Maynard Montgomery – Overcoming Tragedy

Interesting Local Characters

Teenagers do stupid things. That’s a given. But the dumb things they do aren’t supposed to cost anyone their lives.

On January 13, 1937, while their parents were away watching a movie, an unspeakable tragedy took place. The News-Record article below gives the details.

On January 17, this ad was placed in the paper.

How could a boy live with himself after that? Well, apparently, he managed to put it behind him. We see him mentioned in the paper a few times as an honor student. Then, on December 17, 1944, his picture appeared in the paper with much happier news.

Further newspaper articles mention that he began a long-term career in the service. In 1957, he made the paper again (as Marvin Montgomery, Maynard was his middle name) for mastering the Convair F102-A jet.

He visited his parents in 1960, the paper noted it.

In 1961, he was promoted to major. The last mention of him was in 1967, when in town to visit his parents again.

Here’s to the Montgomery family, especially Marvin Maynard Montgomery, for not allowing an unspeakable tragedy to ruin their lives.

The Lunch Baron: Gomer Tucker

Interesting Local Characters

Tucker Lunch, circa 1939

Tucker Lunch opened on 8 North Main in 1931. It was a popular spot, its chili was legendary.

Gomer Tucker announces a fourth restaurant opening, 1938

While a depression was raging, Tucker expanded to four locations by 1938!

Tucker Lunch, 21 S Main, 1940

When the building that would house Woolworth’s was being constructed, Tucker moved for a time to 21 S Main. By 1944, he had relocated to 6 North Main, just south of Woolworth’s.

First National Bank, circa 1950, Tucker Lunch was just north at 6 N Main. Thanks to Fredas Cook for the image.

Gomer Tucker leased the spot, and in 1955, he was forced out. He wasn’t terribly happy about it, as this letter to the editor attests.

Tucker cut some sort of deal with Jack Horner, and Woolworth’s completed their expansion by January 1, 1956.

Tucker relocated to 14 East Central. Tucker’s Restaurant stayed open until at least 1957, when he stopped advertising in the paper. By 1961, Martin’s Music inhabited the slot on Central. But his legendary chili was still sold in local grocery stores until the early 60’s.

1959 Stokes Grocery Ad for Tucker’s Chili

Gomer Tucker’s Chili Ad from Farrier’s IGA, 1959

Gomer also ran a vegetable stand in front of his highway 10 farm.

Newspaper Ad for Tucker’s Vegetable Stand

Tucker was a sportsman, the 1944 article below details a nice six-pounder caught at the three-year-old Grand Lake.

Gomer Tucker Catches a Nice Bass

In 1960, Tucker ran for Ottawa County sheriff. He lost in the primary to Ben Stanley.

He owned a familiar farm just east of the turnpike on Highway 10. It had several large ponds created by the turnpike builders at his request. Skating on them was a treasured tradition for Miami youngsters.

Gomer Tucker Invites Kids to Come Skate on His Frozen Ponds, 1958

Kids Skating on Gomer Tucker’s Pond, 1958

He touched lives in Miami. Note these observations:

Z Jane Osborn: Best chili ever and when you went in his cafe you smelled like chili the rest of the day. Hot tamale spread was my favorite! Late open at night. People parked in the middle of Main Street literally to eat there after whatever evening events they had. I mean very late!

Iven Wall: Mr Gomer Tucker was a man I admired a lot as a young kid. My dad, Wayne Wall, managed the dairy farm that he owned and we lived on the farm. He came out quite often in his new white Ford and drove thru the pastures checking the cattle. He was a very hard working man with two or three restaurants at that time. This must have been the middle ‘50s. He always stopped at the twin gates that led past the dairy barn and would give me fifty cents for each gate that I opened. I will never forget this man, not because of the 50 cents but for his kindnesses to our family and to many others in the Miami area.

Barbara Davidson: I worked in his restaurant. He was quite a guy. Best chili ever. I have his recipe. Lots of suet in it. That fat made it tasty. Not healthy but oh so good.

Gomer Tucker with Fishing Kids, 1958

Gomer passed sometime after 1961. If anyone can be more specific, including birth details, please use the site feedback form and let me know so I can update.

Hometown Boy Makes Good: Ky Laffoon

Interesting Local Characters

Virginia Beach, 1935: “Chief” Ky Laffoon showing his Oklahoma roots

Orlando, Florida, May 1942: The deeply tanned tour pro rapped his three-foot putt towards the 18th hole, only to watch it spin around the cup and finish on the lip facing him. It wasn’t the first putt he had missed that day, and his playing partners looked in every direction but towards the broad shouldered man who was now bent over, shaking with anger and glaring malevolently at the putter in his hands. Suddenly he stood up and walked off in the direction of the car park behind the green. The other players watched disbelievingly as Ky Laffoon opened the trunk of his car, removed a pistol and proceeded to shoot his putter three times, shouting: “Take that you son-of-a-bitch! That’s the last time you three-putt on me!”. Milton Wayne, HK Golfer Magazine

Professional golf has known its share of players with tempers. The most famous was probably Tommy Bolt, whose outbursts were the stuff of legend. Tiger Woods has been known to let an occasional f-bomb make it onto live TV. And local kid Ky Laffoon was a member of that group as well.

Ky was born on December 23, 1908 in Zinc, Arkansas. His parents moved to Miami at a young age. His father Elmer ran Laffoon Transfer and Storage. Ky was a bowler, the first time the Daily Record mentions him from their online archives was in 1928 as carrying a respectable 149 average.

Two years later, Ky joined the professional golf tour. Now keep in mind that in those days, amateur golf held all the prestige. The year Ky joined the pros, amateur Bobby Jones achieved his Grand Slam of winning the US and British Open and Amateur tournaments. Pros played for piddling purses and were looked at disapprovingly compared with the amateur heroes.

But Miami was still proud of her son.

News-Record article about Laffoon from 1931

Ky was a club professional (Miami Country Club) at age 15. He later picked up a gig caddying for Titanic Thompson. Thompson was sort of a notorious character, he made his living by gambling and hustling, and playing a good game of golf. It’s not surprising that lunch with Al Capone would result from such a friendship. Thompson also testified as an eyewitness to the murder of mobster Arnold Rothstein.

According to Milton Wayne, “Thompson would beat all comers, shake his head, then indicate his scruffy club-bearer, and tell them, “Hell, even my caddie could beat you; double or quits?” Ky would proceed to double the winnings.”

But that was the state of pro golf back then. It was a living. And it certainly took genuine skill to make it and prosper on the tour.

Laffoon’s first win came in 1933, the Nebraska Open. In 1934, he won four tournaments, his best year. He was selected to play on the Ryder Cup team the following year.

Ky Laffoon beats Paul Runyan in 1934 for his third victory that year

Laffoon had a respectable record in the three US professional majors: the US Open, the PGA, and the Masters. He had twelve top-ten finishes in 17 years. And WWII postponed a number of chances. His final tally was ten victories in official PGA events, and two other tournament wins.

He also helped raise the level of professional golf. Despite hanging out with Titanic Thompson, he was scandal-free during his career, and by the time he retired, a couple of fellows named Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson had shown up, raising the status of professional golf and further distancing it from the hustling, betting days of the 30’s.

But he was still an interesting character. His car trunk typically carried handguns, rifles, multiple sets of clubs, wads of cash, chewing tobacco and whiskey.

When things didn’t go right, he would give himself as much abuse as his offending golf club. In one case, he threw his putter in the air, it came down on his head and knocked him unconscious. In another case, he hit himself in the head and knocked himself out. And when he missed a gimme in Sacramento, he kicked his putter, knocked the head off, and broke his toe.

Ky Laffoon, aged 26

He did love his strong drink. That contributed to his retiring from the pro tour at age 42. But he still played well, and made a living  with his game. He once spotted  a mark at Schifferdecker golf course in Joplin, a lanky player with rusty clubs. He asked the stranger his handicap and was told 15, to which he responded that he was a 16 himself, but would be willing to play straight up for a $50 Nassau. Later he was seen sadly lounging around the clubhouse and was asked if he had lost. He replied, “No, but you just can’t trust people these days. I had to shoot a 67 to beat the lying son-of-a-bitch!”

In 1982, Ky was diagnosed with inoperable cancer. Two years later, he checked out on his own terms, killing himself at home with a gunshot.

Had he kept better control of his temper, and maybe had a little less whiskey, he might have won more tournaments. But Miami has plenty of reasons to be proud of its most famous golfer, Mr. Ky Laffoon.

Thanks to HK Golfer Magazine for providing facts for this article.