Category Archives: Culture & Vintage

Union Station in KC

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!ddgaqebpsaexa39a62ls8a_thumb_14d22From 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. 9uzxuc67qpqamcg2jsx3ug_thumb_14d28dpum29jxscqowuklv5hwvw_thumb_143feIt’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.6aaml5seq0ia4kpdf2fviw_thumb_14d25su6ao4hhttwhyjsvoefca_thumb_143f9We 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.

FASCINATING VIDEO on Union Station’s history, heyday, restoration and revival!!

© Gina Michalopulos Kingsley

photos by Gina Kingsley

The Road Less Travelled By

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.

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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.IMG_8333

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.FullSizeRender 7

IMG_8369Where 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.IMG_8345

IMG_8336What 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.

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IMG_8351Would 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.

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IMG_8367Tulsa, 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.IMG_8355


IMG_8350This top below is one of my favorite items I bought at Re-Runs a few  years ago… ivory and ice blue.


Writer’s side note: I learned what “boot poodles” are! They are inserts that keep the boots’ shape.

boot poodles
boot poodles


This gown is  a Bob Mackie! IMG_8364

This particular purse was not only wonderfully unique but also in amazing condition inside!IMG_8363

IMG_8359What 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”. FullSizeRender 4

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! “IMG_8341

 Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less travelled by and that has made all the difference.”– Robert Frost


What’s Down in the Basement?

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.

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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. FullSizeRender 3

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.

FullSizeRenderI 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. IMG_0998We 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 casualty! 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.

from the internet
from the internet

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. IMG_0092

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.IMG_8049In 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.IMG_8050My 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.

from A Magic Carpet Ride 

© Gina Michalopulos Kingsley

proceeds from the book are donated to charity.