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Old 05-24-2012, 03:12 PM
 
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On west 23rd Street, just west of Chryser on the north side, is a rather rundown looking shopping strip area called Alton Plaza.

A Family Dollar store and a video store plus other some other stores occupy the area.

When this shopping center opened up in the fifties it was state of the art with a huge brightly lit neon sign above the buildings saying "Alton Plaza." There was a huge Kroger Grocery and a big drug store and some other miscellaneous stores.

Alton Plaza was one of the first, if not the first, shopping centers to open outside the square area in Independence.

The name of Alton Plaza comes from the former 23rd Street name of Alton Street.
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Old 05-25-2012, 10:01 AM
 
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Default Fire Station Number 1

When I was in Cub Scouts in the late forties our den went up to the then Number One fire station on North Main, one block from the square.

We got to see the dormitory part on the second floor and the kitchen where the firemen fixed their own food.

The fireman showing us around showed how the fireman’s trousers were fixed around the fireman’s boots sitting next to the bed so that if there were an alarm in the middle of the night the sleeping fireman could jump into his boots and pull his pants and suspenders on in one operation.

He also gave a demonstration of how the firemen slid down the pole to the ground floor trucks. I was surprised that the fireman locked one arm around the pole to control his descent rather than grabbing on with his hands.

At the time station number 2 was near the bridge going over the railroad tracks at the end of Lexington. I dont believe there was a number 3 station at the time.
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Old 05-25-2012, 12:06 PM
 
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Default Memorial Building

During the early fifties, live professional wrestling was huge on television. Gorgeous George was a nationwide phenomenon and the young boxer to be Cassius Clay modeled his ring personality after George’s outrageous persona.

The Memorial Building in Independence was built in 1926 as a tribute to World War I veterans. It is now called the Truman Memorial Building and had many professional wrestling bouts scheduled in the fifties (as well as donkey basketball games, mistral shows, junior high and senior high basketball games, school dances, etc.).

The building was renovated in the late nineties, but I have not been inside after the remodeling.

One of the professional performers at the memorial building was a wrestler who lived in the James Downey Road area in eastern Independence. He was a white hat wrestler (good guy) and was a regular customer at the C&J United Super, where I worked.

He had "cauliflower" ears from wrestling so much. I could not believe those ears. I believe he had a day job, also.

We would sit in the elevated seats at the Memorial Building and cheer wildly for him. We “sort of” knew that wrestling was staged but with these guys throwing each other around, sweat flying each time one got hit, and the ring bouncing each time one was thrown to the mat, it did not look that way.
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Old 05-25-2012, 06:40 PM
 
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Default Missouri Pacific

In the Cub Scouts in the late forties, our Den mother took us boys up to the Missouri Pacific depot on Grand Avenue, a little over one mile from the square. We might have been shown around the Independence depot operation but I cannot recall. (This Den mother was one of few women having a driver’s license back then.)

At the depot, tickets were purchased to give us a train ride to Kansas City. As near as I can recall the ticket price for each was less than ten cents.

Once boarding the very clean and impressive crack stream liner we were given a tour of the moving train, including a glass enclosed dome car in which we had to walk up some stairs to get to the seats. The train was either the Missouri River Eagle or the Colorado Eagle. Missouri Pacific was known as the route of the Eagles and all passenger trains had the name Eagle emblazoned on them.

At its height of operation, Missouri Pacific had 11,000 miles of track, but first served Independence as the Pacific Railroad in the 1850s. The line’s original goal was to build rails from St. Louis to the Pacific Ocean.

It did not take long to get to Union Station. At this time in history, there were many, many passenger trains coming into and going out of Kansas City on a daily basis. Once we stepped off the train, we received a guided tour of the entire station operation. There was a sea of people everywhere.

I can recall seeing an “automated pen” at work. Someone in a remote office area of the station would write a train order and this ink pen would automatically recreate the order in the exact same handwriting in real time at the location where we were standing. We thought it was neat.

In the sixties, I would board at the Independence depot and ride the Missouri River Eagle to school at Warrensburg. Missouri Pacific turned its passenger operations over to AMTRAK in 1971.

Kansas City’s Union Station was called that because a number of railroads jointly paid for operation and upkeep of the big hub for the benefit of passengers and efficient operation. Passengers would not have to take a taxi to change to a train operating under another railroad company. Without a united station, each railroad having passenger business in Kansas City (there were many) would have to build its own station at a separate location and provide a staff to man and maintain that location.

It was not unheard of for a town with two passenger railroads serving it to have a union station; however, Independence had two passenger stations less than a mile from each other. The other passenger station was served by the Gulf, Mobile, and Ohio (originally the Chicago and Alton station).
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Old 05-26-2012, 05:35 PM
 
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Default Mom and Pop Stores

Two blocks west from our house on south Harkless Street there were two mom and pop grocery stores at Hayward and Crane streets. This area was 1.5 miles from the square.

These small stores seemed to be like the old general stores additionally selling shovels, rakes, and other small hardware items. But they offered only the basics and were really small perhaps little larger than someone’s living room. The shelves were very close together with limited walking room. Needless to say there were no shopping carts. Nor were there any carrying baskets available.

How there could be two stores here so close together I do not know but they were located across the street from each other. Each proprietor lived on the premises.

Kids would save up a little money, five cents, ten cents, a quarter if lucky, and go into those little stores and buy a soda pop or a candy bar. Some kids were heath conscious even back then and would buy an apple or a pickle from a jar or in a plastic bag. Some of us would even scour the road ditches for pop bottles discarded by motorists and turn them in and get the deposit.

As a little guy and even though my dad worked at a grocery store I made frequent trips to these two stores in the late forties and early fifties to purchase an item needed at the last minute at home. First I walked and later I rode after getting a bicycle.

The larger store, but not by much, was called Oatie’s and the smaller store was called Creed’s. The larger store even had a kerosene pump outside where the proprietor would fill your gallon glass jug with kerosene. I was aware back then that there were still people with kerosene driven kitchen stoves.

At some point in my childhood, the smaller Creed store bought the larger store out. Creed closed shop and moved across the street. I noticed at the time (but it had no meaning to me) the large number of credit books behind the counter. There was a small book for each credit customer. Credit seemed to be a big share of his sales.

Going east two blocks from our house was another mom and pop grocery. This one was located in the proprietors living quarter’s right in the living room. What would have been the front yard was a place to park two or three cars.

Half a mile from our house and only half a block from McCoy Elementary School was another mom and pop. I think this store was able to thrive on the kids coming in and buying a nickels worth of stuff from time to time.

On Truman Road and on 23rd Street was a smattering of mom and pop stores that, in the fifties, were on their last legs. The so-called super markets (not that big) and the automobile were driving them out of business. The mom and pops on the busy thoroughfares seemed to be the first to go and the ones in the inner neighborhoods were the last to go.

After I went off to college in the sixties, I came home and I drove over to Creed’s little store to buy something. He remembered me and we had a nice talk. It was the first time I had been in there in several years. I was amazed at how much higher his prices were than the price of items in the super market where I had worked. But these stores had very small volumes and had to keep their prices higher. The many credit books were still there.

Not too long after my visit this man closed up and retired. I doubt if he collected from all the people who owed him money.
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Old 05-26-2012, 09:03 PM
 
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Default A small world

Quote:
Originally Posted by WCHS'59 View Post
On west 23rd Street, just west of Chryser on the north side, is a rather rundown looking shopping strip area called Alton Plaza.

A Family Dollar store and a video store plus other some other stores occupy the area.

When this shopping center opened up in the fifties it was state of the art with a huge brightly lit neon sign above the buildings saying "Alton Plaza." There was a huge Kroger Grocery and a big drug store and some other miscellaneous stores.

Alton Plaza was one of the first, if not the first, shopping centers to open outside the square area in Independence.

The name of Alton Plaza comes from the former 23rd Street name of Alton Street.
I ran across this site coincidentally while researching "the Natatorium" swimming pool after seeing a reference to it on oldkc.com (a pay photo site)

My parents owned one of the stores in Alton Plaza. I am almost certain we bought from a prior owner, a gift and card shop in 1955. Two or three years later a second store was opened at the "24 Hiway Shopping Center" at the NW corner of US 24 and River Rd.

Google Satellite/Streetview has allowed me to view both of these, and yes, very sorry to see their dilapidated states. However, I was very pleasantly surprised to see the 24 location still had the same name and logo sign out front. Not something I would have expected.

Both strips were owned by a guy named Wolf (Wolfe) from St. Louis. The 23rd locations had, from east to west:

Crown Drug Store
Michael's Gifts
A family owned hardware store (forgot the name, but would remember if heard it again).
Maybe a PN Hirsch clothing store, not sure about this.
TG&Y
Kroger.

24 Hiway from east to west:
Kroger
TG&Y
PN Hirsch
Sherwin-Williams Paint
Michael's Gifts
Crown Drug Store.

There was also a Dari-Gold drive-in restaurant on the NE corner that had the best burgers, banana splits, and later, french fried shrimp in a plastic basket.

These posts are bringing back some fond memories. I have more places to mention (and ask about) but I'll save those for later postings. Thanks for the memories!
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Old 05-26-2012, 09:29 PM
 
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MRG DALLAS, thanks for that bit of information. The Alton Plaza was really nice when it first opened and for several years after that. I had forgotten about TG&Y. We always called that place Toys, Games & Yoyos.

I went swimming at the Natatorium only one time as a youngster. We favored the Sugar Creek pool probably because it was so new. While in the scouts we always went to the Hall of Waters in Excelsior Springs.
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Old 05-26-2012, 10:16 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WCHS'59 View Post
MRG DALLAS, thanks for that bit of information. The Alton Plaza was really nice when it first opened and for several years after that. I had forgotten about TG&Y. We always called that place Toys, Games & Yoyos.

I went swimming at the Natatorium only one time as a youngster. We favored the Sugar Creek pool probably because it was so new. While in the scouts we always went to the Hall of Waters in Excelsior Springs.
You're quite welcome and thanks for highlighting Alton Plaza, as I was unaware of its significance regarding off-the-Square.

To answer your question on another thread, I believe the Natatorium was the pool that was located just east of the triangular split of Lexington and Crysler, on the north side. That's where the RR tracks run under the streets. Google Maps is telling me the cross street is Elm, and the satellite view looks like an old parking area. I remember getting my worst sunburn there while my boy-crazy teenage cousin left me on my own to flirt with the guys all day. I think the site was filled in, paved over to make way for an A&P and parking lot.

I was trying to remember the Sugar Creek pool's location. My recollection of the pool is the water was a more white-ish color, the legend being due to additional chlorine. Maybe to offset the pollution from the nearby Standard Oil refinery? I also played baseball at SC Park. The refinery did have a distinctive odor.
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Old 05-27-2012, 08:54 AM
 
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Default Sugar Creek Pool

The Sugar Creek pool was not too far from the baseball stadium.

The pool was on Kentucky Avenue just west of the traffic light in the middle of the street at Sterling and Kentucky. That light always seemed to be dangerous and out of place to me but it is probably a historic structure by now.

The pool is long gone and a memorial park of some kind is at that site.

The city of Sugar Creek was going to build a pool complex of some type but apparently have never gotten around to building it.
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Old 05-27-2012, 01:16 PM
 
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Default SS Kresge

SS Kresge (became Kmart and now part of Sears) five and dime at one point ran two Kresge dime stores on the square at the same time.

One, at the original location, was located on Maple about where the theater is now. The other, a new brick building, was only a few doors away on the corner of Maple and Main just across from Katz drug store and next to Bundschu’s.

I cannot recall what was torn down to make way for the new Kresge building. It might have been Tucker Furniture who then moved next to the Chrisman-Sawyer Bank.

As a very young lad I had a difficult time understanding why a dime store sold things that were worth more than ten cents.

Woolworth also operated on Maple. If I recall correctly, Woolworths and the original SS Kresge were right next to each other on Maple.
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