Archive for February, 2016

Dr. Jean Picard, PhD. ……#247a (the 90’s)

February 9, 2016

Dr. Jean Picard, PhD. at Bellville

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 endeavors 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 Town – Omaha

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

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

Able to view the front from the back

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 acquiring the true personality preface of Dr. Jean Picard, PhD..

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

February 8, 2016



Gary was somewhat surprised when Doris Hermon, a fellow EMT on the Kiowa Ambulance Service approached him about joining the cast of the Borderline Theater in their upcoming stage presentation of, You Can’t Take It With You.   Doris having performed in many of the local borderline theatre productions since its conception.  She bestowed that a featured part in the play required someone to play a xylophone, knowing that Gary as a musician had played the piano and vibes.  The play was a three act play by Moss Hart and George S Kaufman and also produced as a movie in 1938 starring Lionel Barrymore,  Jimmy Stewart and Ann Miller. With Doris’s continued insistence, Gary was led to believe he would have a minim of spoken lines, hesitating, then finally agreeing to be present for an introductory assembly of the cast at the Kiowa Community Center.


With his arrival,  Gary being greeted by many acquaintances and introduced to others that have participated in past play presentations, soon discovering his part in the play was the last to be filled.   Tot Babcock,  an elderly little lady was the director,  a charter member of Summer Theatre of Emporia State University,  having acted and directed many plays at the college level.  Members of the cast included many from Kiowa and Hardtner,  Kiowa Hospitals Dr. Marcia Drewry’s husband, David Worsdell.  Bob Sterling, the owner of Yur Place and the Sterling Barn catering service, in Hardtner,  Bob having the primary role played by Lionel Barrymore in the film production.



Other’s in the cast included Tommie Jo Hyde,  a clinic nurse who lived in Kiowa,  Lisa Wahl, a dispatcher for the Harper county sheriff’s department,  Bob Thomas, a rural mail carrier in Hardtner,  Gene Geist, an assistant professor of education at North Western Oklahoma State University in Alva and a member of the Borderline Board of Directors.  Also included in the cast was Bruce Bryan,  manager of tuckers farm store,  Donna Dyar,  a substitute school teacher and Krista Hill Pollack,  who would be playing  Gary’s wife Essie in his role as Ed,  plus others complimenting the cast.


The first rehearsal was an introduction to the play’s premise and an assembly of the full cast,  Dramatist Play Service script books were 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 rehearsals was having Bob Sterling in the cast,  his ownership of Yur Place restaurant and the Sterling Barn catering facility found him arriving for each rehearsal with boxes filled with morsels of sandwiches and snacks.



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.  Doris’s husband Ed Hermon, also an EMT on the ambulance service ,was the sound and lighting technician.  He and Gary  traversing to South Barber High School in Ed’s pickup 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.


The three act performance wasn’t without incident.  If a performer forgot or failed to give the correct 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 it,  enabling him to be prepared.  Behind the curtain off stage was Tot with the total script to cue a cast member if they had a lapse of remembrance.   The total on-stage cast numbered 19, with the 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 his wife’s Essie candies,  operate an antique  printing press,  play the xylophone so Essie , performed by Krista Hill Pollack whom had taken ballet, could leap and pirouette across the Stage.

The scheduled run of the play was for consecutive Saturday and Sunday performances,  with the final Sunday  a dinner theatre presentation,  all performances playing to a capacity audience.   At the conclusion of each presentation, a curtain call stage introduction of the performers,  followed  by the cast lining the seating exit to greet and be greeted by those in attendance.

Gary enjoying the experience of once again ascending a stage after a twenty year vacuity,  not exactly the musical foray as in years past  but a satisfying introduction to the endeavor of theatre.  The Border Line Theatre production of 1937 Pulitzer Prize Play, “You Can’t Take It With You”  was yet another consummating episode on a journey down the road of life.



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

February 6, 2016

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 of music, a 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 including the comestibles of the basket and outdoor night sky.  The evening providing Gary with 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 and the moisten wheat and alfalfa, all providing an ataractic ambiance journey.

Flash Cadillac with the Wichita Symphony

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.   The band 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 a floor level table, 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,  even to the concert musicians,  music wasn’t just 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 below the stage,  Gary and Di participating,  taking advantage of their down front  table.   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

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 and confirm 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 that 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 southeast to the Sac & Fox Indian casino at Stroud Oklahoma,  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 to 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 he 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 casino 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 they traversed back to Kiowa, concluding a very remarkable day.

Montana 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 spending the day when Bob made a startling statement,  “ I’m not returning to Kiowa”,  Gary saying okay, then Bob repeated it again adding the ever to not returning to Kiowa, 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.  Once in Kiowa, making sure he was not being watched, he decided to park the pickup across the street  from the park then stroll 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.

Prelude To Branson……..#250 (the 90’s)

February 4, 2016

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.

Branson………………….#251 (the 90’s)

February 2, 2016


Gary and his mother Betty having arrived in Branson,  the three hundred mile journey coming to a conclusion,  their first precept was to check in at the Quality Inn,  the hosting accommodations for their three nights lodging in this community of 6000.   Achieving their ambition,  the late afternoon still prevailing for an introspection drive to discover the compilation of this small bastion of American Music.



The first theatre was built in 1967 by the Presley family, featuring country stars  like Red Foley, Slim Whitman and the Sons of the Pioneers,  performing with the Presley Family Jubilee at their 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.



The Willson’s concluding an entreaty evening meal,  the two outbound for their first showcase presentation,  a 7:00  performance by Andy Williams at his acclaimed Moon River theatre.   The advent of the Theatre was inaugurated May 1st, 1992,  with Andy Williams being the first non-country entertainer to build a platform for performance in Branson.  The 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.


The Willson’s seated in the impressive 2000 capacity accommodation waiting with  Anticipation, Gary very much impressed as the curtain Opened.  Andy Williams welcoming the bristling attendance, and as was the custom in all Branson Show Arenas,  giving recognition 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.


Saturday afternoon,  the couple awaiting the 2:00 PM Remington Theaters production of Branson City Lights to Commence,  the two having returned from exploring Andy Williams Moon River argillaceous Location.  The Branson City Lights program at the Remington was unconventional,  a ceremonious ice extravaganza musical presentation.  the use of ice a preview of a new forum for Branson.  With the conclusion of the program,  the visitors prospecting the downtown memorabilia shops,  Gary purchasing a keepsake shirt embossed with the name Branson.




Dino Kartsonakis and a Capacity Audience

Dino Kartsonakis and a Capacity Audience

The evening endeavor at the Grand Palace approaching,  the structure built in 1992 at cost of 13 million dollars,  the Largest and most Luxurious Theatre in Branson,  seating over 4000.,    Gary was totally inculcated with the grandiose of the Grand Palace,  but had no knowledge of the skill of pianist Dino Kartsonakis except that some said he was a poor man’s Yonni and others asserting he was a Christian Liberace because of 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.


Gary on stage with Dino

Gary on stage with Dino








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 Nickle In”,  Gary on the left,  but soon found Dino exiting,  leaving him solo,  to play both upper and lower keyboard parts.


Gary left to play solo at the Grand Palace

Gary left to play solo at the Grand Palace

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.   On their short return journey to their place of abode, discovering a nearby  Ruby Tuesday bar and grill less than two blocks from the Quality Inn.   Gary’s Mother 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.


The Willson’s morning appetite being secured, the Quality Inn having room Coffee Makers, and provided pastries conveniently displayed on a table outside each building complex.  The two deciding to return to the Majestic Grand Palace to peregrinate the areas open to the public and experience its captivating aura.    The Branson Belle Showboat awaited, with a 11:00 cast off time for the Luncheon Dinner Cruise.



Boarding the Paddle-Wheeled Queen of Table Lake,  the Showboat was under way commencing their two-hour dinner cruise.   The reservation slips denoting the Willson’s seating,  a balcony dining provision looking down upon the prestigious stage,  the view enabling one to experience the ambiance of a By-Gone Era.  The sound of music filled the exposition dining room,  show tunes from Broadway,  music of past generations,  a compliment to the three coarse meal being served.   A final quest , Gary and his Mother Betty traversing to the upper deck atop the boat,  adjoining the Wheel House,  the two introducing themselves to the Captain.  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 afternoon calling,  the two arriving at Bobby Vinton’s Blue Velvet Theatre,  appropriately named.   entering the lobby one could not help but notice the décor.  the ceiling was flourished with clouds and cherubs, the carpet, the walls all in blue, one realizing that Bobby  savored the color that brought him to Stardom.   The stage 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 was extraordinary showman, his enthusiasm bursting forth, Gary Admiring his dedication for an afternoon performance.  The vocalizing of the song 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 air,  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 of the Willson’s enjoying every minute of it.




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 Theatre Production of the song was something out of the Twilight Zone,  a hologram machine,  transported images of spiders and snakes out into the audience,  Gary never having experience an event with such visual reality.   Spiders and Snakes floated right before one’s eyes,  finding most members of the audience reaching out,  trying to grasp the visionary perception.   The country venue of 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.


The morning found Gary and his mother bidding a forlorn adieu to Branson,  Gary directing the Skylark northwest to intercept interstate 44 and the Will Rogers Turnpike,  continuing a southwesterly journey to Tulsa,  a lunch stop, then apprehending the Turner Turnpike to Oklahoma City.   Gary and his mother arriving at the home of his daughter and son in-law Chris and Marlo Denton.  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 .)