1960 – 1970
Big Changes at Home & in the World
Olathe climbed to 10,978 citizens in 1960 with 143,792 in the county. Overland Park, incorporated that year, became the sixth largest city in Kansas. The Shawnee Mission Post office was established. King Radio, with 60 employees, moved to Olathe. The city began to examine ways to convert the Naval Air Station to the industrial park. Construction began on the Federal Aviation Administration center east of I-35. A beginning woman teacher in the Olathe schools earned $3,800. The salary for a man was $4,100.
I-35 was completed in Olathe in 1961. That year, Kansas celebrated its centennial. John Kennedy was inaugurated as president, and Olathe resident John Anderson became governor of Kansas.
Grace Bilger painted the murals in the lobby of the new courthouse, KSD also celebrated its centennial, and Patrons Mutual Insurance began a new office building east of I-35.
Twenty-four inches of snow fell in January 1962. The old Lincoln School, a segregated school for black children that had fallen into disuse, was sold to a private individual. Oral polio vaccine was being tested in some school districts. Kennedy ordered 1,800 Marines into Thailand. Metcalf South Shopping Center began construction.
Squabbling among city commissioners caused so much excitement in Olathe that one resident quipped, “We could hardly wait to get up in the morning to read about it in the paper!” Medicare and women’s issues were debated topics. The new Johnson County Home for the Aged was dedicated in July. The largest enrollment ever, 287 started at KSD in September. The first annual All-School Reunion brought 587 out-of-town alumni to Olathe during Old Settlers.
City commission problems were settled by the election of 1963. The restaurants of choice in Olathe were the B & B Cafe at K-150 and I-35, and Custor’s Last Stand, a fried chicken establishment sporting a conspicuous chicken head from the roof. It was at the edge of town on the corner of Ridgeview and Santa Fe.
Drought conditions pointed up the inadequacy of the city water system. President Kennedy was assassinated in November.
1964 saw Hyer Boot Factory move to a new building at I-35 and Rawhide. King Radio began a new plant east of I-35, and Safeway began construction of a new store at Woodland and Santa Fe. Fund-raising began for a new hospital. A serious fire destroyed several retail stores on Park Street, which were rebuilt and opened the next year. Olathe’s population in 1965 was 12,661. Ernie Miller was named the first “Mr. Olathe” by the Chamber of Commerce. The Snepp family ended 90 years of ownership of Snepp Drugstore when they sold to Roy Taylor. The old St. Paul’s Catholic Church was razed in September. The Marley Company and RO Products came to Olathe, and the Sunflower Ordnance Plant was reactivated.
Ambulance service began in Olathe in 1966. The new water system was operating, and the city commission purchased 18 acres of land on north Ridgeview Road to be used as a recreation area. Portions of the movie “In Cold Blood” were filmed here.
1967 saw the advent of urban renewal, MidAmerica Nazarene College (now MidAmerica Nazarene University), cable television, daylight savings time, Johnson County Community College and a new Olathe Community Hospital.
Santa Fe Trail Junior High opened with 600 students in 1968. Hyer Boot Factory was sold to a Kansas City firm. Olathe tripled its size through annexation. MidAmerica Nazarene College enrolled 300 students, and Twin City Tool and Die moved into a new plant. Mel Winters was hired as superintendent of schools, and Olathe residents first used voting machines.
Among others, the old Hyer Boot building, the Ernie Miller building, the Avenue Hotel and Hotel Olathe were razed. “Cruzin’ the ‘Fe” was the thing to do for Olathe youth. Martin Luther King was assassinated, and the newspaper was printing letters from Olathe residents serving in Vietnam, now America’s longest war.