Oral History Interview with
Insurance man, boxing referee, president of the First Ward Democratic Club in the 1940s.
Kansas City, Missouri
September 11, 1984
by Niel M. Johnson
[Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed]
This is a transcript of a tape-recorded interview conducted for the Harry S. Truman Library. A draft of this transcript was edited by the interviewee but only minor emendations were made; therefore, the reader should remember that this is essentially a transcript of the spoken, rather than the written word.
Numbers appearing in square brackets (ex. ) within the transcript indicate
the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the oral history interview.
This oral history transcript may be read, quoted from, cited, and reproduced for purposes of research. It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.
Opened May, 1987
Harry S. Truman Library
[Top of the Page | Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed]
Oral History Interview with
Kansas City, Missouri
September 11, 1984
by Niel M. Johnson
JOHNSON: Mr. Anch, I want to begin by asking you when and where you were born.
ANCH: I was born here in Kansas City, Missouri.
JOHNSON: When? What was the date?
ANCH: January 12, 1912.
JOHNSON: Okay, and that's Samuel?
ANCH: No, Sam.
JOHNSON: Do you have brothers and sisters?
ANCH: Yes, I do. I have one brother and four sisters, who are living. And I have two brothers and one sister deceased.
JOHNSON: What part of Kansas City were you born in?
ANCH: In the old north side.
JOHNSON: Is that where you grew up?
ANCH: That's where I grew up, yes sir.
JOHNSON: What was the address?
ANCH: Well, I have had several addresses there. In those times things were rough. My dad had to move around wherever he could.
JOHNSON: What street would that be?
ANCH: Well, I lived at 1113 East Missouri Avenue at one time; we lived at, I think, 553 Charlotte, right across the street from the Corinth School.
JOHNSON: This is all in the First Ward?
ANCH: Oh, yes, it was all down there, yes.
JOHNSON: And this was, of course, Pendergast's territory so to speak?
ANCH: Well, it used to be that the North Side Club and Pendergast were together, but then they split.
JOHNSON: But now the split came about later, a little
JOHNSON: In fact, what year are you talking about when you mention this split?
ANCH: Oh, I would say in '42 or '43.
JOHNSON: But you grew up in the so-called "Pendergast period," right?
JOHNSON: Was your father involved at all in local politics?
ANCH: No. My father couldn't even read and write. In fact, my name is not Anch. My name is actually Gangi, the Italian version. I didn't know this until years later. When my older brothers came here from the old country they couldn't read and write, and they couldn't talk English. They told the teacher what their name was, but they couldn't write, and so the teacher spelled it "Anch," and when we went to school we inherited that. Then we had to have it legalized.
JOHNSON: Because the teacher wanted a simple spelling, I guess.
ANCH: Well, I don't think she could spell it, to be honest with you. We had to change it legally, but my name was Gangi. Legally, now it's Anch, but that's not an Italian name.
JOHNSON: What did your father do for a living?
ANCH: He worked on a railroad. I think he made a dollar a day and fed about eleven of us.
JOHNSON: So that would have been back in the First World War period and the twenties?
ANCH: Yes. It would have to be.
JOHNSON: When did you first hear the name Pendergast? Do you remember?
ANCH: Well, I was involved in boxing and I boxed at that time first as a professional at the old Ringside Arena. That's at Independence Avenue and Locust, which is now the [Southwest] Trafficway, but they used to call it the Trafficway Garage. I had a few bouts and started winning. Well, I couldn't tell my folks that I was boxing because I don't think they'd let me. I told them it was the track team, and they put their cross on the paper, because they couldn't read and write
anyway. Then when I started winning a few bouts, and my name started appearing in the paper, the neighbors would come over and say, "Your boy's name's in the paper." And they wondered what did I do now. "Well," they said, "he got into a fight or something." She thought maybe I was fighting, and I said; "No, I'm boxing; I'm training."
She said, "Kid, don't you ever lie to me again."
I said, "Well, I am training."
JOHNSON: Was this during high school?
ANCH: I didn't have a chance to go to high school.
JOHNSON: What grade did you go through?
ANCH: Through seventh, in the ward school.
JOHNSON: Then what did you do after you left school?
ANCH: I got a job as an office boy to help my family, and I think I made about seven or eight dollars a week to start with.
JOHNSON: This is for what?
ANCH: Western Auto. A friend of mine who had been there a long time got the job for me as an office boy. I was around, oh, I'd say, thirteen, fourteen years old.
JOHNSON: What did you do after that?
ANCH: Well, after that I was involved with Golden Gloves. I was president of Golden Gloves at one time. I was treasurer for thirteen years up until about five years ago.
JOHNSON: How many years did you box?
ANCH: Professionally? You see, at that time they had no amateurs and I had to box professionally. They used to call it "curtain raisers," but we used to make more than the main events, the main attraction. They used to announce us as the "coming champions," "newcomers," and so on.. "Any little token of appreciation you throw into the ring will be appreciated." Well, we already had had it fixed up amongst each other. "Well, if you're picking up money, I'll knock you over to get it, and if I pick it up, you push me over, and they'll keep throwing more money in," and we actually collected more than the main event.
JOHNSON: Just by coins being thrown into the ring.
ANCH: Just by coins being thrown into the ring.
JOHNSON: Were most of these bouts at Ringside Arena?
ANCH: They were at Ringside Arena, yes.
JOHNSON: And that has been torn down for a number of years?
ANCH: Yes. I think it burned down. I think it caught fire. I think back in '45 was when they had a fire. I've got an article in here on it.
JOHNSON: How many years of boxing would that have been?
ANCH: I'd say three or four years at the most.
JOHNSON: Then you got into the Golden Gloves.
ANCH: I started refereeing, and then Golden Gloves came up with Charlie Myers.
JOHNSON: You went from boxing to refereeing?
ANCH: I refereed for about 45 years.
JOHNSON: I see. Then you got into the area of administration, I suppose, in Golden Gloves.
ANCH: Yes. And I'm still on the Finance Committee.
JOHNSON: And then you lived in the First Ward all these years then?
ANCH: Well, the biggest part of them until I got married. When I got married then we…
JOHNSON: What year was that?
ANCH: In '26 or '27.
JOHNSON: Who did you marry?
ANCH: Her maiden name was Vivian Sinacore.
JOHNSON: Did you then move away from the North Side?
ANCH: Yes, we moved up to Elm in the Northeast area.
JOHNSON: You lived there for quite a number of years?
ANCH: Yes, we lived there for quite a number of years, and then we had to move because the owner's daughter was getting married. We moved into another place over on Park.
JOHNSON: This was still on the North side?
ANCH: No, Northeast. Park is still Northeast area. Well then the individual over there on Park had a nephew that was getting married and needed a place, and my wife decided she wasn't going to keep packing and
moving. If it wasn’t for her I don’t think we would have had a house. But we bought our own home, and it’s paid for.
JOHNSON: It’s still in the Northeast?
ANCH: Yes, I’m up on Gladstone Boulevard.
JOHNSON: So in the thirties you were living in the general area here, during the heyday of the so-called Pendergast regime or machine.
JOHNSON: If you’re a Democrat, it’s an organization, of course. If you’re a Republican, it’s a machine.
ANCH: Yes. It’s whatever you want to call it. It seemed like to me they were all machines.
JOHNSON: When did you first get involved in politics then?
ANCH: Well, in politics, I think in about ’42 or ’43. I think all they were wanting at that time was to use me to get the votes down there because you had two individuals that were fighting for the power, and I was known through boxing and through refereeing. A
lot of people knew me where I didn't know them. There are two or three of us in a ring at one time, where you've got a whole arena that's watching you, and I imagine this -- I don't know -- they wanted me for my name.
JOHNSON: Well, they must have been impressed with your abilities as a referee too.
ANCH: I really don't know, because like I say, I didn't last very long in politics, because I didn't like it.
JOHNSON: You recall, of course, that Pendergast was indicted, tried and convicted, and then had to go to jail for about fifteen months, to prison.
ANCH: I don't know how long a term he got.
JOHNSON: Were you involved at all with politics while that was happening?
JOHNSON: Right after that, then, they had the split that you're talking about?
ANCH: Yes, because then the nephew took over. See, Jimmy Pendergast is the nephew.
JOHNSON: When did you first meet Jim Pendergast?
ANCH: Well, that's in the early forties.
JOHNSON: Was he the one that talked to you about running? I guess you ran for a County Committeeman, isn't that right?
ANCH: County Committeeman, yes sir.
JOHNSON: Who talked you into doing that?
ANCH: I had a younger brother who was more or less friendly with the Presta organization.
JOHNSON: The which?
ANCH: Presta, Alex Presta. And he encouraged me to run on that ticket stating that you can't lose nothing, and it don't cost you nothing. I said all right. And he said, "You'll get a lot of publicity out of it." Well, I was in the insurance business at the time and I figured, well…
JOHNSON: Oh, you got into insurance?
ANCH: Oh, yes, I was in the insurance business.
JOHNSON: Were you in the insurance business before you
got into politics?
ANCH: Yes, I was in the insurance business in a small way.
JOHNSON: Did you meet Jim Pendergast after you had been elected as a County Commissioner?
ANCH: No, that's before. He told me if you need any help come on up here.
JOHNSON: Did your brother get you into contact with Jim Pendergast?
ANCH: Yes. I got into contact with Alex Presta who was the leader of the organization.
JOHNSON: Did Presta introduce you to Jim Pendergast?
ANCH: To be honest with you I don't remember whether it was Presta or my brother.
JOHNSON: Where did you first meet him?
ANCH: There at 19th and Main.
JOHNSON: 1908 Main.
ANCH: Yes sir.
JOHNSON: At the Democrat headquarters.
ANCH: Yes. Wasn't there a picture in here that we had with him?
JOHNSON: Yes, I think you do, you did have. Right here at the beginning, yes.
ANCH: Oh yes.
JOHNSON: This is November 1, 1944.
ANCH: But I was in there before that.
JOHNSON: Okay, maybe taken before November 1, 1944, but showing Jim Pendergast shaking hands with Sam Anch, who was then president of the First Ward Democratic Club. This is during a political rally in the North side or Northeast side I guess we call it.
ANCH: Well, it was the North side at that time. The Northeast was a different area.
JOHNSON: How was the County Committee organized? Was there one committeeman from each ward?
ANCH: From each ward, yes. I was from the First Ward. And then another thing that more or less had me
wondering -- what is a County Committeeman? So, I told Jim Pendergast that last time I went up there to see him, "What is a County Committeeman, what are his duties, what is he supposed to do?"
He said, "Well, Sam, anywhere else in the city he's the ward leader. You're head of that ward." But, he said, "Down there it ain’t nothing."
"Well, what did I run for?"
He said, "I don't know; we had to fill a place."
But actually I had no authority down there as a ward leader.
JOHNSON: Who was head of the County Committee? Was that Jim Pendergast?
ANCH: I really don't know.
JOHNSON: You say there was a split.
ANCH: Yes, between the old North Side Club and the First Democratic Club. They used to be all one in the North Side Democratic Club and then they split up.
JOHNSON: What caused the split?
ANCH: I don't know.
JOHNSON: How did they divide?
ANCH: Well, Alex Presta was head of the First Ward Democratic Club. I think John Lazia, Carlie Corollo, and them were the head of the old North Side Club.
JOHNSON: Corollo. He's one that was associated with Lazia and the others. So your group was trying to break away from that association?
ANCH: Yes. In other words the First Democratic Club was a younger organization. I guess they were trying to take over the power.
JOHNSON: Trying to get away from that taint of the old guard, so to speak, that had been closely tied to Pendergast and some of his shenanigans?
ANCH: Yes, that's right. The other ones were more or less closely tied to the old man Pendergast, Tom.
JOHNSON: By this time it was a kind of a burden to be tied to old Tom Pendergast, but apparently it was not a burden to be tied to Jim, his nephew Jim.
ANCH: I didn't know Tom too well.
JOHNSON: But Jim Pendergast still had a good reputation,
ANCH: Yes he did; Jim had a very good reputation.
JOHNSON: He wasn't tarred by the same brush that got Tom Pendergast?
ANCH: He had no record of violence or…
JOHNSON: Betting on the horses or…
ANCH: No, so far as I know.
JOHNSON: Yes. So, Jim Pendergast did talk to you about politics. You were telling me some things earlier that you may want to repeat, about advice he gave you as a politician or a person in politics.
ANCH: Well, like I explained to you, it was after a couple of times that I went up there for favors. That's all politics is anyway; it's not how much you know, it's who you know.
JOHNSON: At Democrat headquarters, you say, on Main Street?
ANCH: Yes. After going up there a few times he told me that I was too honest to be in politics, and I didn't
belong there. I said, "Well, if that's what it takes," and that was the last time I ran.
JOHNSON: We have a picture on the wall here of you with President Truman.
ANCH: That was taken before.
JOHNSON: But that is at 1908 Main Street at the Democrat headquarters?
ANCH: Democratic headquarters.
JOHNSON: Showing you on a couch there with President Truman.
ANCH: That's right.
JOHNSON: And it says American Tribune. Was that a local newspaper?
ANCH: Yes sir.
JOHNSON: So that was taken in 1944 apparently. Do you remember that occasion at all?
ANCH: To be honest with you, no.
JOHNSON: When Truman was there, you sat down and had
your picture taken?
ANCH: I don't recall it, because I didn't even know the man.
JOHNSON: Was he having his picture taken with all the County Committeemen, do you know, at the time, or was it just that you happened to be there at the right time?
ANCH: I think I just happened to be there at the right time, because I didn't know him. I don't think he knew me. We were sitting there side by side and a photographer took that picture.
JOHNSON: You're looking at something, a newspaper or something?
ANCH: Yes. I don't recall what that is.
JOHNSON: You don't recall what he was doing there at the time that he was there?
ANCH: No, I don't. As far as a memory, I can't remember what happened last week. And of course, age has got something to do with that, too.
JOHNSON: It's a good picture, and you have had it blown up here, and I don't blame you for doing that.
ANCH: I went around gathering up all of my pictures that I had put out, because it was beginning to give me a lot of trouble.
JOHNSON: Some of your people here in the First Ward saw this picture and they decided that you had a lot of clout, is that it?
ANCH: They figured I had, yes.
JOHNSON: So they were asking you for favors, like doing what?
ANCH: Well, the first one was getting a boy out of the Army. And when I went up and talked to Jim he said, "Sam, you can't do that." He said, "Just tell them okay you'll try, and then forget about it."
I said, "No, I can't do that."
And then the other occasion was a tax item where the individual wanted me to cut his income tax. I didn't know how we were going to cut his income tax. But Jim Pendergast said, "Sam, you can't put any of that in a letter." He said, "Don't do any of that stuff."
I said, "That's why I'm coming up here to see you.
He said, "Just tell them like I said. Just tell them that you'll try, and then forget about it, because sometimes it does work out. And if it works out, you did it, but if it didn't what have you lost? You've tried."
JOHNSON: We do want to mention that the caption to this photograph of Mr. Truman and Sam Anch says that this was made during the Presidential campaign last year, so it probably was made in September or October of 1944.
ANCH: In the early forties.
JOHNSON: I suppose we could find out from the records when Mr. Truman was up there during the campaign to visit. But this advice that Jim Pendergast gave you, you didn't necessarily take it did you?
ANCH: Yes, I did.
JOHNSON: You said that you didn't want to make them think that you were doing something when you weren't.
ANCH: That's right, and he said when I went there the
last time, "Sam, you ought to get out of politics, you're too honest." I figured, "Well, if that is what it takes," and I didn't run anymore.
JOHNSON: When would that have been?
ANCH: Well, when the second term expired.
JOHNSON: How long a term was it in those days? Was it two years?
ANCH: Two years, yes.
JOHNSON: Okay, if you're elected in November of 1944…
ANCH: Well, this certificate says what?
JOHNSON: This is ‘43. This shows you were a volunteer member of the Department of Civilian Defense.
ANCH: Treasurer of Finance.
JOHNSON: This is the War Finance Committee of Kansas City, Missouri, in a letter giving you supplemental mileage ration coupons to reimburse you "for the work you have done in connection with the War Finance Committee of Kansas City, Missouri."
ANCH: Yes, that was a service award.
JOHNSON: This was August 31, 1943.
ANCH: And this was '42 and '43.
JOHNSON: So you were working with the War Finance Committee apparently.
ANCH: Yes, and I have always done youth work. I am a member of the Kiwanis Club now which is a service club.
That clipping is about when I won an award with the insurance company.
JOHNSON: Okay, this is 1937. It says "1937 honor is bestowed upon Mr. Sam Anch of this community in qualifying for the annual birthday party of Mr. A. M. Burton, president of Life and Casualty Insurance Company of Nashville, Tennessee."
ANCH: Yes, my wife and I won a trip to a convention.
JOHNSON: "Mr. Anch, a new man in this company was the chosen agent from Kansas City to receive the 1937 vacation award."
So, as far as being a County Committeeman,
that lasted only two terms you say?
ANCH: Yes, just a couple of terms. I tried even to recover some of the pictures that I had distributed. Some people gave them back and some people wouldn't.
JOHNSON: You're saying the picture showing you with Senator Truman got you into some trouble?
ANCH: It did, because people expected things you couldn't do. I was told that, "Well, tell them you'll try and then forget them." I couldn't do that.
JOHNSON: Did you ever write to Mr. Truman?
ANCH: No, I had no occasion to. No, I wouldn't do that.
JOHNSON: Did you ever get a letter from him?
ANCH: No, sir.
JOHNSON: Did you meet Mr. Truman again after this picture was taken?
ANCH: I don't recall, unless it was a Democratic convention of some kind and I doubt it. I doubt it.
JOHNSON: This was the only meeting that you had with President Truman?
ANCH: So far as I recall.
JOHNSON: Did you go to any of the Democratic conventions like the one in Chicago in 1944?
ANCH: No. No, I didn't go to any of them. Judge Mazuch, do you remember him? He's dead now. This is…
JOHNSON: Okay, this is April 10, 1946, the American Tribune. The American Tribune, was that a newspaper aimed at this area?
ANCH: Just an area paper.
JOHNSON: Was it Italian-American?
ANCH: It used to be Italian-American. It used to be the Italian Press. Then they changed it to the American Tribune.
JOHNSON: This is April 10, 1946. It says, "Robert Ryland who was a candidate for mayor is shown here with Jimmy Daleo, Judge Louis Mazuch, Sam Anch and Joe Cali before he was…'
ANCH: You see, the rest of them are all deceased.
JOHNSON: "The First Ward Democratic Club, at 5th and Troost." That's where you were headquartered, there?
ANCH: Fifth and Troost, that's right, yes.
JOHNSON: Yes, it says you're president of the First Ward Club, and Cali was president of the North Side Democratic Club.
ANCH: The North Side group that were opposed to their tactics down there encouraged me to run against the candidate who was Marion Nigro at that time.
JOHNSON: What was the name?
ANCH: Marion Nigro. At one time I think it even came out that he even had his cats and dogs on the payroll.
JOHNSON: So you beat him in the primary?
ANCH: Yes, I beat him. Like I said, I had the help of the North Side people.
JOHNSON: Was that in 1944? That's when Truman ran as Vice President on the Democrat ticket.
ANCH: ‘44 was it?
ANCH: Then that's when it was. I thought it was ‘42
JOHNSON: That's when you ran against Nigro?
ANCH: Yes sir.
JOHNSON: That's when you defeated him.
JOHNSON: So this is a kind of a reform group then that you belonged to?
ANCH: Well, yes.
JOHNSON: Your group became the dominant force then in that ward, the First Ward?
ANCH: Yes, they overthrew the old North Side Democratic Club.
JOHNSON: So your First Ward Democratic Club was, say, in power, or the dominant force from then on, or did they ever come back, the old faction?
ANCH: I think years later they probably got back together.
JOHNSON: But you got out. Did you get out of politics after 1946 or ‘48?
ANCH: Yes sir. I had my fill. of course, I was told to get out by Mr. Pendergast because I didn't like the way you had to approach people in doing those kind of things. I didn't think I could do it.
JOHNSON: In the election of 1948, when President Truman won, and surprised most people by winning the election, were you out of ward politics at that time?
ANCH: I think I was, yes. I think I was out.
JOHNSON: You had no involvement at all in promoting President Truman in that campaign?
ANCH: Not that I know of other than voting for him.
JOHNSON: But you didn't go out and canvass?
ANCH: No, I never did do any of that. Like I say, in my business, you've got to be neutral. Some of your policyholders are Republicans and some are Democrats.
JOHNSON: Well, while you were a committeeman, you were canvassing for votes and that sort of thing weren't you?
ANCH: Yes. And then a lot of people knew me because
they had seen me either refereeing or boxing.
JOHNSON: Presta was the leader, so to speak?
JOHNSON: So you did what he wanted you to do?
JOHNSON: What did a committeeman usually do in those days?
ANCH: Well, it was the ward leader as I understand, but I never did get a chance to do any leading. So I don't know what I was supposed to do.
JOHNSON: Presta did the leading?
ANCH: Yes. I don't know what...
JOHNSON: Well, what was his position?
ANCH: He was just opposed to the North Side Club, along with a bunch of other individuals, including my younger brother.
JOHNSON: He wasn't elected?
ANCH: No, he never was elected.
JOHNSON: Then he was kind of a power behind the throne.
ANCH: The power, yes.
JOHNSON: So he was the one who was really doing the ward committeeman kind of job. But you wouldn't consider yourself just a front for Mr. Presta?
ANCH: Well, to some extent it could be, because I think they used me to get the votes. Now I'm not positive of that. But I know I won the election and that was it. But like I say, it did cause a little trouble.
JOHNSON: Did you host certain events like this speech by a candidate for mayor? Were you the one who arranged for speeches by candidates?
ANCH: No, I didn't have nothing to do with that. Now that was done by Joe Cali, who was the secretary; and here is Jimmy Daleo, who was a prominent lawyer and Judge Mazuch was a judge at that time, and here's Purdome, the Sheriff.
JOHNSON: This is the annual Sheriff's picnic, out at Spring Farm, August 1945. Now what did you have to do with that?
ANCH: Well, I think I was still in office there. I ran twice.
JOHNSON: You ran twice and you won twice too?
JOHNSON: This picture of you with Jim Pendergast, that's during the campaign in 1944.
ANCH: That was in '44.
JOHNSON: This was during a political rally. So, candidates who came into the First Ward to campaign would probably first check with Mr. Presta then?
ANCH: That's right.
JOHNSON: And then you would get involved.
ANCH: Yes, because we'd have meetings and I'd conduct the meeting.
JOHNSON: Did you introduce the speakers?
ANCH: I'd introduce the candidates or the speakers.
JOHNSON: You introduced Jim Pendergast?
ANCH: Well, Jimmy Pendergast, they all knew him. He
needed no introduction.
JOHNSON: But you were kind of like an MC for these sorts of things?
JOHNSON: Maybe the main job that you had was to...
ANCH: Was to run a meeting.
JOHNSON: And introduce the speaker, who would be a candidate for some office. And so you got out of it entirely then in 1948?
ANCH: Yes, like I said. If I ran twice it would have to be …
JOHNSON: If you ran twice and they were two-year terms, and if you ran in ‘44 and again in ‘46, your term would have ended in '48.
ANCH: Yes. But I got out before that. I mean even though I was in office, I did nothing.
JOHNSON: Did President Truman ever come back to this ward at any time, or appear in this ward?
ANCH: I don't remember. But I would say that in the capacity he was acting, I would venture to say that
he probably did, but I really don't know. I don't remember.
JOHNSON: Well, anything else, any other comment or recollections that would involve let's say the Pendergasts or Truman?
ANCH: Well so far as the Pendergasts were concerned, I consider him [Jim] a very good friend for advising me the way he did. Now, some people didn't like the Pendergast group; now why, I don't know. But to me, he guided me just like I would expect him to. I told him, "I'm no politician; don't know what I'm supposed to do."
And he said, "Well, you just come up here from time to time and I will give you the information. The people will ask you for some things you can't do. When you cross that bridge then we'll answer the question." Well, they started coming in right after the President got elected.
JOHNSON: How many visits did you make to that Democrat headquarters? How often did you go over there?
ANCH: Not more than a dozen at the most.
JOHNSON: You'd go up there maybe every three or four weeks or….
ANCH: Oh, sometimes I went up there maybe twice a week, depending what the situation was. If a person asked me for something I had to go up there and get advice.
JOHNSON: Jim Pendergast was the one in charge there?
ANCH: He was in charge so far as I was concerned. Now whether anybody was behind him or not, I don't know.
JOHNSON: Do you remember anybody else, any other important people that were usually there at the headquarters when you were there? Any important politicians?
ANCH: No, I don't, unless there's any other pictures here.
JOHNSON: You know, there was this episode, wasn't there, where there was a killing of two people in a building over here. [Charles] Binaggio was one of them, wasn't he? News pictures showed a portrait of Truman on the wall.
ANCH: Yes. That was a factional deal too, I think. That was on Truman Road.
JOHNSON: Over here on Truman Road. What faction were
they a part of?
ANCH: That was the old North Side faction.
JOHNSON: Did that happen before you became a committeeman? Do you remember?
ANCH: I think it was after.
JOHNSON: While he was President, yes.
ANCH: Yes. I am pretty sure it was after.
JOHNSON: Did that have repercussions for you at all?
ANCH: Not that I know of. Sometimes you figure it might involve you with your business. Sometimes a person will come in and want you to put a sticker on; well, you can’t do that, even if you want to help the individual.
JOHNSON: Jim Pendergast supported your group, what you might call a reform group.
ANCH: Yes. Jim Pendergast did.
JOHNSON: In 1942 the City Charter was changed, for instance, to make sure that firemen and all city employees were
strictly on a merit system and that they were not patronage jobs. Did you get involved in patronage or have to find jobs?
ANCH: No, I didn't want no part of it. But at that time, like I say, the North Side Club did rule; they controlled that North End, the North Side Democratic Club did. In fact, as I understand it, I don't think the police had any authority.
JOHNSON: Okay, this is Corollo we're talking about?
ANCH: Yes, Corollo and Lazia.
JOHNSON: Corollo went to jail, I believe. Who sort of took his place then, do you know?
ANCH: There was Johnny Lazia here, there was a...
JOHNSON: But Lazia was one of those murdered in 1934.
ANCH: Then there was Charlie Binaggio.
JOHNSON: Okay, Binaggio would have been one of the successors of Lazia -- he and Corollo and others. But they never did get back into power so far as you know after your group got in.
ANCH: So far as I know, because like I say, I once got out and I figured that was enough for me.
JOHNSON: You kind of washed your hands of it.
ANCH: I mean that was enough. If that's the way it operates I don't want any part of it, because I'm in a business here. Then, like I say, in the North End we had a lot of good people that were encouraged to do things that they shouldn't do, and they got records but they would never serve any time. Well, after I got to be an insurance agent, they screened me pretty close. After awhile, as you notice here, I won several trips. I was there shortly and the manager said, "Sam, I got a letter from the home office that says you've got to move out of that neighborhood."
I said, "What for?" I said, "I'm not moving. I was born and raised here; I'm going to stay here. Now if you want your job you can have it." At that time they couldn't get agents anyway.
So he says, "Well, I've got confidence in you; the home office says to fire you, but I'm not going to." He says, "But where did you get some of this business that you're writing?"
I said, “Well, you had an individual that brought me out on the territory to teach me the business and the first thing he wanted to know was who he could write [for business policies].”
I said, “Well, I know a lot of people we could write, but I don’t think they would be eligible, because some of them have been convicted, or have a record of some kind.”
He said, “Oh, well, we don’t care.” He said, “We’ll win the contest.”
I thought, “Well, I guess he knows what he’s doing.”
So sure enough, we won practically week after week all the contests. Then I got a nice letter from the home office -- I think it’s in here -- that says, “Congratulations, you’ve rung the bell in the ordinary department.”
I said, “Well, I guess so far I’m doing all right.” But then that’s when the manager started screening my business, together with some of the good business that I wrote.
Now, I had no knowledge of what to do in insurance. I was just as green in insurance as I was in politics.
And the manager said I had to move out of that neighborhood. I said, “What for?”
He said, “Well, there’s an individual across the street from you that’s been arrested 17 times. The individual at the end of the block, he’s still in jail. You don’t belong down there.”
I said, “I know who my neighbors are.” I said, “Do you know who your neighbors are?”
He said, “Well, you’ve got a point there, I guess.” But I knew just about who was who or who had a record and who didn’t, but it had an effect on me writing insurance because I insured a lot of individuals I shouldn’t have. Now I knew better, but the assistant manager told me it was all right to win the contest.
JOHNSON: What company was this?
ANCH: Life and Casualty Insurance Company out of Nashville, Tennessee.
JOHNSON: And you were the local agent.
ANCH: I was just on a debit; there was no agency. They had about ten agents in the area. I had the old
North Side area which was an area nobody wanted, so they gave it to me. I used to put ads in the paper and we had one policy they used to write for $2 a year; it was a traffic and pedestrian policy. If you got killed by an automobile or airplane, it paid $1,000. But that was a door-opener. In the meantime, there was a new member of the family, or a member getting married, well, you was already in there and you would have first chance. They'd rather you collect that at a nickel a week at that time rather than pay it by the year, because they wanted you to keep in contact with the family.
JOHNSON: So you had to do a lot of visiting in your neighborhood.
ANCH: Oh, yes, on a debit you went from door to door, and there were some poor people who couldn't even pay it.
JOHNSON: A nickel a week was almost too much.
ANCH: Especially if they weren't working.
JOHNSON: This was during the Depression of course.
ANCH: Yes. It was really bad.
JOHNSON: Did the Lazia family live in this area?
ANCH: No, I don't think so. At one time they did.
JOHNSON: But you weren't acquainted with them or you didn't write insurance for them.
ANCH: Oh, no. I knew after that little experience that I had here, for one thing I said, I could have written a lot of insurance if they hadn't stopped me. But I'm glad they stopped me when they did, because when they started running reports on individuals -- and the same way today, they'll do that today. They'll check on an agent to see what type of business you're running. And actually, I think I have a little better advantage than an individual just starting out new. Of course, I know the people in the area.
JOHNSON: I think your political career, which was very short…
ANCH: Yes, it was very short.
JOHNSON: Your two two-year terms must have ended around 1948, and then you got back entirely to the insurance business.
ANCH: Well, yes, because I was told by Mr. Pendergast at the time that I didn't belong in there.
JOHNSON: And you never had any special meetings with the President.
ANCH: No, I had no occasion to have any special meetings.
JOHNSON: Were you ever out at the Truman Library after he came back in 153?
ANCH: No, to be honest with you I never did.
JOHNSON: You haven't been there at all yet?
ANCH: No, not at all.
JOHNSON: Well, you've got an invitation now to come on out.
ANCH: Well, thank you; I'll run out.
JOHNSON: As you recall, did Truman take the First Ward by large majorities?
ANCH: Yes. Yes, he won by big margins.
JOHNSON: What do you think made him so popular in this area? With the Italian-Americans mainly, I suppose.
ANCH: Italian-Americans, and then like I said it was
Tom Pendergast. Now Tom helped a lot of these poor individuals who couldn't eat. They didn't have food to put on the table, and Tom helped them. Anybody who went up there -- nobody was turned down.
JOHNSON: Did your family go up to get help?
ANCH: No, they had no occasion to, but I used to go to the old Convention Hall at that time, and they had Santa Claus there on Christmas. We used to get a basket of goodies and a little toy of some kind. It was something that was made possible, I think, by Pendergast.
JOHNSON: So this big Christmas party was sponsored by the Pendergast organization.
ANCH: I would say it was.
JOHNSON: Did your parents ever go up to….
ANCH: No, my parents couldn't read and write.
JOHNSON: …and ask for anything from Tom Pendergast?
ANCH: No, that's something new. As far as the Italian people are concerned, they will very seldom ask for
anything. They've got a lot of pride; they won't ask for help. They'll do without before they ask for help.
JOHNSON: Any special impressions you had of Pendergast when you saw him?
ANCH: Well, it struck me that he was a very nice guy helping all these poor families. And other than that, I had no real personal contact.
JOHNSON: But you do remember seeing him, a rather large man?
ANCH: Yes, a big guy.
JOHNSON: Yes, he stood out in a crowd I suppose.
ANCH: Yes. He made himself known too.
JOHNSON: Jim wasn't too slim either.
ANCH: No, Jim was big. I mean my experience was mostly with Jim.
JOHNSON: Did you see the two together? They were nephew and uncle.
ANCH: Yes, Tom was bigger than Jim.
JOHNSON: Did you see them together very much, or were they usually….
ANCH: Like I said, in the four years, if I went up there ten or twelve times, that's a lot.
JOHNSON: But always Jim, you never…
ANCH: I never saw Tom, no. I had no occasion to see Tom, because my dealings was with Jim. He said, "Whenever you need advice, come to me."
JOHNSON: Of course, Tom was required by his probation not to involve himself at all.
ANCH: He couldn't be involved in politics, that's right. That's when Jim...
JOHNSON: Did Jim ever say anything about his uncle that you recall?
ANCH: No, it never came up. And like I say, what little conversation we had was my experience with my people in my ward.
JOHNSON: But he must have been pretty sad about Tom's gambling and getting those kick-backs and then not reporting it and…
ANCH: Well, evidently he was, because Jim was a pretty nice fellow as far as I'm concerned. And I admire him for the help that he did give me. But otherwise, I wouldn't know.
JOHNSON: And he helped this ward as much as he could.
ANCH: Yes, he did.
JOHNSON: When did that Democratic headquarters close up?
ANCH: Which one now?
JOHNSON: At 1908 Main Street.
ANCH: Oh, it closed up after I got out of politics.
JOHNSON: It's a landmark. Maybe someone will put up a plaque.
ANCH: Well, I think somebody's in the process of trying to preserve a lot of these older buildings. And it looks like they're trying to do that with the City Market, but it seems like they have given it to the wholesalers.
JOHNSON: The developers sometimes….
ANCH: The developers were going to turn it all into retail. The individual farmer coming in -- how are they going to sell retail when you could go to a chain store and drive right in, and there ain't no parking down at the Market. That's the bad thing, because that Market was built at the time when you didn't need parking. You went down there on the streetcar. You walked down or went on a streetcar.
Now, I was boxing in -- when was it -- I think '26 or ‘27. I used to walk clean to 21st and Grand, which is the Western Auto Supply building and walk back home just for conditioning, road work. I think that would kill me today. But it was a good experience and then like I said, through boxing .... A newspaper interviewed me once.
JOHNSON: The headline says, "If you need help call Mr. Northeast."
ANCH: That's a picture when [Clarence] Kelly went off to be FBI Director. Well, we gave him a plaque, the Golden Gloves officials did, and Dr. Aimes, John Sorrentino, Tony Mange, myself, and….
JOHNSON: This article about you is in the Kansas City
Times, December 4, 1975.
ANCH: Well, like I said, “I’ve always tried to help people. There are a lot of things you can’t do, but I’ve always tried to help.
JOHNSON: But not as a politician or as a committeeman.
ANCH: No, No if I can help I’ll still do it. I say by helping, you help yourself. Now we’ve got our Kiwanis Club that is sponsoring this handicapped child’s day, so we’re taking a group of handicapped children. We’ve got about sixteen organizations in this Missouri-Arkansas district, who are sponsoring this. We’ll each have from ten to twenty people, handicapped people with their parents, and then we’ll be there Saturday just to help. I think it’s wonderful that you’re able to help and hope you’ll never need the help. The newspaper interviewed me and said, “Now, we want to know, you’ve been in the ring a long time -- we want to know some of the outstanding things that you encountered in the ring.”
I said, “What for example?”
They said, “Well, some of the most exciting experiences. Now these are all new boys?”
I said, "Yes."
He said, "What are some of the most common things these youngsters say?"
"Well, there are quite a few."
"Well, that's what I want to hear." So, he says, "You're in the ring, now there are just three of you in the ring, two boxers and yourself." He says, "Now, you've given them instructions and then where do you go from there?"
"Well, you see, in amateur boxing sportsmanship means a lot, but a lot of these youngsters haven't boxed long enough to know what sportsmanship is. They'll swing, they'll claw with their eyes closed, such as that. Now if a boy's hurt or outclassed you can stop it right now. Well, in one of these fights right towards the middle of the first round, I stepped in and stopped the bout. Well, he started crying. You want to try to console him. I put my arm around him and said, "You know, boy, you get in a little better condition, and I'll bet you'll beat this guy the next time."
He said, "Do you think so?"
I said, "I know so." I said, "But you have to train."
His eyes lit up. He said, “Well, you know, that’s the first bout I ever lost.”
I said, “Well, how many did you fight, how many bouts did you have?”
He said, “That’s the first one.”
I didn’t care what the coach says, or does, the coach always wants a winner, but if a boy is outclassed, the thing is don’t let that boy get hurt because it’s a reflection on the referee. I was in there and the individual was outclassed; the first round was over. I went over to the corner. I said, “Now, here Joe, this fight can go on, but if you can’t defend himself any better, I’m going to stop the fight.”
He said, “Aw, he ain’t hurting him.”
“I’m going to stop the bout,” I said.
So, the bell rings for the second round and he kept hollering at this boy, “He ain’t laying a glove on you; he ain’t touching you.”
So this guy dropped his hands he turned around and he said, “Well, goddamn it, keep an eye on the referee; somebody’s hitting me.”
JOHNSON: Just a final question that comes to mind. While you were a committeeman here, did you get any pressure
from the old organization?
JOHNSON: You didn't feel any pressure?
ANCH: Now whether the head f the organization did or not, I don't know, but I wasn't bothered, because as I say, I had people from the organization encouraging me to run.
JOHNSON: Well, thanks very much for the time.
ANCH: You are entirely welcome.
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List of Subjects Discussed
American Tribune (newspaper), 17, 24
and Pendergast, James, 10, 13-14, 16-17, 19-21, 30, 32
and Truman, Harry S., 17-18, 23
Binaggio, Charles, 33, 35
Cali, Joe, 24
Corollo, Carlie, 15, 35
Daleo, James, 24
First Ward Democratic Club (Kansas City, Missouri), 13, 15, 24, 25
Golden Gloves, and boxing in Kansas City, 6, 7, 46, 47-49
Italian-Americans, in Kansas City, and Democratic politics, 41-43
Kelly, Clarence, 46
Lazia, John, 15, 35
Mazuch, Louis, 24
Nigro, Marion, 25, 26
North Side Democratic Club,14, 15, 25, 26, 34, 35
Pendergast, James, 10-14, 16, 19-20, 21, 30, 32, 34, 44, 45
Pendergast, Tom, 15,
and Italian-American ward, 41-44
Presta, Alex, 11-12, 15, 28-29
Ringside Arena, 4, 7
Truman, Harry S.:
and First Ward, Kansas City, 41
and Italian-American vote in Kansas City, Missouri, 41
and Pendergast organization, 17, 18
War Finance Committee of Kansas City, Missouri, 21
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