Archive for July, 2011

Branson…………………………251 (the 90’s)

July 19, 2011


An arrival in Branson,  the three hundred mile journey coming to a conclusion,  the first precept was to acquisition the Quality Inn,  at 2834 W. 76,  Country Blvd.,  the hosting accommodations for Gary and his Mother Betty’s three night sojourn in the community of 6000.   Once achieving their lodging ambition,  the afternoon still prevailing for an excursion in the Buick,  an introspection drive to discover the compilation of the proclaimed hamlet.    An entreaty evening meal,  then their first showcase presentation awaiting,  a 7:00 p.m.  show time entrance to the Moon River Theatre,   a performance by the acclaimed Andy Williams.

Proclaiming Branson's first music Theatre

Proclaiming Branson’s first music Theatre

The Willson’s were seated in the 2000 capacity impressive accommodation in anticipation.  The advent of the Moon River Theatre was inaugurated May 1, 1992, Andy Williams,  the first non-country entertainer to build a platform for performance.   The first theatre in Branson was built in 1967 by the Presley family, featuring country stars like Red Foley performing with the Presley Family Jubilee at the Mountain Music Theatre.   The celebrated Roy Clark abiding as the first of many national renown entertainers to discover Branson,  initiating his country venue in 1983 with the opening of the Roy Clark Theatre.   Andy Williams Moon River Theatre was more than an auditorium,  a citadel encompassing three lobbies,  the indoor plants décor in keeping with the magnificent grounds.   The Landscapers employing the outcropping of rocks to enfold waterfalls,  Koi filled ponds,  ferns and trees,  all native to the Ozarks and accessible to the public.
Showtime,  Gary very much impressed as the curtain opened,  Andy Williams welcoming the attendance and as was the custom in all Branson Show arenas,  giving recognizing to different sections of the tour-bus audience, mentioning their state and cities of embarkation.   Gary estimating that two thirds of the tourist amassing in Branson arrived by bus as patrons of a tour.   The wonder of Andy William was everything expected,  Gary finding the only surprising feature was his physical stature, 5’6’’ wearing platform shoes.   Williams singing many of his 18 gold recorded  vocal expressions,  including two of Gary’s favorites from the 50’s, Canadian Sunset, and Lonely Street.   Gary and his Mother  impressed by the astounding performance,  making a note to return during the delight hours and apprehend the scenic grounds of this prodigious theatre.

Betty Willson before falls at Moon River Theater

Gary’s Mom and Andy Williams showplace theatre

Saturday afternoon,  the couple awaiting the 2:00 p.m. Remington Theaters production of Branson City Lights to commence,  the two returning to explore Andy Williams, Moon River argillaceous location before the City Lights production.   The Branson City Lights program at the Remington was unconventional ,  a musical presentation on ice,  a preview of a new forum for Branson,  a ceremonious ice extravaganza premiering in three weeks.   The conclusion of the program,  the Visitors prospecting the downtown memorabilia shops,   Gary purchasing a keepsake shirt embossed with the name Branson.   The evening endeavor at the Grand Palace approaching,  built in 1992 at cost of 13 million dollars,  the largest and most luxurious theatre in Branson,  seating over 4000.


Branson's Magnificient Grand Palace

Branson’s Magnificient Grand Palace

Dino Kartsonakis and a Capacity Audience

Dino Kartsonakis and a Capacity Audience

Gary on stage with Dino

Gary on stage with Dino

Gary left to play solo at the Grand Palace

Gary left to play solo at the Grand Palace

Gary was totally inculcated with grandiose of the theatre,  but no knowledge of the skill of pianist Dino Kartsonakis,  except that some said he was a poor mans Yanni and others asserting he was a Christian Liberace,  because his apparel,  jewelry and scintillating piano.  A brief biography  discovering the virtuoso began playing at the age of three and was a student of the Julliard School of Music.   Gary and his Mother seated,  Dino coming on stage asking for a volunteer to join him at the piano.   A name was given him,  Camille,  the pianist trying to coax her to come on stage,  but to no avail.   Gary’s mother,  her elbow jabbing him,  beseeching him to volunteer, Gary rising,  Dino recognizing him,  asking him to come forward.   Dino joining Gary in aisle,  microphone in hand,  the two mounting the stage.   Dino interviewing the captive visitor about his musical background, then asking if he was familiar with these three songs,  “Put Another Nickel In“,  “The 12th Street Rag“ and “When The Saints Go Marching In”.   Gary answering affirmative,  the two addressing the nine foot light studded concert grand piano poised on an embellished lit, three-tier platform center stage.   A duet was initiated with “Put Another nNickle In”,  Gary on the left,  but soon found Dino exiting,  leaving him solo,  to play both upper and lower keyboard parts.   Dino returning to initiate upper octaves of the 12th Street Rag,  then seating himself to Gary’s left to address the lower keys,  allowing Gary to play the higher octaves of  “When The Saints Go Marching In”.   The music complete,  Gary receiving a standing ovation from the attendance,  Dino asking Gary if they had ever meant before,  because there were always some in the audience that might think he was a plant.   Before leaving the stage Dino presenting Gary with a gift certificate and a video tape of their performance together.

Staircase to the balcony at the Grand Palace

Gary and his Mother in the lobby of the Grand Palace

Ruby Tuesdays and a Separator

Ruby Tuesdays and a Separator

The short return journey to their place of abode,  found a Ruby Tuesday Bar and Grill less than two blocks from the Quality Inn.   Gary’s Mother Betty desiring to stop for a snack and a nightcap of her favorite beverage,  the bartender familiar with the Kahlua configuration called a Separator and it wasn’t long before the eldest Willson enthralled the customers with her conversation.   Morning donuts provided,  the Quality Inn having in room coffee makers,  boxes of pastries displayed on a series of tables set up outside one of the buildings complexes,  Gary able to secure several to wean their morning appetite.  A return visit to the Grand Palace to peregrinate throughout the areas open to the public,  a camera in hand to preserve the visit.   The Branson Belle Showboat awaited, a 11:00 a.m. cast off time for the Luncheon Dinner Cruise on Table Rock Lake.

The Branson Belle

The Branson Belle

Betty Willson, the Branson Belle in the background

A view from balcony during the Branson Bell Dinner Theatre

The Wheel House and the Captain of the Branson Belle

Boarding the paddled wheeled Queen of Table Lake,  the Branson Bell Showboat was under way,  commencing a two-hour dinner cruise.   The reservation slips denoting the Willsons placement,  a balcony dining seating provision,  looking down upon the prestigious stage,  the view enabling one to reminisce of the ambience of by-gone era.   The sound of music filled the exposition dinning room,  show tunes from Broadway,  music of past generations,  a compliment to the three coarse meal being served.   A final desert , Gary and his Mother Betty traversing to the only exterior deck atop the boat,  adjoining the Wheel House,  the two introducing themselves to the Captain.   The view from the Showboat a remembrance of a past excursion on a paddle wheeled goliath,  The Delta Queen on the Mississippi with his first wife Kermece,  only the Missouri temperature much more congeal for a cruise than the humidity of New Orleans.   Gary finding the lake expedition,  music and the meal gratifying,  especially in the company of his mother,  whom was like-minded in sharing the aura of the experience.

A 3:00 p.m.  calling,  the two arriving at Bobby Vinton’s Blue Velvet Theatre,  appropriately name,  entering the lobby,  the ceiling with clouds and cherubs,  the carpet,  the walls,  all in blue, Gary realizing  Bobby must savor the color that brought him to stardom.   The stage finding two screens on either side for visual presentations,  hosting a seating area for the Glenn Miller arrangement orchestra and as always,  an introduction and a recognition given to the tour-bus groups,  Bobby upholding the Branson tradition.   Bobby was extraordinary showman,  his enthusiasm bursting forth,  Gary admiring his dedication for an afternoon performance.   The vocalizing of Blue Velvet bringing back memories,  the last time Gary performed the song was in 1963 with a group from Chicago called Bobby And The Runaways.   The playing of the polish aire,  Melody of Love,  brought the rhythmic hand clapping the audience coming alive with their participation.   Bobby was no stranger to those in attendance,  microphone in hand,  progressing up the aisles,  stopping beside Gary’s Mothers aisle seat,  kneeling beside her and singing.  The matriarch Willson enjoying every minute of it.

The Jim Stafford Theatre

The concluding entertainment presentation for Gary and his Mothers Branson adventure was an 8:00 p.m. participation assembling at the Jim Stafford Theatre.   Jim an icon comedian,  singer,  musician,  a regular performer on the 60’s Smothers Brother Hit television program,  as well as the Smothers Brothers head writer and producer.   Gary’s recollection producing only one song that he could recall by Jim Stafford,  recorded in 1966,   “Spider and Snakes”   topping Billboard as the number 3 song in the nation.   Jim’s production of the song was something out of the Twilight Zone,  a hologram machine,  transported images of spider and snakes out into the audience,  Gary never having experience an event with such visual reality.   Spider and Snakes floated right before your eyes,  finding most members of the audience,  reaching out,  trying to grasp the visionary perception.   The venue of the music was a welcome sound,  giving evidence that country music still reigned king in the realm of Branson.   The evening event concluding,  Gary traversing the Buick towards Ruby Tuesday for a farewell toast to Branson.
A forlorn adieu to Branson,  Gary directing the Skylark northwest to intercept interstate 44 and the Will Rogers Turnpike,  continuing a southeasterly journey to Tulsa,  a lunch stop then apprehending the Turner Turnpike to Oklahoma City.   Gary and his mother arriving at the home Marlo and Chris Denton,  Gary’s daughter and son in-law.   Grandma Willson to return to California on a flight from Oklahoma City.  Gary returning to Kiowa,  bidding his love to his mother and the time the spent together,  a memory to be never forgotten.

(To see the video of Gary and Dino Kartsonakis at the Grand Palace, go to .)


Prelude To Branson……..#250 (the 90’s)

July 16, 2011

Awaiting United Airlines

A phone call on Gary’s answering machine and a callback initiating an introduction to  Wichita residing Karla Balsamo who had notice his presence on the Eagle Beacons social page,  the lady sounding very congenial the two agreeing to meet Saturday at noon in a restaurant at Wichita’s Town West Mall.    Gary arriving early seated inside patiently waiting and watching the entrance of the restaurant having never made Karla’s acquaintance, not knowing what to expect.   A younger attractive women entering  immediately capturing him with her stylish dress and her rings highlighting her toes on her open sandals, her eyes searching the restaurant for recognition.    Gary  introducing himself, finding Karla comfortable with his company,  conversation flowing with this first meeting and an agreement to see each other again was enhanced.   It would be Gary’s first appearance at her residence on S. Edgemoor St  endeavoring to make a good impression making a stop at Town West  purchasing a distinctive candle and holder as a housewarming gift and by coincidence his gift happened to accord her home’s decor.

Another occasion found Gary coming to her rescue during a ten-day triple digit heat wave in Wichita,  the central air conditioning in her residence having failed,  Karla calling him in Kiowa about her dilemma.   Gary explaining he wasn’t really qualified not possessing any of the necessary tools,  suggesting she call an AC professional.  She related she had called several but it would be several days before anyone could address her problem because of a backlog of service calls.   Gary responding he knew of someone in Wichita that might be of some help,  mentioning he would place a call to a friend, Larry Dunn.  Larry having been Plant Operation Manager at HCA Wesley Hospital,  a past president of the Kansas Hospital Engineers Association and a mentor in Gary’s election as KHEA president.  Gary was aware that Larry had changed employment with the management downsizing at HCA Wesley,  taking a position as service manager for Comfort Heating and Air Systems,  the largest air conditioning service assemblage in Wichita,  employing over 32 staff members and technicians.  Larry also was a distributor in Gary’s Amway enterprise, calling his friend about Karla’s dilemma,  Larry acknowledging that his service trucks were backlogged because of the heatwave and committed for several days.  Gary beseeching that this lady friend was somewhat special,  could he make an exception.  Larry replying that he couldn’t change the service schedule,  but what he would do for Gary was make the service call himself.   Later that evening Karla telephoned thanking Gary, her air conditioning was once again operational,  stating that Larry refused payment for his services.

Wichita Mid Continent South Concourse

Wichita Mid Continent South Concourse

The phone call was unexpected, Gary’s Mother calling from California,  revealing that she had made reservation for the two of them to invest three nights in Branson Missouri and  had acquired reservation for five shows and a celebrated dinner cruise on Table Rock Lake aboard the Branson Belle Showboat.   The Matriarch of the Willson family giving notice she would alight Wichita’s Mid-Continent Airport on United Airlines the evening of Wednesday,  October 8th,  Gary foreseeing with anticipation an enjoyable new venture with his mother.  Leaving work early from the Kiowa Hospital,   his small suitcase made ready for a four-day excursion,  the Buick journeying on the road to Wichita.  Gary arriving at the Mid-Continent Airport arena,  addressing the Airport Hilton,  an eighth of mile from the departure terminal, instead of driving all the way back to Kiowa he decided to access a room for his mother and himself,  enabling  an early start in the morning for Branson.   Waiting for his mother’s arrival, Gary formating  a novel idea,  making a decision to call Karla to see if she would be interested in joining him and his Mother for dinner and being a vibrant conversationalist would bring life to the dinner engagement.

Airport Hilton Renaissance Convention in progresss

Airport Hilton Renaissance Convention in progress


Hawaii five-0

Gary addressed his mother United Airlines flight arriving at Mid Continent at 7:00 p.m.,  the two walking the short distance to the Airport Hilton,  finding a Renaissance convention in progress,  Knights, Ladies and others of that era in costume wondering about.   Stopping to view their members  in a convention room, the two  enjoying the festive groups garb and music of the period before hastily getting situated in their room.   Gary informing mom of the evening plans, the Buick found them journeying to Karla’s residence their dinner guest waiting.   Gary suggesting they dine at the restaurant and Club that Karla had previously introduced to Gary, it’s unique atmosphere and specialty a hollowed out pineapple filled with a sweet and sour bouquet of shrimp, tropical fruits and pork,  with an apropos name of   “Hawaii five-0”.   Gary seated at the table observing his Mother and Karla conveying most of the conversation,  the two getting on famously.   The evening drawing nigh, their meal completed,  Gary returning Karla home thanking her for a most enjoyable evening ,  the Willson’s returning to Airport Hilton.

A stop at Freedonia

A stop at Fredonia

The scenic Ozarks

The scenic Ozarks

A nocturnal rest mom and son awakening to a marvelous fall morning,  the two having breakfast at Denny’s, located on West Kellogg,  a block east of the airport entrance.  The 300 mile journey to Branson beginning,  Gary making a decision rather than taking the easterly U.S 54,  deciding to accommodate the less traveled scenic southeast route,  U.S. 400,  shorter in distance but more time consuming because of the highways two lane contingency.    A brief halfway stop in Fredonia for fuel and lunch,  the small town an analogous to many scattered throughout Kansas.   Ascending the road once more traversing east,  soon crossing into Missouri, their destination no longer fleeting.   Springfield loomed ahead,  but would not be perceive,  a change in direction and scenery onto state highway 65,  entering the realm of the southern Ozarks,  Branson on the horizon.   Gary missing a turn,  discovering they were no longer on the highway,  but on the old winding mountain road into Branson,  both in good spirits, commenting on the mistake that this was truly the scenic route.   From their vantage point descending off the mountain,  a view of the 722 mile long White River and the man-made, Table Rock Lake,  just one of eight reservoirs built by the corp. of engineers beginning in 1938.   The Table Rock Dam being completed in 1964, forming the area’s largest lake.   Looming before them was the aura and  arresting picture of Branson



The Circle Of Life………………#249 (the 90’s)

July 14, 2011

Parking entrance to Botanica – The Wichita Gardens

The Saturday Journeys to Wichita continuing,  the Buick accumulating 190 mile per week,  making new acquaintances from his Wichita Eagle Beacon social page and the Internet’s social networking ICQ.   Gary once again having meant and visited a new friend who had replied to the Eagle Beacon publication and was also a subscriber to ICQ , the two having got better acquainted via the computer.  Diane, an employee of Boeing in Wichita for the past twenty years shared many of Gary’s interest, the two deciding to spend  an evening together,  Gary arriving at Di’s residence in the evening hour,  his lady friend having packaged a basket of delectable’s and a bottle of wine.  Diane having made the plans, the two journeying to Botanica The Wichita Gardens in the 700 block of Amidon St  for an evening concert in the pavilion club house,  performed by a young lady folksinger.  The two partaking of  the folksingers presentation and later enjoyed venturing thru the lighted pathways of the Botanical Gardens,  the fragrant of the flowers and shrubbery presenting an aura of contentment.   The two discovering an area to sit and enjoy the serene surroundings and the comestibles of the basket and outdoor night sky,  the evening providing a repose from the doldrums of employment at the hospital and the confines of a small Kansas town,  the two enjoying the eventide.  The 90 mile return to Kiowa with the car windows down,  the cool Kansas night air bringing the wisp of the rural countryside,  its aroma, a bouquet of the farming habitat,  the livestock,  the moisten wheat and alfalfa, providing an ataractic ambience journey.

Flash Cadillac with the Wichita Symphony

Flash Cadillac with the Wichita Symphony

Concert Ticket

Concert Ticket

Gary reciprocating Diane’s Botanic outing the following week,  obtaining tickets for an entertaining evening at Wichita’s Century II,  a concert featuring a historic renown band from another era.    The Wichita Symphony endorsing with their presence,  Flash Cadillac,  a band organizing in 1969 as Flash Cadillac and the Continental Kids.   An appearance on Dick Clark’s American Band Stand lead to opportunity,  participating in George Lucas’s movie  “American Graffiti”  as Herbie And The Heartbeats, performing three soundtrack songs,  At The Hop,  Louis Louis and She’s so fine,  also providing sound track songs for Francis Ford Coppola’s   “Apocalypse Now”  and  appearing on the Johnny Carson’s  “Tonight Show”  and the TV hit series  “Happy Days”.   The Century II concert was a capacity event, Gary having front row seats, center stage.   The band making the classical artist of the symphony perform in a new proclivity, challenging members to duplicate the riffs of rock-n-roll.   Gary suspicion were confirmed,  the classical musicians were up to the task,  to the concert musicians,  music wasn’t always something you read and played,  it was a state of mind.  The latter part of program found an invitation for those in frontal section to dance on the lower level below the stage,  Gary and Di participating,  taking advantage of the front row seats.   The evening performance concluded,  Gary returning Di to her residence, acknowledging his Sunday morning church calling, the Buick traversing south to Kiowa.

Welcome to the Sac-Fox Nation

Welcome to the Sac-Fox Nation

Bob,  the X-Ray technician at the Kiowa Hospital,  the person whom transported Gary to Pratt when his colon ruptured  was somewhat of a braggadocio, proclaiming that he was never a loser when playing casino slots.  Declaring that he possessed an ability to communicate with the machine,  knowing when and which machine would pay off.   Gary found this hard to believe,  advocating  he and Bob pursue a trip to a casino  so Bob could affirm his ability.   Gary mentioned his endeavor to Di and she was interested in joining the two,  Gary asking if she had a friend who would be interested in meeting Bob.   Di confirmed that she had a friend Vicki that might be interested in a casino trip.   The journey commencing early Saturday morning,  as Bob related his ability to communicate with the slot machines worked only in the morning before noon.   Gary directing the Buick to Wichita,  the two hospital employees  greeting Di and  making Vicki’s acquaintance,  then venturing the 63 miles to the Sac & Fox Indian casino at Stroud,  Gary’s skepticism abounding.

The slot machine that talks

The four arriving at the Indian casino at 10:45 a.m.,  Gary not an avid slots person having $100 on his person,  willing to lose about $50 of it before halting his gambling effort.   Bob immediately started scouting the casino for a particular model slot machines,  the Red, White and Blue.   He tried several,  but shaking his head that the machine wasn’t responding to his beckoning.  It was 11:15,  Bob having failed win but a token amount,  when he spotted a group of Red, White and Blue slots near the entrance,  approaching one inserting a hundred dollar bill, playing three dollars at a time, bingo, three sevens, the machine paying $240.    Bi-Pasting the next one,  but playing the machine beside it,  bingo again, another $240.   He walk around to the other side, finding another Red White & Blue and  another $240,  only this time the continuous sounding of the bells having drawn the attention of the security guard at the entrance.   Gary making a comment about being watched by security and mentioning that his luck was nil and  hadn’t won a dime.   Bob pointed to another Red, White and Blue, telling Gary to play it,  ” it would pay off”.   Gary starting to wonder how lucky one person could be, reluctant  but deciding to tap into his $50 dollar reserve, putting a twenty-dollar bill in,  when the three sevens appeared it was unbelievable,  Bob was right, the machine came through.  It was nearing 12:00 p.m.,  Bob noting the time saying it was about time to go,  Gary noticing that the security guard still watching them as they left the building a puzzled look on his face.  Di and Vicki buzzed with excitement over Bob’s demonstration,  Gary chalking Bob’s success to pure luck,  telling  the big winner that he qualified to pick up the lunch tab,  questioning him on how much he had won, Bob replying, somewhere between six and seven hundred dollars, Gary happy that he didn’t leave the house his usual deposit, but for a change left with substantially more than when he entered.    The arrival in Wichita finding the four having lunch at Applebee’s,  a discussion on how to spend the rest of the afternoon was conversed, Gary remarking, there was a current film everyone was talking about starring Tom Hanks,  a movie that depicting the  reality of World War II,    “Saving Private Ryan”.    Di and Vicki didn’t seem too enthusiastic about seeing the feature, but didn’t have an alternative.  Gary thought the  movie was everything the critics proclaimed,  a very moving experience, especially to Di,  she was upset after seeing it.   Bob making light of  her reaction,  but backing off any more comments as her disposition turned aggressive and bitter.  Gary realizing that she was either a very emotional person or there was some hidden memory that the movie brought to the surface.   The two host returning the ladies to Di’s residence, satisfied, traversing back to Kiowa, concluding a very remarkable day.

Montana Parking

Montana pickup parking

Bob’s Ford pickup truck license plates proclaimed it was from Montana, the Lab Tech not very open about his past.  His Price Apartments was sparsely furnished,  so it wasn’t surprising when one day he mentioned that he procured  another job in Blackwell Oklahoma and was moving on,  asking  Gary to help him move.   Gary agreeing,  the two loading the pickup with what little furniture he had,  asking if Gary would mind making the trip  to Blackwell with him,  being told he had already had a small one bedroom rental with appliances.   The two arriving unloading the belongings,  Gary anxious to return as he hadn’t planned on this Saturday venture when Bob made a startling statement,  “ I’m not returning to Kiowa”,  Gary saying okay, then Bob repeated it again adding the ever, Gary was stunned, questioning him  how he was going to get home.   Bob continuing to shock Gary handing him the keys to the Ford,  asking him  to drive the pickup back to Kiowa,  park it somewhere in town, walk away leaving the keys in it.   Gary immediate reaction was disbelief, but responding with an Okay, no questioned asked.   Bidding his friend goodbye, it was all unsaid but suspicious, in all probability the pickup from Montana either didn’t belong to Bob or was being repossessed.  Gary keeping his promise, on arrival in Kiowa  finding himself nervous about what was to transpire.  Making sure he was not being watched, making a decision to park the pickup across the street  from the park then strolling back to his apartment. Surprisingly he was never questioned about Bob or heard anything about the discovery of an abandoned pickup with Montana tags,  his curiosity held in check, another questionable ending to a questionable event involving a questionable person, deciding.somethings are best left unanswered.

You Can’t Take It With You………#248 (the 90’s)

July 12, 2011

A comedy in three acts

It was a surprise invitation by Doris Hermon a fellow EMT on the Kiowa Ambulance Service  approaching Gary to join the cast of the Borderline Theater in their bi-yearly stage presentation in Kiowa,  Doris having performed in many of the production since its conception.   Gary no stranger to a stage with 19 years of music entertaining performances,  but a novice to acting,  declining the allurement of Doris’s offer.   Doris was insistent,  the play to be enacted was   “You can’t take it with you”,  a three act play by Moss Hart and George S Kaufman,  also produced as a movie in 1938  starring Lionel Barrymore,  Jimmy Stewart and Ann Miller.   Doris knowing Gary’s background as a musician and accomplished on the vibraphone as well as the piano for many years could collate a featured part in the play requiring someone to play a xylophone.   With Doris’s insistence, Gary being lead to believe he would have a minutiae of  lines,  finally agreeing to be present for the introductory rehearsal at the Kiowa Community Center.

Jared Hiltner (Donald) Tot Babcock (Director)

Gary Willson (Ed) Krista Hill Pollack (Essie)

An arrival at the Community Center being greeted by many acquaintances and introduced to others that have participated in past play presentations.   Tot Babcock,  an elderly little lady was the director,  a charter member of Summer Theatre of Empire State University,  having acted in and directed many plays at the college level,  her daughter Bea a Thurman, the Thurman’s a prominent farming family in Kiowa.   Members of the cast included locals from Kiowa and Hardtner, Doris Hermon,  her husband Ed as lightning director,  Kiowa Hospitals Dr. Marcia Drewry’s husband,  David Worsdell,  Bob Sterling owner of Yur Place and the Sterling Barn restaurant in Hardtner,  Bob having the primary role played by Lionel Barrymore in the film production.  Other included Tommie Jo Hyde,  a clinic nurse whom lived in Kiowa,  Lisa Wahl a dispatcher for the Harper County Sheriff’s department,  Bob Thomas,  a rural mail carrier in Hardtner,  Bruce Bryan the manager of Tuckers Farm Store,  Donna Dyar whom was a substitute teacher and Krista Hill Pollack whom would play Gary’s wife in his role of Ed, plus others complimenting the cast.

Bob Sterling (Grandpa)

David Worsdell Jr. (Mr. De Pinna)

The first rehearsal was an introduction to the play’s premise and a gathering of the full cast,  Dramatist Play Service  script books distributed to each cast member.  Gary discovering that Doris’s description of his part as Ed having just seven or eight lines was in error,  finding over 47 speaking lines in the play.   A bonus for the rehearsal was having Bob Sterling in the cast,  his ownership of Yur Place restaurant and the catering Sterling Barn facility found him arriving for each rehearsal with boxes filled with morsels of sandwiches and snacks.

Doris Hermon (Penelope Sycammore)

Jennifer Hedges (Reba)

Weeks of rehearsals began for the three act play,  the stage props being acquired,  Lloyd Jacobs and Leon Eckert providing the stage construction,  Mildred Farney and others assisting with costumes.  Ed Hermon possessing a pickup, Gary and Ed  traversing to South Barber High School to garner the music departments xylophone that they had generously loaned,  a key component to Gary’s character and the play.   Gary,  at first somewhat hesitant to the progress,  but once the cast was conversant to their lines  was astounded to see the continuity of the scrip beginning to coalesce  like a well written musical score,  each actor an instrument providing its articulation.   The cast spending the latter days of rehearsal ameliorating the interfacing concert of the script,  the cadence of the play crucial to its conception being fulfilled.

Scene from act I

Scene from act II

Scene from act III

The three act performances wasn’t without incident.  If one  performer failed to give the right lead in line,  it left the next performer in limbo,  waiting for their cue.  Gary discovering it was better to memorize,  not just the lead in line  but several before,  enabling him to be ready.  Behind the curtain off stage, was Tot,  with the total script available to cue a cast member if for some reason they had a lapse in remembrance.   The total on-stage cast numbered 19,  with a director,  stage manager,  lighting and sound technician and 9 others contributing to the pre-performance activity.   Gary’s role as Ed Carmichael, was to deliver Essie’s candies,  operate an (antique)  printing press, ( supplied by Rex Zimmerman,  editor and publisher of the Kiowa News) and play the xylophone so Essie (Krista Hill Pollack, whom had taken ballet) could leap and pirouette across the stage.  Gary adding some non scripted humor when operating the printing press,  pulling out a dollar bill and placing it in the press.  Tot, the director not apprehending his antics, but the audience availed.

Curtain Call

The scheduled run of the play was for consecutive Saturday and Sunday performances,  the final Sunday  a dinner theatre presentation, all performances playing to a capacity audience.   At the conclusion of each presentation,  a stage introduction of the performers,  followed  by the cast lining the exit to greet and  be greeted by those in attendance,  mostly Barber County residence.    Gary acknowledging many  acquaintances from his many years of employment at John Deere,  The Grade School,  Kiowa Hospital and his service on the Kiowa Ambulance.  Gary enjoying the experience of once again ascending a stage after a twenty year vacuity,  even in a different venue,  not exactly the musical foray of the piano as in years past  but the new endeavor of theatre.  The Border Line Theater production of 1937 Pulitzer Prize Play, “You Can’t Take It With You”  was another consummating episode in his life.

Theatre medallion presented to the cast with a personalized inscription on the back

The Power Of The Press……#247 (the 90’s)

July 5, 2011
Doctor "D"

Doctor “D”

The daily morning edition of the Wichita paper was provided by Dr. Marcia Drewry, Dr. “D” as she was better known,  when she entered the clinic east door which was the hospital’s old ambulance entrance and adjacent to the kitchen backdoor in the morning.   Most mornings  along with the paper  she would deposit a box of donuts from Val’s donut shop on the picnic table that resided there for the noncertified staff.  The Thursday edition of  the Wichita Eagle Beacon would include what was designated as a social page,  where a person could submit at no charge an introduction of themselves to the public, leaving a phone number for those of like interest to enjoin an introduction.  The brief format mostly filled with men and women seeking a commencement for association.   On a lark,  seated at the picnic table during the morning break, Gary with help from Arvetta Starzyk in dietary, Judy Reed and her housekeeping staff during their morning break formulated a novel idea.  The assembly forthcoming  with the idea to post a social resume of Gary’s personality subsistence for the Eagle Beacon social page.  Gary wanting to submit his interest in classical musical,  his hospital occupation not leaving out his Kansas Hospital Engineers Association Presidency and conclude with a brief physical description., but the ladies would have no part of it coming up with a right to the point brief descriptive ad.  Gary placing a call to the Eagle Beacon society page editors number, a lady answered cordially taking the prescribed ad,  then posing a question, “how do you want it titled?”   Gary was somewhat perplexed at the unexpected question, hesitantly he replied he didn’t know, what do you think?,  the lady replying, “well, you sound like A Prince Charming, how about that”.  The week-long wait was finally over the Thursday morning paper arriving, there in bold print, the lady true to her word.

Ad in the Wichita Eagle Beacon

Ad in the Wichita Eagle Beacon

 Gary’s answering machine having several messages from the opposite gender briefly introducing themselves leaving their number.  A response from a lady in Salina sparking Gary’s interest,  conveying she owned a ranch and raised horses,  in addition  owned a bail-bond business.  Gary was intrigued, but not enough to drive to Salina,  the two agreeing to meet  in Wichita for lunch on Saturday.   His new acquaintance to be,  Sally arriving in a new Cadillac, the two entertaining  lunch at a Carlos O’Kellys mexican restaurant at Town East.  The afternoon finding the couple exploring the realm of Old Town, discovering the lady from Salina also was very familiar with Wichita, knowing the location of several thrift stores, explaining that this is where she did her bargain hunting when down way.   Gary was somewhat taken aback,  her educational presentation and personality, a new car and  proclamation of business ownership all seemed appropriate,  but the thrift shop searching gave way to questions.   The Saturday afternoon coming to a conclusion, the lady extending an invitation to meet again only this time in Salina,  Gary acknowledging  he would have to reference the ambulance schedule and get back to her but it  was already questionable,  having doubts about driving over 3 hours to acquaint someone for lunch let alone start a 170 mile driving distance relationship.

Dr. Don Ransome

Dr. Don Ransome

Prat Reginional Medical Center

Pratt Regional Medical Center

R.N. Patty McNamar

R.N. Patty McNamar

The following morning Gary awakened with excruciating abdominal pain,  at first attributing it to the Mexican food he had consumed Saturday afternoon but the pain was increasing in intensity he  recognizing it was something more serious deciding to drive the short distance to the  Hospital.  Entering he was greeted by a questioning  R.N.,  Patty McNamar,  Gary briefly explaining his condition, Patty immediately notifying the on-call physician Dr. Stranathan.  Dr. Sid arriving,  hesitant of making a diagnosis after Gary related that he had no appendix and that Dr. Ransom had recently done a colonoscopy and all look well.  Dr. Sid placing a call to Dr. Ransom in Medicine Lodge asking the surgeon if it might be best for him to come in.  Dr. Ransom suggesting because of the severity of the pain Gary should be immediately transported  to Pratt Medical Center for a CT Scan.  Dr. Sid telling Patty to notify the Ambulance but before she could Gary stopped her, noticing that Bob the newly acquired Lab Tech,  who resided in the same Price Apartments that Gary did and just happened to be at the hospital Gary asking Bob if he would transport him to Pratt iff he promised not to die on the way,  Bob agreeing, the two traveling in Gary’s Buick to the Pratt Regional Medical Center.   The Pratt Medical Center emergency room staff having been notified, arriving the pain just about incapacitating, Bob assisting  Gary filling out the paperwork,  the hospital staff immediately readying a CT Scan.  The last Gary remembered was a requirement to drink several glasses of some liquid and entering of the Scan.  Awakening three days later in ICU,  the first thing he noticed was the sub cubicle IV’S, knowing their meaning from experience,  sub cubicle IV position was used for major surgical procedures but more often for those with a life threatening prognosis.

R.N. Debbie Duvall

R.N. Debbie Duvall

Removed from ICU to the surgical recovery floor,  the performing surgeon approaching Gary welcoming him back to the real world,  explaining that he had an acute colon rupture and he performed a conventional surgical colectomy.   The surgical procedure entailed  opening his lower cavity,  abstracting his colon and surgically removing 27 inches of the damaged area, doing a complete cavity cleansing so he would be free of any peritonitis infection.   The Doctor giving  further assurance relating he himself was the subject of  a similar operation years earlier without any complications.  Gary soon discovered a concern, he was having difficulty breathing,  the surgical anesthesiologist when visiting remarked that it was the result of having an adverse reaction to the anesthesia being the main reason for the time spent  in ICU and then had to add that he may not survive its use in another operation.   During his stay in the hospital, having just two visits, Bob the lab tech and a two brothers from the Apostolic Christian Church, Huber and Tom Farney.   The eighth day in the hospital found Gary getting restless,  the doctors still not wanting to release him, but as a hospital employee he knew the secret of how to exit confinement.  He had been walking the halls,  spending  time at the Nurses Station,  knowing they would convey this to the doctor and it wasn’t long,  his release was assured.   The timing was right,  Gary placing a telephone call to the Kiowa Hospital at afternoon shift change time,  RN. Debbie Duvall answering,  Gary asking if she could talk someone into picking him up at the Pratt Hospital,  Debbie replying, she was on her way.

Locomotives at the Great Plains Transportation Museum - Wichita

Locomotives at the Great Plains Transportation Museum – Wichita

Dr. Jean Picard phd. in socialogy Wichita Univesity

Dr. Jean Picard – stop before Omaha.

It had been over a week and Gary still awaiting a doctor’s release to return to work, deciding to  visit  an acquaintance in Wichita,  Dr. Jean Picard, PhD.,  a sociology professor at Wichita State University whom he had meant thru his new social endeavor and visited with on ICQ before his medical mishap.    Gary discovering that  Jean was a railroad  groupie,  she loved  trains,  their presence,  their cultivation in American history,  asking Gary if it would be too much for him to drive her to Omaha so she could travel the scenic route west thru the Rocky Mountains to Grand Junction Colorado on the California Zephyr. Once arriving she would rent a car visit the Colorado National Monument, spend the night and retrace her travel back but this time continuing on to Chicago to visit relatives.  Gary wondering about the gravity of her thinking, a turn around trip to Colorado seemed a little much, but after giving it some thought and with nothing better to do agreed to drive her to Omaha.   The two meeting at Jeans residence near the University Campus, their morning spent touring the little known Great Plains Transportation Museum, a small hidden building with many photo’s of the state’s extensive railroad endeavors,  the building was not the main attraction but the locomotives that were exhibited on the sidings next to the no longer used main line.  Gary not as enthused about trains as Jean anxious to get the Buick headed north on Interstate 135 toward Salina, never having driven to Omaha before.   Traveling north the couple finally saying farewell to the 4 lane I-135, at the junction of Interstate 70,  the highway designation returning to US 81, a two lane blacktop known as The Harvest Trail, the historic highway from Ft. Worth to Canada still anointing many of the small rural farming communities.  The couple making a brief stop at a small roadside sandwich shop at Bellville, Jean posing  a question,  would Gary be interested in accompanying her on the journey to Grand Junction and back until she continued on to Chicago?

Old Market Town - Omaha

Old Market Town – Omaha

The California Zephyr

The California Zephyr

The early evening finding the couple arriving at  the Omaha Amtrak Station five blocks from the Missouri River.  Gary having decided to accompany Jean deciding to secure a coach ticket, Jean having already made reservation for a  Berth compartment.   With several hours before departure, the two deciding to  explore The Old Market  Town just north of the train station.   The area much like Old Town in Wichita with converted warehouses with sidewalk cafe’s and shops, the two enjoying some native India cuisine at an outdoor restaurant before their 11:05  departure to Grand Junction.   The iconic California Sante Fe Zephyr  known for it Chicago to Emeryville (Oakland)  California scenic journey arriving.   Gary ready to settle for the night in the lounge car, but Jean mentioned he could utilize the upper berth in the compartment.  Gary discovering a major problem when attempting to climb into the upper berth,  halting and asking if he could  occupy the bottom berth as it had only been a week since his release from the hospital and his abdomen was still stapled together from the colectomy surgery.  Gary noticing a change in her attitude,  reluctantly agreeing but her classroom authority was beginning to show.

Union Station in Denver

Union Station – Denver

The damaged California Zephyr in Denver

The damaged California Zephyr in Denver

Experiencing a very uncomfortable night, Gary realizing his bad judgement in attempting the trip like this so soon, but was determined to make the best of it.   The two finding the dining car for breakfast, Gary seated facing the rear of the train when suddenly noticing some large debris passing by outside the dining car window and before he could say “did you see that” the train immediately coming to a sudden halt.   The conductor giving the passengers notice that they had  struck a vehicle pulling a trailer at a crossing.  Soon more word about the event, the driver uninjured but the horses, numbering seven in a large trailer not surviving, the train setting motionless for two hours while the local Eastern Colorado authorities investigated the accident.  Once resuming the Santa Fe conveyance finally arriving in Denver over two hours late and then another delay in Denver,  Amtrak having to located a replacement locomotive for damaged Zephyr engine.  The travel to Grand Junction finally resuming the train no longer pulled by a sleek lined passenger engine but a work-horse freight locomotive.

A Amtrax view of the Rockies

Amtrak view of the Rockies

Able to view the front from the back

Able to view the front from the back

mesa west of Grand Junction

Mesa west of Grand Junction

Gary was more than impressed with the scenic panoramic view that the majestic Rockies provided between Denver and Grand Junction,  the winding tracks of yesteryear hugging the mountain through the gorges,  the sparkling rivers down below,  the narrow railway tunnels reamed out of bedrock by the workers of a bygone era.    Arriving after dark in Grand Junction,  the two taking a cab Jean having made a prior hotel reservation, Gary getting room more than ready for a night’s rest.  After breakfast Jean trying to maintain her original schedule, leasing a car to explore the Colorado National Monument, the prestigious canyons and mesas west of where two magnificent rivers the Gunnison and the Colorado acquaint each other.   Gary finding the excursion enlighten, but found it exhausting,  having difficulty walking and preferring solitude in his painful discomfort not wanting to say anything that might hamper Jeans agenda.  The late afternoon found them boarding the train for the overnight return ,  Gary deciding he would be more comfortable dozing seated in the lounge car than laying down on hard surface of a berth.   The morning  finding Gary having breakfast alone not wanting to disturb Jean, but having lingering misgivings about the trip, later meeting with her in the observation car.  It was a late morning arrival in Omaha, Jean continuing on to Chicago,  Gary’s only concern was the drive home, but once on the beckoning road feeling  the comfort of his surroundings,  noting the state line sign “Welcome To Kansas“,  the experience although unexpected would be a memorable as would the acquisition of a preface to Dr. Jean Picard, PhD.