Prelude To Branson……..#250 (the 90’s)

The daily morning edition of the Wichita Eagle was provided by Dr. Marcia Drewry, better known as “Dr. D”, when she entered the east back door which was the Kiowa Hospitals old ambulance entrance and adjacent to the kitchens back door. Most mornings  along with the paper she he would deposit a box of donuts from Val’s donut shop on the picnic table that resided there for the non-certify staff


The Thursday edition of  the Wichita Eagle 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.  Fellow hospital employee’s, Arvetta Starzyk , dietary, Judy Reed and her housekeeping staff  during their morning break formulated a novel idea.  The assembly forthcoming  with Gary to post his social personality subsistence on the Eagle social page, Gary at first declining but on a lark giving in.



Placing a call to the Eagle 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 was true to her word.  As the weeks progressed  Gary’s answering machine having several messages from the opposite gender briefly introducing themselves leaving their number.


A call on the answering machine initiating an introduction to  Karla Balsamo residing in Wichita,  the lady sounding very congenial the two agreeing to meet Saturday at noon at a Wichita’s Town West Square Mall restaurant.    Gary arriving early,  seated patiently waiting and watching the entrance 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 eyes searching the restaurant for recognition.   Gary  introducing himself, finding Karla comfortable with his company, conversation flowing with this first meeting and after lunch agreeing to see each other again.  Gary’s first appearance at her residence on S. Edgemoor Street, 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, the first of several.


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.


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 to Wichita.  Gary arriving at the Mid-Continent Airport arena,  addressing the Airport Hilton, deciding instead of driving all the way back to Kiowa for the night, to access a room for his mother and himself,  enabling  an early start in the morning for Branson.   Waiting for her arrival, Gary formatting  a novel idea,  making a decision to call Karla to see if she would be interested in joining the two of them for dinner, and with her being a vibrant conversationalist, it would bring life to the dinner engagement.



Gary addressed his mother’s United Airlines flight arriving at Mid Continent at 7:00 PM.,  the two walking the short distance to the Airport Hilton finding a Renaissance Convention in Progress.  Knights, Ladies and others dressed in the costumes of that era milling 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 his mom of the evening plans, the Buick found them journeying to Karla’s, 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,  a hollowed out pineapple filled with a sweet and sour bouquet of shrimp, tropical fruits and pork,  with an apropos name of   “Hawaii five-O”.   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 the Airport Hilton.


A nocturnal rest, Gary and his mother 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 US 54,  deciding to accommodate the less traveled scenic southeast route,  US 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 turning south onto state highway 65,  entering the scenic realm of the southern Ozarks.    Gary realizing he had missed a turn,  discovering they were no longer on the highway,  but on the old Winding Mountain road into Branson,  both in good spirits able to look down on the town,  commenting on the mistake that this was truly the real 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 looking forward to what was to Come.

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