Mary Ann Bickerdyke, Panhandle Railroad Museum

(Frank Chaffin) Today on Around Kansas our first story is about Mary Ann Bickerdyke, also known as Mother Bickerdyke, a colorful and resourceful Civil War nurse. Next see why you need to put the Panhandle Railroad Museum in Wellington on your list of places to visit; and then meet Johnny Western, an icon in the Western music world. We’ll end with tips on how to stay cool!Closed Captioning Brought to you by Ag Promo Source. Together we grow. Learn more at

(Frank Chaffin) It’s Wednesday. I’m Frank. (Deb Goodrich) I’m Deb. (Frank) And this is Around Kansas. Thanks for joining us. (Deb) Well, I don’t sound like I’m from Kansas, do I, Frank? Can you understand me when I talk? (Frank) I understand you, sure. (Deb) Well, I think most of the people; I hope you people understand me. (Frank) Well, I’ve been around a lot of people that are from where you’re from, so I can understand you. (Deb) Well, I grew up in the south. I grew in Virginia, North Carolina, back in the hills, so I have hillbilly accent. But, Frank, all these audio devices that are supposed to automatically, like the voice mail all that stuff you can do, they never work for me. The one that is killing me lately is, because I’m on the road so much, so I’m always calling 411 for directory information. Oh my God. The other day I called, and I needed to speak to Colby Canvas, which is a company in Colby, Kansas, okay? I needed to speak to them about an order we have. I called information and got the automated deal, “What city and state, please?” “Colby, Kansas,” and they said, “What bushiness?” And I said, “Colby Canvas,” “What business, please?” And I said, “Colby Canvas in Colby, Kansas.” And they started giving me this automated list of all the businesses in Colby, Kansas, the Veterans, the VFW Hall and all kinds of random businesses in Colby. And I said, “Operator, what business in -,” and then I’m like “Oh my gosh, I’m finally– I get a living, breathing person.” Okay, here I am. I’m like, “Colby, Kansas and I need the number for Colby Canvas,” “What business?” And I said, “Colby Canvas”. I tried to spell it but she kept talking over me. I would start to spell it and she would talk over me, “What business? What business?” And I’m like, “C-A-N,” and I’m like, “V-V-V, C-A-N-V-A-S.” And after two, three minutes – I mean, I could have driven there in the time it took me to explain the number that I wanted. But that one was a little – but it’s every number I ask for, Frank. It’s the same. I have to get a talking person, because none of the automated stuff – and then it takes the real person, two or three tries, to figure it out. (Frank) I had a brother-in-law from North Carolina, and he spoke so quickly when we’re in a group we’d say, “Jim, slow down so we can understand you.” [Laughter] (Deb) We’d have the Galax Fiddlers Convention, that’s fiddler’s convention season back home, and these guys would come down from Massachusetts, and we couldn’t, honestly, this was like people from Mars and Venus or something. You couldn’t understand a word for the first hour or two, and then you started catching on. I remember Hutch was one of the guys, and I said, “Hey Hutch, how are you doing?” [Slurs] I have no idea, and I just looked at him and I said, “Okay, slow down, start over. Hi, how are you?” [Laughter] (Frank) Did you even know the one about, “Where are my car keys?” “But you’re wearing them” “No, my car keys,” “No, you’re wearing them,” “No, my car keys. You turn on the car with it.” (Deb) That’s the Boston deal. Most of the time, Dr. Jake can understand me, but there’s a few time that he’s like, “All right, all right. I don’t know what’s that all about.” (Frank) Do we have a story? I think so. (Deb) We may need a translator. That’s what I’m getting around to, so if we need a translator for this show. Of course, we do have Closed Captioning. It’s probably why people don’t have a problem, isn’t it? (Frank) Hello, Google [Laughs]. (Deb) Oh, Google. We’ll be right back; we’ve got a great show.

(Frank) I think we’ve got ourselves straightened out. Now, we’re back. (Deb) I wanted to talk about Mother Bickerdyke. Have you ever heard of Mother Bickerdyke? (Frank) No. (Deb) Well, she’s a very famous figure that, obviously, you somehow missed because your education was deficient. But Mother Bickerdyke was a Union Army nurse, so Civil War era, and beloved by the troops. She served with General Grant, and she was just a phenomenal character. But our friend Jackie Stroud portrays Mother Bickerdyke. She and Hershel are just two of the most amazing people on the planet. They travel all the time doing historic presentations. But she portrays Mother Bickerdyke on occasion. That is just a lady worth knowing. There is a site devoted to her in Kansas, since she’s got a lot of Kansas connections, and it’s somebody you should know. (Frank) That’s why you should watch the show because then you find out about people you’ve never heard about, like me. I’ve never even heard of her. (Deb) Mary Ann Bickerdyke also known as Mother Bickerdyke was a hospital administrator for Union soldiers during the American Civil War. She was born in Ohio. After the outbreak of the Civil War, she joined a field hospital at Fort Donelson. She later worked on the first hospital boat. During the war, she became Chief of Nursing under the command of General Ulysses S. Grant, and served at the Battle of Vicksburg. When his staff complained about the outspoken, insubordinate female nurse who consistently disregarded the army’s red tape and military procedures, Union Gen. William T. Sherman threw up his hands and exclaimed, “She ranks me. I can’t do a thing in the world.” Bickerdyke was a nurse who ran roughshod over anyone who stood in the way of her self-appointed duties. She was known affectionately to her “boys”, the grateful enlisted men, as “Mother” Bickerdyke. When a surgeon questioned her authority to take some action, she replied, “On the authority of Lord God Almighty, have you anything that outranks that?” Mother Bickerdyke became the best known, most colorful, and probably most resourceful Civil War nurse. Widowed two years before the war began, she supported herself and her two half-grown sons by practicing as a “botanic Physician” in Galesburg, Illinois. When a young Union volunteer physician wrote home about the filthy, chaotic military hospitals at Cairo, Illinois, Galesburg’s citizens collected $500 worth of supplies and selected Bickerdyke to deliver them, no one else would go. She stayed in Cairo as an unofficial nurse, and through her unbridled energy and dedication she organized the hospitals and gained Grant’s appreciation. Grant sanctioned her efforts, and when his army moved down the Mississippi, Bickerdyke went too, setting up hospitals where they were needed. Sherman was especially fond of this volunteer nurse who followed the western armies, and supposedly she was the only woman he would allow in his camp. By the end of the war, with the help of the U.S. Sanitary Commission, Mother Bickerdyke had built 300 hospitals and aided the wounded on 19 battlefields including the Battle of Shiloh and Sherman’s March to the Sea. After the war ended, she worked for the Salvation Army in San Francisco, and became an attorney, helping Union veterans with legal issues. She ran a hotel in Salina, Kansas for a time. She received a special pension of $25 a month from Congress in 1886, and retired to Bunker Hill, Kansas. She died peacefully after a minor stroke. A statue of her was erected in Galesburg, and a hospital boat and a liberty ship, the Mary Bickerdyke, were named after her.

(Frank) Here we are again on Around Kansas. Kansas actually has several railroads running through it, or did at one time. So there are a lot of railroaders that still live in Kansas. My dad worked for the railroad for 45 years, for Santa Fe. He was head storekeeper here in Topeka before he retired. (Deb) Oh, that’s interesting. Railroads had a tremendous impact on Kansas. (Frank) Yes, they really, really did. Anyway, there are a lot of collectors and there are a lot of collector’s items still, probably, in barns and garages and attics all over the place. The story I’m going to do is about a former Santa Fe railroad worker who also then worked for BNSF, and retired from that, and, anyway, started a museum. It’s called the Panhandle Museum, and it has a lot of, especially Santa Fe, memorabilia in it: Harvey House, Harvey Girls, lanterns, all kinds of really interesting things, if you’re into railroads. Look this up, go see it. It’s worth the time. It really is. This is Kansas Profile from Ron Wilson, Director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University. The Santa Fe Railroad. This railroad played a significant role in Kansas history. Today we’ll meet a couple who not only have amassed a remarkable collection of Santa Fe memorabilia, they have founded a museum so that others can enjoy this history. Perry and Sherry Wiley are the owners and proprietors of the Panhandle Railroad Museum in Wellington, Kansas. This museum contains a remarkable private collection of railroad memorabilia dating from the early 1900s. Perry, or P.H. Wiley as he is known, is originally from West Virginia. While stationed with the Air Force at McConnell Air Force Base near Wichita, he met and married Sherry who was born and raised at Wellington. P.H.’s business career took them to Ohio and Kentucky before they came back to Kansas. In 1977, he joined the Santa Fe Railroad, which would later become BNSF. P.H. began as a brakeman and advanced to become an engineer. He was stationed in Wellington, which was a division point on the Santa Fe Railroad. This was a headquarters for the part of the Santa Fe known as the Panhandle Division. Wellington had a Santa Fe office building as well as a roundhouse, depot, and Harvey House for travelers. In 1992, P.H. began collecting railroad souvenirs and storing them in his basement. By the time he retired in 2004, he had amassed a large collection and wanted to share it with others. The Wileys renovated an historic stone building that had been built in 1886 in Wellington. In 2005, they opened the Panhandle Railroad Museum. The museum has an amazing collection of all things Santa Fe. For example, there are plates, pens, signs, caps, lanterns, lunch boxes, staplers, padlocks, towels, pins, pens, cups, uniforms, calendars, and much more. One feature attraction is a beautiful, polished bell from a Santa Fe steam locomotive that was retired in 1952. Visitors are even allowed to ring the bell, which chimes a strong, pure tone. This bell traveled nearly one-and-a-half million miles across the Midwest. The Wileys got the bell from a man in the nearby rural community of Milan. Part of the museum is the wall of clocks. Watches and clocks were vital to the safe movement of trains before the signal system was put into place. Switch locks and keys are also vital components. Display cases exhibit a remarkable diversity of railroad souvenirs, even including Santa Fe packaged foods. In the front room of the museum over the fireplace is a fourteen-foot tall painting of a Santa Fe locomotive. In front of the painting is a velocipede. That’s not some type of insect, it is actually a human-powered transport designed like a bicycle to travel on the railroad tracks. The velocipede preceded use of the handcar. The museum has a large counter and safe from the local railway express office. The depot and Harvey House are no longer standing in Wellington, but the copper doors from the Harvey House are on display there. Also on display is an awesome image of the original Wellington depot and Harvey House, portrayed in wheat straw on black velvet by a couple of Kansas artists. There are caps and uniforms of the conductors, plus a uniform from what had been the Santa Fe marching band. At one time the railroad had its own marching band, which traveled up and down the route for various events. “That uniform might have been at the Rose Bowl,” Sherry Wiley said. Outside the museum in Sellers Park is an actual steam locomotive, donated to the city of Wellington in 1956. The Santa Fe Railroad. Yes, it played an important role in Kansas history. We commend P.H. and Sherry Wiley for making a difference by honoring this history and sharing it with others. It is helping to keep our appreciation of railroad history on track.

(Frank) Radio, that’s what I’ve been in most of my life, and so has this guy, Johnny Western, KFDI out of Wichita. (Deb) I think this segment says that he was on for 18 years, but Orin Friesen has corrected me and said it was actually 24 years. He’s a beloved figure in Wichita radio, of course. He is responsible for having brought a bunch of big name stars. He played with Gene Autry’s band for years, and then several years with Johnny Cash. Orin who is the, I don’t know, potentate, he’s a big deal down to Prairie Rose Chuckwagon said that he doubted that would exist without Johnny Western. Orin has played with him and called him his friend for years, so the iconic Johnny Western. (Michael Goehring) Johnny Western’s professional career began as a young teenager, singing and playing rhythm guitar with a collegiate singing trio. He got a job on radio at the age of thirteen, a feat publicized in Billboard as the youngest disc jockey and singer on American radio. At age sixteen, Western began performing with the Sons of the Pioneers. He made his first professional recordings in the summer of 1952 in the studio of St. Olaf College of Northfield, Minnesota. After having played a supporting role in an episode of “Have Gun, Will Travel,” Western wrote “The Ballad of Paladin” as a musical “Thank you card” to Richard Boone. This landed him a deal with Columbia records. For 18 years he was a fixture at Wichita’s country station, KFDI, and for 40 years, he performed with Johnny Cash. He played guitar on 71 singles and five albums for Columbia Records. He has performed in Madison Square Garden and the Great Wall of China. He is an inductee of the Kansas Cowboy Hall of Fame. Hear Johnny sing “The Ballad of Paladin” on Have Gun, Will Travel, airing twice daily on H & I, Heroes and Icons, weekday mornings and on MeTV weekend mornings. This classic Western features Johnny’s iconic theme song, which he wrote for CBS-TV on March 14, 1958. The show’s 225 episodes have been seen by more than 500 million people and have never been off the air, running somewhere in the world for the past 56 years. After 64 years and 4 million miles on the road, Johnny Western retired from touring at the end of 2013. He will do one or two special projects a year, as he did with the “Marty Stuart Show” for RFD-TV.

(Frank) Huh, is it hot in here or what? [Laughs]. (Deb) It is hot in here. (Frank) That’s a segway into the story that she’s going to do. (Deb) How to stay cool if you don’t have air conditioning. Honestly, when I moved to western Kansas, and Jake’s like, “We don’t have an air conditioner,” I’m like, “I will die. I will die,” but I haven’t died. When I was a kid growing up in the mountains in Virginia, we didn’t have air conditioning, and I can never remember a night we didn’t need cover, not one. (Frank) In western Kansas there’s always a wind, so if you have it – (Deb) There’s always wind. (Frank) – if you do it right. (Deb) Right, and the elevation is higher so it does cool off a lot more at night. So that does make a huge difference. Our days can be blistering, as my sunburn from a few weeks ago will exhibit, but people – I love this story because one of the things I actually stole this from Huffington Post, but it said, “Your ancestors didn’t have air conditioning and they survived.” (Frank) Yes. I hate to interrupt you, but you know the Tallgrass Prairie and the stone house that is there? (Deb) Yes. (Frank) It has natural air conditioning in there, because the basement had a cool water spring in there, and the way they built that, and with he winds, all they had to do is open certain windows and there was a cool breeze that always blew thorough there, it’s fascinating. (Deb) Well, our old house, it’s 1906 or ’16 or something farm house, and honestly, it stays petty cool, it really does. It’s pretty amazing actually, but it was built with that in mind. They weren’t’ built thinking about air conditioning. They were built to think about circulating air and all that good stuff. (Frank) Well, that goes clearly back to even Native Americans, with the Indian blankets, tight in the winter, loose in the summer. (Deb) Yes. Exactly. Where did you learn that Frank? The Huffington Post had some ideas for keeping cool without air conditioning, and some are worthy of repeating with AC or not. Keep your blinds closed. For lots of reasons. Hack a fan instead of turning on the AC. Not even an air conditioner can give off a faux sea breeze, but this simple trick can. Fill a mixing bowl with ice, or something equally cold, like an ice pack, and position it at an angle in front of a large fan, so that the air whips off the ice at an extra-chilled, extra-misty temperature. Huffington Post says its magic. So do lots of old folks in Western Kansas. Swap your sheets. Cotton breathes easier and stays cooler. And as an added bonus, buy yourself a buckwheat pillow or two. Because buckwheat hulls have a naturally occurring air space between them, they won’t hold on to your body heat like conventional pillows, even when packed together inside a pillow case. Set your ceiling fans to rotate counter-clockwise. Whether you know it or not, your ceiling fan needs to be adjusted seasonally. Set counter-clockwise in the summer at a higher speed, the fan’s airflow will create a wind-chill breeze effect that will make you and your guests “feel” cooler. Focus on the temperature in your body, not the house. If your ancestors survived without air conditioning, so can you. From sipping tasty iced drinks to applying a cold cloth to strong-pulsed areas like your neck and wrists, cooling yourself from the inside out is not a bad idea. Other tricks include being smart about your clothing choices and telling your partner you won’t be cuddling until the leaves start changing color. Turn on your exhaust fans. Again, for lots of reasons. Heatproof your bed. Go straight to the source, and put a cool-inducing Chillow under your head while you sleep. For feet, fill a hot water bottle and put it in the freezer before placing at the foot of your bed. And it sounds strange, but slightly dampening your sheets before bedtime will majorly help you chill out. Let the night air in. During the summer months, temperatures may drop during the night. If this is the case where you live, make the most of these refreshing hours by cracking the windows before you go to bed. You can even create a wind tunnel by strategically setting up your fans to force the perfect cross breeze. Just be sure to close the windows, and the blinds, before things get too hot in the morning. Ditch the incandescent lights. Start grilling. Even if you weren’t lucky enough to be born cool, you can BE cool.

(Frank) We have to go. I’m Frank. (Deb) I’m Deb. (Frank) We’ll see ya somewhere – (Frank and Deb) – Around Kansas. [Laughter]

Closed Captioning Brought to you by Ag Promo Source. Together we grow. Learn more at

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