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RETURN WITH ME

by Lowell Manis

I was four years old that evening. 1948, my Mother had to go to the hospital for something I did not understand, but felt sure everything would be fine. After all, she was my Mother, and in my eyes indestructible. My sister, brother and myself were left with a friend of my Mother’s, who was nice, but no replacement. She lived in an apartment on east sixth street in my town; Topeka.

I have never forgotten the brick streets shining in the lights of the few cars that would pass by in the evenings. The sounds that only brick can make, with its louder than normal clapping on the tires of cars, I loved it. The street lights, which when burned out required someone to remove and replace a light bulb. They were classic. We played on the sidewalks, also brick, as late as we were allowed in the evening, before being told it was time for bed.

It was all somewhat like going to the fair, it was fun, and so different than the farming communities where we lived just a few miles north of Topeka. Most of the small towns still had board walks, if anything. Not that I didn’t enjoy them, it was just different. Topeka was the “Big City” to us. However, then as now, I knew Topeka was home.

The center of my world was that “green domed building” in the middle of downtown. My first visit to it was my second grade class which were not allowed to climb the steps to the dome. “Too young” we were told--” to much risk.” I first made that trip in the fifth grade with my class at Tecumseh Grade School. Gage Park, and the Capital Dome, two huge musts for any school field trip. Lee Dodson was Principal, and Miss Burns was my teacher at that time.

The main reason a class went to Gage Park when Lee Dodson was in charge, was baseball ! I liked it, but have to say I was never too good at it. I had an eye problem and when seeing two softballs flying at me at the same time--it was a judgement call. Which one do you go for? Sometimes I picked the wrong one, but bruises heal. Lee’s love of the game never quite rubbed off on me.

The greatest baseball game I ever saw was in the late 1940’s at Lecompton, Kansas. My Manis Grandparents lived in the little rock house now known as the first Democratic Headquarters in Kansas. Lecompton was one of my favorite small towns. About a half-mile east of their home was a rock quarry. This huge hole is where the new bridge was placed after the 1951 flood took out the north portion of the old bridge. My family watched much of the flood from the grandparent’s yard. It was a perfect view till I saw some chickens floating down the river on the roof of their chicken house. I wonder to this day if they made it to dry land.

The baseball game was to be played by my father, about all his brothers, an uncle, whom we were not really related to but we accepted him as an uncle since he was our aunt’s brother, and a few cousins that were quite a bit older than me. “Sounds like nothing new” you might think, but it was winter and the shallow lake in the quarry was the field. The field was frozen. “You got it” ICE ! Sliding home was a snap, but getting started to even make a run was shear laughter. Add the fact that some of them had a few to many beers, and you have the World’s Series of falling down baseball. We laughed till I thought we would bust. It is one of those memories that sticks with you for a lifetime. It is hard to believe today, that nearly the whole team has passed away. When I think of my Manis family; that game always seems to come to mind.

I never saw my uncles happier. They were likely never closer than trying to “put each other out,” on the ice. I will never see a game that could bring me more joy. In all their insanity, I loved them. They were a part of my history. Part of what I am flowed in their veins. As my life is entwined in theirs, it is woven into the fabric of my city, my state, and the things that made it what it is. What part of that do you surrender? What part do you live without? I say, “none!”

Every street holds memories. Each day can give us the hope of a new beginning. Let us hold on to the best of the past, so we might have that to hand on to the future. Let us share the courage of those who have gone before and remember what they did here--in middle America. Let us be our best, and share our best with each other.

Topeka, and the small communities around it was the best place on earth to grow up. We were the “kings of our domain.” Topeka was “the rock of our ages”, and we should have a right to be proud to be a part of something as great as this wondrous place. If you love Kansas, Kansas will love you!

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Lowell Manis

Writings and Recollections

His Fondness for Topeka

Written March 31, 2011

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Index of Lowell Manis Writings:

"A Little Off Track"

"Return with Me"

Honor Their Dreams

Letter to the Mayor (Home Page)

Topeka, A Wonderous Place

2015 Was a Very Good Year!