Dorothy was from Kansas. Doesn’t everyone want to get there? Didn’t that “Kansas City” song from the musical, “Oklahoma,” make you even curious?
November 2012. I arrived in Kansas City and spent a full morning at the wonderful Nelson-Atkins Art Museum.
In Lawrence, infamous for its free state/slave state violence circa the 1850s, I stopped at the university to see the Spencer Museum of Art and walk about the campus. While at home people seemed to speak of nothing but the upcoming Presidential election, the people of Lawrence were talking of football, perhaps a learned approach from their history. As it was a bit chilly, I bought the team sweatshirt and it was ever appreciated throughout my road trip.
Topeka is the capital city and offered up a worthwhile Kansas Museum of History. For art, one needed to look no further than the State House. The Brown vs. Board of Education National Historic Site is a modern audio-visual museum, but it looks like a brick grammar school from the 1950s. At the Topeka Civic Theatre, I took in a play called “Veronica’s Room,” a play set in Boston. (I had left home to see a play done with Boston accents!)
In Wichita, is the Museum of World Treasures, which included a good sized piece of the Berlin Wall. That was not something I had expected to see in Kansas, but there was a lot to sit up and take note about in Wichita. The first sit-in demonstration at a drugstore lunch counter in the USA took place at the Dockum Drugstore there in July 1958. (I understand Dockum ran a big chain of drugstores.) As a result, all Dockum Drugstore lunch counters, located in Kansas, started serving people of all racial groups effective August 10, 1958. Go Kansas. I ordered a chocolate-covered cherry martini to toast to Kansas on this achievement.
That victory helped me cope with the scattering of racist political signs along the road; those were more disheartening than the multiple Catholic Church billboards condemning a woman’s right to have an abortion. (The mean and self-righteous Mrs. Gulch had left her mark.)
In Abilene, the Eisenhower Library was a low key affair, fitting for that President. I had a piece of pie in a Valentine box restaurant and contemplated his role in getting the 1957 Civil Rights Act enacted into law.
In Hays, the Sternberg Museum had a fossil of a fish inside a bigger fish that would have been swimming in the Late Cretaceous period. If you like fossils, it was quite a find.
Finally, I set out for Manhattan, a city established in the 1850s by New England abolitionists. I highly recommend the Flint Hills Discovery Center there. Among the many interesting exhibits, was plentiful information on the Tall Grass Prairie, the area’s native habitat. In or around Manhattan, I had walked a nature trail where that tall grass still grows.
I didn’t see much diversity of lifestyle in Kansas, and I sensed most people liked it that way. Everyone was very nice to me, but the JayHawks sweatshirt may have helped. As I drove along, I was singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” I swear Dorothy, in her red shoes, was listening.
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