I first saw a Valentine Diner at the Classical Gas Museum in Embudo, New Mexico. The museum, in the Rio Grande River Valley, is a collection of antique gas pumps, neon signs, soda machines, oil cans, vintage trucks and cars, plus plenty of other items.
I grew up in the Wichita, Kansas, area but it wasn’t until I visited a museum in New Mexico a couple of years ago that I found out about a hometown industry — the Valentine Diner. My family moved to the Wichita area because of its biggest manufacturing business — airplanes — but somehow I missed this smaller manufacturing cousin.
The diners were manufactured in Wichita by Valentine Manufacturing, Inc., from the late 1930s into the mid-1970s. Sales of the buildings expanded nationwide, and soon Valentine diners were installed all over the United States. About 2,200 of the portable diners, in a wide range of sizes. Some served only a handful of customers, while the double deluxe versions were as large as many restaurants with added areas that featured several booths, tables and a long counter with stools.
Numerous Valentine diner buildings are still in use today, but many are no longer diners, but serve as headquarters for other types of businesses, such as used car lot offices and dog grooming salons. One 8-stool Valentine building was converted to an Albuquerque, New Mexico, Police Substation
Menu of Terry’s Diner, which has maintained the sign and location of Brint’s Diner in an historic Valentine diner building in Wichita, Kansas.
One Valentine diner still serving delicious meals is Brint’s Diner in Wichita, where my mother and I enjoyed a meal. The red and white checkered linoleum tile floor, the red vinyl booths and bar stools and the aluminum trimmed interior provide a delightful vintage atmosphere. The diner attracts a loyal following. The Brint’s building is a double deluxe model. The diner concept was based on railroad dining cars, but with a parking lot and the addition of porches and other extras they settled in as permanent residents of their neighborhoods.
The Grinder Man sandwich shop in Wichita, Kansas, is an A-frame model of a Valentine Diner.
This Valentine Diner building in Wichita, Kansas, formerly a Lil Joe’s Dyne-Quik, is now closed. Sign says that the building was closed due to unsafe conditions.
Brint’s Diner (actually Terry’s Diner) in Wichita, Kansas, is a Double Deluxe model of a Valentine Diner building.
"Abraham Lincoln" visits Old Cowtown Museum in Wichita, Kansas, to celebrate Independence Day. Lincoln visited Kansas in 1859, before he was elected president. Tom Leahy, a 4th grade teacher in Conway Springs, Kansas, portrayed Lincoln. See his comment below.
A few decades ago, when I was a Girl Scout I spent a week during a couple of summers as a tour guide at a living history museum called Old Cowtown in Wichita, Kansas. There were only a few buildings in those days, and it was hot and dusty, but I loved it!
This past weekend, I returned with my family to experience it as a tourist. Old Cowtown Museum has grown and become even more of an Old West experience. Now, instead of Girl Scouts, there are professional costumed re-enactors and guides. The buildings are almost all authentic from the late 1800s and show what a midwestern cattle town was like. The buildings are also now air-conditioned….so you can re-live the past more comfortably.
Special events are planned throughout the year. This past weekend, the museum celebrated Independence Day 1870s style. “Abraham Lincoln” visited. Of course, he’s an anachronism, but he did visit Kansas once before he was elected president. Brass bands played, there was an old-style baseball game — Lincoln played third base, gun fights between cowboys and ranchers, dance hall girls, pie-eating contests, watermelon spitting, a bucket brigade and wagon rides. My nephews are champion pie-eaters. We drank sarsaparilla (root beer) in the saloon.
We visited a homestead and saw a half-day-old calf in the barn. The mother wasn’t too happy with our interest in her baby. I never knew a moo could sound so threatening. Every time I tried to focus my camera on the calf, the mother tried to head butt me. Fortunately, the rail was in the way.
In the grand finale, a couple of cow pokes placed two anvils together and blasted the top one with dynamite in the anvil shoot, which was one old-time way to celebrate before fireworks were available. People do love to blow up things to celebrate!
There were so many activities, we didn’t get a chance to visit all of the buildings, including the Munger House, which was the home of Darius Munger, Wichita’s founder. I was the tour guide for the Munger House as a Girl Scout, so now I have to return to Cowtown just to re-live my old guiding days. New since my tour days is the home of the Marshall Murdock, who vigorously promoted the town through his newspaper. There are dozens of buildings, including two churches, a school house, many stores and professional buildings, a train depot, saloon and homes.
To see more of the experience, see my YouTube slide show below, which shows a lot of the action. You can also click on Old Cowtown Museum. Check out the map of the town on the Cowtown website.
This black swallowtail butterfly visited my garden. Now he’s featured in my Zazzle store.
This is one of my first posts on this blog, first published April 19, 2008. I’m re-cycling it, in honor of Earth Day on April 22. It is still a good, somewhat patched-up, usable post with some wear left, I hope.
The economic meltdown since I wrote this has focused more attention on cutting back, recycling, making-do, re-using, etc., but we’re still nowhere close to the same frugality the Depression-Era and World-War II Era citizens made such an integral part of their lives, even after prosperity returned.
On the first Earth Day, Wednesday, April 22, 1970, I slipped out of my house at 4 a.m. and hurried to the next street where my good friend Kathy Dawson was waiting for me at her kitchen door. It was chilly. Rather than dress sensibly, we were in our school uniforms — navy blue wool blazers, skirts and knee socks — as we began our thirteen-mile trek to our high school, Mt. Carmel Academy, a Catholic girls’ school where we were seniors. (There was a much closer high school within walking distance that we could have attended.) We soon left the comfort of Derby’s streetlights, crossing into the darkness of fields and pastures. We trudged in the ditch along Rock Road, passing the chain-link fences of McConnell Air Force Base. We picked up our pace as we reached Eastgate Shopping Center in Wichita. Traffic was getting heavier. There was nowhere to walk.
What were we thinking? This was no fun. Four hours after starting, we finally reached school just as the first bell rang. We hustled to our desks, exhausted, rumpled and relieved. We wanted to save gasoline for just one day to show our concern for the environment, although we did catch a ride home with our regular carpool. We knew how limited our lives would be without cars and how our lives were not set up for walking or biking, but we were already living fairly frugal lives because of the way we were raised. The following is an off-the-rack standard issue lament about consumerism. If I were you, I’d just go outside right now and enjoy nature!
Our parents lived through the Depression and World War II rationing. Frugality was second nature to them. They slowly and cautiously accumulated the comforts of technology and abundance. The baby boomers left that caution and frugality behind. On average, we had smaller families, but built bigger homes with all of the trimmings. Our expectations grew. We sought frequent vacations far more exotic than those old driving trips to Grandma’s house. Cheap energy, an explosion in innovation and far-off labor created thousands of new gadgets that soon became a necessity — we recorded our children’s every move, cell phones for everyone, televisions with a hundred channels in almost every room. Computers gave us instant access to the world. Food arrived from all over the globe in every season. Will we change? We don’t even know how to do to make much of a difference. (See the link to “Why Bother?” below.) It’s possible, but it won’t be easy.
We have to get back to the spirit of the first Earth Day. Appreciating the simple. Understanding the long-term consequences of our choices. Acknowledging and respecting what the earth gives to us. It’s the only planet we have. Since I wrote this, I’ve been to Australia and New Zealand, which I know makes me sound like a hypocrite, because that took a lot of energy and resources. Do I wish I hadn’t gone. No! Do I feel guilty? Yes. Would I like to do it again? Yes, but I probably won’t because it’s expensive. I do try to enjoy what I have right here at home — most of the time.
Will I walk again rather drive to my destination on Earth Day this year? Unlikely. I live in suburbia, at least a couple of miles from everywhere I usually visit. I’m dependent on a car. Biking in the traffic isn’t safe, as least not for a scaredy cat like me. In the heart of cities I’ve walked almost everywhere –Chicago, New York, Boston — I do love walking. It was great to have everything so close — for a while. Then I tired of walking in the rain, hauling groceries a couple of miles, not knowing how to transport anything large. I was happy to leave the noise and the congestion behind. My car seems like freedom, but I’m trapped by it, too. As gasoline costs climb higher again, I’m being even more careful about the trips I take. There’s no public transportation in my neighborhood, and won’t be until people are desperate for it and demand it.
One really important thing we suburbanites can do, as Michael Pollan (“Why Bother?) suggests, is turn part of our suburban lawns into gardens, which is what we’ve gradually been doing. More on that later. (In memory of Kathy. I still miss her so much.)
“Why Bother?” is a link to a story in the New York Times by Michael Pollan.
John F. Kennedy’s opening statement during the 1960 presidential debate.
My first airplane trip, my first (and, thankfully, only) airplane emergency landing and my “sighting” of John F. Kennedy all happened on the same day. That day began my fascination with politics. Fortunately, it didn’t dampen my enthusiasm for travel, either.
November 20, 1959. I was seven years old. My father’s father had just died, and my mother, baby brother and I were on our way to the funeral in Sturgis, South Dakota. My father and a sister and brother were already there. I missed my grandpa, but I was excited about my first airplane ride.
A poster like this one greeted my mother and I at the Wichita, Kansas, airport, in November 1959. Kennedy had stopped by to speak to supporters.
Our trip began at the airport in Wichita, the air capital. My father was an engineer for Boeing in Wichita, and his enthusiasm for airplanes was infectious. Airplanes roared overhead all day, every day. I loved the noise. It thrilled me. Now I was going to fly in one of “my father’s” airplanes.
As we walked to our gate, my mother paused at a poster of a man with a huge smile.
“John F. Kennedy is speaking here today,” she said. “He’s running for president.”
Kennedy hadn’t officially announced — he’d do that in January 1960 — but he was gathering support across the country. I’d heard his name during the last time we’d visited my grandfather as the relatives talked about current events. Here was a Catholic candidate who had the first real chance to be president. I wasn’t sure what the problem was. Nearly everyone I knew was Catholic. How could that be bad?
Even so, not all of my Catholic relatives voted for Kennedy, I later learned. They didn’t let religious affiliation trump their political views, although they felt an affinity to Kennedy.
As Catholics, my relatives were also talking about the Third Secret of Fatima, which was supposed to be revealed in 1960. What was the secret? Would the Soviet Union be converted to Christianity? Would it be the end of the world? I was fascinated and scared.
We settled into our seats on the TWA Boeing jet. The first leg of our trip would take us to Denver. My mother held my nine-month-old brother as we buckled in and waited to take off.
“Do you see Kennedy?” my mother asked, looking out the window of our airplane.
I saw a large crowd gathered on the pavement beyond our airplane.
She pointed. “There he is. See?”
After Kennedy was assassinated, I mailed a drawing and a letter of condolence to Jackie Kennedy. Like the rest of the country, I was deeply shocked by his death. I received this photograph in return. I was eleven.
Everyone was so small, I couldn’t tell one person from the next. I nodded anyway. I wanted to think I saw him. I definitely was going to tell all of my friends at school that I had.
I didn’t realize we were witnessing the beginning of a new age in campaigning. Kennedy and his staff used all the modern tools of the day: air travel, television, advance men who arranged for huge, friendly crowds to meet him and then make sure these crowds were depicted in the news. It was the first modern campaign, according to Gary A. Donaldson, who wrote a book by the same name.
My mother, brother and I took a Frontier propeller airplane from Denver, headed for Rapid City. A stewardess came by, offering us water, milk or hot cocoa. She also asked us in Spanish and French. We hadn’t been in the air very long, when smoke started to fill the airplane. One of the engines was on fire. The pilot made an emergency landing in Alliance, Nebraska, where we crammed into a tiny airport for twelve hours. At first there was nothing to eat but glazed donuts brought in from a nearby shop. Later, sandwiches were delivered, but I was already stuffed on donuts. (Homer Simpson would be proud.) I didn’t have anywhere to sit so I lay under my mother’s chair. She had my baby brother to tend to. Now that I’ve had my own children, I know how stressful the experience must have been.
I was so excited when I saw this envelope (cropped) in the mail. I wondered why there wasn't a stamp or a postmark, but my mother explained that the envelope was "franked" with Jacqueline Kennedy's signature. Jackie Kennedy was allowed to mail envelopes without a stamp to respond to all of the people who wrote to her with their condolences.
We finally made it to Rapid City on another airplane. When we got there, we found out that the airline had told my father that we were spending the night in Nebraska, so he’d left. Luckily, a family friend who’d been on our flight from Denver drove us to Sturgis, where we met my father and grandmother at my grandparents’ hotel. It was one of the last times I’d ever stay at the Fruth Hotel, a scene of so many happy childhood memories. We said good-bye to my grandfather, who had been an important figure in my life.
You don’t forget something like an engine fire, but even at my young age I realized that Kennedy was the most exciting part of the flight. Everyone at St. Mary’s grade school was excited about Kennedy’s candidacy when he finally announced it. Even though I was just a second-grader, I felt I was a part of history because I’d kind of, sort of, maybe saw Kennedy.
Students named Kennedy and Nixon attended our grade school, so we had informal mock elections. Even though it was a Catholic school, we were in a Republican state, so it wasn’t entirely one-sided. My parents had followed the career of Dwight Eisenhower when we lived in Alexandria, Virginia, where I was born. They had gone to the airport once to see him arrive with Mamie and get into a limousine. And now we lived in Eisenhower’s state.
Jackie Kennedy: A Front Runner's Appealing Wife. Life Magazine, August 24, 1959.
The students in my school cheered when Kennedy was elected. His words “Ask not what the country can do for you, but what you can do for your country” rang across the country and are still often repeated.
This was the time in my life when I began to look to the wider world. It was an awakening, which was both engrossing and frightening.
A couple of months after his inauguration, Kennedy established the the Peace Corps. The Bay of Pigs invasion disaster a few months later in April 1961 took the shine off of the new president’s glow. More anxiety was created when the The Berlin Wall appeared on August 13, 1961 (my birthday).
We trooped to the school cafeteria to watch rockets launched into space. We worried about the Soviet Union surpassing us in the space race.John Glenn orbited the earth in 1962. Also in 1962, The Cuban Missile Crisis was the first time I was really frightened and realized that the world could be a very dangerous place. There was a growing interest in fallout shelters. Eighteen Titan II Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) complexes were located in the farmland around Wichita, adding to our anxiety. (I later toured a silo with my Girl Scout troop during high school.) We knew that nearby McConnell Air Force Base and Boeing’s military airplane factory could be targets. There were many who didn’t like Kennedy and much we didn’t learn about until later, but in my world, his presidency marked the first and last time I was enthusiastic about a president. Perhaps, it was the naivete of youth. Cynicism creeps in as you realize how fallible our leaders are. The Vietnam War darkened my outlook even more.
The launch of astronaut John Glenn's "Friendship 7."
The American people fell in love with Jacqueline Kennedy. Her charm, beauty, sophistication and glamor was as appealing, if not more so, than her husband’s. I was crazy about her, myself.
Jackie Kennedy seemed to be on the cover of every popular magazine. She wanted to make sure the White House was a private home for her family but recognized that it as also a national institution. She formed the White House Historical Association to help in restoring the building. Her filmed tour of the redecorated White house was broadcast to 50 million people on television on Valentine’s Day 1962. I was one of those 50 million. She received an honorary Emmy Award for her achievement. I remember her efforts towards the preservation of Egyptian antiquities from the flood waters of the new Aswan Dam in Egypt. I became very enthusiastic about Egypt when I saw it featured in Life Magazine, a major source of my news about the world (along with National Geographic.) I became enamored of Elizabeth Taylor and her role as Cleopatra. She and Jackie seemed to alternate on the cover of popular magazines.
Jacqueline Kennedy requested the eternal flame for her husband's grave. Above is Arlington House, the home of Robert E. Lee, who left it at the onset of the Civil War. He and his family never returned, and now the land is the site of the national cemetery and the Pentagon. I visited Arlington for the first time as an adult this year.
Four years after that day at the Wichita airport, I was cutting out paper turkeys in my sixth grade art class for Thanksgiving decorations when an ashen-faced Sister Kathleen came into our classroom to tell us that President Kennedy had been shot. It was November 22, 1963. Over the next few days, we were in shock as we watched the events unfold on television. Lyndon Baines Johnson was sworn in, Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald, the funeral cortege with Jackie, Caroline and little John John saluting as his father’s casket passed, the horse with the backwards boots. It was the first national mourning for a president on television.
For more about John F. Kennedy, including links to audio and video clips, go to John F. Kennedy.
Here’s a video about Jacqueline Kennedy, including her work on the restoration of the White House. The next video is more of the Kennedy-Nixon presidential debates.