Newspaper editor penning book on local businessman

5/17/2013

By RUTH CAMPBELL

By RUTH CAMPBELL

rcampbell@gctelegram.com

As editor of the Kiowa County Signal in Greensburg, Patrick Clement likes to write features on arts and culture. In researching a series on Kiowa County artists, he came across the work of the late Garden City photographer Frank Conard.

Digging a little deeper, Clement found Conard was a businessman, with his own photo studio; an entrepreneur who started KIUL, an AM radio station; and he sold radios and household appliances.

From his initial brush with Conard, Clement found he had enough interest in his subject to write a book and enlisted Hal Ottoway, a postcard and political memorabilia collector, and Morgan Williams, who had been researching Conard for 15 years, to help him.

"We all decided to collaborate on the book, and I'd be the author and put it all together," Clement said.

"Conard is an incredibly interesting person. He did a lot of interesting things," Clement added.

Conard was best-known for his Dust Bowl-era photographs, exaggeration post cards featuring people riding huge grasshoppers or rabbits, and live events.

Along with O.B. Allen, he sold high-power radios, called All-Ard radios, known for picking up signals when no others could, Finney County Historical Museum Assistant Director Laurie Oshel said.

Conard had three brothers who were also photographers with studios in other parts of Kansas. Conard, though, spent most of his life in Garden City, moving here in 1914 and dying in June 30, 1966. He sold his studio, located at 414 N. Main St., in August 1963, Oshel said.

"It's a very Garden City-centric story. He spent almost his entire professional career here. ... So his story is the story of Garden City," Clement said.

Clement, a 33-year-old Boston native who has been at the Signal for two years, attended film school at Los Angeles Valley College and worked in TV and film production for five years. He took a break from school to take the position at the paper in Greensburg and plans to finish a degree in filmmaking at the University of Kansas in the fall.

Clement had written a book previously called "Small Town," a photo essay about a ghost town in Kiowa County.

He decided in March to write the book about Conard, and hopes to have it published in the first quarter of 2014. Clement said it likely will be self-published, but will be pitched to publishers, as well.

Noting his forte is in photography, Clement said the book will be visual, but have text.

"It feels like a good time for the book to come out," Clement said. "You have pop art — that composite artwork he did that's really hot right now. And people are interested in the Dust Bowl" because of the climate.

"He (Conard) did some of his best work in that era," Clement said.

Although he has material and is busily gathering additional tidbits, Clement said he'd like more.

"I need people that knew the Conards, that posed for the photos that were family members. All his exaggeration photos, people posed for them. I just need everything and anything, even things like paperwork, letters, receipts, anything — firsthand accounts, people that can talk a little bit about it," he said. "I think it's that extra stuff we're really missing; the ephemeral stuff."

Clement said museum staff and Executive Director Steve Quakenbush have been helpful, and he noted a lot of items have come from The Garden City Telegram.

While in town, Clement also planned to visit 414 N. Main St., the Z.T. Nelson building that once housed the Conard studio. Quakenbush said it also has been home to the Americana Shop and a doughnut shop. When the owners of Illusions Salon were renovating, they found artifacts belonging to Conard, Quakenbush said.

As a side note, Quakenbush said the Nelson building will be one of the stops on a June 9 home tour, organized by the Women's Chamber of Commerce and Historical Society.

Having written newspaper stories, Clement said it's actually comfortable to be confined by facts.

"You can't really draw outside the lines too much," he said.

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