The Lope: July 2008

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Happy Birthday, NASA

Yes, NASA was 50 years old on Tuesday, July 29, 2008. Here's a vintage NASA logo on an X-15 at the National Museum of the United States Air Force.

We like NASA, and we like 50th anniversaries. Ace found a NASA uniform to wear when he met Mercury Astronaut Scott Carpenter at the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center for a story we did on the way space age neon signs may have been influenced by satellites. We published that on the 50th anniversary of Sputnik.

We also commemorated the 38th anniversary of the moon landing last year. I still remember seeing it on a bad black and white TV, along with the rest of the country.

You know, all that is cool, as are Teflon, WD-40, pace-makers and all the other by-products of NASA and the space race...

But what we really like are the toys, like this Major Matt Mason Space Exploration game.

We love Colorforms aliens, Multiple Toymakers space vehicles, and all that stuff that made a baby-boomer childhood so magical. All these toys are at the Cosmosphere, by the way.

The TANG Apollo capsule is something I heard about as a kid, but had not seen until this exhibit.

And who could forget the G.I. Joe Mercury-like space capsule? Although I don't recall them being black. I think this may be a repro.

I've got one of these Snoopys somewhere. He's actually so cool that I refuse to cannibalize his helmet for Ace's wardrobe, and that's saying something.

Thanks, NASA...for Major Matt Mason, Billy Blastoff, Revell space model kits, Marx plastic astronauts and for making us "count down" to stuff. Publishing in 5..4...3..2..1.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Where is Ace Jackalope? (episode 25)

C'mon. This one's easy.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Inside the Wiley Building

New photos added Wednesday, July 16

There is a dearth of photos on the net showing the Wiley building interior (and for that matter, the insides of most downtown buildings in Anywhere, USA). As photographers, as bloggers, as people concerned about preservation, we need to remedy this no matter where we may live. This is one of my humble attempts. I urge you to go out into your community and document something. You'll feel good for it. I promise.

The areas I'm showing have been abandoned for some time, hence, their almost archaeological charm. See A Brief History of the Wiley Building for more information.

Second Floor - apparel...well, not anymore. You won't find much to wear on the second floor of the Wiley building these days, and none of that stuff in the picture is from there. The second floor is used as storage by the building manager.

There is an assortment of wallpaper still in place. Maybe this area was last used for showing exercise clothes?

This is the only one of the eight floors that is open and cavernous. All of the others are divided into offices. On the other side of the large, square door in the distance is a bridge between the Wiley and the Fox Theatre.

Carved wheat panels decorate the reception desk at the Collingwood Grain office on the 3rd floor.

The 3rd and 4th floors extend over the Fox Theatre. This glass brick window is on the 4th floor.

Here is the same window, seen from the outside on the east side of the Fox Theatre. It's the one on the right.

Original floor tiles like these decorate much of the building. These are on the 5th floor.

A middle 20th century feel dominates the abandoned dental office of B. R. Dryden, D.D.S., on the 6th floor.

Ceramic tiles surround the doorway of a law office on the 6th floor.

The round outlet was part of a building-wide vacuum cleaner system. This one is on the 7th floor.

There is more woodwork in place on the upper floors. This oak doorway is on the 7th floor.

Let's take an elevator ride from the ground floor to the 8th. The roof hatch is conveniently not in place.

Silence rules the 8th floor where wheat was once traded.

Though almost all broken windows have been replaced throughout the building, pigeons flutter about the penthouse, which still has some. It turns out that pigeons are not as smart as I thought - they kept banging into windows and missing obvious broken panes that offered escape.

Light fixtures hang from the penthouse ceiling.

The roof of the Wiley affords a different view of the Hutchinson skyline. Mercury Redstone and Gemini Titan II rockets jut from the treeline, as do the Kansas Cosmosphere, the Hutchinson Community College stadium and a grain elevator that I seem to be photographing quite a bit of late.

A Brief History of the Wiley Building

(Terra cotta decor on the Wiley, May 21, 2008)

Tuesday morning, The Hutchinson (Kansas) City Council continues its consideration of a proposal to move the city hall offices into the nearly century-old Wiley Building, itself a magnet of controversy due to allegations of poor maintenance and the fact of an overdue tax bill. The proposed move could involve eminent domain and opinions are passionate both pro and con. The latest summery of the matter can be found in this article from the July 2 Hutchinson News.

To learn about the history of the Wiley, I went where all the cool kids go - to the Hutchinson Public Library. In their Kansas Room, I perused the Hutchinson Historic Resources Inventory - Downtown, a 1990 publication compiled mainly by Pat Mitchell and Linda Laird, from which the historical data for this blog post is paraphrased.

(May 21, 2008 photo)

First off, its original name was actually the Rorabaugh-Wiley Building. Partners A. O. Rorabaugh and Vernon M. Wiley wanted a larger building for the dry goods business they'd operated in nearby locations since 1901. It was apparently Wiley who spearheaded the construction of the current building, despite reluctance from bankers to loan the $350,000 for the project. Eventually, someone at the Chase Manhattan bank told him "Mr. Wiley, if you have the nerve to build an 8-story skyscraper in the middle of the prairie, in a town of less than 20,000, we have nerve enough to lend you the money."

History eats older history sometimes, and Hutchinson's original opera house was razed for construction of the Wiley-Rorabaugh, which began in September of 1912. By late 1913, Rorabaugh and Wiley's dry goods business occupied the first four floors, with the top four floors rented as offices.

(May 21, 2008 photo)

The Fox Theatre and the bridge connecting it to the Rorabaugh-Wiley building were constructed in 1930-31 by the Wiley investment company. The name Rorabaugh was dropped in 1933.

(May 5, 2008 photo - Hutchinson's Cinco de Mayo celebration)

A ninth floor penthouse was added in 1937 to house the Kansas State Grain Inspection. You can see it atop the building in the distance. I could have cropped the picture to show just the penthouse, but buildings do not exist in a vacuum, so I am choosing to show it in context with the life of the city around it.

Another expansion occurred in 1946-47 when two floors were added to the Fox and to the bridge connecting the two buildings. Remodelling may have occurred on the west and south entrances and new fixtures may have been added.

Another addition occurred in 1959, which may have involved filling a gap in the north side of the building. Perhaps this accounts for the differing brick in the middle of the north side, seen here in the background of Hutchinson's July 4, 2008 Patriots Parade. The Hutchinson Historic Resources Inventory mentions that at this time a lighted cornice was removed, but doesn't mention if it was original or an addition.

(May 21, 2008 photo)

The Wiley Department Store had closed by 1990. The Wiley building has changed hands a few times and is now owned by George Nerhan, a resident of Arizona. The first floor and mezzanine are currently rented to several businesses, the most well-known of which is Fraese Drug Store with its active restaurant and soda fountain. The once-closed and now restored Fox Theatre hosts movies, concerts and special events.

(May 21, 2008 photo)

Outside of the businesses in the first floor, not much of the Wiley is viewable by the public. This is the staircase leading from the first floor.

(May 21, 2008 photo)

The elevator still has the seat used by an elevator operator.

(May 21, 2008 photo)

The stairs from the mezzanine level lead past signs warning of alarm. I hope to have a look upstairs; If I succeed, you'll see the results here.

A couple more photos, just because I have them:

(May 21, 2008 photo)

The older and newer skyscrapers of Hutchinson - the Wiley is reflected in the First National Bank building.

(July 10, 2008 photo)

Terra cotta corner of the Wiley, with the Strand Theatre building across Main Street.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Melodies for Munificence

We've got this cool little annual concert here in Hutchinson, Kansas - a concert and an art auction, actually - in our Avenue A Park. Local art and books of poetry are sold, donations are taken and the money - all of it - goes to a local cause. This year, the beneficiary is the Central Kansas Tenants' Association.

Melodies for Munificence is the name of the show, and last night it featured about nine artists and 12 musical acts. Above, members of headliner group Deadman Flats perform.

And did I mention the concert is free? You can't beat that with a stick (odd expression, that).

A nearly-setting sun was eclipsed by flags over Avenue A Park as the evening concert was underway.

I'm pretty sure that climbing up a light pole was not a good idea for these kids. Somewhere an insurance agent got an unexplained chill, but the muses of childhood rejoiced.

The area of South Main between Avenues "A" and "B" has taken on a village feel these last few years. Patrons relax outside Brooks coffee shop. Hutchinson has no shortage of coffee shops.

The guitar stylings of event organizer Jon Dennis were a sort of encore performance for Hutchinson, as he is moving almost immediately to Las Vegas, NV, to work for a nuclear disarmament organization.

Dennis was joined by another performer for some beat boxing. For people like me whose musical tastes are stuck in Stodgyville, beat boxing is a sort of mouth percussion frequently used in hip-hop. I like the way the green-shirted guy in the audience is getting into it.

I admire this kid. At that age, I couldn't dance. Come to think of it, I still can't.

If I interpret their MySpace page correctly, the members of Deadman Flats are (L-R): Matt Stambaugh on mandolin and vocals, Hank Osterhout on bass guitar and vocals, Alex Law on guitar and vocals and Mike Helvy on banjo and vocals. They describe their music as "Bluegrass at its most inbred."

If circumstance forces a low shutter speed, you might as well have fun with it. tried to get a blur that showed the frenetic motions of Osterhout (1/3 from left). This comes close.

Here's a photo of Osterhout from a performance earlier in the day. More pics here and here.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

National Pecan Pie Day?

I read it on the Internet, so it must be true.

Who declares these things, anyway? Probably someone with pie to sell.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Best Laid Plans of Railfans

I first picked up a camera in 1975 for the sole purpose of photographing trains. It was a bonding thing between my older brother and I, and still occasionally is. He emailed in the wee hours Thursday morning that a Union Pacific (UP) Heritage locomotive would be through Hutchinson that day, and provided a link to a schedule.

UP's Heritage locos are modern (boring, if you ask me) engines saved from mediocrity by wearing stylized adaptations of the paint schemes of various railroads that Union Pacific absorbed over the years in its amoeba-like march across our nation's rail network. I'd seen one of them a couple years back - their MKT railroad homage (above). The locomotive due through Hutchinson on Thursday was painted as a Southern Pacific - appropriate since that railroad once permeated the area.

Like I said, there was a schedule so this was a piece of cake, right? Just find a suitable location along the UP rails and wait for the thing to show up during the anticipated time frame of 4:20-5:20 PM. Simple.

At first I preferred to catch it at Eastside Cemetery, an engine painted in the likeness of a dead railroad being sort of like a rolling tombstone. The sun would be wrong for that soon, though, so I parked on the dead-ended Avenue "B" and headed to the UP trestle over Hutchinson's flood control ditch at the east edge of the city. The Jim P. Martinez Sunflower Trail gave good access and lent some nice serpentine curves.

While I waited, I appreciated the low wooden construction of the Kansas and Oklahoma Railroad's trestle. I believe it was originally built by the Missouri Pacific.

Here's another view. This would be good during the morning. There's also a BNSF trestle to the north of this.

At 5:11, near the end of the target time frame, I heard locomotives approach. It wasn't the train I was after, but I did like seeing this pair of older locomotives.

While I was walking back and forth to the trestle to get some exercise, I found the construction date, at least of the concrete parts - 1953. According to old maps I've found, this would have been built by the Rock Island Railroad.

As I waited well past the original time window, I wondered what all the bicyclist and roller-bladers thought I was doing there, just walking back and forth with s camera. Had I a phone like my early-adopter friend, Patsy, who lives in Newfangledland, instead of the tough but "just a phone" thing I carry (being a resident of Stodgyville), I could have checked the net for schedule updates. I didn't know it yet, but the train had been delayed in Texas that morning.

At 6:24, as this UP train came along (not the one I wanted), it hit me that by putting a walking trail under three active railroad trestles, Hutchinson has inadvertently created a railroad park.

Let's call it the Hutchinson Railfan Park, and hope the name catches on. The city of Hutchinson should recognize this and promote it a bit. The addition of a small shelter and maybe a few parking spaces wouldn't hurt. Hutch needs more Internet presence. The official city pages pertaining to architecture and history, many of which are very good, have a problem being invisible. I sometimes think our city motto should be "Come Share our Stealth" instead of "Come Share our Space."

Eventually I went home and checked the locomotives schedule and found out it was many hours behind - so much so that it would be dark when it passed through Hutch. The only decent chance was to go to Pratt, one hour away and catch it during the dwindling daylight. I had a friend near Pratt who needed photos shot, so that wasn't such a bad idea. Besides, I had my brother on the phone during some of this and wanted to capture the spirit of our teenage railfan adventures.

But these are not the days of old, as evidenced by this sign at the border of UP property in Pratt. The railroad employees were very helpful with schedule information; the train would not be in until after 10:40 PM - well after dark. They recommended I wait just off railroad property, which I did. At some point, someone called 911 but the officer that showed up to check me out noted that I was on a public street and thus, OK. He was quite polite.

At 11PM, over nine hours after it was scheduled to arrive in Pratt, the train showed up and stopped for a couple minutes. The angle isn't the best, but it's all I had to work with. The exposure is three seconds on tripod, f:4, ISO 100, very telephoto, incandescent white balance and then Photoshopped for contrast and further color correction. It's regrettable that the Southern Pacific lettering is mostly hidden. The nose logo is blurred due to the door it is on being swung open during the exposure. A side view would have been blocked by cars and trucks in an adjacent lot. The number is 1996 because that's the year that UP acquired the Southern Pacific.

And why use a time exposure rather than flash?

Because modern locomotives are decorated with material so reflective as to dominate a flash photo. I tried it anyway as the train pulled away. Hours after I returned to Hutchinson, I saw the train pass near my house at 2:51 AM, 10 1/2 hours after I first anticipated it as a two-hour outlay of time. Yeah, now I remember why I don't do this anymore, except for more classic locomotives.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Hutchfest Fireworks

What better way to follow up the ritual burning of a plastic pig than to head out to a mondo fireworks display? This is actually before the Hutchinson, Kansas, Hutchfest fireworks display began on July 4th, as various folks spent their pyrotechnics near the grain elevator on Severance Street.

Several of these luminous objects floated high overhead. I've never seen fireworks like this. They seem similar to small hot air balloons. If anyone can enlighten us as to these, please comment.

The photo has so much grainy digital noise, being cropped from a full-size version shot at ISO 1000, that it reminds me of a typical UFO hoax photograph.

I discovered as I shot these, that the the Kansas State Fairgrounds Grandstands from which the show was viewed actually vibrate a little bit. I did a number of tripod-mounted time exposures between four and eight seconds, and a few showed camera motion. This wasn't a noticeable in the fireworks as it was in the ground objects.

The actual fireworks show started shortly after 9:45 and lasted about 20 minutes.

Spectators Jade Piros, Patsy Terrell and Mark Reddig watch the show from the grandstands.

Fireworks are easy to photograph. Most of these were done at ISO 100, f:3.7, eight to thirty seconds at various focal lengths on my problematic but still functional Sony DSC H-2.

I know that a general tendency is to photograph fireworks at higher ISOs because they occur at night, but most fireworks are plenty bright enough to allow the better quality of ISO 100.

Yeah, I shot a bunch of these.

Abstract shapes are rendered as the wind blows glowing bits of burning whatever.

These remind me of luminous deep sea creatures.

Mark and Jade have shadows caused by the fact that they moved during the approx. four second exposure. My shutter speeds for these people pictures were guesswork, as I was depending on illumination from aerial fireworks.

This last one looks like some sort of corporate logo.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Bride of Pyrotechnic Pig

A Continuation of the epic saga started in Peril of the Pyrotechnic Pig

The day after my initial attempt to amuse my friends by setting off ground bloom fireworks inside an unfortunately under-sized plastic pig bank, I tried one more time. While burning nearly anything is good quality entertainment and appeals to the inner Beavis, I still felt the plastic pyrotechnic pig failed of his potential.

So, I switched the charge to a small sparking fountain which was called "Happiness." I don't think the piggy would agree with the label.

That's Mark Reddig you see in the video, followed by Patsy Terrell and then Mia Denman at the last.

Mark: "Oh, that was so good!"

Piggy done got blowed upside down.

Patsy: "I don't know why it's funny, but it is."

For greater amusement value and to feed your lust for burnt plastic, I added three cowboys and three Indians. Think of it as a re-imagining of How the West was Won.

Patsy: "Poor piggy"

Mark: "Poor, poor piggy"

One Indian was knocked down.

Another attempt

This time, a cowboy and another Indian are down for the count. Patsy recorded this attempt and blogged it.

Patsy asks if I remembered to mention that I'm Joyce's boy. That's Joyce Holmes, Granby High School class of '48. Hi mom! Aren't you proud?

This time, the West was lost to everyone, as all cowboys and Indians are down.

It was time to abandon my pigacidal attempts and take off for the the fireworks show that concluded Hutchfest, the summer festival of Hutchinson, Kansas.

After the fireworks show and right before shooting fireworks in the city would be illegal, I used the last fountain. The pig survived to see another year. Isn't he lucky?

Friday, July 04, 2008

Independence Day 2008

Have a good one, and may you leave the day with all digits intact.

(This message has been brought to you by the Ace Jackalope for President committee)

Peril of the Pyrotechnic Pig

I don't remember how it started; I really don't.

But several years ago, I began a 4th of July tradition of putting "ground bloom" fireworks within a transparent plastic piggy bank that is literally a pig.

This is an aesthetic and quite tidy plan, you see, for the multi-colored firework chases around the inside of said pig, and puts on a show without spreading little bits of paper shrapnel everywhere.

That's the case when you have a big enough pig, which I didn't find this year.

I used to get clear plastic pigs at Wal-Mart in the ever-shrinking non-licenced property toy section near the bags of plastic soldiers who would also meet their pyrotechnic doom at my hands.

This year, I was not able to find the larger transparent pigs anywhere, so I settled on buying ($3) these these much smaller tinted plastic pigs that I'd seen at Commerce Bank, where I have one of my accounts. I should stress that I have nothing against Commerce and I quite like my tellers; they were just the only vendor of plastic pig banks in town.

So, now that we have the plastic pig (made in China), we need ground blooms (also made in China). These were $1.25 a pack at my local firework tent. Yeah, American dollars for two Chinese goods. I'm part of the problem.

The ground blooms fit easily into the coin retrieval hole on the underside of the piggy.

Look at him - so trusting. Does he know what's coming?

Well, the first attempt didn't turn out so well because the smoke came right at the camera and there was no usable video. It was also obvious that the down-sized pig did not allow enough room for the firework to twirl within, and the red tint didn't let the other colors of fire show through.

This sort of project, by the way, is the perfect use for that scratched UV or skylight filter you haven't thrown away yet. I used one and was very glad as it got a scorch mark. Attempt #2 failed because the auto-focus was confused by the smoke and bright light, so I switched to manual focus.

Here is attempt #3. Yeah, we got a little fire but not the multi-colored swirl we'd have with a bigger non-tinted container.

Attempt #4. Pardon my bad grammar at the end; I was trying to be folksy. Before I shut off the camera, you can hear the Southern-girl laughter of Patsy Terrell.

I really need to stick to jackalope photos. Ace wasn't involved in this, and you can see what happened.

Maybe I'll try again tomorrow.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Driving at Dawn

I had occasion to drive part of Kansas highway 400 during the early morning hours, Tuesday. I love driving at this time, starting out in the dark and seeing the stars in the Flint Hills. I usually see a meteor or two. Shortly after dawn, I stopped at the rest stop near Beaumont.

Off to the southeast, highway 400 snakes across the hills.

To the south, cattle graze under windmills.

And now, some clouds.

I'd previously photographed a nice bit of erosion here.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Where is Ace Jackalope? (episode 24)

Ace would like to see what Abe is reading as he shares the bench of this covered wagon.

Where is Ace Jackalope?

And for bonus points, what word is on the front of Abe's book?