Thursday, April 30, 2015

Postmark: April 30,1927

The postmark puts us in Kansas City, Mo., at 2 o'clock in the afternoon. It's a cool, spring Saturday and there's a chance of rain. Front-page headlines tell of disastrous levee breaks along the swollen lower Mississippi River and a sensational love-triangle murder trial in New York. On page 7 we learn that a Captain Charles Lindbergh is flying his yet-unnamed monoplane from San Diego to New York. Sometime in the next few weeks he'll try to make the first successful solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean.

The rains here have brought out fantastic spring blooms. Spirea bushes, in particular, are said to be so full they resemble snowdrifts. Out in the verdant southern residential district Mrs. Jacob Loose has signed a contract to purchase the 80-acre former Kansas City Country Club and give it to the city for a public park as a memorial to her late husband. "Mr. Loose loved children," she says, "and I feel it would be his wish to have the park a place of winding paths, flowers, green grass and trees where little children could go and enjoy the fresh air and the beauty of nature."

Meanwhile, the Chamber of Commerce is leading an effort to industrialize the city.  “Many industries are leaving the Eastern districts to locate in the Middle West,"  says Lou Holland, chamber president. "Kansas City should be prepared to receive them on an even basis with other cities.”

Actually, the city's best-known "industry" might be vice. Federal Judge Albert Reeves is working on that, having just fined or put in jail 14 violators of the Prohibition laws. And a former federal agent has been found guilty of accepting a bribe from a man accused of selling liquor. Still, it's not hard to find a drink here, or a bawdy house, a girlie show or a place to gamble. Even if you're staying at the city's finest hotel – the Muehlebach, at the corner of 12th and Baltimore – you're an easy stroll away from an illegal dice game, perhaps at one of the cigar stores or pool halls along Baltimore and Wyandotte streets.

If you're a female guest of the Muehlebach, you probably have more genteel activities in mind.  Perhaps a little shopping (though you can buy cocktail shakers and flasks along Petticoat Lane). Or a guided tour on the city's new 30-passenger sightseeing bus, departing a block away at 11th and Baltimore. Or luncheon in the hotel's Plantation Grill, with its dance orchestra. Or you might just buy a hotel postcard and write home:

Blundon Family!
I'm here by 
invitation of 
New York Life for 
this wonderful spring meeting. 
A great opportunity! 
I want to tell 
you about it.
 Hazel N. Moore

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Hazel N. Moore is a 41-year-old widow from Salina, Kansas. A former kindergarten teacher, she's been Salina's representative of the New York Life Insurance Company since the previous agent, her husband, died on a trip to a Shriners Convention back East. Hazel has two sons, 9 and 7. They live a five-minute walk from the Blundon family in Salina.

The Blundons are two sisters, Edith and Ruth, in their 40s, and Edith's son and daughter, 17 and 9. The sisters both teach music at a Salina college. Ruth's late husband, a judge, died after having his appendix removed. The Blundon and Moore children are playmates.
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Here on April 30, 2015, we know some of what happened after Hazel mailed her postcard on April 30, 1927. Lindbergh made it to Paris. The Mississippi River flood was the worst in U.S. history. Industry came to Kansas City, but vice never really left. Ruth Snyder and her lover went to the chair for the murder of her husband. Little children of many generations and colors still enjoy the fresh air and beauty of Loose Park.

Hazel N. Moore raised her sons in Salina, then moved to Seattle and returned to teaching. She died in 1964 and was buried in Salina. The Blundon sisters taught music into their old age, giving piano recitals and private lessons. They died five weeks apart in 1977, Edith at 97 and Ruth at 89. When Edith was 96, New York Life declared she had outlived the life policy she had bought after her husband died in 1922, and paid her its face value. The local newspaper marked the occasion with a feature story. Edith remembered she had bought her policy from a Hazel Moore.

Finally the Hotel Muehlebach is an under-appreciated, all-but-neglected appendage to the newer, sleeker Marriott up the street. But it's still standing, and next month it celebrates the 100th anniversary of its opening.

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