As women, we are uniquely made. There are many roles in life that we fill. We start out as daughters, possibly sisters, and friends. May become a wife and mother. But that is only a small fraction of our roles. We are citizens, firefighters, nurses, doctors, military members, church members, leaders, and teachers. Oh, how I could ramble with titles and duties!

We are a force to be recognized. Part of our heritage as women is that we have had to demand to be accepted as equal. American history shows that females were considered possessions. Even as adults they could not own property or obtain a legal hearing. Voting in the past? That story has been well told.

Back in the 1970s when I went to purchase a vehicle, my dad was with me. Completing the paperwork, the salesmen asked whose name it was going in. I started spelling my name and he stopped, looked at my dad who told him, it was my car, I was buying it, therefore it went in my name. In the 1990s, my husband and I were purchasing a vehicle. I am a much better negotiator, so I was the one talking. After a back-and-forth conversation, the agent looked at my husband and wanted to know if the “contract talk” was going to start. We left.

Ladies, we are unique. We are smart. We are strong. Can you imagine being Mary the mother of Jesus? First, she was chosen to become pregnant young, and unwed. You know there was a lot of gossiping to endure. Then she had to travel a great distance while pregnant by camel. Oh, ugh! Lastly, she watched while her child was scourged, beaten, and crucified. What a pair of shoes to follow in life. How her heart ached and yet she survived! Mary showed us that we can endure great burdens in life.

It may take another century or more before old ways of thinking fall away. Do not be discouraged. Show your class. Walk away when needed. Stand your ground when you should. Act like the lady that you were born to be. Allow a gentleman to open a door for you or carry something heavy. Just because you can do it yourself, do not take that blessing away from the other person.

Remember my sisters, you were created from a rib of Adam as shown in Genesis 2:21-23. You are a daughter of the King. So, even if your crown gets a bit crooked in your toils, reach over and straighten your sisters'. She might just need a helping hand with her burden. We are here to lift up one another.

Dana Rogers-Lovelace is Pleasant Hill’s Citizen of the Year. I spent some time at the animal shelter with her so I could find out more about her job, her life, and her acts of volunteerism. 

Before interviewing Dana, I had seen her name numerous times in group pages on social media, telling people where she would be collecting money for a family, items for an organization, or why she would be hanging outside Price Chopper on Saturday. She has organized, gathered, and helped though out the community. Meeting the woman behind the posts was so much fun and I enjoyed getting to ask her some questions.

Dana moved to Pleasant Hill when she was 10. She graduated from PHHS in 1991. She went on to have three daughters and now has two grandsons. In June of 2018, she became Pleasant Hill’s Animal Control Officer. “It was a total accident that I ended up with the job,” she said, “it was the only time as an adult that I had quit a job without having another one lined up. A friend told me about the opening, and I applied. When I got the interview, I thought it was a courtesy. I wore flip flops, leggings and an I heart NY shirt! When they called back and offered me an interview with the police chief, I realized they were serious.”  

When asked what she loves most about her job, Dana tells me that she loves the dogs the best. Last year she was able to return 127 dogs to their families and give 44 a new home. She noted that the best thing you can do for your dog is having a tag with an accurate address and phone number. “I want to take them home. I don’t want to bring them to the shelter.” Having the correct information easily available makes that possible. 

She began working at the shelter and soon realized that the needs were great. The dogs had beds and bowls, but she needed towels, bedding, wire cages and more. Dana reached out for help online and has since had a steady stream of what she needs delivered to the shelter. “I haven’t bought any dog food, it’s all donated. In 2020, all the dogs we had spayed and neutered were paid for by people leaving money in our account at the (Pleasant Hill Animal) clinic.” After seeing such a huge turnout for her shelter, she realized she could help others in the same way.

Dana started by picking nonprofit organizations and finding out what they needed. Next, she would make calls, put out messages on social networks, and use her time to collect whatever it was that they needed. 

In 2020, Dana expanded her volunteer efforts by helping people in tragedy. She learned about the passing of Gabe Smith from the people at VFW. Then she found out that four days before the funeral, the catering company backed out. Dana went into action making calls and finding food, supplies, and help for the family. “I told some friends that we were serving food. Sometimes I drag people in to help me,” she recalled with a laugh.

Since then, Dana has been found outside of Price Chopper with her table and her sign, collecting money for other people who are in need. “People want to help.” she says. “I’ve spent maybe 5 dollars total on everything I’ve done; it costs me nothing but time. I’ve got nothing but time. It’s what you’re supposed to do.” 

When the topic switched to the Citizen of the Year award, Dana said that there are so many other people out there who deserve it. “What I do is easy,” she said, “so many more people do it every day, for free, and aren’t recognized.” 

I asked her how to start volunteering. I know that more people want to help like she does. She said “It’s not hard, just start asking. Social media is huge. Start making calls. Find places that need donations. Drop off cookies at the police station or fire station. Sometimes it makes people feel good just to be noticed.” 

Speaking of volunteers, the shelter uses plenty of them. In the summer of 2019, a shelter in Lexington flooded. She took in some of their dogs. With 9 being in the shelter, she needed some help and started offering National Honor Society members community service hours for volunteering. Soon thereafter, more people wanted to help so she expanded it, letting anyone come in and help that wanted to. It’s a great way to get the community service hours a lot of teens need. 

I really enjoyed getting to know Dana and meeting the woman behind all the good deeds. I realize that she thinks that what she is doing is small, but small things add up to be big deals. I am sure that every organization and family she has helped is grateful, and she really is a wonderful asset to our community.

The last thing I want to do is make sure that everyone knows that there are three good dogs up for adoption at the shelter. If interested in meeting any one of these dogs, call Dana:

Kyle

Kyle is approximately 3-4 years old. He loves all the volunteers at the shelter! He’s very playful and thinks he’s a big lapdog. He does not like cats. He is still a little underweight, but they are working on fixing that at the shelter. 

Zack

Zack is approximately 2 years old. He gets along with some dogs. He can be skittish at times and may have been previously abused. He is house trained and energetic. He just loves to be loved. He doesn’t, however, get along with cats. 

Scarlet

Age unknown. Scarlet was dumped in our city in August of 2020. She was adopted out in December, but brought back a few weeks ago. She growled at her female owner in a show of dominance. As Scarlet is a big girl, it was very intimidating even though she never attempted to bite. Scarlet needs someone who won't put up with her shenanigans! She is house trained and generally, very sweet. She would love a fence to guard. She’s great with cats and other small animals, and may do well with other dogs if she has the proper introduction.

All these dogs are spayed or neutered. They are also all fully vaccinated! Let’s see if we can find them somewhere permanent to live!

On March 4, 2021, long-time Strasburg area resident Marjorie Dillon will turn 100 years old. Her daughter Judy was wonderful enough to share about this amazing woman and her 100 years of life.   

Marjorie McMillan was born on March 4, 1921. She lived with her grandparents in the Greenwood area for the first part of her life. She later settled in East Lynne with her mother and step-father where Marjorie graduated from high school at the top of her class. 

In 1939, she married Garland Dillon. Their daughter told me the story of how they met. Mr. Dillon had seen Mrs. Dillon, likely at a basketball game, and decided he liked her. One day, he showed up on her porch and asked her out. She had to run up the railroad tracks to ask her father for permission.  They went out (with her father’s permission) and eventually, things progressed to marriage. “It was a funny story, how they got married,” Judy said before telling the story of their wedding. Mr. Dillon’s sister and her fiance were attending school in Warrensburg and had some time off. They wanted to use this time to get married. Garland and Marjorie decided to just get married at the same time. They got married in the preacher’s home, after waiting for him to come in from an auction. It was a short ceremony that lead to a long marriage. After living a short time in western Kansas, they returned to Missouri and settled on a farm south of Strasburg. They raised their two children on this farm and spent 58 years together before Mr. Dillon passed in 1997. She remained on the family farm after his death.

Mrs. Dillon’s daughter said that living through the depression taught her mother the value of living modestly and being frugal.  Her motto has been that of Sam Walton who said "Use it up, wear it out, fix it up, make do or do without." 

When remembering her childhood with her mother, Judy remembers that her mother was very talented. She was very involved in the community. She remembers most, however, that her mother “Loved people, loved animals, loved babies. She was just very loving. She still is.”                  

When asked on her 99th birthday what she was most proud of Mrs. Dillon said, "That I know Jesus."

As she approaches her 100th year, Mrs. Dillon says the legacy she leaves is her poetry. She is still able to quote the poems from memory. Two books of her poetry have been printed to give to family and friends.  She was kind enough to share the following two with us: 

 On Getting Old
When you get old, and your hair turns gray,
And your memory tends to fade away,
When you want to run, but your steps are slow, 
And the folks you meet, you no longer know,
Just chalk it up to old age, my friend,
You know we're drawing to the end
Of Life on this old world we've known,
We're looking toward our heavenly home.
No need to worry, stew or fret,
The best to come, hasn't come yet.
So trust in God, and let Him lead,
I know He'll meet your every need.
For He's met mine, and I know it's true,
God really does love me and you.

Getting Old
I'm getting old, as you can see, 
I'm not the gal I used to be.
My hearings bad, my eyesight too,
Forgive me if I don't know you.
But I'm thankful just the same, 
Though I can't recall your name.
My life's been full, all these years,
Filled with joys, and some tears.

I'm looking forward to the day, 
When Jesus comes, takes me away
To That blissful, peaceful shore,
Where I will live forevermore. 

 When thinking about all the changes she has seen in 100 years, it’s mind-blowing. Eighteen presidents have taken office (starting with Harding on her birthday), wars were fought, man walked on the moon, and technology has changed the world. Celebrating 100 years of life is a feat most of us will never accomplish. Hopefully, she gets to add many more candles to the cake in future. 

 

For those wishing to send birthday greeting, cards may be sent in care of Mrs. Marjorie Dillon

1500 SW 24th St.
Blue Springs, MO
64015

As of late February, a familiar town favorite has a new, ambitious owner with a fresh vision!

Robyn and Mike Hamilton, Flowers & Friends owners, gave fair warning to customers they would be retiring, but when December 24 arrived and they closed the doors of their beloved 30+ year family business one last time, reality really sank in. A town favorite was now an empty shell at 1208 N. 7 Highway, leaving Pleasant Hill with only memories of the services provided. Mike and Robyn had never met a stranger; they took care of their town. They were one of the first to own the building, which was reportedly built in approximately 1984. (Some long-time locals will recall that Flowers & Friends originally started across 7 Hwy at Ferguson’s Greenhouse.)

Meanwhile, a Lee’s Summit resident with a creative hand had recently been accepted to the floral program at Johnson County Community College. Rachel Talkington was ready for something to fill the new gap since her three children (Evelyn age 10, Reid age 8, and Norah age 5) were all of school age. Rachel and her husband of 12 years, Alan, had been in discussion about future plans. Rachel had majored in Education but also took classes in Flora Culture and Greenhouse Management during her years at Missouri State University and the University of Central Missouri. Her love for gardening, coupled with her desire to make others happy, was unknowingly priming her for her next life endeavor.

Rachel is no stranger to Pleasant Hill. She and Alan both attended K-12 in the Pleasant Hill School District, and she explains that most of her family live in Pleasant Hill. Although her kids go to school in Lee’s Summit, they are involved in P.H. activities to include Pleasant Hill Dance Academy (owner Richelle Sauceda) and Pleasant Hill Martial Arts (owner Merle Taylor). When Rachel heard about Flowers and Friends closing, she felt like the timing and location were a perfect fit. Ironically, Mike and Robyn Hamilton had managed the flowers for the Talkington’s wedding. Rachel loathed the idea that Pleasant Hill would not have their own floral shop. On February 23, 2021, Rachel Talkington, spurred on by her husband, became the sole owner of Pleasant Hill's Flowers & Friends. She states she has no intention of changing its name or phone number. Her vision is a boutique experience with a light, fresh, and airy feel. She intends eventually to offer a few classes, have a sit-down area for wedding consultations, and sell giftable items alongside florals. The hope is to stay competitive, yet remain under the bigger florists’ prices. She will take pre-orders for Mother’s Day, be at the Farmer’s Market this summer with fresh-cut flowers and other fun merchandise, and have her website up and running for online orders - providing all goes as planned. 

“Pleasant Hill has given us a lot and our families a lot in our lives; it feels really nice to give back and provide a service. It was a nice place to grow up,” says an easy-going, content-looking Rachel Talkington. She smiles thoughtfully and adds, “Besides, who isn’t happy to get flowers?”

Rachel anticipates an opening around the first week in April, but still will likely need to close her shop a couple of days out of the week in order to take classes.  Stay tuned for the ribbon-cutting!

 

 

Rachel Talkington - New Owner of Flowers and Friends
Picture by Cheryl 

Random Acts of Kindness Week has been delineated as February 14-20, bringing to mind immediately a Pleasant Hill resident well known to many:  Mr. Jim D. Whistle.  
Jim and Viki Whistle enjoyed 18 years of wonderful marriage together and were blessed with a blended family consisting of 11 offspring and numerous grandchildren, but that never prevented this hard-working man from being a great provider for all of his family members while still finding countless ways to help others. Jim was described as a man of generosity, a very hard worker who gave 110% to those who entrusted him, a good provider, and a man of God.  He had the eye to notice random folks in need and never hesitated to help out, even when nobody was aware he was doing so. Never did he do such acts of kindness for the recognition, and actually preferred to be the silent game-changer for the less fortunate.
 
Whistle was not a particularly emotionally 'mushy' guy, but as Pastor James Stanfield-Myers of the United Methodist Church reflects, "When I think of Jim Whistle, I think about the bar on the sitcom 'Cheers.' He was the kind of guy that knew everyone's name, and if he hassled you, he liked you." This idea could be expanded by saying his demeanor was relaxed, and he had a way of relaxing those around him by joking around. Whistle came to the Methodist Church in town in approximately 1992 and remained a member thereafter.  His original roots were in Arkansas, and he spent time as a young adult schooling in Saint Louis. He joined the Shriners and was a Mason for a period of time, but ultimately he was more of an independent self-made man who just lived his life to help others. He was raised by his grandparents, and Viki reflects that by age 9, her later-to-be husband was already working a man's job and was taught good, strong work ethics the hard way. He was not without challenges during his lifetime, and he knew what it was to have to start over from the bottom and work one's way up.

Whistle helped fund the Community Life Center expansion several years ago at the Pleasant Hill United Methodist Church, and he made sure a needed church bus was located and paid for.  It was not until after Whistle passed of metastatic cancer that the bus displayed, "Always on a ride with Jim Whistle." He would never have needed the publicity and chose to do anonymous acts of kindness, but the sentiment on the bus was timely. His wife Viki explains it was important to them as a couple that the youth were reached in setting up a strong faith foundation, starting in young years. They often contributed to youth projects. He found it impossible to pass up those who were asking for donations at Wal-Mart and similar businesses.  He often would leave waitresses who seemed to suffer a difficult plight an extra-large tip. He sponsored countless ball teams, and if there was a struggling widow, Whistle's heartstrings were tugged. Viki elaborated, "We would not buy each other things, but rather would give to those experiencing struggles and hardships. There was nothing we really needed, so instead of wasting money on unnecessary items, we would sponsor a family."  Holidays were fulfilling; their hearts were full by giving, and giving they did! She recalls some kids needing gas money for their RV camper and Jim tucked money into their palms.  At a restaurant truck stop one day, he gave a stranger a hundred dollar bill. Whistle gave with a free hand and offered opportunities to the less fortunate. He tried to pull people into the church, and he quietly prayed for many. It was not until her husband passed that Vicky learned he had purchased crafts for Story Time at the Pleasant Hill Library; this was only one of Whistle's silent deeds. His way was not to mention who he was helping; his rewards surely came after his passing. As a matter of fact, this article could not have been published during Whistle's lifetime due to his humble nature. 
 
Whistle loved his family and he took great pleasure in providing for them.  It must have been hard for him to leave his beloved wife and children behind after a four-year battle, ending in the rapid spreading (metastasis) of his cancer. Viki remembers a heartbreaking time when she had to drop him off at St. Luke's on the Plaza in the midst of Covid, while riots were taking place in the neighboring areas, and how she was unable to advocate for him as a patient (due to visitor restrictions) despite knowing he needed things. She could not see him for 30 days of hospitalization; her husband only came home for a very few days before his passing on June 16, 2020.  Only Jim and his Lord know all the lives he touched over his years. Viki is grateful for some final rides together on their property on his Kubota utility vehicle while her husband still had the strength. 
 
Many know Jim Whistle through his concrete company here in Pleasant Hill, Whistle Redi-Mix, Inc. His three sons are still running the business (his twin boys and a third son, Michael). Leading by example, Whistle has undoubtedly handed down some amazing qualities to his children and beyond, and earned the respect of his little farming community town that he so grew to love.
Thank you, Viki Whistle, for sharing sensitive and personal information that was summoned by this writer in order to give your husband a Random Acts of Kindness tribute that is so deserved.  
 

Downtown Pleasant Hill has seen a lot of new faces in the past year. The newest kid on the block is artist and owner Brian Pilachowski of Press Monkey Studio. Press Monkey Studio is a retail store featuring clothing with custom designs by Brian. He recently moved from doing work out of his garage to his store front at 122 South 1st Street, downtown.

The large space is stunning, filled with colorful clothes and a vintage vibe. An antique cash register sits on the counter. Stairs lead to tables above that you can peek at by looking up. Somehow, the design has kept the historical feeling of the building while making it look fresh and exciting. 

Brian (who has a day job with Hallmark) got started with screen printing about 5 years ago. He had taken some classes on printing in college, so he decided to buy his own equipment. When the Royals won the World Series, he made some custom shirts for the achievement, and they sold well. The business was born. 

“I wanted to stay local,” he says when asked about why he decided to buy the building and run a retail shop from it. “It’s a cool downtown and I wanted to be part of it.”

“Everything I make here is custom,” Brian noted, “I design and print it all here.” He does spirit wear, custom event wear, even business wear.

Brian has some big plans for his space in the upcoming months. The biggest addition will be a coffee service starting as early as April. He will have space upstairs of the retail area for people to hang out, drink coffee, and even do a little work. “Each booth has its own outlet,” he shared when talking about how it would be nice for people to have a place to go, especially those of us who are working from our computers these days. 

In addition to the coffee and clothing, Brian is looking forward to bringing in work from other local artists to his store. These will be handmade gifts and other items made by other artists he knows. 

Brian and his family moved to Pleasant Hill two years ago from Lee's Summit, although he is originally from Pennsylvania. They have three daughters they are raising in town, two of whom are students in the Pleasant Hill School District.

Personally, I am extremely excited to see even more new business downtown. I cannot wait to see what the future holds for Brian and his art. Most of all, I’m excited for some delicious coffee! Be sure to check out Press Monkey Studio next time you’re downtown.

 

Press Monkey Studio Owner/Artist Brian Pilachowski and Family

With Valentine’s Day being right around the corner, love is in the air. For Doris and Leroy Elkins of Raymore, love has been in the air for almost 70 years. I sat down with them this week so they could share with our readers the secret to their long and happy marriage. 

Doris and Leroy met in high school. “When we met, he was dating my friend. I thought he was obnoxious. He asked me out three times before I said yes. Best yes I ever said.” she says. Leroy said that his baseball boys told him to ask her just “one more time” and she would have to say yes. Their first date was after a basketball game, going with friends to eat. 

Doris and Leroy didn’t have a traditional wedding. Right after his graduation in 1951, he was drafted into the military. They talked Doris’s parents into letting them get married before he left. They agreed to let them, as long as she finished school. Doris had just turned 16.  On November 23, 1951, they were married at the courthouse in Bentonville, Arkansas. Eight months later, Leroy was sent to Japan. He was away for 18 months. “I wrote him a letter every day. I still know his serial number.” Doris says, remembering their time apart. 

They would go on to have two sons, seven grandchildren and eighteen great-grandchildren.

I asked them what they liked best about each other after all these years. Leroy said “Her. Everything about her. Her cooking. Just her.” Her answer was, “He’s a real support.” 

Doris’s advice for newlyweds was to make sure you respect each other and always have love. When asked how to have a long and happy marriage, Leroy said “Always say yes!” and Doris said that you just have to work at it.

Whatever the secret is, these two seem to have it. Being married for almost 70 years is an accomplishment, especially these days. I hope these love birds  have many more wonderful years together

 BY, TINA JOHNSON 

Bob and Donna Crawford, both born and raised in Pleasant Hill are celebrating 60 years of wedded bliss on June 17.  Their love story began when Bob and Donna shared a ride on a carpool to Kansas City. The couple has two children and now has a total of eight grandchildren. Bob served in the Navy and retired from a career with the Lee’s Summit Gas Company. Donna retired as a secretary of the Pleasant Hill School District. The happy couple is enjoying retirement and community involvement. They are members of The United Methodist Church in Pleasant Hill. Donna is very talented and loves to paint scenic pictures. Bob serves in the Local VFW #3118 in the color guard and is a member of the Masonic Lodge. Bob is most proud of serving on the honor guard for veterans' funerals. I spoke with the couple's daughter Missy. She says that she admires her parents' relationship and their love and commitment to each other and family. In this day and age, it is refreshing to see lifelong dedication and commitment in a relationship. She went on to talk about how her mom likes to go shopping and her dad is the ever-so-patient chauffeur. They love to spend time together. One of Missy's fondest memories from her childhood was watching her parents having fun dancing the jitterbug. Family, friends, and neighbors are invited to participate in Bob and Donna’s 60th wedding anniversary by showering the couple with cards. Please send cards to: 720 Cedar Street, Pleasant Hill, MO 64080. Happy 60th Anniversary Bob and Donna Crawford!  
 

Hannah Gibbs of Harrisonville is among the candidates in the running for Southwest Baptist University’s Mr. and Miss Southwest Pageant, a tradition annually honoring one male and one female student. The event takes place this year at 7 p.m. Friday, March 5, in Pike Auditorium on the SBU campus.

Eight candidates are nominated from the junior class by SBU faculty and staff and voted upon by the student body to select a pair of students to represent the Bearcat family for the next year. The voting will take place by text message during the pageant, which will include opportunities to learn more about the candidates through introductory videos, talent presentations, and question-and-answer sessions.

Hannah, daughter of Audrey and Shawn Gibbs, is an intercultural studies major. Her plans after graduation are to work in the mission field, possibly with unreached people groups, working on translating the Bible into new languages.

The beginnings of the “Miss Southwest” pageant date back to the 1930s, with “Mr. Southwest” being added in 1963. The pageant is part of Bearcat Days, the two-day visit event in which admitted students considering SBU attendance are hosted on campus.

Admission to the pageant is free and open to the public with masks and social distancing required under the current recommendations of the local health department. The pageant also will be available via livestream at: www.SBUniv.info/MMSW21. For more information about Mr. and Miss Southwest, please contact Director of Student Leadership and Engagement, Dr. Nathan Penland at (417) 328-1828 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

When friends start talking, childhood memories sometimes break the surface and come back to life as though they happened yesterday.  One social media post about the ginormous Santa Claus that proudly stood near 227 St. and MO 7 Highway led to countless recollections of a magical childhood place known as Christmas Tree Lane.

Apparently, Christmas Tree Lane started as a hobby tree farm (on 66 2/3 acres north of Harrisonville) owned and operated by Oscar Glenn and Genie (Genevieve Sumner) Urquhart in 1957. They began to offer creative train rides for the kids by using lawnmowers to pull four trailers hooked together. Cars eventually lined the lane all the way to the highway, and it became one of the nation’s largest choose-and-cut Christmas tree plantations, according to Rodney Christesen. He recalls about Christmas Tree Lane, “Families wanted to cut their own trees, and there were thousands to choose from. The southside was planted in a tree cross in 1957. A haunted forest offered excitement during Halloween.”  Christmas Tree Lane became landmarked by a steel giant structure made in the spirit of a child’s dream Santa - soon to be a roadside delight, arriving from Wisconsin according to the memory of locals.  Christesen tells about Santa’s difficult commute, remembering that Santa had to be cut in parts and torch-welded back together once at the tree farm because the silver bridge on 7 highway (now known as the green bridge) was too small to allow passage of the Incredible Claus! 

Christmas Tree Farm provided local employment for many young adults. Janice Tuttle remembers trimming the Christmas trees during her high school summers with kind and caring owner, Genie. Wearing protective long-sleeved shirts, they began at daybreak and quit around 1:00 pm to avoid the worst heat of the day. Oscar, she recalls, had served as a ship commander in the US Navy.  When Oscar Urquhart passed, an Armed Forces fly-over in San Diego was activated in his honor; he had served nearly 30 years in the U.S. Navy as Commander of “Mustang.”  Burl and Mary Gentry took over the tree farm to carry on the family tradition, but not without some family drama following the death of the grandparents.

Tom Meads of Holden, MO says, “I remember as a kid, it (the Christmas Tree Lane Santa) could be seen from 7 Hwy. Probably my first memories of it would be around 1977-1978.”  Mickey Meads Collins adds, “On our way to Harrisonville Mom would say, ‘Look through the tops of the trees and see if you see Santa.’ You had to look fast; sometimes you could catch a glimpse and sometimes you didn’t. The good ole days!”   

And not everyone can claim to have ridden their horse through Santa’s legs like Jill Ginavan can! 

Growing up on Christmas Tree Lane, Susi Porter Long has fond memories of the owner of the tree farm donning Santa Claus apparel and delivering presents to her family one Christmas when they were suffering a bout with chickenpox. Christmas Tree Farm brought joy and warmth to the community in a multitude of forms. 

Bill Wehmer remembers field trips from the elementary school in Lee’s Summit to Christmas Tree Lane. The tree farm was described as a fabulous place that brought folks in from miles away to cut their trees, drink hot chocolate, enjoy Christmas carolers, and hop on hayrides for some country livin’ fun.

However, it all came to an end. Teresa Vaughan describes it as a sad memory when the enormous Santa figure left it's notorious location and was transported to Harrisonville after the Christmas Tree Farm shut down. Del Dunmire set Santa Claus up below Youngers bar on the Harrisonville Square after his purchase, facing 7 highway near the four-way stop, but Santa’s happiest days were over.  A prankster painted Jolly ole Saint Nick an eyesore green.  At some point the enormous figure was moved to an adjacent empty parking lot behind a gas station on Commercial Street in Harrisonville, giving it little to no purpose.  To add insult to injury, one local remembers Santa positioned horizontally and tethered with ropes for a period of time in what could be viewed a disturbing fashion for the youngest passersby. Santa was revived briefly with a new paint job, only to be followed by the ultimate Santa crime.  As word has it, a father and son team thought it would be a fun prank to set the Christmas Tree Lane Santa Claus on fire (in approximately 2004), bringing further sadness to those in the community of folks who held dear memories of a time when this oversized Santa was associated with the Christmas Tree Lane tree farm. One has to wonder if the vandals could be reading this story now and have a broader understanding and any remorse for their actions. Then again, it was 'just a giant piece of decorated mesh and steel,' or was it? 

Who wouldn’t love a letter to the Editor by one of the pranksters, telling what thoughts provoked their prank and what all occurred during their “Santa hate crime.”  Perhaps they just got tired of seeing a misplaced Mr. Claus in the middle of town.  Or perhaps it occurred after “a few too many” and when they awoke the next day they were in disbelief of what transpired!  That could be a story in itself.

Although there are no plans, and nothing as of yet to finance such an endeavor, Frankie Lees, born and raised Pleasant Hill, has visions of volunteers recreating a giant Santa Claus in conjunction with a craft center for youth, possibly run by retired teachers, and having vendor booths and other attractions.  There may be other visions that could be brought to life.  Who is up for a fun community project that would bring joy to the littles? 

Maybe the Giant Santa Story isn’t over, after all!   

This article was only possible through the help of community members who shared experiences, historical information, and photos.

 

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