Coutts Museum, Picnic, Michelle Martin

(Frank) Today Around Kansas has some great stories, starting with one about the Coutts Museum in El Dorado; some funny trivia about the filming of the movie Picnic sixty years ago; and a tribute to Michelle Martin, a living historian who was born in Michigan but came here and fell in love with Kansas. We’ll end with a poem from Ron Wilson.

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

(Frank) Well, here we are again. It’s Wednesday and this is Around Kansas. We’re at the, beginning to be world famous, Dillon House. (Deb) Exactly. (Frank) Which is of course across the street from the Capitol in Topeka. I’m Frank Chaffin and… (Deb) Deb Goodrich. Good to be with you this morning. (Frank) Well, we’re gonna talk about some things that we’re working on. There have been a whole bunch of new things added to the Historic Register, believe it or not, in Kansas. And so I’m going to be doing a little research on those and I’m probably doing some stories. Like have you ever heard of the Hermit Cave on Belfry Hill over near Council Grove? (Deb) Of course I have. Been there, done that. You’re getting into my field again here Frank. (Frank) There we go. Alright. Anyway just the name kind of sounds intriguing, so there will probably be something there. (Deb) It is. And speaking of history, I got to present the awards for the state History Day winners at Washburn University a couple of weeks ago. Great kids, doing some great projects. We may steal some of their ideas for the show. But we’ve got some great kids heading to nationals. So, it’s always so encouraging to see how exciting they are about these projects. And they work very hard and Kansas has a fantastic reputation with nationals. We’ve had a lot of national winners for History Day competition. (Frank) Ah, that’s good. And of course, the ongoing saga of the movie Picnic. And people have asked me, yea I’m watching that and why are you on that? And a lot of that is simply because it was a big deal in Kansas. (Deb) Sure. (Frank) Sixty years ago. (Deb) Yea. (Frank) There were three major Hollywood stars here. It got six Academy Award nominations. So, I’m gonna do some more stories. (Deb) Hey and it’s fun, yea. We could talk about William Holden and Kim Novak all day can’t we? June 6, I gotta give this a plug real quick, out at the National Guard Museum at Forbes Field, it’s Armed Forces Day. It’s their annual event. It’s tremendous. If there’s any way you could get to Topeka that day, by all means come. It’s a great kid friendly event. They have lots of Veteran’s ceremonies, but they’ve got displays. They’ve got cool planes and jeeps and tanks. And some fantastic exhibits. It’s a really wonderful event. I’ll be there. So hope to see you. (Frank) Now, have you heard of the Fix Homestead? I got her. OK, that’s another story (Deb) Dog gone it! (Frank)that I’m gonna be looking at. So, I think you’ll learn something there too. It’s over near a community called Bowman. Have you heard of Bowman? (Deb) Oh ya, sure. (Frank) Ok, well I knew that. (Deb) Drove by there the other day, actually. (Frank) OK, well the Fix Homestead just went on the Historic Register and so anyway, it’s a homestead that goes back to 1860 or so. It will be kind of an interesting story. (Deb) That is a beautiful area. That’s one of the scenic drives in Kansas. You know it’s designated as a scenic drive. Oh my gosh, it’s gorgeous. All those old stone homes and barns and it’s really beautiful. (Frank) Yea. OK, we’ll be back.

(Frank) OK, we’re back. We just have too much fun. We hope you do too. OK Deb, you have a lot of stuff coming up so, I’m gonna sit back and see what you got. (Deb) Well, El Dorado the Coutts Museum. Have you ever been down there to that art museum? Oh my gosh, it’s fantastic. And of course the director is our good friend, Rod Seel, from right here in Topeka. He was the perfect person to take over this fantastic museum and it’s right down there on Main Street. It’s well worth the drive and of course, El Dorado’s got some great history. I helped when Beth Cooper Meyer, my good friend was putting together ghost tours down there a few years ago. So, I got to spend quite a bit of time in El Dorado and visit with folks and go around and hear some of their ghost stories and it was just great fun. But it’s a wonderful community. And when we were at the We Can Conference, Heather and I went a couple of months ago. The folks from El Dorado, my gosh, they’ve got fantastic ideas. They love their community, they’re doing so many great things down there. I was really inspired by their presentations. (Frank) Yea, you’re right about Rod Seel. He’s quite an accomplished artist himself. (Deb) He actually is. (Frank) And talk about… and I know a lot of times he posts a lot of photography on Facebook. And it’s really beautiful stuff. (Deb) He does some amazing stuff. (Frank) Yea, he does. (Deb) Let’s see more of the Coutts Museum. El Dorado is the fabled lost city of riches, the elusive goal of centuries of searching. Funny, because those riches are hiding in plain sight in downtown El Dorado, and Rod Seel has found them. An accomplished artist and photographer himself, Rod had retired from the advertising business and had his own gallery when the opportunity to head the Coutts Museum in El Dorado presented itself. It was irresistible. After all, who can turn down countless riches? Works for the museum were purchased primarily by Warren Hall Coutts, Jr. who traveled and purchased works from all over the world. The entire museum is a memorial to his son, Warren the third, who was killed in a plane. The collection includes works from Russia, China, France, Holland, England and South America. It has been enriched also by numerous donations of art by friends of the Museum. The current artistic focus of the collection is American Art and Art of the American West, with an emphasis on Midwestern artists. Rod leads visitors through a museum that feels more like a private collector’s home with tasteful antique furnishings, some of which belonged to the Coutts family. Antique Persian rugs and artful arrangements set the mood for leisurely, relaxed browsing. Newly renovated areas are now open and there is an elevator connecting the three floors. One of the museum’s most prized possessions was purchased by Mr. Coutts in Paris. It is of Empress Josephine, remember Napoleon’s wife? This work mingles with western classics like Remington bronzes and paintings by modern artists. Turns out our riches aren’t lost after all. They are right where they have always been, in the heart of El Dorado.

(Deb) Welcome back to Around Kansas and Frank’s ongoing series on the movie Picnic. And we could do a whole documentary on the making of Picnic in Kansas, couldn’t we Frank? (Frank) Yes, we could. Newton, Kansas, kind of claims the movie more. They have Fox Theatre in downtown Newton and they do show the movie there. It used to be you could go to the website and you could click on the Fox Theatre and then it would show you actual scenes from the movie Picnic. It was actually filmed in like six different locations, but I thought it was fun to find a whole bunch of trivia about the filming of, in other words the behind the scenes. And of course, it starred William Holden and Kim Novak, actually it was one of her first starring roles. And Rosalind Russell of course who was a major Hollywood star at the time. (Deb) Sure. (Frank) The movie got six Academy Award nominations and won two of them. And so anyway it’s just kind of fun to look into some of the fun stuff that went on. Some of it wasn’t too fun because there were a lot of mosquitos and tornados and everything else. But I don’t want to steal anything away from the story. (Deb) You know, when we get through with your Picnic series, I’m gonna start a series on some of the premiers, like the movie Dodge City and I think Dark Command premiered in Lawrence, with John Wayne and all of them. So, we’re gonna do a lot more on movies that have been filmed and premiered in Kansas. (Frank) Well, there are a lot of people that are from Kansas that were in television and vaudeville and movies and on Broadway. There are a wealth of people that we can talk about too. (Deb) Let’s see some more. (Frank) OK. I’m having fun talking about the movie Picnic which was filmed 60 years ago here in the state of Kansas and near my hometown of Newton, Kansas. Another piece of trivia out of there – filming began in Salina, May 16, 1955. Nighttime crowds watched along the Smokey Hill River near an old mill as William Holden whipped a borrowed Corvette, or not a Corvette, but a convertible, with Kim Novak in the passenger seat to a stop along the river. Director Logan, a perfectionist, filmed the scene over and over again and a number of spectators and small boys often got in the way of the filming. A production member was designated assistant in charge of chasing small boys out of camera range. Other scenes filmed were Holden being chased by police around the mill and between railroad box cars. Suddenly the loud speaker blared, There’s a small boy underneath the box car. Get him out of there! When the big Holden/Novak love scene was filmed most of the crowd had gone home. Those who stayed said it was a dilly of a romance. Filming wrapped up shortly after five in the morning. By week’s end filming had moved to Hutchinson. Just more fun things about the movie Picnic filmed here in the state of Kansas.

(Frank) We’re back. And of course we’re back from the Dillon House, across from the Capitol in Topeka, Kansas. And what else have you got going on? (Deb) Well, one of my dearest friends, Michelle Martin is like myself, not a Kansas native. She came to Kansas and fell in love with it and we came together through Kansas history. She is just a remarkable person and has been a wonderful friend to me. But more importantly, she’s been a fantastic friend to Kansas history from Fort Larned to Lecompton and especially the Fort Scott area. She’s just an amazing person and I just wanted to pay a little tribute to her. (Frank) I’m having some fun with this old time baseball. I discovered it and there’s a bunch of teams all over the country and there are some teams right here in Kansas. And I mean they play under the old time rules. No gloves and they use a ball that’s a little bit bigger than the hard ball that we have today. And they even use the language of the time, which makes it interesting, because there is a striker, and not the umpire, but I can’t think of the term right now, but he says advance and I mean it’s really kind of a fun… (Deb) That’s hilarious. (Frank) So, we’re gonna show you some film of that too. (Deb) That’ll be a great series. I can’t wait for that. In the meantime, let’s see my friend Michelle. Michelle Martin is a Michigander by birth, a Kansan by choice. Rarely has Kansas history had such a champion. As a living historian, teacher, and re-enactor, Michelle takes us into a virtual time to the most turbulent decades of Kansas history. She has spent countless hours researching the lives of Kansas pioneers and reenacts many of those women. Her family claims that she suffers from multiple historical personality disorder. Her portrayals include Mahala Doyle, widowed by John Brown during the Pottawatomie Massacre, and Sarah Seelye, who pretended to be a man in order to serve in the Union Army. Michelle said the ability to study the past is sometimes not enough to satisfy my desire to know about those who came before us. By knowing what previous generations wore, what they ate, how they lived and what they thought, how they lived. When I wear 19th century clothing and work in the hot sun doing laundry for soldiers or sit on officer’s row writing letters, or when I tend wounded men after battle I feel like I know what our ancestors lived thru. This is reaching out and grabbing the past by the scruff of the neck and holding it in my hands and learning and preserving its secrets. She has taught at Pittsburg State, Fort Scott Community College, and Baker University. Michelle has authored or co-authored several books including the Prairie Table Cookbook with Bill Kurtis and Kansas Forts and Bases with Deb Goodrich. She has appeared in documentaries on countless subjects including the Bloody Benders of Cherryvale, and has portrayed the infamous Kate Bender. Most importantly, Michelle has given her heart and soul to Kansas, to preserving and sharing its rich history. She has spent thousands of hours volunteering for groups and organizations throughout the state. As the director and historian of the Little House on the Prairie Museum near Independence, Michelle oversees one of the most beloved sites in the nation. She has portrayed Caroline Ingalls on numerous occasions. On June 13, the annual Prairie Days Celebration at the Little House will mark Michelle’s last event. She is moving to Albuquerque, New Mexico, to pursue her doctorate in history. We are sad that she will be so far away but we will continue to learn from her work and research. We also know that someday she will click her heels and come home. We hope you can make to Prairie Days and let Michelle know how much her time in Kansas has meant to so many folks. Michelle, you are always a Kansan no matter where you are.

(Ron) Being thrifty is a virtue. My kids might say that I’m cheap, but of course that all depends on what the Cowboy wants to spend money on. This poem is entitled The Bargain. My wife and I went to the big city sometime back. I stopped by the western store to price some tools and tack. I need another pitchfork. But I sure said, No dice. When I saw they were charging an $18 price. That’s way too much I said, and we went on down the road, cause I thought I’d find a bargain in an ad the paper showed. Our farm paper advertised a used tool and equipment sale, where I figured I could get a bargain without fail. It was part of an auction scheduled on a Saturday soon. The equipment sold in the morning and the horse sale was at noon. So I bid on a pitch fork when we went over to the sale, and got it for $8 bucks, less than half the price retail. I was proud of myself and my wise and thrifty ways, when that auction entered into its next and final phase. The horse sale had begun and the very next thing, the most beautiful quarter horse was led into the ring. A gorgeous 15 hand gelding, his color was bay, with great breeding lines registered by HQHA. The owner gave a glowing talk about his many strengths. To have that horse I realized, I’d go to any lengths. So in spite of my wife a whispering in my ear, I raised my hand and caught the attention of the auctioneer. And then before I hardly realized just what I did, I ran her up and finally got the winning bid. I put that horse in the trailer and we drove to the home place. I didn’t like the look upon my dear wife’s face. I could tell I was seriously on my wife’s bad list. I finally said, Hon, I’m sorry. I just could not resist. I knew she was suffering buyer’s remorse, from the $4,000 dollars I’d spent on that horse. I said, I guess I’m sorry for the way I behaved, but don’t forget that pitch fork and the $10 dollars that we saved. Well it took a while, but my wife has finally forgiven me. She says I am a poster child for false economy. Happy Trails.

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

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