Monday, July 19, 2010

Exploring Crawford County

It was a HAPPENING that brought me to Crawford County on a warm - no, hot - Saturday in July - a meeting of approximately seventy members of the Kansas Explorers Club coming together to get acquainted with Franklin, Arma, and neighboring towns.

After exploring local and regional sites on our own, club members gathered in the early afternoon at Franklin's new community center and heritage museum to hear from community leaders, to view historical exhibits, and to swarm like locusts upon the tasty munchies set out for us. After a post-meeting photo session on the Franklin to Arma Sidewalk, a National Register of Historic Places site (more below), we scattered to see more of Crawford County's attractions.

The first thing I noticed upon arriving in Franklin was an attractive and nicely maintained community park and garden. I appreciated the unique manner in which the garden incorporated memorials and mementos from the city's past, including items from schools, churches, the trolley line of days gone by, etc.

Some of the mementos were remnants of local landmarks destroyed in 2003 by a devastating F4 tornado which left Franklin severely damaged, with seven fatalities and more than 50 injured. Franklin, however, was not permanently dispirited or destroyed, and has been in a mode of determined rebuilding ever since. 

Prior to the tornado, an adequate warning system had been lacking, but in the years following the tragedy, a number of people, including actor and humanitarian Paul Newman, stepped forward with sizeable donations to purchase a new warning system (seen in the photo below). The piece of corrugated metal wrapped around the trunk of a pecan tree by forces of tornadic winds has been left as a reminder of the tragic event.

The photo at the beginning of this blog shows a number of my Kansas Explorer friends on a sidewalk, and the picture below shows that walkway in its "naked" state. What is so special about this sidewalk? It is listed in the Guinness Book of Records, and is on the National Register of Historic Places as being the longest sidewalk connecting two communities. The 1.7 mile sidewalk was constructed between Franklin and Arma in 1936 to permit children to walk to school on a sidewalk instead of on the busy highway. 

Two things I especially enjoyed in Arma, the village at the north end of that sidewalk:
  • a banana milkshake (with fudge) at Dari Castle, 
  • viewing the automobiles from my youth at Scotty's Classic Cars. It was a reminder that I'm not old - I am a Classic!

Entrance to this museum is free, but it could become very, very expensive. Scotty's is also a dealership and some, but not all, of these beautiful autos are for sale (including the T-bird shown here.) To see more of my photos from Scotty's Classic Cars, click on the link below.

In the earliest decades of the previous century, coal mining was a major industry and employer of emigrant workers, mostly from the Balkans. Because the coal was near the earth's surface, these were not deep-dug tunnels, but strip mines. Driving the back roads of southeast Kansas in general, and Crawford County in particular, you see remnants of those long-ago ended mining days - strip pits now resembling rivers, perhaps more like canals, noted for some of the finest bass fishing in the heartland.

No visit to Crawford County is complete without chowing down at one of its six legendary fried chicken restaurants. My visit was incomplete, I guess. None were open for lunch on Saturday, but anyway I'm not a big fan of fried chicken. Perhaps I ate too much as a child. For my blog readers who most likely have an interest, I did manage to get shots of a couple of the older and better known restaurants - these in business since the 1930s and only a couple of hundred yards apart on a rural road.

For the record, I also visited or passed through the communities of Frontenac, Pittsburg, Mulberry, and Arcadia. I paused for a quick lunch in Pittsburg at Harry's Cafe, and drove around Frontenac just a bit, but I plan on spending much more time at these two towns in the future. I do wish I had gone with some of my Explorer friends to the Frontenac Bakery, one of the 8 Wonders of Kansas Commerce, but will certainly make it point to go there the next time I am in the area.

Headed north en route home, I noticed a small sign pointing to Bone Creek Lake, so decided my day of exploring was not finished yet. What I found was a 540 acre reservoir which serves as a public water source for surrounding communities, and another place for fishermen to try their luck.  Noting the amount of flooded timber, I would guess that Bone Creek would probably be good for bass and crappie. My favorite photo from this side trip is below, a Widow Skimmer Dragonfly, taken from a distance with zoom telephoto lens.

© Copyright 2010 Frank Thompson

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