What I Like About Living in Kansas
Kansas is not what most people envision
I have lived the majority of my life in Kansas and I’ve been asked to describe what I like about living here. Kansas typically conjures bleak visions of endless farm land, but it is a far cry from the desolate images inspired by the opening scenes from the Wizard of Oz. It is in fact a very nice place to call home. I am both happy and proud to be a Kansas resident, and I’m particularly enamored of my hometown of Lawrence, situated on the banks of the Kansas River. Many people who visit Kansas or come to Lawrence to attend KU decide to stay and become a member of the community.
Famous people born and/or raised in Kansas include President Dwight Eisenhower, aviator Amelia Earhart, authors William Burroughs and Langston Hughes, artist John Steuart Curry, environmentalist Erin Brockovich, Russell Stover (of Russell Stover Candies), Chrysler Corporation founder William Chrysler, musicians Melissa Etheridge and Joe Walsh, and Survivor winner Danni Boatwright. Celebrities Ed Asner, Kirstie Alley, Hugh Beaumont, Annette Bening, Dennis Hopper, Vivian Vance, Dee Wallace-Stone, Don Johnson and Cassandra (Elvira) Peterson were all born in Kansas.
Lawrence is also home to the University of Kansas. KU has an enrollment of over 30,000 students and counts Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, Senator Bob Dole, Elmer McCollum (credited with the discovery of Vitamin A), Olympic athletes Billy Mills and Jim Ryun, basketball player Wilt Chamberlain and coaching legend Dean Smith, USA Today publisher David Hunke, astronomer Clyde Tombaugh (credited with they discovery of the planet Pluto), and actor Scott Bakula among its alumni. I graduated from KU with a degree in Fine Arts, as well.
There is a second university in Lawrence: Haskell Indian Nations University, the only university in the United States offering post-high school education specifically for federally recognized Native American Tribes in the United States. Haskell was founded in 1884 as a boarding school teaching agricultural skills to 15 students in grades one through five. Haskell began offering college level courses in 1927. The twelve buildings on its campus have been declared National Historic Landmarks.
Ten miles west of town sits the tiny town of Stull and its cemetery. There are many urban legends surrounding Stull Cemetery, and it has been called a “Gateway to Hell.” Rumor has it that Satan appears each Halloween at Stull Cemetery, and hundreds of onlookers have spent a strange night in hopes of verifying the legends. The CW television series Supernatural established Lawrence as the childhood home of Sam and Dean Winchester, and the series writers brought the brothers to Stull Cemetery for a conflict with Lucifer.
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Lawrence, Kansas in pictures
Lawrence is a town of historical significance and played a major role in the Civil War. A few miles south of Lawrence sits the Black Jack Battlefield, where John Brown led a free-state militia in an attack against pro-slavery forces led by Henry Pate in 1856. This was the first armed conflict over slavery and is considered by many to be the true beginning of the Civil War. Each summer a reenactment of this historic battle occurs in tribute to those who fought for the rights of freedom and dignity for all.
During the Civil War, Lawrence was a central gathering place for anti-slavery coalitions tasked with raiding Missouri towns along the Kansas-Missouri border. In the morning hours of August 21st, 1863 Lawrence fell victim to Quantrill’s Raiders and suffered one of the most gruesome attacks of the war. More than 200 men and boys were killed as William Quantrill and his men plundered and burned most of Lawrence’s buildings to the ground, including the historic Eldridge House Hotel. This horrific guerilla attack is remembered as Quantrill’s Raid and was depicted in several movies, including Ang Lee’s 1999 film “Ride with the Devil.”
Basketball at the University of Kansas was established by the game’s inventor, Dr. James Naismith. Allen Field House is located on Naismith Drive on the southern edge of the KU campus. KU’s basketball program is consistently ranked in the top ten nationally and is third in all-time college basketball victories with over 2000 wins.
Lawrence was the location and subject of a 1983 film about a nuclear war between the United States and the then-Soviet Union titled “The Day After.” This 2 ½ hour television movie starred Jason Robards, JoBeth Williams, Steve Guttenberg and John Lithgow and depicted the effects an atomic bomb strike on Kansas City would have on Lawrence and the surrounding area. It was considered so graphic that 1-800 hotlines were established with counselors standing by to calm viewers affected by the vivid depiction of death from radiation sickness.
The Day After was filmed on location in Lawrence
Pictures of Lawrence
Social and cultural opportunities abound
The University of Kansas offers a wide variety of cultural opportunities for Lawrence residents and students alike. The Natural History Museum at KU houses a panoramic display of North American plants and animals. This display is said to be the largest of its kind in the world. It also is home to Comanche, a Seventh Cavalry horse that was the only living creature to survive the Battle of Little Bighorn. The Spencer Museum of Art holds over 36,000 works of art in its permanent collection spanning the history of North American, European and East Asian art. The Lied Center is dedicated to performance art with live musical and theatrical productions. The Bob Dole Institute houses Dole’s congressional papers and promotes political and civic participation through lectures and exhibits. A tribute to World War II veterans includes a photograph of my father. It is also enjoyable to take in a KU football or basketball game in the fall and winter.
Lawrence supports the arts in a proactive way, and creative venues are a vital part of the community. Liberty Hall is a 142 year-old performing arts building featuring independent films and live musical acts. Iggy Pop, Devo, Aimee Mann, Michael Hedges, Alice Peacock, Sigur Ros and Spiritualized are among the performers who have graced the stage of Liberty Hall. In the 60’s, Ike and Tina Turner performed in what was then called the Red Dog Inn. The Jazzhaus and the Bottleneck are other venues featuring live music in Lawrence.
There are numerous shops and galleries offering opportunities for local and regional artists to display their work. Several galleries double as coffee shops and provide social interaction in a relaxed, comfortable atmosphere. Painting, sculpture, pottery and crafts line the walls of these functional but unpretentious galleries.
The beauty and charm of Lawrence
Why I love Lawrence and Kansas
These are just some of the things that make Kansas and Lawrence in particular a special place to live. Why do I enjoy living here, though?
The weather is magnificent all year round, with extremes in all four seasons. Spring brings thunderstorms of great power; summer is hot during the day but comfortable at night; autumn offers crisp, cool weather and trees with brilliantly colored leaves; winter delivers frequent snow. Sunsets are often vivid and colorful, and it is spectacular to watch a huge, orange full moon rise over an open field.
Lawrence has both a small town and big city feel to it. You can travel from one side of town to the other in 20 minutes by car. The city hosts Fourth of July fireworks celebrations in the summer and Christmas parades in winter. It has a renowned downtown shopping district lined with locally owned shops, galleries and restaurants, just south of the Kansas River Bridge. Adjacent to Massachusetts Street is Old West Lawrence, with beautiful mansions dating back more than 125 years. Seventeen houses in this area are listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Clinton Lake and Lone Star Lake are less than 30 minutes away from Lawrence and are popular destinations for sailing, fishing and camping. I live within walking distance of a hiking/bike trail leading to a secluded lake in a wooded area that serves as home to a wide array of wild life. Kids with fishing poles spend summer days on the docks, hoping to catch a few fish. It is peaceful and serene, and I spend a great deal of time at Mary’s Lake, relaxing and sorting out my thoughts and emotions.
There is a lifetime of memories associated with my time spent here: hours playing basketball in the parks against the best players in town, including many members of the KU basketball team; visiting quirky restaurants with names like “Bob’s: Our Place,” “Sister Kettle’s Café,” and “Border Bandido” with friends; spending holidays with family members in the modest house my parents built before I was born; weddings, family reunions and even funerals to remember those who have passed away.
So many good people born in Lawrence continue to live here, and it is not impossible to walk down the street and be greeted by someone I went to grade or high school with. The air is clean and the city is maintained well. Neighbors know each other and kids play together in their front yards. If you’re at home in the daytime, the mailman will stop and chat for a moment before continuing his rounds. Lawrence is truly a home.
This is Lawrence, Kansas…. Is anyone there?
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