Widow Wins Prize From Glendale Fete : Kansas Farmer Harvests Balloon, Key to City

Times Staff Writer

A post card tied to a balloon launched last month at Glendale's 80th birthday celebration dropped onto a farm in Kansas more than 1,300 miles away, winning prizes for the sender and the finder.

The balloon drifted within 100 miles of the Missouri hometown of the Glendale woman who launched it.

"It sounds like it was going home," said Mary L. Tye, whose name was on the post card.

Tye's card was among hundreds attached to helium-filled balloons released Feb. 16 during the birthday celebration at the Glendale Civic Auditorium. Instructions on the cards asked the finders to mail them back to the city.

Glendale officials hoped to get back many birthday cards. But, of the hundreds launched, only three were returned: the Kansas find and two discovered in Imperial County, just north of the Mexican border.

Alan H. Slaven said by telephone that he was picking up trash along the gravel road next to his farm near Reading, Kan., on March 3 when he sighted the yellowed post card attached to a deflated balloon.

Usually, he said in an interview, "I find lots of empty feed bags and fertilizer bags that blow out of pickup trucks, and a plentiful supply of beer cans and bottles. But I was pretty surprised when I found the post card."

Slaven said he was sure the card had been on the ground no more than a day or two, which would mean the balloon remained aloft for about 15 days.

"I thought it was well worth the price of a stamp to send it in and see what came of it," drawled Slaven, a 37-year-old bachelor and unemployed construction worker. He said he has visited California several times and has heard of Glendale but acknowledged, "Right off, I don't know where it's at."

Reading (population: 244) is about 50 miles south of Topeka in the Flint Hills of Kansas. Slaven said his farm is 10 miles outside of town, which has a grocery store, a bank, a post office, a gas station, three churches, a grain elevator and an elementary school.

Tye was born in St. Joseph, Mo., only about 100 miles from Reading. But she said she lost all touch with her Midwest friends when she moved to California 56 years ago.

As the sender of the card that traveled the farthest, Tye won a $25 gift certificate to spend at the Glendale Galleria.

Tye is an elderly widow who said she has never won anything before. She said she has lived in Glendale for 20 years and attended the party because "I like to participate in anything in town."

As the finder, Slaven wins a key to the City of Glendale, which he said he will hang on a wall in his mobile home.

Slaven said he won only one prize in the past, at a drawing celebrating the opening of a grain elevator.

"I won a clothespin bag," he said. "I gave it to my mother."

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