Beware of the Phog”! , Waterville Opera House, Georgia Neese Gray

Today on Around Kansas we’ll hear about Phog Allen, how he inspired generations and why we still say, “Beware of the Phog”! Then enjoy a tour of the Waterville Opera House, built in 1904; meet Georgia Neese Gray, the first woman Treasurer of the US, and our From the Land of Kansas business. We wrap up with a story about the Chisholm Trail and a Kansas Day poem by Ron Wilson.

Closed Captioning Brought to you by the Kansas Soybean Commission. The Soybean Checkoff Progress Powered by Kansas Farmers.

(Deb) Welcome to Around Kansas, I’m Deb Bisel, your co-host. “Beware of the Phog.” And of course we mean Phog Allen. And if you’ve ever been to the Allen Fieldhouse when the cheers and chants of the KU fans can reach upwards of 120 decibels then you know what “Beware the Phog” means and what impact that has on the opposing teams. It can scare the doodle waddle out of ’em when they’re out on the court at the Allen Field House. Well you know Phog Allen, Forrest Allen, actually played at KU before he was the coach. He played for James Naismith and he succeeded him then as the coach at KU. Phog Allen was born in Missouri. Go figure. And he and his brothers formed their own basketball team when he was just ten years old. And at that time the rules developed by Naismith allowed only one player to shoot the free throw. And for the Allen family, that was Phog. He became a student at KU in Lawrence in 1904 and in 1905 he was also playing for the Kansas City Athletic Club. It was his idea to promote the game by conducting a world championship basketball. The Kansas City team was to play the touring Buffalo, New York Germans in the Convention Hall. Each of the games was to have a different referee and Naismith did the honors for the third game. Allen, once again the designated free thrower hit 17 of his attempts and the KCAC team won the national championship. Now while Allen was playing for KU, he also coached the nearby Baker University team for three seasons, from 1905 to 1908. Now when KU coach Naismith decided to leave in 1907, even though he was only a senior Phog Allen was appointed the coach of the team. And you know what, you know who the only losing coach was in KU history was? James Naismith. So, Phog Allen who went on to a stunning record at KU really outstripped and out performed his former coach. He compiled in 50 seasons a 746 to 264 losses record. Upon his retirement he had the all time record for the most coaching wins among the college basketball coaches. Today, KU continues to honor this great coach by playing in Allen Fieldhouse and Allen was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1959. He died in 1974. Go over to KU show your sport. “Beware of the Phog.” We’ll be right back.

(Frank) Good morning I’m Frank Chaffin, this is Around Kansas. You may recall that we were going to visit opera houses all around this great state of Kansas. We started at the Jayhawk Theatre which is in restoration. Well, a lot of opera houses around the state have been restored. Some of them didn’t really have to be restored and one of those is in Waterville. Now Waterville itself was established back in 1868 and they established it because obviously it was a water stop for the railroad that went through there. And it was also named after a town in Maine, also called Waterville. Well of course, back in the 1860’s, ’70s, ’80s that’s when of course, there were many opera houses that sprung up across the state of Kansas. And that was the form of entertainment that there was at that time. Well, the Waterville Opera House was one of the more spectacular ones. And let me digress here a little bit. My wife Linda and I were part of the Dale Easton Players and we were invited to play at the Waterville Opera House a couple of times. We did the “Drunkard” once and then we took one of our musicals called “The Shaboom Boy” there. And let me tell you when we were in town, we were treated like visiting rock stars or something. And it was a fun place to play. Now, let me tell you, the opera house itself, you walk up seven and a half steps into this opera house, it’s all nice and white and when you walk in you see a wonderful ceiling in there. It’s a flocked ceiling and a huge chandelier right in the middle. And then of course, all the seating and then a big stage area. Well, the acoustics in there are wonderful because the people that built the opera house made the corners rounded in there. So, the acoustics just kind of roll all around in there. The Waterville Opera House is not one that was transformed into a movie house, it has remained an opera house for over 100 years. It was built in 1904. Yea, long time ago. Well, during the summer there are several groups that still visit there. There are a lot of traveling groups, almost like it was back between the 1860s and the 1920s. Now again, I had an aunt that traveled with the Ted North Players and played the opera house many, many years ago, long before I was born. But anyway, also in Waterville across the street from the opera house is a restored hotel, the Waterville Hotel. And it’s wonderful to walk around in there and look at the rooms the way they were and then there’s a restaurant there that has a fantastic menu. So, if you go to Waterville for a show, be sure to go over to the hotel and see it too. And then have dinner in the wonderful restaurant. You can find out more about the performance schedule. You can Google them- the Waterville Opera House. And make sure it’s Waterville, Kansas, cause other wise you’ll get Waterville, Maine, and I don’t think they have an opera house. So, anyway be sure to stop at the Waterville Opera House and again, like I say we’re going to be looking at other opera houses all around this great state of Kansas. So for now, this is Frank Chaffin saying please join me on wrenradio.net for the oldies every Saturday from 11 to 2, and until then, I’ll see you somewhere Around Kansas.

(Deb) Welcome back to Around Kansas. I’m your co-host Deb Bisel. You know when I moved to Kansas 20 some odd years ago, Joan Finney was Governor. And I believe that there was a time when every elected official that was serving me, was a woman. That really impressed me about Kansas. And you know Kansas from the very get go has expressed incredible confidence in its women. You know when they were writing the Wyandotte Constitution that became the law of Kansas while we were still a territory, women were given limited voting rights. You know that was pretty unheard of. They got to vote in school board elections and stuff like that and that was more than a lot of states in the east had allowed women to have or anywhere in the nation at that point. And you know Kansas has throughout had a lot of confidence in its women and for that reason I think they produced some pretty incredible women. One of them is Georgia Neese Clark Gray. She was the first women to become the U.S. Treasurer, the 29th U.S. Treasurer appointed by Harry Truman. And she grew up in the little town of Richland which basically was bought up when they were building Clinton Lake just outside of Lawrence. But she grew up in that little town and did she grow up aspiring to be a banker like her Daddy? Nope. She wanted to be an actress, so she headed off to New York. And you know for a little girl growing up in Kansas at the time, that might have been a more daring feat than actually becoming the Treasurer of the United States. She toured for years as a working actress. She studied for two years at Sergeants and then embarked on a ten year career performing throughout the United States with major traveling stock companies, appearing on stage with some of the leading actresses of the early 20th century, including May Robson and Pauline Frederick. She acquired a manager named George M. Clark and he became her first husband in 1929. The marriage ended in divorce in the mid-40s. She married Andrew Gray a journalist and press agent in 1953 and she never had any children. Now her stage career ended pretty abruptly in 1930 when her father became ill. And she felt obligated to come back to Kansas and take care of the business. She became his caretaker and by the time he died in 1937, you know there just weren’t many opportunities for her to go back to her career in acting. So, you know what, she just picked up politics and banking. And she was formidable. They were long time members of the Democratic party, her family were. And the Democrats being the perennial underdog in Kansas you know, that was no easy feat to be successful Democrats. She campaigned for Franklin D. Roosevelt and even though Roosevelt lost the vote in Kansas, her work for his campaign confirmed her commitment to the party. She often spoke on behalf of the Democratic candidates and considered Eleanor Roosevelt one of her friends. She began her banking career in 1935 as the assistant cashier at the Richland State Bank, founded by her father and uncle. And when she became president of the bank after her father’s death it was only one of handful of privately held banks in Kansas. She also took over the management of the town’s general store as well as other family businesses, including the grain elevator. Now, Georgia Neese Clark Gray, as Treasurer of the United States, you know got to sign the money. So, next time you’re looking through your wallet look for one of those old bills that that lady signed and just remember what an incredible legacy her appointment was. We’ll be right back.

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(Deb) Come along boys and I’ll tell you tale, I’ll tell you of my troubles on the old Chisholm Trail. How many times has that song been sung throughout Kansas? The Chisholm Trail names for Jesse Chisholm who was a part Scottish, part Cherokee, trader, interpreter, guide, businessman and occasionally even a finder of lost or kidnapped children. He traveled that trail numerous times, but the cattle that made it famous, you know they only used it a year or so before Jesse died. He died in March of 1868, barely a year after the cattle herds from Texas had begun to use his wagon trail from the North Canadian River to Wichita, Kansas. Only a few herds followed the trail while he was alive. You know, that cattle industry was so important of course, in creating a booming economy in Kansas after the Civil War was over. Those Texas Longhorns, all those cattle that had been created from just a few that the Spaniards had brought over years and years before, they were just virtually everywhere in Texas. Now Missouri, where they had been marketing those cattle, wouldn’t let ’em in any more. They had some kind of tick that carried a disease so the Missourians wouldn’t let ’em in. And that opened up an opportunity for Baxter Springs. Yes, Baxter Springs, first cow town in Kansas – Baxter Springs. They built up stock yards and corrals. They could hold 20,000 cattle at a time with plenty of grass and water. They quickly developed the same sort of reputation that a lot of those other cow towns got though, you know, one of the historical society comments was every third door was a gambling house or liquor saloon because you know all those cowboys had to unwind after several months on the trail. And there was lots of flowing liquor, card games and all sorts of other entertainment for ’em. Some of the other cow towns that sprang up of course, Abilene comes to mind first drawing herds from 1867 through 1871. Waterville a small Kansas town a little north Abilene attracted herds in ’68 and ’69. Junction City in ’69 and 1870. Meanwhile Chetopa and Coffeyville in the far southeast corner of Kansas saw the peak cattle trade in ’69. Salina and Solomon, rivals with Abilene for the cattle trade also served as cattle destinations in 1869 through ’71. And then the trade moved on. Of course, Ellsworth and Great Bend continued through the year 1875. Wichita, cattle town primarily from 1872 to 1876. But the Chisholm Trail days didn’t end in 1876 as the last great herds arrived in Wichita four years later in 1880, Caldwell became a rip snorting cow town and continued to serve that purpose through 1885. You know, there were some cases where the townfolks just asked the cow herds to just move on to some place else because they just couldn’t take it. That economic boom had a big cost when all those rowdy cowboys came into town. And of course, Dodge City that sprang up as all those herds moved to the west and the trails moved to the west. But no matter how many years it lasted, the impact and the mystique around the cowboy and those cow towns and the Chisholm Trail lingers on and man there’s a lot of Kansas history for you to explore there. Get out and see it sometime. We’ll be right back.

(Ron) Howdy, I’m Ron Wilson, Poet Lariat. The state of Kansas has great western heritage, going back to the days where the Texas drovers were moving cattle north and their entire goal was to get to Kansas. So this poem is in honor of “Kansas Day.” In Kansas, early pioneers came west to build a state. Now, we look back through all the years to pause and celebrate. Our native tribes were first we saw to bring us early fame. The Kansa Indians, known as Kaw gave us our very name. Then cowboys drove wild cattle north to meet the Kansas rails. And brave explorers ventured forth to blaze the westward trails. Brave men and women joined the quest in search of visions grand. Their destiny made manifest was found in Kansas land. Then forts and farms and towns were built, with home and school and church. As bleeding Kansas, blood was spilt in freedom’s vital search. Amelia Earhart was born to fly, our state spawned aviation, became an energy supply and bread basket of the nation. Dwight Eisenhower and Bob Dole took up the call to serve. Our soldiers still fulfill that role, our values to preserve. The spirit of the pioneer still lives on in our days. In caring for our neighbors here and research for new ways. So in this time of Kansas Day, we thank those pioneers and ask for strength to guide our way, to our time’s new frontiers. Happy Trails.

Closed Captioning Brought to you by the Kansas Soybean Commission. The Soybean Checkoff, Progress Powered by Kansas Farmers.

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