(Frank Chaffin) Today on Around Kansas our first item is about Topeka writer, Evie Green, who recently had a story included in the latest Chicken Soup for the Soul book. Next – did you know the first fast-food hamburger chain in the world was started right here in Kansas? Yep – White Castle! Then it’s a poem from Ron Wilson and we’ll end with a story about a plane crash in Osborne County during World War II.
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(Frank Chaffin) Good morning. It’s early in the morning, I’m Frank. (Deb Goodrich) I’m Deb. (Frank) And this is Around Kansas. Guys, we’re into May. (Deb) Did you get the May basket I sent you? (Frank) Yes, I did. Yes, I did. (Deb) [Laughs] (Frank): Anyway. (Laughs) (Deb) It was full of candy and you ate it all? (Frank) Yes. (Deb) Actually I forgot to send you one, I’m so terrible. (Frank) In case you’re wondering what we’re talking about, we started talking to– (Deb) If they have been watching at all they know exactly what we’re talking about. (Frank) Making May baskets and taking them around to your friends, [Laughs] you may just give a May basket. (Deb) That’s a pathetic custom but anyway it’s probably a good thing it died out. (Frank) [Laughs] Well, and the thing is, is that in all of this time I’ve even – I should probably Google and find out where that tradition started. (Deb) It started with pathetic people with no imaginations who made May baskets, that’s where it started, back in the hills. I don’t know but back in the – where’s the Chaffins from, the Irish or whatever that probably – (Frank) Well, from Normandy, to England to, Ireland, yes. (Deb) No telling what the Chaffins put in their May baskets, it’s probably a bottle of whisky or something. That’s probably – (Frank) Well because see, I grew up in Newton, Kansas and of course there are a lot of Russian and German descendant people in this area. My guess is it’s probably German, I don’t know but I will Google it and I will report back. (Deb) I think there was still some alcohol involved to whoever created it. (Frank) [Laughs] (Deb): You can tell my voice is– I don’t know if I’m going to last, which is going to make Frank happy if my voice gives out here. (Frank) [Laughs] What you, not being able to talk? Oh, my. (Deb) I know, not really. I’ve had this bad case of bronchitis, and laryngitis, and everything and it’s just been hard to kick. No, I’m not contagious, I had the round of antibiotics, I had the round of steroids. Me and Arnold, pump you up. (Frank) [Laughs] (Deb) Steroids are good. I always think of them as like eating plastics or something but Jake had to sit down and explain to me what they really are. They help, they help. Except, I could use some throat spray right now. (Frank) Apple cider vinegar. (Deb) Speaking of whisky, back home the cure was just white lightning for everything. (Frank) [Laughs] (Deb) Whatever it is, you– a little white lightning will fix it and it generally did because no germ could live in those conditions, it would kill everything. (Frank) As you say you grew up in the hill country. (Deb) I did. I did. (Frank) [Laughs] Folk medicine was it. (Deb) Yes. (Frank) But there’s a lot to the folk medicine. We should do a story on that sometimes. (Deb) We should. My daughter is always teasing me about having my granny doctoring degree. [Laughter] “Here, try this. Here, take this,” whatever. (Frank) [Laughs] Anyway, we do have some stories today. (Deb) We got some great stories. (Frank) Yes, we do. (Deb) It’s going to be an awesome show. (Frank) Yes, we do. (Deb) Stay with us.
(Frank) And we’re back. (Deb) Our friend Evie Green has a selection in the new Chicken Soup for the Soul book. (Frank) Oh, really? (Deb) Not the recipe but Chicken Soup for the Soul. Is that cool or what? (Frank) Yes. Yes, yes. (Deb) You know Evie from way back. You were just saying you guys were on a board together? (Frank) Yes. I think she’s been on about every board in the area but yes; we served together on the Topeka Youth Project board. I came on, she was already there. (Deb) She’s just an amazing person. I think I’ve known Evie as long as I’ve lived in Topeka. She’s just this little bitty ball of energy, just an amazing woman. I was so thrilled to see that one of her pieces has been selected for this. (Frank) She has another Chicken Soup book? (Deb) Her story has been published in a Chicken Soup book. (Frank) Okay. (Deb) Watch and learn Frank. From more than three thousand submissions, a story by Topekan Evie Green has been included in the recently released, Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Teachers. The story, “Nature’s Classroom,” was inspired by Evie’s experiences as a teacher in the Outdoor/Environmental program in Topeka’s 501 schools. The now-familiar Chicken Soup series began in 1993 with a simple idea, according to their website. “People could help each other by sharing stories about their lives. For years people had told our founders, motivational speakers Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen, inspiring stories about themselves. Jack and Mark included these stories in their talks, and their audiences repeatedly asked if they had ever been published. “That story about the boy and the puppy, is that in a book anywhere?” a parent asked Jack. “That story about the boy with the amputated leg who became a tennis star, I need to read that to my staff,” a manager told him. Jack was asked repeatedly, “Is that story in a book anywhere?” Eventually, Jack and Mark decided their audiences must be on to something, so they compiled the best 101 stories they’d been told in a book. They called it Chicken Soup for the Soul because they wanted it to soothe and provide comfort, just like their grandmothers’ cooking.” Chicken Soup for the Soul turned into one of the most popular and loved books ever published, selling 11 million copies around the world. Today, they have published more than 250 books, becoming the best-selling trade paperback book series of all time. Retired after 37 years of teaching, Evie began writing in 2001 after her neighbor dragged her to a writers group. “But I don’t write!” she protested. “Nonsense!” said her neighbor, “Everybody writes!” Sixteen years later she still attends the same writers group each week at the Topeka/Shawnee County Public Library. She has won more than 30 awards from the Kansas Authors Club. When asked if it was okay to share her age, Evie did not hesitate. She is 85 years old and believes that the company of creative people has helped keep her mind active and her own soul fed. Kudos, Evie!!!
(Frank) Here we are again, aren’t you thrilled? (Deb) Continuing with our food theme for the day with Chicken Soup, the next one is the White Castle. You know who was the biggest fan of White Castle burgers ever? (Frank) Who’s that? (Deb) Was Radio Rich. (Frank) Oh, really? (Deb) He was always talking about when he’d leave town and visit, was it St. Louis? He would get a sack of White Castle burgers. (Frank) [Laughs] Sack of White Castles, yes. Well, back in the late ’50s, ’60s Kansas seemed to be the testing ground truly for fast foods. Pizza Hut started here, Dick Hassur had one of the first Pizza Huts and it was in Topeka over on 21st Street. Of course Lacey’s McDonald’s. He had the McDonald franchises around. Also, what people really don’t know and that’s why I wanted to do the story is White Castle actually started in Wichita. (Deb) I had no idea. (Frank) Yes. (Deb) No idea. (Frank) Also, somebody that had worked for White Castle at one time named Jimmy Knight had a little restaurant on 10th street. If you’re from Topeka you know where Bobo’s is; well go east a little bit. Jimmy Knight had Jimmy Knight’s Restaurant there and really what it was is, it was, I don’t know, 8 or 10 stools and he had essentially White Castles in there. You could buy a dozen for a dollar. They were – (Deb) The good old days. (Frank) Anyway, White Castle– this is a cool story. This is a Kansas Profile, originally done by Ron Wilson, Director of the Huck Boyd National Institute, for Rural Development at Kansas State University. So the question is, what was the first fast food hamburger chain in the world, and where did it begin? You are correct if you answered White Castle in Wichita. This innovative company was begun by a man from rural Kansas. It’s today’s Kansas Profile. Walter Anderson was born in 1880. He became a short order cook. In 1916, he opened his first diner in a converted streetcar in downtown Wichita. Walt Anderson liked to experiment in the kitchen. According to legend, one day he became so frustrated with how his meatballs were sticking to the griddle that he smashed one with a spatula. With that, the flat patty was born. Anderson found that starting with a mound of fresh beef, pressing it into a flat square and poking five well-placed holes in the meat meant that he could cook the burger thoroughly without having to flip it. He also found that cooking the patty on a bed of chopped onions on the grill with the bun on top permitted all of the flavors to permeate the bun. His hamburgers were so popular that he wanted to expand to additional locations. He enlisted the help of a real estate agent named Billy Ingram. As the men got acquainted, they decided to go into business together on a hamburger restaurant. But, there was a problem. In 1906, Upton Sinclair had published a book called The Jungle, which exposed the unsanitary meat processing methods of the time. This book caused consumers to worry about the safety of hamburger. Anderson and Ingram decided on an approach to food safety, which was ahead of its time. They insisted on absolute cleanliness and transparency. They wanted to make their restaurant sparkling clean and white. They equipped their restaurant with white porcelain enamel on steel exteriors, stainless steel interiors, and employees outfitted with spotless uniforms. The kitchen was also viewable by the public so it would be clear that the food was prepared under highly sanitary conditions. For a name, they combined two words that suggested purity and solidity: White Castle. For the shape of their building, the two men were inspired by the castle-like look of the water tower in downtown Chicago so they used similar design features for their restaurant. In 1921, they built their first building on the northwest corner of First and Main in Wichita. They used Walt Anderson’s cooking style and sold the hamburgers for five cents each. The hamburgers were small and went down so easy that they would later be called “sliders.” The restaurant was so successful that it expanded to a second location in El Dorado and then beyond. In 1923 they expanded to Omaha. Before 1930, White Castle had branched into twelve major cities in the Midwest as well as New York and New Jersey. Of course, at that time there was no such thing as a fast food chain. The company had to establish centralized bakeries, meat supply plants, and warehouses to supply itself. The company’s business design of multiple locations and standardized products and menus make White Castle credited as the first fast food hamburger chain in the world. In 1933, the company made a transition in ownership. Billy Ingram bought out Walt Anderson’s interest. Ingram then moved the company’s headquarters to Columbus, Ohio so as to be more centrally located near the new restaurants that were being built in the east. White Castle continued to expand and innovate. It was the first fast food chain to reach the landmark of one billion hamburgers sold, which it did in 1961. Eventually, however, other fast food chains would outgrow White Castle. Today, White Castle has more than 400 restaurants, although none of those are in Kansas. Billy Ingram’s descendants still control the company. It all began with a small-town short order cook named Walt Anderson. He was born in the rural community of St. Mary’s, Kansas, population 2,221 people. Now, that’s rural.
(Ron Wilson) Years ago we had a bad fire here on the ranch when our daughter was little. We lost an entire machine shed and it was a traumatic experience for her. I wrote this poem about that day and its titled “You have to Cowboy Up”. Daddy what do we do my little girl said as we stared at the burning remains of our shed. The machine shed on our ranch had just gone up in flames, with the tractors and the trailers and wagons it contained. I looked at my daughter as she cradled her scared pup and said at times like these you have to Cowboy Up. You have to be strong. You have to be tough. You can’t let hard times get you down facing this stuff. When you get bucked off pick yourself up off the ground. And get back up on that horse to try another round. And if life gives you lemons you just can’t be afraid. Turn a negative into a positive and make some lemonade. Yes we’ve lost our old machine shed, but that opens up some space and we’ll be able to rebuild something better in its place. But daddy my daughter said with tear-filled eyes, think of all the work you did on the things inside. Yes, I said, as I thought of what we faced, it is a loss and there are things that just can’t be replaced. But things are still just things. They’re not the people that we love. We still have many blessings thanks to the good Lord up above. So I held my daughter close as I drained my coffee cup and said Be brave my little one, you have to Cowboy Up. Happy Trails.
(Frank) Here we are again. It’s Wednesday and this is Around Kansas. I’m Frank, she’s Deb. (Deb) I’m still Deb. (Frank) Yes, she still is. (Deb) A couple of weeks ago I celebrated my birthday as everybody in the world knows. This is what I got to do for my birthday; we went and checked out a crash site, a plane crash site. My daughter called me from Israel and she said, “Mom, enjoy visiting your crash sites that no one ever knew but that’s what you do for fun.” Von Rothenberger, a very good friend took Dr. Jake and me out in rural, and I do mean rural, Osborne County and we walked this crash site, World War II crash site. I would love to do a bunch of segments or even a book on this someday. Frank, in World War II we have dozens of crash sites all over the state of Kansas because they were training pilots so fast. This one was not a training mission, this one was a little different but the story, if you remember I did a story, I went back to Patrick County where I grew up, Patrick County, Virginia and did a story on the plane crash that killed service men, including a guy from Elmdale, Kansas, and this was chillingly similar. Had these guys been another 50 feet higher, they would have all lived, they would have never crashed. It’s just – oh, my God, it was just an incredible day. It was a wonderful day of exploring but remembering these guys just breaks your heart, the story, but God bless Von Rothenberger for sharing it with us and with all of you. On a dirt road north of Waldo, just miles from the ghost town of Covert, a pasture holds a powerful story of World War II. Von Rothenberger grew up nearby but this story had been kept quiet. Residents had in fact been ordered to keep the news quiet for the enemy would know our troop movements. As the details leaked out, Von became a man with a mission – a mission to ensure these lives were not forgotten. Now, decades later, Von shares the story. On September 22, 1943, a B-24 crashed into a hillside in southern Osborne County. It was 10:30 p.m. The plane had become separated from its squadron in a thunderstorm and the young crew, unfamiliar with the terrain, was trying to follow the maps, which apparently stopped at the county lines. They crossed the line from Russell County to Osborne County, unaware that the ground was rising. Kansas is, they likely assumed, flat. They slammed into the hillside at 250 mph. If they had pulled up 50 feet, they would have cleared the hill. Neighbors heard the crash, they saw the fire. The whole hillside caught fire. The bomber was part of the 20th Bomber Command, 34th Bomb Group, 391st Squadron. It was on a training flight from their airfield at Blythe, California to San Antonio, Texas, via Topeka, Kansas. All eleven men on board were killed: First Officer Donald L. Kidder, Instructor/pilot, Wisconsin; 1st Lt Lee Larue, California; 2nd Lt Joseph Beves, New York; 2nd Lt. Cleatus Christopher, Tennessee; 2nd Lt Howard Fischer, New York; 2nd Lt Arthur Lamker, New Jersey; First Officer Singleton Waldrop, Georgia; Sgt Marlin Chamberlain, Pennsylvania; Sgt Howard Eicher, Ohio; Sgt Bobby Sanford, Michigan; Sgt Chester Urbanowicz, New Jersey. In 2004, a monument was dedicated at the site and dozens of relatives were there to remember their loved ones and find some closure. Von continues the research, looking for family members and other pieces of the puzzle that connect these men to one another and Kansas.
(Deb) We’re done, right? [Laughs] (Frank) Well, we have to go again, I’m Frank. (Deb) I’m still Deb. (Frank) [Laughs] We’ll see you somewhere… (Frank and Deb) …Around Kansas. (Frank) [Laughs]
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