Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Remember the miners

Talk about a fitting tribute... Miner's Memorial is located at 2nd and Walnut in Pittsburg and is a classy recognition of a profession that was just plain old hard work.

Deep shaft and strip miners and auxiliary workers of the Weir-Pittsburg Coal Field are all remembered here.

One first-rate open building with plaques, nine polished granite slabs with names, six kiosks that use historic narrative, and a granite entry marker are all placed around a beautifully landscaped circular area.

To learn more go to www.minersmemorial.org.

Hats off to all the people that worked years on bringing this memorial to reality.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The horse stops here

Even hitching rails are of interest to Explorers!
This one at the Circleville Cemetery is the longest hitching rail still in existence in Kansas.
Circleville is in Jackson County. To get to the cemetery from Circleville follow K-79 (becomes 254 Road) to the first intersection west of town, then 1 1/4 miles south on J Road.
Another famous hitching rail is in Dexter -- the bottom picture.
It stands alongside the former bank at Main and Central. The Dalton Gang robbed this bank in 1892 -- the gang's last successful robbery and the one before their ill-fated robbery attempt in Coffeyville.
Near Yoder 1 1/4 miles east of town on Red Rock Road, north side, is a horse hitching rail, which is a cable running through a hedge post. It's in front of an Amish cemetery with its plain gravestones and is used as the parking area for the horse and buggies.
Even comparing hitching rails helps people "Get Kansas!"
KE #2 Marci Penner

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Ol' McDonald had some businesses...

McDonalid is a town of 150 on U.S. 36 in Rawlins County. Stops in the grocery store, the Frosty Mug, and the post office will be a great addition to any Explorer adventure.
Wood floors and big timbers inside the brick 1880s two-story hotel create a great backdrop for some good food.
Several years ago we took an Explorer Group Adventure to the grocery store. The nostalgic atmosphere was a great backdrop for shopping and the then-owner invited us behind the meat counter to get some snacks!
Did you know that the wholesale grocer truck won't even stop at a store unless it can buy $10,000 worth of inventory a week? For example, the McDonald store, they have to go on the order of a bigger nearby store -- in this case the grocery in Bird City. McDonald either has to go pick up their share of groceries or Bird City has to deliver to them.
It's not easy keeping a store open in a town of 155, or a restaurant. To understand why they do it is to "Get Kansas!"
KE #2 Marci Penner

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Vegetarians in Kansas

What were they thinking?
As the sign's first paragraph says:
"In March 1856 the first emigrants of the Vegetarian Settlement Company set out for the Neosho River Valley in Kansas Territory. Harry S. Chubb promoted Kansas Territory as a permanent home for believers in Vegetarianism, hydropathy and abstinence from alcohol, tobacco, tea, coffee, and fowl and dairy products. Farms of 102 acres radiating from an Octagon-shaped center were planned. Chubb's promise of streets, gristmill, sawmill, and temporary housing for the 60 families (some 150 settlers) did not materialize and they received nothing for the $5 per acre investment in the company. Lack of successful crops, mosquitos, deathly fever, and starvation led to scores of deaths..."
The sign is located about five miles south of Humboldt on CR1150 (go south of town on bridge) at Arizona Road, just north of the Allen and Neosho county line.
Severe hardships forced most families to abandon the colony within a year. The Allen county Museum in Iola preserves the story of the Vegetarian Colony. 620.365.3051.
Why do we put up historical signs about a social experiment that lasted only a year? There can be only one reason -- to help people "Get Kansas!"
KE #2 Marci Penner

Friday, December 26, 2008

Stone Messages

Placing stone on hillsides to deliver a message seems to have been a favorite past time of Kansans.
This particular one is located 2 1/2 miles east of Bazine in Ness county on the south side of U.S. 96.
What is so neat is that a bronze plaque located at the corner just west of the crosses tells about this being a church project in 1940. Local kids still repaint the stones.
Another stone message that has been around since 1897 is located east of Arkansas City and can be viewed by north bound traffic on U.S. 77 Bypass.
In 1897 a railroad dispatcher created this 475-foot message for everyone on the northbound train to see. It reads: "Christ died for the ungodly." Built of stone, each letter is 18 feet high, 12 feet wide, and 3 feet deep.
To figure out why we would do this heavy work to write a message is to "Get Kansas!"
KE #2 Marci Penner

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

There is a Santa Claus!

My nieces from California are at the farm for Christmas. They were over here at the barn when there was a knock at the door. I looked out the door and couldn't believe my eyes. I hollered for the girls and they came to see who it was -- then their eyes got bigger and bigger and jaws dropped to the floor.

Who was this? Papa? No.

Where did he come from? Reindeer? Another look out the door. No reindeer in sight.

But it was Santa -- just as jolly and perfectly Santa as can be.

How do these kind of drop-in's happen on a farm by a small town?

Well, it could be that Kansas is full of surprises with many treasures yet to be found. It's the unwrapping of these presents that will help you "Get Kansas."

Merry Christmas to all!

KE #2 Marci Penner

Monday, December 22, 2008

Things to do over the holidays

The Chase County Courthouse in Cottonwood Falls is decked in lights for the season!

The Cosmosphere always has an interesting IMAX show to watch. The Underground Salt Museum is nearby. Need tickets? I have two to use before January 9. Let me know you want them! E-mail marci@kansassampler.org.

Peg Britton's picture shows a Big Santa in the Ellsworth Antique Mall.

Every town has some kind of light displays.

Enjoy Kansas with her seasonal attire and that will help you "Get Kansas!"

Kansas Explorer #2 Marci Penner

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Get Kansas as part of the Kansas Explorers Club!

I am grateful for Kansas Explorer Club members and all they do to get the state. The club mostly encourages individual travel but occasionally we get together for some group gigs to make more of an impact in a given town.

We like to wear Explorer gear so that we are identifiable.

We buy stamps in small town post offices.

We feel good about spending money in small towns.

We dare to do dirt.

We enjoy the journey.

We look for the rural culture elements.

We have lots of fun.

Being an Explorer is rewarding because you're part of a group effort to help keep rural communities viable. Learn more at http://www.explorekansas.org/.

The Kansas Explorers Club is part of the Kansas Sampler Foundation and the club is just one tool to help preserve and sustain rural culture. To read more about our core projects and to read about the new transformational ideas go to our "Support Us" page.

Yep, the most fun way to "Get Kansas!" is to join the Kansas Explorers Club.

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah season!

KE #2 Marci Penner

Saturday, December 20, 2008

They built it...

In 1936 a 300-man Civilian Conservation Corp camp moved in to begin construction of Marion County Lake, which was completed the following year.

A statue honors the African-American work crew.

The lake is located 2 miles east of Marion on U.S. 256, then 1 1/2 miles south.

To know about the CCC and WPA efforts is to "Get Kansas!"

KE #2 Marci Penner

Friday, December 19, 2008

And the town name will be...


J.F. Colborn was a member of a town company organized to establish a new town -- and he name it for his wife, Iola.

The first tall monument at the Iola Cemetery (U.S. 54, west end of town) is a tribute to the town's namesake.

As it states, the plaque was made possible by gifts from school children and was dedicated in 1964.

In the second picture you'll see the gravestone indicating where Iola and J.F. Colborn were buried.

To meet Iola, is to "Get Kansas!"

KE #2 Marci Penner

Thursday, December 18, 2008

"Eureka! I found it!"

The sign reads:
"Eureka, I found it", shouted a small band of hardy pioneers in August of 1857. A spring of cool, clean water near this very spot. Abundant drinking water was a strong factor in search for a place to settle. They soon agreed that, indeed, they had found an ideal place and laid claim to the area or the town site which they chose to name Eureka!
That is the story about how the town of Eureka was named.
But the really Explorery thing about the marker is where it is located -- probably by that very spring. You have to take an alley to even see it on the other side of the stream!
See if you can find it when you go to Eureka. If you are driving east on U.S. 54 you'll see this little stream about a block east of the main town intersection and on the north side of the little creek. A little driveway will take you alongside the stream.
To understand those subtle explorer finds is to "Get Kansas!"
KE #2 Marci Penner

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Meet "Fighting Fred"

Have you heard of Frederick Funston?
This 5'4" man became a brigadier general at age 35 and gained fame during the Spanish-American War, commanding such greats as Pershing, Eisenhower, Patton, and MacArthur. He is credited with "saving" San Franciso after its 1906 earthquake and fire.
Born 1865 in Ohio, his famly moved to a farmstead near Iola in Allen County where he was raised. In the 1990s the boyhood home was moved into Iola on the square where it is open for tour. It's a pleasing site and makes you want to find out more about this intriguing Kansan.
Right next door at 20 S. Washington is the excellent Allen County Museum with more displays about Funston. 620.365.3051.
Many people who have made significant contributions are from Kansas. To learn about them is to "Get Kansas!"
KE #2 Marci Penner

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Buy Christmas Card Stamps in Small Towns

There are two great reasons to go to unincorporated Pfeifer in Ellis County. One reason is to visit the Holy Cross Church, one of the 8 Wonders of Kansas Architecture. The other is to buy stamps at the post office and visit with Carol!
Do so before Dec. 31. The Pfeifer post office will close that day and all the boxholders will go on the rural route.
Carol Billinger, the post master, is going to retire and since the post office is also a family residence it wouldn't work to keep it in that house/building. There is no other appropriate space in town. Carol says that everyone understands and has been great about it. This is an incredible tribute to the townspeople and how well they get along.

Most post offices have to close because of lack of revenue. Somehow Pfeifer, an unincorporated town was able to stay open. Every stamp you buy, every post office box purchased, every bulk rate permit makes a difference to the revenue and viablity of a post office. Amount of revenue determines salaries, hours, and even type of equipment.
You'll see in small post offices that many still have the manual scales to weigh a letter. Bigger post offices have the digital scales. Those scales aren't something the post office goes out and buys -- they are assigned to each post office and the degree of techniness depends on the revenue.
Supporting small town post offices and visiting with the clerk will help you "Get Kansas!"

Monday, December 15, 2008

I'd invite you all to do what Kansas Explorer Keith Stokes did with the previous blog. His comment told about a place similiar to the one I wrote about. These kind of comments will help spread the word about what there is to see and do in Kansas.
Where are the best Christmas light displays -- or unique events yet to happen? Please post briefly in the Comment section.
Together we can help people "Get Kansas!" KE #2 Marci Penner

Sunday, December 14, 2008

They looked normal going in...

This group of women went in to Huckleberry's in Concordia looking like normal people... but that ended when they found the hat and accessories rack!

Within minutes of finding that dress-up nook in the back of the dining room, stories about the Aunt Helens, Great Grandma Lydias, and hats worn by another generation abound. Giggling and primping accompany the tough decisions of choosing color and style. Just try to have a serious conversation with personality-changing hats all around the table...

You'll not only have fun at Huckleberry (512 State, 785.243.7832) but also enjoy not-so-easy to find tasty, light entrees -- (maybe not-quite-so-light dessert). The made-from-sratch soup choices change often and include recipes like a hot chicken curry or a cold strawberry soup. The salads are not just tossed into a bowl but are very eye appealing as well as tasty. Sandwich breads are homemade and a wide array of tea flavors is offered.

Winter or summer, Lois and staff are friendly and welcoming. It's a can't miss place if you're simply looking for something a bit out of the ordinary.

What do these dainty places add to the rural landscape? You "Get Kansas" if you can answer that question.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

You know you're an Explorer when you're invited behind the counter...

For those of you who have driven through Macksville on U.S. 50 looked at the rather dilapidated bar and grill called Edna's and kept on driving, I urge you to return and go inside!
Indeed, Edna's is one of those places that has an old sign with chipped paint and neon beer signs in the window. You aren't even sure it's open and if it was you'd expect that only guys who drive flatbed trucks and check oil pumps would go here. You imagine that it'd be smoke-filled with old grimy dirt creeping up the floor board.
So go in. Try it out. Maybe that's exactly what you'll see. Maybe not. But you'll likely have an Explorer experience. That's for sure.
WenDee had never been to Edna's so we stopped after doing a program in Kinsley. She was almost disappointed that it was so clean and bright inside. We sat down at the counter and before too long the woman behind the counter was sharing some local gossip as if we knew the characters and were on her side of the issue. The more we agreed, the more we heard.
Before our order arrived she had to leave to go drive the school bus. So Nancy (probably in her 80s) came out with our order -- fresh meat, hand-patted, juicy hamburgers. Nancy is the owner of Edna's and a sweetheart of a pistol. Before you knew it we were behind the counter for a picture. She gave WenDee a free beer since it was her first time at Edna's -- or maybe WenDee worked that deal.
The place is clean and feels like the neighbors kitchen more than a bar and grill on the highway. Obviously the place has a following as most everyone that came in was greeted by first name and asked a specific question about their family or work.
Talking to the locals and being interested in their world is the key that unlocks explorer adventures. It's also the best way to "Get Kansas!"
KE #2 Marci Penner

Friday, December 12, 2008

Help me Get You

My web designer at Logic Maze in Hutchinson showed me how to look at the blog Google analytics. I'm glad to know that some people are tuning in to "Get Kansas!."

I'd appreciate if you'd respond to this simple question in the comment section: Why do you come to this blog?

Also, one of you asked when the Christmas mass takes place at St. Martin's Church in Piqua. It's at 9 p.m. on Christmas Eve. Come early, the church will be packed!

Another tidbit: To see some pictures of Christmas displays in Johnson County and Topeka to go Kansas Explorer Keith Stoke's web site: http://www.kansastravel.org/

Help me know why you want to "Get Kansas"? KE #2 Marci Penner

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Board Meeting in Piqua

Today we had our Kansas Sampler Foundation board meeting in Piqua, home of board member Shelia Lampe and her husband Don.

Directions to her house were "turn right after you pass the water office and then turn left at the Farm Store." In three blocks you go from the west end of town to the east.

After the board meeting, which featured Shelia's homemade soups, we all went down to the water office where they have the Buster Keaton museum. Judy, the water office administrator was still at work but if she hadn't been Shelia had an extra key.

In 1895, Buster Keaton's parents were touring with Houdini and the troupe had stopped in Piqua for a performance. But the encore of their stop was that Mrs. Keaton delivered her baby in a house (that belonged to Don's great grandmother)! The museum room has photos, newspaper clips, and play bills telling about the life and career of Buster Keaton. The water office, and thus the museum, is open Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-1 p.m. It's a classic Explorer stop.

We all could have continued our Explorer adventure by going over to the 1922 St. Martin's Church to help clean but we left Shelia to do that without us. The church is now only open for weddings and special mass -- like for Christmas. Because so many people come back for the Christmas mass the townspeople (well, the women) want the church looking spic and span. Today was the designated cleaning day. Judy, from the water office, had already headed over to clean before we left the museum. (Christmas mass is 9 p.m. on Christmas Eve).

Had we stayed, we could have enjoyed a cold beverage and a terrific chicken fried steak at the Silverado bar and grill before we left town.

Spend some time in Piqua and it'll help you "Get Kansas!"

KE #2 Marci Penner

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Can I Help You Get to Know Kansas?

Not every town has a butler (like Tavern on the Plaza in Coffeyville) to serve up some tasty tips of knowledge but you can learn any exploring info you need from the librarian, post master, barber, cafe crowd, at the gas pumps, or from someone walking across the street.
Small towns are the best for engaging in conversation with a "local." Just ask them about their town and they'll love telling you more than you want to know. These conversations are what really puts meat into your adventure.
I was researching for the Kansas Guidebook for Explorers one day in Longford. I was in the middle of the street taking pictures of the old Dakota Sandstone bank when the hairdresser ran out wearing her smock and flailing a scissor in one hand, as if she was between clips. She asked what I was doing and before I could say more than a few words she told me to come in and tell all the girls because they'd want to know, too.
Another day I was in Frontenac and stepped inside Pallucca's Market -- a grocery that dates back to 1909 when Attilio Pallucca started his store as an Italian-American Cooperative for the area miners. I asked the clerk some questions and before I knew it they had escorted me to a little room in the back of the meat department to meet the owner -- another Pallucca. I felt like I was meeting the patriach of the First Italian Family of Kansas. He looked kind of gruff but before you knew it he was telling me how the store came to be... (unfortunately they are now having to close). Meeting him and talking in back of the store in a small little cluttered office is something I'll never forget.
One last story. I stopped in Prairie View in Phillips County one afternoon and went to the new library that I had heard so much about. It was a new metal building and i was disappointed to see a closed sign. I put my nose up to the window trying to get an inside view. Then I saw a man about a block away come out of his house and start galloping towards me. His head was down and his manner was urgent so I thought I was in trouble!
Turns out this man, in his 70s, just wanted me to know how proud he was of his town of 138 for building this library. He asked what I was doing so I told him my name and what I was doing. He got this grin on his face and started directing me to follow him to his house. He said, "My wife is a big fan of yours! You've got to come over and have a cup of tea with us."
Talking to the locals can add time to your trip but there is no better way to "Get Kansas!"
KE #2 Marci Penner

Monday, December 8, 2008

Where is this place?

This place is in Kansas. It was a campsite for the 1825 Santa Fe Trail survey team. Across the street is a red house, one of the first structures in Larned (brought over from the fort post).

President John Quincy Adams appointed George Sibley as one of three commissioners to oversee the Santa Fe Trail survey. In his diary, Sibley referred to these as the Cliffs of Soft Rock.

The site has been quarried since those early days and you'll see that a ladder was added at some point. Where is it...

There is a historical marker at this camp site to learn more.

Have you figured out where this is yet? It's at 2nd and State in LARNED!

Knowing all aspects of Kansas history helps you "Get Kansas!"

KE #2 Marci Penner

Sunday, December 7, 2008

An Explorer Christmas Tree Outing

We borrowed Dad's pickup and headed to K-61 Tree Farm between Inman and Medora. There was an open sign but no cars. We drove to the little red building and what we found had us smiling from beginning to end of our Christmas tree hunt.

The sign said to cut your own tree and then slip a check for $25 into the slot in the door. The saws were supplied and the trees were easy to see. We picked one that we liked and had it cut in no time. We drove back up to the little red building and just put the check into the slot.

The only thing better would have been if it were snowing! We smiled all the way home...

An honor system works for Christmas tree buying for those that "Get Kansas."

KE #2 Marci Penner

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Let's Party!

These two are lead singers at the Renaissance Cafe in Assaria!

They are there every time I go whether it's for Nathalie's noon meal or Kevin's evening weekend specials.

A good time is always had at the Renaissance!

The food is tip top inside this 1919 school but to study the walls and appreciate the gym floor will help you "Get Kansas!"

Call for reservations. 785.667.5535.

KE #2 Marci Penner

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Adventure in shopping

You'll find everything from handmade brooms to antique door knobs at the Old Hardware Store in Halstead and it'll be an adventure, too. The "back room" might be the best of all featuring an old wood stove and lots of old tools and barn things. It's almost like a museum but you can buy what you see!
Located at 208 Main, Margaret Kraisinger is a true historian and you'll feel it in this retail store. Phone 316.835.2446.
Ask Margaret why she'd open such a niche store in a small town and it will help you "Get Kansas." KE #2 Marci Penner

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Explore Rural Kansas

Tomorrow about 20 representatives from rural communities are coming to the Kansas Sampler Center near Inman to discuss the concept of promoting rural Kansas as "an attraction."
If we could interest visitors into our small towns like Erie (picture) to find old-fashioned soda fountains and a million other things it would really help the world "Get Kansas!"
KE #2 Marci Penner