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

Surveys & Opinions


Lowell Mainis, August 2012

In 2015 or so, you just caught the trolley in Oakland and are on your way to the Historical Society by way of south bank of the Kansas River. You make a short stop at the station house on Kansas Avenue for a few things to nourish you on the ride. A cake and a candy bar should do the trick. More is available, but you are traveling lite today.

It is a particularly nice day in April with anticipation of spring in full bloom. You are old enough to remember when the Topeka Owls had their park in North Topeka, and having your dad take you there for a game now and then. You were not able to sit still and watch the whole game, but even roving the park was a thrill; and if you needed some coins for popcorn or peanuts, ;you need but spend some time under the bleachers to collect fifteen or twenty cents--an amount that could buy a few things in those days. Just be cautious of those pouring out that last few swallows of beverage, or that dreaded beer. In those days I thought it smelled awful.

I am alone today, but when I want to trave with friends, we don’t have to leave the driver out of the conversation. That always bothered me about cars. The trolley is more like a moving living room. However, on the River Front Zephyr, you have the conductor and a steward or stewardess to converse with and less with the driver. But that’s even better. I can order some coffee on a long two and one-half hour complete circuit ride, if I choose to stay on the River Front Zephyr if I choose to do so on my day pass with optional stop-offs at the many people hangouts along the way. Or if I decide, catch one of the more frequent vintage trolleys which do shorter routes with stops every fifteen minutes. Which ever I choose.

Looking out the window and watching the river flow is something I have always loved. I have to admit that as a child, when I was asked to go swimming in the river, I always refused. I had the love for it, but I also had the fear of it.

To me, a river is almost a living entity within itself. Always moving, always on the go to somewhere; reshaping and recutting it’s path. It grows larger, then smaller. It builds islands, only to tear them down again. Trees grow along it’s banks, awaiting the day they will be ripped away and float downstream. Rivers are

awesome and control so much land. They demand we pay a heavy toll just to cross. Rivers are often used as boundaries to divide real estate. Look at the northeast corner of Kansas. Looking at a map of the United States, you see how often rivers were used to divide states and nations.

The Kansas, or Kaw, as I like to call it, is my river. It runs through my city and my state. And no matter what some may say about it, it is part of my home, and memories of it, both good and bad, are forever imprinted in my mind. And those memories are being added to as we move along it’s south bank. With a river, there is always something new to discover.

As I ride, I think how nice it has been since the trolley came back to town along with the new businesses that have appeared along it’s route, and to see the entertainment and joy it has brought to so many. The old Topeka that I knew as a child is now revitalized beyond even my expectations. This street car line has given our children of today the excitement of yesteryear. There are not hundreds, but thousands of children who never had an opportunity to see such wondrous machines, who are now onboard as adults, like children all over again. “I feel like a kid again!” I’m riding a valued treasure of our past. I feel that it is our obligation to carry such treasures into the future with us. These are things that unite us, make us a close- knit community, and help us to care about the people and things around us.

I can catch the trolley near Lake Shawnee where I live. I can have a most exciting time with my day pass while relaxing and being comfortable the whole time. I enjoy the ride down Deer Creek valley and the old Topeka Cemetery, where once upon a time, a streetcar named “Betsy” transported funeral passengers with the deceased in their casket to the Topeka Cemetery--round trip for only $10.00. Many of these residences out side my window were here, adjacent to the original rail system of the 1890’s. I’m still amused by the people standing near their homes and waving to the trolley--just line the olden days--so I hear. Children’s eyes light up as we pass by. It makes you feel kind of special.

I can say for certain that since the trolley came back, a chunk of the heart of Topeka is being repaired. As it winds it’s way

Mission Statement

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Lowell Manis

Writings and Recollections

His Fondness for Topeka


through the city it is sowing the stitches on that repair. Connections from Oakland, North Topeka, Lake Shawnee and the west edge, how wonderful.

About that ball team. I think the “OWLS” was a really good name. it pays tribute to a wise and noble bird-- one that spreads it’s wings a lot at night, as a ball team does. Keeping an eye on the prize, and surviving by making the right move at the right time. Maybe they should use the name again. I like it.

The names of some who mad4e the return possible are on the sides of the trolley cars. hat an honor to have something moving around town all day with certain people’s names on the--sort a way of keeping them with us. That would make any of the modern pioneers feel special, and after they become deceased, their relatives and friends in the city would remember them with pride.

Sometimes you can relive history. And why not in the first city in America to offer electric streetcars (Of course considering this was after the factory who invented the technology in Richmond, Virginia and test a operation in Boston) to install the mysterious, but test-proven safe, mode of transportation--even in lightning storms. We were first and Atlanta was second. This was adventurous, as we must remember, electricity was still somewhat of a new thing in 1889. America is described as being a melting pot. In Topeka we were are and are, a large part of that. Germans, Irish, Welsh, Scotch, English, Swedes, French, Africans, Mexicans, Native Americans, Russians, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Asian Indians, and so many many more vary unique cultures. Why not shine with the same spirit of adventure we did over 150 years ago. Why not push forward to the future, remembering to take the best of the past with us, and recreate that pride in community?

I write this as I dream of riding those past rails, and riding them again now. How lucky I am. What a wonderful day. What a great pastime. I'm seeing things the way those that went before us saw them, and yet many more things that they would liked to have been able to live long enough to see. I feel like they and us are riding together. That’s a good feeling to comfort me as I ride along the smooth and quiet rails, with wonderful company--anytime I want it. 2015 is a very good year!

2015 Was a Very Good Year!






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