June 20, 2014

100 Years Ago at Fairmount Park

 From the book “Kansas City’s Fairmount Park” by John M. Olinskey

   Improvements had been made at the park in 1914, like a canvas cover over part of the beach to create some artificial shade.  The bathing beach was enlarged and re-sanded again, and thousands of new bathing suits were available.  A pavilion was built adjacent to the beach where ladies could get their hair dried and combed by pros. 

   Tubs of iced spring water and new picnic tables dotted the picnic area.  A large stage was built in the German café, and higher-class acts were promised.

   The first act to try and fulfill that promise was “Miss Myrtie Howard and her International Trio in Society and Novelty Dances,” singers of the latest hits and dancers of the latest dances.

     The opening day crowd at Fairmount Park numbered 10,000.  A special gate had been added to the entrance so autos could now enter like at a drive-in theater, at 10 cents a head.

   Prizes were given away every Wednesday in the Dance Pavilion, with a diamond ring for the lady and a gold stick-pin for the gentleman who could most gracefully interpret the many new dances of Myrtie Howard and her trio.

     Myrtie was making a great impression on the park crowds.  During the band’s 4 week stay, they had changed the way people in Kansas City danced, all now doing the latest dances.

   Myrtie’s last day was a Sunday, June 7.  Attendance was 20,000, the largest crowd so far this season.  2,500 people went swimming.  Lines were long at concessions, with some people just giving up. 250 autos parked practically anywhere they wanted. 

   The new feature in the German Café was A Night in Old Heidelberg, a musical with seven women and five men.  Altitude balloon racing, diving contests, and free vaudeville on the open-air stage provided entertainment to park guests.

   For the second year Montgomery Ward employees held their picnic at Fairmount and 20,000 employees along with their families, friends, and moochers turned out. Over $5,000 was spent on this year’s picnic. Next up were the Railway Passenger Agents and Proctor and Gamble company picnics.

   The Fourth of July the park was so crowded people were turned away at the Dance Pavilion and for the first time that year all the boats and bathing suits were rented out.  A fireworks display that night was called “The Earth on Fire.”
 To be continued…

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