My class of 1972 – East Anchorage High School – 50th reunion was celebrated in June. Theme for the event was,
“Everyone has a story to tell!”
I’ve always believed this to be true. The hardest part is getting family, friends, and strangers to tell theirs.
For the past several years, my wife informed me that her life wasn’t as colorful as mine, therefore no real stories existed worthy of print. I beg to disagree.
I came from a military family and moved every three years. That always made for interesting experiences. Joleen’s dad was a schoolteacher and principal in Kansas and Alaska. In essence, they traveled more than we did. Chapman, Salina, Kingsdown, Longford, Grinnell, Alma, and Dunlap are towns in Kansas where her father, Herman Freeman, taught school. A couple of those locales are now virtually deserted.
Joleen’s always been interested in the Selma, Alabama segment of my life. She’s not the only one. I’ve been asked time and time again what it was like during the civil rights movement. Sadly, I was much too young to recognize any significance. I was more tuned in to The Roy Rogers Show and The Lone Ranger.
What my wife didn’t realize until I brought her up to speed, was that she’d resided in a place almost equal to Selma where black history is concerned. Dunlap, Kansas is that town.
After the Civil War ended in 1865, freed slaves began a movement to areas of the United States where they could purchase their own farmland. Property was plentiful and cheap in Kansas. A man named, Benjamin “Pap” Singleton, organized what was called the Dunlap Colony in 1878. He was appropriately titled by many, Moses of the Colored Exodus.
At its peak, nearly 300 African Americans lived in the Dunlap area. They opened up an academy of learning called, Freedmen’s Academy of Kansas. A couple of churches sprung up and it seemed as if the place would prosper. Unfortunately, it didn’t.
Life was tough trying to make a living on small acreage farms, and by 1930, very few blacks remained in Dunlap. Most had moved on to bigger cities where jobs offered higher pay. The last black man living in Dunlap died in 1993. London Harness, is buried in the Dunlap African American Cemetery.
After telling my wife this story she was stunned. Joleen didn’t know anything of the now, ghost town’s past. My history lesson prodded her to recall an interesting thing about Dunlap that she’d completely forgot.
She told me her family rented a house next to pastureland where the famous movie producer, Alfred Hitchcock, owned cattle. My research found that the Buster Wheat Cattle Company managed Hitchcock’s livestock during this time. I find this story fascinating, and here I am spilling the beans for her.
I’m sure it’s safe to say, there are few, if any other people that lived next to Alfred Hitchcock’s livestock and got to pet them. On the other hand, there’s good chance some of us older folk enjoyed a burger or steak courtesy of Alfred’s cattle.
I reminded my wife that, Mario Andretti, almost ran over her in a golf cart at the Portland 200 IndyCar races in 1986. “Oh yeah.” She sighed. I went on to jokingly mention that had he been successful, we’d be living in Havasu Riviera right now.
This was the same race where Mario beat his son Michael by mere inches, and it was Father’s Day of all things. Joleen was on vacation in Lake Havasu City on June 29, 1994, and was fortunate to experience an Arizona heat wave of 128 degrees in the Holiday Inn swimming pool. Hey, I just added another significant life event to her slate.
Everyone has an interesting story to tell. Sometimes all it takes is a few quiet moments to look back on one’s life and jot things down. I’m sure Today’s News-Herald Publisher, Rich Macke, and Editor, Brandon Bowers, along with readers of this newspaper would love to hear some of yours.
I know I would!