Saturday, May 16, 2020

Music From My Naive Pre-Teen Years

I thought it would be cool to put together a music video playlist representing songs that I listened to on the radio during my pre-teen years. Out in what most would consider isolated, open country Kansas, the radio was my main connection to the real world and to my dreams. It wasn't much of a connection to the real world, as I discovered later when I had more access to information, but the songs did drive my dreams.

I put 10 videos on the playlist just to make it short; I could have added 50. Hang on Sloopy seemed to be constantly on the radio. Windy was played on the piano at home too. I didn't know what Petula Clark looked like until I was in college but Downtown was a young boy's dream of mine. The Archies were Saturday morning cartoon viewing and records cut out from the back of cereal boxes. The last song on the playlist was actually performed in 1983 but was a cover of a song I loved in the 60s - Crimson and Clover. I chose the cover version because Joan Jett shredded the original version with her cover.

Oh, for what it's worth, the Buffalo Springfield video shows a young Neil Young on lead guitar. And a David Cassidy video - a very underrated performer/vocalist. 

This playlist and a couple of others can be viewed on my website at

Enjoy the playlist.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Nicodemus Archive Files at KU Library

Anyone who knows me knows that I have a very special affinity for Nicodemus, Kansas, now a part of the National Park Service.

For those who don’t know anything about Nicodemus,  Nicodemus represents the involvement of African Americans in America’s westward expansion. It is the oldest and only remaining Black settlement west of the Mississippi River.

The Kansas University Spencer Research Library has a large archive collection of files about Nicodemus. You can go online to see what is indexed, but to actually see the collection, one would have to go to the Spence Library.

Here is the official citation to the collection with link to the index: 
Nicodemus Historical Society Collection, Kansas Collection, RH MS 545, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas.

Here is the collection summary:
Title: Nicodemus Historical Society collections
Dates: 1880-2015
Quantity: 38 boxes + 5 oversize boxes, 6 oversize folders, 1 audio cassette

Here is the archive file’s description of Nicodemus:
History of Nicodemus, Kansas
    The town of Nicodemus in Graham County, western Kansas, was founded in 1877 by African Americans migrating primarily from Kentucky and Tennessee, before the time period of the Exodusters. The town reached its most prosperous years by 1886, with the maturation of area agricultural production. However, the community began a long decline when a rail line, built in 1888, bypassed Nicodemus, instead linking through the neighboring town of Bogue.

    The population is thought to have peaked in 1910, when the federal census reported 595 inhabitants in Graham County. By 1950, only 16 residents were counted, and the Post Office station closed in 1953.

    Nicodemus was designated a National Historic Landmark by the federal government in 1976, and became a National Historic Site operated by the National Park Service in 1996 in large part thanks to Angela Bates, a prominent citizen. The town is known for its long history, noteworthy citizens, and the Homecoming Emancipation celebration that takes place each July
I often thought about the statement by former US senator Bob Dole, who led the effort to make Nicodemus a National Historic Site in 1996. He stated in an interview about Nicodemus that there was a lot of racism aimed towards the residents of Nicodemus. I found this sad but there were at least two obvious transportation racist choices. One, the railroad was supposed to come across the Solomon into Nicodemus. The railroad workers set up a tent city that became Bogue. The railroad went through Bogue. The other obvious choice was putting in the original Highway 24.  It ran three miles to the north of Nicodemus and then veered straight south to meet the highway from Bogue, three miles west of Nicodemus. I mean they couldn’t have veered the highway straight south three (or even two) miles to the east? Of course they could have.

I’ll probably never get a chance to see this archived collection but I am glad it is available for future researchers to see and document the beginnings of Nicodemus.

Mapping Thornburg to Westmar

Me at Westmar College, 1984

When I decided to go to Westmar College in Iowa, I could tell my dad wasn’t exactly thrilled I was moving that far from home. Most of my classmates were going to much closer institutions in like Hays, Colby, Concordia, Manhattan, even Lawrence and Wichita. I think in hindsight he might have been worried too about the cost of private college versus public in-state tuition.

But Thornburg was only four miles from the state line with Nebraska, so it wasn’t like I really going a great distance in leaving Kansas. But it was still much further than going to Winfield, south of Wichita, and the home of my second choice, Southwestern College.

Well - to the gist of the blog post - there wasn’t Google Maps back then to give you options of different routes to compare time and mileage. I loved looking at maps, something I picked up from my Dad. The summer before going to Westmar, I had already tried a different couple routes: all interstate (except Thornburg to Hastings) and Highway 81 to Highway 20. Both were about six hours drive and I wasn’t a fan of going through Omaha. [Back then Interstate speed limits were double-nickel unlike today]

But I thought to myself, there’s got to be something better than Highway 81 and getting blown off the road by semis. So, I found a diagonal route - diagonal routes usually are the best way to get from point A to C by bypassing point B.  So out of curiosity I plugged my old route into Google Maps and was pleasantly surprised.

The third route choice was my route. It was 331 miles long and took 5 hours and 50 minutes to travel. That was right. Almost always about 6 hours to get back home or to get back to campus. I was pretty pleased with myself.

The number one route choice picked by Google Maps had the most miles to drive but the shortest time - that was the aforementioned interstate route. Again, Google Maps is figuring in today’s speed limit and not back then because back then - it was still about 6 hours to drive. Have to remember back then in big cities, the speed limit dipped below 55.

The number two route surprised me. In fact, if I had known that this route was both shorter and faster than my route, I would have used it. But back then, I didn’t think anything could beat a diagonal route - not true in this scenario.

So the second route option from Google Maps was to take Highway 77 straight north out Lincoln, through Fremont, and across Highway 20 to Highway 20 Business through Sioux City to Highway 75. That route never even occurred to me to being the better route. It was only six miles shorter than my route at 325 miles but it was 30 minutes faster! Wow - I would have loved that.