Electronically Serving Monterey Park, Alhambra, San Gabriel, & Rosemead



This is the second in a series of articles about touring the state of Kansas


By Charles N. Stevens

Photos by Dolores Seidman

At breakfast I thought I was back in the army again. The dining hall was full of army officers, all wearing gray camouflage fatigues. Most were high ranking officers here at Fort Leavenworth for classes in advanced training. Most interesting to me was that their rank was not prominently displayed—no shiny bars or insignia. I spoke to a Lieutenant Colonel who showed his rank, indicated by a tiny patch located just below the center of his chest. It seemed as though they were trying to deemphasize rank, with all levels eating and studying together.

We leave Fort Leavenworth in the morning under gray skies, lower clouds racing out of the north. We take US 73, a two-lane road that loops over rolling hills, farms and forests, a landscape I never tire of seeing. The farm houses are all neat and clean with well-kept yards, especially their vast lawns that are as smooth as golf courses. We pass occasional lakes set in emerald hills. I love sitting back and letting the scenes pass by—black cows grazing in a green field, scattered hay bales thrown like dice on a cut field, acres of soy beans tossing in the breeze. We are truly getting a good look at America’s heartland. The bus driver uses his windshield wipers as we pass through a light shower.

We drive through more hilly areas that negate the idea that Kansas is totally flat. One sign warns us to look out for deer. As we move on we catch a glimpse of the Topeka skyline, still off to our left. On the outskirts, we roll by the Goodyear Tire Plant where hundreds of completed truck tires are stacked outside. Nearby are towering rows of silos where the Cargill Company stores its grain.

As we merge onto Highway 24, the land becomes flatter and is occupied by cornfields, their brittle brown stalks tossing in the wind. A light rain dims the landscape as we pass through small towns like Silver Lake, Rossville and Bellevue, places we had never heard of before. More metal silos reach for the dull sky as we pass through these towns.

Late morning we arrive at Wamego at the Oz Museum, our first destination of the day, the temperature only 46 degrees. We stand on the main street of a town that looks as though it has seen better days. Behind what looks like a common storefront are extensive displays concerning The Wizard of Oz and its author, L. Frank Baum. All the exhibits are first class, including the many books of Frank Baum, the making of The Wizard of Oz movie and manikins of the characters in the film—the lion, tin man and straw man. There are dolls, dioramas, informative documentaries flickering on television screens as well as the continuous showing of the motion picture classic. All the books and exhibits belong to the man who collected them all. Most interesting to me was an exhibit about how they made the tornado in the movie— by turning a coil of wire wrapped in cloth. Fascinating. This museum is well worth a visit.

After our museum venture, we walk nearly a block to the Friendship House for lunch. We discover later that there is an actual yellow brick road leading from the museum to the restaurant which is actually a large old house with a bright interior. We are treated to a tasty pulled pork sandwich followed by cherry pie.

Continuing down Highway 24, we stop at Manhattan, Kansas in front of the Flint Hills Discovery Center. It’s a stunning museum housed in modern architecture with so many fascinating exhibits that we hardly know where to start. We begin our visit with a gorgeous film about the flint hills and the natural grass lands, the state of Kansas and the prairies. I follow up the movie with a display of the prairie grasses and their massive deep root systems, the roots that enriched the soil and kept the land from eroding, grasses like Indian grass, switch grass and big blue stem. We move on to other displays of history, Indian life, cattle culture and natural history. Every exhibit was well displayed and explained. Upstairs was another exhibit about Ice Age life in Kansas with its mastodons, saber tooth tigers and giant sloths. The room also contained a magnificent timeline of life through the ages.

As we leave Manhattan in late afternoon, the sun begins to break through the clouds, adding color to the landscape. Making our way to Interstate 70, we pass Fort Riley with all its helicopters and military vehicles, finally arriving at Abilene where we’ll stay the night at a Holiday Inn Express. Our minds are still full of all we have seen today and deserve a rest.

Cornfields are a common sight along the Kansas highway.

Cornfields are a common sight along the Kansas highway.

The Oz Museum in Wamego contains all  a person would want to know about The Wizard of Oz  and the author L. Frank Baum.

The Oz Museum in Wamego contains all a person would want to know about The Wizard of Oz and the author L. Frank Baum.

 The museum features several manikins, this one of Dorothy.

The museum features several manikins, this one of Dorothy.

The Flint Hills Discovery Center holds many exhibits about Kansas natural history, Indian life and history.

The Flint Hills Discovery Center holds many exhibits about Kansas natural history, Indian life and history.

MONTEREY PARK AUTHOR PUBLISHES 4th BOOK – Seeking More of the Sky: Growing Up in the 1930’s:

Charles “Norm” Stevens, a 43 year resident of Monterey Park has recently published his 4th book: Seeking More of the Sky: Growing Up in the l930’s. This is the story of a young boy growing up in Inglewood, California in the l930’s. This was a time during the depression when unemployment was affecting many and the banks were closed, while the clouds of war were gathering in Europe. But he was lucky enough to be raised in a loving family, the power of that love reflected throughout his stories.

Stevens is the author of three previous books about his experiences during WWII:

An Innocent at Polebrook: A Memoir of an 8th Air Force Bombardier (Story of his 34 bombing missions from his base at Polebrook, England over Germany and France)

The Innocent Cadet: Becoming A World War II Bombardier (A prequel to the first, telling of his training in the U.S. before going overseas into combat.)

Back from Combat: A WWII Bombardier Faces His Military Future from Combat: (This book details the time from when he returned from combat in England until the end of the war.)

He is known to the readers of The Citizen’s Voice as the author of Travel Log Articles including “Cruising the Rhine and Mosel”,” Best of the West”, “In Search of Snow” ,  “From Paris to Normandy on the Seine”, and “Exploring New York”.  He is retired, having taught for 32 years, primarily in the Montebello Unified School District.

Those interested in purchasing an autographed copy of any of his books, may contact the author at 323-721-8230 or  Normstevens24@gmail.com.

Leave a Response