Behind the Scenes in Kansas: Last Day in Wichita
DAY FOUR: INNES TEA ROOM, GARFIELD'S, STORIES AND PHOTOS WITH THE BROOKS FAMILY AND LAUGHS OVER THE BEAUTIFUL CHILDREN'S BLUE BIRD
Our last day in Kansas was spent in Wichita and, I can't lie, was probably my favorite looking back, because I laughed more in that one day than I had in the whole damn month.
The day started with our beloved Stan Farley, with whom we ventured back to the Innes Building (former home of the Innes Tea Room) where Louise had danced all those years ago. The last time Shawn and I saw it, we knew so little. Fortunately for us, Stan had done his homework and could tell us everything about the history of the building, including the fact that Garfield's (a department store that Louise worked in for a total of about 2 weeks right before she left for New York in the 1940s) had been located in the building just adjacent! Our minds were blown.
After that, Shawn and I were lucky enough to get a chance to meet the Brooks family. Daniel, Louise's nephew, welcomed us kindly into his home to see his family photos of yesteryear and to hear all of the funny family stories from his wonderful sister, Roseanna. Their father, Theodore, was Louise's dearest friend and loved one, and stories about him confirmed all of the good things I had already read. Roseanna made the fatal mistake of telling me that she had Louise's childhood books squirreled away somewhere, immediately peaking my interest and provoking out of Dan, in which he asked me: "Have you seen the white whale?" Noticing my desperation and knowing that we were only in Wichita for one more night, she was so kind that she offered dig them up and meet us later that evening to film them.
The evening arrived and so did Roseanna with a basket full of treasures. The most discussed book was one called the Children's Blue Bird, which was given to Louise by her mother for Christmas when she was little. The old bindings "gave my heart a pang," and the markings in the books gave a sense of human solidarity to every page we turned. All of the books were beautiful, and we were honored to have gotten to see them. We were having so much fun with Roseanna that we lost track of time and ended up talking until 11 at night, which left us packing equipment until 1am before our 5am flight the next morning. I was so happy about the day before that waking up wasn't an issue.
Needless to say, it was an incredibly productive trip and unearthed a lot of artifacts and stories that will shed more light on this complex figure we are uncovering. Louise may not have had the easiest of times in Kansas, but she left behind her a lot of great history (and a lot of really wonderful people).
Now to figure out when to go back to do more research on newly discovered materials that we didn't have time to see!