheduled the tour through the Boulevard Brewing Company that afternoon, for 3:30. Established in 1989, by a craftsman working in this old warehouse, building kitchen cupboards, etc., who got the idea to start his own craft beer similar to those he had tasted in Europe. No bank would lend him the money, but, eventually his father bankrolled him to the place today, that banks are pleading with him with various offers of help.
21: Boulevard has grown to be among the largest and most respected specialty brewers in the Midwest. To think that a ‘carpenter’ with no knowledge or experience in making beer could do this is quite exciting to learn about. So much to learn as he traveled around the world to find the best of everything that he needed. Even the flooring of such a place was unusual – tiny little squares of hardwood, five or six inches deep, slowly piecing each one together creating a floor to last for hundreds of years before wearing through. They have a website for more information – www.boulevard.com. Oh yes, for a non-drinker of beer, it was tasty and fun, meeting several people with stories to tell as we sampled the beer in their tasting room afterwards.
23: Friday morning, our last full day, found us looking for the museum, housing the 200 tons of new merchandise from the Steamboat Arabia, at 400 Grand Boulevard. This old 171-foot-long steamboat, with its buried cargo, had captivated treasure hunters for more than 150 years. Finally, in 1988, Bob Hawley and his two sons, Greg and David, with two other men, found an old, worn river map that was to lead them to the mysterious lost treasure – they hoped. Over time the river’s course moved, leaving the Arabia buried 45 feet underground, half a mile from the River. They were confident that it was beneath a Kansas farm field and they decided they would try to find it. When she sank in 1856, it was fully loaded with tons of new supplies to settlements along the Missouri River, including china, jewelry, hardware, rifles, Kentucky Bourbon, food and people! What an adventure! The men decided they would settle the tales about the sunken steamboat and went to the farmer to ask permission to dig up his farmland and he said yes, as long as you do it over the winter. The only license they had to get from the state was one that allowed them to pump the water over to the Missouri River. They had no idea what they were getting into in order to save this treasure, but learn they did, going all over the world to buy what they needed. It was exciting to learn what all is involved in getting them ready to exhibit. They are not nearly done yet. Mrs. Hawley works in the gift shop and their daughter took us on our tour. Mr. Hawley was in the building that afternoon and we met him, too, and got a picture.
24: In the afternoon, we hurried over to the spot that Lewis and Clark had stood that overlooked the Missouri River as the Kansas River flowed into it. It was a grand sight and the perfect place for the huge statue there of Clark and others of his group. It makes one teary-eyed and humble to think of all the hardships they endured for this now great U. S. Land of OZ.
25: We had Friday night hotel reservations out in Independence and tickets to the Ballet back in Kansas City so we had to rush to eat dinner at a special restaurant, called the Melting Pot, which Laura Beth knew about. It is a four-course, fondue style, restaurant with many different tasty entrees. There are a number of them around the country and we found it to be fun and different. The ballet was very exciting. The program was called, MOVES and move they did. The first segment was 25 minutes of Jerome Robbins, SILENCE. Next was the world premiere of ‘Mercy of the Elements’ set to the music of Rimsky-Korsakov’s quintet of flute, clarinet, horn, bassoon and piano. The last ballet was ‘The Catherine Wheel Suite’ that was choreographed by Twyla Tharp set to a rock score! Each dance was very different and difficult, done to perfection by their Ballet Company, founded in 1957, with 25 professional men and women!
26: We woke up to a beautiful warm, sunshiny day on Saturday realizing our adventurous Granddaughter-grandmother trip was coming to an end. “You stay well just one more day, mom, so I can get you home safe and sound.”
27: The Truman Library was easy to find, easy parking and beautifully landscaped. Many historical artifacts are displayed and can be studied quickly or at length, with DVD’s from that era, from one exhibit to another. I will always be grateful to Harry Truman because he gave the consent to drop the two bombs over Japan which saved my oldest brother’s life.
28: Right around the corner from there we visited the Truman home. Bess Truman’s maternal grandfather built their home from 1867-1895. A princess-type Victorian which, in its day was undoubtedly the grandest house in Independence. In fact, Bess’s family thought that Harry Truman was not good enough for her, but he moved in with them when they married and never left. Neither did Bess’s mother, who went with them to Washington and didn’t die until December 1952, just several months before Bess and Harry drove back home to Independence in July 1953.
29: All by themselves, with no guards or money for a retirement from the federal government which was later changed. There are many informative web sites about Truman that you can look up on line. They are both buried on the grounds of the Library as are their daughter, Margaret, and husband. Their old furniture, television, toaster, stove, kitchen table, 1950’s era wallpaper on the walls were familiarly remembered – nothing much was changed since that time. Although it was not decorated by any designer, it was attractive in its rich Craftsman’s style framed rooms! Only the bottom floor was open to the public so we did not get to see their bedrooms upstairs.
30: Another large mansion, open for touring, was just around the block. It was a two-story brick, Second Empire Victorian, and had been built by Colonel and Mrs. Harvey Vaile in 1881 with all the latest conveniences up to that time. He made a fortune by establishing mail routes throughout the West. They never had any children.
31: Our grand tour of the Kansas City area was now completed with happy memories of this upscale, real American city that was developed by extraordinary, enlightened people.
32: This greater Midwest area, with large numbers of Europeans (Irish, English and German people) had found a rapidly growing economy based on family farms, industry mining, commerce, and transportation, available on the rivers and trains. Mostly anti-slavery settlers found themselves found their way through the Missouri Compromise with limited hostilities. There is a new documentary, BAD BLOOD, filmed in high definition, by the Kansas City Historical Society, describing the turmoil about the question of slavery on the western frontier, seven years before the Civil War. After this period, the settlers knew that education was becoming necessary for everyone to complete this task of building Kansas City and beyond. They found it at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago! Wise groups of leaders invited all kinds of professional to celebrate the arrival of Columbus in 1492 and to teach/show everything they had learned in 400 years since! The Columbian Exposition (think electricity) was an amazing success with more than half of the citizens of this country attending! It had the first Ferris Wheel Invention of 1893 that kept them out of bankruptcy. In 1904, they took it to St. Louis for the celebration of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition to study the discoveries of the past century. (You will find the two World Fair histories easily on the computer. Education was exploding in the 1800’s for all the citizens of this country. In the past, if you wanted to learn in one place about what was going on, you had to go to the Sorbonne in Paris. Incidentally, right on time, David McCullough has just finished his new book, “The Greater Journey” about the Americans studying in Paris from 1832 to 1900!)
35: I have not been able to tell you about the many good people of Kansas City like J.C. Nichols, land developer, Hugh Ward, attorney, and George Kessler, architect, but I will tell you about one in this century: Ewing Marion Kauffman, 1914 - 1993. He was graduated from public high school and attended Junior College before joining the Navy in 1942 after which, he started working for a pharmaceutical company. In 1950, he started Marion Laboratories in his basement. In his first year in business, he had sales of $36,000 with a net profit of $1,000. When he sold his company to Merrell Dow in 1989, it had grown to become a global diversified health care giant with nearly $1 billion in sales and employing 3,400 associates! Mr. Kauffman’s most enduring legacy to his community and the world is the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. He established the Foundation to be entrepreneurial philanthropy; teaching math, science, engineering, and technology skills in job creation, by improving education in young people. “Better to teach a man to fish than to give him a fish.” This September, the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts will open. This spectacular building is on 13 acres, with a 1000 space underground parking garage, costing $413 million, with a $40 million dollar operating endowment, looks more magnificent than the Opera House of Sydney, Australia! What a difference one man’s life makes.
36: Arriving back to Augusta after midnight very tired, but very thankful, I am now energized to tell everyone about Laura Beth taking her grandmother to this fabulous city, “The Paris of the Plains.”