SMITHVILLE — Collins “Colonel” and Lou Kindred have a long history in Smithville. They were both born in the Northland with family ties stretching back more than 100 years.
Most people know the Kindred name due to ownership of Kindred Chevrolet. The dealership was the longest family-owned Chevrolet dealership in the state at 97 years until this year when it sold to Eric Gentry and his partners.
While known for offering vehicle purchasers no-haggle pricing, the Kindred family name means more than car sales. Lou’s family, with the surname Breckenridge, arrived in the area around 1830. Collins said both he and his wife had great-grandparents who lived in Smithville.
“My house is the one there on the corner of Commercial (Avenue) and (Missouri Highway) 92,” Lou said. “I grew up here.”
Collins and Lou have been married for 70 years. While married, Lou taught in Platte County schools for three years and then the Smithville School District for many years after that.
“I loved teaching school,” Lou said. “My students still come to visit me to this day.”
Being a teacher in the Smithville district for over two decades, Lou said she hopped grades throughout her career before getting tired and retiring. Starting at the fifth-grade level, Lou later moved to seventh- and eighth-grade core classes and ended at the high school, teaching English to freshmen and sophomores. Because of her leaping, she sometimes taught the same students multiple times.
“I really enjoyed it,” she said. “Back then, my first year pay was $1,625 for the whole year.”
Money wasn’t her concern because she loved what she did and she had help from her husband, she added
Collins, before becoming a car dealer, was a World War II veteran, earning a Purple Heart. Saved from having to invade Japan, Collins remembers the day President Harry Truman decided to drop the atomic bomb on the Asian island country. He was waiting to deploy at Kansas City’s Union Station when the news hit.
“I was standing below the big clock tower,” he said. “I still had to deploy to a base here in the states, but Truman saved my life ... and lives of many soldiers.”
With many memories of the war, Collins in years past put pen to paper, writing them down. His longest day was with the 95th Division of Patton’s Third Army on Nov. 26, 1944.
A corporal at the time, Kindred said Germans began firing machine guns at his unit. Moving to a new location, Collins realized he was wounded. When he reached aid, the nurse asked where home was. While usually saying Kansas City when asked, he said that time he answered, “Smithville.” It turned out another Smithville native was serving in the same location, Jim Price, who was serving as a medic.
It was the only time during the war Collins said he met someone from home.
Flood of 65
In addition living through a world history event, both Lou and Collins, along with the family dealership, survived a local tragedy, the Smithville flood of 1965.
During the flood, Lou said Collins had gone to the dealership to salvage what he could. The dealership was located in Smithville’s downtown at the time.
Lou, who had been at the hospital recovering from a medical procedure, said she had no idea how bad the flood was until the next day when Collins came to her looking like a mess.
“The water was too swift,” Collins said. We had to get into the skylight to survive.”
During the tragedy, Collins recalled seeing Stella Vance, who worked for the newspaper, trying to get to the attic of her home across the street. She had called out Collins’ name, he said, and then never made another sound, he said.
“She’s the only one we lost,” he said.
The devastating flood and previous flood-related issues prompted the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to construct Smithville Lake and its dam, which Collins helped rally support for.
“Collins worked really hard to get that lake,” Lou said.