October 19-20, 2012 – Emporia and Wichita, Kansas
October 19 – Today the wind continued to blow really hard so I just stayed put. I didn’t do much of anything – took a nap, did some crossword puzzle and played some solitaire on the computer.
October 20 – Today I went to Wichita to play tourist. On the way I stopped at the Matfield Green plaza on the Kansas Turnpike to see the Knute Rockne memorial. He was killed in an airplane crash near there. They have also established a memorial for the people who were killed in a flash flood on the Turnpike near here. I remember that day quite clearly. I had been to Wichita that day. It was pouring rain all day. I left Wichita early so that I could get home before it got dark. I came through the area where the flash flood occurred about 5 or so. There was no water on the road then. The flash flood happened at about 8 or 8:30. It was dark by then and folks drove into water over the road, and their cars flooded out. Then a huge wall of water washed across the highway carrying 3 or 4 cars and those heavy concrete slabs that they put down the center of the road a half mile or more. One car was a minivan in which 3 children and the parents were riding. Only the father survived.
The 1st thing on the agenda in Wichita was to see a horse made of car bumpers. He is quite a large horse and sits on Broadway just a block off Douglas which has several bronze statues. The Douglas Street statues are scattered over a 3 block area. There are a girl and her horse and dog, a coyote carrying his catch, some ducks, a squirrel, a street performer and his dog, kids skateboarding, etc. The biggest piece is a drugstore lunch counter memorializing a sit-in at the Dockum Drug Store. Another of the statues is of a business man reading a newspaper. He has taken off his shoes and is barefooted, but someone decided that he needed something to cover his feet so they have put rubber boots on him. Another statue is of a boy and girl who are about to share a drink. Someone has put gloves on her hands. This must be a game that people play with the statues.
Quite a few of the stores along Douglas which is the main street have been renovated. Those that haven’t been are currently undergoing renovation. There may be a slowdown in the US, but you wouldn’t know that from downtown Wichita. They are busy rejuvenating the downtown area. It will be a neat place to go when all the construction is completed.
Just down the street on Douglas is a small park which is very nice. There were people taking pictures as well as a couple of homeless men there. It is the site of the Carrie Nation Memorial Drinking Fountain. I suspect the homeless ones were alcoholics so it is kinda ironic that they are hanging out in a place which has a memorial to a hatchet welding prohibitionist leader.
Old Town Wichita is the site of the original town located along the railroad tracks and was a rough and tumble place. It has been turned into an entertainment district featuring the arts, museums, nightclubs and dining venues. One of the museums located there is the Museum of World Treasures which bills itself as the Smithsonian of the West. Among its “treasures” are couple of mummies, a shrunken head and the scalp of Custer’s nephew who was the flag bearer at the Battle of the Little Big Horn. I did not go inside. Somehow, I didn’t feel I needed to see any of those things. I’ve since talked to some folks who have been there who told me that I didn’t miss anything. Scattered along the streets in Old Town are a number of sculptures which were donated by a group called the Sculpture Walkabout Donors. I don’t think I saw them all, but they are interesting and diverse in nature. They range from a pottery jar to a stack of suitcases.
The Coleman Lantern Museum is in this area. I didn’t realize that Coleman was a Wichita company. They have a small museum in the corner of their outlet store. I saw lanterns, camp stoves, water jugs and coolers like we used to have. I also saw things that I didn’t know that they made including both gas and electric lights, waffle irons and full size kitchen stoves among other things.
The grounds of the Wichita Public Library had some interesting sculptures. There was one of children at play, one of an eagle and one of an immigrant boy as well as one which I took to be Sir Galahad but might have just been a generic knight.
At the confluence of the Big and Little Arkansas Rivers, there is a 44’ Cor-Ten Steel statue of an Indian brave entitled Keeper of the Plains. The sculptor is Blackbear Bosin. It stands on a 30’ high rock and is surrounded by a circle of firepots that belch fire periodically. I was not there when the fires were burning, and I question if they are even doing that this summer because of the extreme drought which is gripping Wichita this summer.
There is a really nice walking and bike path along the river. There were quite a few people out using it. Along the path there is a large grate and trapped beneath that grate is the statue of a troll. I’m not sure what he did to get himself imprisoned there but then trolls are mean so maybe it was just on general principles that he is caged up there. He is a wonderful troll, but the pictures did not come out very good.
The Vietnamese community in Wichita has given the city a memorial to those who fought in Viet Nam. It is a lovely place to sit and enjoy oneself and watch the river go by. There was a guy fishing in the river just below there. Since the river was almost dry, I’m not sure what he was fishing for, but he seemed to be enjoying himself.
Just before you enter the Central Riverside Park, there is a memorial to the soldiers of the Spanish-American War. This is a war which is often forgotten especially when it comes to monuments and memorials.
In the Central Riverside Park which has recently been renovated and restored, they have constructed a mini-Stonehenge. It is not a replica of Stonehenge but like it, Stonehenge Jr., has what is sometimes referred to as a solar calendar. It is made of large standing limestone rocks. On the equinoxes, the rising sun shoots through a large metal eye perched atop one of the stones and illuminates a colored glass stone embedded in the ground. There was a group of young people gathering around it while I was there. They are a group which dresses in medieval dress and play medieval games. One of them told me that they can have as many as 40 participating, and when visiting groups come to play with them, they have as many as 75-80. I left before they all got there, but it would have been fun to watch them. They get together about once a month.
I did not know that Wichita had a Frank Lloyd Wright house. It is the Allen-Lambe House, and it is huge compared to other Wright houses I have seen. It covers at least 4 lots and maybe more. It was not open, but it looked to be very interesting. It is 2-story, has a double car garage as well as a carport, an enclosed courtyard with a swimming pool and either a guest house or a cabana – it was hard to tell which. I have not seen a 2 story Wright house before so it was intriguing from that point of view. It is the last of the prairie style houses he designed. It was designed in 1915. It can be toured by appointment only, and an intriguing tidbit is that you must be 16 years or older to tour it.
There is a little girl and her dog atop the girl’s grave in the cemetery off Hillside Avenue. She died in the 1800’s, but she always has a bouquet of flowers. No one knows who keeps her supplied with flowers.
Roosters have popular on this trip. I saw lots of them in Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi and now there is a large one atop a donut shop on Douglas Avenue. I’m not sure why there is a rooster on a donut shop unless he is a legacy from an earlier store.
The Kansas Firefights Museum is located in Wichita Fire Engine House No. 6 which was built in 1909. It was the last horse drawn fire station in Wichita. They moved to motor vehicles in 1918 and the firehouse continued to operate until 1953. There is a moving memorial to Kansas firefighters who have lost their lives in the small park located next to the firehouse.
Brown’s Tire Company has a 12’ or taller muffler man. He is holding a car tire in one hand. The tire looks kinda puny in such a large hand.
As I was driving to Wichita High School North, I ran across an old tow truck which had a sunscreen in the windshield which looked like eyes. His radiator had been decorated to look like a mouth. His license plate was BENATOWR. A little further along, a convenience store had a cowboy waving his hat and riding a rearing stallion on the roof.
The Wichita High School North is a beautiful building. It is one of the 8 Architectural Wonders of Kansas. It was constructed in 1928 on 15 acres of land. The style chosen was a modern American style. The idea for the Indian and Pioneer theme which is expressed on the exterior of the building was drawn up in the original plans.
The tower is the central point of interest. In the panel above the arched entrance was placed the pioneer plowman with his yoke of oxen in the foreground, the setting sun and distant hills in the background. It typifies the labor and plodding determination that were required to overcome and conquer the hardships of frontier days. The Indian chief was placed back in the corners near each entrance, watching with immobile countenance the tedious progress of the white man. Rising above all else atop the pylons and on all 8 corners of the tower were placed the Indian scout and the eagle. Their duty is to watch, and in watching position they seem to gaze with interest and wonder on the activities of an advancing city and country. In a panel at the top of the tower was placed the Indian hunter engaged in the hazardous pastime of shooting down with bow and arrow the lumbering, bellowing, stampeding buffalo.
Capping the pylons at the entrances to the gym and the auditorium are the buffalo basking peacefully in the sun of the western day. At all entrances an American sun design was placed. The frieze, patterned after an Indian rug design, was formed to permit the use of the lonely Indian tepee, the Kansas sunflower and buffalo in full silhouette against the deep blue western sky.
They are currently building an addition which is maintaining the façade.
Did you know that the 1st Pizza Hut was in Wichita? 2 business school students at Wichita State University opened the 1st one in 1958. It is very small and was originally located along Kellogg Avenue but was threatened by the widening of that street. It was moved to the WSU campus to preserve it to serve as a “shrine to free enterprise”.
On the outskirts of Wichita is an area which has had several incarnations so it seems. It was originally called the Pyradomes. It was opened in 1975 by Hugh Riordan and combines lifestyle approaches with nutrition and traditional medicine. Other names it has had are: Center for the Improving of Human Functioning International; the Bright Spot for Health; and a local nickname “The domes on K96”. It was recently renamed the Riordan Clinic and is currently run by the founder’s son. There are several geodesic domes and a pyramid on the grounds.
At one time, Wichita had many “tree people”. Stumps of dead trees were carved and painted and were scattered around town. As far as I can tell they have all disappeared.
After the sightseeing, I went to Von Maur’s to do a little shopping. From there I went to Dillon’s and had supper at their food bar. I had roast pork loin and 2 veggies. It was close to time for them to close the food bar so I got almost a pound of pork and at least 2 servings of each of the veggies. I had all I wanted for supper and had enough left over to have another meal. After I ate, I did some grocery shopping and then headed for the house.