This report has to start out with a boost for Frannie's, a restaurant in Yates Center, Kansas. We had been directed to visit Frannie's by the Ellsworth librarian, who had gone to school with Frannie.
It's a second-floor walk up catecornered from the courthouse. You can have lunch for $1.00 or a sandwich for $1.00 or a piece of pie for $1.00. Iced tea or lemonade is gratis. We had the lunch, which today was chili cheese dog with corn and a green salad, and introduced ourselves to Frannie. She was accustomed to fame, and made sure we signed the guest book.
As we carried our lunches, we noticed that all the tables were full, so we asked a grandmother, who was treating her two grandsons to lunch, if we could join them. It turned out she was a genealogy buff (she has a real problem -- her mother and father were both Smiths and she married a Brown.) She gave us the name of her sister, who had been one of the founders of the Topeka genealogical society.
Things were going so well we got two pieces of homemade pie -- one rhubarb and one custard. You just take a plate and serve yourself from the pies which are laid out on the counter. After lunch we carried our dishes to the Frannie's menu lady who was washing up behind the counter, and then walked over to the open cash register, where we paid for lunch, making change. It seemed like most of Yates Center was eating at Frannie's, walking down the stairs after lunch at Frannie's, or walking up the stairs to have lunch at Frannie's!
Our feeling is that it's worth a detour of a couple hundred miles to eat lunch at Frannie's. Plan to be there just before noon on a weekday, she's closed on the weekends. As we left, she was peeling apples for tomorrow's pies. Yates Center is sort of in-between Wichita and Topeka, and going there helps you avoid the Kansas Turnpike, which is filled with people going from Santa Fe to Minneapolis in 31 hours.
Our National Geographic guide to scenic highways suggested a route to Topeka. We drove through the Flint Hills, past lots of pasture for both cows and horses, fields of mostly corn and rolling green hills which will no doubt be brown by summer's end. The few towns were small, with a single shopping street of old buildings, some closed. A roadside sign told us that pioneers moved westward across Kansas on the old Sante Fe Trail while cattle are still being driven north (nowadays in trucks) from Texas to spend the summer munching Kansas grass.
Topeka, the State capital, is smaller than Wichita. We spent part of an afternoon at the Kansas State Historical Society Research Library learning a little more about our Kansas ancestors. It's astonishing to find how real these people are becoming, courtesy of newspaper clippings.
On our way east we drove through Leavenworth, past the massive old federal penitentiary, and the Army base with its Command and General Staff College, and its old military prison. The new Buffalo Soldiers memorial is quite impressive.
We crossed into Missouri, and went to the Truman Library in Independence. This may have been the first of the presidential libraries; it was completed in 1957. In any event, it is undergoing major renovation (just like the W.A.M.) so there were very few exhibits to view. Our impression was based primarily on the film, which was well done, and focussed on his eventful presidency -- atomic bombs, the Marshall Plan, Iron Curtain and Berlin Airlift, Korean War, firing Macarthur, and McCarthyism. We picked up a recent biography by Alonzo Hamby, which promises to be a mythless read.
In Independence are two church world headquarters across the street from one another: the Community of Christ, whose Temple has a spiral reminiscent of a chambered nautilus, and the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. In Kansas City is the headquarters of the Unity Church.
We realized we are moving east when we began exploring Kansas City, a A Kansas courthouse remarkable contrast between wealth and poverty. The east side and the downtown area of the city contain a hodge podge of older buildings, in various states of repair from satisfactory down to poor. In contrast, the area around 47th St., designed and built in the 1930s in a Spanish, Moorish architectural style, reminded us of Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. We drove down Ward Drive, past ornate old mansions, and think we spotted a home which once belonged to Tom Pendergast, Kansas City's political boss in the 1930s.
These days you can tell the trendier parts of Kansas City by the presence of fiberglass cows -- brightly painted by local artists for summer street art. The Nelson-Atkins art museum must surely rank among the major municipal art museums in the U.S. Its collections include oriental art, European paintings and decorative art, and American art, among which are some delightful paintings by Thomas Hart Benton.
It took us a little while to understand the abbreviation, "TRFY" on some street signs. At first we thought it might be turfway, reflecting the parklike atmosphere of the drives, later settled on thoroughfareway, since these roads, unlike many, seemed to get you somewhere, but finally discovered it stood for trafficway. We felt like asking some K.C. cop to "show me," but decided he / she wouldn't get the joke.
The Kansas - Missouri state line runs right through town, and it's our observation that the recent modern development has taken place on the Kansas side of the line, in cities like Overland Park. Missouri was settled 40 years before Kansas, and, unlike Kansas, was on the losing side of the War. Also, the Pendergast machine was a political phenomenon of Missouri, not Kansas.