Longaberger Baskets And Absolutely No Other Antiques

Not so long ago, a friend of the family showed up for a few days, and started talking about Longaberger baskets.  Now, to be sure, I had gone a full long time without having the foggiest idea what a Longaberger basket was, or–actually having any interest in baskets of any kind.

These would be the Rolls Royce of baskets. If one breaks, you can send it back to the factory, and they will fix it. (My impression was for free, but you know… baskets.)

You know. The pinnacle of basket making.

Well, they are pretty nice as baskets go. I can’t say I’m crazy about Americana, but then… well, let’s be honest… Any time someone says anything about an art, a craft, or a hobby being profitable, I’m right there. I could make baskets.

Okay, well, maybe I could learn to make baskets. Do they really have underwater basket weaving classes? I could be a performance artist/basket weaver/mermaid.

Oh, yes. I know all about baskets. These ones are square.

Based on some things that were said during the Longaburger love event, I take it that all of the above were very reasonably priced.

(Longtime readers will be interested to know that this is the same antiques mall that my dear deceased friend “lives” at. And I’m not showing pictures, until all the new antiques-y baskets-y normal people love me enough that they don’t mind the occasional cadaver.)

Small Business Growing!

There are two old-school bakeries worth mentioning near me. Now, don’t get me wrong. There are some really snazzy new places (most of them come and go) and if you want your wedding cake to look like a major sculptural extravaganza, we can certainly arrange that. I’m pretty sure some of them have sharks with lasers on their heads, too.

But in small-town bakeries, the kind that used to feed towns, and somehow, manage to have some staying power, there’s a 100 year old bakery that has mostly gone to doughnuts (beautiful, mixed, raised, fried, and filled in-store doughnuts served farmer-early) and a Czechoslovakian bakery that does things with prunes and poppy seeds. (with a small, but loyal following, and a summer festival that brings in a crowd.)

And while a blockbuster crowd once a year is great–and they’ve been staying in business–I was happy to see some of their pastries packaged up for sale at a gas station in a (different) nearby town.

I’m not sure if I got there late, or if they’re just starting out with flavors for tourists, but no… there’s not a prune or a poppyseed in sight. (The ones on the far left are blueberry.)

So, let’s all celebrate the niche market, and someone like us doing well.

(And someone like me getting a fork.)

The Answer is Tourism. Always Tourism.

I live in a historic town.

You can tell by the road signs and billboards, and by the fact that here and there, you have a building that is more than a hundred fifty years old.

It’s not a particularly exciting history.

And honestly, it’s not that much different than the history that the other 4,683 historical small towns in my state have on display. By the luck of the draw, we were first at something, once. There’s a plaque.

And if you go on a tour of downtown, you’ll find a lot of plaques. The downtown committee put them up a few years back, so that you can read all about what the empty buildings and tumble-down ruins used to be.

There’s not a whole lot left to bring outsiders here. A few old papers in the archive, and an eclipse that will come and go this August. We got eclipse glasses printed up with our name on them.

So did the towns next door.

And down the street.

The “historic” market share is minuscule.

Sure, it worked for Williamsburg, and that picturesque little town on the river–the one with all the B&Bs and the arts festivals, every summer. The one that grows to five times its size, every year. But they got their start decades ago. Before the market was divvyed up.

Before any of the bigger towns even realized they would need to be historic.

Back when we still had businesses in those empty buildings.

Back when we were modern, and proud of it.

A-to-Z Challenge: Norma Miller

Norma Miller is a dancer. Lindy Hop way back in the early thirties at the Savoy ballroom in Harlem. She’s a classic, and a little bit of everything else. The woman dances, writes (songs and books), directs films, and acts (film and stage.)

As you might be able to tell, I’m an actual fan. I’d probably be a puddle on the floor, if she ever actually talked to me.

Her autobiography, Swingin’ at the Savoy is well worth the read, and be sure to look up her films. She’s still alive and well at 97, so buy new, and send her a note to tell her how amazing she is.

Here’s a scene from Hellzapoppin’ (With dancers labeled by name.) It’s one of the great dance scenes of all time, but it is from a bygone era, so you may want to give it a quick run-through before you watch it with children.

This year, my inspired Alphabetical Challenge theme is “The Letter M”. I’m working my way through the alphabet, one M word, M, person, or M place at a time. No, I don’t have any idea what my Muse was thinking on this one.

If you want to learn more about the A-to-Z Challenge, or join in, the website is here.

A-to-Z Challenge: Ethniko Apelfterotiko Metopo

There’s some enthusiastic transliteration, there, since I’m starting with something Greek, but more or less, it fits the M-theme for this fabulous alphabetical challenge. So, in translation–via the internet and one seriously old school dictionary–those nifty words add up to “National Liberation Front”.  (Lucky the Greeks speak Greek, or they wouldn’t fit this challenge at all.)

So the E.A.M. was a resistance group during World War II, when Greece was occupied by Nazis. And apparently, I need a note here abouts differentiating it from the current National Front (EM). (They’re different.)

I hit my limit on World War II stories back in high school, so let’s be honest… none of this would be here, if I didn’t need an E-M.

The group hits it’s high note toward the end of the war, when it has gained a sizable chunk of Greece and kept a lot of Greeks out of the forced labor pool, and sets up its own government. At the end of the war, a different government is set up.

The remaining group falls in and out of favor over the course of the next few decades, and the members are eventually recognized as resistance fighters and given government pensions in 1981.

That’s an interesting idea… the question of how to identify people who fought for your country, when your country was occupied and didn’t have an official military. Apparently, the correct response is a lot of political bickering. (Isn’t that always the answer? Or at least, the right answer if 1863 would look stupid in that space.)

Diplomacy Is My Bag, Baby…

I have been maintaining a positive relationship with my co-workers, lately…. by which, what I mean is, keeping my mouth shut. Damn, that’s tough! And–since apparently, I have a very expressive face–going through all kinds of social gymnastics to keep from looking at them when certain topics come up.

And under no circumstances whatsoever am I asking any questions. Questions are pretty much first cousins to fist fighting, don’t you know?

So, the thing about small towns in the United States is that they tend to have ethnicity (Settled by Germans, French, Polish, etc.) And they also tend to have a specific time. You know… the point in history that most of the people immigrated. So, the collective memory of the old country will be focused around one time period. You wind up with entire towns that identify as descendants of countries and towns that no longer exist, and idealize times that passed long ago.

So, I have a co-worker… and she’s the same general ethnicity as most of the town (German) but she’s the wrong time period. (1945? Who the hell immigrates in 1945? Okay… in fairness, there are quite a few 1945’s here. I’ve been told they choose the place based on the number of German names in the phone book.)

I happen to be the wrong ethnicity and the wrong time period, and at one point, she asked me about that. (I can trace my family’s history in the United States all the way back to a Boeing five whole years before I was born.)

Well, you know small talk. It’s not all that long before I’m asking her the same questions.

And between the fact that the answer included the word Ar.gen.tin.a and the general level of defensiveness (I hadn’t uttered a word before she informed me that lots of Germans went to Argentina after the war. Woulda had to start over, anyway. Perfectly normal. Lots and lots and lots and lots…) I’m going to guess that her story (if I ever manage to pry it out of her) is all kinds of interesting.

Right now, and for various reasons, the Weimar Republic keeps coming up in the political commentary, and the creative imagination. And… well, my co-worker always seems to pop up right as I’m reading the news on my morning break.

I’m getting very good at taking a sip of coffee and saying “How ’bout them Huskers?” instead of “So, where were your family during—?”

The Historical Road Trip of Your Dreams: Nicodemus, Kansas

Today, I found myself in Kansas. Again. No, I don’t know how that keeps happening.

It was a good drive. Lots of pretty countryside, and long, elegant roads cutting through the limestone hills. Sunlight–which is probably the big thing that lures me over the border–because, after all, Kansas is south, and south is usually just a little brighter.

I wound up in Nicodemus. Year-round population? Evidently right around 20. It’s a town settled by African Americans right after the civil war. And every summer, their descendants (and probably quite a few others) come back for a reunion/festival and/or youth summer camps.

I took pictures, and here’s the link to history, parks information, and summer camps, if you’re interested. (I have no personal knowledge of the camp, or anyone involved with it, so do your due diligence before you send your kids.)



This is what Kansas Limestone looks like when it’s neatly organized, and not just dynamited out of the road crews’ way.


This is the school. The playground is more or less what my own grade school looked like. Very typical for a small town/rural school.


Historical marker. Every state has their own design. You can probably find all this information on the internet. Or, you know… blow the picture up and squint real hard.


There were real live people in this church, today, so it, at least, is still functioning.

So, for comparison, here is another school. Which is currently functioning as a museum one county over. This one might be school/church. A lot of them did double duty, back in the day.


And old farm equipment over to the left. Enjoy it. I will not be photographing the tractor museum.

And as an added bonus… I give you the geographic center of the United States. Well, sort of. The actual center is on private property (according to not this marker, but that’s the rumor) and a little bit of a trek, so here’s the almost-nearly marker people can actually get to without trespassing.


And a marker for the “Last Indian Fight” in the county:


You can tell this marker is older because it does not have that nice, standard Kansas History Here! Design.  It also does not appear to have “official” status, since they usually just add the official marker next to the old one.