Friday, November 11, 2011

Post office observations

No exit for post offices? We can only wish.

Rural America is a necessity to a healthy United States and world. It's easy to stereotype the small town (currently, 4% of the cities in Kansas are 15,000 or larger) but Kansas and other rural states would be empty without them. It's time to find some alternative solutions to the crisis facing rural Kansas. This blog overviews the issue but what it's really about is making a case for finding solutions. What idea will be our "internet"?

Great thinkers once solved issues for the good of the whole

The history below shows how great thinkers saw the need to connect people in the country with those in the cities in order to make a better America. New communication systems led to the need for advanced roads and transportation systems.

"John Wanamaker of Pennsylvania was the first Postmaster General to advocate rural free delivery (RFD). Although funds were appropriated a month before he left office in 1893, subsequent Postmasters General dragged their feet on inaugurating the new service so that it was 1896 before the first experimental rural delivery routes began.

A byproduct of rural free delivery was the stimulation it provided to the development of the great American system of roads and highways. A prerequisite for rural delivery was good roads.

The impact of RFD as a cultural and social agent for millions of Americans was even more striking, and, in this respect, rural delivery still is a vital link between industrial and rural America."

General observations about the closure study process

Inconsistencies. It's unclear why some communities are on this list and not others. Most of the offices on the list of possible closures are rural, smaller offices with annual revenues of about $27,000 or less. In fact, at one location one business does $50,000 worth of business a year at the post office and, still, the post office is on the block.

Fairness. In some cases the notice of the community meeting happened within a day or two of the meeting. In other cases, neighboring postmasters were asked to facilitate the meeting.

Delivery. In most cases, it sounds like residents will be asked to erect mail boxes at their homes for delivery but if a package doesn't fit in the box they'll have to travel to the closest town with a post office to retrieve the package -- in some cases this ranges from 10-30 miles. Does this really save money if a route carrier now has to deliver mail to each house instead of making a drop at one post office? Some towns have been told they'll have to drive to the next town to even pick up their regular mail. Again, this ranges from 10-30 miles for some.

Why rural?

Reasonable. We have to be reasonable. Volume of mail is down with the use of other means of communication. But it seems like rural is the fall guy for issues out of our control:

"Taken from "5 things you need to know about the U.S. Postal Service."
Operationally speaking, the USPS nets profits every year. The financial problem it faces now comes from a 2006 Congressional mandate that requires the agency to “pre-pay” into a fund that covers health care costs for future retired employees. Under the mandate, the USPS is required to make an annual $5.5 billion payment over ten years, through 2016. These “prepayments” are largely responsible for the USPS’s financial losses over the past four years and the threat of shutdown that looms ahead – take the retirement fund out of the equation, and the postal service would have actually netted $1 billion in profits over this period.

This doesn’t mean, however, that the USPS’s financial situation is good. Revenue has been declining for years, and even if the agency manages to get past this year’s $5.5 billion payment, it would again face insolvency next year."

Easy target. Rural communities are an easy target. Even if 75% or more of the population turns out for the required community meeting, these numbers, in the larger scheme of things, are small. Because rural communities aren't organized as a collective, it's hard to have a voice loud enough to be heard.

Does it matter? Legislators and United States Congressmen/women have been supportive to varying degrees (special thanks to Senator Moran) but is anyone stepping back and looking at the whole picture of what the loss of 150-400 post offices in the state will do to the strength of Kansas as a vital place to live and do business? This isn't just about losing the post office but this threat contributes to the devolving of rural communities.

It's not just the post office. The potential loss of the post office is another strike at the identity of a community. The school may already be gone, a source of identity. Now the post office. Though the zip code can be kept and the name of the town can still be put on letters, there is still the effect of losing your identity.

Making the argument

As we (rural) await the verdict, we are concerned about the change in essential service and what it will mean to each individual, but the worry is more about what this means for the community. The post office is a gathering place, a place to put notices, a place to do business, a place to receive prescriptions, a place for human interaction.

It's true that it is simply time for some post offices to close. Even the townspeople know when it's time. But in other cases, it just doesn't make any sense. Even with the acknowledgement that mailing a bill and sending a birthday greeting can be done exclusively via electronic means, there is still a lot of business being done through the mail. Furthermore, some communities still do not have high speed internet nor decent cell service to make other means of communication a good option.

But here's the thing. Like so many issues, this one is treated as if in a vacuum. Agencies are managing a single issue yet the community is affected by multiple issues and how each one rearranges the bigger picture.

What can we do now?

Many of the towns on this list of 152 are not ready to fold up and die no matter what happens with the post office issue. They may look pretty straggly to those looking in from the outside who aren't familiar with rural living but there is likely more sense of community and economic livelihood going on than can be seen with a windshield survey. In some cases, the farmers and ranchers drive that economic engine and they and their families rely on the community for many basics.

Instead of just fighting the post office closures, let's try to also look at this in a forward-looking manner. The primary loss of the physical post office would be the ease in sending anything bigger than a letter and the ability for an individual or business to receive items bigger than their mail box. The secondary loss is the post office as a social gathering spot.

Can both of these issues be solved with creative solutions? In simplest terms, what is needed is a generic gathering spot that results in these same interactions and a central and accessible location to handle the larger mail issues.

Though 152 communities are on the list, there are another 150 that will likely have service altered. With almost half of the towns in the state affected by a loss of or change in postal service, a common solution needs to be developed. Most communities are fighting the post office closure as well as they can within the rules. But if they had an adequate alternative, they could look at all of this with more optimism.

What is that alternative? It's out there. It's a matter of getting the right minds together to figure out the solution. We need the brightest minds of all ages who want to be part of the solution in transforming rural communities into a New Rural age with old-time community soul.

Signing off from Get Kansas!

KE #2 Marci Penner

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Our post office journey on November 9, 2011

1 day. 7 post offices. $381.56 worth of stamps. 440 miles.

There is nothing like experiencing an issue firsthand and looking in the eyes of the people who are living the issue.

I had been getting e-mails and phone calls from people concerned about losing their post offices. At some point, you can't just have these conversations and not do something about it.

Kansas Sampler Foundation assistant director WenDee LaPlant and I decided to pick a road and visit all the towns on that highway that had post offices that are on the list for possible closing. We chose K-99 and several miles on either side because it had seven post offices on the list between the Oklahoma and Nebraska borders. Our plan was to visit with the postmaster and people coming in the post office and buy $50 worth of stamps at each place.

  • Chautauqua, Chautauqua County
  • Peru, Chautauqua County
  • Elk Falls, Elk County
  • Hamilton, Greenwood County
  • Admire, Lyon County
  • Summerfield, Marshall County
  • Home, Marshall County
This blog is the more social overview of each stop. The more serious observations of the post office issue will follow in the next post.

The first stop was in Chatauqua (population 98) near the Oklahoma border.

After being greeted on the sidewalk by Rudy Taylor of the Montgomery County Chronicle, one cat and two dogs, we went in to meet Emma, the postmaster. She had just finished vacuuming and was ready to start the day. We had a wonderful visit and learned the building was originally a feed store.

We bid Emma farewell and with her encouragement we stopped at The Store to meet the Chautquaua mayor, Audrey. After a short but enjoyable visit we were on our way to the Peru post office.

We got to Peru (population 160) and I went in to visit with David, the postmaster. Little did I know that after I went inside, a truck pulled up beside us and called to WenDee. It was Emma's husband! He had tracked us down. We didn't know it but Emma had thought we asked for 50 stamps so that is what she had given us. When we left, she looked at our check and saw it was for $50.40. She called her husband to come get the rest of the stamps and find us. Only in a small town...

At every post office, the role of community gathering spot was obvious as people would come and go. We learned that more than one postmaster would watch for certain people and if they didn't come in to get their mail, they would call them to make sure they were OK. Only in a small town...

Jennifer Brummel, Elk County Economic Development Director and Youth Development Coordinator, met us at the Elk Falls (population 104) post office.

When asked if the post office was going to have an entry in next weekend's Outhouse Festival, postmaster Lecia's eyes lit up. She told us the extremely clever name for their entry but it can't be revealed yet. (The festival is Nov. 18-19). We bought our stamps and Jennifer ordered some for her upcoming wedding thank you cards!

An elderly local woman came in. She was very distraught about losing the post office. She said, "This is MY place. I've been coming her since I was nine. I don't want to lose it."

Before we left town, we tracked down Steve and Jane Fry. They were at their "secret garden" house. Talk about ingenious people. We got to see the new bunkhouse upstairs in the barn. As would be expected from Steve and Jane, they have created a cozy atmosphere with the most unique use of recycled materials, ceramics, and personal touch. The 1930s concrete elephants and sculptures in the "garden" were standing proud and visible. Good to see them shine again!

On to Admire, population 176. We received a warm welcome from friends Dee Reid, Ann Birney, and Joyce Thierer. They gave us a tour of the community center which is in the school that closed at the end of the 2010 school year. The locals are also developing a nice museum in the school. I'm sure it feels like a bittersweet development to be using the school that way.

It was great to meet, Mike, the postmaster, who also made our sandwiches-to-go at the Last Chance Cafe. By the way, this post office was also a feed store at one time.

The drive through Wabaunsee County was beautiful. We admired the stone fences along the winding roads. The hardest part of our trip was driving through towns like Sedan, Howard, Madison, Olpe, Emporia, Eskridge, Alma, Westmoreland and others and not being able to stop and see things and say hi to folks.

Hamilton, population 309. Katherine, the postmaster, knew we were coming. Word had traveled down the road. While visiting about Hamilton, a local business owner came in and talked about how they choose to do business through the post office to support it but they'll find other options when the post office closes. I had to wonder if the U.S.P.S. knows how much loyalty locals have had for their post office but will choose different options if the local post office closes.

Hamilton still has their school and it's led by a dynamo superintendent. They have two restaurants, a classic soda fountain, and lots of ranchers and oil and gas business in the area. People just driving through may not always see the behind-the-scenes thrive-ability in these towns, but it's there.

Down the road...

In Wamego, we did a quick drive by the city park to see the handsome building for the mini-train. It looks terrific! Bunny and Gary McCloud responded to our "Put your stamp on it" sponsorship notice so as we drove through Wamego, Bunny met us in the turn lane along side K-99 across from the Wamego Telecommunications building. She gave us her warm smile and handed us a $100 bill to help with the stamp purchases and gas!

On to Summerfield, population 199, in Marshall County. The streets were full of cars. It looks like the community-owned grocery store continues to do well, too. And, I'm anxious to come back to see the working blacksmith shop!

We met the postmaster and bought our stamps. A local business, does a great business and everything is sent out through the post office. I don't see how it will be possible for this entrepreneur to continue shipping through the post office if the physical p.o. closes. This is another chunk of revenue the U.S.P.S. will likely lose.

Our last stop of the day was at Home. How appropriate. Home is one of the top two thriving unincorporated cities in the state (Healy is the other). We first went over to the Feed and Grain store across from the post office. It's located in an old bank and is just brimming with character. Kansas pride oozes out of owner's Jim and Pat, as does their affection for Home. They raved about the restaurant across the street opened by a young couple in town. We had a great discussion about the post office and issues of small towns.

We found Elaine and bought our stamps. It's so interesting to meet these very dedicated post office workers. Elaine also drives school bus. Joanne from the Marysville Advocate and Emily from Blue Valley Telecommunications were there, too.

This was a great prelude to our guidebook research journey that will take us to every town in the state in the next two years. From the Chautauqua springs to our last stop at Home, this was a day that reaffirms the fortitude and spirit of the Kansas people as well as the richness and multitude of explorer attractions in the state.

Chautauqua springs in Chautauqua is still flowing.
In this case, it flows into an oxidized tea pot.
Remnants of the old historic hotel can still be seen.
This is now a beautiful green space.
Look for the single arched stone bridge, too.

Get Kansas! by just picking a highway and a purpose for your trip and you'll learn alot about our state.

KE #2 Marci Penner

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Put your stamp on November 9

Below is a list of communities that have been notified that their post office may be closed. This list represents twenty-four percent of the communities in Kansas.

Tomorrow, November 9, WenDee and I will be traveling K-99 from the Oklahoma border to Nebraska to visit seven towns on this list (Chautauqua, Peru, Elk Falls, Hamilton, Admire, Home and Summerfield). We will spend $50 at each and try to interview some of the locals. We'll post on Facebook ("Like" the Kansas Sampler Foundation page or check out Marci Penner's page). Post what you're doing tomorrow to support these communities.

It's devastating to lose such a primary business.

What does this mean for Kansas?

















Bluff City










Cedar Point
















Elk Falls












Geuda Springs


















Long Island



Lost Springs














Neosho Falls

Neosho Rapids

New Cambria









Pawnee Rock





Prairie View















Sun City










West Mienral


White Cloud






Being concerned about this helps you "Get Kansas!"

KE #2 Marci Penner

Monday, November 7, 2011

The PowerUp Movement

Things are changing in rural Kansas communities.

Access to telecommunication, schools, health care, and basic business services, including the postal system, are being threatened in numerous ways. Retaining the wealth from one generation to the next is another issue. There is a great deal of talk about depopulation and youth leaving rural communities.

We could make a longer list about the concerns and bemoan our plight. Or, we could look at all of this as a call to action and an opportunity to hit the refresh button, find our strengths, and create a New Rural.

One myth to be busted is that more young people than realized are staying or moving back to rural communities -- and doing it by choice. You usually hear about young people moving out as fast as they can but the quiet truth is that there are lots of young people wanting to be in these communities.

It just makes sense that a thriving community would have a nice mix of ages, including young families that are excited about being in a particular community as well as older people who have lived there most of their lives and have contributed in numerous ways to community life. Just like it takes a blend of ingredients to make a delicious entree, it also takes a blend of positive and thoughtful energy from PowerUps (21-39s who are rural by choice) and PowerOns (40+ are passionate about rural living) to create a community that is desirable to all.

PowerOns (40+ who are passionate about rural living), many of you have given an incredible amount of energy to volunteer efforts for the good of your town. Now, we need to be aware that to keep these activities going and to continue to shape the town as a desirable place to live, we have to open our ears to the PowerUps (21-39s who are rural by choice). Maybe we're a little scared that they'll just want to take over and that they won't even notice what we've been doing or the successes we've had. Will they want to just change everything? Put your fears aside and move forward with PowerUps!

I know many of you already are great role models and supports to young people. Do you know what that makes you? A reason why they should choose to live in your town.

PowerUps, it's likely that you have dreams for your self and your family and that you also see possibilities for the community, or things you'd like to see changed or added. We want you to love living in the rural community you've chosen and to be a positive force.

Maybe you'll come upon some older folks who don't know how to listen and it might seem like they want everything done their way. Treat them with respect and ask them questions about their lives, especially about when they were PowerUp age. Get to know each other. And, know this. Most PowerOns want to help you succeed. They realize that the community needs your ideas and efforts.


A community is like a family. And, that's what we are in a small community. The first thing we need to do is acknowledge that we need both PowerUps and PowerOns to willingly work together and support each other. And, then there are those Sparks nipping at our heels to get involved, too. The communities that will survive and thrive are those that will blend PowerUps and PowerOns together for a beneficial mix.


We've scheduled six meetings around the state in November so that PowerUps can come together and get used to talking about what they want out of their lives and what they need and would like to see in the community.

RSVP to would be appreciated.

NOVEMBER 14, 5:30 p.m.
St. Joe Store, 2801 Noble Road, downtown St. Joseph in Cloud County

NOVEMBER 14, 5:30 p.m.
City Hall, 616 S. Main, LaHarpe in Allen County

NOVEMBER 22, 5:30 p.m.
Community Center, 403 S. Main, Hudson (Stafford County)

NOVEMBER 29, 6 p.m. CT; 5 p.m. MT
City Hall, Elm Street and Wheeler, Coolidge (Hamilton County)

NOVEMBER 29, 5:30 p.m.
Prairie Junction Restaurant, 516 W. Main, Morland (Graham County)

NOVEMBER 30, 5:30 p.m.
Community Center, 901 Commercial, Havensville (Pottawatomie County)

PowerUp Liaisons, Liz Sosa from Garden City and Erika Nelson from Lucas, will be leading these conversations.

If you want Liz or Erika to help arrange a meeting in your town, let us know.

Every town has their own story of how the PowerUps and PowerOns get along. Some of you have probably figured it all out already so send your success stories and advice!

Thanks for listening. I’ll be writing more on this subject and would love to hear your thoughts.

Ask a PowerUp how they like living in your community and you'll “Get Kansas”!

KE #2 Marci Penner

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Sharing newsy downtown news, Burlington style.

Gene Merry, current mayor of Burlington, writes a regular column in the Coffey County Republican. Known as the Downtown Guy, Gene does a fabulous job of sharing newsy tidbits of information that people want to know. The column is all about what is happening downtown or in the community and who is doing it. It's all about progress and is of a positive nature.

I share this with you as a fabulous model of how to share the "goings on" in your hometown. It's just newsy enough that people will gobble it up. People also like to see their name in print or see who is involved in the action.

It isn't easy to collect all this information. It takes a person genuinely interested in the town and someone that likes to talk to people and is trusted.

Hats off to you, Gene. You provide a great service to the community by doing this. If I were a potential resident or business owner, I'd be encouraged by your articles to move to Burlington. You really help people see what is going on behind the scenes.

Here's the latest column:

Resellers Edge at 106 N. 3rd have rented additional space to expand their operations in the old Crow Moddie Ford building at 614 S. 4th. The business is owned by Mike & Tammy Baumann. They will be looking for more employees and you can fill out an application at 106 N. 3rd. The Baumann’s make koozies, shirts and numerous advertising items to sell all over the country.

Bahr Storage is putting the final touches on a new mini storage building in Industrial Park #1. The new building is accepting tenants now. The second building is also taking shape.

City of Burlington Park Department is installing additional playground equipment at Kelley Park. Kevin Boyce, Park Superintendent will have the new area open by the 4th of July.

The city dam has taken on a new look with the clearing of numerous trees and brush along the campsite area. The following were involved in the cleanup; Kevin Boyce, Gene Merry, Richard Freeman, Stephen Freeman, Martin Bennett, Jim Hutchinson, Travis Straten, Mike Griffith, Aaron Bowman, Ron Clark, Kent Hoyt, Larry Gales, Dan Allen, Mark Griffith, Billy DeWitt, Jada DeWitt, Zary DeWitt, Blaze Riley, Kendra DeWitt, Kayla DeWitt, Corey Webber, Jossie Sharon, Dan Turner, Austin Freeman, Jurad Hobbs, Rhenda Jones, Doug Jones, Mike Turner, Darren Freeman and Jordan Freeman. Many thanks to Stephen and Tiffany Freeman for providing a skid loader and equipment, Mike & Tammy Baumann for providing doughnuts, Coffey County Jail, providing three trustees, Ron Hoover at Hoover’s Thriftway providing water and City Councilman Kent Hoyt for providing pizza and tools. Kevin Boyce managed the job and lined up city equipment including a large loader to move the tree branches to the city burn pile.

City Hall at 301 and the annex at 303 Neosho are taking on a new look. City Hall is receiving new ceiling tile, lights, windows and trim. The annex next door is receiving a face lift compliments of labor by Burlington Police officers, Riley Morgan, Randy Stuart, Jessica Stice, Chief Doug Jones and his wife Rhenda Jones, Coffey County Sheriff officers, Ken Roney, Tom Johnson, Michael Roney, Jeremy Lind, William Warkentine and Carl Lee from Coffey County Emergency Management. The Burlington Electric Department, Alan Schneider, Superintendent, Jim Cole, J.J. Jasper and Andy Lawrence worked on the electrical issues. Materials were donated by Coffey County Attorney, Doug Witteman, Sheriff Randy Rogers, Burlington City Hall, Police Department and Burlington Building Materials. The remodeled annex will be home to the The Child Advocacy Center directed by Kathleen A. Inwood, Emporia. The front area will be an over-flow area for meetings, a break room and possibly planning and zoning.

City Hall will be receiving a new mural in the front at 301 Neosho showing off the city’s logo and a stained glass wall design at 303 Neosho in the meeting room, both designed by Jim Stukey.

Red Door Apartments has a new treated wood deck and back steps at 316-318 Neosho. James and Valorie Higgins plan to have two of the four apartments ready in July, one in the fall and one in December 2011. Observing the project from a distance, this has been a real family project.

Burlington United Methodist trustees are working to remodel the 2nd floor at Garst Hall. New carpet, and paint upstairs and sound proofing materials in basement will be happening soon.

Kent and Lori Hoyt are remodeling the stone and block on their building west of Burlington Tax. Bob Salazar of Superior Masonry is doing the tuck-point work. Maybe the metal front will come off in the future and expose the brick structure behind. Thanks Hoyt’s for improving downtown.

Burlington First Baptist Church has a new roof on their addition, even with months of wind and weather interruptions. Work inside is in full swing, can’t wait for the open house.

Mike and Jo Skillman have purchased Morris Service and two lots from Central National Bank for additional space. The Skillman’s will be adding a mower and power equipment showroom across the front with numerous mower display areas, parts department and areas for rental tools at 1010 N. 4th. More details later on manager, employees and brands.

Danny Hawkins, acting Superintendent of Water & Sewer Department, has been busy along with his staff cleaning up the area along the Neosho River and the new water plant. Their parts building has been remodeled, organized, painted and will be re-roofed along with the old brick water plant soon. The galvanized metal shed sitting on the rivers edge has been razed. The large storage building for equipment will soon be painted. City crews from Street and Electric have also shared labor to make improvements. Trees have been trimmed and later grass areas will be reseeded and trees planted.

Burlington has hosted Bike Across Kansas, Relay for Life, Cornet Chop Suey, car show for scholarships, wedding after wedding, golf tournaments at Rock Creek and night golf, fishing at Wolf Creek and limb lines in the Neosho River, snagging Paddlefish at City Dam, softball, baseball, barbeques and garages sales. So many activities, so little time.

Please welcome back to life the outage workers at Wolf Creek Generating Station after a long and tough outage.

If you have news, give us a call at (620) 364-3051 or email us at


Wasn't that great? Every time I read the column I'm amazed at the amount of action in Burlington and that somehow Gene tracks down this information.

People like Gene help the world "Get Kansas!" or at least "Get Burlington!"

KE #2 Marci Penner

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Kansas road work expected for summer of 2011

Kansas road work?

Yes, as in driving Kansas backroads. Road work. The fun kind.

The kind that takes you to local cafes that bake their own bread and use real mashed potatoes for their hot roast beef sandwiches. The kind that take you to unstaffed historic sites where you can feel spirits. The kind that show you stone arched bridges (if you look under the road) and wooden barns and varied fence posts and all sorts of nuances that explorers appreciate.

The best way to start your summer of road work is to head to the Kansas Sampler Festival held May 7-8 in Leavenworth at Ray Miller Park. Saturday, May 7 from 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sunday, May 8 from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

You'll find so many day trip ideas at the festival that your road work might linger deep into the fall. More than 150 communities will be there to tell you about multiple attractions in each of their towns. The festival will also lead you to musical venues, places to buy Kansas products and art, and you can start sampling Kansas foods right at the festival.

You might feel overwhelmed at the festival with all the information and all the possibilities so you might start a conversation that you want to have at each booth. If all you want to do is eat your way across the state, ask at each booth for the best made-from-scratch restaurant. Or, if you have a quest to find the oldest brick building in each town, ask that question. In other words, make the festival work for you.

If I were going from booth to booth, I'd get a state map and take it with me and circle every city that intrigues me.

One thing the festival does is surprise people about all there is to see and do in Kansas. One geographically-based tent after another is filled with people braggin' and explainin' about what their corner of the state has to offer. It's mind-boggling to have all this information in one place on one weekend. Mind-boggling in an inspiring way.

Your road work might turn up a shoe tree down a remote dirt road or a depot museum miles off the main road. You might find a beautiful church, a cemetery on a hill, or some public art in a place that you just didn't expect it.

Kansas road work turns up the unexpected. Hope to see you at a roadside stand somewhere.

Get out and Get Kansas!

KE #2 Marci Penner

Monday, April 18, 2011

A book with a purpose

The mission of the Kansas Sampler Foundation is to preserve and sustain rural culture. Everything we did with the 8 Wonders of Kansas Guidebook was designed to meet that mission.


Kansas photographer: Harland Schuster, Morrill

Kansas editor: Bobbie Pray, Lawrence

Kansas-at-heart-graphic designer: Liz King, California (but she's my sister)

Kansas printer: Mennonite Press, Newton

Kansas hardback book binder: Koerperich Bookbinders, Selden

Of the 71 book stores that have contacted us to carry the book, all are locally-owned. Each retail outlet keeps 40% of the sale. Twelve dollars from each book goes to that store and helps keep it alive and thriving. If Barnes and Nobles, Borders or Hastings calls, we will fulfill those orders as we want to support the notion of bookstores, even though those are national franchise.

The remaining 60% goes to the Kansas Sampler Foundation to help pay for this project (payment to those Kansas names mentioned above -- except for my sister who donated her time and expertise) and beyond that the monies help make it possible for the Foundation to keep two employees, have modern equipment, and do many uncompensated projects for rural Kansas.

When we published our 2005 Kansas Guidebook for Explorers, a store enlightened me that nothing hurt their sales more than Amazon. We chose then and now to not put our book on Amazon in order to support independent book stores as best we can.

Our shipping department is Mom, with an occasional assist from WenDee, Dad, and the rural route carrier. We send all of our books through our local Inman post office in order to help with their revenue and the consequences of that.

When you choose to purchase this book, you're helping set off a positive snowball effect on the Kansas economy.


The best outcome of all will be if the 216 places in the book get extra traffic and attention. We also hope that the many explorery places in between the 216 will get more visits!

If the explorers or visitors, or even the armchair travelers, fall just a bit more in love with Kansas that would be mighty good, too.

If those that do visit could drop an extra dollar in the donation jar or feel good about making a purchase or just pat a volunteer on the back or thank an owner for choosing a Kansas community in which to do business, that also would be terrific. All those things make a bigger difference than you might imagine.

On April 16, the guidebook made it's debut at the Eisenhower Presidential Library. That was pretty special. An appreciative audience of over 300 came to see the 8 Wonders of Kansas exhibit on two floors of the library, to hear the program, and to peruse and buy the 8 Wonders of Kansas Guidebook. The Eisenhower staff put an exhibit together on the 8 Wonders in each of the nine categories (overall, architecture, art, commerce, cuisine, customs, geography, history, and people) and it will be on display until September 5.

Karl Weissenbach, director, of the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum and Linda Smith were gracious hosts along with the Kansas Sampler Foundation board and assistant director WenDee LaPlant.

Cookies and an orange cake in the shape of an 8 and Kansas symbol cookies that came from Amanda's Bakery and Bistro in Abilene provided some great snacks. Marci and Karl made the first cut of the cake.

Author Marci and photographer Harland had a good time signing books.

Let's all get ready for a great travel and explorer season in Kansas. Nothing like being out on the Kansas road to "Get Kansas!"

KE #2 Marci Penner

Friday, January 28, 2011

105 places in 105 counties. Happy Kansas Day!

Congratulations, ol' gal!

Kansas, all 150 years of her, has led a colorful life. One of the best ways to "get her" is to go out and visit every county. If, today, I could be at one place in each county, here's where I would choose:

(random order)

Greenwood County: Teter Rock at Teterville

Riley County: Bala Stone Bridge and park

Clark County: St. Jacob's Well in Big Basin Prairie Preserve

Morton County: Point of Rocks

Barton County: Pawnee Rock lookout

McPherson County: Observation tower at Maxwell Wildlife Refuge

Pottawatomie County: Overlook at the Vermillion Creek Tributary stone arch bridge

Jefferson County: On top of the rock in the middle of the road in McLouth

Wallace County: Mount Sunflower

Smith County: Statue of Liberty replica between Gaylord and Harlan

Osborne County: The B-24 Bomber Memorial many miles southwest of Osborne

Cowley County: Inspiration Point at Camp Horizon near Arkansas City

Seward County: Mighty Samson of the Cimarron between Liberal and Kismet

Leavenworth: Steps Abraham Lincoln spoke from (now in front of the Carroll Mansion,

Meade County: Widest main street in the U.S. in Plains

Hodgeman County: Markers for Duncan's Crossing at the Hodgeman-Ness County line

Wabaunsee County: Mount Mitchell

Linn County: Marais des Cygne Massacre site

Harper County: Harper County Courthouse in Anthony

Rawlins County: Beaver Creek scenic drive past the Dewey Ranch

Doniphan County: Civil War monument in Bellemont Cemetery north of Wathena

Kearny County: Santa Fe Trail displays inside the Kearny County Museum in Lakin

Nemaha County: Inside St. Mary's Church at St. Benedict

Rooks County: Rock benches at a park in Plainville at Mill and Broadway

Elk County: 1893 iron trestle bridge at Elk Falls

Dickinson County: Eisenhower statue

Russell County: Paradise watertower

Scott County: Hilltop Steele Monument across the the Steele Homestead in Lake Scott
State Park

Finney County: Anywhere inside the Lee Richardson Zoo in Garden City

Lincoln County: Denmark

Republic County: K-148 drive from Scandia to Norway

Ottawa County: Pike's Monument southwest of Delphos

Rice County: Ralph's Ruts near Chase

Sheridan County: Largest cottonwood in the state near Studley

Montgomery County: Frank Bellamy's gravestone at Cherryvale (he wrote the words to the Pledge of Allegiance)

Stanton County: WPA Manter Dam near Manter

Barber County: Flower Pot Mound on Gyp Hills scenic drive

Anderson County: Prairie Spirit Trail

Douglas County: Arch at Haskell Indian Nations University

Ford County: Santa Fe Trail lookout near Howell

Gray County: Wind farm kiosk near Montezuma

Wilson County: South Mound lookout

Chautauqua County: Historic Chautauqua Springs in Chautauqua

Gove County: Sitting on top of one of the Monument Rocks at sunset

Kingman County: Kingman County State Fishing Lake or the banks of the Ninnescah

Grant: Wagon Bed Springs

Hamilton County: A seat in the livestock sale barn

Labette County: Antietam Circle in the Historic Oakwood Cemetery in Parsons

Bourbon County: Fort Scott National Cemetery

Ellsworth County: On top of one of the Mushroom Rocks

Jewell County: White Rock Creek drive north from Formoso

Stevens County: Stevens County Gas and Historical Museum in Hugoton

Trego: Along the bluffs of Cedar Bluff State Park

Shawnee County: State capitol in front of a John Steuart Curry mural

Coffey County: At the top of the observational silo at Wolf Creek Environmental Education Area

Allen County: Walter Johnson's birth site marker in a field

Harvey County: Swinging bridge at Harvey County Park West

Rush County: Near the sunflower sculptures beside the museum in McCracken

Phillips County: Kirwin town square

Clay County: Stone buffalo close to Longford

Mitchell County: Tipton

Graham County: Green rock quarry

Haskell County: In the flattest county in the state, I'd search for aa backroad sandwiched
between farmland that goes on forever and ever.

Marshall County: Pony Express Rider and Horse statue in Marysville

Norton County: Gallery of Also Rans in Norton

Washington County: 1856 Surveyor's Monument near Mahaska

Miami County: Gazebo in the Paola Park Square

Lyon County: By the bust of William Allen White at the south edge of the lake in Peter Pan Park,

Cloud County: Stone bridge at Rice

Pratt County: B-29 All Veterans Memorial 3 miles north of Pratt

Ellis County: Pfeifer's Holy Cross Shrine church

Franklin County: Franklin County Courthouse in Ottawa

Lane County: Frigid Creme

Reno County: 650 feet under in the Kansas Underground Salt Museum in Hutchinson

Stafford County: Triple-decker Victorian fountain in the St. John square

Jackson County: Roller coaster hill south of Soldier

Ness County: George Washington Carver's homestead at Beeler

Osage County: Oak Hill Cemetery, just north of Quenemo

Cheyenne County: Arikaree Breaks, 12 miles north of downtown St. Francis

Kiowa County: Hayloft of the Fromme-Birney Round Barn near Mullinville

Crawford County: St. Aloysius Historic Site at Greenbush

Marion County: Santa Fe Trail marker west of Lost Springs

Johnson County: Blue Sky sculpture at Olathe city hall

Chase County: Lost on some Flint Hills backroad

Edwards County: At the Civil War statue in the Hillside Cemetery near Kinsley

Sedgwick County: Keeper of the Plains

Greeley County: G.A.R. Cemetery mostly west and north of Tribune

Wyandotte County: Rosedale Memorial Arch in Kansas City

Cherokee County: Standing in Shoal Creek at Schermerhorn Park

Pawnee County: Exploring the "cliffs" across from Sibley's Camp in Larned

Decatur County: Pete Felten sculpture of the pioneer family in Oberlin

Wichita County: Beside the hand-dug well at Selkirk

Comanche County: Scenic drive across the southern portion of the county

Saline County: Outdoor pulpit at Salemsborg church

Sumner County: Bartlett Arboretum, Belle Plaine

Thomas County: Statue in front of the Thomas County Courthouse

Atchison County: International Forest of Friendship in Atchison

Geary County: Civil War Horse statue in front of the U.S. Cavalry Museum on Fort Riley

Logan County: Chalk formations scenic drive including Little Jerusalem formations

Morris County: Allegawaho Heritage Memorial Park near Council Grove

Neosho County: Black Kettle Memorial in Erie

Sherman County: Van Gogh painting at Goodland

Woodson County: Castle at Kalida

Brown County: Robinson Cemetery

Butler County: Latham's "100 Cow" Road

There you go. 105 places in 105 counties.

May you find the place that brings out your inner Kansan!

Get Kansas!

KE #2 Marci Penner

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Go post office hopping!

During the Great Depression, Post Office Section Art was created by the government to put Americans back to work. Today, this artwork still appears in 21 active post offices. See a list of all 21 at 8 Wonders of Kansas.

Farm Life, 1940, artist Robert Larter. Oswego Post Office

Unlike WPA art, Section Art was funded by the Section of Fine Arts in the U.S. Treasury Department. The “Section” selected high quality art to decorate public buildings thereby making it accessible to all people. The subject of each usually was based on the history or economy of the local community. Originally, 29 Section Art works adorned Kansas public buildings.

Cattlemen's Picnic, 1942, artist Jessie Wilbur, Kingman Post Office

Cowboys Driving Cattle, 1941, artist Kenneth Evett, Caldwell Post Office

Cattle Round Up, 1938, artist Vance Kirkland, Eureka Post Office

Section Art remains in the following 21 Kansas post offices: Anthony, Augusta, Belleville, Burlington, Caldwell, Council Grove, Eureka, Fredonia, Goodland, Halstead, Herington, Hoisington, Horton, Hutchinson, Kingman, Lindsborg, Neodesha, Oswego, Russell, Sabetha, and Seneca.

Many of these post offices are older so it's like a trip to another era.

We hope this little tidbit about post office art helps you Get Kansas!

From the road, KE #2 Marci Penner

Friday, January 7, 2011

Exploring Tip #1. Subject: Otis

Kansas is 150 this year! One way to celebrate our state's sesquicentennial is by getting out to see and know the state. It's always good to head out with explorer tips in mind.

People ask where they should go. With 90% of the 627 cities in Kansas having less than a 5,000 population, my answer is to turn into every town you come to and at least cruise main and a couple of side streets. In some cases, that would be canvassing the whole town! But, if exploring properly, you'll see more than expected.

Last summer WenDee and I stopped in Otis, a Rush County town of 320 people.

I know at least one Kansas Explorers Club member who has a quest to visit every band shell. The Peter Brack Memorial band shell is unique to any other. A plaque on the back wall tells that Brack was a Russian immigrant. See the steps and green roof?

I wish I knew the name of that roof style. Do you?

Keep cruising. If you get to 3rd and Eagle you'll come across the 1931 school. Get your explorer eyes out and you'll see an interesting style to the school's exterior.

Make sure to take your curiosity hat with you. The point isn't always to know the answers but to ask the questions, to find those interesting details and nuances.

Have fun exploring. It will help you Get Kansas!

Happy birthday Kansas. KE #2 Marci

P.S. Find many places to explore at