Glorious high ceilings, details, incredible molding, marble floors, chandeliers, an aura of an exciting time of scurrying crowds in an old train station…..this is Union Station in Kansas City. In the heart of the city, off Main Street, is the centerpiece (in my opinion) of Kansas City’s beauty. 850,000 square feet, 10 stories high, 900 rooms, 95 foot ceiling in the waiting room and 3500 pound chandeliers! (some of its historic details). Taking photos of this architectural masterpiece inside and outside was a wonderful way to spend time gawking at this magnificent landmark!From the moment you walk in, you will be staring at all of the architectural details of this impressive building. First, in the lobby, you’ll see people gathered at the restaurant which is raised on a platform overlooking the lobby. People in line for tickets to the museum and planetarium also outline the lobby. Then, there’s the grand hallway reaching back into the interior. You might never have to leave the lobby to enjoy the beauty of Union Station. It’s truly astounding to study the amount of detail that went into these historic buildings. Train passengers were walking through with their suitcases, obviously taking advantage of this form of Amtrak transportation, even today. I’ve been to Union Station several times to enjoy the Science City museum and the planetarium with my family. Now that my sons are older, (and we’ve explored the museum 4-5 times), we enjoy other aspects of the building.We walked through a gallery of miniature displays of Kansas City over the decades. That will keep anyone entertained and stimulated for awhile. The lego displays are vivd and detailed. There are even areas where kids can play and build in this gallery section.
We also walked down into the basement area to see the trains. My oldest son started to think about the time when train travel was popular. This opened up a discussion about what caused the transition from mass transportation and city-centers to personal cars and suburban living. Some of the latter is discussed in the fascinating video link below. The station was built in 1914 and the grand opening attracted the largest gathering in Kansas City at that time. When midcentury airplane travel replaced train travel, the station was affected and over time its care was diminished. The station experienced other uses to its facility. In 1983, Amtrak operated in a huge bubble (seen in video link below) to deflect the debris and crumble. Fortunately, in 1996, a restoration project returned this gem to its deserved grandeur by “proud Kansas City-ans” as they say.
We walked through the gift shop, toy store and bookstore to reminisce about the years we bought volcano building kits there and dino-dig activities. Fortunately, we still have little cousins to shop for in this gift shop…and also to take to Science City! We’re never too old for Science City!
Union Station at Christmastime is holiday headquarters!!! When you enter, you’re ensconced in Christmas decor of garlands, wreaths, trees , swags and tinsel.There’s a perfect vantage point across the street to capture Union Station with the skyline….just another example of how Kansas City is so well planned and well “laid out”. It makes you appreciate visionary details and history.
Whether you go to Union Station for Science City, dining at Harvey’s or just walking through historic ostentatiousness, you’ll be glad you put this on your list of Kansas City landmarks.
Discovering “gems” when you’re a tourist is one of the perks of travelling. There’s a chemistry that happens when you’re in relaxation mode and you allow yourself to be drawn to certain buildings or landmarks. Sometimes the things you find inside are not just items, merchandise or implements but history, culture, artifacts and hopefully, someone’s passion! Re-Runs is a fabulous vintage store in the Westport district of Kansas City. The “vintage apparel and accessories of distinction” store is a destination I love to get lost in each time I go there. My husband and sons have become fans of it, too. Men can find suits, cowboy boots, bolo ties, hats, ties, jewelry, etc….and kids can find great outfits for theme parties. Women can find hats, purses, jewelry, clothing, fur coats, sunglasses, etc. My youngest son found retro items and I find something there each time I go.
It’s like a walk into the past….a clothing museum, per se! Back to a time when fashion was about artistry. Vintage clothing is timeless. It’s structure stands the test of time, usually. Back in the 80’s, when most teens were wearing name brand clothing, my friend and I used to go to the flea market and vintage shops. We loved cat-eye glasses, army jackets, velvet dresses, etc. A red satin vintage dress came in handy for a wedding….and was sure to not be duplicated. I like how this pink dress below captures the movement in it—and of it’s era.
At Re-Runs, there is a fun tradition called “Spin the Wheel”, where a customer can spin to see what discount percentage they won. I have been very lucky doing this!
I interviewed Ken Coit, the proprietor of Re-Runs. He was articulate and knowledgable about this subject and I was fascinated with the history of his passion for vintage clothing.
Where do you acquire most of your items…..the Kansas City area?
In general, the midwest—-mostly Kansas City and surrounding cities. I go through people’s attics and basements, at their invitation, when they inherit an estate…estate sales, thrift stores, ….always building the collections. I also buy online when I find a good deal.
What is the most valuable thing you acquired?
I honestly don’t know. Based on past experience, I determine prices but I may have something that may be quite valuable because there’s so many things to know. When you have a general sort of merchandise like I do, you can be an expert on a certain style and still not know it all. It’s hard to say. Occasionally, we get some couture pieces from the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s –but we sell them substantially lower than they would in L.A.
Would you say there was a “heyday” era for Kansas City? or has it been consistent?
What is available has changed. 30 years ago, when I started this, I was buying 40’s and 50’s items all the time in good condition. Now it’s rare and we’re buying a lot more 60’s-80’s.
Tulsa, in the early 1900’s, was the oil capital of the world…a time of swagger and then later, the art deco era (1920’s). Was it the same for Kansas City?
The 40’s and 50’s–that was the prime era of interesting clothing for Kansas City as well as most midsized, midwestern towns where we had a thriving downtown at that point. There were wonderful, individually owned department stores that were competing with each other for the best goods. I would say, that’s probably the best time for fashion and maybe into the 60’s when people really paid attention to their outfits and had everything matching.
This top below is one of my favorite items I bought at Re-Runs a few years ago…..in ivory and ice blue.
Writer’s side note: I learned what “boot poodles” are! They are inserts that keep the boots’ shape.
This gown is a Bob Mackie!
This particular purse was not only wonderfully unique but also in amazing condition inside!
What inspired you to start this vintage clothing business?
It began as a means to make extra spending money for medical school. I began by sharing a booth at a weekend flea market with a young lady that I met at a garage sale. She left after a year so I decided to forge on and eventually left my professional job and decided to do retail. It’s a great business to have. As Robert Frost says, “……that made all the difference”.
Writer’s side note : I found it interesting and serendipitous that the owner quoted Robert Frost in his background information about what inspired him to start his business. What a perfect quote for an article on a travel and culture blog! “
“Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less travelled by and that has made all the difference.”– Robert Frost
“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”– Albert Einstein
This quote applies to everyone no matter what your vocation. I imagine (pun intended) we all relate to this quote. When I took the time to digest it’s words, it made me remember which childhood imagination events influenced me.
Certain childhood imagination tools I had in my basement playroom influenced my future vocations and interests. The wonderful thing about the pre-electronic games era is that our playtime was perhaps more inventive, creative and definitely, more imaginative.
Recently, I literally unearthed an item from my childhood home’s attic– an old Remington typewriter! It was covered with dust, soot and hopefully, not asbestos from our 1920’s attic. It was a heavy antique but so pristine, dramatic and proud! I was immediately flooded with memories of a similar typewriter we had from Goodwill and how I used it in my childhood basement playroom.
My older sister was always bringing home unique things from estate sales or Goodwill. I used to use a vintage typewriter as a pretend cash register with my best friends. I had a pretend grocery store in my basement because my parents stored overflow groceries down there as a pantry. One of the friends would go “shopping” and put the canned goods and boxed goods in her “shopping basket” and one of us would ring up the items on the antique typewriter which was posing as a cash register. Since the return bar had a wonderful “DING”, it seemed like a cash register.
On the nearby table which we unknowingly fashioned as a partner desk, I had another business going on…a travel agency. My sister brought home some tourism department books she found at a school library that was closing. They were about all of the provinces of Canada. They were old and outdated but I thought they were fabulous and resourceful! I can still envision the photos of lush green forests in those old books. On a vintage rotary dial (again heavy) black phone, (which really worked) I chatted away with pretend customers, setting up wonderful trips to anywhere in Canada….and only Canada…because those were the only tourism books I had at my fingertips. At 9 or 10 years old, I could design you a trip to Nova Scotia. Later, I discovered this delicate Paris travel brochure that made it in my move to the new house. If I had it in my pretend travel agency, I could’ve designed you a trip to any province in Canada—and Paris.
It reminded me about a conversation I had at seven years old. I told my mom and brother that I wanted to be a tourist when I grew up…as my job. My mom skeptically asked me in her practical minded Greek mom way, “How are you going to make money doing that?” My 16 year old brother waited for the reply to see if my critical thinking skills would apply here. I was kind of baffled and deflated and asked her, “what do you mean??”. She replied, “That’s a hobby but how is that a job?” I stated, “I don’t know!” My brother chuckled but didn’t want to discourage me.
My mom technically didn’t discourage me either but she showed me there was a realistic side to consider when you’re imagining and making plans. I wasn’t ready to give up on this tourist job idea. Ironically, my grandmother’s old passport was discovered years later when I moved to my new home.
It was intact, glamorous, full of historic travels and a most important pilgrimage of taking her daughter, (my mother) back to Greece, Turkey, France and Egypt to meet relatives for the first time. My maternal grandparents were political refugees in the 1920’s leaving their Turkish-occupied Greek island to come to America.
I worked well alone on this pretend travel agency and it became kind of hectic one day in the travel agency/grocery story basement when two playmates came over. Innovation turned to mischief and someone got the bright idea to change my serious travel agency ambience into a phone call pranking headquarters and we started calling random numbers and doing the usual 1970’s pranking scripts, (“Did you order a pizza? etc,) “One of the playmates got nervous when someone answered and in handing the heavy vintage phone over to the other friend, it got too close to her face and she chipped our friend’s tooth! That’s how heavy the phone was. We panicked. The friend caught the piece of her tooth in her hands and went to find her parents. The playdate was OVER. And my travel agency was tainted, in my opinion. We had our first casuality! Our friend went to the dentist over this mishap. The phone sits innocently in a nook at my sister’s home. Whenever I see it, I consider it a culprit to a prank….and a chipped tooth!
A calling to become an educator took center stage in my life when my baby cousins were born. They became my little students and there was no pretending about it! We had a true neighborhood style “homeschool” going on for a few years and a full curriculum designed by me, a 7-11 year old and my little cousins were the experimental students.
The tourist job fantasy didn’t exactly take a backseat though. I was able to travel extensively as a child of an American Airlines employee because of the flight privileges and hotel discounts. My mom was talented at making all of the complicated connections possible and I listened intently as she made our “non-rev” flights and details. This was the heyday of travel, in my opinion; when the flight attendants looked like Miss America contestants and people dressed up to fly! First class seats were so available to us non-rev passengers and I even got to be a flight attendant on one flight. I passed out peanuts, spoke on the intercom, saw the cockpit and sat with those stunning glamazon flight attendants in their special section when we were landing.
Years later, I helped friends with their trip itineraries and made recommendations to them on which stops and excursions to take off of cruise ships in Greece, etc. This was all for fun and I loved it when the recommendations were appreciated. But what a full circle moment from that pretend travel agency in my basement with all of my vintage and antique props!
On these wonderful family trips, I remember my dad’s new camera–a Minolta Super 3 Circuit. That was a big deal. It even had a leather strap and case.
I remember my grandpa’s old accordion style camera, too and I found a similar style camera and display it as a reminder of all of the meaningful vintage items that I was surrounded by in my childhood. It created an appreciation for historic items….things made with artistry and value. Those items represented challenges, adventures, voyages, journeys and risk taking for my immigrant ancestors entering into the New World for a New Life.In this same childhood home where imagination and discovery collaborated, there was one other item displayed which was a part of my daily images whenever I passed by the living room mantel….the GEISHA GIRL. That’s what we called her. Geisha had a marvelous glass case box that she was displayed in. It was as if she was stored away and protected from the elements. She could look out but she was untouchable. I was bewitched by the geisha girl. She had a Mona Lisa smile and a gaze that was averted. She was an enigma to me. I loved that my Greek mom and Greek household had this “oriental” (as we called it in the 70’s) item prominently displayed over our fireplace! It was not a house only full of Greek columns, Greek keys and busts of Apollo or Aphrodite. We had those things, too- of course. But Geisha Girl had a presence in our home and conveyed that we appreciated international souvenirs of all kinds.My best friend was always intrigued with the glass case that surrounded the geisha and strangely, years later, somehow the case broke. Geisha Girl was freed! I liked her even better that way. I felt like, finally, geisha was out of the case and not untouchable. We could enjoy her delicate details up close. She moved with us to our new house but she was not up high anymore on a mantel. She became the centerpiece of our dining room table or buffet. And in some ways, she represents to me that I, too, have passed down an appreciation for international culture for my sons.
I appreciate that my family did not toss out those old items. We incorporated them into our childhood imagination play. As adults, we later displayed them in our homes. Currently, they are inspirational “props” for me in my writing study. They connect me to my roots. In creative writing, it is nostalgic to think of those childhood influences. Life was black and white but evolved towards gray. In those shades of gray, I delve into interviewing others about their travels, inspirations and passions. That has been good for the soul!
“When you’re talking, you are only repeating what you already know. But when your’e listening; you’re learning.” In travel writing and interviewing people about their travels and stories, I am listening….and learning. When I’m writing, I am surrounded by my inspiration props– an antique typewriter, antique cameras, and an antique phone while I use my modern day laptop, my modern camera and my handy cell phone as my tools. It’s funny to think one day these modern day gadgets will be antiques to the next generations.
I love being surrounded by these childhood imagination props. They are from a pre-electronic game time. Pre-social media, pre-computers, pre-cell phones. A time when we had imaginary play in droves in the backyard, neighborhood alleys or down in the basement. I am not quite 50 years old but I’m almost there. The props were there in the first half-century of my life and now they are being useful again in the next half-century. And where knowledge is limited, imagination is limitless.
Persian rugs, Indian rugs, Turkish rugs—-they are all incredibly beautiful works of art! Upon entering most rug factories, you’ll be treated to a coffee or beverage and a guide will explain all of the different styles of rugs. It’s quite an experience! Pictured here is a rug in India.
A fascinating fact I learned while reading about the history of carpet weaving is that the carpets were invented to serve the purpose of practicality for the nomads. The thickness of the carpets was out of necessity to protect people from the cold conditions of the climate. By using carpets, they didn’t need their animals’ hides for this purpose. They needed their animals for other things. These carpets served as their flooring rather than the ground. Carpets helped decorate and beautify their rustic tents. The carpets were easily transportable when their nomadic lifestyle needed them to move on. There are so many styles of rugs from so many origins. I felt like I could stay in one of those rug stores for hours and hours studying the different designs. Just to name a few:
We also observed a fascinating process in Udaipur called block printing. It is form of coloring and dyeing fabrics with wooden blocks. There are so many intricate steps to this process. India is reportedly the largest exporter of block printing fabrics.
Visiting a rug factory overseas is a recommended activity because not only will you get to experience an informative “tour” or exhibit of these fabulous pieces of art, but you’ll also get good deals on them! If you purchase one, they’ll roll it up in a small duffel for you for easy transporting.
Some of the favorite items in my house have come from international markets; pillows, rugs, tablecloths, etc. There is nothing quite like handmade crafts.
I can’t get enough of the glamorous vintage boutiques in Kansas City, especially Westport! It never fails….everytime I visit one of these stores, there is something to admire. Westport in Kansas City has a funky vibe. For me, it’s reminiscent of Austin. There are a few vintage and antique stores there and international cafes and taverns. …even a vintage record store. Wonderland is a vintage clothing and accessories store with a salon in it! It’s exactly what its name conjures–a wonder land! It’s a Vintage Unique Curio Salon. I interviewed the owner about the store and about a music festival that happens in Westport.
When did you start in this business?
I’ve collected vintage clothes for years.. since I was a teenager and I’ve always loved it. I worked at River Market Antiques and sold mostly housewares and gifts. I worked at another vintage clothing store for six years and at a location down the street for a year.
How do you acquire your vintage items?
We go to estate sales, thrift stores…People’s lifestyles change and they want to sell things they collected like bowling shirts. Women who have had babies don’t need vintage dresses that they’re not going to wear anymore.
In the midwest, KC, big houses, ….mom, grandma and grandpa live in a house for 30 years and have saved everyone’s prom dresses or all of their clothes and special event things. When she passes on or moves to a nursing home, the relatives get the house and they don’t want the items so they sell them.
Do you have a favorite type of vintage item that you collect and sell?
Every time period has a certain charm. There are so many people who buy vintage and antique things for different reasons that it’s really hard [to choose a favorite]. You don’t want to limit yourself.
…so you do a variety?
A variety, yes…I’ve had Edwardian things, Victorian things…they’re not super wearable but they’re beautiful and the construction is awesome. There are people who collect them or use them for costume sourcing, inspiration and to collect them.
I use some vintage items for decoration. I put them on a mannequin and just enjoy the artistry.
Right, exactly. A lot of vintage items aren’t wearable but they’re exquisite and people collect them for different reasons. We work with a lot of theaters, artists, costumers, photographers…
Photographers use vintage clothing in their work., either for model shoots or vanity projects. I’ve been a make up artist for 25+ years, so I’ve worked on those projects.
Explain what a vanity project is.
You don’t get paid for it. An ad agency does a spec project…a sample of something you want to sell to a company and they can say “yea” or “nay” to it. A vanity project is a spec project but it’s something a photographer has always wanted to do—shoot a girl in the snow in a white gown….for their own portfolio. Noone is paying for it, so they might rent a gown or fur hat or headpiece just to fill that. We rent to photographers which is a big niche.
You were telling me something really cool the other day about a festival that takes place down here in Westport….?
Middle of the Map Festival…a music festival in the third year. It’s finally hit its stride–it’s awesome! great people, lots of fun, everyone’s in a party mood. We had people from all walks of life. From all over the world! A Japanese band was in here buying great things. There were band members and stylists from L.A. buying things for bands that they work with. It’s a really cool event in April, I think.
Do you have a favorite vintage stylist? People know about some vintage stylists in the mainstream. Are there others?
I follow many on Instagram but follow make up artists more. I love Matthew Anderson; he’s Ru Paul’s make up artist. He’s one of my all time favorites. Being a photo stylist and make up artist myself, I like avant garde, editorial—that’s my kind of thing and vintage plays into that because you can use a dress from a different time period and make it modern. I’ve worked with lots of magazines here in town.
Anything you want to tell us about your store?
We like a lot of variety. It’s been brought to my attention that I like prints more than solids. Vintage is 20 years or older. 1995/96 is vintage. People think that’s unusual because we remember it. My grandma laughed at us when we wore 1950’s bowling shirts in the 80s. She’d ask, “Why would you want to wear that old thing?”
Do you do any special events?
We’ve done fashion shows…we are busy working on other people’s projects. We collect mannequins , do visuals….
Is that Amy Winehouse?
I bet people ask to buy that mannequin all the time.
It’s for display.
Do you have a favorite quote that pertains to this passion?
My favorite quote as far as the store: “We are a store; not a museum. I don’t want things to sit here and have you look at it. I want you to buy it and take it with you; no matter how old or delicate it is or how interesting. I get to love it while it’s here, but….
You want it to find a home….
Yes. The other quote is: “I think prices are negotiable; but style isn’t. We can always talk numbers if you really love it, by all means, you know? But style is not negotiable.”
Writer’s side note: You might know how to incorporate it in your own style or you might gain inspiration from the stylistic groupings in which they are already displayed. Eye candy!
I marvel at the condition of many pieces. They are a testimony to the great fashion of their era. It’s a fun challenge to guess the decade a piece is from. The powder blues and flamingo or coral pink of the 1950’s; the bold prints of the 1960’s and all of the suede fringe of the 1970’s—they are sights to behold! The disco ball of the 70’s and early 80’s is iconic and to me, eternal.This vintage shop owner told me, “Style is not negotiable” and he’s completely correct. The dictionary defines style as “a distinctive appearance.” To become “distinct”, one cannot settle or negotiate. “Fashion is fashion but style is style,” the song says. Maybe that’s why vintage stores are around today….because some things never go out of style.Wonderland Vintage Unique and Curio Salon
There are two very special spots in Athens—Monasteraki and Plaka. No doubt you will go to each of these neighborhood markets if you visit Athens. Charm galore. As hectic as this metropolis is, it is also charming. Typically, one might write about the landmarks and incredible shopping in Athens…
but I am going to cover a special custom I l first learned in Athens. PIKILIA. (pronunciation: “peek-ee-leea”) I remember the relaxation at a taverna in Plaka on a hot day with cold Mythos beer and Frescas. Your options are meals, desserts with coffee, or PIKILIA with BEVERAGES!
I first learned the word “PIKILIA” from a new friend we met in Athens on our honeymoon. He had one of the most posh apartments I had seen at the time—with a view of Lecavito on one side and the Acropolis on the other. This artist friend in his chic apartment enjoyed hosting us (the young, casual, Greek American newlyweds)—and in his hospitable way, he announced “Let’s have some pikilia!” and dashed off to his kitchen.
My husband and I looked at each other puzzled. We had never heard this word before. Our friend came back to the table with a beautiful display of what we would call in America “charcuterie” or appetizers. Doesn’t it sound more charming, however, to say “PIKILIA”?….it was like a little tune. I say it all the time. Now, it’s our custom to make a pikilia platter often….whether at home entertaining, or while traveling.
On another tip, we found a deli in Churwalden, Switzerland that had the most amazing jarred delicacies. Cream cheese stuffed peppers! I made a pikilia platter for my family when we were tired of eating schnitzel.
Guess we leaned more towards olives and prosciutto finished off with a little vino. There’s pikilia in Greece, tapas in Spain, antipasto in Italy, hors-d’oeuvres in France and appetizers in America, etc. The love of good food is universal!
My Happy Hour Pikilia at a Cretan Villa
toast with herbs,
drizzled olive oil,
Villa Creta wine and my husband’s frosty mug of Mythos beer.
I chopped up some sage, toasted the bread, fried the Cretan cheese in butter.
I squeezed lemon on it put salt, pepper, oregano, rosemary and wild sage….and olive oil!
A friend of mine has an interesting artistic life on many levels. She is an artist, a painter, a homeschooling mother and also a soap maker! She and her husband collaborate on various artistic projects. This natural and earthy beauty is an expert on natural living. I interviewed her about her soap making business since I am a customer and a fan of her products. They are appropriate gifts for so many purposes–hostess gifts, housewarming gifts, birthday gifts, teacher gifts, congratulatory gifts, etc. They are handy, easy to wrap and give a nice presentational appeal. The homemade artistry of it makes it a personal and conversational gift and product. When I stored them as gifts during the holidays, they made my room smell so good!
What inspired you to start this hobby turned business?
Bascially, years ago when we lived in Kentucky, my daughter had eczema. I tried treating it with coconut oil but nothing worked. We tried over the counter products before we went to the doctor for prescribed creams. One day, I grabbed a prescription cream for eczema that the doctor gave me. Her skin worsened with the use of the prescribed cream so I began researching ingredients and then moved onto natural solutions. Several of the ingredients were harsh synthetic ingredients. I began to look at my cleansers and what I can use as soap. My daughter was crying with whatever we tried. There was a soap maker in Bardstown, Kentucky which is a beautiful town. The soap maker was known for her craft. She is a precious woman and she informed me so much. She started making soap for the same reason as I did. She was an inspiration and told me how to get started. Her soap was the only thing that soothed my daughter’s skin and we began to notice healing.
I was scared of the lye because it can burn and sting. I research ingredients so I was nervous about the lye since I had little kids around. I shied away for years but when I got to Tulsa, I had more room in my house to work with the soap making. I watched tons of videos on youtube. I use organic, botanical and sustainable earthy-ingredients… as well as Non-GMO, whenever possible.
How do you pick the scents and fragrances?
I tried many combinations before I found what I liked. I come up with my own blends and let them sit a little. Autumn Trail was very “piney”. As it cures, it begins to change.
How long does soap take to cure?
It depends on the formula and group of oils. Some can take 4-8 weeks. 2-3 weeks is the shortest amount of cure time. I test the ph balance with little strips before I sell them.
Are the blends in a kit?
I play with the essential oils and decide how much I want. Lavender and patchouli,etc….
Do you have a favorite blend?
I really like Lavender and Colloidal Oatmeal.
How long does each batch take you?
3 hours but if everything is together and ready to go, it can take 2 hours. I’ve had situations where I didn’t have the right amount of items. I have molds that I use. Each batch I make fills 2 five pound molds. I have to triple the supply for busy seasons.
Where is your most remote customer so far?
Foley, Alabama and Kentucky.
Describe how this craft has been enriching.
I have enjoyed each step…..it’s kind of like a meditation. To watch the “saponification” process—the bubbling up, pouring it in, cutting each bar which is different….the layers of colors and different swirls in each bar always amazes me. As an artist, I’m always enlightened by that. Like life, we can do a little bit of planning but it might turn out better than how we planned it to be!
There were many requests for follow up stories about my father after I posted “Jumped Ship and Landed in ….Tulsa!” (on this blog). His experience in the Merchant Marines embodies everything about travel and adventure. Here’s another chapter in that story. This is what my father told me…
In 1957 in New Orleans, two ships collided at midnight. I was on duty. Everyone was alert. I remember many bats gathering all over the ship. We stayed two days until better weather came. This collision was covered in the newspaper.
“November 30, 1957, the SS Ellin and SS Claiborne collided….The Coast Guard said Friday it will investigate a ship collision on the Mississippi River and dense fog about 11:55 PM Thursday 13 miles downstream from New Orleans…No injuries were reported but both cargo vessels had deep gashes in their bows…Neither ship took on water as the damage was above the waterline….Involved were the one-year-old SS Ellin 16,000 ton freighter of Liberian registry and the Waterman 15 ship corporation SS Laybourne AC 2cargo ship…The Ellin, according to Captain Michael Worden present at the Texas Marine transport company Inc. agents Alan was anchored in the thick fog…The Claiborne ran into Ellin’s bow….” (cited in newspaper article above)
He explained the mechanics of what happens when they hit rough seas or hurricanes, too.
When a propeller comes up, we have to slow down the engine. When the ship goes down, we closed the steam…when it goes up, we opened the steam. This went on for four hours. If you miscalculate, the engine goes too fast.
Did you ever regret being in the Merchant Marines?
No. I was lucky I never got seasick. Lots of guys vomited. A couple of times, we had the icon of Agios Nikolaos (St. Nicholas) for hope to save us.
Tell me about some of the dangers and disasters.
There was a time when the captain had his family posing for a picture and a wave came up and picked up the three year old boy. He fell in the ocean. We stopped the ship, turned around in big panic and confusion. We found him but he was dead. This was on a trip from Iran to London.
Another time, the assistant cook went to dump trash and he fell in, too. We never stopped that time…nothing…just “goodbye.” The waves are so bad and you have to hit the waves a certain way. You can’t always turn back.
On another ship, (going from San Francisco to Curacao) our propeller hit a whale and damaged the propeller. It took two months to sail because the propeller was going so slow. You can’t change ships in the middle of the ocean. From San Francisco to Curacao, in the Los Angeles area, we had to go to Norfolk for repairs. We saw the whale with blood all over it.
What are the ports like? Which were the most exciting?
We found places to eat good food or buy things. The islands and the ports in the Caribbean were the best—Curacao, Colombia, Venezuela…The worst port was England I guess because there was no sunshine or good food.
Which country had the best looking women?
When you’re on a boat for a month and come out, every woman looks good. (chuckling). Brazil, I guess.
When you left the Merchant Marines and moved to Tulsa- what was your first job there?
Shortly after the ships collided in New Orleans, I left the ship and went to Tulsa to visit relatives, get married and started a new life there. I worked at the Tulsa Hotel overseeing the boilers. They had two boilers and had to run both to keep up. There was steam for laundry and the air conditioning. An engineer at Wonder Bread (where your mom was working) told me about that job at Tulsa Hotel. Around that time, immigration officers came to our house to deport me. Your mom told them I was working at the Tulsa Hotel. She called our priest (who was my uncle) and said, “Kosta’s in trouble.” The priest came to my work to intervene. The immigration officers told me to go to the immigration office in Dallas. I did and then went on to Toronto to fix my papers and entered the states legally through the Detroit office.
What would you have done if they deported you?
I would’ve gone back to Greece. But by leaving Greece in the first place to join the Merchant Marines to help support my mother, sisters and younger brother back home, I wasn’t drafted. In Greece, everyone has to go to the army at 20 years old.
Why is it called “Merchant Marines” ?
We transported merchandise. (the merchant part). A “marina” is another word for a “port” (the marines part). A better term for it is “merchant mariners.” The Merchant Marines was very educational. On some legs of the voyages, we traveled to 7 countries or so. In later years, fewer people signed up for it because they didn’t want to do that type of work. But, it was a good opportunity and a very good financial opportunity for helping support my family back in Greece.
My high school friend and I share some important things in common. We graduated from the same high school. We were teachers together at our alma mater. Our first children were in the same grade at our alma mater. Now, we are approaching the empty nest with hobbies that have become opportunities. My enthusiastic friend has a natural beauty and spirituality that enhances her passion for horses and equine photography. I interviewed her about her love of traveling to Colorado for a family tradition and her equestrian life journey.
Tell me about your equestrian history. How did you start this journey?
I grew up riding but took a 20 year break to go to college, get married and have kids. When my daughter got into it, it resumed again. I didn’t want to push her into it. At first, she wanted to pursue gymnastics and just do cartwheels down the barn. But in third grade, she said, “Mom, I’m ready.” And I jumped and jumped hard! You have to do it all the way; not halfway. We got a horse we could both show and both share. We still have him and he’s retired in our backyard. That’s Fox… I would never sell him. (Pictured below is Zeke. His real name is SLR Executive Privilege.)
He’s the one that really got us going. Once we started going together—it took over us. It’s a passion. We love it. It’s something we did together and we still do together.
Who got you into riding?
My parents totally got me into riding. We’d ride at the barn at Southern Hills (Country Club). It was so gorgeous.
Then, the barn burned down. We rode those horses every week. It was devastating. We got an Arabian, showed Arabians and took a break but then got into Morgans. It’s a little more family oriented and it’s more of a family breed. Arabians are very competitive.
That was the 70’s-80’s. I showed horses up to my junior year in high school and then stopped. I took it back up with my daughter when she was ready.
Tell me about Colorado. I see all these gorgeous pictures of your trips there.
It’s my favorite place in the world. It’s in Creede, Colorado which is a little mining town—really fascinating. The ranch we go to is 4UR Ranch (it’s a brand). My family has been going there for 50 years and my kids are the fourth generation to go. I used to go up there with my grandparents. It’s the same place… looks the same…and has the same barn. It’s mostly a fly fishing place but equestrian, too. The Lone Ranger movie was filmed there two years ago. That’s where all of us have learned how to ride…..my kids, my nephews.
I see pictures of these reunions you have in Colorado…?
That’s Pagosa Springs. We ride up in the high mountains! I mean, high!–We see animals, bears,….it’s just 7 girls taking off for the entire day. We have a gun just in case. It’s high country.
Do you ever have to use the gun?
No. But I’ve seen bears and I’m scared of the mountain lions. I brought my horse, Fox, and rode him up in the high mountains. He did so well! I wasn’t sure how he’d do in the mountains but he was fine! We go every summer for about two weeks. I want to see every part of Colorado! It’s my favorite place in the whole world. I go for a week with the girls and then spend one week with my family at the ranch. Colorado in the summer….wow!
Many Tulsans retreat up there in the summer—especially August it seems, to get away from the heat.
I never want to come home when I’m up there!
How did you get into equine photography?
It was interesting….I bought a camera, took pictures of my barn and gave them out as gifs. I took pictures at Morgan Nationals. Morgan Horse magazine saw my pictures on the internet and hired me. Arabian Nationals head photographer asked me to be on the team. I never thought in my wildest dreams I would be a part of that! It’s such an honor!
Did you have to do any special training?
I study photography a lot at home. I’ve read every book. You can’t wing it. Photography is hard….the settings, etc. My friend was my inspiration. Digital camera photography, photoshop and editing is really the huge part of it. I can take millions of pictures but it’s really the editing and really bringing it out that captures the story. I want someone to look at my picture and just really feel like there’s a story behind it. I want people talking about it.
What camera do you use?
Canon 5 D. I also like Nikon. I use Adobe photoshop and I like iPhoto because it’s simple. It’s about cropping and colors. I can sit for hours and edit pictures….I love it! I was in charge of candid photos for the Morgan Horse show. I got to capture the candid moments when they came out of the ring and had just won. It was so much fun….I could do that all day!
What is the name of your photography?
Photos by Laurie
Tell me about your titles that you’ve won. I’m fascinated with that.
I have won (so blessed)…2 reserve world national titles in the Morgan horse. In 2010, they turned off every single light in the coloseum and I got to go into the spotlight. I could relive it every day! In 2012, my daughter and I both won.
My daughter won the Gold Medal–the ultimate prize. It’s called the Western Seat Gold Medal. I won the Western Pleasure Amateur. We’re not the pros, but we own the horses….show the horse. Showing horses means riding them. I go once a week to OKC for Zeke, my Morgan stallion. My amazing horse trainer, Kelly Kraegel is in Guthrie. I’ve been riding with her barn, Cottonwood Creek Ranch, for 6 years. Stallions are wild, powerful and ungelded. It’s crazy for someone my age to ride a Morgan stallion. Usually you buy one and geld them.
Why is that crazy and unusual? Are they dangerous?
He’s young. He’s super powerful. I love that—the challenge. I’m never afraid of any horse. My daughter is the same way–there’s no fear whatsoever in her.
Have you ever fallen?
Yeah, I”m sure I have…we both have….but you get back up. When we go to Colorado, there’s a pasture, a valley and mountains everywhere…we both take off on a dead run—like you see in the movies and we just take off! It’s the feeling of the freedom, the rush and excitement of it. She’s always by my side when we do things like that.
I can imagine what you mean. I’ve galloped before and in my mind it feels like I’m racing. But I don’t even know how fast I’m going…..and it’s the most amazing feeling.
When you just take off and let go of the reins….you’re holding him but letting him go as fast as that horse possibly can…..(sigh).
What has this mother-daughter bond (with the horses) done to enrich your life?
It has brought us so incredibly close. I’ve literally enjoyed every stage of her life growing up because when she was little, I was the mother…then we showed together. Now, she’s like my best friend and when we take off to Colorado together…it’s hard to explain that bond …what a hobby can do. I have it with my son, too, and he’s my biggest fan. With my daughter, we both understand the bond. She’s just a natural. We can look at each other when we’re on a horse and we know exactly what the other is thinking……we don’t have to communicate.It’s hard to explain. My husband is the best horse show dad….he zips up my chaps, puts on my numbers and is always so positive. I always look for him in the show ring. It’s a great family sport! But I couldn’t have this without Him…I give God all the glory.
My creative and lovely friend makes chic and casual jewelry. The designs range from simple to intricate and go with everything in your wardrobe it seems! I interviewed her about her hobby turned business. The items are versatile, well priced and accessible to purchase.
What inspired you to start making jewelry ?
I needed a navy necklace to go with a dress for a wedding. I kept making them and people really liked them. They asked if I could make them jewelry… and it took off!
Where do you get the stones?
Most are from Chicago or Dallas. I’ve ordered some online.
How long does each bracelet or necklace take to make? (there are also earrings)
It depends. Some necklaces can take two weeks. 15 to 20 minutes per bracelet but some can take one hour (like a necklace.)
What are the stones?
Freshwater pearl , jade, labradorite, amethyst and colored stones. (she puts pieces of suede dangling from them and other medals or dangling designs.)
What is the price range?
Items range from $8-$120 (there are little kids’ pieces, too) I can customize orders, which I love to do! Bracelets are $10, $20, $35, $40 each. Necklaces range from $20 on up.
I don’t make items that I won’t wear. If I”m not sure I love the [pink] bead on this necklace, for example, I wear it to see what people think. If someone loves a jade, I can find a similar color and do custom orders. Some people like the big stones, some like smaller.
What is the significance of the St. Matthew medal on some of these pieces of jewelry?
That one has Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John on it and it’s Franciscan. I love crossess ;everything started out being crosses. I went to my niece’s baptism a while ago and she had a jewelry party when I was out there. I took a few cross things and everything sold and people said, “we need more crosses!” I like crosses . It makes me feel good inside.
I wish I would’ve known about this before I had to shop for a girl’s or woman’s gift. How do people contact you (when it’s not in stores)?