Friday, July 28, 2017

Trip to Missouri and Kansas - Wichita, the Air Capital of the World

Boeing Stearman PT 17
Wichita began as a trading post on the Chisholm Trail in the 1860's.  For almost its first century, it would be known as Cowtown USA but it developed into the Air Capital of the World as the home of Cessna and Beechcraft as well as Stearman which eventually became  part of Boeing.  In addition,  Learjet, Airbus and Spirit AeroSystems continue to operate in town.  It is also home to McConnell Air Force Base which houses an Air Mobility Wing.

B 47, the first SAC bomber.  It was based at McConnell
We honored this tradition by visiting the Kansas Aviation Museum located in the original air terminal completed in 1935.  It functioned as Wichita's non-military air terminal until 1954.  During its heyday, it was one of the busiest airports in the United States with a take off or landing every 90 seconds in 1944.  Today the building houses a very interesting museum with many interactive displays about the history of aviation in Wichita.  The ramp space directly outside the building includes static displays of both civilian and military aircraft.

One of the most interesting is one of only nine Beechcraft Starships in existence.  This was a twin turbo prop with the unusual configuration of push engines mounted on the rear and wings also rear mounted.  It never got into full production and apparently was very difficult to fly.

The highlight of our tour was Marilyn's experience in a flight simulator which Andy captured in a thrilling video.

She enjoyed a challenging flight until she didn't and planted the plane and her passengers nose down in the middle of the runway.

After our visit to the museum, we drove to Stearman Field Bar & Grill in Benton KS.  This eatery is part of an executive airfield.  While we were there for lunch, at least two groups flew in and taxied right in front, came in and ate and then flew off.

After lunch, Andy drove us around the area of the airfield.  We are used to seeing homes built around golf courses but this was the first time I had seen homes built right next to an airport with each home having a hangar for their airplane(s.)  This screenshot from a Google map gives you an idea.

You can click here to see more photos of this aviation day in Wichita.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Trip to Missouri and Kansas: A Day in Oklahoma

Marilyn, Lois, Andy and Bob (our guide) in front of Scottish Rite Temple, Guthrie OK
When we were visiting Andy and Lois in 2016, they had planned a trip to Guthrie OK to see this Scottish Rite Temple but the severe weather, i.e. tornadoes, necessitated a change in plans.  This year we decided to come in July which meant little chance of a tornado but possibly hot weather.  That turned out to be the case since the skies were clear but the heat index was above 100 most of the day.

Bob looks like he is asleep
beneath a portrait of a 33
degree mason but he's not.
Our two hour drive due south on I-35 for a 10:00 tour meant that we had to get up early and get on the road by 7:30.  We didn't miss that by much bug we were also delayed by road construction.  We called to say we would be a few minutes late and were told that they would delay the tour until we arrived.  Turned out that we were the only people on the tour so Bob, our guide, greeted us when we arrived.  After paying our $5 admission/tour fee, we spent the next nearly three hours walking through this huge structure with his detailed and mostly accurate descriptions.  More about that later.

The history of this temple begins with the history of Guthrie OK.  During April 22, 1889, the first day of the Land Run of 1889, Guthrie went from almost no population to a tent city of 10,000.  While outsiders typically refer to these as "land rushes," Oklahomans tend to call them "land runs."  Among those 10,000 was Harper Samuel Cunningham, 33°.
He came to practice law in the newly opened Territory.  And he came to establish the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry in what would soon become Oklahoma."

The Masons built their first temple in 1899 and used it until 1923 when they opened the current structure.  Their growth in membership required a larger facility but an unual opportunity presented itself.   As Oklahoma was about to change from a territory to a state in 1907, the leaders of Guthrie, the territorial capital, were preparing to become the state capital.  They set aside a 10 acre parcel as a capital park and constructed a State Assembly Hall for the legislature.  However, in 1910, according to the apocryphal
story told by our guide, Bob, a group of bandits from Oklahoma City stole the state seal and displayed it in Oklahoma City and declared that it was now the capital because the State Seal was located there and the constitution specified that the capital was wherever the state seal was.  In fact, in 1910 there was a statewide vote to select the capital city and Oklahoma City out polled Guthrie three to one.  Those "bandits" were the representative of the Secretary of State acting under the direction of the Governor.

The city father now had an unused 10 acre campus with a large central building that was also vacant.  However the Methodist Church was busy establishing colleges in the new state and in 1911 set up Oklahoma Methodist University using the campus and the assembly building.  Adding insult to injury, the trustees moved the university from Guthrie to that home of seal bandits, Oklahoma City.  By 1923, it was renamed Oklahoma City University and continues today as a major educational institution in the state.

Current interior of the Assembly Hall now used as a
However, the city fathers still had this problem of an empty campus and a substantial building.  The early Masons had outgrown the first Scottish Rite Temple.  Need and opportunity came together and the city sold the whole campus to the Masons for $1.  In 1919 construction began on the new temple which was attached to and incorporated the assembly building creating a space of 400,000 square feet.  Construction and interior decoration were completed in 1923 and the Temple began its operations which continue today.

The building was designed and construction by the architecture firm of Parr & Hawk in the Classical Revival Style.  It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987 with this notation:  "The Scottish Rite Temple of Guthrie is architecturally and historically significant because it is one of the best examples of large scale, Neo-Classical Revival style in Oklahoma; it is the largest, most elaborately designed and constructed Masonic Temple in the state; and because of its importance historically to the Masonic fraternal organization in Oklahoma."  Of course, Bob the guide had a somewhat different story.  He told us that the entire building was designed by a young female architect named Kathryn Davidson who was in her early twenties.  She had won a competitive bid of $25,000 to do the entire job including "all the mathematical calculations," a fact that Bob found remarkable even for a woman today.  At that point I had to carefully remove Marilyn's fingernails from the inch deep wounds they had made into my arm.

Kathryn Davidson
Once again, Bob had a kernel of the true story and had spun it into a largely inaccurate narrative.   The Parr & Hawk design team was led by Marion Davidson.  "The Masons' building committee stipulated the general spatial needs and historic period each room should emulate. Marion then incorporated these ideas into a cohesive floor plan and gave shape to the unadorned spaces. In 1921, the cornerstone was laid, and construction commenced."  (Quotes from "Into the Mystic:  The Scottish Rite Temple," Oklahoma Today, January-February 1991))  "The responsibility for the interiors was given to a young woman named Kathryn (maiden name unknown), a talented rug designer who had worked for Marshall Field and Co. in Chicago.  Astonishingly, this was her first work of any size or consequence."  Marion and Kathryn married by the end of the construction and went to New York to work on the decoration of Rockefeller Center.  The final words in the article about Kathryn are simple.  "Then they divorced."  While Kathryn clearly was not the architect of this massive structure, she was responsible for the interior design and decoration.  She left her mark on a set of chair arms and two mantle pieces that bear her image.

She actually was paid $2280 for a set of watercolor drawings that specified the decoration of each room.  Once the interior spaces were complete, she would set up her easel in one corner and produce water color renderings of every detail.  The room was essentially an empty canvas that she filled in.  The massive structure is certainly impressive but the most interesting and engaging thing about the Temple is the careful designs of Kathryn whose name has been lost to history.  Click here to download a copy of the article.
Click here to view more photos of our visit.  If you view the album, you will note that the first photos are of the men's washroom.  Photographically it was a very interesting image that I could not resist.  Take a look.

Here I am with the Student Union in the background
After lunch we drove to Stillwater, the home of Oklahoma State University.  Lois and Andy's daughter, Lynn, attended OSU and they all feel very close to it.  It had been some time since Andy and Lois had been there and they were impressed with the amount of new were we.  It was hot, of course, but enjoyed strolling in the central plaza outside the student union where we took breaks to cool down.

The enrollment has doubled in the roughly twenty years since Lynn graduated and it has done a great job of accommodating that growth while maintaining the same campus feel.

We ended our trip to campus by finding the statue of Spirit and take a photo of our two favorite cowboys.

Click here to see more photos.

We returned to Maize for some pizza and cheesecake and to get a good night's sleep for our final day in Kansas.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Our Trip to Missouri and Kansas: Clyde Monastery

We spent the next two days at the Motherhouse of the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in Clyde MO.   In 1874 a handful of Benedictine nuns from a monastery in Rickenbach Switzerland came to America to found this monastery.  Sisters of Perpetual Adoration are a contemplative, monastic community called to a ministry of prayer, with a tradition of unceasing adoration of Christ in the Eucharist.

We have been coming here annually for the last 15 years to visit with Sr. Paula whom Bill first met in San Diego when she was his spiritual director.  She has been an important part of Bill's life for the past almost forty years and of our married life for the past almost twenty.

Paula celebrated her 90th birthday last month.  She has been living in the assisted living community--Our Lady of Rickenbach--for the last few years.  She was the founding executive director of this new facility when it opened about 15 years ago.  While she has faced some serious health issues over the past few years, she continues to be source of joyful faithfulness to her Christian vocation and a source of edification to me in my efforts to do the same.  She is always brimming with new insights about spirituality and life and she shares these with a disarming honesty and sense of humor.  We had our meals with her and the community at OLR as well as celebrated Mass and prayed vespers.

We also enjoyed the beautiful surroundings of the monastery.  The weather was terribly hot and humid but we were always able to find shady nooks or wind swept hills particularly late or early in the day.

Click here to view an album of photos from the monastery.

We had no wifi in our guest quarters and so I spent the time off the grid and enjoying that a bit more than I though I might.  While Marilyn used this down time to read, I just roamed the grounds--taking photos, of course--but generally just paying attention to where I was and what presented itself to me:  beautiful moths, lovely sculptures, golden vistas, the monastery bells and overall a peaceful quietness.

We spent Saturday morning  walking about the grounds together and end up in the cemetery where we visited the graves of some of nuns I had come to know as well as Sr. Anselma, the nun who lead the group five from Switzerland back in 1874.  By chance, we also came across seven graves which all carried the same family name:  Eichenhofer.  There were Sisters Hildegard (1882-1957), Wunibalda (1882-1954), Walburga (1883-1951), Willibalda (1894-1969), Sabina (1892-1973), Leona (1893-1992) and Eusebia (1898-1974).

Our natural reaction was to come up with some narratives to make sense of this.  First, we thought that obviously Sisters Hildegard and Wunibalda were twins since they were born in the same year.  We were wrong.  They were born in the same year but not on the same day.  Apparently, the Irish are not the only ones to have "Irish twins."  I thought that some were siblings and perhaps others were aunts and nieces or perhaps cousins.  I was wrong about that.  They were all siblings.  It turns out that over about twenty years from 1904 through 1926 these seven sisters came from Germany to enter this monastery in Northwest Missouri.  After the first two came, it seems that the others more or less one by one followed the sisters before them to enter this contemplative life in a far away place.  As far as I know, there is no other details about the seven but we should be able to spin an even more interesting narrative out of this.

We also visited the gift shop as we always do.  This time we met Sister Joan who recently came from the monastery in Tucson and before that had spent many years in the now closed monastery in Rock Spring WY.  There she began her career as an award winning soap maker.  Her specialty is glycerin soap.   Of course, we bought some.  More important we had a lovely visit with another of these remarkable women whose commitment and faithfulness is so important to us.
We spent out final evening visiting with Paula in the sun room with its comfortable wicker furniture.  With hazardous heat warnings during our visit, we were not able to go outside with Paula.  We often take her out for dinner but this was not possible this trip.  In a way, that was nice since it maximized the time we could spend with her.  We also met and enjoyed Sr. John who taught us how to play new card game.  We visit with Sr. Nancy Grace one of the beekeepers who was suffering through a nasty bee sting on her lip.  Sr. Nancy is a graduate of West Point and served as an officer in the Army before entering.  Yes, that West Point.  We also got up to date on all the activities of Sr. Kathleen Marie, who is executive director of OLR but also runs Monastery Creations and is the other award winning soap maker.  Her specialty is butter based soaps (shea etc.) which makes some sense she is also a baker.

Click here to view an album of photos from the monastery.

We left early the next morning to continue our travels, heading south to Maize Kansas and our Sciolaro cousins and whatever adventures they have planned for us this trip.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Descending into the Depths of Hell: Our Trip to Missouri and Kansas: Missouri Star Quilt Co.

Admittedly a bit of an over-statement but our first day in Missouri kinda felt that way.  We experienced our first "Severe Heat Warming Advisory" signal from our weather services:  WeatherUnderground (Bill) and Weather Bug (Marilyn).  We didn't recognize the signal sound and thought the car was trying to tell us something.  We eventually understood that apparently the weather outside was not safe.  Yikes!  The bank sign in Hamilton showed 103 and the Heat Index was at least 113.

Of course, you might be wondering what we were doing in Hamilton MO in the first place.  A fair question.  It just happens to be a famous destination for members of the quilt nation.  It is the home of the Missouri Star Quilt Co.  This a world famous--I am not kidding--purveyor of quilting kits, supplies and implements.  The company was founded in 2008 by Jenny Doan, a resident of Hamilton MO who turned her hobby into a multi million dollar business.   "Doan has been called "The most famous quilter in the world" due to her over 350 YouTube tutorials that have been viewed more than 110 million times.  In 2015, two of her children who handled the business end of Missouri Star Quilt Co. received the National Small Business Persons of the Year award."  (Wikipedia)

While Marilyn cruised through the several Missouri Star shops, I explored Hamilton.  It didn't take long.  Apart from the main street dominated by Missouri Star shops, there isn't much.  There are three very nice eateries and a newly established craft brewery none of which, one suspects, would exist were it not for this unique business enterprise.  They process 30,000 orders each month.  They do provide a nice pace called Man's Land where non quilters--mostly men bring their wives here--can seek comfort and refuge from the heat.

We rewarded ourselves with some gelato before we got back on the road.  We stopped again in Jamesport MO for what we hoped would be another interesting small town experience but both we and the town were pretty tired and we disappointed each other.  With that we made our final leg of the journey into Clyde MO and the Monastery of the Sisters of Perpetual Adoration where we would stay for the next two days visiting Sr. Paula.

You can click here to view more photos of our trip to Hamilton and the Missouri Star Quilt Co.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Spring and Summer Grandchildren Sports

Soccer and Gymnastics in Charlotte

Although I haven't posted lately, I have been travelling to visit family and especially the East Coast grandchildren play sports.  In May I flew to Charlotte for a five day visit.  I just missed a chance to see Liam Jacob playing lacrosse.  If they had won the game the day before--they lost in overtime-- I came, I would have seen the regional semi-final.  I was able to catch one of Eibhlin's gymnastics training.  The week before she had competed and captured the title in two events and the all around.  Medals galore.  Click here to see some photos of her workout.

No 15 rising for the ball
I was able to see one of Aidan's soccer matches although I just missed watching Marin play.  Aidan is center back and plays a great defensive game.  I was impressed with the way he took charge back there.

Click here to see photos of that match.

Both boys are looking forward to the fall.  This will be Liam's senior year on the football team and Aidan is trying out to kick and/or punt along with playing on the varsity soccer squad.  Marin will begin her high school career in the fall as well.

Track in Rochester

Brynne on the left flying over the hurdles.
Meanwhile back in Rochester, Brynne earned her way onto the middle school track team and was participating in hurdles, metric mile, high jump and the triple jump.  I got to have fun watching her compete and taking some pretty cool photos using the video capture feature of my little Panasonic DMC FZ-300.

I saw her compete twice in track and then watched her in a tennis match at MidTown Tennis.  She intends to keep up her tennis and play in high school.  No photos were allowed of the match and but here is a video of her hurdles.

Here are links to two albums of her track competition:  and

Ryan Plays Baseball

Digging out of the box to beat out a single.
Ryan had a very successful season in the Central Amherst Little League.  He is always a threat at the plate to hit a deep ball and plays a great third and first base.

He played on the Giants and they had a great year.  They made it to the league championship game.  Unfortunately they lost that game.  But most athletes never have the experience of being in championship game.  We traveled to Buffalo for that game as well as several others.

Click here to view some photos.

 Grady Plays Baseball

Our other 11 year old New York baseball player is Grady William Pickett Kessler who is on an 11-12 year old travel team.  He is a great little player to watch.  Whether he is pitching, playing second or roaming the outfield, he plays with a sense of joy and aggression.  He is a cagey pitcher, no doubt channeling his Dad, Derek, who spun some pitches for Brighton High School.

At a recent tournament in Mendon, he was selected as MVP.  That is a special accomplishment since it came from the votes of players on the opposing teams.  The kids all know who contributes the most.  

West Virginia Baseball

Making that long throw from third to first.
I spent a great Father's Day weekend in Morgantown with Brendan, Eileen and the kids.  The weather was perfect and I was able to watch a total of six games, four with Brady and two with Brock.  There were warm sunny days, perfect for just sitting back and watching young boys play the game of America.

Brady plays catcher and third base and is a threat at the plate.  Just last week his team won their first tournament and Brady got the  game winning RBI with a squeeze play.  As his Dad and Coach, Brendan, says, the more things you can show a coach that you can do, the more valuable you are and the more playing time you get.

About to squeeze one into his glove.
There is another Pickett ball player in West Virginia, Brock.  He plays a smooth middle infield, mostly as second and is a very heady player as befits his training as a center mid on some outstanding soccer teams.

He is quick and fast.  His first at bat was a bunt single.  Later in that game he laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt to advance a runner to second.  It is fun to watch him play.