I’ve got a story to tell you. But it’s kind long and in order to do it right I’m going to have to spread it out over the next three or four weeks, hope you hang with me. It’s a story about a town that sits about 25 or 30 miles north-east of Great Bend called Hitschmann. It’s a story about a two room school house I went to Kindergarten through the second grade in. It’s about some of my old classmates, I don’t know, guys like Artie Beck and Jay Krier come to mind. I’ll probably talk about their parents too, especially Jay’s dad, Vernon. I’m going to tell you about the old general store/post office/pool hall and the couple that owned the place. I’m going to talk about my dad and his friends, my mom always referred to them as his worthless drinking buddies. Yeah, looking back, she was probably right too. But I couldn’t talk about any of that without talking about growing up in the oil fields. We’re going to talk about some of the good times as well as the bad.
So how about it? Why don’t you grab yourself something to drink and kick off your shoes for a while. This ought to be a good trip and we might as well get started.
It all started last Wednesday when I was talking to Denise Hall (the boss) on the phone from Great Bend and told her about my plans to get a few pictures of an old school I used to go to that wasn‘t very far away. I thought it would make a good story. Yeah, I got the pictures I wanted alright. I got lots of pictures that day. So I’m going to do something that so far, I’ve been reluctant to do. I’m going to invite you to visit my blog at www.rm235.blogspot.com I post my column on it every week. And as we go through this story, I’ll be posting more pictures of the things and places I’m talking about. If you’re interested, come on in and have a look around. And if you’re so inclined, feel free to post a comment or two. Just do me a favor though, keep it clean. I know I can’t control what people say. But I do control what gets posted. I’d love to hear from you.
I left Great Bend later that morning and headed north through Hoisington then east on hi way 4 through Redwing toward Claflin. About three miles west of Claflin there’s a county road that takes you north through Odin and about another three or four miles further up the road there it was, the Hitschmann intersection. I hadn’t been on this road in over 40 years.
I made that right hand turn just like I’d watched my dad do so long ago. And as soon as I’d made the turn I could see Hitschmann’s grain elevator. It’s funny too. The minute I saw it, and it’s kind of hard to explain, but everything just felt right. It felt kind of like I’d never left. Wow.
Then there it was. Coming into town from the west the first thing I noticed was Frank and Bertha’s old house. And right next door was where Art and Lucielle Beck used to live. I turned into town on the second and last street and there it was. My old school. You know, I really hadn’t expected this to be an emotional trip and it’s not like I sat around crying. It was more like all the sudden I remembered everything. The old school’s been abandoned for the last 35 years and it showed. It was weird but as I got out of the truck, I realized I’d parked in the same spot my mom used when she picked me up after school. Pretty cool. I looked across the street and saw Frank and Bertha’s old store. It’s probably sat empty almost as long as the school has. I was walking around taking a few pictures when I noticed it. The side door was open. Uh, oh, decision time. Man I really wanted to get in there but it didn’t feel right. It’s not that I worried about being arrested for trespassing. I was more worried about getting shot. I walked back out to the street and I realized there wasn’t another living soul anywhere around. The entire town was deserted.
Well almost, because harvest was in full swing there was a man working at the elevator. I went inside his office and told him who I was and that I was from Topeka. I could tell right away he wasn’t impressed. That’s when I told him I’d gone to school there in the early 60’s and really wanted to get a few pictures of the place. We had a good talk and found out we knew a lot of the same people. He showed me a book written by a guy named Daniel Fitzgearld. It was a book about Kansas ghost towns and Hitschmann was in it. Bam!
Yeah, that’s what this story’s about. It’s about more than a Kansas ghost town. It’s a story about the ghosts themselves. Hope you come along for the ride.
Remember, you can visit Kevin McGinty’s blog at: www.rm235.blogspot.com