Prelude To Branson……..#250 (the 90’s)

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 after lunch agreement to see each other again was enhanced.  Gary’s first appearance at her residence on S. Edgemoor St. was a dinner engagement,  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, the couple spending a delightful outing together.

Karla Balsamo & Gary

 It was during a ten-day triple digit heat wave in Wichita that Gary came to her rescue,  the central air conditioning in her residence having failed,  Karla calling him in Kiowa about her dilemma.   Gary explaining although he could do the basic service on a unit he wasn’t a AC technician and didn’t possess 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, plus Larry also having been a distributor in Gary’s Amway enterprise.   Gary placing a call to his friend about Karla’s dilemma,  Larry also 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 even 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, deciding instead of driving all the way back to Kiowa 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 formatting  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 with her being a vibrant conversationalist would bring life to the dinner engagement.

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 the members in the hotel 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 menu specialty  of 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

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 couple more than looking forward to what was to come.


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