Wanda Anderson Rice: Charming woman with a certain something

April 26, 2013 

I have been attending the golden reunions of Lee’s Summit High School for years now. I love to hear the stories of the “kids” and their escapades in high school. I have been fortunate enough to meet some wonderful people and play the “fly on the wall” as classmates visit with each other and reminisce about those great days at dear old Lee’s Summit High School. I first met Rice at one of the reunions.

The LSHS rings with important traditions that some of the new generation don’t realize. Cultural arts are no stranger to those past graduating classes. Early on, the schools established bands, theater groups, and a really cool band called the Jazz Jellies. Those band members came from a generation when jazz was new to the world and maybe even a little racy. A group of lovely young ladies called the Hal Dean Dancers under the instruction of Mrs. Hal Dean, teacher at Lee’s Summit High School, which included the Ann Jones, daughter of J.C. Jones our local lumber baron, Betty Browning, Sara Virginia Johnson, Margaret Haffey, Mary Kenton Noel and Wanda. The group danced at special occasions all over the Metro in beautiful flowing gowns that were made by their mothers. No wonder Wanda developed a style and grace that she carries with her even today.

Rice came to Lee’s Summit from Morehouse, Missouri with her family when she was 6-years-old. She attended the “Ward School” otherwise known as Lee’s Summit Grade School in a school that was built in 1907 and demolished in the 1960’s. I have never found out why it was called “the Ward School” and neither has Rice.

Rice told me that in those days, the 1920’s, students could either attend the morning first grade or the afternoon. Rice went to the p.m. classes. Both classes were taught by Delma Carpenter, no relation to Jim Carpenter.

Rice’s favorite subjects were spelling and reading. The city life in Lee’s Summit was much simpler. The kids played hopscotch, jacks and made tents out of blankets and quilts. That was 1924. Rice said that folks felt safe and kids could walk wherever they wanted to. My guess is that they did that under the watchful eyes of the moms and grandmothers in the neighborhoods.

When Rice entered junior high at Sixth and Miller she started looking at boys. I am sure they started noticing her long before that time.

She was telling me about a home on Douglas that belonged to Mrs. Trundle. She served delicious chicken dinners, homemade rolls and lots of gravy. Rice mentioned that she started working there when she was in the fourth grade. It was close to her home. It was a very popular place. You had to call and make reservations. It was a white-napkin establishment. Notables like James. A. Reed and Nelly Don frequented Trundle’s.

Jack Hall was Anderson’s first boyfriend. I know Hall. I can see why she liked him. He was a good looking and popular athlete at LSHS.

She met her husband the late Harold Rice when she was a junior and began dating him when she was a senior. The couple eventually got married. Harold was the son of R.B. Rice founder of the R.B. Rice Sausage Company.

R.B. started his company with a meat grinder hooked to a Model T. Rice had been a poor farmer with a great idea for making quality sausage. R.B. passed away in 1947. The business was passed on the Harold. Wanda told me that her mother made the fabric sausage packaging.

Wanda enjoyed being a home maker and taking care of her family. She was a frequent customer of Lain-McAdoo Drug Store which was located at Third and Douglas, the site of the Stanley Historic Space. She shopped at Kroger and A&P which were both located in the downtown back then.

Rice is 95 years young. She told me that she owes her longevity to taking care of herself and her church upbringing. Her long-time friend, the dapper Jack Janes, told me that Wanda has always had a sweet spirit.

It was such a pleasure to spend time with Rice. Besides a sweet spirit, Rice has a special sashay when she walks and a lively sparkle in her beautiful eyes. Rice is one of our local treasures.

Kathy Smith has lived in Lee’s Summit for 24 years and is the Property Manager for Summit East Plaza Apartments. She is president of the Lee’s Summit Historical Society, chair of the Lee’s Summit Preservation Commission and on several other boards and commissions throughout the city.

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