Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Hitschmann: A Kansas Ghost Town, Part Two

It’s funny, the guy from the elevator wasn’t from Hitschmann and once I told him I used to go to school there, he started asking me what I knew about the place. I named off a few people. One of them was a kid named Jay Krier. He told me Jay lived just north of town and offered up directions to his house. I declined the offer though. I’ve always been a little worried that Jay might still be mad at me for tearing up his dad’s alfalfa field. I’ll get to that later though, like always, I’m getting ahead of myself.
I probably should have started off today by saying that if you missed last week’s column, I’m telling a story about a Kansas ghost town named Hitschman and some of the people who lived there. This week is the second part of what will probably end up being a four part story about the place.
Alright then, where was I? Oh yeah, after the guy from the elevator and I talked for a while I told him I’d noticed the side door of the school was open and was wondering if he thought anyone would freak out if I went inside to get a few pictures. He told me to go ahead, just be careful. There had been a bunch of thugs living in it and were tearing the hell out of the place a few years back until the cops finally busted up their meth lab. He said there used to be signs warning about the chemicals but they’d been gone for a long time too.
I was thinking about that story as I walked back to the school and thinking about how sad it was but I wasn’t all that surprised either, not in today’s world anyway. Oh well, what do you do?
Just inside the front doors of the school is a big stairway that leads up to the classrooms. I stood there for a couple minutes thinking back to the last time I came down those stairs, I had no idea it would be 43 years before I’d be back.
As I climbed the stairs I noticed the water fountain and remember thinking it used to be a lot taller. Then I stepped into my old classroom. I stood in the same spot my desk used to be. I could almost hear Mrs. Seimpson taking roll call, leading us in the Pledge of Allegiance, and following that up by leading us as we recited the “Lord’s Prayer.” Now that’s something you’re not likely to hear nowadays. I noticed the closets we used to hang our coats in and thought to myself how upset she’d be if she saw how messed up they were today.
As I stood there I wondered what ever became of my old classmates. I went to school there for three years and each year there were five of us in our class. Besides myself there was Jay Krier, Artie Beck, Jerry Ney, and a girl but I can’t remember her name.
I walked out of my classroom out into the hallway. I went into the boy’s bathroom and yes, I know this is going to be gross but the urinal cracked me up. It used to be taller than I was. I went into the girl’s bathroom and realized this was the first time I’d ever been in there. I don’t know what the penalty for going into the girl’s bathroom would have been but I’m sure it would have severe in those days. I went into the “big kids” room. About the only thing I can remember about this room is it was where they kept the old Xerox machine. I always loved it when I got to help make copies of whatever we were copying. How many of you remember those old machines? Do you remember the smell of the ink? I just loved that.
I went down that stairway to the basement and the first thing I noticed was the stage. That old stage provided me with one of the most embarrassing moments of my young life. It was during one of our Christmas programs. We were singing that old Christmas Carroll that went “down through the chimney with ol’ St. Nick. You know the one. When we got to the part that went “up on the house top, “click, click, click.” Well, my job was to step forward and hit two sticks together with the beat. It was going so well too. I don’t know, maybe I got a little carried away but when I smacked my sticks together for the third and final time one of them broke in two. That by itself wouldn’t have so bad I guess. But I don’t know why that one piece just had to fly out into the crowd and hit a lady sitting in the front row on the leg. All I knew was that I wanted to die. But, the show must go on. And go on we did. At the other end of the basement was the kitchen and I could almost smell the home made dinner rolls they used to make.
Guys, I’m sorry but I’m going to have wrap it up. Next week we’re going to go over to Artie Beck’s house, then walk over to Frank and Bertha’s store for a pop. Remember, if you’re interested, you can join in on the conversation by going to my blog at I’ve already heard from a man named Al who lived in Odin and is very familiar with the places I’m talking about. It doesn’t get any better than that. Hope all is well with you and yours.


  1. Hi Kevin ...

    Enjoying your articles about your roots. I'm inspired to write about Bruce SD. We're getting ready to make a trip. Of course I'll be passing out our site.

  2. Hey,Kevin
    How you doing?I really enjoy your stuff.I read your stuff every week,keep up the good work.The story about "Bo" kinda gave me the chills .anyway Im starting part two of the Hitschmann,so talk to you later.


  3. Good to hear from you Syl. Thanks for stopping by. And tell your old man I said hi...

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