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Fly High and Fast – Vol. II Chapter 32: Missouri – Prospecting in Western Missouri

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JJ Meehan
The Meehan Family

As I mentioned in Chapter 24: Missouri – Kansas City, we used Kansas City as a hub to prospect for business in western Missouri and eastern Kansas.  We called on almost every bank in the city of Kansas City and then started visiting the country banks around Kansas City the 1980’s.  This is a story of some of the places I went and some of the banks we visited.  More important is the fact that each trip brought new experiences.  We did not close on many of the customers but in the few years we worked the area we made a lot of friends and were positioned to sell a lot more business just before our Holding Company was sold.  Don’t get me wrong, the sale of Banks of Iowa to Firstar and later US Bank was one of the best deals ever put together as far as I’m concern.  This deal was definitely to my benefit.

The towns that I selected for this blog are just a few of the towns and banks we visited.  You also have to realize that many of these banks have since been acquired by other banks so I will not try to list them by name.  The towns are as follows:

  • Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas
  • St. Joseph, Missouri
  • Cameron, Missouri
  • Marshall Missouri
  • Sedalia, Missouri

Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas

Ft. Leavenworth is an Army Base in Leavenworth, Kansas.  Located on the Missouri River just north of Kansas City, Missouri.   We were competing to win the contract for the computer business at the bank on the Army Base.  This would have opened up a whole new market which would include other banks on other Military Institutions’.  At the time the one big advantage we had was the fact that we were on the leading edge of “Real Time Banking” which would give the bank from the CEO to the teller updated data on the customer based on current conditions not yesterday’s conditions.  Any transactions would be recorded and updated at any teller and/or ATM in the USA and reflected in the information available to the teller and Bank Management at the specific minute in time.  Enough to of the back ground into the product I was proposing, This story is really about flying.

We would fly into the Ft. Leavenworth Airport, which was operated by the Army.  There was a designated parking area an terminal for all Non-Military Aircraft.  At the time the only approach was a non-precision ADF Approach to Runway 33.   The airport sat along the bank of the Missouri River and was slightly lower than the city and Army Base above.

The approach was always tricky especial the first time.  You came in from the south at an angle to the runway and if you did not have your eyes open you would miss the airport since it was below the ground level to the south and west.

The Bank President would pick us up at the terminal and we would either go to the Officer’s Club for our meetings or the Bank.  After several trips and many dinners we lost this prospect to a large bank processor in the east.   We were told that our price was slight higher and our product slightly better but the other process was already doing 4 of the other banks.  That’s life and we moved on to the next prospective bank.  We were no different than most other businesses, we sold about one out of every ten prospects.  I will never forget this airport and the joint Military/Civilian setup.

Two other towns that we flow into and prospected were St. Joseph and Cameron Missouri.  We had no success in either place but both had unique properties that I want to mention.

St. Joseph, Missouri

St. Joseph is locate about 50 NM north of Kansas City and has a full service airport.  The first time I visited was to pickup Mooney N6419U that had been left my another pilot after he had experienced an oil problem on the a flight from Cedar Rapids to Topeka, Kansas.

The St. Joseph Airport had a unique restaurant that looked like a Fifties Dinner.  What was unique was that it was the original furnishings   The restaurant had never been remodeled.  Yet everything was keep clean and it was a very nice dinner which looked somewhat like the dinner in the photo below.


Cameron, Missouri

Cameron, Missouri was the home of one of the Missouri State Penitentiaries.  Again we had on luck selling the bank but the Penitentiary was a very unique structure that looked more like a small college campus than a Penitentiary.

Marshall Missouri

Marshall Missouri is a town of about 13,000 in North Central Missouri about 60 NM east of Kansas City, Missouri.  This was one of our success stories.  We started processing for them just before the floods in 1993.  The floods in 1993 that made the Kansas City Airport appear to be a bath tub with all the water outside the tube gave Marshall the same appearance from the air.  The Missouri River comes up on the west and goes north around the city and then south,  It is normally several miles from the city but in 1993 the city was surrounded by water.  The map below shows where the river normally flows.  In 1993 it was right up to the city boundaries.  Marshall also has a very beautiful old Court House in the center of the City, reference the photo to the left.

The sixty-five acres of land for the city of Marshall was donated by Jeremiah O’Dell deeded April 13, 1839. It was named for the United States Supreme Court Chief Justice, John Marshall, when chosen as the county seat.  After the first two courthouses in Marshall were lost to fires, the Saline County Courthouse was constructed in January 1882. It was placed on the National Register of Historical Places by the U.S. Department of the Interior in 1977. The building is an enduring landmark in the center of Marshall Square and a legacy of nineteenth century architecture.

Saline County was named for its many salt deposits where westward travelers along the Santa Fe Trail stocked up before their long journeys southwest. To commemorate these travelers, Marshall holds “Santa Fe Trail Days” the second weekend in September each year on the Marshall Square. The two-day festival includes food, music, crafts sales and other activities for Saline County residents and visitors. Check the “Visitors” section of the web site for more information.

Marshall was home to the largest pilot school in the nation in the 1920’s, when aviation was young. The Nicholas Beazley Aviation Museum features airplanes from the era and fascinating exhibits and murals.

Sedalia, Missouri

This became the jewel of our exploration into Missouri.  The Third National Bank had a very forward looking President who was not afraid to take a risk with us.  He not only went with us but went with all of our services.  He was a very unique person who spent his free time riding motor cycles (“Bike”) and had been to Alaska from Missouri several times on a “Bike.”  If you worked at the bike and wanted time with the President after working hours you need to by a “Bike”.  He and his follow “Bikers” would take “Butt Buster” Trips on weekend which would cover several hundred miles in two days.  He was a gentleman and a person who loved working with is customers to solve problems.

Sedalia was founded by Indigenous peoples lived along the Missouri River and its tributaries for thousands of years before European contact. Historians believe the entire area around Sedalia was first occupied by the Osage (among historical American Indian tribes). When the land was first settled by European Americans, bands of Shawnee who had migrated from the East lived in the vicinity of Sedalia.

The area that became the city of Sedalia was founded by General George Rappeen Smith (1804–1879), who went on to found nearby Smithton, Missouri. He filed plans for the official record on November 30, 1857, and gave the area the name Sedville. The original plat included the land from today’s Missouri Pacific Railroad south to Third Street. In addition, the version filed jointly by General Smith and David W. Bouldin (?-1893) on October 16, 1860, displayed the city spreading from Clay Street to the north and to Smith Street (i.e., today’s Third Street) in the south, and from Missouri Street in the west to Washington Street in the east. Smith and Bouldin anticipated that the city would grow to the north; however, it grew in a southern direction.

During the American Civil War, the military had an installation in the area, adding to its boomtown atmosphere. With the coming of two railroads connecting it to other locations, in the post-Civil War period, Sedalia grew at a rapid pace, with a rough energy of its travelers and cowboys. From 1866-1874, it was a railhead terminus for cattle drives and stockyards occupied a large area. At the same time, the town established schools for both white and black children, churches, and other civic amenities.

In the 19th century, Sedalia was well known as a center of vice, especially prostitution, that accompanied its large floating class of railroad workers and commercial travelers. In 1877 the St. Louis Post-Dispatch called Sedalia the “Sodom and Gomorrah of the nineteenth century.” Middle-class businessmen made money off illegal prostitution as building owners and lessees; others did business with people in the industry, who banked, used lawyers, etc. in town. Reluctant to raise taxes, residents allowed money to run the city and provide services to be raised from fines charges to prostitutes. In the 1870s brothels were distributed throughout the city, but in the 1890s, they became more concentrated above businesses on West Main Street, as the middle class tried to isolate less desirable elements.

While the city attracted many commercial travelers and railroad workers, its population of married couples also grew. By 1900 having a population over 15,000, it was the fifth-largest city in the state. It had developed an entrepreneurial middle class that created separations between its residential areas and those of working class and African Americans.

During World War II, the military built Sedalia Glider Base in Johnson County to the west. After the war, this was passed to the Strategic Air Command and converted to a bomber base, the Whiteman Air Force Base, named after a man from Sedalia killed in the 1941 Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor. After a massive construction program, the base became the center of 150 ICBM silos and administrative offices. These were decommissioned in the 1990s.

We would fly into Sedalia at least once or twice a week.  one time I was flying the A-36 shown above and lost another of my nine lives.  As shown in the picture layout of the airport, the airport is just north east of the city and if you were landing on Runway 36, the traffic pattern was layout as “Right Traffic”.  On this flight I was on turning final from the east when one of the airport workers noticed another high wing Cessna entering the traffic below me from the left.  He know us and called us on the radio to tell us that we had traffic below us.  The other aircraft never communicated nor checked for traffic and had entered the pattern from the wrong side.  I pulled up and went around.  If it hadn’t been for the gentlemen on the ground we would have landed on top of the other aircraft.  The other aircraft pilot never waited for us and were gone before we landed.   There was no doubt that God was my Co-Pilot on this Flight.

On another flight we were in Kansas City and the weather was marginal.  Ceilings were about 600 feet and visibility was over 5 miles.  You need 800 feet for the approach in to Sedalia so I suggested that we request a special VFR out of Kansas City and fly over under the clouds since the visibility was greater than 5 miles.  The flight was a pilots dream with good visibility and a chance to be able to see the area that we were flying over very well.  Again it did go against my belief in Flying High and Fast but in this case we did fly Fast.  The only other challenge we had was crossing though Whiteman Air Force Air Space.  This is the home of the B-2 Bomber.  This was pre 9-11 and we did not expect or did we receive any delays.  In fact the Air Traffic Controllers at Whiteman were very happy to help us and took us right over the center of the Airport.

This was one in a million chance to see the B-2 Air Base from overhead.  This was one flight I will remember until I die.  Again I was very impressed with the professionalism of the Air Force Controllers.

As I mentioned the President of the Bank was a true gentleman and always tried to give us back more than we gave him.  When we flow him in to Cedar Rapids for a meeting with our staff, we had a limo pick us up at the airport and had his name in lights on the way to the office.  On the next visit to Sedalia, he had all of his top Executives lined up with their cars to pick us up at the airport and drive us to the bank.

This completes the second part of my “Fly High and Fast” Blogs on Missouri  the next one will cover Branson and the Lake of the Ozarks.

You can see the rest of my blogs on flying at  “FLY HIGH AND FAST”.


Written by jjmeehan13

April 16, 2010 at 5:36 pm

Posted in Flying

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