John never wants to repeat the highways we drive on during the many times we have crossed the states. That is how we came to be traveling on Highway 36 across Kansas after we left St Joseph. At first I thought it was going to a boring trip, as usual, across the Great Plains. There are miles of corn, wheat and milo fields, and as the land became drier, only wheat and milo. And very little traffic on the highway, other than farm equipment, especially combines as it is now harvest time in the wheat fields. There are no bill boards to entertain us, and not even any distance markers indicating how far we have to go to the next town! What there is, however, are quite a few signs indicating places of interest for the tourist to check out, as well as historical markers.
As we left St .Joseph and entered Kansas on Highway 36 we saw signs indicating turn-offs for historical Pony Express stables, as well as an old stage coach station. We also saw a sign indicating the birthplace of the song “Home on the Range”. I researched that later and discovered that Brewster Higley wrote those lyrics in a poem entitled “My Western Home” in the 1870s. The town where that happened is near Smith Center, which is the historical geographical center of the 48 contiguous states.
We did not stop at any of the above places because we were on a time constraint, but where we did stop on our first day through Kansas was Mankato. John needed a lunch break and the only place to pull over was on the main street of that town. We have gone through so many small towns which have experienced the ravages of time that I thought I would take this opportunity to look closer at the town of Mankato. It still has its old brick streets, as you may notice in the picture above. Many shops are shuttered and closed. A bowling alley looked like it had burned, the damaged lanes could be seen through an opened door. Walking further down the street, one beautiful old building caught my eye.
It used to be a bank, now is a chiropracter’s office. Date on the bank building is 1887. Next to it is the old Ute Theater, which presently is open only on week-ends with one show. Across from those two buildings is the YMCA, date on it is 1880.
There is one drug store on the main street, it also has a small diner and drive-up pharmacy. Other stores in the older buildings include hair styling salons, one quilt shop, antique stores and lodge halls. In defense of this little town, walking off the main street I found a newer building which is a community center/library. A convenience market/gas station was getting a lot of business, but they sold mainly candy and snacks. I was informed that there is a small grocery store a block or two away. Towns like Mankato remind me that not everyone lives in large metropolitan areas with all the conveniences of the arts and shopping only a short distance away! There will be more on our adventures on Highway 36 in my next posting.