Monday, November 16, 2015

Topeka and Kansas City

Tuesday, Nov. 10th - Saturday, Nov. 14th

We arrived in Topeka on Tuesday afternoon and set up camp at the Shawnee Lake Campground in the southeast part of the city.  It's a beautiful and huge park with a golf course, softball complex, several marinas and swimming beaches and a nice, wide concrete bike path all the way around the lake.

There are two of these bike stations, one on either side of the lake, and 10 stations throughout the city with 100 bikes available 24/7.   You can go to Social Bicycles mobile app to reserve one.

Wednesday we went to the Brown v. Board of Education Museum in the old Monroe Elementary School.  The school opened in 1927 and closed in 1975.  Parents of six students who attended this school in 1949 participated in the Brown v. Board of Education lawsuit.  In 1954 the Supreme Court decided separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.  African-American families began settling this neighborhood after the Civil War, on property owned by a white abolitionist couple who were active in the Underground Railroad.  The kindergarten in this neighborhood in 1900 had a band with drums, triangles, saxophones and coronets.  Girls sewed their own aprons.  A German educator started the first kindergarten in 1837.  My grade school didn't even have a kindergarten by 1971 when I graduated high school.

After touring the museum on Wednesday afternoon, we drove out to the Kansas Museum of History and walked the 2.5 mile trail through the prairie grasslands and woodlands.  Interesting tree and root system completely hollowed out by the creek.

Swinging bridge over Wea Creek on the trail.

On Thursday we drove over to Kansas City to tour the Liberty Memorial, the first and largest WWI memorial in the country.  There were 36 countries involved in WWI.  By 1917 there were 35,000 miles of trenches crisscrossing the Western Front.  The U.S. declared war against Germany on April 1, 1917.

Just two weeks after the Armistice Kansas City citizens discussed building a monument and quickly raised $2.5 million.  The two Sphinxes on either side of the tower on the Liberty Memorial Deck are Memory (facing east with wings shielding its face from the horrors of the European battlefields and Future ( facing west with wings shrouding its face to symbolize the future which is yet unseen).  There are four carved Guardian Spirits around the tower top, Honor to the northeast, Courage to the southeast, Patriotism to the southwest and Sacrifice to the northwest.  We didn't stay for evening, but there is supposed to be a flame effect created by steam and colored lights.

The Allied Military leaders gathered to dedicate the site Nov. 1, 1921 with 100,000 people witnessing the historic event.  It was the only time the five commanders were together.  The Memorial opened on Nov. 11, 1926, exactly 8 years after the end of the war.  President Coolidge gave the dedication speech. 

The Tower is 217 feet tall and we took the elevator up to the observation deck.  The museum is below the tower and there is an east Memory Hall and west Exhibit Hall on this deck with special exhibits.

This is a view down to the entrance on the south side.

This is a view of Kansas City to the north.

This is the Glass Bridge inside the entrance with the Tower above reflected in it.  If you look closely, especially along the bottom of the picture, you can see the field of 9,000 poppies below the glass, each representing 1,000 combatant deaths during WWI.  The most famous poem from WWI was written in 1915 by John McCrae.  In Flanders fields the poppies blow - Between the crosses, row on row, That mark our place: and in the sky - The larks, still bravely singing, fly - Scarce heard among the guns below.     We are the Dead.  Short days ago - We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, - Loved, and were loved, and now we lie - In Flanders fields.     Take up the quarrel with the foe: - To you from failing hands we throw - The torch; be yours to hold it high - If ye break the faith with us who die - We shall not sleep, though poppies grow - In Flanders fields.

1918 Ford Model T ambulance over 7 feet tall, 15 feet long and 5 feet wide.  It could hold three stretchers or four sitting wounded.

  This is a 1915 quilt made from tobacco souvenirs called flannels.  Flags of the world's countries, butterflies, athletes and Native American motifs were popular decorative pieces of cloth.  Coupons on tobacco products were sent in to redeem flannels.

Mural in west Exhibit Hall.  The Pantheon de la Guerre was a monumental work of art begun soon after the start of the war to show the heroic deeds of the Allies.  There were contributions from dozens of French artists.  It was 400 feet long and 40 feet wide and was exhibited in Paris in 1918.  There are thousands of portraits of war participants on it.  It traveled to the U.S. in 1933 for the Chicago Exposition.  It was supposed to be returned to Paris, but was forgotten laying outside a warehouse in Baltimore, Maryland for over 20 years.  A local restaurant owner eventually bought it for scrap and donated it to the Liberty Memorial. The ruined exterior and edges were trimmed off and it was converted to fit the museum building.  The center French section is here in Exhibit Hall and the large section with the Allies is across the deck in Memory Hall.  We ate at Fiorella's Jack Stack Barbeque just a short way north of the Memorial.  It was very good.  It started as a family business in 1957 and now the grandson has five other restaurants in Kansas City and they cater all over the nation for groups of 10 to 10,000.  They also have a nationwide shipping division. 

Friday we visited the Capitol of the Sunflower State.

In this photo you can see the beginning of the 296 stairs that take you on the Dome Tour.  All the fancy arches and rails that look like wood are actually copper, very beautiful and shiny.  The 900 pound chandelier is a replica of the original which was donated in 1942 for the WWII scrap metal drive.

This shows the five floors below the dome with a Christmas Tree in the center circle on the first floor.  There is also a huge basement floor with Visitor Center, Gift Shop and many photos of the construction of the building and the early history of the state.

Once you get above the fancy glass dome, it's another 75 feet to the top with a very scary, spiral staircase at the top before you go outside to get a unique bird's eye view of Topeka.

This is toward the northwest with a row of grain elevator silos on the far horizon that was the largest grain storage complex in the world when it was built.

This is looking south with a view of the State House.

Our tour guide starting back down.  She told us that all of this used to be open to the public without a guide and kids climbed up here as they pleased, slid down the walls and wrote their names any place they could mange to reach.  Notice the beam that goes out from the stairs over to the dome wall.

Here is a close-up.  Someone managed to crawl out on that beam and write his name on it.  You can only get up there on a guided tour these days, but it is the only Capitol where you can go outside at the top.

Amelia Earhart was born in Atchison in 1897.  In 1932 she was the first woman to fly an airplane solo across the Atlantic.  Five years later she disappeared attempting to become the first woman to fly around the world at the equator.

John Steuart Curry painting Tragic Prelude featuring abolitionist John Brown.

The copper columns and railings in the Senate chambers are highly polished and just shine.

House of representatives.  It is hard to believe, but at one time everything in the Capitol building was painted over and covered up with a solid off white color.  They painted over the paintings, the stenciling, the carved woodwork, the marble columns and the names of the historical figures above the windows.  All the copper columns and railings and trim were turned completely black and looked like walnut wood.  The reason was because the gas lighting, cigar and cigarette smoke and open windows (because there was no air conditioning) made everything so dirty, it had to be painted often to keep it looking good.  When the building was restored, they cleaned off layers and layers of paint and found the original paintings and stuff that no one even remembered was under there.  It took several years to get all the copper cleaned and polished.

The two-story State Library is open to any Kansas citizen over 18.

Governor's ceremonial office with a bison hide draped over the desk which was built by the students from the School for the Deaf in Olathe in the 1930s.  There is also a small framed picture hanging on the wall of the log home where the song Home on the Range was written by Dr. Brewster M. Higley.  He originally published it as a poem called My Western Home in 1873.  His friend, Daniel E. Kelley, wrote the music,  It became the state song of Kansas in 1947. 

The Capitol was started in 1866 and completed in 1903 at a cost of $3.2 million.  It is 17 feet taller than the U.S. Capitol and has a statue of a Kansa warrior on top.  Kansa men plucked their eyebrows, chins, arms and head leaving only a narrow strip of hair on the top of their heads.  Ouch!  In 1821 a chief of the Kansas traveled to Washington, D.C. with other chiefs to meet with President Monroe.  His great-great-grandson, Charles Curtis, became Herbert Hoover's vice president.  There's a statue of Abraham Lincoln in the foreground.  It will probably be the last one we see of him as we head further south.

War Memorial at Great Overland Station.  Opened in 1927, it is a museum today.  Kansas Medal of Honor recipients names are on the bricks surrounding the base of the memorial.

There are 50 American flags each with a state flag below it and a plaque like this for each of the states.  It was so calm that it was hard to tell there were two flags on each pole.

When we got back to camp we rode the 7 mile bike trail around the lake.

On Saturday we did the Kansas Museum of History.

An Unusual Honor:  Just an interesting little bit of trivia I came across in the museum.  Children of Civil War veterans still walk among us 150 years after the end of the war.  I guess it was common practice for young brides to marry very old veterans in the early 1900s, as they could collect their husbands pensions when they died.  Colonel John Dinsmore USAF, of Lucas, Kansas died in 2013 at the age of 85.  He was the son of Pvt. Samuel Dinsmore of Company B 116th Ohio Infantry in the Civil War.  He was a 64 year old retired teacher when he married 20 year old Emilie Brozek.  They had two children, John and Emily.   After his retirement he built what is called one of the eight wonders of Kansas for his family.  Check it out at  It's very interesting and unusual.  

Flyer for the 1946 musical The Harvey Girls.  The Harvey Houses were the nation's first chain restaurant.  Fred Harvey opened the first one in the Topeka depot in 1876.  Travelers on the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe were delighted.  He quickly expanded with 45 Harvey Houses and 20 dining cars across 12 states.  Kansas had 8,797 miles of railroad track by 1890.  Only the tiniest towns had no rail service.  Only one other state had more track by 1900.

I thought this was a pretty cool rocking chair made out of cowhide and horns.  They had an 1880 butter churn/treadmill run by the family dog.  I wonder how Gunner or Digger would feel about that.  Really, it's only right that every member of the family pitches in and does his or her share of the chores.  Right?

In the early 1900s hamburgers were not yet American's favorite food.  Walter Anderson of Witchita was one of the first fry cooks to make them more appealing.  He flattened them into flat patties seared on both sides and they became so popular he opened several hamburger stands.  In 1921 he and a partner opened the first White Castle "Eating House" in Witchita serving small square hamburgers.  Their slogan "Buy them by the Sack" sounds just like Nick's Hamburger shop in Brookings, SD.  

Valentine, Inc. of Witchita began making all steel portable diners in 1938.  A single operator could run the completely furnished diner and pay Valentine from the daily reciepts.  The diners were sold throughout the U.S.  Drive-In restaurants with carhops became especially popular in the 1950s like the Bobo Drive-In that has been operating in downtown Topeka since 1953.  Pizza became popular in the 1950s and Pizza Hut, now the largest pizza chain in the world, started in Witchita in 1958.  Mexican food became widely popular in the 1960s.  Taco Grande began in Witchita in 1960 and Taco Tico in 1961.  Taco Casa started in 1963 in Topeka.

This quilt is a textile diary.  It was made in 1877 by an 80 year old lady who had outlived 15 of her 18 siblings and 9 of her 12 children.  Two of her sons fought in the Civil War.  She wanted to record her family's history, so on every other quilt block she embroidered their names, birth and death dates and sometimes place and/or cause of death.

At our campground at Lake Shawnee they have the lights set up for a Christmas Winter Wonderland tour.  As luck would have it, they turned on the lights just to test them the first night we were here.  This was our view straight out the front of our camper.

This was right out our back window.

This one was right out the door.  Lucky for us we went for a walk and took some pictures, as this was the only night they were on while we were her.

They covered all the bases with the Nativity Scene,

The Twelve Days of Christmas,

Happy Kwanzaa and Happy Hannakah,

Santa and his reindeer, Santa in a hot air balloon,

Santa and his elves, A Christmas train and depot, presents, trees, bells, stars, snowflakes, ornaments,

and just about any thing you can think of that has to do with the holiday season.

Even the entrance and exit were all decked out.

We leave for Tulsa on Sunday.


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