Special Treasures

I would safely say I have truly been blessed with meeting so many wonderful people, crossing paths along the way throughout my life during Cowboy Action shooting.

Not only for the commraderie, healthy competition and learning but also being able to assist in passing on my knowledge and skills along the way.

I have been extremely grateful in the past that some have found me worthy of little treasured presents.

This weekend I was given some plaid fabric by Annie Hicock that would make a great 1890's walking dress….so the thinking cap has gone on for that, time for a new dress in my future – in amongst everything else at some point!

 

Idaho Sue from Texas also brought me some fabric she was clearing out of her stash and in amongst it I think is the blue I'm looking for for my next formal gown! Holy cow! Excited much!

 

The jewel in the crown however, was when she came to me at the banquet last night with 3 little 'gems' that just blew me away for the much appreciated gift. She had seen 3 ivory handled button hooks at an antique store and thought I might like them. I don't know how many times I said thank you but it doesn't seem enough.

 

They are in the cabinet with my Fred Harvey 'gems'!

 

Thank you ladies, you made my weekend! Hugs!

Kat xo

 

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Clear Lake, Iowa

Iowa was another new state to visit and on the way home from Minnesota we headed into Clear Lake.

You'll love this one Mum! We stopped in at the Surf Ballroom where in February of 1959, Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper had been performing. (insert great 50's music, Bobby socks, swing skirts and slick backed hair here)

However, in the early hours of February 3rd, they were all killed when the plane they were on crashed. A monument was erected at the crash site honouring the legends in 1988.

Unfortunately being Sunday and we were there early, the Surf Ballroom and Museum was not open until 1pm. We missed out on seeing that which was a shame but we did however make the half a mile walk into the paddock to see the memorial!

 

……..Peggy Sue, Peggy Sue, oh how my heart yearns for you – Buddy Holly

……..para bailar La Bamba, (it's amazing I never knew the right words for this song!!) – Ritchie Valens

……..chantilly lace and a pretty face, and a pony tail a hagin'down, that wiggle in the walk and giggle in the talk – Big Bopper

RIP music legends

Kat xo

 

Kansas to Minnesota

This morning after a fabulous breakfast and great hospitality from our hosts, we hit the road again and headed out for Kansas City.

We are visiting Union Station, just across the border in Kansas City, Missouri.

What a grand old lady is Union Station, with beautiful architecture, ornate ceiling rosettes, grand chandeliers AND Harvey's – a restaurant that once upon a time was a Fred Harvey house. I have a bit of an obsession with Harvey Houses.

 

Now there is Science City and a current exhibit of Mummies showing but we headed for the 2nd and 3rd floor history exhibits.

Union Station as it is today, replaced a smaller Union Depot that had served the city since 1878. The bigger station was built in 1914 on a new site away from floodplains just south of the central business district.

 

Just a few facts:

  • Jarvis Hunt, Architect was hired in 1906 for the building of Union Station.
  • When it opened in October, 1914 it was the second largest train station in the country.
  • It takes up 850,000sq ft/79,000m2 of real estate
  • Each chandelier, of which there are 3, weighs 3,500pds/1600kg
  • The Grand Hall clock face is 6ft/1.8m in diameter
  • The ceiling height in the Grand Hall is 95ft/29m high
  • In 1917 during WWI peak train traffic numbered 271 – 1945 during WWII peak passenger traffic was 678,363
  • 1933 Union Station massacre made headlines Frank Nash (notorious gangster, bank robber and escaped convict) along with 4 of his hit men attacked the men who had come to take him back to Leavenworth. 5 men including detectives and FBI agents were killed.

There are fabulous old photographs, information boards and displays of artefacts on the two levels overlooking the Grand Hall.

 

Mementos from special exhibitions are also on display along with information regarding the National Memorial and WWI Museum. The view across the lawn and fountain area to the Memorial is mighty fine. Landscape designer, George Kessler, indeed planned a beautiful city back in the late 1800's-early 1900's.

 

With a visit to Harvey's for extra breakfast (lol, don't need lunch! Have a go at the size of Jack's pancakes!!) we rolled out the door and back to the car to head further North through Missouri and into the state of Iowa.

 

Iowa is another new state to visit. We took a quick pit stop at Lamoni at the Welcome Centre and Amish store. I thought the buggy and horse were a statue when I saw the buggy parking sign! Lol! The horse must have realised the blonde needed an acknowledgement and with a turn of his head I realised it was real!

 

How fabulous Amish stores are with all their homemade and harvested fruits, vegetables, grains, and spices. Jack scored some Fig Jam and we got some awesome licorice wheels, YUM!

 

I head to the other end of the store where there is a neat little cafe set up and more goods. In the meantime, Jack perusing the information stand, finds the John Wayne Birthplace and Museum brochure. Winterset here we come!

Born Marion Robert Morrison on May 26, 1907, John Wayne is one of the most recognised western actor's history has seen.

 

This small museum has a theatrette, a gallery with costumes, guns and other items used in films he starred in. It has one of his last customised cars on display, a buggy and beautiful panels from the ballroom in The Shootist.

 

The wax statue and painted scenes of Monument Valley are excellent. Monument Valley lends the perfect western landscape to many movies. Director John Ford made John Wayne a star in 'Stagecoach' in 1939. John Wayne directed and starred in 3 other films in Monument Valley – 'Fort Apache', 'She Wore A Yellow Ribbon' and 'The Searchers'.

 

John Wayne starred in 152 movies! (200 actually, including cameo appearances)

 

The sweet little 4 room house and birthplace of John Wayne sits on it existing site just round the corner on the same block as the Museum and Gift shop. It has been restored and includes period furniture of 1907 when he was born.

 

Then it was back on the road!

We need to be in Faribault, Minnesota y'all!

Kat xo

 

Oklahoma/Kansas

After a feed at the chuckwagon (aka Dennys), Jack and I jumped in the buckboard and reined in the horses (aka Dodge van hp). We are headed for Abilene, Kansas along the Chisholm Trail. Well essentially the modern day version of it being the I-35 which runs all the way from Texas through Oklahoma and up into Kansas.

 

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Chisholm Trail – the first cattle drive that headed north to Abilene. 1867-2017

 

We made good time and stopped in at the Dwight Eisenhower Library and Museum. The museum currently has an exhibit 'Chisholm Trail and the Cowtown that raised a President' and the library has two exhibits 'The Chisholm Trail: Driving the American West' and 'Eisenhower and the Great War'.

First up we watched a documentary on the Eisenhower years and about the man himself. Dwight David Eisenhower, known as 'Ike', was a formidable man indeed, one of compassion and decency.

Next we went on a short guided tour through his Abilene boyhood home. The house is on its original site where the Eisenhowers lived from 1898 to 1946 when his mother passed away. There are still items within the home that belonged to the Eisenhower's.

 

He lived here from when he was 8 until he was 20 before leaving for West Point Academy. Six boys were raised in this home.

The blanket on the fainting couch was woven by the great grandfather who was a weaver. It is over 160 years old and still appears to be in really good nick!

 

The wooden box with the lid in the kitchen is a dough box. Ida made 9 loaves of bread every other day, to keep the boys fed.

 

Next we went into the Museum and spent a good amount of time in here. The first part of the exhibition was information that most of us cowboys and cowgirls know of the Chisholm Trail, its origins, the cattle drives, the cowboy's and how Joseph G. McCoy and Jesse Chisholm made it into the history books.

 

Chisholm, after marrying, had worked for his wife's father's trading post along the Canadian River in the Indian Territory (Oklahoma). He also worked in a diplomatic capacity, brokering treaties with Indian tribes for the Republic of Texas and the United States Government.

Later after the Civil War, he went back to trading and essentially transformed the trails to be more usable by heavily laden wagons. He continued trading until he died in 1868.

McCoy after having been turned down from a few towns finally settled on Abilene, KS for his new 'cowtown'. There was a quarantine issue for Texas cattle at the time and after lobbying the Governor of Kansas got permission to create a corridor for cattle to be driven from Texas through to Kansas. Holding pens were built, paths were surveyed on the previously travelled trails that Jesse Chisholm had traded along.

It soon became the first of the cattle boomtowns. In a few years it had transformed from a small frontier town into a thriving boomtown.

The trail had been called many names and was finally officially recognised when the name was publicised in 1870. The Chisholm Trail was about 150 miles west of the old Shawnee trail. It was shorter and there were plenty of grazing grasslands and water for the cattle along this route and rivers were easier to cross.

 

Abilene, saw the usual well known figures flow through its streets such as Wild Bill Hicock, John Wesley Hardin, and more. Problems ensued with the cattle trade with cattle getting sick and the 'Texas tick' causing issues that essentially shut the cattle trails down in 1871.

It is said by historians that an estimated 3 million head of cattle made the trek from Texas to Abilene in a 5 year period. Safe to say Joseph McCoy's plans for a prosperous cattle business were indeed successful.

Whilst time and governance closed the cattle trails, the legacy of raising cattle and creating new agricultural ways has lived on for generations since.

One of Eisenhowers personal hero's, was a man named Thomas “Bear River” Smith who served as Sheriff in June 1870 until he met his demise in November of the same year. Smith had managed to tame the cattle town and was well liked. He policed mainly with just his spirit and a badge. He had outlawed gun carrying within city limits. His tenure was short lived when he was murdered during a homestead scuffle where his Deputy left him to fend for himself.

Into the next lot of exhibit rooms and there are lots of displays of Eisenhower growing up, Mamie his wife and beautifully displayed clothes of hers on rotating mannequins in climate control cases.

 

There are exhibits of his time during WWII and his exceptional leadership, D-Day, VE-Day, his presidential time etc. so much information, beautifully done and they are looking at changing the displays and renovating the museum. It will be an even more impressive museum when they do that. This is a Museum not to be missed.

 

The library across from the Museum had a, shall I say, more modern twist in a shortened version of the history of Chisholm Trail. There is also another exhibit currently being held there of Eisenhower and the Great War that we didn't see.

 

That my friends, is our quick history lesson and Museum visit for the day.

After a short stay with our Kansan friends Cooncan and Bertie Winchester we will head for Union Station in Kansas City before going on through to Morristown, MI.

See you on the trail!

Kat xo

https://www.eisenhower.archives.gov

 

Colditz Castle, Germany

With a side trip via Dresden on Saturday afternoon August 19th, we wound our way through the German countryside to Colditz.

Arriving late afternoon, the very helpful tourist information girl rang around countless hotels and pension’s (pronounced pensh-ee-on) to no avail. Jack wandered off down around the corner to one he had stayed at 12 years ago and found the same guy running it with a room available.

Done! We were checked in and the room, I will add, was white walled, rather large and fresh compared to the burgundy wallpapered tiny room of Prague.

Being beer o’clock we took a short walk back into the square to find no pubs!?? Back to the Pension and asked about a watering hole.

He told us there was a pub up a side street, which I had seen outside umbrellas that were down. Odd for a Saturday afternoon but he assured us it would be open at 5pm.

Off we trot to find that it doesn’t open until 6pm!!!?? What is this place? Lol!

Okay so we decide to take a casual stroll up to the castle and then see a sign for another pub. Well it’s not like we don’t have time to find it and see if it is open.

Walking uphill and earning that Weiss Bier we found the little hidden pub and yes our best Little amount of German ordered a couple and went out to the Biergarten. Prost!

Two rounds later and we headed back down the hill to the first pub.

It’s bustling (lol!) with 5 patrons watching soccer. We take a corner booth under the screen and have a Guinness limited choices here and that’s when I spy the Four Roses Bourbon in the corner shelf from Kentucky!! Schnitzel followed with the next round before returning to the room.

Sunday morning we are up to the castle for a tour and our guide Alex is a mix of U.K., Polish and living in Germany.

Colditz Castle in the saxony state of Germany had begun construction in 1046 and was burnt down twice.

Colditz has a long Royal history before it was otherwise used as an asylum, a children’s home, an old people’s home and during 1939-1945 was a concentration camp.

The more modern part of the building was added in the 1800’s and is now the Jugendhergeege Youth Hostel and to the right of it is the music school where students, orchestras and performers from many countries come to play.

Jack recognizes a section has changed and asks Alex about it. In 2006 they removed one section to reveal what would have been the Royal baths with tiered gardens behind.

Back to the War period and many of you may know some of the Colditz story or have seen the documentary regarding the attempted escape with the plane.

During this time 320 escapes were attempted, 28 were successful with the intended route into Switzerland some 640km away.

Around 5-600 prisoners were held here at any one time with numbers increasing towards the end of the war. Interestingly of those, 21 Australians and 12 New Zealanders were held captive here.

Through the castle to the back section and we can see the back of the building to the officers quarters and the prisoners quarters to the right. Over the wall behind us is forest and a grass field where prisoners used to play soccer.

As you can see, a great place to escape but there would have been machine guns and barbwire.

A partial wall left in the trees is where two escapees got out. One stole a bike and made it to Switzerland in just 8 days! The other walked his way there in 5 months!

In 1939, 700 Polish prisoners were in Colditz and was then changed to imprison high profile prisoners.

These prisoners were VIP’s with some related to Churchill or the Queen and other high profile families or ranking.

The Castle used to be a drab grey which the Germans saw as formidable and the Captain in charge thought that being built on 30m of solid rock that it could not be escaped from let alone tunneled out of!

The French created a tunnel below and through Colditz taking them just a mere 9 months to do so.

There were 150 guards at the beginning and by the end 300 – 1 guard to every 2 prisoners.

As this was(?) run under the Geneva Convention, prisoners were allowed to be punished with solitary confinement. This just gave most of them more time to dream up escapes and ways to keep the guards busy. They were able to time the guards movements and use the information for their plans. Guards were tied up 4 times a day with roll calls and keeping track of where all the prisoners were.

An Englishman and a Dutchman were the first to attempt escape from Colditz.

Art Neive cut a German uniform from a Polish one which was supposed to be dyed the correct colour. Being a little impatient he escapes anyway and nearly blew his cover by taking a piece of chocolate from his pocket to which the Germans had not seen such luxury in more than 2 years.

He had escaped with another prisoner through the back of the opera theatre past 4 guards unnoticed. He escapes 9 times during that period and was killed years later in and IRA bombing. He was your original 007 and was with a Belgium woman who was considered the original ‘Q’. It is said that this is where Ian Fleming got the ideas for his James Bond books.

We headed up the spiral staircase to the loft and watched a shortened version of the very same documentary that Jack and I had happened across on tv just a few months earlier!

The guy in the documentary with some aerodynamic experts recreated the glider and launching that had taken place by a couple of British Air Force pilots during their Colditz internment.

It really is impressive to think they they actually built a glider hidden away behind a false wall right under the guards noses! They found books on aerodynamics in the prison library and set about to build it with stuff just laying around.

The two airmen had said it wasn’t that hard there were supplies in hallways and other areas just for the taking that wouldn’t be noticed if gone.

They used their gingham bedsheets and made a dope from porridge to coat it with so the fabric would be taute.

The only photo of proof it actually existed was taken by a journalist that was with the Americans when they liberated Colditz.

Behind the wall where the photo display board, was where they built the glider in just 1 year.

The replica in the attic has been made using the exact plans the airmen came up with.

Lastly we went into the 1623 chapel. It was renovated much later and the back wall has only just been opened up to reveal the French tunnel work.

When the French discovered the gap at the back, they started creating a tunnel whilst the French organist played and the French choir would sing all day.

The mousetrap we saw in the first museum would sit underneath an organ pedal and if the guards were around it could turn off the power to the tunnel and the diggers would go silent.

The tunnel we saw in the cellar was just short of 46m. It is said that a young electrician was sent down to the cellar at the same time 3 French Officers landed in there. Of course they were caught and were made cement the hole back in (now removed again for their display purposes).

Also the rubble that they had taken out of the tunnels was deposited on the roof of the Chapel which later collapsed and they were made pay for the repairs.

Finally we were shown the section of roof the glider was launched from and the field in which it landed and indeed could possibly have landed if they had had the chance to attempt the escape in the glider.

A great experience to see it after seeing the history documentary.

Onto Freising we went for our final stop before departing Munich.

Cheers

Kat xo

KGB

As the final day in Prague came round, Jack and I used our 24hr hop on hop off pass to get us round the city again and to the KGB Museum (his choice but this was indeed a treat).

The KGB Museum is of all places, situated in between the US Embassy and the German embassy.

We arrived at the door just after 12 noon and fortunately we were let in to the guided tour that was taking place.

Man, I wish had taken video of this guy because it was very entertaining, to put it mildly!

We are talking about a good Russian boy here. He had all the history down on all the gear.

In my efforts to intently listen to his broken English/Russian accent it took me all I knew to concentrate on what he was saying and at times translating for Jack! Haa haa haa

I didn’t make any notes during this hour and a half ‘show’.

His flamboyant style of history portrayal also included some very animated displays of weapon use along with sound effects and facial expressions!! I’m still laughing about it now. 🙂

He spoke of spy camera’s, watches, bullet pens, poison. Showed us knives, guns and garroting saws. The latter came with demonstrations, noises, movement and eye rolling!

After this we got back on the bus and down to the wharf for a 1hr boat cruise on a different section of the river.

Thanks for having us Prague!

Kat xo

Communism Tour

Thursday 17th August, whilst in Prague, Jack having an interest in history of past wars and effects chose to do a Communism Tour.

Not having known a great deal about it (history was not one of my subjects at school despite my obvious and very keen interest in it now) I thought this could be an interesting diverse look at Prague.

Now Katarina, our little tour guide, is only 30years old and has lived through part of this as a very small child. Her parents and grandparents however, lived through those turbulent times.

She was a wealth of knowledge. At this point it is now your turn for a history lesson in what I have recounted from her imparted information as we walked for, yet again, miles of Prague. (a little tram travel as well)

As previously mentioned in other blogs, originally Czechoslovakia was part of the Austrian Hungarian empire until during WWII it came under the Munich agreement.

Germany occupied Cžech until the end of the war when Russian troops moved and took it over. Czechoslovakia, disenchanted with western countries at the time, cooperated with the Russians.

They later came to find that power was being misused and the following elections communist parties were not being considered.

Along came the ‘Bloody 50’s’ and the ensuing protests came with imprisonment. One notable woman was accuse of treason and subsequently executed. She is said to be the only woman in the country to be executed for political reasons.

Ten others were executed and 48 imprisoned just for being associated with her. Another 248 ‘inconvenient’ people were executed and 2500 imprisoned around the 50’s. (Think a good majority of us can take a moment and be very thankful for the lives we have lived and are living)

I’ll try now to shorten some of the other notes I took down from this tour but I think you will find it interesting nonetheless.

  • In 1953 Stalin died with another (I had Kleenex and ?mark, I’m sure autocorrect took over here) people though it suspicious and wondered if they were poisoned.
  • After his death, for some reason they thought it a good idea to mummify his body! It wasn’t done well however and soon started to decay.
  • There used to be a large statue of Stalin situated on the opposite side of the river (to the main part of Prague). It was blown up in 1962 and not one scrap of it is left, apparently everyone wanted a piece of him!
  • During the 60’s liberation, hippies etc, CZ experienced a short period.
  • 1968 borders were opened, mostly to Yugoslavia. If you were a good worker you may have been allowed to go on vacation with your family to Greece for a week or two.
  • There was no more censorship of artists. Katarina’s grandmother was arrested for dancing to the Beatles and Rock’n’Roll music!

During our visit to Prague there were display boards of photos, a tank and a nightly cinematic display at the front end of Wenceslas Square. The anniversary of Russian tanks being sent in to ‘liberate’ the country on 21st August, 1968.

This caused massive protesting and 100 people died including a young Jan Polak who set himself on fire in protest of the occupation. He died 3 days later. His death mask cast in bronze is installed in his memory on the side of a building.

It is sad to think that someone would think protesting in this fashion would do them good by harming themselves in such a dramatic fashion. But like Polak, 13 others attempted this method of protest.

The 80’s brought with it another revolution around the time of the wall coming down in Berlin in 1989. At the start of the revolution in ’88, Katarina’s parents brought her to Wenceslas Square where hoards of people protested shaking their keys. (I got nothing….I have no explanation written for the significance of this)

Did you know?

17th January, 1939 – students who protested were sent to concentration camps. To this day that anniversary has been known as the Day of International Students.

A memorial for this is prominently placed in the city where the most conflict between students and police took place.

The year 1990 saw the beginning of the Velvet Revolution. Velvet as smooth as the fabric is, to indicate a smooth transition to peace.

The Velvet Revolution came to conclusion in 1993 when the country split and became Cžech Republic and Slovakia.

In our travels Katarina provided other, somewhat trivial information as we passed different places. Like;

  • The Rock Cafe where in 1994 Bill Clinton was given a saxophone to play during his visit.
  • The beautiful garden that once belonged to Franciscan monks who along with nuns, were imprisoned or disappeared during the communist regime.
  • Cžech Republic is one of the most agnostic countries in the world because it was not worth your while to speak of your religion for fear of persecution.
  • The last point reminds us that despite being churches in every town here they remain as a symbol and most are concert halls etc or are only used for Christmas services and the like.

So next stop on this tour is a visit to the bunker. Yes you read it right, a bunker.

The metro system was designed as an underground bunker but could really only hold half of the city’s people.

We head to one of the bunkers entrances through a bizarrely graffitied, gated, outdoor bar in semi suburbia??!!

As Katarina unlocks the door she explains the bunker. Built in 1952-1955 it features a 4000kg/4t door, stairs take you to a 60m depth and could accommodate 5000 people. That would give each person around half a square meter of space.

Now it is supposedly ready as a shelter for 2000 people. Probably a two week stay is all that’s possible. It you wouldn’t be any better off other than living a few days longer as there would be no supplies etc up top for replenishment anyway. She said she would, in what I would call true Czech tradition, head to the nearest pub and live out your last days drinking beer!

The last sections of tunnel we went into had some displays of older gas masks, hospital supplies and their practice propaganda for such an event.

There are 5 entrances in total, decontamination rooms and a 3stage filtration system for clean air. (Wish I could insert my surprised, wide eyed emoji in here)

On a final note before we headed back up above ground to appreciate the fresh air and sunshine Katarina told us that The Rolling Stones were the first band to play in Cžech Republic after the Revolution in 1990. They gifted money for electricity to be installed in the Prague Castle for the presidential offices.

Bet you didn’t know that bit of trivia!?

Kat xo