Remembering Larry Stewart (1948-2007)this holiday season.
Stewart rose from poverty to become KC’s Secret Santa for 26 years. After the owner of Mississippi’s Dixie Diner gave a homeless Stewart $20 back in 1971, he vowed that if he ever had the means he would do the same for others…and boy did he. Stewart gave more than $1.3 million over the years – many times as crisp $100 bills to strangers on the street, in laundromats and gas stations. Beyond that, he and his “elves”… (including KC’s own Buck O’Neil and former Chicago Bear Dick Butkus), would personally hand thousands of dollars to someone in need of surgery or to others devastated by hurricanes, fires and 9/11.
Stewart graced Town Topic many times to spread good cheer, and was described by one employee as “an angel from Heaven”. Upon meeting him Oprah Winfrey exclaimed, “Why you are Santa incarnate right here!” You can read more about Stewart in the book, “Santa’s Secret, A Story of Hope”.
Stewart was quoted as saying, “Anyone can be Santa. You don’t have to give away money. You can give a smile or look someone in the eye and listen.”
This photo was taken 81 years ago today! Here is a young Claude Sparks at a 1932 White Castle employee Christmas banquet in Kansas City. Claude is the 4th person from the front on the left. He moved to Kansas City from Golden, Missouri and worked as a cab driver before starting at White Castle, which, of course, paved the way for him to start Town Topic Hamburgers. Claude was just 24 years old in this picture. Looks like a pretty fancy banquet!
No matter your political affiliation, it’s still pretty darn cool when a potential U.S. president makes an appearance at your place of business. Here’s former VP Al Gore on the presidential campaign trail at Town Topic in October, 2000. There’s 2nd generation TT owner, Gary Sparks, standing on the left side of photo in the white button down shirt, wearing glasses.
Shout out to George Motz, author, film maker and hamburger expert! George has named Town Topic as one of the 150 best burgers multiple times. He also placed us on his list of the top 25 most essential burgers in the U.S! Thanks George! His book, Hamburger America, would make a great gift for your favorite Hamburger lover. Also, watch him on Travel Channel’s Burger Land.