General Douglas MacArthur, Frontenac Bakery, From the Land of Kansas business

(Frank) Today on Around Kansas our first story is about General Douglas MacArthur, one of only five 5-Star Generals in US military history. Then you’ll almost smell fresh baked bread in our story about the Frontenac Bakery in southeast Kansas. Next meet this week’s From the Land of Kansas business, learn about two notorious criminals from the 1930’s, and 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.

(Deb) Hey, I’m Deb Bisel, coming to you today from the Fox Lofts in downtown Topeka, just over the Celtic Fox. And we want to thank Mike Fox for making this space available to us today. Beautiful historic building that they’re restored and the Celtic Fox, the restaurant is downstairs. This upstairs was the original Washburn Law School back in the day, about 100 or so years ago. And again, once more beautiful, usable space. I want to talk to you for a couple of minutes about Douglas MacArthur, one of only five, five-star generals in American history. Now few names loom larger than that of Douglas MacArthur in world history. Best known of course, for his command of the Allied Forces in the South Pacific in World War II and famously fired by Harry Truman during the Korean War, when he basically refused to follow orders. You know Truman decided to show him who was boss. He was born in 1880 in Little Rock, Arkansas. His Dad, Arthur MacArthur, was an Army officer and he was actually a Union veteran and he was serving in the west when young Douglas was born. And his Mother was determined that Douglas would be born in Virginia. So she gets on a train, heads back to Virginia where she’s from and her brothers, by the way, served in the
Confederate Army so what an interesting household that must have been, she only makes it as far as Little Rock. So Douglas MacArthur is born in Little Rock, Arkansas, on an Army base there and his Mother lied about that from time to time. Now he was destined, with that kind of background, how could he be anything other than an Army man. In 1906, he graduated from the Engineer School of Application at Washington Barracks and he briefly served as an Aide to Camp to President Theodore Roosevelt. Next he had charge of river and harbor improvements along Lake Michigan. From 1908 to 1912, the young officer taught in the Army Service School and was stationed at Fort Leavenworth. He served with the Third Battalion of Engineers there. Now while at Fort Leavenworth he actually lived in the Rookery, which of course
is the oldest building in Kansas, along with his Mama. This incredible world leader was a real Mama’s boy. And while he lived on one floor of the Rookery, Mama lived on another floor of the Rookery. And how Douglas got by with shenanigans with his Mama around I don’t know. But he did manage to have a little bit of a bachelor’s life while he was there at Fort Leavenworth. Now his Dad, really interesting man, Arthur MacArthur was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. So was Douglas. In fact they are the first Father and Son duo to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. So, the MacArthurs, what an incredible family and what an incredible Kansas connection. You know in the new Command and General Staff College there at Fort Leavenworth in Lewis and Clark Hall, as you go into the entrance there to the right is the MacArthur room. And there is this magnificent full length portrait of MacArthur hanging over the desk. One of my best memories the last time I saw the late John McWethy who was an ABC journalist, we were doing a project together, media training at Fort Leavenworth and I walk into the office to meet with him and there he is typing away on his computer with MacArthur looming over him and I just had to laugh. And he said, “Yes, it’s pretty daunting to have that big guy looking over your shoulder.” Let me know and we’ll take you up and see it some time. We’ll be right back.

(Frank) Good morning, I’m Frank Chaffin and this is Around Kansas. Today we’re gonna talk about fresh baked bread. Aaahh, there’s nothing quite like the smell of fresh baked bread. Let me tell you a little story. When I was a kid growing up in Topeka there was Butter Krust Bakery here and their home office and bakery was located just off of 10th and Kansas downtown. So, the smell of baking bread kind of permeated the whole downtown. Well, on Friday nights friends and I would go to the movies at the Jayhawk Theatre and then we would walk home, but we’d cut through the alley next to the building and the bakery where they were baking and there was a little screen door there that you could kind of peek in and you could see the cooling racks. Well, if you tapped on the door and were really nice they might give you a loaf of nice, warm bread and then off we went. Well, unfortunately Butter Krust Bread is no more and oh also, the building had this big sign on top that said “Butter Krust is good bread.” It was lighted up, you could see it all over Topeka at night. Anyway, the Butter Krust Bakery is gone but the bakery that we’re gonna talk about is still there after 100 years and it’s in Frontenac. Now Frontenac is down in the extreme southeast corner of Kansas where Joplin and Pittsburg and Baxter Springs and Frontenac are. OK. Well, back in 1900 an Italian immigrant named George Vaka came there to work in the coal fields, in the coal mines. And anyway a knee injury ended that so he happened to bring with him an old family recipe for hard crust Italian bread. So, he built a huge brick oven and began baking bread. And it must have been good because they still bake it today. OK, so George started baking the bread and it has like I say, survived since 1904, that’s when the oven was built. Well, the bakery has changed hands a few times, George had it til 1944 when he retired. But each time it has changed hands the contract specifically says that the same family recipe will be used. Well, of course today the menu has expanded some, they make bread sticks and dinner rolls and cinnamon rolls. And they also make bread crumbs that they sell to the six chicken dinner restaurants in the area that they can use in the batter for their fried chicken. That’s another story we’ll talk about sometime, the chicken dinner restaurants down there. So, anyway the baking there starts during the day about two o’clock in the afternoon when they mix all of the bread dough and then it rises and then the baking goes on through the night because the next day the bread is packaged, prepared, and delivered by none other than the owner. And the bread is available in Springfield, Missouri, and markets there, in Wichita and markets there. And of course, in markets all around the area. So, how much bread can they bake? Well, this oven is big enough that they can bake 256 loaves all at time, 256 loaves of bread. Can you imagine how that must smell around the Pittsburg area and Frontenac? Aaahhh it would be good. So again, after 100 years this bakery still exists. They still use the very same brick oven that George built back in 1904. So, the next time you’re down in southeast Kansas and in Frontenac why be sure to stop in the bakery. And also be sure to pick one of the chicken dinner restaurants and have their fried chicken cause it is fantastic. So, again, that’s our story about bread. And by the way, the Frontenac Bakery is one of the eight wonders of Kansas commerce. Wow. Commerce is great in Kansas and it’s wonderful to live here. And it’s also a great place to come and visit. So, for now this is Frank Chaffin and I’ll see you on the radio. I kind of stole that line we know, on, Saturday mornings from 11 to 2. Tune if for the oldies. See you Around Kansas.

From The Land of Kansas is a trademark program that helps Kansas businesses grow, produce, process or manufacture Kansas products. Let’s meet Grannie’s Homemade Mustard. Located in Hillsboro, this Kansas business started when Ludia Hein’s doctor recommended she quit her job as a cook due to problems with her back and feet. Her son Eugene suggested she whip up a quick batch of her homemade mustard to sell for some extra income at arts and crafts fairs – and it was a huge success! Soon orders started coming in from places as far away as New York City and California. Grannie’s Homemade Mustard has seven delicious flavors to choose from including Hickory, Honey Mustard, Horseradish, Jalapeño, Old Smokee, Sweet and Tangy and now also Chipotle. For more information, recipes and to find the stores
that offer Grannie’s Homemade Mustard, visit

(Deb) Welcome back to Around Kansas. I’m Deb Bisel. You know the 1920’s and 30’s in America were exciting and tragic times. Prohibition, bootlegging, organized crime, the rise of the Federal law enforcement agencies like the FBI and the Treasury Bureau. Some of our most notorious and colorful criminals come from that era. Folks like Bonnie and Clyde, Pretty Boy Floyd, John Dillinger and Benny and Stella Dickson. In 1938, this lovely, young couple from Topeka were number one and number two on the FBI’s Most
Wanted List. In a 2001 Topeka Capital article, my good friend Steve Fry referred to Stella as drop dead gorgeous. Most folks would agree with him. They would also agree that Benny was a handsome and promising young man with everything in the world going for him. Instead, a couple of teenage crimes landed him in the reformatory and he came out a hardened criminal. Benny’s Dad was a respected teacher at Topeka High where Benny had been a student before his young crime spree. Instead of going on to college, he graduated to adult crime. And while he was paroled on a conviction for bank robbery, he punched out a driver’s license examiner in Topeka. Now Stella was only 15 when she met and married Benny. And that began their life of crime. One of the most interesting of their exploits occurred on Thanksgiving in Topeka, Thanksgiving Day 1938. And I’m just going to describe this as Steve Fry described it in the Capital Journal Article. Eight officers from the Topeka Police Department, Shawnee County Sheriff’s Department and Kansas Highway Patrol, filtered into nearby cabins where Benny and Stella were staying over in North Topeka. They were waiting for the two to show themselves. When Benny came out carrying two suitcases, Topeka Police Detective Bill Dowling told him to throw up his hands, according to Joe Zimmer. Joe Zimmer was a local historian who passed away last year and he was the retired Assistant Police Chief when Steve interviewed him. Benny just looked around and grinned said Joe. He set down
the suitcases and instantly dashed in there and started that Pontiac and revved it up. There was a momentary lapse, then the officers poured gunfire into the car. Officers fired 48 shots, grazing Benny on the head, perforating his clothes and riddling the car as Benny drove it from the motel according to news articles. Meanwhile Estelle simply escaped on foot. They were so concentrated on Benny that Estelle just disappeared said Joe, who became a police officer in 1950 and spent 35 years as an officer. I knew Mr. Zimmer and had the pleasure to visit with him about Benny and Stella a couple of times myself. Now Benny died in a hail of gunfire in 1939. Stella went to prison and after a few years in prison she came back to the Kansas City area where she clerked in a grocery store. Had a pretty sad life actually. She got married a couple of times but never had a love like she had loved Benny. My good friend Michelle Martin, who’s been my co-author on a couple of projects we’ve worked on a lot of things together, actually dressed up as Stella one time. And my good friend Randy Austin dressed up like Benny for an affair in Topeka. And Michelle got interested and did a lot of research and found out that of all people, Stella was pardoned by President Nixon. Can you make that stuff up? And Nixon actually commented that Stella should have been pardoned a lot earlier because she was obviously very young and under Benny’s influence when she had committed these crimes. And Stella was also a crack shot. A witness who was called to testify against her, a police officer, commented that Stella who was shooting back at a police car and shot out all four tires, was such a crack shot that she was not intending to kill them. If she’d been intending to kill them, she would have done so. But no, she intended to shoot out the tires, so they wouldn’t follow ’em. And he wound up being a witness kind of in her favor when it all shook out. Just one more colorful story from Kansas. We’ll be right back.

(Ron) Howdy folks, I’m Ron Wilson, Poet Lariat. There is one element of Kansas life which is found in the stereotypes that people have about the state of Kansas. And there is an element of truth to it folks. I’m talking about wind. This poem is entitled, “Blowing in the Wind.” The railroad train stopped at a station out west, out stepped a city dude in bowler hat and fancy vest. The wind was a howling as Kansas’ winds sometimes do. And off went his hat as one particular gust blew. This wind is just horrific the easterner said, is it always like this, he wondered with dread? So he looked around and what caught his eye was a Kansas cowboy who was waiting nearby. He approached the cowboy saying, young man I say, does the wind
clear out here always blow this way? Nope, said the cowboy. Thank goodness, said the dude. But his relief was short lived, with the comment that ensued. For the cowboy offered this further correction, you see out here the wind blows half the time in the other direction. Happy Trails.

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

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