Kansas Notable Books List, Cessna Aircraft Company, Dr. Curtis E. Munn

(Frank) Today Around Kansas starts off with this year’s annual Kansas Notable Books List. Then learn how Kansas farm boy Clyde Cessna came to create the Cessna Aircraft Company. Next find out why Kansas is almost universally synonymous with “Home” and we’ll end with the story of Dr. Curtis E. Munn, a “pioneer Doctor” in Kansas.

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(Frank Chaffin) Good morning, it’s Wednesday. I’m Frank. (Deb Goodrich) I’m Deb. (Frank) And this is Around Kansas; this is the 21st of June. Wow. (Deb) First day of summer. (Frank) Is this the day you can sit an egg on it’s end or is that the – (Deb) I think that’s spring, maybe. (Frank) Spring. Never mind. (Deb) Yes, never mind. Don’t let the facts get in the way with a good story. You can go ahead, stand an egg on and see what happens, I won’t be responsible, blame Frank of it. [Laughs] (Frank) We can always stand it on in if it’s hard-boiled. (Deb) Blame Frank if it rolls off the table and [Laughs] splashes or whatever. So, my exciting news, I got a new wheel on my wheelbarrow because the wheel went flat and Jake put one on there but it was too small so I’m always bumping into stuff when pushing buffalo chips around the yard and whatever. He calls me one day and he said, “Get the measurement off that wheelbarrow.” I’m out there and he brings home this beautiful big wheelbarrow wheel, he even puts it on for me Frank, what a man, what a man. I post this on – (Frank) It’s one bolt. [Laughs] (Deb) I put this — well, it was a little more complicated than that. I put this on Facebook that he’d got me this wheel and so, Michael can share this with you. My friend Mark Younger does a Photoshop, you remember the iconic image of the woman in Kansas pushing the wheelbarrow full of buffalo chips, she’s the pioneer woman? Well, Mark put my face in that [Laughs], so that appears on Facebook. Well, Steve Peckle back in New Jersey had just said, “Well there’s an orange wheel on sale on eBay.”, and he had posted that. So, then Steve took that iconic image and put the orange wheel on the wheelbarrow. So there’s me, the pioneer woman, pushing the wheelbarrow of buffalo chips with the orange wheel [Laughs] destined to go down in history. “What have you been doing?” [Laughter] (Deb) “Well, I’ve been pushing buffalo chips around the yard.” [Laughs] This is what my life has come to Frank. This is it. (Frank) Well, I did have a wheelbarrow a few years ago and it had balloon tire on the front, which went flat. (Deb) Now I’ve got one of those nice hard tires, it won’t go flat. I love it. (Frank) I did find one of those, yes I did and that’s what’s on there now. (Deb) It’s nice, isn’t it? (Frank) Yes, it is. (Deb) I love it. (Frank) So don’t get a balloon tire for your wheelbarrow. (Deb) No, no, your wheelbarrow, you can’t haul many buffalo chips. It will give you a flat [Laughs] in no time if you don’t have one of those hard tires. (Frank) I think we have some stories today. (Deb) We got some great stories today. (Deb) So, while I have been pushing buffalo chips around the yard, you actually live in this century, Frank so tell me about the exciting stuff going on with your app. Frank has an — I have a wheelbarrow. Frank has an app. (Frank) Well, I don’t have an app, the radio station has an app, the radio station is WREN, WREN Internet radio. Anyway, we finally got our own app and it is in your Play Store, and it works on all the Android devices and all that. You go to the Play Store and just look for WREN Oldies Radio, that’s what you need to search for, that comes up and you download it, it’s absolutely free, puts an icon on your screen and as soon as you hit that, WREN comes up and starts playing the oldies, over the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s. (Deb) That would be 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s for my friends. (Frank) Anyway, it’s pretty exciting that we finally got that app; you can also go to wrenradio.net and do the same thing. (Deb) If I figure out where my Play Store is, I didn’t even know I had a Play Store. If I figured that out while I’m pushing my wheelbarrow around the yard, I can be playing the oldies, what a great country.

(Frank) And here we are again. I see that you are holding a book. (Deb) With Buffalo Bill on the cover, how good can it get? Kansas Notable Books, the Kansas Notable Book List has come out and I at one time was honored with a Kansas Notable Book, the book that Michelle Martin and I wrote on Kansas Forts and Bases. Our friend Rod Beamer has had a Kansas Notable Book. I think Tom Averill; I think a lot of friends have Kansas Notable Books. (Frank) I don’t. (Deb) But you got an app, Frank so I don’t want to hear it. My friend Michelle Martin had seen this one and knew I had to have it and this is, of course, presenting Buffalo Bill, the man who invented the Wild West. I love this. That is one of the Kansas Notable Books this year. The book list, we’ll tell you all about it and who the recognized authors are this year but go out and find yourself a Kansas Notable Book and enjoy some summer reading. (Frank) Is this what, in most of the bookstores, of course, you can go to the State Capitol, too if you’re in Topeka and then the gift shop, I’m sure they have that. (Deb) Exactly, exactly. (Frank) Can I have this one? (Deb) No, that’s inscribed to me. Look, Frank, see Deb, it does not say Frank; it does not say Frank anywhere. (Frank) Well, I could scratch it out. (Deb) That’s right. Stay tuned. The Kansas Notable Books List is the annual recognition of 15 outstanding titles either written by Kansans or about a Kansas related topic. The Kansas Notable Book List highlights our lively contemporary writing community and encourages readers to enjoy some of the best writing of the authors among us. A committee of academics, librarians, and authors of previous Notable Books identifies quality titles from among those published the previous year, and the State Librarian makes the selection for the final List. A medal awards ceremony honors the books and their authors. Kansas Notable Books is a project of the Kansas Center for the Book, a program of the State Library. Throughout the award year, the State Library promotes and encourages the promotion of all the titles on that year’s list at literary events, and among librarians and booksellers. Ghost Sign: Poems from White Buffalo by Al Ortolani, Melissa Fite Johnson, Adam Jameson, and J.T. Knoll; Green City: How One Community Survived a Tornado and Rebuilt for a Sustainable Future by Allan Drummond; Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape and the Making of Winston Churchill by Candice Millard; Hurt People: A Novel by Cote Smith; Ioway Life: Reservation and Reform, 1837-1860by Greg Olson; The Last Wild Places of Kansas: Journeys into Hidden Landscapes by George Frazier; Lost and Gone Forever: A Novel of Scotland Yard’s Murder Squad by Alex Grecian; The Memory of Lemon: A Novel by Judith Fertig; Mike Torrez: A Baseball Biography by Jorge Iber; A Nest of Hornets by Robert Krenzel; Never Enough Flamingos by Janelle Diller; Phog: The Most Influential Man in Basketball by Scott Morrow Johnson, University of Nebraska Press; Presenting Buffalo Bill: The Man Who Invented the Wild West by Candace Fleming and The Small-Town Midwest: Resilience and Hope in the Twenty-First Century by Julianne Couch. We at Around Kansas encourage you to grab a good book, a Kansas Notable book, and do some summer reading!

(Frank) Are you going to start this one? (Deb) I can. (Frank) Okay, we’re back. [Laughter] (Deb) We’re back and I’m in the 19th century, Frank is the 20th century and beyond, he even goes to outer space. While I talk about my, everything I’ve got in this show I think is 19th century but you have a more modern story again with the aircraft industry. One of the biggest names in the industry with Clyde Cessna forever associated with Kansas. (Frank) Well, Cessna and Frederick, they were the two big pioneers in the aircraft industry in the state of Kansas. Anyway, the story about Clyde Cessna is going to surprise you at the end, I’m not going to give that away but you will be astounded by that. I don’t want to say anymore because I’ll really give it away. Cessna built his first plane, if I remember rightly now from my story since I read it, was 1910 but he left Kansas for a while, but he missed actually being involved in the everyday manufacture of aircraft. He and his wife came back to Kansas and I emphasize wife and you’ll see what I mean in the story. This is Kansas Profile from Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University. The world’s most popular airplanes. That’s one description of the planes built by the Cessna Aircraft Company, maker of more light aircraft than any company in the world. It was all started by a rural Kansas farm boy. This is today’s Kansas Profile. Clyde Cessna was born in Iowa. When he was one-year-old, his family moved to Kansas and lived on a farm near the rural community of Rago in Kingman County. Rago is unincorporated. It’s located east of the town of Spivey, population 79 people. Now, that’s rural. As a farm boy, Clyde learned to be a good mechanic and handyman. He helped area farmers with their equipment and then branched out into working on automobiles. He became an auto mechanic and then a car salesman in Enid, Oklahoma. One day in 1910, he went to Oklahoma City and saw what was called an “air circus”: An exhibition by a group of touring stunt pilots. He was so intrigued by the airplanes that he quit his job and moved to New York to take a job in aircraft construction. He learned the craft of airplane manufacturing and then moved back to Oklahoma to build his own planes. Cessna crashed on his first flight attempt but made his first successful flight in 1911, eight years after the Wright brothers at Kitty Hawk. With that flight, he became the first person to build and fly a powered aircraft in the heartland of America, between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains. Clyde Cessna tried to generate income by flying exhibitions, but money was scarce in those times. He finally moved his family back to the farm in Kansas, where the only building still standing was a barn. Believe it or not, the family moved into that barn temporarily. The family literally lived in the hayloft while Clyde worked on trying to build better airplanes. Each year he built a new and improved model. In 1916, Cessna had a unique opportunity. A Wichita car-building company named “Jones Six” invited him to build an airplane in its auto factory to publicize the company. So, Cessna came to Wichita and built a new plane with the words “Jones Six” painted on the wings in giant letters, which could be read from a thousand feet below. It was the first airplane ever built in Wichita, Kansas – the first of more than a quarter million airplanes, which would help earn Wichita the name of Air Capital. Cessna continued to build and upgrade his planes. In 1917, his plane named Comet set the U.S. national speed record of 124 miles per hour. After World War I, Cessna joined with two legendary partners: Lloyd Stearman and Walter Beech, who was also a test pilot. In 1925, they formed a company called Travel Air Manufacturing. This company became one of the nation’s leading airplane manufacturers. Two years later, Clyde Cessna set out on his own to build a high-performance, single-wing plane that could outperform the biplanes of the time. His monoplane model would be able to reach speeds of 145 miles per hour and fly more than seven hours in length, a remarkable achievement for the time. However, the Great Depression hit and the company put the business on hold. Clyde Cessna went back to the farm, but his nephew Dwayne Wallace was still working in aviation. Dwayne encouraged Mr. Cessna to restart the business and together, they did so. Clyde retired in 1936 but his nephew would continue to build the company. The company grew and changed through the years. For example, the 1956 Cessna Skyhawk would outsell every other light airplane in the world. Today, the Cessna Aircraft Company is considered one of the world’s largest makers of small aircraft. The world’s most popular airplanes. That was one description of the planes built by the Cessna Aircraft Company. And there’s more. Before revitalizing Cessna, Dwayne Wallace had been working for none other than Clyde’s former partner Walter Beech who founded his own airplane company. More to come on that story!

(Frank) We’re back again. This is Around Kansas, I’m Frank, this is Deb and we’re here every Wednesday at this time to talk to you about great things about the state of Kansas. (Deb) Well, this next story is about home and how Kansas is just synonymous with the word home. We were talking when we came in the Dillon House, this used to be a private home and I think one of the reasons that makes the Dillon House gives it such a unique ambiance is because it was a home and in making it an event center they’ve retained that feel of a home and especially now that you’ve got the portraits of Hiram and Susie Dillon here. It reminds you this was a home, it was meant to be comfortable and welcoming. What’s your idea of home, comfort, and welcome? What’s your idea of home? Where you can just go and everybody knows your name like cheers, that place where you can just go and put your feet up, and you’re welcome, and you feel a sense of relief, that you don’t have to put on that happy face or a sad face or whatever it is you do for the rest of the world, home, you can just be yourself. (Frank) Home is home. (Deb) Home is home. (Karla Jennings) Have you ever noticed how Kansas is almost universally synonymous with home? There is our state song, of course, penned by Dr. Brewster Higley with music by Dan Kelly. “Home on the Range” is one lonely, lost man’s prayer, O Give Me a Home, and simultaneously an expression of gratitude for this place he had found to call home – Kansas. Then there was Dorothy. “There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home.” Just click your heels, Dorothy!!! While she had longed for adventure, the Emerald City with its bright lights and bustling streets did not compare with the farmstead and family she had left behind. Kansas has been settled by folks seeking a new home. Exodusters longed for land and flocked to the prairies. Soldiers weary of war wanted to farm and raise crops and cows and kids and came to Kansas. Europeans, cramped and crowded, beset with unrest and oppression came to the Promised Land – Kansas. We are the very heart of America’ heartland, quintessentially American. There is even a town called Home in Kansas. Located in Marshall County, Home, or Home City, was founded in 1874 with the post office in – you guessed it – someone’s home. Home lies along Hwy 36, the Pony Express Highway and is on the Union Pacific Railroad line. How much more typically Kansas can you get? The Homestead Act is responsible for many Kansans’ staking claims and putting down roots. Of course, rail lines and fences displaced many of the peoples who already called Kansas home, if not calling it Kansas. There is almost no mention of Kansas in which the word home does not have a role. Kansas – a good place to call home.

(Frank) Back again and my co-host here is holding yet again another book. (Deb) I am out to save the world with books. I was at the Order of the Indian Wars in Denver a few weeks ago, Dr. Jake and I were out there and of course, it’s a gathering of old friends and incredible scholars one of which is Paul Hedren. Paul is retired from the National Park Service; so many worked for the National Park Service, like so many distinguished historians. The National Park Service is a great place if you’re interested in pursuing some hands-on history. It’s very competitive but that’s a place to go. Well, Paul’s new book, The Powder River: the Disastrous Opening of the Great Sioux War is a wonderful book with a lot of Kansas connections, a lot of them and one of them is right here in Topeka with Dr. Curtis Mann. The Munn name was a very well known would have been a contemporary of Hiram Price Dillon. Dr. Munn and his son, Lynn would have been contemporaries of Dillon’s. This is, I just can’t tell you enough good stuff about this book. Paul is just handsome, dapper, gentleman, just such a gentleman. Lives up in Omaha, so not too far away and it’s a really cool connection. Really cool connection. When historian Paul Hedren was researching the Great Sioux War, he found the reports of Assistant Surgeon Curtis E. Munn invaluable. Paul called Munn’s reports both “precise and vivid.” The resulting book, newly released from University of Oklahoma Press, Powder River: Disastrous Opening of the Great Sioux War is itself, precise and vivid. The most famous event of 1876, of course, is the annihilation Custer’s Command at the Little Bighorn in June. But that battle on the greasy grass was but one incident of the warfare engulfing the northern plains. The accounts are riveting, more so because of Dr. Munn’s contribution, both on the field and in recording the events. Paul shared one incident that occurred in March, following a fight and arduous travel. The “beleaguered column” reached Fort Reno, Wyoming, where men and horses were fed and warmed. Munn had been telling his wounded soldiers they would be properly tended, encouraging them through the miserable journey. The good doctor was livid to find the hospital was only a wet tent, with no stove and one cot. He went to work and within a short time procured stoves and tents and saw to it his men were comfortable. Just the sort of doctor we would all hope to have. Dr. Munn, a Harvard grad, served in the Civil War and was “a pioneer doctor” in Kansas. He was the bacteriologist for the State Board of Health, a lecturer on hygiene and sanitation at the state university, and a lecturer on bacteriology at the Kansas State Medical College. His son, Lynn, became a respected doctor in Topeka as well, and it was Lynn’s wife, Lillie Gordon Munn, who is responsible for the Munn Memorial at the entrance to Gage Park. The Munns, both doctors and their wives, rest in Historic Topeka Cemetery. For more of Dr. Munn’s accounts of the Indian Wars, find the book, Powder River, in all the usual outlets.

(Frank) We have to go. I’m Frank. (Deb) I’m Deb. (Frank) And we’ll see you somewhere – (Together) Around Kansas.

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