I Was Back in Time

My brush with life as a time-traveler:  Perhaps I did transcend time.  When I recall the incident on a fine June evening, 2010, I became for a few moments, Ann Carol Rudin, 8 years old, walking on the street where I lived in June ca. 1950.

Our cousin Lee was in town for a visit. My husband and I grabbed some time with him and took a walk to see our favorite places, show him where we both had grown up and then enjoy dinner at a Park Ave cafe.   I pointed out my house on Edgerton Street.  Somehow, we elected to walk up the next street, Barrington and approached the house behind my childhood home.  It is an imposing white “mansion,” always a mystery house to me, full of fantasy and harboring great secrets.  I don’t remember ever meeting the people living there or seeing them out in the yard.

That is when I escaped the present.  I was the pudgy little girl with long hair and pinchable cheeks (it hurt when people did that), caressed by my custom-designed , bark covered elbow-perch in the big oak behind our house. The branches reached over into the mystery-mansion’s yard.  How many Nancy Drew books did I read in that tree?  How often I just sat there daydreaming, sometimes transcending the walls of the white house, solving the mysteries lurking inside.

From that leafy perch, I could reign over my mother’s beautiful rock garden and the peony-rose-mint-strawberry garden planted along the driveway, believing I was well hidden from view.  At that moment, I was there, climbing down from my nook, picking strawberries in my PJ’s for breakfast, pouring milk on my cereal with the cream on top, pushing the little black button on the wall to turn on the water heater for a bath, attaching my roller skates onto my shoes with the special key to skate on the new asphalt surface the city had just laid down, scouting in the food pantry near the kitchen with the musty smell of tin cans and well loved linoleum floors.  (they were tinted maroon and yellow–so 50’s.  Indeed, my mother was trendy.)

Truly, I took my companions right along with me into the past.  I recall being animated, gesturing and describing memories that flowed from my mind.  We passed the white mansion and continued on our way, my head now back to the present. Lee saw the grade school we had attended, the baseball field (now a parking lot), friends houses and heard about our being in Mrs. Hanson’s kindergarten class together.  Yes, we did eventually find a place for dinner.

The very next evening, we were invited to a dear friends home, which happens to be right next door to the “white mansion.”  Robert greeted us with what seemed to be a strange twinkle in his eyes.  Apparently, he had greeted us the night before as we floated past his front yard.  None of us heard his voice.  I had taken everyone with me on my foray back in time.  I repeatedly apologized to our friend.  I had receded into the past, my attention not to be breached and affecting my audience to boot.  I apologize again—how unbelievably strong our minds can be. How powerful the past. 

Have you ever been whisked back in time?  Please tell me about it.

 

Ann Carol Goldberg

Liberal Kansas

Liberal Kansas is not a political statement.  it is a town, full of surprises, well-worth a visit.  Located in the very south west of Kansas on the state line with Oklahoma.  On our paper map  we could see an attraction in Liberal labeled “Coronado/Dorothy’s House.” What an intriguing but mysterious label.  Who could resist, being aficionados of the Land of OZ and indeed in Kansas?  We quickly plugged it into our GPS. By  luck, it was directly on our chosen route northeasterly through the panhandles of Texas and Oklahoma.  How could we pass this opportunity by and in a town named Liberal to boot. 

Little did we guess what a find this town could be.  We arrived, passing vast stock yards, beef packing houses, acres of farm land waiting for spring planting, railroad yards and grain elevators, making up the beating heart that keeps this town alive.  We arrived at Dorothy’s House at 4:00 after some trouble finding the true location on our GPS.  (a common happening according to the docent that greeted us.)   I quickly visited the visitors bureau across the way for some local information and then Paul and I entered the museum. 

Half of the museum is devoted to Coronado and his troops who passed through the area on their trek through the southeast.  Due to the late hour, we chose to spend our time with Dorothy, Frank Baum and the wonders of OZ.  Raised on Oz, we related with glee to the story of Oz, Dorothy’s house, Toto, and all of the characters that streamed from Frank Baum’s mind.  We learned that Max Zimmerman, a life insurance agent in the 70’s was the catalyst that gave Dorothy a place. 

guess who is wearing the red shoes  tin man is rusty

The story goes that Zimmerman attended a convention and asked a waiter reacting to his name tag showing Liberal, Kansas. Max asked the waiter, “what would you expect to see in Kansas?”  The waiter replied, “Dorothy’s house,” leading the businessman to search for Dorothy’s “home town.”  He quickly learned (pre-Google) that no other city had claimed the right to say “This is Dorothy’s home town.” 

An equally intrigued resident of Liberal offered to donate a house much like the famous house described in the story.  The house has been furnished according to the tale and the museum continues into a barn with full stage sets that bring to life the story of the Wizard of Oz.  We followed the docent through the house and of course, over the (updated) yellow brick road into the barn.  You meet every character; bird or monkey, tree or witch and Dorothy’s companions and Toto are there with sounds and visuals  convincing you that the story is rolling before your eyes.   The docent plays Dorothy, a convincing and talented actress. 

cowardly lion dorothy's house

The docents (in high season) are young twenty-something apprentices, playing the role of Dorothy in full costume. There is a wall engraved with the names of all the Dorothy actresses from the beginning.  We were amused, amazed and entertained.  Dorothy, the TIn Man, the Scarecrow and the Cowardly Lion all live on.  That is part of the story of Liberal, Kansas. There is much more to discover there, but that is for another time, another entry. 

The best bet would be for you to find a way to pass through this town yourself delving into Dorothy’s world, Coronado’s exploits, the history of flight, a town devoted to the perfect pancake, corn and agriculture, railroads, grain elevators and a town flaunting its rich heritage.  They deserve a larger spot on the map than the small red letters reading Coronado’Dorothy’s House.

Ann Carol Goldberg