Gunsmoke, Shunganunga boulder, Esther Luttrell

First we’ll hear about upcoming around Kansas episodes and then take a behind-the-scenes look at Gunsmoke, the TV show that made Dodge City come alive for viewers in the 1950’s. Next we learn about the Shunganunga boulder in Lawrence and then Deb tells us about her good friend Esther Luttrell, an author who wrote a book featuring a character based on Deb!

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(Frank) Hey good morning it’s Around Kansas. I’m Frank Chaffin and… (Deb) I’m Deb Goodrich Bisel. (Frank) And we’re broadcasting from our studio in the historic Dillon House which is right across from the State Capitol in Topeka, Kansas. (Frank) Now, I’m gonna talk some of the things that are gonna be coming up that I’m gonna be doing and then I’m gonna turn it over to Deb because she has something really unique that she wants to tell you about. And it really is cool. I mean in some of the coming weeks, I’m gonna be doing a story on a coffee shop that doesn’t have any roof, that’s kind of interesting, the Wolf Hotel which is under renovation and then what they found in the basement. No, it’s not spooky but it is really pretty neat. And then I’m gonna be talking about the oldest running movie theatre in the State of Kansas and then I’m gonna go to a candy shop. So anyway, there are a lot of other things that we’re gonna be doing, but that’s some of the stuff coming up. So, now Deb tell us about what you’re going to be doing. (Deb) Speaking of the oldest running theatre, today is my birthday. (Frank) Oh, happy birthday. (Deb) Not quite as much drama as the theatre, but pretty close. (Frank) Well happy birthday. (Deb) Thank you. I didn’t get a card from you Frank. (Frank) Eeeh, well it’s in the mail. (Deb) Of course it is. So, what Frank was referring to, I’ve got a really big shindig coming up in Oklahoma City that I’m just thrilled to be attending, the Road to Valhalla, the documentary by Ken Spurgeon and Lone Chimney Films won the best documentary award in the Cowboy Hall of Fame in Western Heritage Center. Thank you Vanna for holding that up for me. Really big honor for Ken and Lone Chimney Films. These guys have worked so hard and so long with you know, not a lot, certainly not much money coming back at ’em. And there’s not a lot of glory, there’s a lot of awfully hard work and they’ve done some… put together a tremendous project on Kansas history, so I’m just thrilled to be part of it. (Frank) OK, and so it’s a big award. (Deb) It is a big deal, it is a big deal. (Frank) And there’s gonna be some kind of famous people there? (Deb) There’s gonna be a lot of famous people. I’m hoping on Sam Elliot. You know I don’t know yet. But I’m hoping for Sam Elliot. (Frank) Well, I… (Deb) But Patrick Wayne is gonna be the MC, John Wayne’s son, so, yea, I’m gonna be in little piggy heaven down there. I just can’t wait. (Frank) OK. (Deb) So, that’s the middle of April and it’s just gonna be awesome. And I wanted to share something else, since we’re in the capital city and I know that a lot of folks, especially if you don’t live in Topeka and the only relationship you have with Topeka is to send your tax money here. I actually love living in the capital city and one good reason why was yesterday was National Guard Day at the Statehouse. So, I had my grandsons and they had tanks, and Humvees and all kinds of cool stuff. The kids had a ball. And the National Guard folks were wonderful. You know there were units from all over the state and so they were just wonderful with the kids, letting them… my grandson said, can we ask permission to go inside the tank? Not to shoot it, just to go inside. Good plan, good plan. But they were wonderful, they were wonderful. (Frank) Yeah, so anyway Around Kansas. It’s people, places, and things that make this such a really great state. Let’s take a look at what’s coming up today.

(Deb) Good morning and welcome to Around Kansas, What’s our favorite TV show in Kansas? Why sure, it’s “Gunsmoke.” It was my favorite as a kid and still is. I love watching those reruns. That’s a heavy book, so I’m gonna put it down, but I am gonna talk about it a little bit more. That heavy volume was written by my friend Ben Costello, for the 50th anniversary of “Gunsmoke,” 1955 it hit the television screen and put Dodge City, Kansas, on the map. Now the radio show, came on in 1952 with William Conrad playing the voice of Marshall Matt Dillon. And then when it went to TV, the first choice of course for Marshall Matt Dillon- John Wayne. But then he decided that honor should go to his friend, James Arness. And what a fantastic role it turned out to be for James Arness. And of course he was in that role for the entire run of the TV show. A couple of other favorites that you might remember, of course Doc Adams. Dr. Galen Adams and that was played by Milburn Stone who was a Kansas native. Milburn grew up in the town of Burton and then his first wife was from Delphos, his second wife was from Hutch. If you go to the little museum there in Delphos, Kansas, along with the little items about Grace Bedell, the little girl that wrote to Lincoln about growing a beard, you’ll find some newspaper clippings from Milburn Stone’s wedding and some items about the little church there where they got married. So, worth a little stop around town. Now the other folks who starred in “Gunsmoke,” a couple of them had pretty close connections as well. Dennis Weaver played in the first part of the series as the deputy Chester Good. He actually grew up, was raised, born and raised in Joplin, Missouri. And then went to school in Oklahoma. So, he’s just about a hometown boy. He was an amazing philanthropist, very much into the outdoors. He helped a lot of charities that helped people get outdoors. And then of course, after he was in “Gunsmoke” he went on to star in “McCloud” for several years. The western cowboy who goes to New York City to be a cop. Another one who replaced him actually on the series as the deputy was Ken Curtis. And Ken Curtis of course, played Festus Haggen. He was from LaMar, Colorado. So, he’s in and around Kansas all the time as well. Now he was an incredible singer. When you see that scraggly faced guy on “Gunsmoke” you might not realize that Festus had a beautiful singing voice. He actually replaced Frank Sinatra in the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra one time. He was one of the sons of the pioneers for several years and at one time, the Sons of the Pioneers, the foremost country and western cowboy western group. They were just the cream of the crop, the top of the food chain there. They have an incredible legacy and he was one of those voices. He was also John Ford’s son-in-law for a while. So, when you look at some of those old John Ford westerns Ken Curtis actually sings a few bars in those. So, I think it’s time to take another look at “Gunsmoke.” Look for the book, “Gunsmoke-An American Institution,” by my friend Ben Costello. It has a synopsis of all the episodes on there. It’s got lots of interviews and tons of photographs with all the folks. You’ll really enjoy that. And in the meantime just watch a few reruns. We’ll be right back.

(Frank) Good morning, I’m Frank Chaffin and this is Around Kansas. And of course Around Kansas every week we tell you stories that are about people, places and things that make Kansas a great place to live, work and play. Well anyway, there’s been somewhat of a rivalry between Topeka and Lawrence for well, since the beginning of the state. Well, here’s a story that happens to revolve around a rock, more so a boulder. It’s called the Shunganunga Boulder. Now geologists think that of course this boulder was brought south by the glaciers many thousands of years ago. Anyway, it was deposited at that confluence of the Shunganunga Creek and the Kansas River near Tecumseh. Well that also was a sacred site of the Kansa Indians. Of course the Kansa Indians are the name sakes of the state of Kansas. Anyway, when the Kansa Indians moved onto Oklahoma the rock, the boulder remained. Well in the 1920s it seems as though the city of Lawrence would liked to have had that rock in the city of Lawrence to help celebrate their 75th anniversary. However, at the same time, people in Topeka wanted the boulder to be put on the Capitol grounds and so as plans were being made, guess what? The people in Lawrence made a heist, yes they did. They got a big crane from the Santa Fe Railway and went over to Tecumseh and hefted this big boulder over to Lawrence where it is today. Now, if you’ve ever traversed the Kansas River bridge in Lawrence, it’s at the south end of the bridge. You kind of have to take a quick look now cause there are two spans of the bridge. But there sits a 23 ton boulder, its color is pink, and it is a rather large edifice that sits there. So the next time you’re in Lawrence if you traverse the Kansas River bridge the big, pink boulder is at the south end of that bridge. It weighs 23 tons and it’s 10 feet tall and you can’t miss it cause it’s a great big, pink rock there. Of course, the boulder was dedicated by the city of Lawrence in 1929 and a copper plaque was put on to the boulder to commemorate all the founding fathers of Lawrence. But anyway it has an interesting history and you do have to look pretty quickly because there are two spans of the bridge there now, but at the south end of the Kansas River bridge in Lawrence, the Shunganunga Boulder, got snatched out from the grasp of the people in Topeka and dedicated in 1929 in Lawrence, Kansas, USA. You see there are all kinds of fun things in the state of Kansas. So we hope that you’ll have fun as you traverse Around Kansas.

(Deb) Welcome back to Around Kansas. It was a great week for the mail box this week. I got just all kinds of nice surprises. The best one I think may have been the new CD from the Wood Valley Pickers, “Knocking on Your Door.” And the Wood Valley Pickers have been around northeast Kansas for quite a few years now, so this is not their first time around the block. Lots of fans in northeast Kansas. In fact, last summer 2014 June they were vote or awarded rather, the Entertainers of the Year at the Wheat Stock Festival, held every year at Ward Meade Park in downtown Topeka. This is a great CD. Wood Valley Pickers, veterans of Bluegrass and they take some Bluegrass standards and they do some country music and just lend their own unique twist to all of it. You know one of the songs I love is “Sea of Heartbreak.” Remember that old Don Gibson tune, “Sea of Heartbreak?” I’ve been wanting someone to do that for years, and these guys just knock it out of the ballpark. They do a great job on that and then “Ashoken Farewell,” beautiful fiddle tune and awesome gal fiddler on this CD. That “Ashoken Farewell” many of you remember that from the Ken Burns Civil War series. Not a traditional tune it’s… Jay Unger actually wrote that, you know within the last few decades, so it’s not from the Civil War era though a lot of people believe it’s been around forever, cause it’s just got that standard feel to it. So that’s a must have. Brand new, “Knockin on Your Door” from the Wood Valley Pickers, I think you can find that online. Okay, the other thing I look forward to every quarter is “Kansas Cowboy” and this is from our great friend Jim Gray out in Ellsworth. Awesome publication the “Kansas Cowboy” which is the official publication of the Cowboy Society, which is “cockeyed, old west band of yahoos, never sell your saddle.” That’s his motto. But this is chock full of great history. Jim is rancher and historian. So lots of anecdotes in and around Ellsworth but just a lot of tales from the cattle era of Kansas. Lots of great stuff in here. Plus he puts in a schedule. And that’s just one of the greatest things because he includes a schedule of history related, western related events, throughout Kansas – the cowboy Action Shooting Meet all kinds of cool stuff. So, he works really hard on this publication My favorite part is actually his diary, just who he’s been to see, who’s dropped in to see him, that’s my favorite part. And finally a shout out to Ken Spurgeon and Lone Chimney Films, all the folks who put together the Road to Valhalla. It was awarded the best documentary of the year by the Cowboy Hall of Fame and Heritage Society in Oklahoma City. There is an awards banquet in April and Ken Spurgeon and crew are going down to accept that prestigious award. These interviews with Ken Spurgeon and some of the other principles of the movie are archived at aroundkansas.com, so when this film was released in November of 2013, Around Kansas got some fantastic interviews- Buck Taylor, Michael Martin Murphy, Ken Spurgeon, Sean Bell, Tom Leahy, Jed Merum, who did the music. It’s a couple of great episodes so go back and watch those and drop Ken and all the folks at Lone Chimney a congratulatory note. That was really a big deal. We’re so proud of them. We’ll be right back.

(Deb) Welcome back to Around Kansas. You know what’s cooler than actually having authored a book? It’s being mentioned as a character in somebody else’s book. This is what happened to me. My good friend Esther Luttrell wrote these two books, “Yellow, Green, Blue and Dead,” and “Murder in Magenta,” obviously murder mysteries and I am a character. Or there is a character based on me, thinly disguised as Deb Goodman, radio talk show host. And my friend Esther has been involved in writing and media her entire life. She was and is a screen writer. She actually worked for MGM Studios in Hollywood for some time. When you’re watching MeTV or some of those other old reruns, she worked on a lot of those TV shows back in the day. Esther is so talented and just churns out the books like crazy. And let me tell you just a little bit about “The Murder in Magenta.” This is the plot – I am living in NOTO, which is the trendy new arts district in Topeka, the North Topeka Arts District and I have a boyfriend who is a painter. And he paints a portrait of me wearing a magenta gown. And then he is murdered and the portrait is stolen. Is that a great plot or what? So, even though I am the intended murderee, at some points in this I survive and hopefully will show up in another novel. So you can download Esther’s books; they’re available as an E-book or they’re available as a hard copy. Amazing, amazing author. She’s also written quite a bit about dealing with grief and life after death after the loss of her son especially, she was touched by the stories of other people who had encounters after their loved ones had passed away. So, she wrote a book, “Dear Dean…Love, Mom.” And that’s been re-released and it’s just a really wonderful uplifting, encouraging and heartfelt account of her struggling to deal with the grief over the loss of her son. I highly encourage it. And if you get the opportunity to hear Esther speak by all means take advantage of it. In the meantime, I gotta go make some… create some new plotlines for Esther. See ya later.

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1 Comment

  1. this is the first Around Kansas program I have watched. Great stories
    We will see you in OKC in April Deb. Thank you.

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