Topeka KS. Monday March 6
Shades of Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz. We experienced a tornado warning at dinner tonight in Topeka. The sirens went off, the emergency alerts rang on all of the phones in the restaurant where we were dining. People here take tornado warnings seriously. We and the other diners boxed up our food and headed back to our Evergreen host’s basement to finish dinner. The restaurant offered to have people move into their secure area but most of us chose to leave. Three tornadoes were spotted but it seems none landed or caused any damage.
That was an exciting end to a calm day touring Topeka. It was warm (80 degrees F) and windy today, fine for walking around. The Bradford pear trees downtown were already blooming. Our travels started with the National Historic Site of Brown v Board of Education. Hopefully at least the Americans reading this blog recognize Brown. This was the historic 1954 Supreme Court decision declaring that: “We conclude that in the field of public education the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.”
This National Park Service site had one of the most powerful videos I have experienced. A young black girl is talking to a long-time friend of her grandfather and is receiving a history lesson about the roots of segregation and the battle to provide freedom for all Americans. Her expressions of amazement conveyed clearly the wonder that people actually believed in this segregation stuff.
The building is in the former Monroe Elementary School, one of four segregated elementary schools for African-Americans in Topeka. This is the school Linda Brown attended instead of the closer white only elementary school. Other rooms in the building showcased exhibits on education and the battles fought to end segregation in the U.S.; a sample kindergarten room from that time period, and the actions that followed Brown v Board of Education to implement the Supreme Court decision. Amazing that government officials thought they did not have to obey the Supreme Court decision.
Once again, this NPS unit was staffed by a friendly and knowledgable ranger. Park rangers are just one of the reasons we like NPS sites so much.
Our second stop was at the First Presbyterian Church across from the State Capitol. This church has a series of Tiffany prepared stained glass windows. Tiffany stained glass has gained its reputation because it is glass without paint,enamel, or stains. Instead, the color is produced using additives like cobalt,copper, gold, etc. Evidently, on Tiffany’s orders, the formulas to produce these colors were destroyed upon his death.
After a quick lunch, we took the 2 PM tour of the Kansas State Capitol. The guide was the husband half of our Evergreen host couple. He has been doing these tours for 18 years and part of his “Schtick” is that he sings several songs during the tour that relate to the story line. He got all of us to join him in singing the Kansas state song “Home on the Range”.
Two of his interesting stories. First, in 1893, there was a dispute between Republicans and Progressives over which party controlled the House of Representatives. The Progressives took possession of the building and locked the Republicans out. Eventually the Republicans got fed up and took a sledgehammer to the door of the chambers and got in. Eventually the matter was settled without the use of firearms which both sides possessed. Second, as we viewed a famous mural of John Brown titled Tragic Prelude by John Steuart Curry he pointed out several of the figures and which famous personages they represent.
Another in a series of impressive and beautiful state capitols. Unlike Nebraska, the Kansas capitol is constructed in the dome style. With the statue of the Indian on top, it is taller than the U.S. Capitol. One could climb the 296 steps to the dome but with my vertigo, we passed on that opportunity.
Ed and Chris. March 6. Topeka