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Celebrating our two-lane highways of yesteryear…And the joys of driving them today!


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brull68's Achievements

Day Tripper

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  1. Wilson is about 60 miles away from where I live in Ellis, but whenever I travel East, I try to take old 40 and I especially enjoy going through Wilson. Is it like a step back in time. For such a small town, population about 800 people, it still has many great old buildings and signs. There is also an old Phillips 66 service station on the west edge of town that is really neat as well. I have taken quite a few pictures of Wilson, but everytime I pass through, I seem to notice one more thing that I should photograph.
  2. Yesterday while I was grocery shopping, the newspaper headline caught my eye as I strolled past the newspaper rack outside the store. It was something to the effect: Local Landmark Lost to Fire. Obviously I took a closer look to see which landmark it was. Peering in through the tiny cloudy square of plexi glass, I recognized the building at once. My heart sank.....it was the Opera House located right on Old US 40 in Wilson Kansas. I had stopped there two years ago to take pictures of the exterior. I loved that old building. It was one of my favorite places to pass when traveling Old 40. Since being bitten by the 40 bug, I have driven through Wilson numerous times, but unfortunately never stepped foot inside the structure. I have attached a picture from the Hays Daily News, and the accompanying news article is below. I also attached some photos of that I took of Wilson, I have a photo of the Opera House sign, and the adjoining buildings to the West, but do not have a photo of the Opera House loaded on my PC - I'll have to check my photo archives for that one. Steve Ellis, KS By MIKE CORN mcorn@dailynews. net WILSON -- By day, the basement of the historic Wilson Opera House had been home for soon-to-be 80-year-old Libbie Sebesta, cataloging the history of the Czech Capital of Kansas. It was a monumental task for her to view the charred, destroyed remains of the building where she had spent so much time. Instead, she stayed home, jotting down the vast number of artifacts that had been contained in the building's basement, in the event the Opera House foundation carried insurance on the building. The 108-year-old Wilson Opera House was one of three buildings in Wilson destroyed by fire Friday morning. A passerby reported embers coming from the building at 2:35 a.m. Friday, contacting Wilson Police Chief Mike Schoenhofer, who remained on the scene throughout the night, diverting traffic around Old U.S. Highway 40, the historic highway that passes in front of the row of buildings. In addition to the opera house, an adjoining brick-fronted building was destroyed and a wood-frame doctor's office was damaged so much that it was rendered unusable. Schoenhofer said the fire appeared to start in what is called the Johnson building, in the center of the three-building fire scene. Inside were a number of items, including antique cars and other collectible items. Everything but a 1959 Ford parked in the rear was destroyed in the fire. The destruction was catastrophic, attracting townspeople and 12 to 15 fire departments who came to help fight the fire. It's not yet known what caused the fire, and Kansas Fire Marshal Rod Oldridge deferred questions to Schoenhofer. While three buildings were destroyed, four other historic buildings on the block were saved, including the limestone building that houses the American Legion. The Russell City Fire Department, bringing two trucks to the fire, was charged with keeping the legion building safe. A ladder truck and a pumper was brought down, said Capt. Shane Preston. "That was our main concern," he said of the Legion building. Russell firefighters were called out at about 2:45 a.m., arriving a short time later. Preston said the opera house was fully engulfed when they arrived. Russell firefighters focused their attention and their water on the Legion building, spraying it down to keep the flames from spreading. Preston said firefighters went inside the building every 60 to 90 minutes to check out the situation. While it's likely the contents of the building could see some damage, either from heat, smoke or water, most of the damage will be contained to the exterior of the building. The fire scene attracted dozens of onlookers, including Sebesta. "This is one of the greatest losses that the city could have," she said. The opera house, she said, was finished in 1901. "This was the centerpiece of the town," she said. For Rudy Hoch, the fire signaled the loss of years of memories. "I saw the Yellow Brick Road in there when it came out," he said, of the Wizard of Oz. And he said he likely wore out a couple pair of shoes on the dance floor inside the building. Hoch grew up in the Wilson area, born in 1923. "I'm going to be 86 years old," he said. "It was a movie theater, a dance place and a gathering place for local people." While the opera house is situated about a block south of Wilson's historic downtown area, Hoch said it is the center of the town. Even the doctor's office, he said, is where four of his children were born. Although Sebesta sought to diminish her role in the museum, she was quick to tick off a list of items contained in the building, and the names of the people who either donated them or were responsible for getting them. It was all things Czech, including money and books. She mentioned a 100-year-old sugar bowl, a 102-year-old wedding dress, and she made it clear that many of the people in the community migrated to the United States from Czechoslovakia, with a few coming from Bohemia before Czechoslovakia was formed in 1918. "There were lots of pictures," she said, "lots of pictures." There were maps, and Czech eggs. "Beautiful Czech eggs," she said. "I couldn't begin to tell you some of the stuff we had." As for Sebesta, it will be a dramatic change in her life, no longer having the museum to toil in. "I'll keep busy," she said. "All my scrapbooks are down there. They're gone." "It kind of takes your insides out," Hoch said of the loss of the building. "It's irreplaceable. It's a tremendous loss to the city. But it's gone."
  3. Hey Dave, I checked out the Library of Congress American Memory website and saw the pic of the bridge, as well as a few other pictures of highway 40 by searching U.S. 40 and Route 40. Since most landmarks/bridges/buildings, etc do not have a label of US 40, do you have any other suggestions for searches to see some great pictures? Thanks, Steve
  4. I ran across some good information about Valentine Diners and thought I would pass the website on to everyone. www.kshs.org/diners It is a website for the Kansas State Historical Society. It not only has information and pictures of Valentine Diners in Kansas, but links for their history and finding the diners in other states. I have personally eaten at Brint's Diner in Wichita...excellent cheeseburger, I think I can still feel my arteries hardening from it. Everyone in the diner had something great looking on their plates. It was even featured on the Food Network's Diners Drive-ins and Dives (missed that episode though) The site has lots of other information too. -Steve
  5. Grainfield is about 50 miles from where I live, and I have driven through once since taking an interest in the highway. I did take some pictures, and from looking at those, and recalling my poor memory, I would say it is very similar to the pics in Stewart's book. The only real difference I would say is a few newer buildings, and more trees now. Also, the counties in charge of road maintenance from Ellis, KS west until Oakley, KS have covered the pavement in gravel except through towns, which ends up being about 70 miles of old US 40. Apparently maintaining the pavement was too costly, so now the only paved road leading directly west from Ellis is I-70 In Trego County, the asphalt underneath the gravel has loosened and large chunks are along the side of the road - one of which is in my collection of road stuff. The chunks are circa 1950s dated by a Trego Co road worker who said it was last paved during the 50s. The most disappointing part of my journey came at Grinnell. My grandparents lived in Angelus, NW of Grinnell, and as a child I can remember passing a Derby filling station in Grinnell. Unfortunately the building is completely gone. No real shocker, but I was looking forward to seeing it. At the time, I did not take my Stewart book with me (regretting it now), but I feared spilling a drink on it, or some other disasterous occurrence. You probably know the picture of Hays in Stewart's book, I would say that area has changed quite a bit. Less residential and a few more businesses, they have widened the street which has eliminated some of the shade trees. The houses are now mostly rentals for Fort Hays State University students. I do not have a copy of the American Guide Series for Kansas, but have it on my wish list. I am afraid to say the fountain with rainbow colored spray is gone....not sure what happened to it, I'll have to do some checking around. The highlight now is the Chrysler boyhood home, where Walter P Chrysler grew up. It's a nice little museum and features a few autos in a garage in back. Thanks for adding the scan from the Automobile Route Book - neat. The Agricultural Experiment Station is still just south of Hays along the old US 40 By-Pass. I don't know if I would call it a tourist destination, but it is a very nice little area with period buildings and they used to have lots of flowers growing about their grounds. I am just not sure how many flowers they have now, as I haven't driven through recently. -Steve
  6. Yeah, I see how there could be a multitude of interests.....How about an answer of preservation of history in a hands on fashion. I get a kick out of traveling the two-lane highways no matter where they are, and love seeing relics from the past just as you mention: architecture, bridges, service stations. Right now I am concentrating on Hwy 40 because of my location to it throughout my life (living near it or right next to it for 33 years). Since I am fairly new to the interest, my travels and knowledge are fairly limited. I don't get to travel as much as I would like to since I have a 2 1/2 and a 1 year old, plus a job gets in the way - something about needing money to pay bills, buy food, have electricty blah blah blah. Anyway, the travels will come, but in the meantime I am trying to find out as much as I can about my local treasure by taking photos and checking out the historical societies. And yes, I have tried to collect a few road related material - books, signs, postcards, maps, even a view master reel. I better cut myself off, I could go on for a while here. -Steve
  7. I was thinking it would be nice to be able to search for other members based on their location, or their favorite highway. I am curious if anyone from my area is in the forum, and how many others share my passion for Highway US 40. Of course if you have a search by favorite highway, that preference would need to be added in the member information. Thanks.
  8. Texaco Fire Chief - I recently joined this American Road Forum, and have been participating in the Yahoo Route 40 group for a couple of years. I cannot say it's real active, but it is only as active as the members make it. I personally have been posting pics from Kansas (historic and current) and adding topics as I come across them. Steve Ellis, KS
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