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The man behind Central Park’s name

Grandson of a German immigrant and son of a former district court clerk who briefly ran the Chingawasa Springs resort, Marion native Charles Christopher “Charley” Brooker (1886-1983) is the man for whom Brooker Central Park is named.

Charley’s grandfather, Charles Brooker (1829-1905), came to America in 1837 and served as a private in the Mexican American War and a captain in the Civil War. He moved from Kentucky to an East Branch homestead in 1871.

In 1885, Charley’s father, Charles Fred Brooker (1853-1954), moved to Marion to become clerk of the district court. After five years as clerk, he went on to run a furniture store and, in 1882, the Chingawasa Springs resort before eventually returning to East Branch.

Charley, meanwhile, was busy organizing the state’s first high school orchestra at Marion High School, where he also organized the school’s first senior play.

He became sales manager for Loveless General Store after graduation, moonlighted as owner of a print shop, and upon the general store’s closure in 1916 went into the advertising business, mainly conducting closeout sales for businesses throughout the Plains states. He also became a vice president of Marion National Bank.

In 1931, Charley was appointed mayor, a post to which he was elected and re-elected for the next 10 years until he moved to Wichita to take a wartime position with Cessna Aircraft.

Although perhaps controversial nowadays, Charley was renowned locally as a member of a troupe of blackface comedians that included Bob Florer, Cliff Farr, and Arden Newsom.

In 1932, he strongly encouraged businesses to invest in advertising, writing in the Merchants Journal:

“It takes courage to make a success of business. The average merchant will invest a thousand dollars in a stock of goods and then hesitate to invest a hundred dollars in advertising to sell it. Every merchant should invest two percent of his sales in GOOD advertising. If a merchant falls to advertise intelligently, he will eventually starve his business.”

Both Charley and his father were buried in Marion Cemetery. His grandfather was buried in Doyle Valley Cemetery between Peabody and Goessel.

Last modified March 29, 2018

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