Saturday, October 31, 2015

Bad News to Social Security and Medicare recepients

Here at Northeast Kansas Magazine, we don't usually report the news. However, there is one news tidbit, that affects every single Social Security recipient in Northeast Kansas.
According to the New York Times,
The 60 million people on Social Security will not receive any cost-of-living increase in their benefits in 2016, the government said Thursday, but because of a quirk in federal law, nearly one-third of Medicare beneficiaries could have record increases in their premiums unless Congress intervenes.
Even though most media reports the the news is only the third time in 40 years, that it has ever happened. The Real facts, that the same media bury within their stories, is that it is the the third time in six years (since 2010). The Washington Post, gets to it in the second paragraph, which is pretty early compared to most other news publications;
It is only the third time in 40 years — all of them during the Obama administration — that the Social Security Administration has not increased its payments. The raises are tied to the consumer price index (CPI).
Apparently, the Federal government blames it on lower gasoline prices. That's right, something that is a good thing for most American's pocketbooks, is being blamed for why the consumer price index is flat. Not trying to to take sides here, but only the government can turn a positive into a negative.
The report gets worse. Medicare premiums could raise by $54 to $159 per month.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest, was quoted in the Washington Post,
the administration “is aware of this, frankly, unintended policy consequence resulting from the formula for calculating cost of living adjustments. And so we’re aware of this problem and it is something that we’re concerned about.”

Earnest said the White House has had “discussions” with members of Congress about the issue “and our interest in trying to resolve it” but declined to elaborate.
However, nothing thus far has been done, since the story first broke in mid-October.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Haunted Lawrence

I'm not a believer in ghosts, but as Halloween approached I thought it would be of interest to readers to see some of the areas ghost stories and haunted attractions. That said, lets take a look at the reportedly "haunted places," in Lawrence.

The Eldridge Hotel
According to the website, Haunted Places to Go, the Eldridge is one of the most popular haunted places in the state of Kansas.  Located at 706 Massachusetts in downtown Lawrence, the hotel is reportedly haunted, but not for the current building there. Rather, it is the previous "Free State Hotel," that was attacked on May 21, 1856 by cannon that started a fire in the hotel. It was rebuilt, only to again be set on fire during William Quantrill's raid on Lawrence on August 21, 1863.
In the year of 1865, the hotel – which had been destroyed not once, but twice – was officially rebuilt and opened to the public. This time, it was blessed with a new name – the Eldridge Hotel. It was constructed using what remained from the previous hotel – a simple cornerstone. As time progressed, this hotel was considered to be the finest hotel that stood west of the Mississippi River. Unfortunately, by the time that the year 1925 arrived, the structure was in disarray and needed to be reconstructed. It had played such an intense role in the history of the city that many felt it was only appropriate to bring it back to its original splendor. However, the years took its toll on the building once more by the era of the 60s. As a result, its doors were closed on the 1st day of July in the year of 1970.

The hotel stood, barren and in disarray, for a decade and a half. In the year of 1985, many locals of the region decided that it would be appropriate to fix up the hotel and make use of it. It was at this time that renovations on the building started. Investors, along with a two million dollar donation from the City of Lawrence, started rebuilding the structure. The top four individual floors of the building were completely stripped and renovated and created an amazing forty eight suites that consisted of two rooms each. Additionally, the lobby of the building was also renovated and created in such a manner that it displayed the original elegance that it displayed in its earliest days.

As with any building with a previous life, the renovations seemed to spark ghostly tales. When these renovations started, rumor quickly got around that the hotel was one of the most haunted places in Kansas. Many that worked on the building and several that worked for the hotel have shared numerous ghost stories – especially about the fifth floor. It is believed that the heightened emotions and tragic turmoil of the structure has created a spiritual based portal in the fifth floor. The specific room associated with this portal is identified as the number “506. In and around this room, strange experiences such as doors opening and closing on their own, electrical complications, and cold spots have been encountered.
- Haunted Places to Go

The Eldridge Hotel
photographer Kevin Surbaugh
Reportedly the cornerstone, mentioned above is in that room and that is why Room 506 is the portal to the spirit world.

Haskel Indian Nations University
According to those who believe,there are a number of locations at Haskell Indian Nations University, an 1800s institution built to help Native Americans assimilate with the mainstream population, that are rumored to be haunted. At the Bell Tower, students have reported a mysterious sealed-off wall in the basement and a feeling of being watched from above as they pass by. At Hiawatha Hall, the oldest building on the campus, a ghost supposedly opens and closes doors, even those propped open with a doorstop. At Haskell Auditorium, a ghost reportedly sits in the auditorium seats during shows, and a little girl has been heard crying backstage. In Pocahontas Hall’s basement, the ghost of a girl who once hanged herself here may appear hanging from the ceiling. And just south of Taminend Hall, ghostly crying has been heard at a small cemetery containing the remains of approximately 70 children who died during a smallpox epidemic.

Sigma Nu Fraternity - Kansas University
According to, the house that now houses the Fraternity, used to be the home of former Governor Walter Stubbs (who served 1909-1913) and his wife. Reportedly, after spending time in Topeka, Governor Stubbs came home (on April 22, 1911) to find the maid, "Virginia," hung in the third floor ball room.  He later found his wife rocking back and forth, traumatized by the death.  Reportedly, she hung herself, and her ghost has been seen throughout the house since.  Although, there is some question if she really did kill herself or if she was murdered.
According to the legend, Stubbs' wife suspected her husband of having an affair with Virginia, so she killed the girl and trussed her up in the closet to make it look like suicide.

The governor's wife was later committed to an asylum, according to one account of the tale.

The story doesn't end there.

As an added twist, the legend states that the governor had Virginia's cremated remains buried behind the large stone fireplace.

Adding to the mystery is an engraved plate on the fireplace with a cryptic message that says in Gothic typeface, "The World of Strife Shut Out, the World of Love Shut In.".

So there you have it.  Reported ghosts in Lawrence, and not to far away (about 11 miles) in nearby Stull, is the "Gateway to Hell," as we told you about last Halloween Season.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Wooden Spoke

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 (NE Kansas) will garner an automatic 10 bonus points. Kansas owned chains (headquartered in Wichita, Hutchinson, Pitsburg, 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.

 Bonus Points: 10
The Wooden Spoke is a Baldwin City icon, that we decided to visit during the Maple Leaf  Festival. The busiest weekend in this small Northeastern Kansas community. 

photographer by Kevin Surbaugh

1. Burger Patties Quality: 10
 We ordered the "Spoke Burger," a half pound burger served to your request.  There is no standard garnishment on this burger, except for what the customer requests. My wife and I ordered our burgers well done.  Mine had leaf lettuce and ketchup.  My wife ordered hers with lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise and ketchup.
Both burgers were thick, thoroughly cooked (as ordered), seasoned with what the waitress described the owners secret blend of seasonings.  

photographer Kevin Surbaugh
2. Bun Quality: 10
 The bun looked and tasted very fresh.

3. Customer Service: 7
 Perhaps, we chose the wrong day to visit this restaurant.  Even though, we were seated by our greeter as soon as we walked into the restaurant, we were given our burgers, but were not given silverware or napkins, that others were given as soon as they were seated.  We were given menus and quickly decided on what we wanted.  However, it was 20 minutes after we were seated, before seeing our waitress.  It then took another 35 minutes to get our food.  Despite all this, the waitress seemed very friendly and courteous. 

4. Garnish Quality: 10
 Fresh cold vegetables. 

5. Fries Quality: 10
The fries were hot, fresh and very delicious.  No complaints here.

6. Atmosphere: 9
Even though they have a full bar (yes you can even order a Margarita or Daiquiri), there is a strong family friendly atmosphere.

7. Order Accuracy: 10
Our order was delivered to us exactly as we had requested,  we can't say anything but praise in this category.

8. Cleanliness (Restrooms, Dining area, Entrance, etc): 6
 The restroom was a mess, water was all over the floor.  While I was in there, it seemed someone was messing with the door.  When I came out, someone had taped an out of order sign on both the men's and women's restrooms.  Seems they were having issues, another reason this may have been a bad day to visit.
The dining area was clean and well kept as well as the entrance area. 

9. Building Accessibility: 4

 The first blaring problem was no handicapped parking spaces.  Since every space near the fairly accessible sidewalk was taken by cars without handicapped placards, it would be nearly impossible for someone in a wheelchair to enter the restaurant.  Even though the Americans with Disabilities Act requires such accessibility this restaurant has none.   For 1-25 parking spaces, there must be at least one signed location. For 26-50 spaces, there must be at least 2 parking spaces.  On the day we visited the parking lot was full, with at least 25 cars if not more in the parking lot when we entered. That being said, we would estimate there should be at least two spots designated handicapped parking.  Which means, they are in violation of the law signed into law by President Reagan.
photographer Kevin Surbaugh
10. Price: 9
Considering the quality and amount of meat served the price was fairly reasonable.  Each burger was $7.79 and included the side of fries.  
photographer Kevin Surbaugh

Before the tip we paid a total of $23 and some change, for two burgers/fries, 1 Coca-Cola™, 1 class of water and then a slice of turtle cheese cake that we shared for desert.
photographer Kevin Surbaugh

 That cheese cake was as good as it looks.  Unfortunately, it isn't a category that we review.

Total: 10.1

Monday, October 12, 2015

Louisburg Cider Mill

Did you know in Louisburg, Ks there was a cider mill that MSNBC picked as one of the top 10 cider mills in America?  That Cider Mill is of course Louisburg Cider Mill™.  Unlike many apple cider brands, Louisburg Cider Mill's apple cider is not “watered down”. It is 100% apple cider.  Absolutely not watered from concentrate

photographer: Kevin Surbaugh
At the Mill location you can find a Country Store, Pumpkin patch and see an old commercial cider press. While there, you absolutely must try the fresh apple cider doughnuts. In addition to apple cider and doughnuts, they have many fruit jams and jellies. Of course you can't forget the Lost Trail™ Sodas and the Lost Trail™ Root beer is the best. 
photographer: Kevin Surbaugh

Location: 14730 K68 Highway
                 Louisburg, KS 66053
photographer: Kevin Surbaugh

Hours: Mon-Sat 8am-6pm
            Sundays 9am-6pm
           Year Round

photographer: Kevin Surbaugh
Website:Louisburg Cider Mill

Phone:  913-837-5202

photographer: Kevin Surbaugh
Handicapped Accessibility: All buildings had ramps and was pretty accessible.  The grass was cut low enough that it didn't seem to be any problem. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Topeka Zoo

According to Wikipedia, the Topeka Zoo is a medium-sized zoo in Topeka, KS. According to the same article, the history of the zoo started in 1899 when the Gage Family donated 80 acres to the city of Topeka for use as public park. Over the years, the park has accumulated playgrounds, a swimming pool, a fishing lake, a mini train, a rose garden, and a carousel.

The zoo was opened in the park in 1933. A number of additional exhibits were constructed over the next number of years, and in 1963 the city hired its first zoo director, Gary K. Clarke. The first major facility at the zoo was constructed in 1966 to house large mammals. Clarke went on to get many of the current exhibits constructed, including Gorilla Encounter (1985), the Koala Exhibit (1986), Lion’s Pride (1989), the Tropical Rainforest (1974), and Discovering Apes (in two phases first in 1981 and second one in 1985).

Why is the Topeka Zoo sometimes referred to as the "World Famous Topeka Zoo"?

At one time the Topeka Zoo was world renowned. Thus the name "World Famous Topeka Zoo". But why? The biggest reason is they had the first golden eagle bred and born in captivity (1971). Another reason is that the Zoo was one of the first indoor tropical rain forests in the United States (1974).

Handicapped Accessibility
The zoo is pretty accessible throughout the campus including most of the buildings.

635 SW Gage Blvd
Topeka, KS 66606
Topeka Zoo

History of Topeka Zoo Directors
Gary Clarke (1963-1989)
Hugh Quinn (1990-1993)
Mike LaRue (1993-1998)
David Mask (1999-2001)
Mike Coker (2001-2009)
Brendan Wiley (2011-present)