Days 26 and 27, July 11 and 12, WLBT

Kansas City, MO

by David Runkel

This is to bring you up to date on Kansas City where everything, almost, is up to date, to paraphrase a song from “Oklahoma. 

The Tour had a hugely successful day Thursday, culminated by a reading at the historic Rainy Day Books store in the Fairview section. (We’re putting Siri on our payroll for getting us around this city and everywhere else).  This store has been in business under one ownership for more than 30 years, and has such a wonderful selection of books for sale that the tour considered taking up residence. A dozen people showed up, including one woman who’s actively considering buying a bed and breakfast inn and a champion historic preservation couple who rent out a carriage house through HomeAway.   

Day Twenty-Six of the Scone by Scone Book Tour
Deedie Book Signing at Rainy Day Books

Owner Vivien Jennings and her partner Roger Doeren know how to put on events, and frequently host authors at the store or at other venues in the city, attended by thousands.  They put the Tour at ease and a number of books were sold, not only Scone by Scone but other authors. It’s no wonder people want to return to this literary haven. Vivien and Roger are a salon unto themselves.

Deedie was at her best story-telling mode. David said that. Deedie felt that.

We started the day saying farewell to our hosts, Judy and John Swanson, who welcomed us to the KC, Missouri suburbs Wednesday afternoon, but had to depart Thursday morning for a week-long family reunion in parts of Colorado the Tour recently visited.   Wednesday night we went out for delicious BBQ, of course, and had a kitchen tour of Jack Stack’s, one of the region’s best places for ribs, beans, slaw and, strangely, Key Lime Pie. The tour should note that Deedie was the only culturally appropriate diner; she ordered the pie.  The secret to the beans is that they are cooked in a deep pan at the bottom of a four-level “pit” cooker fed by hickory logs.  Brisket is on the top layer, with ribs, chicken and sausages on the lower levels.  All the juices from the cooking meats flow into the beans.  Pork roasts for pulled pork are cooked overnight in other large ovens.

John is a friend from our days in Harrisburg, PA, who moved to Kansas City 30 some years ago to work for the American Association of Family Practitioners and found Judy there.  Their Frank Lloyd Wright-like house is hidden away in the tall trees of Lee’s Summit.  While not easily accessible to humans, the tree frogs know the area well and compete with a nearby, but unseen, freeway in a cacophony of sounds. Some may recall that John’s son Matthew and Sara Runkel were married at the age of six and seven at Runkel Friends’ Retreat.

The Truman Library and Museum began our day.  A film narrated by David McCullough, the Truman biographer, began the tour, which included a replica of the Oval Office, President Truman’s working office at the library and many pictures and photographs of the Truman era.  

We found an endorsement by President Truman of books – “Readers of good books, particularly books of biography and history, are preparing themselves for leadership.  Not all readers become readers, but all leaders must be readers.”

No further comment needed.

Also spotted was a copy a May 1945 Philadelphia Evening Bulletin front page as the war in Europe was ending.  It’s prominently displayed on a wall describing the challenges Truman faced in his first few months in office.  The Bulletin, sad to recall, closed in 1982, leaving David stranded in Washington, DC, without a reporting job for the first time in 20 years.   

Day Twenty-Six of the Scone by Scone Book Tour
Evening Bulletin on Defeat of Germany in WWII

As we were leaving, we met a “local,” who told us he was from Independence and remembers encountering Truman as he was going to and from school.  The former president didn’t break his stride on the six-block walk from home to the library, but always tipped his hat to the kids. He was alone. This was before the Secret Service protected former presidents, and also before former presidents received a pension. We learned that the Trumans lived on his paltry pension from the Army.

Between the Truman tour and the reading, Deedie’s shoulder pain was relieved by a shot of cortisone.  John Swanson had worked his magic and gotten her into one of KC’s best orthopedic docs on short notice.  Many thanks to John and Dr. Carlisle.  “This is your last shot before surgery, right, Mrs. Runkel?” he asked. Perhaps a new shoulder will be in her Christmas stocking.

On to Omaha and Council Bluffs for the weekend with Zoe Shall, another Harrisburger, this one from our earliest days on Green Street and the Great Flood of 1972.