Saturday, June 25, 2016

They Walked Among Us: Sally Rand and her WWII Rodeo

They Walked Among Us: Sally Rand and her WWII Rodeo
“Here comes Junction City’s Gigantic Rodeo” The Junction City Union proclaimed on June 24 1942. To be held on June 27th and June 28th in Rathert Stadium,  the event would feature 150 rodeo stars including: John Lindsey, famous rodeo clown; Hoyt Heffner, professional bull fighter; Buff Brady, champion trick rider and roper whose exploits could be seen in films; Earl and Valdene Strauss, Hollywood stunt riders; and Alice and Margaret Greenough, sisters of Pvt. Turk Greenough and champion bronc riders. And the headliner? Sally Rand, “one of the nation’s top-ranking celebrities” and wife of arena director Turk Greenough.
                Sally Rand had gained fame as a burlesque dancer, known for her alluring fan dance.  Her presence in Junction City was met with more than a bit of excitement. She arrived by train at 4:30 in the morning with her Pekingese dog “Quannie” and stayed at the Bartell Hotel. She was offered a private residence, but preferred the downtown location as it would make planning and handling all rodeo details easier. Prior to the start of the event, Sally Rand spent many days traveling on a rodeo caravan to towns and cities within a 75-mile radius of Junction City to promote the event. While staying in town, Sally was presented with a  “key to the city” at a Junior Chamber of Commerce dinner; she also received a badge and the title of honorary Geary County Sheriff.
                The question might be asked, why was Junction City chosen for such a large, nationally advertised rodeo event?  The answer lies in Sally Rand’s personal life.  In 1941, at the start of World War II, she married Turk Greenough.  Up until the start of the war, Turk Greenough traveled the country as a national champion bronco rider performing in places like Madison Square Gardens.  He achieved the title of champion bronco buster of the world six times. During his World War II enlistment, Pvt. Turk Greenough trained at the Cavalry Replacement Training Center at Fort Riley. And it was through him, Sally and some of their friends from the rodeo circuit, that the “gigantic rodeo” was put together. It was reported in the papers on June 5, 1942 that “The famous fan dancer and her cowboy husband [were] collaborating with Junction City business men in providing the financial backing for the rodeo, being staged for the benefit of the Army Emergency Relief Fund at Fort Riley.” 
The army had several featured spots in each show, as some of the nation’s finest horsemen and horses from the Fort Riley Cavalry show performed jumping exhibitions. There were also demonstrations of a cavalry bivouac and the public was able to inspect the equipment before and after each show.
                14,000 people were estimated to have attended the two day event, with the peak crowd reaching  5,000 people on Sunday afternoon. This peak crowd was reached despite a torrential downpour which turned the grounds around Rathert Field into a sea of mud. At 75 cents for general admission and $1 for grandstand seats, this rodeo raised quite a bit to help the Army Relief Fund and, the rodeo was declared a success.
                The Geary County Historical Society is gearing up for our “Year of the Soldier” celebration in 2017. It may seem like a long way away, but we have started researching and planning for our exhibits and programs for next year. If you have any stories about your time in the army, or your time as a supporting family member of a soldier, stop into the museum. We would love to hear stories, see pictures and talk to you about loaning objects for this exciting event. Call Heather at the museum with any questions 785-238-1666.
                For a more immediate event: the museum’s Spring Valley Historic Site will be open Saturday June 25th from 10-1pm. Stop by the site to explore the historic buildings, and to see demonstrations of spinning, weaving and other pioneer handcrafts. 


Saturday, June 18, 2016

Quilts and Quilt Blocks, a Uniquely American Form of Artistic Expression

    Quilts and Quilt Blocks, a Uniquely American Form of Artistic Expression

EDITORIAL NOTE:  Today’s Museum Musings column is a re-print and was prepared by Georganne White, the former Collections Manager at the Museum.  Enjoy!
     A past donation to the Geary County Historical Museum consisted of hundreds of quilt block patterns collected from newspapers and magazines in the late Twenties, Thirties and early Forties.  On the surface, these patterns provide an index of the decade for quilting researchers.  But they also offer a glimpse of the psyche of quilters, including those from Geary County, whose creativity turned bright snippets of fabric into beautiful and useful bed coverings in the dark days of the Depression. The shortage of money and materials only enhanced the feeling of satisfaction at being able to "make do" with pieces cut from worn clothing or flour sacks and yielding such a splendid result.
     The block, the basic unit of most quilts, is “pieced” from various smaller geometric shapes similar to the pieces of a tangram puzzle with embroidery occasionally added for detail. Size wise, blocks are commonly 9 to 14 inches square but they may be rectangular, round, larger or smaller as the designer wishes. Once the pieced quilt “top” is assembled, it is positioned on a backing layer of muslin with a fluffy batting layer sandwiched between them. To prevent the batting from bunching between the top and backing layers, the quilter quilts, or stitches through all the layers.  The quilting stitches themselves can form patterns.   Fine quilting stitches, 7 or 8 to the inch, are considered a mark of exceptional skill in hand quilting. 
     Favorite block designs of the 1930s included flower and fruit baskets, the Dresden plate, and Wedding Rings--emblems of stability in an atmosphere of uncertainty.  Blocks with biblical names, such as Job’s Tears and Jacob’s Ladder indicated security was sought within the quilter’s faith.  Other block patterns such as Economy, Thrifty Wife, Clamshells and Charm enabled the quilter to make use of the smallest of scraps.   A number of blocks were designed to represent things broken, such as Broken Circle, Broken Dishes, et cetera.  It has been suggested that the Broken Crowns block referred to the removal of crowned heads from power in Europe.  Perhaps some “broken” blocks stood in for the broken economy.   Architectural and art appreciation instructors tell us that the mind likes to complete the incomplete, suggesting a fascination with the debris of broken items.  From this point, designers expanded on the puzzle aspect of block design.   Blocks such as Points and Petals, Crazy Tile, and Interlocked Squares are designs a geometry teacher would love.   
     Quilting was an activity shared with friends. When one of these friends departed the group for other places, what better way to wish her well than to give her a memory quilt?  The blocks of a memory quilt combined piecework with embroidery and were designed to remind the recipient of her quilting friends.  Each block usually contained a space where the quilter could “sign” it by embroidering her signature on the block.  Other names for this type of quilt were album, autograph, or friendship quilt.
     Star blocks were used in quilts with never-ending variation.  White stars in a quilt of blue and red bespoke patriotism then as now.  The star as part of nature was explored in patterns such as Blazing Star, Evening Star and Morning Star.  Other natural phenomena such as snowflakes, a Kansas dust storm, birds, birds’ nests, goldfish, and all manner of flora were likewise represented.  Ocean Waves and Storm at Sea blocks evoked the choppy, expanding surges of water whipped by the wind.  The natural realm, not always friendly to one’s cause, was a constant.
     For children, nursery rhymes and stories were illustrated on blocks such as Sunbonnet Sue, Overall Sam and Little Boy’s Britches.  Arrowhead, Merry-go-round, and Crow’s Nest depicted boys’ imaginary games.  Young teens often worked on quilts that represented their activities.  Several variations of the Four-H insignia made their way onto blocks, as did a pattern called Crossed Canoes.  A block called Bridge depicted the four suits of cards.  Graduation Class Ring, Fan, Grandma’s Brooch and Amethyst blocks depicted treasures a young woman might place in her hope chest.
     Rural life was well represented on quilt blocks.  Such patterns as Cups and Saucers, Churn Dash, and Cabin Windows were inspired by the rural quilter’s indoor surroundings.  In the same way, outdoor environs suggested the Fence Row, Melon Patch, and Sheep Fold blocks. 
     The hope of the Depression era quilter was expressed in blocks like Japanese
Garden, London Steps or Around the World--exotic places to see when conditions improved.  The developing aviation industry was a source of inspiration for blocks such as Airplane and Airship Propeller, a new mode of travel on which quilters might someday make their journeys.   But above all, their contentment to persevere in spite of their lot is expressed in the Spool block.  As they had taken inspiration from everything else around them, quilters also took inspiration from the tools of their trade.
Saturday June 25th will be the next time the Spring Valley Historic Site will be open and we will be having presentations on Tatting, Barn Quilts, and Butter Churning.  Please come out join us for “Homespun History” from 10am-1pm. 

Kansas Troubles Barn Quilt
Painted and loaned by Tom & Char Grelk
Photo Courtesy of The Geary County Historical Society

Friday, June 10, 2016

“Freedom: From Slavery to Celebration”

Freedom: From Slavery to Celebration”

            This year marks the 150th anniversary celebrating the freeing of slaves in America. On January 1, 1863 President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation declaring “that all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are and hence forward shall be free”. However, it took two years until word reached Texas and longer for people in other states to learn about the announcement.  General Gordon Granger, supported by nearly 2,000 troops arrived in Galveston, Texas on June 19, 1865 to make the announcement.  That day is now known as “Juneteenth”, which is a combination of two words “June” and “nineteenth”.

            After 1865 celebrations to remember this historic event took place around rivers and church grounds.  As years past, activities like rodeos, fishing, bar-b-cuing, baseball and others were added.  Favorite foods often eaten at “Juneteenth” events were strawberry soda, lamb, pork and beef.  Education and self- improvement were essential to the festivities.  Guest speakers and elders reminded people about the past in their speeches and prayers.

            During the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 60s there was a resurgence of interest in “Juneteenth” celebrations.  In 1980, Texas named it an official state holiday. 

            Prior to 1995 Junction City, Fort Riley and Manhattan communities held combined “Juneteenth” celebrations.  Al Hope, who worked in the Human Resources Department for the City of Junction City collaborated with Delilah Hamilton to establish Junction City’s own celebration.  In September 1995 plans were made to expand the concept to recognize the diversity in Junction City with an “International Day” in combination with “Juneteenth”.  However, one year later “Juneteenth” was moved back to the second Saturday in June to avoid conflict with Manhattan’s celebration.  The focus was also changed to be less on the different cultures, but more on the celebration of the freedom of African-Americans.

Al Hope left the area in 1995 and Joniece Pitts took over the leadership of organizing the “Juneteenth” celebrations in Junction City.  Joniece and others expanded the event to not only having speakers and food items available, but included an essay contest, parade, dancing, choirs singing and an essay contest to select a recipient for a St. Xavier’s and/or Junction City High School graduate to receive post high school training.

The Junction City “Juneteenth” celebrations have been held in a variety of locations.  Some of them included the 12th Street Community Center, Hammond Park, Cleary Park and most recently Heritage Park.

            During twenty-one years of celebrations held in Junction City, leaders within the Junction City Juneteenth Community Association have had events co-sponsored by the Kansas Native Plant Society and Prairie Heritage, Inc., Kansas State University Dairy Department, and the Junction City Police Department (movie night). Margy Stewart and Ron Young with Prairie Heritage, Inc. has provided other opportunities for those interested to learn more about the Tall Grass Prairie, wildflowers and star gazing at Bird Runner Wildlife Refuge on Lower McDowell Creek Road. 

This year’s sponsors include; Eagle Communications, Armed Forces Bank, The Daily Union, Advanced Call Center Technologies (ACT), New Directions, Fraternal Order of Eagles Aux. #830, Corvias Housing Group, HardStyle Teddy (Kickboxing and Martial Arts), Sunflower Bank, Central National Bank, Exchange Bank, Millennium Bank, Kaw Valley Engineering, Inc., The Grove, Screen Machine, Jack & Dicks Pawn Shop, Bayer Construction Co. Inc., Jim Clark Chevrolet, Second Missionary Baptist Church, Bruce McMillan, AIA, Architects, P.A., Bramlage Family Foundation, St. Tabitha Chapter #75 OES, Courtyard by Marriott, Candlewood Suites, Dick Edwards Auto Plaza, Open Door Community House, Walmart Store #43, Aaron's Furniture, Foster Cuts, Junction City Abstract & Title Co. Inc., and Footlocker.

            The 2016 “Juneteenth” festival in Junction City celebrates its 21st year and will be held with events and activities on three different days. on June 10th a Movie Night in the park sponsored by Junction City Police Department featuring the movie Big Hero 6 with free admission and free popcorn; on June 11th the festival at Heritage Park from 11:00 am-5:00 pm in Heritage Park with the headliner band, “The Just Us” band from Wichita, KS. Other activities include The Kansas City Marching Cobras, The First ID Band from Fort Riley, a jazz trio from Kansas State University, gospel music, praise dancers, games, bouncy houses, kickboxing demonstrations, historical displays, and more.  The main speaker is Kansas State University's Assistant Vice President of Public Safety/Chief Ronnie Grice. Admission is free.

            One hundred fifty years later, the premise of celebrating the freeing of slaves continues. It is important to remember our past, but maintaining our freedom and appreciation for others still takes work on the part of each of us. 

Donations for the Junction City Juneteenth Community Association may be gifted at the upcoming events or by mail at Junction City Juneteenth Community Association 222 Navajo Drive, Junction City, Kansas 66441.

Visit the Museum Tuesday through Sundays from 1:00 to 4:00 PM to learn more about the history of Geary County.
Dr. Ferrell Miller is a member of the Board of Directors at the Geary County Historical Society.   


The Juneteenth Committee members in the photo (from left to right)

Back row:
Shantelle Means, Secretary
Robert Bailey, Parliamentarian
Janet Bailey, Member
Deliliah Hamilton, Treasurer
Yolanda W. Phelps, Public Relations
Valerie Guy, Advertising/Marketing
Kevin Godwin, Member
Dr. Crystal J. Davis, Fundraising

Nicholas Allbritton, Member
James Sands, President

Saturday, June 4, 2016


06 04 2016

The 2016 National Biplane Fly In will take place Friday June 3rd and Saturday June 4th at Freeman Field in Junction City Kansas.  Pilots fly to Kansas from as far as Washington State and Florida to attend the National Biplane Fly In so in that spirit we look back at a few of those who made up the history of the Biplane and the organization who works tirelessly to put on this event. 
The Biplane is an early type of air craft with two pairs of wings, one above the other.  In the 1890s this configuration was adopted for some successful piloted gliders. In 1903–09 the Wright brothers' biplanes opened the era of powered flight.  The golden era of the biplane was from the end of World War I up to the beginning of World War II.  There was approximately eleven years from the Wright Brothers first take offs at Kill Devil Hill to the beginning of hostilities in Europe that ushered in WWI. 
According to the “History of the Boeing Stearman Aircraft” Lloyd Stearman was the well-known designer of the legendary Stearman biplanes, which had been in service with the first American airlines during the 1920's. Besides Sport Planes like the Model C-2 and Model 6 "Cloudboy", he designed and built the famous Model C-3 and C-4 "Speedmail", biplanes with a large compartment for mail service. The Stearman LT-1 was equipped with a luxurious, enclosed cabin for four passengers and a mail compartment, but open cockpit for the pilot (which was typical for those days)”.  The Stearman aircraft were known for being sophisticated and well-made but expensive.
Albin K. Longren, born in January of 1882 near Leonardville Kansas along with his brother Ereanius (E. J.), and his friend William Janicke, built a pusher-type biplane which was called the “Topeka I”, the first Kansas-made aircraft to actually fly.  They made history with a brief flight on September 2, 1911.  Albin Longren then continued to make his living as a Barnstormer.  Barnstorming was defined as “a form of entertainment in which stunt pilots performed tricks, either individually or in groups called flying circuses. Devised to "impress people with the skill of pilots and the sturdiness of planes", it became popular in the United States during the Roaring Twenties”.
Another set of Barnstormers were Herman and Henry Wetzig who along with their Curtiss machine made the first local flight over Fort Riley.  According to Robert N. Halsted’s “Early/Current Aviation History Junction City, Ft. Riley, Manhattan, Kansas Area,” in 1910 after the arrival of 2 Wright planes at Ft. Riley as well learning that Bud Mars had received $10,000 for a barnstorming demonstration at the State Fair the Wetzig brothers set off to purchase the Curtiss aircraft and attend flight school.  The brothers flew and performed at fairs in every town in Western Kansas as well as Texas and New Mexico when the weather turned cold.  In 1985 the Geary County Historical Society nominated Herman Wetzig posthumously for the Kansas Department of Transportation’s “Aviation Honors Award”.
According to the National Biplane Fly In website; the Flint Hills EAA Chapter 1364 are the presenters of the National Biplane Fly In. This event is held annually on the first weekend of June on Freeman Field, 3JC, Junction City, Kansas. They are one of a worldwide network of chapters of the Experimental Aircraft Association, commonly known as EAA, headquartered in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.  They have members throughout Kansas with their focus being on the communities of Manhattan, Junction City, Abilene and surrounding areas.  They are a social organization serving the Kansas Flint Hills which is made up of aviation enthusiasts, aircraft builders, and pilots who get together with like-minded people to share ideas, exchange information, encourage safety and have a lot of fun doing so.
The Geary County Historical Society looks forwarding to see the historic Biplanes and reliving Kansas aviation history.  Please join us for The National Biplane Fly In the first weekend in June on the Grass Runways of 3JC,   Freeman Field Junction City, Kansas, June 3rd and 4th, 2016

Albin K. Longren's No. 6, Model G Airplane
 Photo Courtesy of the Geary County Historical Society