Charley Blackmore knows more about Columbia, Missouri, than just about anyone. The mid-Missouri native, who moved here in July of 1955 when he was 10 years old, has watched the city grow from 30,000 people to more than 100,000 over the past 60 years.
Pick any street in Columbia, and he can give you a chronological mapping of its growth, right off the top of his head. "Southwest Columbia, out by Nifong and Forum Boulevard, that was out in the country," he says. "And Stadium Boulevard, out by the mall, it was nothing but a gravel road. And Clinkscales Road, that was the west city limits."
He knows his history, and he has a head for numbers and dates. And, perhaps not surprisingly, he's a man who doesn't forget things.
"I started working with computers back when the very first PCs came out, and then I had the Commodore 64 computer," he says. "I even got a computer from the bank once, when I opened a CD account in my kids' names. You gave a $1,000 deposit, and you got a free little Apple computer that looked like a little briefcase. The Apple 2C, that's what it was."
At 70 years old, Blackmore, who's been webmaster of Kewpie.net since launching the site in 1998, knows his way around computers, but his job history is diverse. He was a U.S. Postal Office employee for 36 years and worked for over 29 years as a motor route operator for the Columbia Daily Tribune. He had a community radio show for seven years at KOPN. He's also in his 39th year as a DJ.
"For the last seven years, I've DJed for the Paxton Keeley fifth-grade picnic," he says. "That's probably the most unusual DJ job I have for someone my age, but it's always fun."
His community ties run deep, too: He's a past president of the Fairview Elementary PTA and Valley View Neighborhood Association; he was president of the HOA for Bluff Creek Estates and has run their webpage for the past 10 years; he was a third-place, second-place and finally first-place "Mr. Legs" winner in contests to benefit the Muscular Dystrophy Association; he's taken photos for the Central Missouri Honor Flight; and he's been involved with many other charities and organizations over the years.
"I worked the same mail route for 15 years, so people knew if I rang the doorbell, they either needed to sign for a certified letter or get their checkbook for a fundraiser," he says with a laugh.
Although Blackmore is retired now — and has been for almost 16 years — he stays busy with Kewpie.net, an online gathering place for graduates of Columbia's Hickman High School, where Blackmore, a 1963 Hickman graduate, has compiled a directory of former students, photos, stories, memorials and more — going back all the way to the late 1800s. To date, the website has generated more than $110,000 for Hickman in gifts or endowed scholarships. Kewpie.net offers an endowed $1,000 scholarship to one boy and one girl each school year, along with a $500 scholarship to one boy and one girl in the name of Blackmore's Class of '63.
"There's a lot on there, and there's work that goes into it, but I sound a lot busier than I am," he says. "I spend a lot of time following my wife, Karen, around — she's busier than I am."
Blackmore's dedication to the Kewpies is strong. But then, that's not surprising considering his appreciation for home and tradition. He opened his first checking account with Landmark Bank — before it became Landmark — nearly 60 years ago, with money he earned as a junior high school student mowing lawns. He's been a Landmark client ever since.
"Back before we had direct deposit, when I worked at the Post Office on the west side of town, I'd stop by the bank on Garth and Walnut every other Friday to deposit my check," he says. "I'm just a loyal customer who never changed banks. I never needed to."
"If they've got 150 years in the banking business, I think I'm staying," he adds.
And he's staying in Columbia, too. It's home, and it always will be.
"You know, I've heard a lot of people say that Columbia is a good place to be from," he says. "But Columbia isn't just a good place to be from. It's a good place to be."
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