TLC logo TLC #93:  January 17, 2007

Dear Hearts & Gentle People:
Happy New Year! I hope this does not find you snowbound or icebound as we are here in the old hometown. It could be worse - the sun is shining, there is no wind, and the temp has climbed clear to 18 degrees. The sun is making everything glisten gaily, and it would be enjoyable if we didn't have to choose between cabin fever and risking life and definitely limb on the ice.
If we weren't spending our time canceling events, we wouldn't have anything to do. Still, we are far better off than our neighbors to the south who are without power and therefore unable to read the current issue of TLC.
Those of you who had Miss Torrence for second (or third?) grade at Arnold School will be interested to know her daughter recently returned to visit Lexington. Her great-grandparents and grandparents owned the three-story brick house overlooking the river on Highland Ave. which is now Bridge Water B&B. Margaret had spent a lot of time there as a girl, and brought with her many interesting photos taken around town and inside the house.
I'm certain all of you know our very own Ike Skelton is now Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, a powerful presence in Congress. This is Ike's 30th year in the U.S. House of Representatives!
I had a call from Mark Mullenioux this morning asking me to tell you about an upcoming event at Wentworth which is open to the public and should be of great interest to many. R. Lee Ermey (better known as The Gunny), who heads the National Association for Unmet Needs (for families of service personnel serving in Iraq and Afghanistan) will appear at an event in the WMA Chapel Saturday at 10 a.m. (Visitors are urged to be there by 9:30 in order to be in place before the cadet corps marches in.)
Also in attendance will be seven residents of Lexington who recently returned from service in Iraq and Afghanistan. Please see the TLC web pages for details:  and for other visual treats.
Marge Butherus, who reminded us of Betty Lee's birthday, writes about Mary Elizabeth White:
Mary Elizabeth White lost her husband, Clifton, and her daughter, Liz Anne, just two weeks apart in 2004. Her friends will be happy to know that Mary Liz keeps busy in lots of activities. She is so friendly and always sees the best in everyone. One of her friends said of her, "If the devil walked into the room, Mary Elizabeth would say 'Doesn't he have on a pretty red suit?'"
Mary Elizabeth has a birthday this very week - January 18. I won't tell you which one it is, but she was born in 1919.
It's always fun to hear from Don Stephenson:
I spent a week in the old home town last June, and it was great to be there again.  I get a kick out of former Lexingtonians who write to you to say how much the old town has changed, because it's refreshing to me to visit my old hometown that really hasn't changed that much.  Oh, there is the new movie theater and there is a vacant lot where the high school I attended used to be, as well as some other changes, but compare this to where I live now - Gilbert, Arizona - which had a population of 2500 when I moved there in 1973 and now has a population of 180,000.
On another subject, Cue Ussery who owned Cue's Caf=E9 in Lexington was my uncle.  Cue was a nickname.  His real name was Meredith Ussery.  He was the half-brother of my father, Pat Stephenson, Sr.  They had the same mother but different fathers.  My brother Meredith Stephenson who still lives in Lexington was named after Uncle Cue.  I recently talked to his daughter Mary Katherine Hale, my cousin, who now lives in Farmington, New Mexico. During our conversation I took the opportunity to ask her how her father got his nickname of "Cue" and this was her answer:  She said that when he was a small boy his mother sent him to the store to get some pickles and he came home with cucumbers and, to kid him about it, they called him Cue and the name stuck.
This is the kind of story we appreciate at our Tall Tales & Short Stories of Lexington. At the next meeting we are going to reminisce about corner grocery stores. Remember when there were little markets in every block? Send your memories, please, and we'll include them! It occurs to me from reading Don Stephenson' s note that we also should do a program on Lexington cafes. One of the upcoming topics is How They Met, and I know there are interesting stories out there. Please send those too. We meet on the third Tuesday of every month at The Brewery, from 6 p.m. until 7 p.m. Everyone is welcome and there's no charge or obligation!
Here is a sample of what goes on. The names of some have been concealed for obvious reasons:

From: Roberta Foster Reed Granat
Cast of Characters :   Joe Mann, dignified president of local bank
                               Chuck Warden, County Assessor and local character Supreme
Chuck, always a prankster, walked to town early one morning to do some banking and then go to the courthouse. Spying a line waiting to get into the bank when it opened, Chuck shuffled up and said "What are you people waiting for?"
"Well, to get into the bank, of course."
Chuck: "Oh, why didn't you say so? Step aside. I have a key." They did and he inserted a key from his key chain at random. AND THE DOOR TO THE BANK OPENED!!! Chuck was more surprised than anyone.
Mr. Mann was called, and the story flew up and down Main and Franklin.
At that time Mr. Mann and Chuck both made their homes at Lafayette Arms, which is the on the SE corner of South & Hwy 13. Mr. Mann said that, while Chuck could get into the bank itself, all the valuables were locked up in the vault - whereas Joe Mann could enter Wardens' apartment and take anything he wanted.
Both parties enjoyed the story immensely, once Chuck got over his shock.
- - - - - - - - -
Next story is about two well-known women in town. You'd have to have known the women involved to imagine two more extremes. Rumor had it that one was the, um,  girlfriend of the other's husband. 
At that time Lexington had several women's clothing stores. One was Fosters' Ladies Clothing - it later became Reed's Ready-to-Wear - and was located where the McRentals business is now. Well, Fosters' inadvertently sold the exact same dress to both ladies involved! Bobbye Reed, daughter of Foster and wife of Reed, kept close track of transactions, but lunch hours had intervened, and it got by her.
Both ladies wore the dress to a large bridge luncheon at Maib's Victory Cafe!
After the luncheon and bridge ended, many women hastened to Fosters' to tell Bobbye what had happened. Some thought she may have done it intentionally! Later both women in the story berated Bobbye for having done such a trick!
- - - - - - - - -
Back in the 1800s sometime, when Lexington had many coal mines, there was said to have been a railroad which brought the coal down to the bottom of Irishtown Hill, part of it underground, so the coal could be loaded either onto the railroad tracks or the river. The rest of the story is that, during Prohibition, the underground space was a liquor hideout.
- - - - - - - - -
At last Del Scharnorst sent a contribution, referring to my complaint that 356 of you have never written a note to include in TLC. Now there are 355 of you.
Susan, I probably am am one of those "356" that haven't written you in tha past re: TLC. Be assured that I enjoy reading every issue, even though most correspondence seems to be from the younger generation (anyone after '55).  
And, from the younger generation mentioned above, here is a note from Sharon Shurmantine McGinness '65:
I don't remember reading any other comments about it, but I remember how wonderful the Fall Festival was.  In my mind's eye, it was like a miniature Rose Bowl Parade - dozens of floats and, of course, the Fall Festival Queen, along with her attendants and other contestants.  What a wonderful fall event that used to be.  Along with the parade and the Fall Festival Queen, there was the carnival, with ferris wheel, the tilt-awhirl, lots of popcorn and cotton candy.  That was a glorious time and is a special memory. 
Sharon - I agree! It was an exciting time every Fall. Your note gives me an opportunity to publish a photo from the 1956 or 1957 Fall Festival Queen Contest. Swim suits and high heels even! Anyone who sends the correct identification of the Lexington girls pictured will receive a FREE subscription to TLC!!!
And, finally, here's a trip down Memory Lane courtesy of the O'Malley family. Jim wrote:
Here's an email from my sister Diane Jimenez in San Rafael, CA. Donna Dye of Lexington sent her an email with an Associated Press article about the Krazy Kats. Diane asked me If I knew much about them. This email has my reply. Maybe you could use it, or part of it, in the TLC.
Do I remember the Krazy Kats? That's like asking me if I remember Mom's apple pie!
In the late '50s the KKs were hired to play on the Court House lawn during the Lexington Fall Festival. It was a smash hit, so the Lexington JayCees hired the KKs for a dance for teens in the Municipal Auditorium. It was such a hit that it became a weekly event. Harold Harden was the JayCees member who was heading this up. He and Lee (Dresser) and the other KK members became very good friends, and still are to this day.
I met Lee through my friendship with Harold and have known him both in his pre and post Hollywood and Nashville eras. I remember during his Hollywood time, he was scheduled to perform on the last night of the Joey Bishop TV program. CBS had placed Bishop opposite Johnny Carson and his ratings were poor, so the program was dropped. On this last night Ellie and I were watching from Warrensburg, hoping to see Lee have his big break on network TV. He was placed last on the program and his spot was canceled (bumped) when they ran out of time. Some things just don't work out.
The last time we danced to Lee's music was in 2005 (I believe) when the KKs played at Frank Wansing's birthday party in Lexington. It was an afternoon affair with plenty of food, fun and people and no booze. He's really a gifted entertainer and if you haven't seen them perform you've missed a lot of fun. Do I remember the KKs? HAH!
Diane wrote:
I thought you would all enjoy this article that Donna sent about the Krazy Kats. I remember the name and remember seeing signs about their performances in Lexington, but I don't think I ever saw them perform. I know I would enjoy them now. Elvis is still the king. Did any of you ever see them? I never went to their Sat. nights at the auditorium. I was at Tabo. But I have heard them a few times in their later years.They always draw a big crowd!Rock on!
After 50 years, gray-haired rockers too Krazy to call it quits
Associated Press writer

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) -- A word of caution to concertgoers preparing to celebrate the Krazy Kats' 50th anniversary: Don't urge the three aging rock-and-rollers to knock 'em dead. They already have.
From their modest start at a Moberly High School sweethearts' dance a half-century ago, the Kats have graced Midwestern bandstands nearly 4,000 times. Lead singer and guitarist Lee Dresser spent more than a decade as a session player and songwriter in Los Angeles and Nashville.
Their devotion to the music of Elvis, Fats Domino and other of rock's earliest icons - call it oldies music if you must - is matched only by the reciprocal passion of their audience.
Need proof? In recent years, three Krazy Kats audience members have dropped dead of heart attacks on the dance floor. Twice, the band played on - at the crowd's insistence.
"My knees hurt. My back hurts. My butt hurts. Everything about me seems to hurt," said Steve Dowdy, a retired Kansas City engineer and Moberly native who has followed the band since high school. "But they just keep getting up there. Maybe I need to follow them around some more."  
Like many of their fans, Dresser, keyboardist Willie Craig and drummer Fred Fletcher are old enough to collect Social Security. 
But at 65 apiece, the three boys from Moberly High's class of 1959 show no signs of slowing down. On New Year's Eve, several hundred faithful packed a Columbia hotel ballroom, the 20th such annual celebration.
Year-round, the Kats remain a staple at American Legion halls, nightclubs, casinos and summer festivals in Missouri and Kansas.
"It's what we do," Fletcher said.
The band has survived failed marriages, the Vietnam War (both Dresser and Craig served), two temporary drummers and Dresser's flirtation with both Hollywood (he was signed to Capitol Records) and country music stardom.
From Moberly, the band migrated south down U.S. 63 to the state's pre-eminent college town, where its members went to school and served as house band at many a University of Missouri-Columbia fraternity parties.
When Dresser and Craig were drafted and Fletcher entered the work force in 1965, the band broke up. After a 15-year hiatus, Craig hatched the idea of a reunion in 1980. For the reformed group's first five years, Dresser commuted on weekends from Los Angeles and Nashville.
Fletcher, by then a Pizza Hut executive, had to borrow a drum kit for that first reunion concert. Uncertain whether the band could survive in a musical era that had seemed to pass them by, he kept a full-time job until 1987.
"We didn't think anybody would be there," Dresser said of the reunited group's first concert in Lexington, home of a weekly dance back in the Kats' heyday. The fans, though, never lost faith. More than 500 showed up at that first reunion show. An additional 300 turned out the next night in Moberly. The Kats were back.
While fame and fortune never descended upon the Krazy Kats, they're grateful to be able to make a living singing the songs from their youth.
They remain neighbors, of a sort: Each band member lives on the Kansas side of the Kansas City suburbs. But offstage, they remain at arm's length. Each drives separately to shows. "We're not pals," Fletcher said. "We're co-workers. We show up, we play and we go home."
Try as they might, the band members haven't been able to completely keep the ravages of time at bay. Hairlines are thinner, bed times earlier. A few years back, Craig had double bypass surgery.
A glimpse at the spiral notebooks maintained by Dresser since that first Valentine's Day concert offers a window into the band's staying power. The notebooks document every concert date, location and amount of money earned, and provide commentary. "We didn't go over very well," Dresser wrote after that first gig. According to the notebooks, the three 15-year-olds weren't paid until the band's sixth concert. They earned a total of $358 from their first 40 shows.
As the Krazy Kats embark on a yearlong celebration of those first 50 years, none offered a prediction on how long the band will continue to transport its listeners back to the days of bobby socks, T-birds and back-seat make-out sessions.
Just don't count on hearing that last waltz anytime soon. "If you go home and sit in that rocking chair, that rocking chair will get you," Craig warned.
2007 The Associated Press.
I suspect a few people in our reading group may have memories. Send 'em in, and I'll share.
Your devoted scribe,


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