Traipsing Around Topeka

Another beautiful state capitol building to tour!   I walked all around it for awhile, just taking in the great architecture and flower plantings.  This building was under construction for 37 years and completed in 1903.  I really like the color of the dome which is covered with copper sheeting.

Entering this building was a different experience than the capitol in Lincoln. In Lincoln I just wandered in the building with nobody to check me in.  Not even a security guard at the door.   In the Kansas state capitol, I had to go through a security checkpoint and even have my bag checked.  There was no gift shop at the Nebraska capitol but here in Kansas there was a gift shop bustling with tourists buying souvenirs.  The tour inside the capitol was very interesting and we got to walk around several different floors.  Below are pictures of the dome and inside the elegant Senate Gallery.

We visited the National Park Historic Site of Brown vs. Board of Education.  This museum is housed in a former elementary school where black children attended during the time of segregation.  Having the museum in a former school site really added to the experience.

The museum highlights the landmark Supreme Court case that arose due to separate educational facilities for whites and blacks.  The case challenged the doctrine of “separate but equal” and argued that separate educational facilities was unconstitutional and a denial of “equal protection of the laws” under the 14th amendment.

On May 17, 1954, the Supreme Court ruled that the doctrine of separate but equal had no place and that separate educational facilities were inherently unequal.  This ruling opened the modern civil rights movement for African Americans and laid the foundation for similar movements by other minority groups.  In spite of the Supreme Court decision, there was great resistance for over 10 years.  Through sign boards, photographs and video screens the museum shows the long struggle for Civil Rights.

It was interesting to read that in some areas of the country including Topeka, black schools did have similar facilities and resources as white schools.  Unfortunately, some black schools in the south were housed in dilapidated buildings with little educational resources or materials.  Above is a photograph comparing two supposed “separate but equal” schools in South Carolina.  As I write this I am looking forward to visiting the Little Rock Central High School site in Arkansas where nine black students first attended an all white school.

We visited the Kansas Historical Society Museum which contained many exhibits.   Above is a picture of the oldest locomotive from the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway in the 1880’s.  There was also information about Indian tribes, for example the name Kansas comes from the Kansa tribe.  We learned about the pioneer trails, settling the frontier and the Civil War.  Prior to this war, Congress declared that the Kansas Territory should decide if they wanted to be a free or slave state.  Both sides fought bitterly over this.  This museum has a nice collection of pre Civil War and Civil War flags.  Below is a picture of one of them from 1857 along with a cannon from 1856.

The museum also covers modern times and even has a fast food exhibit.  The White Castle company from Kansas that makes the small square hamburgers was the first hamburger chain in America in 1921.  Pizza Hut, the largest pizza chain also started in Kansas.  I figured Mark who loves McDonald’s sausage biscuits would like this old McDonald’s sign from the first McDonald’s restaurant in Topeka in 1961.  It featured “Speedee” as a mascot before Ronald McDonald.

The museum has an interesting temporary exhibit – the largest mural made from M&M’s in the world.  The Mars candy factory in Topeka is the only factory that makes caramel M&M’s and created the mural to celebrate this new flavor.  Visitors are able to try and guess the number of M&M’s and the winner gets some kind of prize.  I wonder if Mark or I will be winners (doubtful).  We tried a small bag and I thought they were the best M&M’s I’ve had.

Nearby Lake Shawnee is a gem created in 1935 by the WPA.    It features numerous recreational activities.

We enjoyed playing disc golf and walking through the beautiful botanical garden.  In the picture below Mark takes aim and lets fly.  Can you spot the disc?

While there, I picked up one of many large round alien looking fruits from under a tree.  I learned it is the fruit of the Osage Orange tree which grows in the Great Plains.   It was named for the Osage Indian tribe who used the wood for making their bows.  Settlers planted the trees for fencing.  The fruit has an orange smell and although the flesh is not edible, squirrels love eating the seeds inside.

Mark and I like old time eateries and Bobo’s Drive-In, started in 1948 is one of the oldest in Topeka.  Bobo’s is still serving customers either at curb service or inside their tiny diner.  In the 1950’s customers were supposed to flash their car lights if they wanted curb service and burgers were only 30 cents.  Apple pie, an unusual offering for a burger joint has been a favorite menu item here since the restaurant opened.  Mark and I both had their hamburgers and they smash the patties very flat while grilling.  It was good food and still pretty cheap eats.

As always, thanks for reading – any comments or suggestions on how we can  improve the blog are appreciated!

2 thoughts on “Traipsing Around Topeka”

    1. LOL. Really great, never had thought much about Topeka, but the stuff you did sounds really interesting. I guess if you go into things with an open mind you will find a lot of great stuff

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