When Frank Bruce’s mother went into labor, his dad rushed to tell the doctor on Johnson Drive — just a block from the small house off Woodson where the family lived.
“He said, ‘Gertrude’s in labor, but I don’t have any money to pay you,'” Bruce recalls the story going. “And the doctor said, ‘Well, we’ll work something out.'”
So when the delivery was over and little Frank was swaddled in his mother’s arms, his dad and the doctor got to talking.
“My dad was a terrific golfer,” Bruce said. “The doctor said, ‘You know, I’ve always liked those golf clubs you have.’ And so that’s what he gave him for the delivery. And that’s what I’m worth today: A set of golf clubs.”
Bruce never roamed far from that house where he was born. He raised his own family in Mission, serving 30 years on the volunteer fire department. In fact, his granddaughter Julia is now the fourth-generation in his line to attend Shawnee Mission North. (It was called Shawnee Mission Rural when his mother Gertrude attended in the late 1920s.)
With so much personal history in the city, it’s little wonder that the Mission City Council recently named Bruce the first-ever Mission City Historian.
Since being named to the post late last year, Bruce has been scouring old city documents and land maps to uncover interesting facts about the fixtures that still make up the city’s central corridor.
Those octagonal windows on the facade of what is now Fire Wok restaurant? They used to be part of a creative exterior design for an optometrist.
“That’s what the old eye glasses looked like,” Bruce said. “They had it look like there was a pair of eyeglasses on the front of the building.”
The ample sidewalk outside the building at Johnson Drive and Woodson where Ad Astra Market now sits?
“It was a gas station, so that sidewalk is where people would pull their cars up to the gas pumps,” he said.
Bruce is currently in the process or organizing a walking tour of historical features in Mission’s downtown for city officials and volunteers later this spring. He says he’ll likely put together an event for the public later this year.