The Holiday Inn and Mr. Pamperein

As I was researching in old newspapers, an article triggered a long-forgotten memory that made me think about former WSHS teacher Neil Pamperien. According to the article, in 1966 Holiday Inns of America, Inc. wanted to build a new, two-million-dollar motel at the northwest corner of Monroe and Miller Streets in downtown Jefferson City, but encountered legal hurdles at the outset. 
The proposed masonry and glass structure was to be thirteen stories tall, but Jefferson City had an ordinance that restricted buildings to three stories or 45-feet in height in this area of town, without a special permit. The Jefferson City Post-Tribune reported “the City Council . . . granted a special building permit, thus waiving the present three-story limit on [the] height of buildings.” First hurdle cleared.
The second hurdle proved to be more challenging. Holiday Inn wanted to have a lounge at the new site that served liquor. The Revised Statutes of Missouri, however, prohibited the sale of intoxicating liquor within 100 feet “. . . of any school, church, or other building regularly used as a place of religious worship . . .” without the written consent of the church or school.
Under an exception in the statute, the city council had extended the restricted distance to 250 feet, but the footprint of the new structure still came within the proscribed distance of two churches and a school. The Board of Education unanimously granted a waiver, but the churches were slower to respond.
One council member proposed an amendment that would change the distance from 250 feet to 100 feet so permission would not be required. Surprisingly, the Post-Tribune reported: “But Saturday, the Ministerial Alliance went on record as opposing the proposed amendment, saying the problem ‘should be resolved within the framework of the present ordinance.’”
This is where WSHS teacher Neil Pamperein could have helped them. With a Bachelor of Science in Education degree from Southwest Missouri State College, Neil Pamperien began teaching mathematics at WSHS in 1954. In a few years, he received a Master of Education from Drury College and worked toward a Master of Science in mathematics at the Rolla School of Mines. My schoolmates from the 1960s will recall he taught beginning and advanced algebra, trigonometry, physics, and geometry. 
In addition to being a dedicated teacher at WSHS, he later taught at the Southwest Missouri State College Resident Center in West Plains (now, the West Plains Campus of SMSU). A smart man, for sure, and he also taught my Sunday School class at First Baptist my seventh-grade year. I specifically recall his surprise at my familiarity with the missionary journeys of the Apostle Paul (thanks to Ruth Allen and Shirley Fletcher, two Christian missionaries, who visited Montier and other country schools and told Bible stories using a flannel board).
Algebra wasn’t my best subject. While I found it sort of magical that with a few computational steps one could calculate unknown quantities, I did not have a fundamental grasp of how it actually worked. A significant part of my shortfall in understanding stemmed from my propensity to daydream. In other words, I didn’t listen well. And when Mr. Pamperein introduced the class to slide rulers, I slid farther out of touch.
Now, geometry was a different matter. It made sense to me. I have since been told that I am more of a “visual learner.” I’m not sure about that—there were no picture books in law school—but law books dealt mostly with words and not numbers, and I always liked words way better than numbers. But the diagrams in geometry, pictures if you will, did help. And proving something as a matter of law is similar to solving a geometry problem by applying rules, theorems, and corollaries to arrive at a solution. 
The principle I remember most from Mr. Pamperien’s geometry class is the Pythagorean Theorem, which is attributed to Greek mathematician and philosopher Pythagoras who lived centuries before Christ. 
The formula states the square of the hypotenuse (the long leg of a right triangle—side “c”) is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides— “a” and “b.” We learned it as a^2+b^2=c^2. By plugging numbers into the equation and calculating the square root of the hypotenuse, the length of side “c”, which is always longer than the other two sides, can be determined.
Now, consider the case of the Holiday Inn and its cocktail lounge. Holiday Inn proposed to put the lounge on the thirteenth floor of its structure. Using the city’s figure of 15 feet per story, the new motel would be roughly 195 feet tall. Assume the motel structure to be side “a” of a right triangle, side “b” to be a linear measurement on the ground of 250 feet, then side “c” (the hypotenuse) would be 317 feet: 195² + 250² =38,025, ?38,025 = 317 feet. 
Please note, the numbers are rough estimates for illustration purposes. But by applying the Pythagorean Theorem and using the hypotenuse as the measurement, the distance is greater than 250 feet (outside the restricted area), and the Holiday Inn’s problem is solved.
In the end, the councilman did not introduce the amendment to change the restricted distance to 100 feet, and the Episcopal Church, the First Church of Christ, Scientist, and, finally, the Second Baptist Church granted waivers.
As suggested by the Jefferson City Ministerial Alliance, the problem was “resolved within the framework of the present ordinance,” but was it done by using the Pythagorean Theorem? I couldn’t find transcripts of the zoning hearings, but my law school professor of Advanced Property explained one day in class that the Pythagorean Theorem was part of the calculus in the Jefferson City Holiday Inn case.
I hope Mr. Pamperien is smiling from above because his daydreaming, mediocre student retained something.
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