Sunday, May 24, 2015


What reminded me of Wichita was an article in the New York Times weekly food section about a womens' cooking club in Wichita, and how many years it has endured and what the ladies cooked over the years.
 Wichita's Thursday Afternoon Cooking club
Now it really isn't at all usual for the New York Times to single out a town in Kansas for a complimentary article.  My mother's side of the family is all from Kansas, and that being said, today the state is known for right-wing crazies  and not funding education while they lower taxes and run out of money.  And wheat.  Kansas has lots of wheat, and is typically thought of as "flyover land."

But wait.  When I was a  kid and visiting my grandparents who lived near Newton, Wichita was the big city.  We  lived in Wichita for a while when I was in kindergarten, too young to consider the size and gestalt of cities.  I remember the fire truck, sirens blaring, arrived at a house a block away.  The fireman raced out of the house with a cast iron skillet with flames shooting out of it.  Ooops.  There went someone's dinner. Other memorable events were smashing the ice over puddles and witnessing the collision of a truck of bricks and a truckload of chickens.  Kids love excitement and gore.   I was a super-shy kid who hung back waiting for a swing to become vacant.  I remember having a hard time learning to skip, but finally mastering it.  Ah yes, the days of our youth were not always the days of our glory.  I ran across a touching letter from my kindergarten teacher to my mom.  Is our character and personality set at age five?  I wonder.  

Our house in Wichita.  Thre was an apartment in the basement,  Looks much grander than it actually was. 

 Once when I was a teenager,  my Dad took me to a TRIPLE HEADER in Wichita.  The North Platte Nebraska Plainsmen played in the NBC, the National Baseball Congress. It is very hard on your butt to sit through three baseball games, but we did. And I still remember. 

 the North Platte Nebraska Plainsmen and their old ball park

My great aunt and I used to get on a bus that stopped in Hesston, Kansas and took us to Wichita. The big city.  On one of these trips, during winter--must have been Christmas break, we had just finished a nice lunch, and I went into the ladies room to comb my hair.  I was fourteen or fifteen and I combed my hair a lot.  Into the room walked the most beautiful young woman I had ever seen.  She was wearing a red wool coat and black high heels.  Her dark shiny hair was in loose curls, and she had perfect skin, eyes, and makeup.  Wow was her makeup gorgeous!  She primped in the mirror and I took in every detail.  She must have been about 18, full of assurance and soooo glamorous.  I immediately resolved to invest in mascara and eye shadow.  This was such an epiphany that I remember it many decades later along with kindergarten and the brick-chicken accident. 

My mother died the day after Christmas while we were living in Massachusetts.  She was to be buried in Hesston, Kansas .and we flew into Wichita between Christmas and New Years to attend the burial.  That's another story,  and rather bizarre, too.  After the burial, we had to spend New Year's Eve in Wichita at the Holiday Inn where a big New Year's Eve party was scheduled.  Naturally I wasn't in a celebratory mood.  The hotel was built around a large indoor courtyard, where dinner was served and where the later festivities would be held.  I noticed the young women were dressed to the nines, and their boyfriends?  Well, not so much.  Like maybe in the best bowling shirt.  Not a sport coat in sight.  I thought this was something unique to Wichita, until over the years, I realized this odd mismatch in couples' dress was nearly universal.  The gals dress up and the guys dress down.  

Our plane took off in an ice storm the next morning and that was the last time I was in Wichita, still in some weird way the big city.  A child's eye is an unblinking eye. 

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