Thursday, August 27, 2015

Iconic Folks of Northeast Kansas

Every town has at least one. Like the mumbling guy on the street. Those intriguing characters that always make you wonder. When I lived in Austin, TX there was the iconic "Leslie" a cross-dresser that was loved by many. He even ran unsuccessfully for mayor several times. When he passed away in 2012, it was big news on all the local news programs. In addition, there was "running man," who is often seen on Rundberg and North Lamar running (or dancing) in place. But, hey "Keep Austin Weird," right?

Here in Northeast Kansas, we have our share of them as well. Here is a look at some that make our communities a little more unique. 

1. "Dennis"
 Twitter: @RealSherylTween
Facebook: The Friends of Dennis
Dennis Abbott is known around Lawrence for his manikin that he calls his daughter, Sheryl Tween. When we tried to find out more about him and his daughter, we were told that he wasn't iconic.  So as we write this, we ourselves, still don't really know who the man behind the persona is.
In an 2013 interview, he told KU Journalism Student Erica Marie Staab,
“My name is Dennis Abbott and I’m 48 years old,” he said in-between bites. As far as he is concerned, Abbott is a Lawrence native and has lived here his whole life. Currently he resides somewhere around 17Street.
photographer Unknown.
via Twitter @Sheryltween

According to the post, he lives with his brother John, and named his mannequin Sheryl, because he is a fan of Sheryl Crow.
But Sheryl doesn’t seem to be the only woman in Abbott’s life. Lying in the middle of the table were 3 different sized photographs of some blonde haired woman.
“That? That is just the girl,” Abbott said in reference to the pictures as he picked them up and showed them to me. After he gazed at them a moment he sat them back down and took a sip of his Dr. Pepper.
 Reportedly he is a fan of KU football, with a big blue Jayhawk in his room at his home.

2. "the Tan Man"

©Richard Gwin/Journal-World
This one comes from the 70's and 80's, so he is kind of retired from the unique local character scene. However, according to a Lawrence Journal World article John Schneider is still occasionally recognized, even in his 60's (he would be 69 or 70 this year). Back in the day, he spent time around the KU campus and Wesco Beach shirtless, soaking up the sun.  Thus becoming known as the Tan Man.
People still recognize him - even after all these years, even when he has a shirt on, he said.
A few years ago, Lawrence resident Tim Baxter saw Schneider outside his mobile home and knew immediately who he was. It was the first time he'd seen the Tan Man in years, Baxter said.
"He's aged, just like we all have, but I knew it was the Tan Man," Baxter said. "He's kind of a local legend."
- Lawrence Journal World (May 2006)

"the Lamp Dancer"
Twitter: @thelampdancer

Here in Topeka we have the Lamp Dancer, (aka "Trumpet") Rickey Hite. He dances all day, almost everyday down town. The guy is really nice and lots of people stop to talk to him and dance with him.

Do you know of any other folks that should be part of this list.
 In Lawrence?
Other Northeast Kansas cities and towns?
Add your comments in the comments section and tell about them.

Monday, August 24, 2015

8 Foot Faberge Eggs

In 2003 the Treasures of the Czars, Faberge Eggs made their second and last stop on their USA tour. As part of the tour, their were eight giant eggs, each being eight feet tall as part of the promotion for the tour.  Afterwards, they were sold.
I have not been able to find all eight eggs, but I have located two of the eggs still publicly visible from the street.  One of which is on the lawn of a public business.  That one is on the lawn of the YWCA in downtown Topeka.
YWCA Downtown
225 SW 12th Street 

photo by Kevin Surbaugh

photo by Kevin Surbaugh

The other is in the front yard of a private home on a side street in Topeka's Central Park neighborhood.  The owners of the home, Eric Davis and his wife, said that the artist was in poor health, otherwise they would have him touch it up.

approximately 1214 SW Throop Street
photo by Kevin Surbaugh

We will continue looking for the other six, rumor has it one of the other eggs is in a private yard in nearby Rossville, KS.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Buffalo Sculpture

If you have driven down 17th or 15th just east of the Brown V Board Nation Historic Site, you have seen this statue of a Buffalo (Concrete Bison Sculpture) in Cushinberry Park. Near the area that 15th and 17th streets merge together.
photo by Kevin Surbaugh
Originally at the campus of the now defunct Kansas Vocational Institute (KTI), that had been near 6th and Rice Road. It had been the schools mascot, that the students lovingly called "Old Buff."

about the institute:
The institute was known in Topeka as the “Western Tuskegee,” was the result of the work of Lizzie Riddick, a prominent member of the Colored Women’s Suffrage Association, and Edward Stephens. Riddick and Stephens successfully enlisted the support of Booker T. Washington and later the state of Kansas to establish the second oldest black college in Kansas (the first was Freedmen’s University, 1863).

Riddick and Stephens were elementary school teachers who in 1895 founded the kindergarten, sewing school, and reading room in Mud Town, an area of Topeka originally settled by black Exodusters from Mississippi and Louisiana in 1879. Booker T. Washington visited Topeka and endorsed their efforts in 1897, and in 1898, with funds from the black community, they purchased a building in the heart of Topeka's African American black business district on Kansas Avenue. The State of Kansas gave them $1,500 the following year. In 1900, Washington sent Tuskegee graduate William Carter to be the Institute's first president and the faculty began teaching industrial arts and scientific agriculture.
- See more at:
In 1919 the State of Kansas had become the principle contributor to the school, took control and renamed it Kansas Technical Institute. 

photo by Kevin Surbaugh

photo by Kevin Surbaugh

Location:  15th and Jefferson

Artist/Sculptor: Unknown

Saturday, August 8, 2015

National Night Out Topeka 2015

Tonight was National Night Out in Topeka.  We attended two of the events here in town, one at Central Highland Park and the other at Central Park.  Below are some pictures from the two events that we attended. Central Highland Park handed out Back to School supplies and both locations gave away door prizes to those in attendance.

Central Highland Park

Central Highland Park, photo by Kevin Surbaugh

Central Highland Park, photo by Kevin Surbaugh

Central Highland Park, photo by Kevin Surbaugh

Central Highland Park, photo by Kevin Surbaugh

Central Highland Park, photo by Kevin Surbaugh

Central Highland Park, photo by Kevin Surbaugh

Central Highland Park, photo by Kevin Surbaugh

Central Park

Central Park, photo by Kevin Surbaugh

Central Park, photo by Kevin Surbaugh

Central Park, photo by Kevin Surbaugh

Central Park, photo by Kevin Surbaugh

Central Park, photo by Kevin Surbaugh

Overbrook Mural

 Don't Overlook Overbrook

A short drive from Topeka, is a mural along Highway 56. It is perhaps the best know attraction in this small community, of Overbrook, KS. The mural decorates a building in the heart of Overbrook, depicting the town’s history: city hall (which is still in use), the M.E. Church, the railroad that prompted the founding of the town site, and the thousands of wagons that crossed the area as they followed the Santa Fe Trail.

photo by Kevin Surbaugh

photo by Kevin Surbaugh

Monday, August 3, 2015

The Burger Stand - College Hill

We are on the search for the best burger in Topeka. Here is how we rate the burger joints that we will review. First we put heavy emphasis on where the joint is headquartered, Local (Topeka) will garner an automatic 10 bonus points. Kansas owned chains (headquartered in Lawrence, Wichita, etc) an automatic 5 bonus points and National chains (those headquartered outside the state) will garner an automatic 0 bonus points. The ten categories that we will use in our search for the best burger in Topeka will be 1.Burger Patties Quality, 2. Bun Quality, 3. Customer Service, 4. Garnish Quality, 5. Fries Quality, 6. Atmosphere, 7. Order Accuracy, 8. Cleanliness (Restrooms, Dinning area, Entrance, etc), 9. Building Accessibility and 10. Price. All categories will earn a score between 1 and 10, with 10 being the highest and 1 being the poorest.
photo by Kevin Surbaugh

 Bonus Points: 5
Headquartered in Lawrence, KS. The Topeka location is their second and newest location.

1. Burger Patties Quality: 9
 The patties were tasty and juicy, although neither were cooked as we ordered them. That aside they did have a fantastic flame broiled taste. Enhanced greatly, by the ice cold Coca-Cola™ we were drinking to was it down with.
photo by Kevin Surbaugh

2. Bun Quality: 10
 What can I say, the bun was nicely toasted and still had that excellent soft, fresh taste. 

3. Customer Service: 10
 Th staff was very friendly from the order taker at the counter/bar to the busboy cleaning the tables around us.

4. Garnish Quality: 10
 The vegetable garnish tomato, lettuce and onion) was very fresh and good. 

5. Fries Quality: 8
 The fries had a great taste with a hint of seasoning salt. Perhaps even a little to much.

6. Atmosphere: 7
 While promoted as a family place, even having a kids menu, the atmosphere is somewhat of a bar atmosphere. Which means some kids may find it to noisy.

7. Order Accuracy: 5
 We both ordered the "Classic", which doesn't come with ketchup or pickles. So the wife ordered hers with lettuce only, and I ordered mine plain (since they don't come with ketchup). Ketchup and mustard is on every table.  When we received our orders, one burger came with lettuce on, as ordered, and the other came with all the vegetables, despite being ordered plain.

8. Cleanliness (Restrooms, Dinning area, Entrance, etc): 10
Dining, entrance area and restrooms were all clean and well maintained, even during a busy lunch rush on a Saturday afternoon.

9. Building Accessibility: 10
 The building has great accessibility with two handicapped accessible stalls in the curbside parking on 15th street.

10. Price: 7
A little pricy. The Burger Stand fancies themselves a gourmet burger joint and their prices reflect that.  We ordered "The Classic" which was the cheapest burger on the adult menu.
Burger $8.50 each
Side order of fries $2 each
Soda $2.50 each

Total: 9.1

1601 SW Lane Street