Museum of Also Rans

(Frank) And we’re back again. We’re in an election year. (Deb) Really!?!?! (Frank) In case you hadn’t noticed. (Deb) Who knew? Who knew? (Frank) I had the privilege of working for Alf Landon, who of course was a former Governor of Kansas back in the 1930s and had many, many conversations. He owned WREN radio. There are a lot of stories about Alf, but the one that I like is when I first met him because when I was in college I worked a very early morning shift at WREN, it was from 4 to 6 and I got to read the farm markets, cause I could read them. I had no idea what I was reading, but I sounded convincing. Anyway, one morning about 4:30 in the morning, the studio was over on 10th Street and it had an all glass front and there was this old guy knocking on the glass and pointing toward the back door. I kind of ignored him. He pounded on the glass and pointed toward the back door. I shook my head “No.” But he was insistent so I went to the back door and I said, “I’m sorry sir, but we can’t allow anyone in here this time of the day. And he said, “I own the place.” I said, “Oh, Mr. Landon, it’s you.” (Deb) What a great first impression there Frank. (Frank) Yes, I really made a first impression. He had on this old flannel shirt and these old pants and this old hat and of course, he used to get up very early in the morning and ride his horse out by the mansion. So anyway, then I knew to look for him in future times. (Deb) You know another interesting Alf Landon fact is, I did a presentation in Philadelphia to Mayor Nutter, during the Sesquicentennial Centennial of the Civil War, from the grateful citizens of Kansas for all the things that Pennsylvanians had done to help make us a free state and I talked about all the connections. I actually cheated. I called Blair Tarr at Kansas State Historical Society. He’s a Pennsylvanian. He sent me everything I needed and I put it in this beautiful letter and Governor Parkinson signed it. I presented it to Mayor Nutter. Seven of our Governor’s including the territorial period are from Pennsylvania and the last one was Alf Landon, who was born in Pennsylvania. So the connections between Pennsylvania and Kansas are tremendous. Maybe more than any other state, quite honestly. (Frank) Now, another story, a lot of people don’t know this, but everybody’s seen “The Godfather,” and of course, Marlon Brando. And Marlon Brando studied films of Alf Landon in his various ages. Brando of course put cotton in his cheeks and then would kind of talk like this and the mannerism and all of that were Alf Landon. Especially the scene where he is in the garden with his Grandson, the hat and the shirt and the pants and all that, chasing him around was Alf Landon. (Deb) Who knew? I had no idea, no idea. (Frank) Yea, true story. (Deb) And of course we talk about Alf Landon because he is one of the famous Kansans in the Gallery of Also Rans. (Frank) It’s a wall of losers. Tucked away in Norton’s First State Bank is the Museum of Also Rans, featuring portraits of the presidential losers. It is a pretty remarkable list. First up is Thomas Jefferson. Yep, he was beaten by his friend John Adams in 1796. Of course, Jefferson would go on to serve two terms himself but his picture is a great reminder that you don’t win them all. There are a couple of famous Kansans on the wall, Alf Landon and Bob Dole, both of whom our viewers will recognize. But there are others with Kansas connections as well. John C. Breckenridge was vice president under James Buchanan and had a county named in his honor when the Kansas Territory was organized. He ran against Abraham Lincoln, lost, of course, and since he then served as a general in the Confederate Army and as a cabinet member in the administration of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, he lost his Kansas county namesake as well. Breckenridge County was changed to Lyon County, honoring Union General Nathaniel Lyon in 1862. John C Fremont was ironically defeated by James Buchanan. Fremont, the great pathfinder, is credited with securing California. His military expeditions were staged from Fort Leavenworth and he crisscrossed and mapped what would become Kansas. He, too, had a county named for him in the new Territory but when Kansas became a state and lopped off the far western reaches, it cut off Fremont County. Now, there is a Fremont County, Colorado. Horace Greeley championed the free state cause of Kansas, writing many editorials on the subject and even visited Kansas where he was injured when his stagecoach overturned. Even so, he still proclaimed in his paper, the New York Tribune, “Go West Young Man!” He, too, was honored with a Kansas County name in 1873 and unlike the ill-fated Breckenridge, it stuck, and the county seat became Tribune. There are others, including Winfield Scott Hancock, famed Civil War and Indian Wars general, “Hancock the Superb,” who served in Kansas during the Plains Indian Wars and was defeated by another Civil War veteran, the ill-fated James Garfield.

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