The original Kansas City Hummer vehicle

Michael Bushnell
Northeast News

When you think of a Hummer these days the first thing to come to mind is the monstrous SUV that began its life as a utility vehicle for the United States Armed Forces.

But back in 1903, a Saline County farm boy and a former factory superintendent opened their “factory” at 217 E. 15th St. to produce a car they called the Hummer.

Robert Greenlease Sr., and Pearl Karshner produced all of three vehicles that year and the Hummer disappeared from the market almost as fast as it had arrived.

Greenlease would then go on to oversee an automobile empire that covered six states and distributed automobiles to a network of dealers throughout western Missouri and a large part of Kansas. In 1918 he erected the building shown on this postcard — published by the Midwest Map Company of Aurora, Missouri.
This was Greenlease’s flagship location where he oversaw the operations of his holdings throughout Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Missouri and Texas.

Tragedy, however, struck the Greenlease family on Sept 28, 1953, when young Bobby Greenlease was kidnapped from his school and brutally murdered by Carl Hall and Hall’s lover and full-time prostitute Bonnie Heady.

Convicted of the kidnapping and murder of 6-year-old Bobby Greenlease, the pair was executed in the Missouri gas chamber in a prison outside Jefferson City just after midnight on Dec 18, 1953 — a scant 81 days after the murder.

According to published accounts: “They were blindfolded, led into the chamber and strapped into adjacent chairs. Before gas began seeping into the room, they spoke their last words.

Bonnie Heady said, “Are you doing all right, honey?”

Carl Hall replied, “Yes, mama.”

Robert Greenlease Sr. died in 1969, and his wife Virginia died in 2001. Both are buried in Forest Hill Cemetery along with their beloved son Bobby Jr. The Greenlease murder case is still one of Kansas City’s most prominent crime cases to this day.

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