Carolina: Cruising Past 70: 12 Interesting Finds around Pittsburg without the H

Thursday, September 15, 2016

12 Interesting Finds around Pittsburg without the H

Big Brutus, World's Largest Steam Shovel
There are 27 towns (in 27 states!) named Pittsburg in the US, all without the H (please see, but it’s Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania that is famous, so people tend to spell it that way. Even she spelled it without the H from 1890 until 1911.

There is one of the 27 that is more special to me than the others. It is Bill’s hometown in southeastern Kansas. His only sibling, elder sister Rosemary, lives there with her husband, Jack. Bill went to St. Mary’s Grade School, Lakeside Junior High, Pittsburg High School, and Pittsburg State University (PSU) where he was a member of the Sigma Chi Fraternity. The PSU mascot is the yellow and red gorilla, and I found it everywhere! This time was my third visit, but we still found new day trips. In fact, this time, we did seven towns and found 12 interesting things!

2 World Record Holders

World's Largest Fork
West Mineral, Kansas is just 25 minutes from Rosemary’s home. The area was known for coal strip mining since the coal seams were relatively shallow. Big Brutus was the second largest electric shovel in operation in the 1960s and 1970s. But, since the biggest was scrapped in 1992, it is now the largest in existence. Big Brutus was designed to dig from up to 69 feet deep. It weighs 11 million pounds, and its bucket holds up to 90 cubic yards. When they shipped it for assembly in Kansas, they needed 150 railroad cars. Environmental laws, however, led to its demise. The state of Kansas came forward to preserve it.

Springfield, Missouri is about one ¾ hour drive east of Pittsburg. What drew me to the town was the World’s Largest Fork. It is 35 feet tall and weighs 11 tons, standing at an angle, leaning against a three-story building occupied by Noble & Associates, a Springfield ad agency. It had eclipsed a Milan, New York fork that measures 31 feet long. But just this year, a 40-foot long fork was built in Creede, Colorado.

3 Unusual Places

Another find in Springfield was the Pythian Castle originally built in 1913 by the Knights of Pythias and later owned by the US Army. It is believed to be haunted and held German and Italian prisoners-of-war during WWII. Later it was found out that they were patients at the Army hospital at the back of the castle. Now privately owned, the building is listed on the US National Register of Historic Places.

Cheese, Hearing, and Castle
Just like the Deaf Cultural Center in Olathe, Kansas I wrote about in my last post, the History of Hearing Museum caught my attention because my mother dedicated her entire life to the education of the deaf and hard of hearing.  It was the deaf and blind Helen Keller who said, "Deafness is a much worse misfortune.” We found that technologies have advanced from the crude beginnings to the "transistor hearing aids" of the 1950s, to the tiny in-the-ear hearing devices, and to today’s cochlear implants. Even a picture of the first and only deaf Miss America was at the Museum. She once came to dance ballet for the benefit of The Philippine Institute for the Deaf, the school we founded in honor
of our mother. 

Then there is cheese-a-plenty in Osceola, Kansas, about 1 hour and 45 minutes away. Established in 1944, Osceola Cheese Company has grown and now has a retail store with over 250 varieties of cheese, most of which can be sampled, ranging from mild cheddar, chocolate, to “hot ghost pepper,” including smoked varieties in real hickory and applewood flavors. In addition to cheeses, the outlet has snack sticks, summer sausages, beef jerky, Vidalia onion dressings, meat marinades, steak sauces, hot sauces, jams, jellies, honey, and pure sorghum. “It was a filling stop that didn’t cost a cent!”

4 Foodie Places

chicken and burgers

And cheese brings us to other foodie places. Yale, Kansas boasts of two chicken places sitting only a quarter of a mile apart, just 20 minutes from Pittsburg: Chicken Annie’s and Chicken Mary’s. Born out of the difficulties of the mining years, they were started by wives of injured coal miners to augment their family income. Now run by descendants, they were both featured on the Food Channel in a Battle of Chickens. The variety of sides that come with your fried chicken in both places is unbelievable! They make for great chicken meals.

For all of you burger lovers, there is such a thing as steakburgers, and we went to try them in Joplin, Missouri, about 45 minutes away.  Freddy’s Steakburgers began in eastern Kansas, Steak n Shake in Illinois. They fry the burgers thin, so they resemble fried steaks, and the accompaniments are fresh and plenty. Also Freddy’s features frozen custards, and Steak n Shake, milkshakes, for desserts. They are both full hefty meals for not that much more than McDonalds and very much less than Red Robins. I wouldn’t have my burger any other way from now on. I just wish they were more available than the others.

3 Historical Places

Truman, Fort Knox, and Miners
Harry S. Truman was the 33rd President of the US and was known for ordering the historic use of atomic bombs in WWII. He was born in Lamar, Missouri, only 35 minutes away.  It gave us a good idea of his humble beginnings and his meteoric rise from a county judge,   a seat in Congress, and to the Vice-Presidency that led him to the presidency after the death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Fort Scott National Historic Site operates under the US National Park Service, just 35 minutes away. It served as one of the military bases for the US Army that protected the edge of settlement in the 1850s. For the next quarter century, it became a supply base and to provide security in turbulent areas during the opening of the West for settlement, a period which included Bleeding Kansas and the Civil War. Only the base in Leavenworth has remained active, now a training venue for top brass.

It is worthwhile to note that a Miners’ Memorial is in downtown Pittsburg to honor all those who contributed to the growth of the coal mining industry of southeastern Kansas. A diamond mark is attached to those who died in a mining accident. Bill’s grandfather was a coal miner, which means his mom is a coal miner’s daughter, not just Loretta Lynn!  As you can see, it was an extraordinary visit this time. Even our day trips were many and meaningful!

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