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March 10, 2017

1897 Verlon Ewing born - Ewing's Bar B Cue Owner

Research and writing from Peggy Nuckles, featured contributor! Peggy has had the very interesting Accidental History blog. http://accidentalhistory.blogspot.se/

The Black Band Leader That Had to Lead A Ku Klux Klan Parade in Texas
Business Owner Faced Racism Much of His Life But Still Came Out on Top

In 1971 Verlon Ewing was named the Citizen of the Year by the Warrensburg Chamber of Commerce. He deserved this high honor. He had been a music teacher, school and military band leader and successful family business owner in Warrensburg for many years.

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1971 - Verlon Ewing, right, Warrensburg restaurant owner, receives the Citizen of the Month Award from Gilbert Forbush, Sr., a member of the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.  Ewing, formerly a band instructor at the old Howard School and
Historic Howard School, now collapsed, on West Culton Street
for many years he protected and aided children at the Warren Street MoPac railroad crossing on Warren St. Warrensburg, MO


Ewing's Bar-B-Cue Meets, Warrensburg, Missouri 100 South Warren
Verlon and his family had a long history in this area - and they faced racism much of their lives. His grandmother’s obituary is an example of one of the friendliest eulogies and with a racial perspective of her life.

From the Warrensburg, MO Daily Star Journal Jan 24, 1939
Aunt Rebecca Ewing, one of Warrensburg’s oldest and best loved Negroes, died about seven o’clock Tuesday morning at her home, 319 Ming Street, where she had been ill for some time. The funeral will be held Thursday at the Warren Street Methodist Church where she had been a member for years…
“Aunt Beckie” until recent years, was a familiar figure in many Warrensburg homes where she worked as a servant and where she was looked upon as a member of the family as were many of the older Negroes. She took great interest in her white friends and often amazed them with her remarkable memory as she recalled people and events long since forgotten, and names and dates, especially birthdays.
Her skill as a cook and her dependability kept her services much in demand in her younger days.
Born in Corder Dec. 4, 1867, she spent the greater part of her life in Warrensburg.
She leaves a son, Jim, and a grandson Verlon, both of Warrensburg and a daughter, Stella Adams, of Kansas City.
Her grandson Verlon was born March 11, 1897. He attended school in Warrensburg until 1915 when his family moved to Centerview, Iowa. The family moved back in 1917.
In WWI, Ewing served as a bandleader of the 65th Pioneer Infantry Band. After the war, Ewing served as an orchestra leader in a traveling minstrel show.
In 1923, his negro band led a Ku Klux Klan parade through the streets of Canadian, Texas. His band was tricked into showing up for the parade; but, Ewing recalled, they had no choice but to play, especially since they needed the money.
After returning to Warrensburg in 1929, Ewing worked for Warrensburg Wholesale Groceries. He also had a band called the “Royal Aces” which played for local dances during the 30s.
Warrensburg Wholesale Grocery Co. Picture from the Tom Christopher Collection and attributed to the book "Warrensburg and Johnson County", by Carol Berkland, Lisa Irle, Herb Best available at Amazon or the JOCOMO Historical Society in Warrensburg.
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Sgt. Verlon Ewing, son of Jim Ewing, of Warrensburg, is section leader and librarian in the band in a field artillery brigade at Camp Livingston, LA.  Before entering the service in 1942, he was the director of the Howard School band in Warrensburg, MO
Then he joined the service in 1942. Upon his return, he opened a restaurant, Ewing’s Bar-B-Cue, with his father Jim. When his father died he left  his own interesting history and life story.
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James "Jim" Centennial Ewing obituary.  Born March 7, 1876, Died Dec. 31, 1959 Warrensburg, MO
Verlon Ewing
Verlon continued the family business until 1971 when he sold it and it became Club 15. Verlon died four years later.

Club 15, immortalized in the song recorded by The Nace Brothers. 
Club-15-Nace-Brothers-Band - Amazon Link

Club 15, Written and Performed by The Nace Brothers Band



Club 15
This painting by Morris Collins hangs in the basement of the Johnson County Historical Society.

Beside it is the history of Club 15:
"It was the only black club in town, one that inspired the Nace Brothers to write a song about it and name an album after it. The club was named for its 15 original members," said Spencer Taylor of Warrensburg. Starting in about 1970, Taylor was one of those 15. "Most of the members are gone now," he said. "The owner Verlon Ewing, is gone." Taylor said Ewing had peppermint sticks and bubblegum for about 2 cents, 25-cent hot dogs, soda pop, barbecue and 3.2 percent beer.
Club 15 was located on the corner of Marshal and Warren streets in Warrensburg. The building is gone, but David Nace remembers the times he used to walk past the old barbecue and social club on his way to Reece Elementary School when he was eight or nine years old.
"In the day, when all the kids walked past, he was always kind to the kids," David said. "He had candy and he would let us have a charge account up to 25 cents."
When the members got together, Club 15 changed from a candy and barbecue store into a nonprofit organization. "We paid dues and we had a charter. We held parties and had dances."
In the spring, they boarded a bus and went to St. Louis to see the Cardinals play baseball. They went Omaha, Nebraska to watch the horse races and they went to Springfield to visit Silver Dollar City.
"We just went everywhere," Taylor said.
They also went to various churches around town to donate some of the proceeds they made from dances. The club was too small for the dances, so they would rent the armory on Gay Street or other places in town.
Then the membership began to dwindle and the club ended up closing in about 1985.

Herb Nelson joined Club 15 in the 1980s after his father, Mack Nelson.
"It was a pretty good club," Nelson said.
He remembers helping churches, giving scholarships to students, and especially the bus trips. The club put on chili suppers and hosted New Year's Eve parties, Nelson said.
"We had a jukebox and some guy would come in and put in new music all the time." he said.

I woke up this morning from across the track
one arm out the window and a pain in my back
and that old train whistle
was a lonely sound
and when I opened my eyes, my head started to pound.
Now everybody wants to see
what's the big mystery.
You know what I mean. I'm talking about the Club 15

It's just a broken down shack
on the poor side of town.
Nobody knows what they are putting down.
i used to see 'em on the back porch
having a time
playing low down blues and drinking moonshine.
Now everybody wants to see
what's the big mystery.
You know what I mean now. That's the Club 15
mama said,
"Don't go around that place any more
too high a price to pay."
That's what the old man will say
He said every day,
"Hey, hey, hey, hey."

I was feeling cray and brave
late last night.
I went up to the back door
take a look in side
when an old black man said, "Boy, drink from my cup."I made it back out to my car
and that's when I woke up.
Now everybody wants to see
what's the big mystery.
You know what I mean, inside the Club 15


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Footnote: 
This former honkytonk grew out of a railroad flagman's shack. It kept growing, so friends could hang out with him. After crossing lights were installed on the MoPac tracks, it kept growing as a hangout, grocery, BBQ place, and finally, Club 15. 
It could never be legally sold, because it was built half on railroad right-of-way, and half on Marshall St. right-of-way. During property inventories, after Union Pacific bought MO Pacific railroad, it was discovered and removed.
The The Nace Brothers had a song called "Club 15" they recorded in 1993 on MCA Records. The c.d., Margaritaville Cafe Late Night Menu, featured Jimmy Buffett and various other artists. It earned them the opening spot on a series of Jimmy Buffett shows, with whom they remain in close contact with, still opening shows on the "Club Trini" stage and getting the party started.



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