• Letting Loos-a In Oskaloosa

    Cue the soundtrack:

    So I was driving around yesterday, getting some bugs embedded in my windshield on the rural highways of Kansas. Now is a time to do it: it’s not too hot to roll the windows down and let the smell of prairie spring fill the stuffy cabin of your car, turn the radio full-blast and hit full speed hoping that the local Barney Fife is relaxing after the church on Sunday. The sheer size of Kansas is hard to comprehend, several hours of driving is still a local trip and although it’s mostly endless farmland, there are many points of interest along the way.

    But first things first – a Lawrence strip-club now features an Ed Hardy room. Gentlemen, start your engines!

    Little further down the road there is an establishment called “Tee Pee”:

    One of the “tee pees” is marked with flood marks from various years on the nearby Kansas River.

    Turning North on Hwy 59 it’s a short drive to Oskaloosa, KS – home of the Old Jefferson Town – a collection of old buildings and structures moved to one place from all over Jefferson County.

    There is a school and a church, a lonely bandstand replica…

    …a rusty bridge…

    …and a jail where a local Otis Campbell could’ve spent a night or two.

    I had to take a second look at this work of art:

    Turns out this sculpture commemorates a Wind Wagon builder from Oskaloosa – Sam Peppard.

    This is how Sam Peppard sailed the prairie:

    The ship hove in sight about 8 o’clock in the morning with a fresh breeze from east, northeast. It was running down in a westerly direction for the fort, under full sail, across the green prairie. The guard, astonished at such a sight, reported the matter to the officer on duty, and we all turned out to view the phenomenon. Gallantly she sailed, and at a distance …not unlike a ship at sea In front is & large coach lamp to travel by night when the wind is favorable … A crank and band wheels allow it to be propelled by hand when wind and tide are against them.

    Today Sam Peppard would’ve been able to sail right to the next fence. Kansas ain’t what it used to be…
    Oskaloosa City Square is not very different from other small Kansas towns like Burlingame or Ottawa.

    People in the 19th century believed in stability so much that they didn’t hesitate to chisel the word “Bank” on the building. Bank wasn’t moving anywhere.

    They would be surprised to see a “Chunkie Dunker’s” diving pig occupying one of the windows.

    Although “lending with a heart” is still residing in the building.

    An old water tower dominates every view.

    Masons built this building in 1886.

    HWY 92 is being guarded by the local post of the American Legion (brought to you by Coors).

    Overlooking the shores of the Perry Lake , the city of Ozawkie,KS is mostly famous for its sign.

    Nearby you can grab a monster burger…

    … and get a New Kids on The Block -styled haircut from the stylist/owner Gail Dillenbeck.

    HWY 4 takes you all the way up to Valley Falls.

    Is it me or is it really the State of Texas hanging over the cowboy on the right?
    Valley Falls turned out to be a neat little town, with its own downtown…

    …where “Buy American!” turned into local “Shop Valley Falls 1st”.

    No New Kids on The Block here, Punk cuts hair in this town.

    Valley Falls has its share of historic buildings…

    …but many are no longer in use…

    …and wrenches are not clanging anymore behind the friendly window signs.

    Here is a piece of unsolicited advice to the KC Star: you want people to buy your paper? Name it “The Vindicator”. You can’t not subscribe to “The Vindicator”.

    Cows are peacefully grazing where the Battle of Hickory Point once raged.

    Nowadays there is no time for battle, Kansas Farmers are busy feeding “128 people + you”, or did “Kansas Agri Women” figure this out when we were all still skinny?

    And why fight if this is what you see out of your window every morning.

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  • Another Drop In My Bucket (List)

    I thought of another item to put on my bucket list (if it existed): I’d like to become a groupie (or is at a roadie? I need to get my terminology straight before I do it) for a mini donuts stand:

    I’d just follow this thing around the country and feed exclusively on “Lil’Orbits” until I die happily and quietly from clogged arteries at some random state’s fairgrounds. Now you could say that I should buy this miracle machine and stay home, but what do I do with my free spirit?

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  • Photographic Interlude: MO Route 45

    I will eventually have a real post with words and stuff, but in the meantime some photos from our trip to the Northwest of the Metro.

    Cue the sad Russian song:

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  • Know Your Spanish

  • No Smell, No Pity

    I often wondered what causes people to become upset about a closing of a business, but be completely unmoved by other closings or downsizing. Is it the history, nostalgia or tradition? Job losses, growing unemployment, shrinking tax base? The answer most likely is the smell, which probably explains all the commotion around the closing of the Folgers plant downtown. Folgers is not the first Kansas City or Downtown company to close, but other businesses quietly drifted away into oblivion without Facebook support groups and Twitter followers. It must be the smell of coffee…

    One of the downtown businesses that is still around but way past its former glory is the AT&T Long Lines building at 1425 Oak. It still serves as a long-distance hub for the Kansas City area, but there are only few people left working there, down from over 1,700 who were employed in call centers and various business departments, as well as the training facility, cafeteria and whatever else made the biggest phone company in the world ring. Every long-distance phone call made in Kansas City went through this building. Built in several stages and completed in the 70’s it was an example of a secure, earthquake- and explosion-proof architecture of the Cold War years. Inside were the technological marvels still impressive to this day; the phone company led the technological progress from the invention of the transistor, to the TV transmissions, communication satellites, and computing.

    Yet when the calling centers were closing and the people were let go, no one shed a tear. The shareholders probably received a nice payout.

    AT&T stockholder meeting. 1959. © Time. Yale Joel

    Nowadays, not too many people walk on these rugs.

    Granite-lined lobby is empty.

    The bells are still in the floor but not in the company logo any longer.

    Once-thriving market for the microchip-themed wallpaper is long-gone.

    No one is taking a break in the cafeteria.

    No one is enjoying the view.

    Lonely scales remembers the times before the obesity epidemic…

    …and the Oak Street Deli no longer serves thousands of meals a week.

    Built-for-the-ages door springs are not getting a workout…

    …and there is no need for the old light fixture to be on.

    No one is calling “Dottie”…

    …and a mailbox is collecting nothing but dust.

    Retired carrier pigeons who used to deliver messages to the far-flung places like Wellington,MO are still hanging around in the building.

    This building is full of history and pride, and the calls that went trough these switches and cables reunited many people in times of happiness and trouble; it stands as a reminder of the time when a long-distance call was an event, albeit pricey, but still a something to remember.

    The old Long Lines building still had its last laugh, it shows up in many photographs towering over the Sprint Center for a little free publicity.

    Maybe it’s a better legacy than a worthless Facebook group.

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