Parishioners past and present, school alumni, parish and school staff, and friends of St. James have all been telling us their stories.
Earliest memories, humorous recollections, joyous times, sad times, exciting times, and mundane times.
Stories of new found friendships, loved ones long past, childhood classmates, growing families, and revered pastors.
We`ve heard them all, and we want to share them with you.
Fr. Chuck Tobin
Just a few words to congratulate the whole parish of Saint James on your wonderful anniversary. Congratulations!
My stay at St. James was a wonderful experience. I was there through the fall of 1969 to Holy Week of 1970 when I was moved to St. Mark`s in Independence.
I was there with Msgr. Baum who was named a Bishop at the same that I moved to St. Mark`s. Fr. Weiss and Fr. Karels were both there at the same time -four priests to care for the community of Saint James. Liturgies were wonderful with good people to help prepare them, good music and wonderful kind folks.
Meals were always a delight as Msgr. Baum would always select the perfect wine for the dinner that was always prepared so well for us; it was a delight with good conversation and funny sharings of the day by all.
Fr. Weiss dropped one of poor Fr. Karels cats down the laundry chute one day into a huge pile of sheets and then came telephone books down the chute and lots of noise and orneriness. My battery got stolen out of my car several times. Great work was being done at the Parish Center for all kinds of folks who needed help.
I was working at the Chancery in the Religious Education office each day and often took long walks with Fr. Weiss at night down toward the plaza.
When Bishop Baum was named Bishop of Springfield, we got him the gift of a Bassett Hound (from the book, The Bishop`s Bassett) but I don`t think that the poor dog lasted long in Episcopal dwellings.
Again, congratulations on your wonderful celebration!
Daniel R. Foley
My mother’s side of the family has deep roots in St. James Parish.My mother, Kathryn Ellen Shannon, had six brothers and three sisters.Her parents were Jim and Kitty Shannon; her brothers were Jim, Bill, Frank, Joe, John and Bob; sisters Mary Alice, Betty and Joann.Because this was near the time of the depression, my parents, Ross and Kaye Foley, lived with the Shannon’s for awhile at a residence on the 4300 block of Paseo Boulevard and later at the Shannon residence at 3800 Flora Avenue.I think most of the Shannon’s attended St.JamesSchool at some time and, of course, St. James Church.I heard my aunts and uncles speak fondly of a Sister Mary Geraldine who taught at the school but I didn’t know her. Other St. James parishioners who resided in the 39th and Flora Avenue neighborhood included the Fitzgerald’s, Mulvahill’s, Burge’s, and Vogelbaugh’s.
I vaguely recall residing at the Shannon home at 3800 Flora Avenue but my parents moved to their own residence at 3936 Flora Avenue in about 1941.I attended St.JamesSchool from kindergarten through 7th grade, graduating in 1951.My older sister, Margaret Ann (Peggy) and younger sisters, Mary Kaye and Eileen also attended St.JamesSchool.The Foley family moved to St. Peter’s Parish in 1955.
I have good memories of my years in St.JamesSchool which was operated by the Sisters of Mercy religious order.As far as the nuns who taught me, I recall Sister Mary Pauline taught me in the early years – kindergarten or 1st grade; Sister Mary Colette taught me in 4th or 5th grade; Sister Mary Ignatius taught me in 6th grade; and Sister Mary Edwina, the school principal, taught me in 7th grade.Sister Mary Ignatius had a well deserved and legendary reputation as a strict disciplinarian. We all learned to “toe the line” during our 6th grade year.Sister Mary Edwina nurtured and molded our character and values and challenged us to begin thinking in terms of personal goals and ambitions.
Much different than today, we all walked to school every day and most went home for lunch. We had retired police officers stationed at the busy streets to help students cross and the less busy streets were patrolled by trained studentSchool Safety Patrols. We seldom missed school because of snow. We had school football and baseball teams that practiced and played other parish teams at GilhamPark and our basketball team played at the St.JamesCenter at 40th and Troost Avenue.Frank and Opal Donahue resided at and managed the Center for the parish.For shop class (boys) and home economics class (girls), we formed up in lines and walked to BancroftPublic School at 43rd and Tracy Avenue about once a week.I recall Jesse who was the St. James School janitor/maintenance man who kept things in order and the boilers going in the winter.He was kind and friendly and we all treated him with respect.Every year in about May, we loaded into busses and went to SwopePark for the School Picnic, which we all thoroughly enjoyed.
We always looked forward to the priests coming to visit us in our classes at school.I recall Father Vincent Kearny and Father McAuliffe, who also served as our athletic coaches. Both priests were quite popular and excellent role models and presented very positive and exemplary personal images. At certain times of the year, I think October and May, and all First Fridays, we went to mass at St. James Church before going to school.After mass, we got sweet rolls at Madame Jay’s Bakery on 39th Troost and hot chocolate at the St.JamesCenter.
As grade schoolers, we spent a lot of time at St. James Church. During school masses, we sat in assigned pews by grade and the nuns were always watching from behind making sure that we behaved reverently andkneeled up straight (No three-point landings while Sister Mary Ignatius was watching!)Ceremoniously, we all were dressed in white when we made our First Communion, Confirmation and participated in the liturgical processions.On these occasions, the church was packed, organ and choir music was beautiful, you could smell the scent of incense, priests were wearing their finest vestments and I am sure these experiences were burned into all of our memories. Speaking of Confirmation, the nuns spent a lot of time preparing us for that Sacrament and the stick was that “the Bishop is going to be asking questions in church and if he calls on you, you better have the right answer if you expect to be confirmed.” When the time came, we were all seated in the front rows of the church but petrified that we would be called on to answer a question.We all felt a little relieved, however, when the bishop asked some poor soul the first question, “Who was the mother of Jesus?”
We also learned to be altar boys but first we had to memorize our Latin responses, know when to ring the bells, when to bring the water and wine and so forth.We weren’t allowed to serve at “prime time” masses until we had first demonstrated our knowledge and skills at the proper number of 6:00 AM masses.
My memory of St. James Church when I was growing up is that it was an imposing stone structure, well maintained with garden and covered walkway separating the church and brick rectory.Central to this description is Msgr. John W. Keyes standing at the top of the steps in front of church after most every Sunday mass handing out nickels to all the kids.I would describe Msgr. Keyes as the St. James icon and legend when we were growing up.
Most parishioners walked to mass at that time as the only parking was on 39th Street and Harrison Avenue and most families had only one car at best.As you approached the doors of the church, there were receptacles to dispose of your cigarette butts as many parishioners smoked then.As you entered the church there was a small wooden table with a gentleman seated behind it and before him on the table were rows of coins. I never understood what the coins were for but I understand now that coins and a dollar bill meant far more then than it does today.
In closing, these are the rambling thoughts, recollections and memories of a St. James product who, for what reason I don’t know, has not visited St. James Church for about fifty years.I moved away from Kansas City after graduation from college and never moved back because of my employment. I strongly believe, however, that the early training I received at St. James served me well. I understand that the grade school no longer exists, which is sad.I will add that after Sister Mary Ignatius and the Jesuits at Rockhurst, I found the Marine Corps a “piece of cake.”
Pat Lantz, interviewed by Gretchen Green
I’m here to tell the story of St. James parish as I saw it and lived it.[What years were you in the parish?] Well my family, we were all raised in the parish.I think my parents moved into the parish around 1947 and at the time my older sister was born.We lived over on 37th and Wayne.And I have 5 brothers and sisters, 3 sisters and 2 brothers.There were 6 children in the family.And all of us lived at home until we went off to college and some of us stayed in the parish even after that.I was in the parish until 1984.And then I moved to St. Peter’s parish.[So from when you were born until 1984 you were at St. James?] Yes, the only time I was out of the parish was when I was away at college in Warrensburg in the late 1970s.
[Do you remember when it was that they painted over the frescoes?] Yes.I’ve got probably several stories on that, and I would have been about 3rd or 4th grade at the time, and it was about 1966 I believe.What I do remember about it was that St. James was one of the first parishes across the whole country; we had gotten this designation as a model parish, because of some of the social service work that St. James was starting to come into and just because of the vitality of the parish at the time.What I do remember was having my 3rd grade teacher, Sr. Mary Andrea, come back and we brought her over, she’d been at St. James and left and then I remember that my mother and I took her out to lunch one time and wanted to bring her back over to St. James and she was the one that I remember had a fit about how the altar had been taken out.The altar, the other thing I remember, is that they took all the marble and the statues up to a, I remember it was a gas station or a car lot about 56th and Troost, and this stuff sat out in the open.I remember the angels sitting out there and as a matter of fact even the corpse of Christ that’s hanging in the church today was up there, and I remember my father went up there and retrieved that and brought it back and made the cross that he’s on there now.And it was just kind of a total taking away and of course, I wasn’t really that attached to it, as a kid, it was just part of, the church was just changing, and us not knowing what the church had been, you know, for all of our lives, it wasn’t a big thing.But there was, across the street from us, at 37th and Wayne, the lady’s name was McKnight and I remember as a kid that her husband had died and this was probably in the early 60s that her husband had died.And we would take her to church every Sunday.Anyway, she told us that her husband had helped paint the original angels, the scallops, and the cherubs and all that that was around [the walls at] the front part of the altar and she was really upset with the church, the way it had just become so bland.But the way I looked at it, there was more to the change than just the appearance of the church.We were getting to the point where the priest was looking at us, and it was, I remember thinking, are we supposed to look at his face? you know, when he’s saying during mass, where before we didn’t.We weren’t the participators that we are today.
One of the funny stories about this, the change from the Latin to the vernacular, was that, my two brothers, I have a brother that’s 5 years older than I am and one that’s about a year and a half but would have been just one year ahead of me in school.And I remember when my oldest brother Bill was learning Latin; he’d have these LP records that he would play on the stereo.And he would play that thing all night; he just had the thing repeating all night long.And we would hear all these Latin prayers for the altar boys.I guess he thought that’s how he thought he would subliminally memorize this stuff and it would play all night.And then my brother, Charles, the funny thing about him was, when we became servers in 5th grade.And he learned all the Latin prayers and got up to the point where he was going to be a server and then they changed it all into English.So all the learning in Latin that he did was for naught and then he had to go back and learn the prayers again in English because, I know you learn to say the words but you don’t really learn what you’re saying when you’re memorizing that.
But it was something with taking the altar back.I remember there were piles of marble even outside the church here and I remember that people were even encouraged to take a piece of marble.And I think I might still have a piece of marble and I could bring it back here…
[It might have been about 1970 when you graduated from the school?]
Yes, well, some of the teachers, let me see if I can go down and name all my teachers… and I started school in first grade at the time, they didn’t have Kindergarten.I think my two oldest sisters had Kindergarten but when we got there they did not.The Sisters were all from Omaha, the Sisters of Mercy.And my first grade teacher was Sr. Mary Judith, my second grade teacher was a lady named Mrs. Ryan, and I think Mrs. Ryan taught all of us, all of my brothers and sisters.She must have been there for 30 years teaching 2nd grade.The third grade teacher was Sr. Andrea, that’s the one I was telling you we had lunch with. My fourth grade teacher was kind of notorious; her name was Sr. Mariam.And this is what I found out, when we went from the third grade to the fourth grade, was when the sisters changed their habits.They went from the full black habits to, it kind of looked like a cowl neck, white around the neck and then just kind of a veil for the rest of their habit.And again, that was just kind of strange for us - do we look these sisters in the face again? Or how do we look at their hair? because some of their hair was showing.And anyway, Sr. Mariam, this was her second stint of being at St. James, and I remember I was going into the fourth grade and my sisters and brothers were telling me how mean this sister was going to be, and how rough I was going to have it, and you know, their prophecy came true.[laughs]She was a little rough, or maybe it convinced me to be a little more stubborn in learning, so we had quite a battle most of that year.But what happened was, especially having my father, my father was the maintenance man for St. James so, especially having him up there, I wasn’t able to get away with a whole lot.And then she and him became best friends.But I remember meeting Sr. Mariam, this is maybe within the last ten years, and St. James, and it might have been when St. James was having an anniversary and they were using the DeLaSalle gym, and she was there.And I asked Sister,I said Sister, why were you so mean? Why were you so mean to us?And she said, well Lantz, you turned out pretty good for yourself.Look at yourself.And I said, I got kind of snippy with her, and I said, yeah, after years of therapy.[laughs] And I don’t know why I did that to her but she looked at me and she kind of smiled at me and punched me, and then she said, you know, Pat, I’ll tell you the honest truth.I joined the convent when I was 15 years old, and I wanted to be a nurse.It was a nursing order, the Sisters of Mercy were big in nursing, and she had wanted to be a nurse, and they convinced her to be a teacher.And she said, you know I really didn’t want to be a teacher.So from that aspect, I thought, my God, here this lady did devote her entire life and did what they had asked her to do and I appreciate her so much and all those sisters that taught there.And the comment I just made, it was more of a ribbing than anything, you know.She did not cause me any therapy.It was just kind of a quick response.
Anyway, my fifth grade teacher, her name was Sr. Mary Marcita.I can’t remember my sixth grade teacher’s name.I know when my class was moving into the sixth grade the sixth grade teacher decided she didn’t want to teach my class so she moved to the seventh grade.She taught two years to skip us.She thought we were a rough class or something.I know this lady wasn’t very old and it was her first time teaching.Anyway, my seventh grade teacher, her name was Sr. Mary Kathleen.She was young, she was a novice.She hadn’t made her final profession to the order.And that was in 1968 which was a pretty memorable year, in the city, and politics and everything else going on, and in the seventh grade it was the time when you were starting to learn about civics and government.And she kept us on with that.When I went into the eighth grade, we got a new principal for the school and her name was Sr. Mary Edwina.Now for years before that and I think my entire seven years before that, the principal’s name was Sr. Mary Josepha.And she had taught most of my brothers and sisters.
So one of the questions was, and I still go back to Sr. Mariam, and I was telling you why she and my dad were buddies.Let me see if I can start subtracting some years.When I was in fourth grade in 1965, and this is a story that I’ll tell a little more about St. Vincent de Paul and work with poverty.That’s when President Johnson came out with his War on Poverty and creating the Great Society and all this, that my dad got pretty involved with some of those initiatives that were coming down from the federal government through the state, county and city levels and programs, and one of the programs was called the Human Resource Corporation.And I later found out that Fr. McNamara who became bishop of Grand Island, Nebraska, what had happened was that this HRC had set up a board of directors to run the program and really they weren’t even appointed or anything, it was just sort of a good old boys’ get-together.So I remember my dad and Sr. Mariam and even Fr. McNamara, Bishop McNamara, but he was over at Blessed Sacrament parish at the time, they really stood up, they insisted that this HRC board of directors needed to be selected by the public and mainly by those people who it was intended to serve.So they had this big campaign and the HRC had districts- they had 5 areas or 7 areas, I forget how many areas in Kansas City, I know we were area 5 and it was headquartered at St. James and each area had a representative or a director, had 2 directors, so there must have been 14 members on this board of directors.And Sr. Mariam was one that ran for the board and she got pretty well involved in that activity and my dad, and at the time, it was one of these things, I was talking to my brother about it, because my father had passed away just 6 months ago, and we were kind of recollecting on these stories and I remember we had a Ford station wagon, and he put a big loudspeaker on top of the station wagon.It looked like the Ghostbusters, this big blowhorn on it, this big sign on the back of it, and we rode around all Sunday afternoon, throughout the neighborhood, in this area 5.It was mostly St. James parish, east of Troost, and probably even east of Paseo.But just blowing around with this big sign, “Take no Chance – Vote for Lantz!” , you know, honking that thing, oh my God.And of course we’re all in there waving and people, I remember, people would come out of their houses and see it, and it was really a caravan of people wanting to be elected to this thing.They literally took this to the streets.And I remember Sr. Mariam would give us her little flyers and we would take them up and down the neighborhood and stick them in doors and all that, and I think, wow, you wouldn’t be caught dead doing that in this day and age.And back then it was just what we did; we didn’t think anything different of it.So they were pretty involved and active in this poverty movement of the ‘60s.And St. James parish, and down at the Center was the main office.And it eventually moved into getting public assistance, financial assistance for, emergency assistance for the poor.And with my dad being in the parish kind of blending it in with the mission of St. Vincent DePaul.But that’s probably a whole different story from the school.
Another memory from the school – I remember that my dad was the custodian so from the second grade on, we all had jobs after school.So we would push desks over to sweep or eventually by the third grade we would be promoted to mop pushers so we would push the mop and by fourth grade we were stripping floors and polishing floors, and everything else that needed to be done.[Your dad was the custodian for the whole parish, including the school and the church, rectory, and the center?] Yes, and… working after school.I was maybe cursed or blessed to be born into a family that my brothers and sisters… academics was no problem for them.They just knew how to do the work, or caught on fast, where I was more of a dreamer, a visionary, the small stuff wasn’t important to me, stuff like getting homework done, and learning to spell correctly and making sure I turned in all my math assignments.So it got to the point in fifth grade where Sr. Marcita realized, hey, if Pat Lantz is sticking around after school, working for his dad but not getting his homework done, maybe he ought to sit in the classroom after school while his brothers and sisters, and cousins and friends are cleaning and he do his work.So it just meant that Pat sat in there and did nothing for two hours.I was one of those reluctant learners, I guess.Maybe this is how God has gotten back to me and that’s why my career is now to work over at DeLaSalle with kids who don’t quite understand the importance of academics in school.So there was one year when I just kind of sat in there after school and had to watch my brothers and sisters make fun of me and make faces at me and all that, so after that I kind of caught on, and got my work done a little bit better.
But every morning, part of his job, the church supplied him with a Volkswagen van, an old microbus, so he figured one of his duties was to go by and pick up the sisters each morning that lived in the convent on the top floor of the school and take them to mass.And he would do that, but in the meantime, what was funny about that van was that he would use that van to haul trash, and haul tools, and everything, so the idea of having the seats in there was just something that got in the way, so he took the seats out, the three rows, so he just had the two seats in the front.And then open in the back. So what he would do when he’d take the nuns to mass, he would just put folding chairs in there.And of course, everyone, the sisters, they would just hang on; they just hung on for dear life.I don’t know how many times I rode in that van sitting in a chair, and he would shift gears or slam the brakes on, and we would go flying, I mean it’s amazing we didn’t get killed!He should have been arrested. [Laughs] So there was a definite St. James guardian angel looking over us with that Volkswagen van.And to imagine the nuns in their habits like that!And the church had a little pink one, and then a green one and a blue one.And I don’t know what Volkswagen dealership, but they must have given him a pretty good deal, because it seemed like every 3 or 4 years he’d get a new van and the first thing he’d do was take the seats out and when he traded the old one in, he would put the seats back in, and it would look brand new, only it was worn out, and rusted underneath, and all but he put the mats back in and the seats back in, and they’d give him top dollar, and it was just incredible.That’s probably enough about the school.
[1947 when your family moved into the parish – Were your parents continuing the legacy of Msgr. Keyes in addressing poverty?]No.My thought about the evolving life of this parish is that it met the needs of what was going on here at 39th and Troost no matter what age, no matter what advantage or disadvantage the people in this community had or has, and that’s why the vitality of why I still hold this whole parish community and this church building and these buildings and the people that are involved here so dear to me, because, I just feel funny when I hear people say, Oh, St. James used to be one of the biggest most powerful parishes in the diocese, you know, one of the most affluent parishes.And I think, my God, it’s an affluent parish for the people who are living here and getting their sacramental services and getting their social services done here.It has lived the life it’s supposed to live, and I truly think – and here’s my Catholicism coming through -that Christ has put this parish, this building, this parish, the people in this parish here for eternity, to meet the needs for whomever is here.When I was growing up, it really was a dividing line, we said, you know, it’s Troost, but I know, I looked at some of our old 8 mm home films down on 37th and Wayne, and it was suburbia.I mean, it was tree-lined streets with manicured lawns and sidewalks, and I had cousins that lived over at Blessed Sacrament parish, and I don’t know if they felt like they were in any kind of a depressed neighborhood or anything, I mean it was just how it was.So when you’re asking me about Fr. Keyes,I was thinking that when he started the parish, 100 years ago, this probably was pretty affluent, especially with Hyde Park and Janssen Place and the new, with the Plaza being built up in here, and us being kind of on the edge of it, well probably at the time it was in the parish.And I would even go as far as, after Msgr. Keyes was Msgr. Schilling.I was alive, I guess, I was born in ’56, so I think he was still pastor until 1959, but I don’t remember him, and Msgr. Walton.Msgr. Walton is probably the first pastor that I can remember.And he did have a mission.I remember when he left Kansas City and went to Bolivia on a mission.And I was telling Ross this, that the guy he went with, Joe Clark, and Joe Clark was the custodian here at St. James before my father.And when Msgr. Walton decided to go to Bolivia, Joe Clark – and Joe might be a person to get ahold of – he went down to Bolivia with Msgr. Walton.And I can’t remember when Msgr. Walton died… That was my recollection of someone going on a mission.
And then the same thing with Msgr. Hogan who was the next pastor here.And I’m trying to think – Msgr. Hogan must have been my dad’s first boss.I don’t think Msgr. Walton hired him.So it must have been after Joe Clark left.And he too, Msgr. Hogan went to Bolivia, because I was in 5th or 6th grade at the time, and we gave him a little bon voyage and party.The school kids all came over and we sang songs for him.And he came back pretty quick.I know he had heart problems… That had to be the time, with Msgr. Hogan, when really St. James started looking into what was going on in the community here.There was a time here, and I’m going to give you some of us…, it could just be my memory too… but, just south of here, we’re sitting in the rectory and south of here there were three houses across here and those houses belonged to the parish, with the idea that that property and the current parking lot (not on the corner, or yes, we did own that property on the corner), but there was the idea that we were going to build a school, here.And I remember it was back in about 1967, 1966, that they tore these houses down, and it was, I remember my parents talking about it, it was kind of a bad deal.There was a group in the parish that was really pushing, pushing to get a new grade school and build it right on the “campus” here.But I know there was another group, my dad being in it, Kurt Leifhelm, Martin Phillips, that had the opportunity to get a senior citizens’ facility built on this property.And it went to the parish council and they never were able to pull it off.I know that this vision that Ross has of doing this here now, would just be a dream come true, only 40 years later.In all honesty, we were looking at the school, we were looking at the parish, and by that time, I don’t think people were realizing this, but the population density in St. James parish was leaving.And maybe disproportionately, the Catholics in this parish were leaving.So, the parish, already population wise, was starting to decline.And there were already schools at the time, I believe, in the Northeast, were closing or combining, and it just would not have been a good idea to build a new school.So what happened was, they tore the buildings down and nothing happened.
There was another group of Sisters, I think they were called the Sisters of Social Service.And they were “the grey sisters” I think we used to call them.And they were on that very first house when you turn into Janssen Place.And they were in the very first house when you turn into Janssen Place so whatever street that is, at 36th Street, that was their house.I want to tell you a story on that.They recognized what my dad was doing through St. Vincent DePaul and through the HRC and all this, and how we were doing a pantry.And that was kind of their mission.I didn’t know exactly what they did most of the time.But there were several times when they would call us up, and maybe at 11:00, or 11:30 at night, one of these little Sisters would call us up and say, hey, Bill Lantz, talking to my dad, we found many fruits and vegetables that are very good and salvageable – come help us!So we would all hop in that van with no seats, and if we were lucky we got a seat (the front seat) and if we didn’t, we had to hang on.Stand up and hang on!And four or five of us would get in, because I had cousins living next door and if we could manage to get them to go with us, we would bring them along too. And I remember this one time, I remember this clear.We went down to the Safeway store down on 45th and Troost, where the Osco is now.And they used to have a two-level parking garage, and in the bottom level was where they had their dumpsters.So we pulled in there and there’s a car setting there with two nuns in the car, and one of them comes out and says to my dad, hey, we’ve got some fruits and vegetables in here they said we could have.So we go over to the dumpster and there’s this little tiny nun inside the dumpster throwing this stuff out![Laughs] And of course, we pulled her out of there, and said, well, it was at my dad’s encouragement that we pulled her out, and then WE had to get in.And I thought, my God, you know!Here I am in a dumpster!It just seemed like, with my dad’s calling, we were always on call, we were part of his vision.
[And I wrote a little bit about this] – I found this little thing my dad put together years ago, just the story of his life.In 1963, he did the Cursillo, which is a movement sponsored by the Franciscans.And anyway, he did this Cursillo in Cincinnati, Ohio, and then he helped with him and these guys are bishops now.I think it was McAuliffe, and McNamara.Some of them went there and were encouraged to bring this back to Kansas City.So the Cursillo was just a high-powered extreme retreat that you would do.So after his reflection on all this, my dad decided to leave his management job at RCA.And just devote his life to the parish and work in this way.My brothers and me, five and two years older than me, and my younger sister, we didn’t think anything of it.Years later I asked my sister who is 10 years older than I am, and she said, I thought he was nuts!Why would he go from a decent salary to __ ?And you can imagine that, you know, he wasn’t making anything working for the parish.But I’ve always told her, you know what, he was smart enough to give us the opportunity to work with him.And not only was it just me and my brothers but also my cousins who lived next door to us.This was my aunt who was a widow, my mom’s sister.She had 5 children so really he was kind of the father figure for both of them.So when you said, St. James, you know, I was in the first grade, my brother Charles was in the second grade, my cousin Louise was in the third grade, my cousin Harold was in the … I mean, we had all the grades covered, for 15 years going over there, so the family was just always there and of course we were always working with him.
And part of his Cursillo was just this whole, helping others.One thing that I remember, he used to take us to St. Vincent DePaul.St. V de Paul was one of the things that he really thought was a ministry that this town needed, and a true ministry.We would go, I remember several times, we would go to St. Vincent DePaul breakfasts and it would seem like a country club.We would go and have a really nice breakfast and then after the breakfast, and of course it was mostly men, it was all men, at the time, and then after breakfast everybody got a cigar and coffee – there wasn’t any drinks there, I don’t think.And then someone would get up and talk about what the St. Vincent DePaul store did over, at the one store they had in the city.And then my dad would start to rock the boat.He would say, look, we’ve got to do more than this.And they allowed him to open the store.The store used to be over on 38th and Woodland, the St. Vincent DePaul store.It was the one for the diocese I think, if not for the city.So he got permission to go ahead and have a store here, and we put it right on the corner of 39th, there was an appliance store and then somebody moved out and he was able to put the St. Vincent DePaul store in there.[Where it is now?] No.It was north of there (north of where you pull into the parking lot).North of there was buildings.There was an appliance store, and then a watch store, and a shoe store, and then a cleaners’.Eventually, he got most of that building.Then what happened was,… he had it back in 1974, where St. James Place is now.Where FrankPeak has his office, that building.When we were kids, you know, every time we’d mow the grass, we had to do all the summer work around here too and we mowed the grass and this big field where we should have had the new school building.It’s a garden area.But we used to mow by the building where FrankPeak is now, the little strip of grass there, we’d always mow the grass, and the guy would come out and say, thanks, you know, and we wouldn’t think much of it.But one time he was out in the parking lot, and he was driving off, and my dad runs out there after him and he waves and waves at him, and off he drives, and off the top of the roof, fell this deposit bag for his receipts.And what he wrote [Pat’s dad wrote this down later] was that this bag had $57,000 in cash in it and another $30,000 in checks and receipts, so he gets back to the St. Vincent DePaul office and finds the guy’s phone number and calls him and says, hey, I think you lost something, and the guy was panicked, and he said, thank God!So he got it and saved it.So anyway, about 6 months later, a guy comes in and he says he’s his attorney, and he decided to donate the building to St. Vincent DePaul.So that’s how we got the building, just out of that kindness and having an honest man like that.And of course we’d always pick up his trash and mowed and all that.So in the meantime, some kook broke into where the store was (before) and set the store on fire, so then that’s when we moved the St. Vincent DePaul store. And then after that, see I was out of the parish for awhile, but that used to be a motorcycle place, Ferguson’s motor, where St. Vincent DePaul is right now.And at the time, the food pantry and emergency assistance pantry, Bill’s Boutique is what Fr. Karrols used to call it, at home we used to call it “the boutique”.
There was Fr. Van Arx, who was not here very long, but my grandmother was very happy when they named him pastor, because he had been here before and she really liked him.My grandmother lived with us.She moved in with my family in the late ‘50s, and, … then Father Crewse, and Father Wegenek.
It’s been, this whole 39th and Troost neighborhood, it just seems like I’ve never left here.Because even after I moved out to Waldo, St. Peter’s/St. Elizabeth parish, I got my job over at DeLaSalle, so when I moved out of the parish, I was still here at DeLaSalle.So I’ve always been here in the neighborhood.So it’s just always kind of been my roots and just watching and seeing how this whole area has changed and evolved and, you know, I’m on the Troost Committee too and people talk about how vibrant St. James parish was and how vibrant Troost used to be, and I just think, fine, but today there are still people here living their lives, with their families, living here, and this is still a sacred place to wherever it is and I don’t want to offend anybody by saying it’s so run down or whatever, it’s -what it is.It’s part of a cycle of life in a city or a cycle of life in a parish or just in society itself, the way we evolve, and discarding where we’ve been and move on.And I think there’s a definite purpose that St. James has remained in this area, and if you want to judge success by the number of people, fine, but if you want to do it by stability and presence, - we’re here.And that’s how I always think of St. James.
More great stories from Pat Lantz:
I know St. James as my second home, as does probably my brothers and youngest sister Mary.In 1962 my father, after making a Cursillo, quit his management job and became custodian of the parish buildings and grounds.As the maintenance man, he employed Bill, Charles and I as janitors and maintenance journeymen.In my case, from second grade until I left home to go to college I worked for him helping him clean the school, church, and center.In the summers we would mow grass, paint classrooms, wash windows, tar roofs, lay tile and varnish gym floors.In the winter, my dad prided himself on having all the side walks cleared of snow for the 6:00 am Mass which meant my brothers and I were up at 4:00 am shoveling snow. Even on school days, of course, we would also have to shovel the school’s walks so school would not have to be cancelled, making the Lantz boys the “heroes” of everybody wanting to be off school.My father not only had us working around the church and school, but many other young men of the parish.I would estimate that over the 20 years he was custodian, he provided over 100 people with their first jobs.
My father was big on the Holy Name Society, so much as to schedule vacations around it.I remember that the Holy Name sponsored the Scouts and that on every second Sunday we would put on our scout uniforms and march in with the men in the parish.I remember the entire group would take up about a third of the church pews on both sides.After Mass, we would go down to the basement for the meeting which meant getting a free bottle of Coca Cola and a Lamar’s doughnut.In the 70’s the membership of the Holy Name had fallen and the scouts were not as active.The few loyal Holy Name men did recognize a decline in the neighborhood and decided to sponsor monthly Parish Community Dinners in the Center.The idea was to get neighbors to come together for a very good meal and hear a speaker on community.I remember the first dinners were almost gourmet for the time and not what you would expect for a community dinner.The first dinner was a Friday night in Lent so we had boiled shrimp, all you can eat.Other meals included a baron of beef, charbroiled rib eyes cooked to order, and of course oven fried chicken.Speakers for the dinners were prominent civic leaders like Joe Service, Charles Wheeler, Phil Scaglia as well as former priests at St. James which included Cardinal Baum, Bishops Heart and Fitzsimmons.The incredible thing about the dinners was it was a tremendous money maker yet the meal was free.The only thing was a Kitty standing by the door on the way out that asked for donations.With the proceeds from the dinner, the Holy Name was able to purchase new tables and chairs for the Center and help out with other needs the parish had.
It seemed like my late grade school years and through high school St. James was where my friends and I found most of our amusement and entertainment.On Saturdays during winter, several of us would set up a concession stand for the CatholicGrade School Basketball League that played in the Center.I cannot say we made a lot of money, but after cleaning the bleachers and sweeping the floors, we had the run of the gym.I remember while being in high school it was never hard to get severalfellows together to set up tables for card parties or clean up after community dinners if late night basketball was available.
The other thing I remember doing with friends was St. Vincent de Paul work.It became almost a ritual on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving to ride out in the church’s Volkswagen van to far away parishes like St. Elizabeth and St. Regis and pick up the donated food their parishioners donated to the poor in central city.We would come back to the center and separate the cans into categories and stock the shelves for making Christmas Baskets.Of course after the shelves were stocked we would play basket ball.I also think about the many Saturdays I would pick up a few friends in the VW and run errands for the St. Vincent de Paul store.Mostly we would pick up (junk) merchandise for suburban residences who were updating their home appliances.We also would be the clean up crew of left over items from yard sales and rummage sales.All these would be brought back to the St. Vincent de Paul store affectionately named by Father Karrols as “Bill’s Boutique.”
It would not be a complete Lantz story of the St. Vincent de Paul if I did not mention ice cream and hosiery.The ice cream is about how an agreement was made with Fairmont Country Club dairy on Van Brunt to donate over runs of the ice cream it produced instead of melting it and sending it down the drain.For a couple years, every three months or so, we would get a call that the ice cream was ready for pick up.We would take our family Ford station wagon and the VW van and load as much ice cream as we could without “axeling” out the vehicles and off we would go to find a cold home.This was in the late ‘60’s and not everyone had freezers, but parishioners that did would get quite a stock of ice cream with the promise that when an emergency food request came we could come calling.The arrangement was that those storing the ice cream could help them selves for their family needs.With all the ice cream we delivered, I am sure there are some freezers today still stocked.
In 1968 panty hose came on the market and swept most conventional hosiery off the self.The Jones store donated a million pair to St. Vincent de Paul.I remember there were about 4 colors but all had a small checkered pattern which made them very distinctive.My brothers and I and a few of our friends who helped carry in cartons and cartons of them knew them well.We also got familiar with them because my father would use them as utility straps for anything from tying his tomatoes to stakes to strapping down cargo on top of the VW van when we were picking up junk.My brothers and I also knew they were being sold at Bill’s Boutique and we would recognize them on some of the older ladies of the parish, who have not made the switch to panty hose, my grandmother included.What really got our attention was seeing them on the legs of the ladies of the evening up and down Troost.Some how it was just good knowing Bill’s Boutique had something for everybody.
In my lifetime I have seen St. James in different phases of its life.It remains what it always has been, what it is, and what it will be, a light for the community at 39th and Troost.
I believe the main thing St. James parish gave was the gift to experience the “Sacramental Christ” in a holy and sacred place inside the church and to meet the Christ person in the people living in the Troost community.
There are many more stories to come. We will be updating this site as stories come in.
Also, in April, we will be publishing a Commemorative History Book in honor of our 100th anniversary. It will be filled with Story Project stories and photographs from throughout the decades. All households on the St. James mailing list will receive a complimentary copy of the book. If you are not yet on the mailing list, contact the parish office today to ensure your copy of this amazing book!
We want to hear your story.
What is your connection to St. James? What memories can you share?
Story Project stories are still being collected and will be throughout the centennial year. Copies of all the stories will be kept in the parish archives, and some will be published on this site. We are also collecting photographs for the parish archives.
Send your stories and pictures to the parish office: 3909 Harrison Kansas City, MO 64110 or email email@example.com (email from this website is sent to the above address)