by Marcia Napier, Grain Valley Historical Society
My memories of Grain Valley in the 1970’s are a bit slim for a couple of reasons. First, while I continued to live in Grain Valley, I was a college graduate gainfully employed in the area, just not in our little town. And, for the first time in over 25 years, my family no longer operated a business in town.
Nationally, the seventies were marked by Watergate, the OPEC embargo banning shipments of oil to the U.S. and causing major gas shortages, and the near meltdown of the Three Mile Island nuclear reactor. Of course, 1976 was particularly important as the United States celebrated its Bicentennial.
Locally, old-timers will recall the fire that destroyed the First Christian Church. During the 1970's, the Assembly of God Church on McQuerry Road was the first church to come to Grain Valley in over 90 years.
Grain Valley was beginning to grow with new housing additions along R.D. Mize Road to the North and the Cannon Addition just south of the railroad. The new homes brought growth to our schools. After 50 years in the old two-story brick school, the high school students moved to a new building just west of the old building. For the first time in over ten years, the high school was connected to the auditorium/gymnasium. Soon after, Matthews Elementary School was built in time to hold classes in September of 1978.
And finally, disco dancing took Grain Valley, and the entire country, by storm.
Grain Valley looked much the same during most of the 1980's. A few businesses came (State Bank of Missouri), a few businesses stayed (Mc Leroy’s Gasoline Station) and a few businesses left (Save Mart Grocery), never to return. The Middle School concept was introduced and a building for 6th, 7th and 8th graders was constructed on AA Highway (now Eagles’ Parkway).
Strangely, what I remember most about the 80's are neon colors. Back in the day, the most popular hues were similar to highlighters—bright yellow, orange, green, and pink. Stylish people would wear matching sweatsuits or tops and bottoms in coordinating neon colors. Everything from hair bows and ball caps to tennis shoes and socks were neon.
Ronald Reagan famously told Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down that wall,” and he dismissed Marine Lt. Colonel Oliver North and national security assistant Admiral John Poindexter, both suspected of selling military equipment to Iran and diverting the proceeds to the Contras.
Some will remember the 1980's for AIDS and Black Monday, October 19, 1987, when Wall Street suffered the worst day in its history, a 22% loss. On the bright side, others may remember the new social phenomenon: the Young Urban Professional, or “Yuppy.”
If I was writing a book about Grain Valley in the 1990's it could easily be titled “The Decade of Growth.” Our population grew from 1,901 in 1990 to just over 5,100 in 2000. The two huge growth additions were Sni-A-Bar on the south side of town, followed by Woodbury and Rosewood Hills on the north.
Where there are homes, there are children and where there are children there is need for more schools. In 1996 the Senior High School moved to the present location on Eagle’s Parkway. In 1997 Phase I (kindergarten and 1st grade) of Sni-A-Bar Elementary School was opened and Phase II was completed to welcome the 2nd grader the following year. In 1999, a new Middle School was built on Ryan Road. Along I-70, OOIDA and RV sales companies put Grain Valley on the map with national advertising.
Many will remember watching live TV coverage of Operation Desert Storm, when the United States employed high-tech missiles after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. We also experienced the first bombing of the World Trade Center and the LA Riots following the announcement of a verdict in the Rodney King trial.
On the lighter side, gourmet coffee and coffee houses became the trend and cellular phones became a common-place necessity!
Between 2000 and 2010, the population of Grain Valley increased nearly 250% (from 5,160 to 12, 854 people). We got a new City Hall, a new Community Center, and the Market Place Shopping Center, complete with a supermarket, hardware store and some eating establishments. We also got a Sonic, McDonalds, and Subway! It was during this time that the first Casey’s General Store came to Grain Valley. And on the north side of I-70, Ward Development began the industrial park that would forever change the entire landscape of our city!
In 2005, Prairie Branch Elementary was completed on NW Dillingham Road. In 2007, voters approved a bond to build Stony Point Elementary School, named for the original Stony Point School built more than 150 years earlier on land about a mile away from the present school on Ryan Road. The final phase of Stony Point was completed in 2009.
During the most recent decade, 2010 to 2020, we have added 2 dental offices, Marketplace 8 Movie Theater, Price Chopper, Papa Murphy’s, Taco Bell, QuikTrip, AMOCO, Casey’s (number 3) and several retail shops near I-70. In the past two weeks, Panda Express and Burger King became the newest fast food in town. The businesses on the south edge of town have increased at a nearly equal pace. From the single Main Street Café in 1989 to the more than 15 eating establishments currently in our town, Grain Valley continues to grow at a rapid pace.
Many residents would argue that a new car wash, our own micro-brewery, and our state-of-the-art Grain Valley High School cannot make up for what we lack - a good “sit down” restaurant. Well, history buffs, relax. I’m certain whomever is writing this column in 2032 will be telling you about Grain Valley's great new restaurant! Like they say about Missouri’s weather, stick around, our town changes every day!