Eighty years ago, Amelia Earhart came to town, and to many area people it was a very big deal. I will even venture to say some residents might even remember the day they saw Amelia Earhart in person.
My parents and cousin came to town see Amelia. I did not know this until I was an adult. I consider myself to be very lucky that they shared their memories with me about the event. It was a rather spontaneous conversation.
I’m not exactly sure what Mom and Dad’s relationship was at the time of Amelia’s visit on June 8, 1935. They were not married until April 24, 1940. Mom would have been 23 years old, and I figure Dad would have been an 18-year-old.
Apparently, there were many prizes awarded that day. As Dad told it Mom’s younger cousin, Isabel Arnold, won a bicycle as a grand door prize, or drawing of some sort.
Atchison was a very different place back then. The advertisements in the newspaper offered some insight into the local economy. A center foldout featured the schedule of events for Amelia’s visit, which, by the way, was the highlight of the convention of the Kansas Editors Association.
Gomer Davies, a founder and editor from one of the pioneering newspapers in Kansas, was Atchison’s other guest of honor for the occasion. Atchison Globe founder E.W. Howe was out of state seeking treatment for a medical condition and couldn’t be present. More than 60 ads from local active businesses surrounded the special schedule.
Local businesses ran welcome ads in honor of the occasion throughout the few days that preceded Amelia’s arrival. There were also published suggestions from merchants that pertain to storefront decorations and promotions.
“Every merchant should display frankfurters Friday in honor of Gomer Davies,” was an idea written in a “Last Minute Suggestion” column.
Atchison staffers promoted the event and offered some recommendations like all children throw roses to Amelia when her float passes by them along the parade route. “Carnival spirit should prevail.”
Atchison Globe also reached out to the boys in the community. “We want 100 dogs in the parade,” one proposal reads. The writer indicated all kinds of dogs like big, little, ugly, etc. were wanted.
Cope Forbes, manager of the Royal Theatre — which has at last been restored to its original glory as the Fox Theatre in the 600 block of Commercial Street — offered free admission to one show for all the boys who brought dogs to enter in the festive Friday afternoon parade.
Forbes even went a step further and made a contest for the different categories. Winners in each of the categories won a month’s free pass to the Royal.
Tommy Enright, Johnny George and Clarence Bilimek served as judges for the dog parade that closely followed the guests of honor.
The large afternoon parade featured flowered covered entries — similar to those in Atchison’s own Corn Carnival, founded by Howe. It was one of two parades held that day.
The second was a military parade comprised of 420 Kansas National Guard soldiers, 32 officers, 30 army trucks, and 12.75 mm cannons mobilized and used in WWI, as well as numerous military cars. The military parade escorted Amelia to Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall where she delivered her speech to the Kansas editors.
Following Amelia’s speech at Memorial Hall, the Atchison Police Department hosted a Radio Ball. More than 160 couples attended the gala event.
Miss Earlene Brown, the queen and her chosen king, Luke Younger, reigned over the ball and led the couples during a grand march. Brown won the honor from the most votes cast from purchased tickets. A basic dance ticket cost 40 cents, and was good for 1,000 votes. A few days prior to the ball showed Brown in the lead with 26,000 votes, Raynette Loftin was close behind her with 25,000 votes.
Amelia was not the only top female draw for the festive event. Two other women also topped the convention program: Mrs. C.J. Mack, who was publisher and managing editor of Kansas Republican at Newton. The daughter of Nobel L. Prentiss, like Amelia, Mack spent part of her childhood in Atchison.
She presented “Pioneer newspaper women in Kansas.” Miss Bertha Shore, also known as Ima Washout of the Augusta Gazette, presented “A Cocktail Hour with Kansas Editors,” despite Prohibition remaining in effect statewide.
Shore, a Brown County native who hailed from rural Hiawatha, was known for her humorous column that ran to fill space in her brother’s-managed newspaper.