We’re Off to See the Wizard

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We stopped in Wamego Kansas at the Wizard of Oz Museum which opened in 2004 as a showcase for all things Oz. The brochure boasts a collection of 2000 items on display, commemorating all manner of Oz from books to film to the Broadway stage. Clearly with so much memorabilia on display I couldn’t possibly show it all, but I’ll cover some of the highlights and my favorites.

In the lobby of the museum you’re greeted by an 8 foot tall Tin Man. I’ve left the doorway in the photo just to demonstrate the enormous size of the statue. Such fun!

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As you walk through the museum many of the displays are grouped by character. As Oz characters go, I admit to being partial to Glinda, having played her in a sixth grade production of The Wizard of Oz.

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So, in honor of my sixth grade self, here is one of the Glinda displays:

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Despite my Glinda love, I’ll be honest, some of my favorite items were memorabilia for the Scarecrow. Here are just a few of the pieces that caught my eye.

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Of course, there were tributes to many of the other characters. Here are some other groups of memorabilia:

Dorothy

Of course, no Oz museum could be complete without lots of Dorothy items, as well as recognition for the incomparable Judy Garland. Here is just a small sampling.

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Tin Man & the Lion

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The Munchkins

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An Unexpected Tribute

This next display was certainly among the more unexpected bits of memorabilia in the museum. I certainly wasn’t expecting a 9/11 themed display when we walked in.

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According to the display, Oz collector Johnpaul Cafiero had visited the Warner Brothers store at the World Trade Center in New York often, as he had family in the area. He struck up a friendship with the store’s manager and during a visit at the end of August 2001 the manager asked if he wanted some Oz themed stuffed dolls that the store was not going to display (as the store was slated to close later that year). He did, and the manager agreed to ship them out to him within the next couple of weeks. 14 days later the unthinkable happened.

His thoughts after the tragedy of 9/11:

On September 12, I called the Warner Brothers Store in Times Square inquiring on the staff and manager of the WTC store. They all managed to get out before the towers collapsed. To tell you the truth, I did wonder about the plush dolls. Did they ever get shipped? Well, the answer came the next day on Thursday, September 13, 2001. I received a number of large boxes from the WTC Warner Brothers Store. It was a strange feeling. They had survived a terrible disaster. This box and the five plush character figures are a testimony to the enduring legacy of OZ and the American Spirit.

Beyond the Book

Beyond the original book and timeless film, the museum features other iterations of Oz. There were displays for musical adaptations Wicked (a personal favorite) and The Wiz; and TV mini-series Tin Man; a fantastic old Rolling Stone cover featuring the cast of Seinfeld; Wizard of Oz on Ice; and more. And on the day of our visit a display for “Oz the Great and Powerful” was in development to commemorate the most recent film starring James Franco and Michelle Williams.

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Overall it was a fun visit. A little on the cheesy side, but it was a cute stop and would thrill any Oz fan.

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From August 12 – October 15, 2014 my husband and I traveled the northern United States in my Honda Civic. Cross Country Civic was started (and will eventually be completed) to document our cross country adventure. All comments and questions welcome.

Kansas City Baseball

Continuing on our day in Kansas City we decided that since the Boston Red Sox were in town and we’re from Boston (though only one of us is a Sox fan…and it’s not me) that we would take in a Royals game at Kauffman Stadium. But as far as baseball goes, the Royals aren’t the only “game” in town. Before our evening at the ballpark we made a stop to learn about an oft-neglected history of the sport.

Negro Leagues Baseball Museum

The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum is a showcase for the (mostly) unknown talents that passed through the Negro Leagues from the late 1800’s to the early 1960’s. It was founded in 1990, growing from a small, one room office to the 10,000 square foot space that it occupies now.

An important point about the museum’s purpose can be found on its website:

Often the museum is referred to as the “Negro Leagues Hall of Fame” or “Black Baseball Hall of Fame” and various names. It is important to the museum that we not be referred to as such. The NLBM was conceived as a museum to tell the complete story of Negro Leagues Baseball, from the average players to the superstars. We feel VERY strongly that the National Baseball Hall of Fame, in Cooperstown, NY, is the proper place for recognition baseball’s greatest players. The Negro Leagues existed in the face of segregation. Baseball’s shrines should not be segregated today. Therefore, the NLBM does not hold any special induction ceremonies for honorees. As space allows, we include information on every player, executive, and important figure. However, we do give special recognition in our exhibit to those Negro Leaguers who have been honored in Cooperstown.

As was the case on a few other spots along the trip, the museum did not allow for photography, so the only picture I took was of the lobby as you enter.

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As I blog this nearly a year later (yes, I’m a slacker), I find it would be impossible for me to do this museum justice. On future road trips (we’ll have to do the southern states at some point), I’ll bring along a notebook to all of my stops to record my thoughts in the moment, but since I can’t go back in time to do that on this trip, I’m left with only vague memories when trying to write about places I couldn’t take pictures.

I recall really liking the setup of the museum. A movie, They Were All Stars, set in a bleachers area, tells the story of many of the players and is narrated by the incomparable James Earl Jones. The museum itself is laid out in time-line fashion chronicling nearly 100 years of African American and baseball history. It was a fascinating place to visit and a fabulous tribute to those who played the sport without the credit or fame of their white counterparts.

One of my favorite parts of the museum was the Field of Legends. 10 bronze statues of players who have been honored in Cooperstown are positioned on a baseball diamond. I found this picture of it online at Trip Advisor:

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The players on the field are Rube Foster, Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, Buck Leonard, Pop Lloyd, Judy Johnson, Ray Dandridge, James Thomas “Cool Papa” Bell, Oscar Charleston, Leon Day, Martin Dihigo, and “Buck” O’Neil

The link to Buck O’Neil’s page on the Hall of Fame website leads to information about the Buck O’Neil lifetime achievement award:

The Buck O’Neil Lifetime Achievement Award is presented by the Hall of Fame’s Board of Directors not more than once every three years to honor an individual whose extraordinary efforts enhanced baseball’s positive impact on society, broadened the game’s appeal, and whose character, integrity and dignity are comparable to the qualities exhibited by O’Neil. The Award, named after the late Buck O’Neil, was first given in 2008, with O’Neil being the first recipient.

I went back to our visit at Cooperstown at the beginning of our road trip and found this photograph that I took of a bronze statue of O’Neil with an infographic about his eight decades long association with baseball.

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Those are some of the highlights of our visit to the NLBM. Feel free to read more about the current exhibits on the Museum’s Website.

Our afternoon of baseball learning morphed into an evening checking out Kauffman Stadium. We were able to walk right up to the ticket window and get pretty great seats right up over home plate. It was a chilly September night, as evidenced by this concession change:

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Note the carousel in the picture above. As is my ritual when entering any new ballpark (this was my tenth), we did a lap around the park to see what there was to see. The outfield had lots of activities for kids – batting cages, rides, a playground, even mini-golf. I’m not sure how I felt about the number of things kids and their families could be doing instead of watching the game. We kept on moving.

The park had the typical bronze statues denoting notable Royals and this great water feature in the outfield made for cool viewing from either side. Here’s a shot from center field as the sun went down.

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After our exploration, we grabbed some hotdogs and headed up to our seats. A pretty great view for last minute tickets.

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Here’s another view of that water feature from the seats.

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It was a fun outing, but since we wanted to avoid being stuck in the parking lot, and were more than a little chilly, we decided to take off early. Ultimately the Royals ended up winning 7 to 1. We made a pit stop before heading back to Sriram’s friend’s house, which you can read about it in the upcoming “Eats and Treats” installment. Until then, see you next time!

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From August 12 – October 15, 2014 my husband and I traveled the northern United States in my Honda Civic. Cross Country Civic was started (and will eventually be completed) to document our cross country adventure. All comments and questions welcome.

Losing Our Marbles

Note: I know I said the Truman Library would be next, but I’m finding that writing that post is more time consuming than my blogging availability currently allows for. I’ll definitely get back to it soon. In the meantime I hope you enjoy reading about the next part of our adventure.

September 2014

Though we’re still touring Missouri (Kansas City up next), we’ve popped on over to Olathe, Kansas for a couple nights as friends of Sriram’s have graciously opened up their home to us for our stay in the Kansas City area. Today we are spending the morning with their two daughters at the Moon Marble Company in nearby Bonner Springs.

In addition to selling all sorts of wonderful toys (lots of great items from my childhood lined their shelves), and lots of machine-made marbles, Moon Marble also makes specialty marbles right on the premises. We were lucky enough to visit on a day when marble making was happening and watched a demonstration by owner Bruce Breslow. It was fascinating seeing him melt down the various glass rods and swirl the colors together as he worked the marbles into shape. The presentation was both informative and entertaining. I’d really never given much thought to marble making, and it was a lot of fun to see it in action.

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The company makes some beautiful marbles and also sells hand-blown marbles from other marble artisans. Here are a variety of gorgeous marbles available for purchase in their shop:

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Before leaving, we purchased a couple marbles to commemorate our visit and also got a sticker for our roof box. Speaking of which, I don’t think I’ve given a roof box update in a while. Here’s a section of it with some of the most recent stickers added on. You’ll notice the marbles on the lower right:

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After dropping the kids back home, we headed into Kansas City, MO and visited the Hallmark Visitors Center. It didn’t come highly recommended, but it was free so we figured we’d give it a shot. I found it more interesting than I would have assumed. It was fun to see the various cards presented time-line style along with pop culture displays, World events and Hallmark mementos.

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Another fun display was the collection of “Christmas trees” that the employees created and presented to Hallmark founder Joyce C. Hall each year. Each tree had a theme and was given as a sign of affection by the employees to their boss. Here are just some of the trees on display.

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Perhaps the most interesting discovery at the museum was in learning that Winston Churchill was an artist and his paintings once appeared on Hallmark cards. Mr. Churchill was friends with Mr. Hall. At the time of our visit, an exhibit displaying Mr. Churchill’s paintings was open (it has since closed). No photographs were allowed inside the gallery, but I did take this photograph of the sign explaining the exhibit, which showcases two of the cards by Churchill and as well as featuring a letter he wrote to Mr. Hall.

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It was very cool seeing the paintings and learning a bit about the history of the company. As a random side note, Sriram thought all the employees there looked really unhappy. Still, it was an interesting stop and if you’re ever in the area, I’d recommend popping in.

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From August 12 – October 15, 2014 my husband and I traveled the northern United States in my Honda Civic. Cross Country Civic was started (and will eventually be completed) to document our cross country adventure. All comments and questions welcome.

Honest Abe and Mr. Accordion

At the Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield, Illinois the most note-worthy “resident” is certainly our 16th President. We headed to the cemetery to visit the Lincoln Tomb State Historic Site.

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The tomb, which is 117 feet tall is not only the final burial spot for Abraham Lincoln but also his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, and three of the four Lincoln children. Resting at the tomb are Edward, William (Willie) and Thomas (Tad), none of whom survived their parents. A plaque inside the tomb for Robert Lincoln (the eldest, and the only to survive to adulthood) indicates that he is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

It is constructed of granite, quarried in my home state of Massachusetts (Quincy). The bronze bust of President Lincoln in front of the tomb features a shiny nose. Rubbing Lincoln’s nose is supposed to bring good luck.

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The main rotunda and the interior corridors contain famous Lincoln quotes as well as smaller replicas of some of the most famous Lincoln statues.

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Inside the burial chamber itself, Lincoln’s crypt is surrounded by flags. At center is the US Flag. To the left are flags honoring the homes of his ancestors. The left-most flag shown is the State Flag of Masssachusetts. To the right of center are flags depicting the places where Lincoln lived. Above the crypt the fitting words, “Now He Belongs to the Ages“.

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The tribute is fitting but I couldn’t help but notice the stark contrast to the burial place of President Hoover.

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While in the area we got an alert from an app called Field Trip that Sriram had downloaded on his phone for the trip. Up until this point it had mostly alerted us to things that we already knew. This time though, it led us to Roy Bertelli, aka Mr. Accordion. A Springfield resident and World War II veteran, Mr. Bertelli wanted to be buried in the Oak Ridge Cemetery.

One day he went to the cemetery to ask about a plot. He was thrilled to learn that a plot was available on the road leading to President Lincoln’s tomb so he quickly purchased, only to be told soon after that a mistake had been made and that he would need to return the plot. Disappointed, and then outraged when legal action was threatened, Bertelli dug in his heels and refused to surrender the plot. As you can see from the photo below, Mr. Bertelli was successful in holding onto the prime piece of “real estate” with Lincoln’s Tomb in the background.

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Mr. Bertolli erected the large crypt above ground with tributes to his beloved accordion.

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For years, he would visit the cemetery and play the accordion at his tomb, much to the dismay of city officials. In the end, Mr. Accordion wasn’t even buried at the cemetery (though a few sites suggest that his accordions are in the crypt), instead being buried at the nearby Camp Butler National Cemetery.

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It’s time for us to move on from the land of Lincoln, but we’ve certainly enjoyed our time here. If you have an questions, comments or feedback, we’d love to hear from you.

Riverside’s Most Famous Resident

Our final stop in Iowa was in the city of Riverside. Riverside is famous for exactly one thing, and the one thing it’s famous for hasn’t even happened yet. For the non-initiated, non-geeks of the World, Riverside is famous for being the future birthplace of James Tiberius Kirk, the Captain himself.

We visited this little city (in the pouring rain, I might add) in order to commemorate this sacred spot. Riverside began celebrating Kirk’s birth back in 1984 after the City Council petitioned Gene Roddenbury for permission to erect a monument declaring Riverside as the Captain’s birthplace. With Roddenbury’s full blessing, this tribute to its future resident was installed:

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Hidden behind a small barbershop, the plaque could easily go unnoticed by those not looking. Though the mini U.S.S. Enterprise in the parking lot of the The Voyage Home Museum down the street is a little trickier to miss. Unfortunately, the museum was closed during our visit so we were unable to drop by.

But the plaque and museum aren’t the full story (or history) here in Riverside. The Trek connection apparently began with a plaque under a pool table in the nearby Murphy’s Bar and Grill commemorating Kirk’s conception – a clever marketing ploy the bar had thought up. The town council wasn’t a fan of the plaque though (hence, the more official and family friendly “birthplace” celebration), and it can no longer be found in the bar.

However, the bar does still embrace it’s Trek “connection.” We stopped in for dinner and found a giant banner proclaiming it the Future Home of the Shipyard Bar. So, while the plaque down the road embraces Prime Kirk, the bar is now embracing the new Trek World. Alternate Kirk, of course, is born in outer space. I imagine that plaque is going to be much more difficult to visit.

How many of you Trekkies out there have made the “trek” to Iowa?

“Is This Heaven?”

“It’s Iowa.”

In 1999, I went on a quest to watch a bunch of baseball movies I hadn’t yet seen. I watched Pride of the Yankees (“Phoebe, the guy WAS Lou Gehrig. Didn’t you kind of see it coming?”), Eight Men Out (a personal favorite), Bull Durham, and The Natural (having already seen other baseball gems, such as the hysterical Major League and the wonderful Sandlot, among others)

Eventually, I made it round to Field of Dreams. As movies go, it’s a bit of a slow one. Non-fans have been known to call it boring. Its most famous line is nearly always misquoted (the line is, “If you build it, HE will come,” not THEY). And the reality is, it’s not so much about baseball. But that’s actually what makes it so great. The story of family, redemption and forgiveness, of believing in the unbelievable and not giving up, is one that has touched many a movie goer for the last 25 years. With it being the 25th Anniversary of the film, I knew that little ballpark in the cornfield out in Dyersville, Iowa was a must stop for this road trip.

There are two ways into the Field of Dreams Movie Site. One way is pretty much right off the main road. The other, through a maze of unpaved dirt and gravel roads cutting between cornfields in the middle of nowhere. We were lucky enough to have taken the road through the corn, a far more magical journey in. We’d been in the Great Lakes area for 8 days, and then spent some time in the city. The scenery in Iowa was a welcome change. We found ourselves surprisingly drawn to it.

When we arrived at the farm we noticed one of the “Black Sox” sitting at a nearby picnic table, chatting with a few people. Moments later he would vanish. A bus was coming down the road, and soon enough he would emerge from the corn and greet them.

Before the site was inundated with tourists, I stepped behind home plate and took a picture of the famous field (though I couldn’t get a full shot)…

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…and then another from third base with the white house (different from the movie only in that it’s missing the porch swing) in the background.

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It turned out it wasn’t the bus he waiting for, so in the meantime he was available to chat and play. His name was Frank Dardis. Frank, a local guy, portrayed one of the ghost players in the original movie 25 years ago. He now greets tour buses and gives little talks. He signs autographs, and hands out old call sheets from the movie (with his name featured not quite as prominently as the likes of Kevin Costner and Ray Liotta). And he plays ball. Here’s Frank emerging from the corn.

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He was really sweet, and it was such a fun, unexpected touch to the visit. We played ball for a while. First Sriram pitched to me for a bit, and then later Frank did (I got one decent hit, and whiffed a bunch of others – need to keep my eye on the ball). We sat in the bleachers, the ones that are still carved with “Ray Loves Annie” and cheered on others as they played.

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We stayed for nearly an hour, reading up on the history of the movie, how the site was selected, how the corn almost didn’t grow, and how all these years later, the field still draws baseball-loving tourists from near and far. We also bought some memorabilia and learned that interestingly enough, the costs of upkeep come solely through concessions (admission is free). The studio has no part in keeping the site open; in fact, the farm has to pay royalties to the studio for the rights to the name/story.

But I’m glad that they have opted to keep things alive there in Dyersville as it’s a magical place. If you ever find yourself nearby, be sure to go explore a little bit of heaven.

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And Twin Two

Before leaving the area we were sure to check out the other half of the Twin Cities – neighboring St. Paul. We drove over to the downtown area and lucked into a great parking spot. Off we went to explore the neighborhood on foot. Our first stop turned out to be Mears Park where the Concrete and Grass Lowertown Music Festival was taking place.

Food trucks lined the outer edges of the park, while a stage and vendor booths lined the front. A fairly large crowd had gathered on the lawn. People had also found spots on benches or any other place that looked comfy, including back in the lush landscape behind the main lawn.

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Deciding to stick around for a bit to take in some of the entertainment, we waited through a short break for the music to start back up again. When it resumed a few singers from the Minnesota Opera presented a series of songs from a variety of Operas (including one piece from the Marriage of Figaro, which holds special meaning for us, as another piece from that opera was featured at our wedding).

We stayed for four songs and enjoyed every one of them. The performers all had wonderful voices and the crowd seemed very appreciative. Of course, it seems there is always one person who insists on talking through the whole thing. In this case a gentleman who was speaking with a couple nearby, mentioning how he’d seen some opera on TV and didn’t care for it much. But the beauty of an outdoor venue with no assigned seating was it made it really easy to move away from him, so we did.

Once we left the park, we headed up to the Capitol Building to explore the grounds and the monuments. The grounds held all of the cities war monuments. I always find the monuments sobering (and sometimes even chilling), and this case was no different. But it was the final monument that truly drew me in – a lone soldier on this particular section of lawn, with hands outstretched.

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Entitled Monument to the Living, it was dedicated in 1982 to the Veterans of Minnesota, with the simple question, “Why do you forget us?” inscribed on it’s plaque. I can’t recall ever seeing such a piece in the many memorial parks I have visited. It was a good reminder that while it’s important to remember and pay tribute to those who have died defending our country, it is equally important to remember those who return.