Thursday, October 6, 2011

Remarks by Gene Sally during
The Gene Sally Parkway Dedication Ceremony
Friday, Sept. 30, 2011
Rolla City Hall, Rolla, Missouri

(NOTE): The Rolla City Council recently approved an ordinance to designate an overlay of the 10th Street Bridge in Rolla as the “Gene Sally Parkway” in honor and memory of Mr. Sally who was a prominent Rolla real estate developer, and community leader largely responsible for the construction and funding of the 10th Street Bridge in Rolla. 
In addition, Mr. Sally was largely responsible for much of the development that has occurred in the east area of Rolla, including the Forum Shopping Center, Forum Hills subdivision, and Rolla Technical Institute. In addition Mr. Sally was instrumental in the purchase of Rolla National Airport for $1, and was one of the purchasing partners of Oak Meadow Country Club. He was also an active supporter of Rolla youth sports.  
The following are Mr. Sally’s remarks during the Dedication Ceremony held in the Courtyard at Rolla City Hall: 
I wish to acknowledge and thank the Mayor and Rolla City Council for their service to Rolla and this significant honor today. 
Mayor Jenks has been an advocate of small businesses that create most of our jobs in this country. Our Governor and Jefferson City has noticed and he serves on an important commission dedicated to small business. 
The City Council contributes their time, energy and good judgment in an effort to make Rolla a better place to live and work. 
Several people presented me to the City for this honor…
Bill Stoltz is a local who never left; he has been a quiet and successful leader that every small town in America needs.
Mr. Gene Sally addresses a large crowd in the City Hall Courtyard.
Bob McKune acquired KTTR and made it a respected voice for good government and community growth. I know he was regretful when I left town – as I never beat him once in hundreds of tennis games.
John Brown had a solid national basketball career. He called me one night about midnight – said he had just held Jabbar to 51 points. For his over 7 years in the league his shooting percentage ranged from 43% - 48% and free throws 75% - 85%. He has always been unassuming and modest. I am proud to call him my friend. 
I would like to introduce my family members. 
My wife, Betty, whom I met in real estate sales in La Jolla, Calif. I went in for a rental and she sold me a small oceanfront property. She is my best friend, my soul mate, and wife of 25 years
My son, Chris and wife, Julie who live in Kansas City, Mo. Chris has a University of Arizona real estate degree, his CCIM and lots of other alphabet designations. Julie is from Richland, Va., has a degree from the University of Missouri, a Masters Degree in common sense and just sold her very successful public relations company. They have 3 year-old twins, Gibson and Katharine. 
My daughter, Tory and husband, Will Fitzgibbon, from Nashville, Tenn. And my 3 grandsons Liam, Henry and Harrison. Will has his own investment banking firm. Tory has a business degree from SMU and a Master’s from Vanderbilt. Yes, the boys are very fine athletes.
My cousins, Ron Elliott and his wife, Denise. Mike and Sherry Elliott, Susan and Lou  Gilbert and Kim and Davis Haas. I also see a number of my friends – thank you for being here.
There are rewarding occasions in everyone’s life when it is necessary and prudent to look inward and attempt to find that delicate balance between pride and humility.
This is such an occasion for me and I’ve done my best to find that balance.
My family, on both sides, the Lanning’s and the Sally’s lived in Phelps County for over a hundred years and the cultural values of the community have certainly become an integral part of my character.
Keeping your word, standing with your friends in good times and bad and sticking to your principles while being considerate of the rights of others have guided me when being confronted by triumph and disaster. I’m proud of where I came from.
My genetics endowed me with certain physical skills enabling me to participate in various sports, among which was baseball and basketball. I was the last player signed by the St. Louis Browns before they became the Baltimore Orioles. When I received my varsity letter from the University of Missouri in baseball and basketball, I was proud to be the first letter winner as a resident of Phelps County.
After college I returned to Rolla and opened a real estate office, paying the handsome rent of twenty-five dollars a month. My office was in an alley behind a liquor store.
Within a year of starting my real estate and insurance agency in 1955, I had every highway in or out of Rolla covered with billboards that said, “Before you Buy, Build, or Burn, see Gene Sally.” – and yes, I did have a few that burned.
I organized and was President of Rolla’s first real estate board. I persisted until the Rolla City Council finally adopted a planning and zoning ordinance.
My election to the Missouri House of Representatives and the Missouri Senate added to that humility. To think this could happen to me made me acutely aware of the support and encouragement of the community and friends.
In 1958, I was a leader in Missouri for mental health reform and civil rights – which finally passed in 1964. As the Governor’s representative on the Ozarks Regional Commission, we funded and built 17 large vocational schools, as well as industrial parks and hospital additions in rural Missouri.
Governor Hearnes asked that I serve as Host State Chairman of the 1970 National Governor’s Conference held at Lake of the Ozarks. We entertained 47 of our nation’s governors and it went smoothly.
Betty and I moved from La Jolla, Calif. to Lake Ozark in 1993.
Shortly thereafter we became aware of horrific accidents on Missouri’s waterways. Eight year old boys being killed on personal watercraft – others driving boats while drunk. To make a long story short, I did some research and the Legislature was killing a much needed water safety bill every session. The large boat dealers and the lake towns wanted no change. They were fearful of the repercussions.
I called on old friends, had a bill drafted and appeared and spoke on its behalf at every hearing. I also called the Editors of every influential newspaper in the State.
At sessions end, Governor Mel Carnahan graciously presented Betty and myself a copy of the Passed Bill and the pen he signed it with. It has proven to be a life saver.
I served my country when I was called to active duty on August 19, 1950, the Korean War. I was a member of the first National Guard units’, Rolla’s 1438th Treadway Bridge Engineers Company.
I joined to play softball. We had one of the best teams in the State. Very few had never seen a treadway bridge. We soon found out that the bridge is built first before the tanks and infantry cross the stream or river. A lot of us said Uh-Oh!
We were sent to Fort Lewis Washington and eight months later could build it in our sleep.
My brother Don and Uncle Master Sergeant Denny Lanning received orders to go to Korea in early 1951. I then volunteered to go with them.
In Japan they split us apart, as brothers couldn’t serve in the same combat area. I ended up in the 772nd Military Police Battalion. I was there for 10 months and was only scared for 300 days.
I am proud to be a member of the Rolla’s Korean War Veteran’s Chapter. If anyone here served in the Korean War please hold up your hand. I am honored to be one of you.
These public successes, along with my private efforts enabled me to develop a substantial portion of the East side of our City. This could have never happened without the guidance, help and understanding of a galaxy of leaders, friends and advisors. This realization was one of my most humbling experiences. Central Federal Savings and Loan never turned down a single loan request. They loaned me several million dollars through the years. Successful local business leaders have always comprised their Board of Directors. Truly, they have been a force in Rolla growth and stability.
Mr. Gene Sally, left, visits with Senator Dan Brown and Mayor Bill Jenks, III
I recall in my memory bank roll had only one police car and one traffic light at 8th and Pine Streets, three theaters – the Rollamo, The Uptown and The Ritz. Admission at one time was a dime and popcorn was a nickel.
  • John Wilson, a high school soda jerk at John and Lenore Morris Scott’s Drug Store who became Chief Economist for Bank of America in SanFrancisco.
  • Ben Thomas, Herman’s son and Tom’s Brother who was and is one of the most successful and talented lawyers in Arizona. He was captain of Missouri’s golf team.
  • Don Tankersley who had many country music songs in the top ten, sung by Charlie Pride, Johnny Cash, Johnny Paycheck and others.
  • Victor Mature at Malo’s Restaurant almost every night while making a war movie at Ft. Leonard Wood.
  • Mickey Mantle visiting Bow Wow dog food doing a promotional experience.
  • John Lenox, now deceased – a sensational basketball player at Warrensburg hired by Shelter Insurance for $2,900/year to being President of the company making several million. His favorite place as hunting acreage that he owned between here and Salem.
  • I visited with Robert Wadlow at Williams Shoe Store. He was 8 feet 11 inches tall, weighed 450 pounds, the world’s largest man.
  • I saw an entire block of business buildings burn to the ground at 6th and Pine with no loss of life.
  • I met President Harry S. Truman two times, ten years apart. I said Mr. President, Gene Sally, Rolla, Missouri. Both times he immediately responded, “Is the Edwin Long Hotel still there?” Then said, “How is my friend Judge Allison.” I said I would give him your regards.
  • I must mention my Uncle Ken Lanning, a member of the Missouri Golf Hall of Fame. Sports Illustrated did three pages on him and Golf Digest presented him with the number one award for contribution to Junior Golf. He gave over 1,000 sets of clubs to young players. He also won several hundred amateur championships.
  • Marvin Breuer, known as Floppy, was a Rolla boy who pitched in two World Series in his five years with the New York Yankees. Bill Dickey, the great Yankee catcher, told me he had the BEST curveball of any pitcher he ever caught.
  • At one point in time I renewed my friendship with C.D. Ward, from Newburg, Mo He was then Vice-President Spiro Agnew’s domestic assistant. After attending a week-long National Governor’s Conference in Puerto Rico, I was invited to fly back to Washington, D.C. on Air Force One with 27 Governors. Shortly after takeoff I was asked if I wanted to make any telephone calls. I said “No thank you.” No one I knew would believe I was actually on Air Force One. 
  • In closing, I left Rolla in 1980. But, I made sure that Rolla never left me. My California license plate was ‘RollaMo’, my e-mail address was Even today with a home in Kansas City, my license plate is Rolla1. I have lost count of notes left on my windshield by someone associated with good memories of Rolla.
    I thank you for this illustrious occasion. It is really something for a boy from the wrong side of the railroad tracks, wearing hand-me-down clothes, selling newspapers at 9th and Pine and working summer jobs mowing yards and at Ed Wynn’s filling station.
    You have allowed me to catch the shiny brass ring on the merry-go-round of life.
    It’s been quite a ride.

    Thank you.
    Gene Sally,Rancho Mirage, Calif.

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