Gay Scene K.C.

Population Shift to Cities

During World War II many gay and lesbian service members discovered others like themselves for the first time while serving in the military. At the end of the conflict many chose to stay in urban centers rather than return home to their small towns or rural areas. Yet unlike immigrants or members of the working-class who had previously settled in cities, gays and lesbians had no ready community.

Finding Community Spaces

Images of advertisements for the Jewel Box, the Rail Room, and a matchbook from The Colony Bar, claiming to be "The Gayest Bar in Town!"
Clockwise from left: The Jewel Box opened in 1946. The Rail Room was located across from Union Station. The Colony Bar’s advertising spoke for itself.
Courtesy: Gay and Lesbian Archive of Mid-America, University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Many found this sense of community in bars, restaurants, and other semi-private spaces where gays and lesbians could be with people like themselves and socialize. Like many urban centers after the war, Kansas City became home to a vibrant bar scene that made its presence known somewhat publicly, as the Colony Bar’s subtle advertising makes clear. Though visible, however, gay bars always existed on the margins. Bar-goers were safe in the knowledge that they could express their identities without fear of consequences faced elsewhere. Said one patron, “It wasn’t that we wanted to do it that way, but we had our jobs to consider.”