Lil Grizz, David CorbinDavid Corbin

(Frank Chaffin) Today on Around Kansas we first meet Lil Grizz, a custom hat maker who builds hats for living history participants. Next see how David Corbin grew his Boot Scootin’ Barn into a major agritourism enterprise. Then learn about GW Carver and his early life in Kansas; and with Bastille Day approaching, we’ll end with a look at the influence of the French in Kansas!

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(Frank Chaffin) Hello, I’m Frank. (Deb Goodrich) I’m Deb. (Frank) And this is Around Kansas. So if you’ve just joined us for the first time, what this show is, it talks about the people and places and things that make Kansas a great place to live and a great place to visit. (Deb) And if you have not seen this show before, and you would like to see some of our past shows, you can visit our archive at We got a YouTube channel, do you know that? You got an app, but we got a YouTube channel, Frank. (Frank) [Laughs] Hey. (Deb) And we get a lot of views. And you can watch – we’ve got a Facebook page so you can like us on Facebook. Let us know about the things that you have going on. Share your photography because I change out or Karla Hall changes out the cover picture on our Facebook page pretty often because there’s so many talented Kansas photographers with some, oh my God, gorgeous images, and I love being able to showcase those on our Facebook page. So yes, feel free to share those. (Frank) Yes if you’ve got something that’s really interesting and unusual about where you live, let us know and we’ll be happy to do a story on it. We’ve done all kinds of stories if you’ve watched for the past several years. (Deb) No boring stuff. Don’t be sending us any boring stuff; we don’t want any boring stuff. Just all the cool stuff, fun stuff, pretty stuff, interesting stuff, it can be weird, just not boring. Good enough guideline? (Frank) I think so. (Deb) I think so. Well here we are in the middle of July, you know what that means. Christmas is almost here, Frank. (Frank) [Laughs] I know, there aren’t that many weeks left. (Deb) Oh my gosh. (Frank) Well we have to get to Halloween, you know. (Deb) No, they sort of all run together now. Yes, Halloween, the official beginning of the Christmas shopping season is Halloween or maybe Labor Day. (Frank) Get the candy out of the way, put up the Christmas stuff. (Deb) There’s Jack Skellington, what’s his name, with The Nightmare Before Christmas, how true that is. How true, it just kind of all blends together on the shelves anymore. (Frank) These years just go by way too quickly. (Deb) They do. They do. (Frank) So anyway. (Deb) It’s like my grandson one day, I forget what we were talking about exactly but history I’m sure, and he asked about somebody that lived in black and white days. [Laughter] (Deb) Says he had seen all these black and white photographs or sepia photographs and, “Grandmama, they lived in black and white days?” So I explained to him that no, their lives were lived in color just like our lives are lived in color, just the photographs didn’t show it. But – (Frank) Yes, I’ll bet film noir comes back. (Deb) Oh I’m sure it will. (Frank) Because there were certain things you could do with shadows and all that. And there are some – well – (Deb) Alfred Hitchcock. (Frank) Yes. (Deb) Yes. The things he could do. That’s right. (Frank) So. Ha, how about that. There were a lot of film noir filmed in Kansas too. (Deb) For obvious reasons? [Laughs] (Frank) We might have to do a story on that. (Deb) We will. (Frank) They came out here and thought it was in black and white until Dorothy went to Oz. (Deb) [Laughs] Exactly, exactly. Yes. Life in black and white. Stay with us.

(Frank) And we’re back. Always wanted to do that. Chet Huntley, David Brinkley, they’d swing around. We’re here for the news. (Deb) It’s the little things, people. When you get to be our age, it’s just the little thrills in life, isn’t it Frank? (Frank) People are saying, “Who’s Chet Huntley and David Brinkley?” (Deb) No, I think most of our viewers know. Yes. Now the kids in the room with them have no idea, but yes, I think most of our fans know who Chet Huntley was. (Frank) They didn’t do fake news. They did news. (Deb) They did not do fake news, that’s right. No fake news. (Frank) Anyway, you’ve got news. You’ve got a character. (Deb) Oh my God. (Frank) A character! (Deb) We got another character, Lil Grizz, and that’s his name, Lil Grizz, and he’s a hat maker of some renown, quite honestly. (Frank) If you get to know him. (Deb) You should get to know him; he has some fabulous hats and has been doing that for a long time for some pretty cool folks. I saw him at Fort Hays when Fort Hays had their 150th Anniversary, which was a spectacular event. It was phenomenal. It was just so cool. And he was one of the characters who was there. (Frank) Why don’t we get some popcorn and watch this one. (Deb) All right. Meet Lil Grizz. Have you ever wondered where all the costumes come from in those historical feature films, documentaries, and staged photos? The outfit is so important and topping it off with the right hat, well, that’s essential. Enter Lil Grizz of New Almelo, Kansas. His wife shares their story: Lil Grizz has been making hats most of his life. For the last 30 years he has crisscrossed the country building hats for living history participants and on movie sets. He is more at home in his canvas tent by his wood stove or in a bedroll thrown out under the stars than in any building. As a hat maker he must know everything so he is of course very well read and ready to hold forth on any subject from theories of cosmic design to forestry/conservation to US & world history. With a glance and touch of his fingers to your head he can make you a hat that fits perfectly and will last you the rest of your life, unless you leave it in a water-logged barrel for months or run over it with a brush hog! Lil Grizz met his mizzez on the rendezvous circuit and they were married in 2013. She works beside him building the unique sweatbands that used in their hats, learning all the steps of the trade. She handles the online/shipping end of the business. To make a hat, Lil Grizz uses time-proven methods and materials. They start with a floppy hat “blank” and soak it in very hot water. Next, they stretch it by hand over antique wooden blocks, iron it with old-fashioned flat irons and let it dry. Then a coat of stiffener is applied and the hat must dry again slowly and then be ironed again. Next the hat brim is trimmed and then Lil Grizz’s signature tight pencil curl is put in on the edge to strengthen it. An inner sweatband of their personal design and production is then hand sewn into the hat. Lastly, using a steaming kettle, the crown and brim are shaped to their final design. They can make hats to copy old photos or old favorites that have seen a better day. They can create a new one-of-a-kind hat for your personal unique rendezvous, civil war, or steampunk costume. Visit them online, or better yet, visit them in person – it’s an historic experience!

(Frank) Thought I’d start out relaxed here this time since she can’t – (Deb) If you get any more relaxed, you’re going to slide off onto the floor. (Frank) Well, I like these new chairs that we have here. These are better than those hard chairs that we – (Deb) I think Heather’s going to take them away from you Frank, you’re getting a little too comfortable over here, I think she’s probably going to – (Frank) That could be, that could be. (Deb) Yes, she’s going to see this and take them away. (Frank) You know, it’s amazing what people do with properties that they think are defunct. I’ve got a story here about such a place, and it’s at Fulton Farms. You may have heard of it because you may have gone to a party there. But at one time, it was a horse barn. (Deb) I love it. (Frank) Yes. So anyway – (Deb) Repurpose, reuse. (Frank) It was repurposed so it didn’t become a mini house. It got expanded into a place where you could have weddings, and you could have dances, and you could have all kinds of things there. It went from a dirt floor to, well, I’m not going to get ahead of the story. So you’re going to hear about Fulton Farms and how it came to be. (Deb) Wonderful. (Frank) This is Kansas Profile from Ron Wilson, Director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University. “Boot Scootin’.” The term brings to mind a fun country line dance. Today we’ll meet a rural Kansas family who began with a Boot Scootin’ Barn and grew their enterprise into a remarkable agritourism enterprise. David Corbin is the fifth generation owner of Fulton Valley Farms in Butler County. Their ancestors came from Ohio and settled here in 1863. The maternal side of the family was named Fulton – related to the Robert Fulton who invented the steamboat. A Fulton married a Corbin and the farm continued to grow. The farm is located south of Towanda, west of El Dorado, north of Augusta and east of the rural community of Benton, population 821 people. David and Betty had two sons who were active in farming and 4-H. Then came the time that his brother was getting married. The wedding was to be held in a small local church, but the reception hall was not big enough. They looked around for a venue and decided to have the wedding reception right there on the farm. The Corbins had a Quonset hut, which had been built in 1951 and used for hay storage. They figured they could clean it up and then use it for machinery storage after the wedding. The floor of the Quonset was half dirt and half concrete, so they cleaned it out and laid a new eight-inch concrete floor. Then a couple of weeks later, a lady called who was also looking for a place for a wedding reception. She asked if they could rent the Corbin’s barn and the family agreed. Today, Fulton Valley Farms has become a beautiful destination for rural weddings and more. For more information, see The Boot Scootin’ Barn became a popular place for lots of wedding fun, but that was only the beginning. We commend the Corbins for making a difference by growing this remarkable agritourism enterprise – even to include reindeer. We’ll learn about that in a future program.

(Frank) Back again. Around Kansas with Frank and Deb. (Deb) I’m Deb. (Frank) [Laughs] (Deb) So we want to wish a very happy birthday to George Washington Carver, who was born over in Missouri but had the good sense to come to Kansas when but a young man. His schooling was in Kansas and many of his experiments were in Kansas and all over Kansas. They’ve got a wonderful exhibit if you haven’t been up there in Minneapolis at the Ottawa County Museum; they have a very nice exhibit there in the museum. Tell Jettie Condray that we sent you. They’ve got a very nice, very nice display on him. He was just all over, all over Kansas. So we want to wish him a very Happy Birthday today. (Frank) Born the son of slaves on or around July 12, 1864, in Diamond Grove, Missouri, Carver and his mother were purchased by a Missouri farm couple named Carver. George, one of his sisters and his mother were kidnapped by Confederate raiders. Only George was found and returned to the Carver family. He continued to live with the Carvers after slavery was abolished. Around the age of 13 George moved to Fort Scott. He moved several more times as a teenager. While living in Olathe, Carver became acquainted with ex-slaves Ben and Lucy Seymour. There he attended school, worked in a local barbershop and helped Lucy with her laundry business. He eventually moved to Minneapolis, Kansas, with the Seymours in the summer of 1880 and finished high school. Carver was accepted into Highland Presbyterian College in northeastern Kansas. However, he was rejected upon his arrival at the school when officials discovered he was African American. Discouraged, Carver then homesteaded in western Ness County near the town of Beeler. He farmed there for a couple of years, observing and making sketches of the local flora and fauna. Friends began to refer to him as the “Plant Doctor.” He moved on to railroading and ranching jobs, living in several small southeastern Kansas towns as well as New Mexico for a brief time. Interested in many aspects of nature, Carver examined and sketched plants and animals in all the places he lived, including the Kansas towns of Paola, Olathe, and Spring Hill. By 1888 Carver’s desires to attend an institution of higher learning took him outside Kansas. He enrolled at Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa. He later transferred to the state agricultural college, Iowa State University at Ames, where he later became the first African American on faculty. Carver was working in the botany department at Iowa State when Booker T. Washington asked him to sign on at Tuskegee Institute. Carver moved to Alabama in 1896 to lead the African American college’s agriculture department. For almost 50 years he remained at Tuskegee, teaching and pursuing his scientific studies. When he died on January 5, 1943, Carver was widely recognized for his intelligence, humility and inventiveness. President Franklin D. Roosevelt called him one of the world’s most significant scientists.

(Frank) Laissez les bons temps rouler. That’s Francois en Kansas. (Deb) C’est bon, c’est bon, c’est bon. (Frank) That’s about it for my French. (Deb) For your French? (Frank) [Laughs] Well, I can say un peu. (Deb) I can too. (Frank) Parlez vous francais? (Deb) Un peu. [Laughter] (Deb) So Friday is Bastille Day, so I wanted to do a story about all the French connections that are in Kansas, and there are a lot of them. A lot of French settlers, the Billard, Sardou right here in Topeka, the Matrot Castle that we have right here in Topeka, but there are just French names all over the state. It’s just a wonderful time to think about those. We think about the Germans a lot and the Irish, but there’s still a lot of French influence here. I was in Paris one year for Bastille Day. It was super fantastic, and then I got to lead a staff ride at the Command and General Staff College for visiting French officers one year. And that was stinking awesome. It was wonderful. I knew the national anthem and I sang it, and they were just all so – (Frank) [Singing La Marseillaise] (Deb) So it was so much fun. It was so much fun. And whenever they talk, you hear stories about, “Oh, the French, they’re all chicken.” No. No. Not true. They’re some tough birds, let me tell you. Let me tell you. (Frank) Okay, laissez rouler bons temps. (Deb) Laissez les bons temps rouler. (Frank) There you go. (Deb) French Explorer Louis Jolliet first used the names Kansas and Missouri on a map. He did not visit the area himself but helped gather information for others who would come. The French first entered Kansas looking to create trade relations with the native people. The French traded guns, metal, and alcohol for furs. In great demand across Europe, fur collection from the New World made fortunes for many Frenchmen. Claude Charles du Tisne established trade with the Osage and Pawnee. It proved profitable for all sides as the French built trade relations with American Indians and intermarried with Native peoples. Eventually, the United States bought the Louisiana Purchase, which included the area of Kansas. After Kansas was established as a territory, French settlers continued to settle in the state. Ernest Valeton de Boissière, a former French army engineer envisioned a Utopian community where all would share in the responsibilities and the rewards. His Franklin County town of Silkville boomed, then failed, and he returned to France. But many others stayed, forever leaving their marks, and their names, on Kansas. We hear these words every day often without realizing their origins: Voltaire was named for Francois Marie Arouet, dit Voltaire, French writer and philosopher; Bourbon County for the French Royal Family; Louisburg was named for King Louis XIV/XVI and was originally called New St. Louis. The name was changed to Louisburg in 1870 when the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railroad was built through the town. Marquette for Father Jacques Marquette, who with Louis Joliet, found and explored the Mississippi River in 1673. Frontenac for Louis de Buade de Frontenac, Governor of New France in the late l600s. Labette for Pierre Labette, settler. La Harpe for Bernard de la Harpe, French explorer. Hugoton was named for Victor Hugo, a French author and poet, who died the year the town site was laid out. When the post office was established, it was given the name of Hugoton lest it be confused with Hugo, Colorado, which is not far away. Hugoton was founded in 1885. Belle Plaine means beautiful plain in French. “La Cygne” is French for the swan. Wild swans once nested on the Marais des Cygnes River by which La Cygne is located. Marais des Cygnes means marsh of the swans. Originally Le Loup was named Ferguson for an early day merchant. The railroad company named the station Le Loup which means the wolf in French. The French settlers heard wolves howling at night and would exclaim, Le Loup, so the town was given this name. The post office was established in 1870. Sedan, established in 1871, received its name from Sedan, France, where the Battle of Sedan was fought. Zurich was settled by French Canadians who named the town for Zurich, Switzerland. Happy Bastille Day!!!

(Frank) We’ve had too much fun. I’m Frank. (Deb) I’m Deb. Happy Bastille Day. (Frank) And we’ll see you somewhere… (Deb and Frank) …Around Kansas.

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