Happy Birthday Dear Kansas, And Many More

by Kevin Burton

   Today is Kansas Day kids, so just for today, the rules will be a little different.

   Most notably, do not even talk to me about The Wizard of Oz today.  I’m not going to have it. I am a mild-mannered sort, but I will fight you today if you start into any of that yellow brick road nonsense.  

   My home state Kansas was admitted into the union on Jan. 29, 1861, whereupon it immediately began to subside from the national consciousness. In 1937, Dorothy and Toto planted a flag of sorts, for better or worse.

   We’re dealing with 162 years of history here, so I will of course not get to all of it.. But today I am here to get the truth out there, the Kansas Truth.

   For instance, if you want to go to the Windy City, don’t bother booking flights to Illinois.  No, if you want to circle in an airplane above the real windy city, you will be above Dodge City, Kansas. 

   “With an average wind speed of 13.1 mph, Dodge City, Kansas is the windiest city in the US,” writes the Weather Station Advisor.  Wichita is ninth on their list, Chicago is nowhere to be seen.

   One of Wichita’s claims to fame involves small hamburgers with a big taste. 

   “White Castle is an American regional hamburger restaurant chain with 377 locations across 13 states, with its greatest presence in the Midwest and New York metropolitan area,” according to Wikipedia.  “Founded on Sept. 13, 1921, in Wichita, Kansas, it has been generally credited as the world’s first fast-food hamburger chain. It is known for its small, square hamburgers referred to as ‘sliders.’” 

   Unfortunately this is a past glory for Wichita as there are now no White Castle restaurants anywhere in Kansas.  Their website is not the easiest to navigate, but as far as I can tell the nearest White Castle is 300-plus miles east, in Columbia, Missouri. 

   We could either make that longish slider run, or drive maybe 1.5 miles to the nearest supermarket, where White Castles are usually in stock, sold six or twelve to the box.

   I have never been able to heat these frozen burgers to the glorious flavoricious state I recall from my Ohio days.  Maybe Kansas Day will inspire me to have another go at it.

   Pizza Hut and Payless Shoes also started in Kansas, according to multiple sources. 

   Some of my Kansas Day facts came from the website of a home inspection company, which is why I have a hailstone story.

   “Early on the evening of Sept. 3, 1970, the heaviest hailstone on record fell in Coffeyville,” according to the city’s website.  “The hailstone measured 17.5 inches in circumference, weighed 1.67 pounds.”

   “Scientists estimated that it struck the ground at the speed of 105 miles per hour.”

   The ice chunk no doubt weighed a little bit more than 1.67 pounds when it hit the ground, as the more intelligent researchers waited for the hail to stop falling before they raced out to measure it.  

   According to thefactfile.org, Kansas is Literally flatter than a pancake. “Legitimate scientific research has proven that Kansas is actually flatter than pancakes, the favorite breakfast treat of many,” the website said. “A close look at a pancake will reveal that it is not totally flat and the same is true for Kansas. Smoky Hills, Flint Hills and a few other places inject a bit of texture into the state and they are absolutely worth checking out.”

   We’ve already established that Kansas is not exactly the center of attention, but it is the center, the website said.

   “While driving on Highway 281 just a few miles to the northwest of Lebanon, you will be able to see a historical marker (a limestone shaft and a flag) that declares that you are in the center of the United States.”

   You probably know Kansas is the Sunflower State. Here’s another minder of that from thefactfile.org:

   “Goodland has the largest easel in the world. This 40,000-pound, 80-foot steel easel is home to a massive replica of the “Sunflower” painting by Vincent Van Gough.”

   This Kansas knowledge could flow on and on, like the Arkansas River that we pronounce “ar-KAN-sas.” We could talk about famous people born here, from activist Erin Brockovich to aviator Amelia Earhart.  But I think that’s enough food for Kansas thought.

   And yes, I’ve saved room for dessert. That Kansas birthday cake is made of course, with wheat flour.

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