Thursday, October 15, 2015


Mom has always wanted to go for a ride in a hot air balloon, and Tuesday she finally did it!  It is kind of expensive to buy a ticket for a balloon ride, and Mom wants me to tell everybody that she bought the ticket back when she actually had a part-time job and was making a little money.  Also, she used a Groupon.  The company that does the balloon rides is called Old World Balloonery.  There are probably some other companies around here, but that was the closest one, so that's the one Mom used.

Mom's group of balloonists.  The pilot (in front) took this selfie.
Mom is in the back, with the blue shirt.
After Mom got her ticket, she didn't make a reservation right away because she was sort of savoring the fact that she had the ticket.  And then when she did make a reservation, she kept getting rescheduled because there was too much wind or whatever.  She got rescheduled 5 times, but finally she got to fly on Tuesday.  It's a good thing she was able to go then because her ticket was supposed to expire on November 1.

Anyhow, the way the ride went was that everybody met at the Johnson County Executive Airport, which is a place for small, private planes.  Then they all got in a van and drove about 10 minutes to where the balloon was going to be launched.  And the place chosen for the launch turned out to be near The Great Mall of the Great Plains, which used to be a very busy mall where lots of people went to shop.  But now it is just a ghost mall, with only Burlington Coat Factory still open.

So in a field near the mall, the balloon got blown up and launched.  First, the crew unrolled the balloon and opened it up.  Then they started some fans so that it would get filled with air.

After that, they turned on the hot air burner, which made the balloon start wanting to go up.  Then all the passengers had to climb into the basket one by one, very quickly, when the pilot told them to.  There are holes in the side of the basket where you put your feet to climb, but Mom said it was kind of hard for people with short legs, like herself.

When everybody was in and situated so that the weight was mostly even, the crew unfastened the balloon, and it took off.  It was lots smoother than taking off in an airplane, or at least that's what Mom told me.  The only part she didn't like was how noisy the burner was.  Almost every time it came on, Mom jumped because she was busy looking at the scenery, and she didn't expect it.  Also, it was hot being so close to the burner, but there was no way to get farther away from it.  The balloon had 6 passengers plus the pilot, which was all it would hold, so you just had to stand still in one place.

The scenery in the area where the balloon was flying was not really very special.  If you looked very hard, you could see downtown Kansas City, but mostly all you could see was an industrial part of Olathe.

First they flew over The Great Mall of the Great Plains.  I think it is a shame this mall has become so abandoned and will probably be torn down, because its name is lots of fun to say.

Another thing they saw was a train.

At Olathe South High School, football practice was going on.

The highest the balloon went was 2,200 feet.  It flew very slowly, or that's what Mom said it felt like. After 45 minutes, they finally got back to the airport where they had started from in the van.  As they started getting closer to the ground, they went over a bunch of houses, and all the dogs were barking. Mom was pretty sure they were barking at the balloon and at the sound of the burners.

When they landed, the basket hit the ground and bounced several times.  Everybody had to hold on in two places and keep their knees bent.  And even when they did that, they all piled into each other.  The ground crew grabbed the basket and held it down while the passengers climbed out.  As each person got out, he or she had to help hold the basket down.  Finally, as the air in the balloon started cooling down, it gradually collapsed.

While the crew were getting the air out of the balloon and rolling it up, the balloonists had champagne, crackers and cheese, and chips and salsa.  It seems to be a tradition to have champagne to celebrate a person's first balloon ride.  Personally, I would have been more interested in the cheese than in the champagne.

Mom did not stay a long time to chat because she had started feeling guilty -- finally! -- about leaving all of us dogs and cats at home with no supper.  By the time she got back here, it was TWO HOURS past our supper time!

I thought maybe I should have got to go on the balloon ride, but Mom said I wouldn't have liked it because of the hot, noisy burner.  Also, I might have fallen out of one of those holes that people use to climb in and out of the basket.  Well, I wouldn't want that to happen, so I've decided it was better just to stay home and have a late supper!

Monday, October 12, 2015


The official name for this event was The Louisiana Purchase Exposition, but lots of people just called it the World's Fair, probably because that was an easier name to remember.  The Fair was meant as a celebration of the centennial of the 1803 Louisiana Purchase, but it got delayed a year to allow more states and countries to participate.  The opening date of the Fair was April 30, 1904, and it closed on December 1 of the same year.  During that time, 19,694,855 people attended.

The architect who designed the master plan of 1,200 acre site was George Kessler.  The Fair was located in what is now Forest Park and the campus of Washington University.  It was the largest exhibition up to that point, with over 1,500 buildings and 75 miles of roads and walkways.  Just the Palace of Agriculture by itself took up about 20 acres of land.  People said you needed a whole week just to go through the whole fair and glance at everything quickly.  Luckily, there were season passes for people who could come back several times during the Fair.

Aerial view poster detail

The fairground was meant to represent America's expansion westward since the Louisiana Purchase, along with the country's cultural and economic progress.  All the latest achievements in technology, fine arts, manufacturing, science, civics, foreign policy, and education were represented.

Postcard showing Festival Hall

Sixty-two foreign nations had exhibits in the Fair, along with the United States government and 43 of the 45 states that were in the union back then.  There was also a long arcade called "The Pike." This was considered the carnival part of the Fair, and it included amusements such as contortionists, reenactments of the Boer War, babies in incubators, the Dancing Girls of Madrid, and Jim Key the Educated Horse.

The Pike

Another popular feature of the Fair was the Observation Wheel, which was 265 feet tall and offered an excellent aerial view of the entire Exposition.

Observation Wheel

Most of the buildings created for the Exposition were meant to be temporary and to last only a year or two, at the most.  They consisted of a wood frame covered with something called "staff," which was a mix of plaster of Paris and hemp fibers.  As buildings deteriorated during the months of the Fair, they had to be patched.

Entrance to the exhibit "Creation" on the Pike, a spectacle portraying the first  6 days
in the Book of Genesis.  This exhibit was dismantled and moved to Coney Island's
Dreamland amusement park at the end of the fair.

A few structures were built to last.  For example, the Palace of Fine Arts now serves as the home of the St. Louis Art Museum.  The Fair's Administration Building became Brookings Hall, and is part of the campus of Washington University.

The St. Louis Art Museum, formerly the World's Fair Palace of Fine Arts

A building called Festival Hall, which was designed for large musical pageants, contained a pipe organ that was the largest in the world at that time.  After the Fair, it was placed in storage, and eventually bought by John Wanamaker for his Wanamaker's Store in Philadelphia.  The bronze eagle at the store also came from the Fair.  Later on, Wanamaker's became a Lord & Taylor store, and more recently, Macy's.

Wanamaker organ; photo uploaded by Megodenas, Wikipedia
There are claims that several new foods were invented and first sold at the Fair.  These include the waffle-style ice-cream cone, hamburgers, hot dogs, peanut butter, iced tea, and cotton candy.  It is more likely that these foods were already known, and that they just became more popular because of the Fair.  On the other hand, Dr. Pepper and Puffed Wheat really were first introduced at the Exposition.

The Missouri State Building burned down in November,
a couple of weeks before the Fair was scheduled to close.  It was not rebuilt.

After the Spanish-American War, the United States had acquired several new territories, including Guam, the Philippines, and Puerto Rico.  Some natives from these areas were brought to the Fair to be on display, as were other dark-skinned people such as Apaches from the Southwest U.S. and Pygmies from Africa.  By contrast, the Japanese pavilion promoted the idea of an exotic culture that was modern, even though unfamiliar to the Western world.

Over 1000 Filipinos were coerced into leaving their homes so they
could be put on display at the Fair.  The Filipinos were shown in various stages
of "cultural revolution" from primitive tribesmen to more "civilized" city-goers.

John Philip Sousa's band performed on opening day and several times during the Fair.  Other famous visitors included Thomas Edison, Theodore Roosevelt, Helen Keller, T.S. Eliot, and Jack Daniel, whose whiskey won the Fair's Gold Medal for the best whiskey in the world.  Novelist Kate Chopin attended the Fair on a hot day in August, suffered a brain hemorrhage, and died two days later.

Postcard of the Palace of Education

Mom's grandfather, Charles Brooks, went to the Fair when he was 18 years old.  My mom grew up with some souvenirs that he brought back from St. Louis, but the only one she has now is an Indian head penny.

I think I would have liked going to the World's Fair, especially if I could have a hamburger or a hot dog there.  They probably didn't allow dogs, though.  Most fun places don't.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015


Mom likes old signs, and sometimes she takes pictures of them.  She is getting a big collection of these pictures, and they are cluttering up our computer, so maybe it is time I put some of them in a blog.

This is a sign we see often because it is on a street very close to us.  The sign is about a flea market and antique shop, but it's hard to read because it is such an old sign.  The flea market is only open on weekends, and there aren't very many vendors there now.  The antiques part is open every day except Monday.  Sometimes Mom goes there to shop for antiques.  The man who owns the place likes to bring his dog to work with him.  The dog is a Boston Terrier named Boston.

This sign is on a business close to the Humane Society.  We don't know why it says "Good morning!" in German.  "Bell" does not seem like a German name, but what do we know?

Here are some other signs near the Humane Society:

Here's a license plate holder that is pretty funny.

This one is not exactly a sign.  It was made by a museum visitor on a magnetic board when Mom was working there.  We are not sure if it is a philosophical statement or if it is a threat.

Here's a sign about popcorn and Coca Cola.

This is a dry cleaning place on Shawnee Mission Parkway.

And finally, this sign was in a shop in a flea market in the West Bottoms.  It shows some places in New Mexico that you might want to visit.