Clara E. Kellogg
[Editor’s note: The archives are an ideal place to find the unexpected. This article, originally published in the August 10, 1929, issue, is a reminiscence of happier days written by Clara E. Kellogg, publisher of The Independent.]
While going through an old volume of The Independent recently I chanced upon a picture of the Chimney Corner in The Tavern, that quaint little eating place owned by Russ Dudley for several years at 311 East 12th. Through my mind rushed a deluge of memories of bygone days. Well do I recall one day in the spring of 1921 when Henrietta, who was the Alpha and Omega of the advertising department in those days, came into the office and invited Katherine Baxter and me to lunch with her the next day at The Tavern. After she had gone, Miss Baxter remarked that nothing worth while could be in that locality on 12th, but that she would not hurt Mrs. De Walt’s feelings by refusing. A big surprise awaited us. We entered a medium-sized room, in what seemed to be an old-time tavern. Panelled walls, with a railing all ’round the room, on which were old pieces of pottery and pewter. Old-time lanterns shed a soft glow. Bare tables and old-fashioned chairs completed the picture and such a lunch! Real country sausage and waffles, with delicious coffee.
Russ Dudley was an artist, with love for the beautiful and appreciation for talent. His wife, Mary Baker, had been an actress of no small achievement before her marriage and this brilliant young couple soon had a real following of the artistically inclined of Kansas City. Naturally they drifted to The Tavern for lunch and dinner, where the delicious food and congenial surroundings were all that could be desired. It became a habit with us to run into The Tavern several times during the week, for either lunch or dinner, and we were always sure of meeting interesting acquaintances. Almost always we would find a group of young men, who met there regularly and had a table to themselves. Gene Thornton, George Cartlich, Godfrey Plachek, Allie Rinds Kopf, Buck Ulrich, and others. Now and then Rick Fillmore would drift in. Then there were Edna Marie Dunn, Nelle Gaddis, Lola McCall, Nura Ulrich. The Junior League girls soon found The Tavern to their liking and frequently one ran into Ann Peppard, Harriet Buchanan, Virginia Perry, and other Leaguers. Occasionally William Ashley Rule, Jr., would be with Harriet Buchanan. Then there were the Melville Hudsons who used to stop in for dinner very often. D. L. James liked to lunch there. The Charles B. Sefrankas, with talented Enid Romney when she was here, were regulars. The Noble Fullers were there each day. It was a favorite place for the theatrical profession and almost daily some celebrity was to be met there.
When the Drama Players went over to The Empress, one would run into Mr. Adams, the manager, Theodora Warfield, leading woman, Arthur Vinton, leading man, and almost any day would find Billy Mack, director, and Marie Kelley, whom he afterward married, at a table together. It was a sort of headquarters for the Neos, who with Russ Dudley later opened that unusual little theatre, Neo Play House, with the Chanticleer Players. I remember when the Chimney Corner was completed and ready for the public. Giles Cain gave a dinner party the night it opened. There were ten who sat down to the banquet, for that it what it was. The gentlemen were in evening clothes, likewise the ladies, who, with their low-necked, short-sleeved dresses, had decidedly the best of it – for the Chimney Corner, in spite of fans and an open window in the top of the room near the ceiling, was like an inferno. One by one the immaculately groomed men discarded their coats. It transpired that the range in the kitchen was directly against the wall where the fireplace was, and probably to be more realistic, an opening was left in the fire place. Needless to say, the aperture was bricked up the next day.
Several times the Dudleys staged an evening party in The Tavern, a costume party, or something unusual and original. One night they put on a chapeaux ridicules party. I wished to be funny and tried to get a red wig, but the only thing I could get in the way of a wig was a gorgeous green one. This I wore and decorated with all the hair ornaments of every description I could find in the house. The result was startling, but far different from what I had anticipated. I was gorgeous to behold! I was the riot of the party, the belle of the ball! Never before had I been so popular! At this party, among others, were the Fred Wolfermans, the Rick Fillmores, most of the artist bunch already mention[ed], the George Cartlichs and talented Virginia, their very young daughter, a pupil of Marie Kelley, who danced for us and who has for the past two years been appearing with the Marie Kelley Dancers, in Shubert productions on Broadway. I could go on indefinitely, reminiscing. Even though The Tavern was on East 12th, it was easily, during its existence, the most popular place of its kind ever in Kansas City. Round its memory is a halo that will endure as long as life shall last.
How we loved The Tavern! How one longs to relive that time!
“The tender grace of a day that is dead
Can never come back to me.”
– C. E. K.
Author’s note: A decade ago, Michael Churchman wrote Storied Halls: The Brookside Hotel, Treadway Hall, and the Crestwood Condominiums Through Ninety Years, and this scribe is heavily indebted to him…
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