Friday, January 29, 2010

Postcard Friendship Friday - Happy Birthday Kansas

Toboggan Ride at Vinewood Park, Topeka Kansas

Today in History: The Sunflower State, a suburb of Nebraska, was admitted to the Union as a free state - free of slavery - on January 29, 1861. As Kansas opened up to settlement on the tumultuous heels of the Civil War, the abolitionists and pro slavery groups fought so many skirmishes over their pro and anti slavery agendas that the territory was known as the Bloody Kansas. It was also a dry state, which may have accounted for some of the tempers.

For those of us, I mean you, who don't remember from grade school, Topeka is the capital of Kansas. Topeka means "to dig good potatos" in the Kansa and Ioway languages. The Native Americans were referring to the "prairie potato", a food plant (as opposed to the road apple) with tuberous roots that was indigenous to the area.

The postcard picture is of the toboggan ride at Vinewood Park which opened in Topeka in 1902. The park amusements included a roller coaster (hand me my smelling salts!), which was called a toboggan, a penny arcade and a circle swing. Canoe rentals for the canals and a band stand for dancing made this a popular place to visit.

The postmark reads Emporia, Kansas, October 11, 1909, and the message says:


I was out to this place last Saturday night when we were in Topeka playing football. Had a time.

Signature ?

I cannot read the stylized signature, but I would like to think it reads "Artti" because I found Leona Drayer in a web search. She married a fellow named Arthur Crockett.
It appears the writer may have attended Emporia State University (est. 1863 as a teaching college) and played football against Washburn University (est. 1865) in Topeka. He could have mentioned who won!
Washburn's football team is called the Ichabods in honor of an early benefactor, Ichabod Washburn.
In June, 1966, just a few days after classes were let out for the summer, a tornado completely demolishedf the campus and all trees on the grounds. Three months earlier every building in the school was re insured - and for the maximum amount of coverage. How's that for foresight? It took several years of students taking their classes in trailers, but eventually the university was rebuilt.

Vinewood Park employees in uniform circa 1902

Vinewood had a real Lover's Lane
The early settlers in Kansas tried their hand at farming and wheat growing. It was a rough business, and it wasn't until the Mennonites showed up with a variety of wheat that grew on the Russian Steppes that the crop could sustain the farmers.
If meat was available at all, it was generally pork or dried buffalo. It was interesting to find that a staple of the time was pancakes - sometimes served up for 3 meals a day and flavored with a topping of sorghum molasses or gravy.
The huge expanse of wheat farming and vegetable planting in the Great Plains states, including Kansas was one cause of the disastrous dust storms of the 1930's. Native grasses with deep root systems that held the soil in place were tilled and replaced with shallow root food crops. A long drought killed off the crops throughout the great plains and the fertile black top, with nothing to hold it in place blew away in huge wind storms, landing as far away as New England.

I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore!

After years of recovery and the planting of windbreaks, life resumed. Kansas is, again, one of the most productive agricultural states. Wheat and sorghum are still the major Kansas crops.
If you are looking for a Kansas dish or two, try some whole wheat bread, chicken fried steak, or a buttermilk pie. I found several recipes for the pie - generally it is made with short pastry crust, and the filling is a tangy custard made with buttermilk.
Please stop by Marie's at Voila! Vintage Postcards for more of Postcard Friendship Friday!


Bob of Holland said...

These vintage toboggans are great. Here in the Netherlands, they were called the Canadian Toboggan, and they were very popular on the fairs of around 1900. Thanks, also for the recipee. Happy PFF!

Postcardy said...

I think I have a postcard from the Kansas Centennial in 1961.

viridian said...

Happy Pff! I enjoyed your post.

Mary said...

Great post! I join you in wishing Kansas a happy birthday!

Debs said...

any post that includes judy garland somewhere is fine by me! once again an immensely enjoyable history lesson (and travel guide...). happy PFF!

Beth Niquette said...

Thank you so much for the history lesson! Happy PFF!!

Snap said...

Wonderful post. I love the old roller coasters - toboggans. My back won't let me ride anymore. Shucks! And, a real lovers lane -- how great! Happy Birthday Kansas! Happy PFF!

Sheila said...

I'm loving this series for teaching me all sorts of things I never knew, and reminding me of one or two things I should have remembered.