By Bjorn Skaptason, Tom's Town Historian
KANSAS CITY, 1939: Every Holiday season Boss Tom’s Machine remembered the humblest of voters, those who consistently returned the Machine to power by casting ballots for Goat candidates. Then casting them again at another polling station. Then casting them again across town. Then, when necessary, riding Machine-chartered busses to the most remote precincts in Jackson County to elect Goats to county office.
Such loyalty deserved reward, and was generously repaid by Tom’s charitable organization. Thanksgiving and Christmas in Tom’s Town were marked by long lines of the poor and the homeless lining up around the block of Municipal Auditorium to receive a free turkey dinner, compliments of Tom Pendergast and the Machine Boys.
A typical holiday dinner featured three thousand pounds of turkey, with potatoes, stuffing, and other treats. The auditorium was filled with tables and chairs, and the hero hoboes who had so gallantly fought (sometimes literally) for the Boss’ political picks two weeks before were feted and fed.
The holiday generosity of the Machine also extended to the resident poor, who received holiday gifts of food and coal from the ward captains.
By January the city returned to the business-as-usual of graft, corruption, gambling, and payola, but during the holidays the ghosts and the Goats, the repeat voters and the down-luck gamblers, the cast-out kids and the women of the night, could gather for a few hours of good food, warmth and cheer.