March 4, 2019
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Well, I’m glad we’re done with February, the coldest Feb in 30 years, by the way. March is not much better so far; as I write this it’s 8 degrees with six inches of new snow.
Be that as it may, welcome to Week 389 of our continuing seminar on the State of Things in General, brought to you in part this week by a generous grant from the Society of Deep Thinkers. Their mission statement says it all: “Thanks, but we’ll stay in the shallow end.”
Totally off-the-wall note: On my way to another word in the dictionary just now, I ran across the word ‘pantisocracy,’ which stopped me cold. I just had to stop and read the definition. Is this a society of pants-wearing-people only? Do pants-wearers rule the roost in this culture? Nope, its origin is Greek and it means a utopian society in which everyone rules equally.
This moon-beamy idea made me want to learn more to about ‘pantisocracy.’ I went to Google and asked if there had ever been a successful pantisocracy. Not even close. The idea was concocted by poets Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Robert Southey. Coleridge wanted to establish it in the then brand-new United States and Southey wanted it to be in Wales. They couldn’t agree and the whole thing fell apart and no one has tried it since. What it boils down to is, if the two founders of your little movement can’t even agree, you’ve got problems.
I thought, huh, I’ll bet these guys were on laughing gas when they thought this one up. Little did I realize how close this was to the truth.
Nitrous oxide was discovered in the 18th century and became quite the thing for swells who could afford it. Nitrous oxide ‘parties’ became all the rage, and people would be laughing and stumbling around all over the place. Sir Humphry Davy was the major proponent of the stuff, which was first used (and still is) as an anesthetic. Davy liked it so much he began inhaling huge doses of the stuff, nearly killing himself on one occasion.
Guess who were fellow partiers on occasion? Yep, Coleridge and Southey.
I remembered Davy well, because a few years ago Sally and I both read a great book called ‘The Age of Romance’ by historian Richard Holmes. The book has nothing to do with ‘romance,’ as it’s commonly known; it just means events, especially scientific breakthroughs, that took place during the 18th century.
Anyway, the book details Davy’s many scientific accomplishments (and his slightly wild side) and also has chapters telling the stories of other luminaries of the period, including William and Clara Herschel, the world’s leading astronomers of the 18th century, the Montgolfier brothers (pioneering balloonists) and famed naturalist Joseph Banks, who travelled the world and brought home to England some thirty thousand plant species, 1400 of which were brand new.
This book was a great read. You didn’t even need laughing gas to appreciate it. If you did, after a few deep whiffs you’d probably come up with some kind of goofball idea like ‘pantisocracy,’ and then for the rest of your life people will cross the street when they see you coming.
Maybe the moral of the story is not to get distracted by a stray word in the dictionary when you’re looking for something else. On second thought, it was a fun detour.
Let’s look at your mail…
The question about the writer who wrote hits for pop and country stars and then became a major star himself continues to draw interest. Terry thought it might be Mac Davis. William guessed Jimmie Rodgers. No, sorry, it’s neither, but we’re making progress.
Leon and Loretta answered the ‘expensive legs’ question, as did Julie a bit later. The actress was Julie Adams who co-starred in ‘Creature from the Black Lagoon’ in 1954. The studio said she had the “most symmetrical legs in the world” and insured them for $125,000, which is well over a million today. Eldon in sunny Arizona (doggone it) guessed Betty Grable, who did indeed have her gams insured, as well.
Victoria and later Lori answered the Larned RR depot restaurant question: it was The Porterhouse. Congrats! I had also heard it referred to as ‘The Prairie Rose,’ but that’s a popular restaurant southeast of Wichita. Since I don’t recall the name myself, I’ll be happy to accept ‘The Porterhouse.’ I DO remember the good food there.
Eldon took care of the ‘Eisenhower’s embarrassing incident’ question. It was Francis Gary Powers, U-2 spy plane pilot who got shot down over Russia in 1960. BIG story at the time.
In other business, Terry recalled the big blizzard of ’71 and slogging through 15 blocks of deep snow to make it to the radio station. I’ve heard other people talk about that same storm. Thanks!
Going back to Cowherd’s Grocery store, (see last week’s post) John told how his family heard about Pearl Harbor. They were at Cowherd’s on a Sunday afternoon and people were listening to the radio (probably KVGB) and talking about the attack on Pearl Harbor. Since John was very young at the time he had no understanding what ‘Japanese,’ ‘bombs’ and ‘Pearl Harbor’ meant. Thanks for sharing the memory!
Three remaining questions: The name of the former writer-turned-country-star. One of his early hits (written for someone else) mentioned a popular cereal by name.
Also, who was the GB football coach in the early-to-mid ‘70s?
One more: the name of the GB nightspot (‘70s) that was built around an actual railroad boxcar.
Two new ones: what ‘70s and early ‘80s GB nightspot on the south end was in a building formerly devoted to the poultry business?
What Kansas body of water translates as ‘swan marsh’?
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Have a snow-free week!