I was born in Wichita, Kansas and after living in nine other towns and cities came back to Wichita and graduated from Southeast High School in 1963.
It turned out that our mothers worked next to one another at Edgemoor Plaza across the street from Southeast and though we attended the same church, Sharon Road Baptist, we never really became acquainted until after we enrolled in university.
My mother was a beautician and worked next door to the Sun Drug where Jeanne’s mother served at the counter. My mom would take lunch at Sun Drug and with so much in common, she and Sylvia became good friends. I would occasionally see Jeanne perched on a stool at the counter and talking to her mother but never thought to introduce myself. She had her friends and I had mine. There wasn’t a lot of cross over.
Our purpose in going west to Wichita was not to reminisce about the good ole’ days. Nevertheless, while we were there on Palm Sunday morning we drove around to see what kind of changes might have taken place since my last visit, some forty-eight years ago. We were able to locate Jeanne’s various homes and take photos.
Truth is, the city is nothing like I remember it. Coming in on Kellogg, the main thoroughfare is lined with every automobile dealership and business one can imagine. It appears that the entire city has become one massive suburb. I once lived in a trailer park alongside of Kellogg. On this visit I had no sense of anything familiar. I might as well have been in Ypsilanti, Michigan.
Nevertheless, with the help of my handy GPS we found various addresses and made photos before these disappear like so many others have. No one will likely care about this but if blogs have any value they can document one’s existence and leave a trail for anyone else that might care in the future. Admittedly, doing all of this is a bit of a nuisance and I doubt if anyone but family members will bother to chronicle our journey so this may provide all they need to hear about our trip and I won’t have to repeat the same story a half-dozen times.
The real purpose in all of this was to see where Sylvia was interned. We drove out to the Hilltop area but once in the cemetery we pretty much knew that we
would not find it without the help of someone who had been there before. We left and drove across the city to Trudy Collin’s house. Trudy is a former sister-in-law but still close even after all of these years. She knew we’d be coming so was ready for us and after a short visit we drove over to see the grave site. As you can imagine, this was a difficult moment for Jeanne as the visit here provides a final goodbye and closure.
We had lunch at Luca Italian Restaurant (I can recommend everything but the profiterole) in the old warehouse district which turns out to be Wichita’s hot spot. Since so much of our childhood was spent in the downtown sector we wanted to take a drive through but like many cities in the prairies so many of the buildings were empty and boarded up. We could see that various enterprising people made attempts to enliven the downtown with no success. To be honest, I really have a problem with the impact the automobile has had on urban life. The birth of the automobile has marginalized the heart of the city where there is nothing but decay and dereliction. You won’t find these ghost towns in Europe. This proves to be worse in the county seats where there is nothing but Wal-Mart. This may be progress but I find it regrettable that once thriving communities have become the home of the “bat and the owl.”
We completed our visit and were back out on the Kansas Turnpike and on our way to Lawrence by five in the afternoon.