Kansas City? All I knew about Kansas City was that it was the gateway to the Great Plains. I expected my drive westward on I-70 would carry me through barren plains, when suddenly, off in the distance, I would be able to see the rising skyline of a cowtown. I was very wrong.
On Thursday, April 13, 1972, my boss came back to me with a “deal.” I didn’t have to be in Kansas City on Monday, April 17. I could arrive in the morning on Tuesday April 18, as the important meeting wasn’t until 2:00 PM. This still wasn’t going to fly. As I was not going to be in the office on the next day, Friday, things needed to be wrapped up quickly. My boss asked for two more hours. Around 3:00 PM, he came back into my office with a big smile. “Tom, I think we may have a deal.” The “normal” relocation allowance permitted a spouse to travel to the new location and stay for two nights and three days to look for permanent housing. The agency was going to let my bride travel with me to Kansas City on Monday, April 17. Additionally, they were going to put us both up at the Plaza Inn (a very nice hotel) for ten days as compensation for the lost honeymoon. They never asked, and I didn’t tell, but my original honeymoon was going to be a road trip to Charlevoix and Petoskey. I got great rates on the rooms as both cities are still snowbound in April. They were also going to throw in a salary bump to $14,700! What a deal! I called my bride-to-be. Her only problem with it was leaving Michigan. I told her not to worry. Kansas City was only a four-hour drive from Muskegon. Any of you who know anything about geography will know that I was lying. I needed to close the deal. She said yes. I said yes. I spent the rest of my day cleaning out my desk. A friend drove me home (an apartment I had leased in Rochester) so I could leave the USS Enterprise in its docking bay. The next five days were going to be interesting.
On Friday morning I drove up to Lansing to see my parents. There was a letter waiting for me from the Selective Service! Viet Nam was still a hanging sword of Damocles for me. With trembling hands I opened the letter. It was a ‘Notice of Reclassification.’ For the last three years I had a 1-Y deferment, due to the knee I had blown out and had repaired. Was my time up? I read on… I was being reclassified to 4-F, “Physically Unfit for Duty.” I found out that this was a “wedding present” from the clerk at my local draft board. It’s a great story that I’ll save for another blog. My parents and I drove up to Muskegon that afternoon. The rehearsal dinner was that evening. The next morning dawned cold, but clear. I had asked two old seminary friends who had made it through to become priests to officiate. About an hour before the service one of my friends showed up. He handed me a telegram. The second friend had decided to leave the priesthood and wouldn’t be there. Oh well, one was better than none. It was about an hour before the ceremony that it occurred to me that I hadn’t memorized my part of the vows my fiancée and I had written. I had been too busy calling on Chevrolet dealers in Buffalo. No problem, I would wing it.
That proved to be a terrible plan. During the ceremony, I froze. This was different than presenting to car dealers. I immediately fell into every clichéd wedding vow I could remember. I even threw in some lines from the Pledge of Allegiance, and “The Charge of the Light Brigade” for good measure. Not my finest hour, but we got through it. The reception went down in the annals of Cavanagh lore as a “bar setter.” Sunday morning, we awoke and made our way to my bride’s parents’ house to open wedding gifts. We were going to leave them all there and have them shipped to Kansas City once we found a place. Monday morning we drove to Rochester to meet the movers. We never were able to spend a night in the Rochester apartment. After staying at a hotel near the airport, we left for Kansas City. I, with an eye toward the future. My wife, with the heavy thought, “Good Lord, what have I gotten myself into?”
The flight to Kansas City was uneventful except for the tremendous thunderstorm we spent an hour flying in on approach to the Kansas City airport. We were tossed around like ping-pong balls in a Bingo drum. The old Kansas City airport used to be downtown, nestled between a crook in the Missouri River and the downtown skyscrapers. The terrible thunderstorm and buffeting notwithstanding, it’s a little disconcerting to be on final approach to a runway and look out the window to see skyscrapers on both sides of you that are taller than your current altitude. I waved at the office workers watching the terrible storm. They waved back. Another fun thing about landing at the old airport was the fact that you would start descending over the Missouri River. As the plane went lower and lower, the river got bigger and bigger. One would think that we were only inches from ditching. Then, at the last possible second, the runway would appear under the wing. Air travel as a Six Flags thrill ride!
We finally landed. My wife informed me that she had gotten air sick and now had a migraine. The old airport didn’t have jet ways that extended from the terminal. They would roll ramps up to the plane, and you had to walk down to the ground. We did, and were met in the pouring rain by my boss and two local Chevy heavy-breathers. “Welcome to Kansas City!”, they said. My wife got sick on the tarmac.
Let the games begin.
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