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 It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.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
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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 appar