Abilene, KS, Day Two in Covered Wagon RV Park
Two months 18 days in our bus.
TUESDAY, JULY 31. THE SEELYE MANSION
I am so glad we spent an extra day in Abilene. There is a lot of history squeezed into this one little town. We only scratched the surface and now I have to add Abilene to my growing list of places where we must return to see so much more.
We set out early and I was attracted to go first to the Seelye Mansion. I saw this beautiful house when we drove in and it attracted me like a magnate. We had the great good fortune to join a tour being led by the owner, Terry Tietjens, himself. This guy is something else. He is a natural born teacher and entertainer and he loves his subject. We were visiting the home as it was 100 years ago and he explained how the Seelye family would entertain us. We were their guests. He recreated it all and included everyone by asking them questions to encourage conversation and speculation. He actually lived with the unmarried maiden sisters, bought the house and all it’s contents from them in 1981 and took care of them until they passed away in their mid-nineties. He renovated and preserved, and the house is as much as possible exactly as it was when the family lived there. Before the tour was finished I had decided that Terry is an enormous asset to Abilene. Later I discovered that he was given a citizen of the year award by the city.
The house is remarkable in that it was built right after the family visited the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis where Thomas Edison demonstrated the miracles of electricity. Edison was hired by Seelye to oversee construction of his new house with built-in electric fixtures installed. It was one of the first.
By then Seelye was a millionaire and how he got his money is a story in itself. He made and sold patent medicines and they were peddled all over the mid-west. What was in them is anyone’s guess. For sure, alcohol, morphine and cocaine can make you feel better and these may have been included together with herbs and other substances.
The Seelyes kept their two daughters at home and it was felt that no one local was good enough for them. As a result, they remained in their parent’s home and never married. (Ike, whose parent’s home was located just down the street by the railroad tracks, delivered ice for their gigantic icebox while working to earn money for college!)
Here is a very interesting article on Patent Medicines that includes A B Seelye Medical Co. of Abilene
I also discovered a series of articles by and about Terry Tietjens, owner of the Seelye Mansion.
Or go to: http://www.oznet.k-state.edu
See K-State Research & Extension; Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development; Kansas Profiles 2000; Terry Tietjens – Seelye Mansion – parts 1, 2, and 3.
After our tour we paused to rest and had lunch in another house owned and renovated by Terry Tietjens, the Kirby House Restaurant. I had a delicious quiche and salad and felt very much the lady as we sat at a table in the drawing room.
THE EISENHOWER CENTER
We spent the rest of the day at the Eisenhower Center, which features two gigantic buildings, the Library and the Museum as well as the Visitor’s Center and the little farmhouse where he lived with his parents and brothers as a boy. There is also a “Place of Meditation” where Ike is buried with Mamie and their first-born son, Doud Dwight Eisenhower. The 22 acres of property is huge with vast green lawns between the buildings.
We stopped at the Place of Meditation first and immediately I was bowled over by the quote inscribed on the wall there. It spoke to me across the years because I believe that over and over again our country has done exactly what Eisenhower preached against. Today we neglect our people and our infrastructure as we pour money into one more useless and nonproductive war.
“Every gun made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed….This is not a way of life at all…Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.” — Chance For Peace Address, Washington, DC, April 16, 1953 http://www.eisenhower.archives.gov/visitors_center/place_of_meditation.html
“I like Ike.” Ike is a part of my memory bank. He was the first president who penetrated the consciousness of my youthful, ditzy brain. We had moved from New York to California and were settled in our new house up on the hill in Hollywood Riviera, Redondo Beach, CA. I was 12 when he was elected and I clearly remember a color close-up of his face with a big infectious grin on the cover of — was it Life or Look magazine in the summer of ’52? Who couldn’t like that face? My parents were Republicans. They loved him: I loved him.
The Eisenhower campaign against Democrat, Adlai E. Stevenson, is my first memory of political shenanigans. Adlai was accused of being an “egghead.” An egghead was defined as one who will not pee in the shower. Also Adlai had a hole in the bottom of his shoe. According to the papers my parents read, these two facts disqualified him from serious consideration for the Presidency. I did not pee in the shower — and I had no wish to do so. This worried me. Clearly my dim and vague Presidential aspirations were over before they began. I knew my parents were laughing but I didn’t get it. I did not see what this had to do with being qualified to be the leader of the free world. Actually, I still don’t. Nevertheless, I liked Ike.
I’m a Democrat. I’d forgotten about Ike. We stumbled on the center because we were in Abilene. I was not prepared for the Eisenhower Museum. We spent too much time in the first rooms and I didn’t understand how much was still ahead of us. Finally, we were overwhelmed with the enormity of Ike’s career and the vastness of the displays that recount his career. I came away awed and stunned and amazed. I rediscovered a hero. http://www.dwightdeisenhower.com/about2.html
Here was a leader. Here was a man who did not shirk from making decisions. Here was a man who did not hide behind political opinion polls. In the museum I read the following quote and once again I was struck dumb as Ike spoke to me across the intervening years:
“Character in many ways is everything in leadership. It is made up of many things, but I would say character is really integrity. When you delegate something to a subordinate, for example, it is absolutely your responsibility, and he must understand this. You as a leader must take complete responsibility for what the subordinate does. I once said, as a sort of wisecrack, that leadership consists of nothing but taking responsibility for everything that goes wrong and giving your subordinates credit for everything that goes well.”
Today, Republicans would have me feel that if I don’t support the war I am somehow not concerned about the welfare of our soldiers who risk their lives or that I am unpatriotic because I disagree with this war. But Dwight D. said, “Here in America we are descended in blood and in spirit from revolutionists and rebels – men and women who dare to dissent from accepted doctrine. As their heirs, may we never confuse honest dissent with disloyal subversion.” Clearly, today we are confused.
Eisenhower also said, “War settles nothing.” In my lifetime, I’ve seen ample evidence of that.
And Ike said, “Don’t join the book burners. Do not think you are going to conceal thoughts by concealing evidence that they ever existed.” To me that is a message that goes straight to the heart of not only the Bush administration but also many Presidential administrations since Eisenhower left the Presidency in 1961. Today business leaders and political leaders frequently avoid responsibility for their actions. It is common practice to lie or blame others. Karl Rove has honed the lie into a tremendously successful political tool — simply repeat a lie often enough and somehow it becomes accepted as a truth. The line between rhetoric and reality has become indistinguishable in the US politics of this new century.
I am witnessing first hand that we live in a gigantic country filled with a multiplicity of cultures. Perhaps we are so large that we can no longer elect a good leader. In order to please everyone (or the majority) we have created a system where it becomes impossible to make definite, declarative statements without running a risk of losing the campaign. If you please one group you lose another. And so, the one who can prevaricate most successfully does win. (“Prevaricate: hedge, evade, beat around the bush, quibble, stall, or dissemble. Avoid giving a direct and honest answer or opinion, or a clear and truthful account of a situation, especially by quibbling or being deliberately ambiguous or misleading.”) The results for our country have been calamitous.
Well, off my soapbox and back on the road… On Tuesday we drove across Kansas and stopped for the night near the Colorado border in Goodland, KS. Here we stayed at Mid-America Camp Inn and I really liked this campground very much. I felt like I had found the Kansas of Dorothy and Toto. We had pretty trees and we were next to a cornfield and the sky was full of dramatic thunderstorm clouds.