A SAMPLING OF CONFERENCES / CONVENTIONS
Things Going on "about town"
If the community knew about these, I wonder how many "average people" would attend?
Big Kansas City enhances a collaborative community and brings together six-hundred of the nation's most passionate members of the creative class including entrepreneurs, investors, designers and emerging leaders to experience nationally-renowned speakers, provide inspiration and develop meaningful relationships.
Photographs of the Month
A Pedestrian Walkway (left) Across an 8-Lane Highway Doesn’t Have to Be Ugly. Rounded enclosure. Vines. The appearance of the Infinite. Beauty + Safety. In Middle: a sunflower in a field behind the house. At Right: "In Tribute to the Lawmen"
NOT DRY RESEARCH, BUT AFFECTION THAT PUTS LIFE-BLOOD INTO THE MATERIAL
A famous racing horse and the largest race track west of the Mississippi. The aviation capital of the world. The first gas-electric train in the world! Quantrill’s raid. Headquarters of the world leader in GPS technology.
Is this New York? London? Paris? No. Not even close. It’s Johnson County, Kansas!
I didn’t know any of this, and at the same time the internet and cable TV has made more and more accessible, I realize I seem to know less and less.
I guess it’s not surprising. At the same time we’re rushing to and fro, do we take the time to look closely at interesting things? Can we? If anything, we settle for quick explanations of things, be it 30-second sound bites or a sentence to explain a word. Call it the “Jeopardy-ization” of America. And I don’t like it.
I don’t like it mainly because it brings to mind this passage from Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. The context: the role of future firemen burning books instead of putting out fires. Captain Beatty is speaking to Montag:
“When did it all start, you ask, this job of ours, how did it come about, where, when? Well, I’d say it really got started around about a thing called the Civil War. Even though our rule book claims it was founded earlier. The fact is we didn’t get along well until photography came into its own. Then – motion pictures in the early Twentieth Century. Radio. Television. Things began to have mass.
“And because they had mass, they became simpler,” said Beatty. “Once, books appealed to a few people, here, there, everywhere. They could afford to be different. The world was roomy. But then the world got full of eyes and elbows and mouths. Double, triple, quadruple population. Films and radios, magazines, books leveled down to a sort of paste pudding norm, do you follow me?”
Beatty peered at the smoke pattern he had put out on the air. “Picture it. Nineteenth century man with his horses, dogs, carts, slow motion. Then, in the Twentieth Century, speed up your camera. Books cut shorter. Condensations. Digests. Tabloids. Everything boils down to the gag, the snap ending.” “Classics cut to fifteen-minute radio shows, then cut again to fill a two-minute book column, winding up at last as a ten- or twelve-line dictionary resume. I exaggerate, of course. The dictionaries were for reference. But many were those whose sole knowledge of Hamlet (you know the title certainly, Montag; it is probably only a faint rumor of a title to you, Mrs. Montag) whose sole knowledge, as I say, of Hamlet was a one-page digest in a book that claimed: now at last you can read all the classics; keep up with your neighbors. Do you see? Out of the nursery into the college and back to the nursery; there’s your intellectual pattern for the past five centuries or more.”
Ominous parallels indeed! What are the implications for a democracy? What are the implications for simply being the best we can be?
But is the answer a rigid course of study? Long books? Or is there a third way – a way allowing one simultaneously an introduction of a subject, but in a detailed manner? That’s the goal of this publication: “about town” simply seeks to look at our surroundings – sometimes carefully, sometimes from a dynamic distance – but always with the intent of seeking a story. Leaves have a story – as does coal, the rainbow, and a streetlight. Everything has a story. A logical story, perhaps. An entertaining one. A sad one. Whatever the case, everything has a story to tell – a good one.
In addition to brief stories seeking to understand “our town” will be the inclusion of a visual means of checking our logic. Do I really understand what I’m talking about? How can I check?
Where are more stories? A friend owns a jewelry store. What’s his story? Another runs a pharmacy. One has a dental office. A beautiful church opens down the street. What are their stories? Garmin, Hallmark, Ford, and Russell-Stover all have headquarters here. What are their stories? The Jazz Museum, the WWI Memorial, and the Plaza are amazing sites. What are their stories? Kansas and Missouri was at the center of the Civil War. What is our story?
This is a column about brief stories. But where do they come from? Louis L’Amour gives a wonderful explanation in “Education of a Wandering Man”:
They are out there by the thousands, wonderful stories. Many have never gotten into the histories, although occasionally told by local newspapers or in privately printed booklets. Stories of wagon-train massacres, buried treasures, gun battles, cattle roundup, border bandit raids – no matter where you go, east, west north, and south, there are stories. People are forever asking me where I get my ideas, but one has only to listen, to look, and to live with awareness. As I have said in several of my stories, all men look, but so few can see. It is all there, waiting for any passerby.
But in the process of trying to understand something, do I run the risk of being wrong? Of course! Why is it the case everything in print must be entirely right? Forget the fact this would seemingly promote very active reading – it would. If I say “leaves change color in the fall”, you might think, “most do – but there are leaves that don’t”. Therefore, my statement was wrong – how do I fix it? Active learning. I like that.
“Not dry research, but affection that puts life-blood into the material. It is merely hoped that this column will give the reader an idea of what a great and wonderful place” Kansas City is. (paraphrasing Jacob Marmor, i.e., William James Sidis, from “Meet Boston”.)
Do I need to travel around the country to find these stories? I think not. As L’Amour said, one need only look … about town!
World War I and the Missouri Connections
WORLD WAR I
A NATIONAL MEMORIAL
A memorial to the “Great War”. Nearly 10 million military deaths. 6 million civilian deaths. 16 million people.
What is meant by the word “Memorial”?
Though the official war years of World War I ran from 1914 to 1918, when did America join the fight?
A German U-Boat sunk the British passenger liner, The Lusitania, in 1915. Aboard were 128 Americans. All perished. President Woodrow Wilson declared, “America is too proud to fight”.
Germans were suspected of bombings along the eastern seaboard, and President Woodrow Wilson, running on a campaign of neutrality, did nothing.
Fortunately, British cryptoanalysts broke the German code, and uncovered German communications to Mexico, requesting the Mexicans ally themselves with the Germans against the United States.
Only after all this did President Wilson call for war on Germany, which the US Congress declared April 6th, 1917.
Frank Buckles answered that call.
Frank Buckles died February 27th, 2011, at the age of 110. He was the last surviving United States veteran of World War I.
Quickly do the math, and you’ll see something remarkable about Mr. Buckles’ entrance into the war.
He was only 16.
Born in Bethany, Missouri February 1st, 1901, he first went to a Marine Corps recruiting station in Wichita to enlist. He gave his age as 18, but was told he needed to be 21.
He came back a week later, having learned his lesson. This time, he gave his age as 21! Though he passed the inspection, he was then told he wasn’t heavy enough.
Undaunted, he tried to enlist with the Navy, but was told he was flat-footed.
Three rejections. 16 years old. What would you do?
He went to Oklahoma, and enlisted with the Army! He was asked for a birth certificate. The quick-thinking Buckles said when he was born in Missouri there were no birth certificates, and proof of his birth was recorded in the family Bible. The enlistment officer gave the approval.
He asked about front line service, and was told the fastest way to get to the front line was to become an ambulance-driver.
And so he did.
A remarkable story to close out a chapter of U.S. military engagement in the world, not just in World War I, where he served, but in World War II as well, where he was a POW in the Philippines for 3˝ years!
Mr. Buckles, as the trailer to this movie says, did “live life to the furthest depths of imagination”, and I look forward to this movie coming out this year:
But now I’d like to turn to another Missouri World War I veteran who also answered the call: William T. Fitzsimons.
Kansas Citian William T. Fitzsimons accepted commission as First Lieutenant, Medical Officers’ Reserve Corps, March 27th, 1917, and entered on active duty under the commission on April 27th, 1917.
He had already been overseas, however.
Prior to the war, he was an intern in Kansas City, and then later at Roosevelt Hospital in New York. With the start of the war in 1914, he went to England as a Red Cross volunteer and served fifteen months at a hospital in South Devon. He returned to Kansas City to private practice, but was commissioned a First Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Medical Corps in 1917 and left for France in June as part of the Harvard University medical unit.
He sailed from New York City July 23rd for duty with the American Expeditionary Forces in France and on arrival was assigned to duty with the United States Army Base Hospital No. 5 operating with the British Expeditionary Force at Dannes, Camiers, France.
He served there until he was killed on September 4th, 1917 by bombs dropped by German air craft on that hospital.
Frank Buckles may have been the last surviving World War I veteran, but William T. Fitzsimons was the first American officer killed in that war.
And there are two fountains commemorating his life – and death.
One we visited yesterday. It is mammoth - and beautiful.
The William T. Fitzsimons Memorial
12th and the Paseo
The William T. Fitzsimons Memorial
47th and the Paseo
MORE TO COME
In fact, there's more to come on both memorials - much more!. You see, the former is not just the William T. Fitzsimons Memorial at 12th and Paseo - it's much more, as of just last year! And the latter is not just the William T. Fitzsimons Memorial at 47th and Paseo - it's much more than that as well, and has infinitely more meaning, as of 2008!
I've used the word "Memorial" several times thus far, but not defined it. What does "Memorial" really mean?
Frank Buckles and William Fitzsimons. Two men, serving in a war nearly 100 years ago. One was the last U.S. veteran to die, the other the first. One “lived life to the furthest depths of imagination”; the other had his life tragically cut short at the young age of 28.
And when I think of these two men, I shed a tear – not just for them, but for all veterans, living and not, warriors to protect our country. And there’s been a lot of death. War is an awful thing.
A NEW MEANING – TO ME
And Memorial Day, the last Monday of May, is no longer “the start of summer”, but instead “A Day of Tears – A Day of Remembrance".
But to stop there doesn't do justice for those who have served, fought, and died for our country. For our country's way of life. For freedom! For our future!
Memorial Day is not just a day of remembrance. It's also a day - as are all days - to live!
The Story Continues
William Fitzsimons - the first American officer killed in World War I. But the memorial at 47th and The Paseo recognizes Fitzsimons AND Battenfeld. Who was Battenfeld?
Lt. Jesse Battenfeld was a World War II flight surgeon from Kansas City. He was killed on a dive bomber training flight in the Cascade Mountains on February 15, 1945.
Lt. Battenfeld was laid to rest in Mount Moriah Cemetery in Kansas City in 2008.
1945? 2008? That's not a typo. It's the backdrop of an amazing story.
Yes, Lt. Battenfeld and Ensign Matthew Mcfarland were killed that day in 1945. Being high in the Cascades, recovery was difficult, and a flyover confirmed the wreckage. Both men were missing, presumed dead, and "unaccounted". Local's created a small grave for the two men.
And there the story would end, except for the brave souls of JPAC - The Joint POW / MIA Accounting Command.
This was the first recovery of lost soldiers on US soil since 1995 - and the first ever in Washington state!
The remarkable story of how Battenfeld was returned to his home in Kansas City, OVER 60 YEARS AFTER HE DIED IN THE CASCADE MOUNTAINS DURING WORLD WAR II, continues here ...
Four Stories / Booklets in the works, based on this Confluence:
Lewis & Clark
and several short stories as well about Railroads, the Santa Fe Trail, hydrogeology, etc ...
For these pictures below taken three months ago, there is a huge drop-off from the statue to the water level - at least 30 feet.