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A nod to the legacy of Andrew Drumm

By Mike Genet mike.genet@examiner.net

The documentary commissioned for last year’s 100th anniversary of Drumm Farm Center for Children in Independence, produced by a Lee’s Summit videographer, has been nominated for an Emmy Award.

A documentary on the history of the Drumm Farm Center for Children, a fixture in Independence for generations, is up for an Emmy.

Chad Godfrey wrote, produced and edited “The Andrew Drumm Legacy: A Cattleman’s Promise to Children,” which has been nominated for a regional Emmy in the historical documentary category the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. The online ceremony for the awards will be Saturday.

Godfrey, who owns Summit Video Services in downtown Lee’s Summit, said from his experience of judging for Emmys in other regions, he believed the Drumm documentary stood a chance for nomination. But nonetheless it was a pleasant surprise and honor to receive the news a couple weeks ago, and after a few years of producing videos for Drumm Farm’s annual fundraising gala, learning the backstory for the place’s namesake proved fascinating.

“I like to see what’s out there for people like me, and it’s really inspiring,” Godfrey said. “Typically like to do documentaries, but I also do commercials. It’s always surprising and very much an honor to be nominated by your peers.”

“A lot of Andrew Drumm’s life was fairly unknown, at least the early part,” Godfrey said. “I think people have a various understanding of what the place was, but (the earlier history) was really one of the fascinating parts. He really had his finger in a lot of pots as far as Kansas City history. He was well connected and networked with a lot of folks, but there hadn’t been a lot written about that.”

The 42-minute documentary, which can be viewed on Drumm Farm Center for Children’s YouTube page, begins with a foreword written by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Rhodes and narrated by longtime Kansas City radio personality Dick Wilson. Rhodes is one of three former Drumm Farm residents interviewed for the project, along with Ray Blackman and David Caldwell. Some current Drumm employees also describe their affinity for the work done at the farm, which now serves as a place for foster families.

Brian Burnes, who wrote the book of the same name for the same reason Godfrey made his documentary, details Drumm’s work over the years, how he eventually built a fortune in cattle herding and then banking with cattle herders, then decided to start a working farm home just outside of Independence (at the time) for orphaned and indigent boys and traveled to Chicago, Philadelphia and Baltimore to check out similar venues.

“It’s fair to say he did his homework,” Burnes said in the film, “because here we are 100 years after his death and his vision can still be seen here in Independence.”

In the foreword, Rhodes wrote, Andrew Drumm was “something of a mystery. He loomed over us like the projected image of the Wizard of Oz.”

While Drumm was “guardian and protector” of the farm, Rhodes wrote, “We were not even required to learn his backstory. We had no idea Andrew Drumm was replicating his boyhood in the institute he and his Cordelia founded.”

Rhodes, Blackman and Caldwell all shared stories that included how they arrived at the farm, the seemingly bountiful food when they first arrived, the failed attempt by some boys to hide grape juice until it could ferment for wine, and the football team winning a one-time battle against a Kansas City high school.

Like Godfrey, Burnes said that learning about Drumm’s career buildup to eventually setting up the farm proved to be fascinating.

“When you think about it, Andrew Drumm’s life, it was really cinematic,” Burnes said, “and Chad really conveyed that.”

Godfrey and Brad Smith, Drumm Farm executive director, traveled to Half Moon Bay, Calif., to visit with Rhodes and also to rural Oklahoma to see the monument erected decades ago by Drumm’s widow Cordelia to mark Drumm’s cattle ranch there and meet the current owner of the land.

“The size of his business was so much bigger than I understood,” Smith said. “About 2012, I’d driven down to Oklahoma. (The monument) is on private land, and it just occurred to me even there: the story of Andrew Drumm, it’s a story that history missed.”

“The book kind of laid the path. When Chad and I met and talked, we set out to make these two trips.”

Smith said something he enjoyed learning while helping with the documentary was how Drumm worked with the Native Americans during his days as an Oklahoma cattle rancher. 

“He went out of his way to treat them with respect,” Smith said. Taking care of our fellow human being and treating them with respect and dignity, it’s something we need to do more today.”

As opposed to the sprawling working farm of the early and mid-20th century, Drumm Farm is more condensed now and serves as a home for several foster families, with programs for education, emotional challenges and life skills. 

“I have to believe this is what he wanted in his heart,” Smith said at the end of the documentary. “I hope Andrew Drumm knows that we understand and appreciate how much he gave us, how much he advised us and how much he helped us.”