In honor of President’s Day on Monday, this week’s Star Magazine is presenting a quiz about Kansas and Missouri’s White House residents Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower.
So it’s fitting that I tell the story of how Carl Bolte Jr. introduced himself to me.
“How good is your Kansas City geography?” he said over the phone and then in a follow-up letter.
He had an idea for the newspaper — a little quiz about the existence of one-block streets in Kansas City.
Never miss a local story.
After decades of appraising real estate, Carl knows his city streets well.
But the quiz wouldn’t be straightforward. No, that would be too boring. It would have to be asked like riddles.
In the Kansas City city limits, where streets have mostly logical north-south orientation, it is curious that we have these orphan streets. Most of them are short, many only a block long.
Here are his 10 riddles:
1. The developer closed “his” street with gates at 9 p.m.
2. Lumberman’s Row.
3. Tie your boat at the Paseo.
4. Part park, some courting, almost in Kansas.
5. On your way to Santa Fe with oxen.
6. Close enough to St. Luke’s to be saintly.
7. J.C. Nichols himself was a neighbor.
8. William Rockhill Nelson, Kansas City Star publisher, built all eight houses for his employees.
9. Buy a painting, eat barbecue, visit Union Station.
10. Taquerias are near.
As proof that these streets exist, Carl took me on a tour back when it was warm. He picked me up in his 2004 Chrysler Sebring — the first time I had ridden in a convertible in years.
It’s just one of the things that I found endearing about the extroverted Carl, who clearly has never met a stranger.
He grew up in mid-Missouri and moved to Kansas City in 1946, enrolling at Southwest High School as a junior. He went on to the University of Missouri and served in the Navy, which took him to Korea and Vietnam.
He was inducted into service at the downtown courthouse, so whenever he passes the building, he gives it a salute.
He carries a pocketful of foreign coins — collected from his travels and those of his friends — just so he can give them to unsuspecting kids or the random coin collector. “They bring people good luck,” he says.
A lifelong pianist (he still gives piano lessons), he’s made several contributions to the music world. In 1962, he wrote the songs for “Marilyn … The Most!,” Marilyn Maye’s demo album. You can find these tracks on iTunes.
In 1994, he penned the fight song, “Give a Cheer for Mizzou’s Tigers.” He gives the credit of the title to his wife, Jane Ann, who coined the phrase. He wrote the lyrics and the melody.
On the subject of his wife, Carl didn’t marry until he was 50, something the newly minted 86-year-old finds funny and “regrettably true.”
People like Carl amaze and energize me. Meeting him is one of the great perks of journalism — learning the stories of strangers.
Though much of his life has been lived, he treats every day as an adventure waiting to happen. Like this quiz.
Here are the answers:
1. De Groff Way, between Oak and McGee streets; 2. Janssen Place, in Hyde Park; 3. Lake Avenue, near 28th street and the Paseo; 4. Park Court, near 36th and Wyoming streets; 5. Wiedenmann Place, off Westport Road; 6. Corbin Terrace, between Jefferson and Summit streets; 7. Grassmere Lane, between State Line Road and Ward Parkway; 8. Pierce Street, off Rockhill Road; 9. Northwestern Avenue, off 22nd Street; 10. Monitor Place, near Southwest Boulevard.
Carl suggests grading yourself on this scale, based on how many you got correct.
9-10: You can design the next map.
7-8: Congratulations, Heart of America authority.
5-6: You could have navigated for Columbus.
3-4: Brush up before you drive a taxi.
1-2: Ask for a map for Christmas.
0: Get directions before going home.