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Posts Tagged ‘Topeka’

Dancing In The Dark

Friday, October 25th, 2013
"Dancing In The Dark" By" J.A. George AKA; The GYPSY

“Dancing In The Dark” By” J.A. George AKA; The GYPSY

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Rock’n music fills the air
Bikers dance without a care
Showing off in mating dance
Hoping one will take the chance

Beer flows freely within the tent
To get that buzz the money’s spent
Thousands of faces, friend and stranger
Party together and fear no danger

Smell of food lingers on the breeze
Vendors hock there wares with ease
A biker party noise, dirt and fun
Like minded people together as one

In the dark one has separated from all
Something stirs inside, he hears the call
Greasy jeans tucked in ankle boots channel
T-shirt covered with shirt of red flannel

Brown leather fedora rests on yellowish hair
White stringy beard un-groomed, he don’t care
Round glasses perch on nose bone thin
Lanky frame skinny from head to shin

Music beckons him down to Copperhead road
Old biker has heard and now lessens his load
Away from the crowd of swaying people
He has found his spot lost within the tempo

He sways he leaps his arms flay and legs stomp
Lost in his own Universe he dances and romps
This is his moment away from the crowd
His happiness not verbal but yet it is loud

Verse upon verse, beat upon beat
Life’s woes leave him drained through his feet
As the music ends he returns to this earth
Washed pure and clean as a baby at birth

And in the end what more can we ask
Than to dance in the dark without our mask

Pore Richards

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013
"Pore Richards" By: J.A. George AKA; The GYPSY

“Pore Richards” By: J.A. George AKA; The GYPSY

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As a child my Saturdays and summer breaks centered around youth activities at the YMCA located, at that time, at SW 8th and Quincy in Topeka, Kansas. The youth area was in the basement of the one time USO building and was a virtual boys club. No girls were allowed in this sacred area that included pool tables, lounge area with large color television, which most homes did not have at the time, hobby shop ran by the wise, talented and noble Mr. Anderson and an Olympic size swimming pool.
Activities included Judo lessons, handball, basketball and trampoline in the gymnasium. Field trips ranging from tours of Frito Lay and Coca Cola to Flights on small planes at Billard airport. My first flight on an airplane was captured on a front page story in the Topeka Capital Journal during one of these field trips. And let’s not forget swimming lessons from Louie the Lifeguard (I eventually obtained the Junior Life Saver level after Louie threw me into the pool after I refused to swim but that’s another story for another day) and open swimming in the afternoon when the pool became no mans land.
Yes, for a boy the YMCA was a world filled with opportunity, education, wonderment and fun. Now days there is a parking lot located on that southwest corner that was once a bastion of a boys life yet that is not what this posting is about, no it is about the business that once sat at the opposite corner from the YMCA; Pore Richards Beer ’N Stein Café.
When I would walk to or leave the YMCA I would always notice the big black sign with the neon lettering and the caricature of the funny little Hobo on top with his “Toe Peek A ing” out of one shoe. I had always assumed that the silly little Hobo with the large round spectacles was the fabled “Pore Richard”. I always found it funny that the adult who had made the sign did not know how to spell the word “Poor” and I wondered if Mr. Richard had been upset when he first saw the sign.
There was never really anything about the sign nor the exterior of the building that would appeal to your appetite to invite you in yet it was a Topeka tradition and a Topeka gathering place. My grandmother would sometimes take a business lunch in this mysterious restaurant that was off limits to one of my tender age.
Yes, almost everyday of my young life I saw Pore Richards and his image became such a familiar sight to me that even to this day when I hear the term Poor Richards Almanac a vision of the funny little Hobo comes to mind.
I had vowed that one day, when I was an adult, I would have a “Beef ’N Stein” in the famous Café. But alas, that was never to be. As with so many things and places held dear to so many peoples heart “Pore Richards” passed into history and the pages of the past.
Sometimes I think about the iconic sign and wonder what happened to it. Is it collecting dust in someone’s storeroom that swears, “I’m going to do something with that someday!” or was it recycled for the metal that was in it. I personally would like to see it in a museum where future generations can smile at the friendly little Hobo but barring that I think the recycle scenario would be the best thing that could have happened to the sign.
I smile when I imagine the stoic little Hobo being the front grill of an expensive recreational vehicle rolling down the highway, freed from the confines of the sign and doing what a Hobo does; traveling the highways and the byways of America. I lift a Stein to you my dear unknown friend and your memory; Pore Richards.

“Art must evoke an emotion in order to be art. If it only creates indifference then it is not art, it is garbage!”

4th And Jackson 1974

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013
"4th and Jackson 1974" By: J.A. George AKA; The GYPSY

“4th and Jackson 1974” By: J.A. George AKA; The GYPSY

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This scene from Topeka, Kansas shows the back side of Poor Bills Bar looking east towards Jackson Street. The buildings in the background face Kansas avenue. The Norva Hotel can be seen to the left.
The backs of buildings have always fascinated me. They are the hidden story of the true nature of the building. The facade may have been changed and updated with each passing generation but the unchanging rear is the window to the past.

“Art must evoke an emotion in order to be art. If it only creates indifference then it is not art, it is garbage!”

2410 West 2nd

Thursday, July 25th, 2013
2410 West 2nd By: J.A. George AKA; The GYPSY

2410 West 2nd By: J.A. George AKA; The GYPSY

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The photo that inspired this painting is from the collection of Judy Perkins of Topeka, Kansas. It documents the day in 1951 that a neighbor man took Ms. Perkins, her mother and sister on a rowboat ride through their flooded home at 2410 West 2nd Street in Topeka, Kansas. Little Judy is peaking around her sister who is wiping a tear from her eye. Their Father was in another row boat in the foreground taking the photo.

The original photograph had a sudden impact on me as I had a similar experience 42 years later in 1993 when again the Midwest suffered a great flood. Just like when Topeka became a victim of rain swollen rivers and tributaries in 1951 so too did Baxter Springs, Kansas become a victim in 1993.

I was at a family reunion in Weston, Missouri in September 1993 when disaster struck. The Grand River authority in Oklahoma refused to open their flood gates to relieve the swollen Spring and Neodesha Rivers because they had just installed new playground equipment that spring and they did not want to lose it. So 100’s of families in Ft. Scott, Pittsburg, Riverton, Baxter Springs, Kansas and Miami, Oklahoma lost their homes and worldly possessions to protect a swing set.

Our home in Baxter Spring was the first to succumb to the rising waters and by the time I arrived all that could be seen of our house was the peak of the roof. After making sure that my wife, at that time, Tammy and my boys Michael and Ricky were OK I asked about the animals. Tammy informed me that Breeze A Dog was safe at a friends house but she wasn’t sure about Miss Kitty. Tammy said that the last time she had seen her she was asleep in the linen closet. “She may have got out when we were removing stuff from the house, I don’t know. I found a Cherokee County Sheriff’s Deputy and asked him to take me down to the house in a boat so that I could make sure Miss Kitty had got out safely.

As the Deputy maneuvered his boat around to the back of the house I grabbed his fire extinguisher and once the boat was in position I used it to bust out the kitchen window. As the shards of glass slowly sunk in the Khaki colored muck I yelled out; MISS KITTY! A faint meow came from somewhere inside the house. The water was within just 6 inches of the ceiling and trash, food and furniture floated in the foul smelling water.

“Get me to the back door” I instructed the Deputy, “I’m going to kick in a panel on the back door and go in for her.” The Deputy said, “Are you sure you want to…” But suddenly stopped in mid sentence looking hard into the window by the back door. “She’s in that room!” He exclaimed, “I can see her eyes.” Taking the fire extinguisher I busted out that window and looked inside. On the far side of the room a set of box springs was floating and clinging onto the edge of those springs, her head held up above the water was my Miss Kitty.

The Calico Cat yowled mournfully, her wide eyes scared. As the Deputy held onto my belt with one hand and the eave of the house with the other I reached through the broken window for the bed springs. As my fingers made contact Miss Kitty ran up my arm clinging to my shoulder the way she had clung to the bed springs. I resettled into the boat and as the Deputy maneuvered us up what had once been 7th Street Miss Kitty nestled her water soaked body into mine purring softly.

As we arrived at Main Street there were News Crews from NBC, ABC, CBS and FOX waiting for us. Someone had alerted the news media that a cat rescue was taking place and for 15 minutes Miss Kitty enjoyed her fame.

This story has a happy ending, of sorts. Miss Kitty, Breeze A Dog, Ricky, Michael, Tammy and I survived the great flood of 1993. We lost irreplaceable items but saved a priceless object, Miss Kitty. Floods are horrible things that cannot even be imagined by anyone who has never had to endure the cleanup of the mud, muck, ooze and gunk. The smell seems to never go away and you feel dirty for months after. Yes a Flood is horrible but for those of us that have lived through a flood we can be a little more sympathetic and understanding of the strength that it takes to recover and start a new. We have the power of the water that took our comfort and gave us a strength stronger that the flood that washed it away.

Judy Perkins Said: “During the 1951 flood in Topeka our neighbor man took my mother, sister and me on a rowboat ride through our house at 2410 W. 2nd. I am the girl in back looking around my sister. Sure brings back memories…I think my dad must have taken the photo from the boat in the foreground. It was quite a scary feeling riding through the various rooms inside. My sister was already wiping away a tear.”

“Art must evoke an emotion in order to be art. If it only creates indifference then it is not art, it is garbage!”

The Albino Woman

Saturday, May 18th, 2013
"The Albino Woman" By: J.A. George AKA; The GYPSY

“The Albino Woman” By: J.A. George AKA; The GYPSY

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While we are on the subject of cemeteries allow me to relate the strange tale of the Albino Woman to you my faithful readers. The story of the Albino Woman is a ghost story that has touched me in the past and will again become part of my story in the future. The cemetery she haunts, Rochester Cemetery, is located on the northwest outskirts of Topeka, Kansas and is the final resting place of my family as it will also someday be the final resting place of my wife Debbie and I.
This ghost story has its roots in the life of a strange albino woman who wandered her north Topeka neighborhood at night and glared at children on their way to school during the day. As a child she had been mercilessly teased by her classmates. That taunting had followed her to adult hood as the neighborhood children would call her names and yell insults at her. After the friendless woman died in 1963 of mysterious circumstances residents began reporting a glowing white female figure walking in the area after dark especially along Shunganunga Creek.
Often the sightings were near Rochester Cemetery where the woman was buried and near which Shunganunga Creek flows. To this day employees of the nearby Goodyear Tire Factory claim to see her regularly, and some neighbors see the apparition as often as once a week.
It was August of 1964 and I was trying on clothes in the dressing room of the children’s department on the second floor of Pelletier’s Department store which my Grandmother was Manager of. It was time for me to get my new school clothes. School was going to start soon and I would be entering the second grade.
Suddenly the door to the dressing room flew open and there stood a tall veiled woman dressed entirely in black. her red eyes were visible through the dark veil as she reached out a gloved hand towards me. As the arm came closer I saw with horror the pale almost bluish flesh of the arm between her sleeve and glove. I let out a scream and she froze in her movement. Appearing behind the tall frightening figure was the small stature of my Grandmother. Summing up the situation quickly my Grandmother forcibly ordered, “Leave! You are not welcomed here!” The veiled woman slowly turned as I crouched back against the wall. I heard my Grandmother repeat, “You are not welcomed here.” She then ordered, “Now leave!” The tall figure with the red eyes and bluish skin silently glided past my Grandmother and towards the stair well. I ran to my Grandmothers arms and watched, along with the employees that had come running when I screamed, the frightening figure descend the stairs and quickly disappear.
I was to learn later that this was the Albino Woman who had died the next year. I was not to learn until four years later why she had sought me out.
The Rochester Cemetery’s caretaker and his wife had a close encounter with the ghost of the Albino Woman late one night in 1968. As they pulled their car into the driveway they saw a figure scurrying among the gravestones. Thinking it a child playing a prank, they aimed the car’s headlights at the figure, which was then kneeling before a grave. When the caretaker got out of the car, the ghostly figure stood up and glared angrily at him and walked deeper into the cemetery. The caretaker was so upset he called the police but the officers found nothing.
The ghost’s route was so regular that one resident began watching for it as it strolled across his lawn on clear nights. Eventually, he claimed, the figure began to pause and gaze at his house as though it wished to speak to him. It began to pass closer and closer to the house until one night it stood at his children’s bedroom window and watched them as they slept. The man was badly scared, but the apparition never harmed his children.
This was not the only house that the Albino Woman looked within the windows. One hot summer evening in 1968 as I lay asleep, my bed by the window to catch what little breeze drifted into the bedroom. We were poor and air conditioning was not a luxury we could afford so a rotary fan moved the stagnant air around the room. I was awakened by a scratching sound at my window. In my groggy, half asleep state I thought it was my cat, Blue Boy, scratching at the screen. “Stop it girl,” I mumbled. That is when my cat hissed. I opened my eyes to see Blue Boy, her back arched, her hair on end and hissing at the window. I rolled over and looked into the glowing red eyes of the Albino Woman who was standing right outside my window glaring at me with an intense stare that was without emotion. I screamed and scrambled out of my bed.
My Mother came running into the room and saw the hideous apparition standing at the window. “Leave us alone, damn you,” my mother screamed, “leave us alone!” My mother grabbed my arm and shoved me from the room. “I am sorry, OK?! I am sorry! Now leave us be!” My mother yelled as she exited the room and slammed the bedroom door close.
I found out that night that the Albino Woman had lived in a house in my mothers childhood neighborhood. My mother and her friends had taunted the poor hapless woman everyday as they walked to and from school.
I have not had an encounter with her since the night my Mother apologized almost 40 years ago now. But it is said that she still walks along Shunganunga creek and prowls the interior woodlands of Rochester Cemetery at night. Do me a favor will you? If you are ever in Rochester Cemetery and you meet a tall woman dressed in black with piercing red eyes and pale bluish white skin, don’t tell her that you know me or that you know where I live. I’ll have a word with her after I am laid to rest there.

“Art must evoke an emotion in order to be art. If it only creates indifference then it is not art, it is garbage!”