High Plains History

Airs Wednesdays at 10:30 am and Saturdays at 12:30 pm

Take a few minutes to step back in time and explore the historical events, places, persons, social movements, and humorous incidents from the centuries of human settlement on the High Plains.  High Plains History is written and produced by Skip Mancini with the assistance of historians, historical societies, and museums from across the region. 

Contact Skip Mancini about the program.

Velma On...

May 1, 2013

As my time with Velma Wancura draws to a close, Velma and I talked about some of life's nuggets.  These are some of her thoughts about:

Prejudice and Pride

Apr 23, 2013

It was hard to be German during World War I.  Velma Wancura's father hired extra help during harvest time.  She said you had to be careful not to hire a German sympathizer or a spy. 

The Root Cause of Stingy

Apr 16, 2013

Go back to May, 1935.  Velma and Ted Wancura have a young son.  They haven't had a wheat crop in years, or rain for that matter.  Most of their cattle herd has been lost in the dust storms.  A tornado took their house.  The Wancuras moved a vacant house in to replace it.

Dark Cloud on the Horizon

Apr 9, 2013

The mid 1930's were the dry years on the high plains.  The drought has taken so much, a tornado took their home, but one young couple continue to persevere.  Velma and Ted Wancura were creative problem solvers.  They had 150 head of cattle, but no grass in the pasture. so   Ted and his brother harvested the cactus that remained for feed.  After burning the spines off with a blow torch, the cactus were placed in a cattle tank where the were well received.  When they were gone, Ted fabricated a truck bed to haul beet tops from the Garden City sugar factory, approximately 50 miles away, where the farm land was irrigated.  That solution worked until weather conditions worsened. 

No Home to Go To

Apr 2, 2013

In 1935, there had been no rain and no wheat crop for the Wancuras.  One day, Velma and Ted decided to drive to Beehler to a farm sale about 14 miles north.  On the way home, they stopped at her parent's home in Beehler to say hello.  The weather turned.  Velma's dad told them to stay for the night. 

The next day they started out for home.  They met a neighbor on the road, who told them there was no reason to travel any further, a tornado had destroyed their home.  It was scattered for miles.  

The Dry Years

Mar 26, 2013

The hard times began long before the dust storms that inspired movies, documentaries, and books.  There was no rain, no crops, wheat was .25 cents a bushel, which would have been something if there was any wheat to harvest.  For Velma Wancura, the dry years meant going back to work as a teacher.    That wage supported her family.   

Back When Horse Power Meant Barney and Joe

Mar 19, 2013

Velma Wancura's dad wanted to be a farmer, so he traded a house in McCracken, Kansas for a quarter of land south of Beeler.  He was a good farmer, and it took the whole family to make it successful.  The kids helped  milk eight to twelve cows twice a day, separated the milk, and sold the cream.  Velma also remembered the horses.    She recalled two by name, Joe and Barney.  When Velma was six or seven, she started driving the team.  Looking back, she said, "The horse looks so tall and big, I don't know how I did it."   

Life is What You Paint It

Mar 12, 2013

Can you imagine living over 100 years and only having two regrets?  I can't.   It is one of the things that amazed me about Velma Wancura. 

I met Velma Whipple Wancura two years ago.  Her grandson, Dan Wancura contacted me, telling me I needed to meet his grandmother.  He said the story of her life was simply amazing.  He was right. 

Location Location Location

Feb 26, 2013

Ask anyone in real estate how to choose property, and they'll tell you, "location, location, location."  The White and Kirk building in Amarillo sits at the crown jewel of locations- the intersection of Route 66 and Polk Street.

Where I Come From

Feb 19, 2013

Virginia Kerns Frantz was born near Granada, Colorado on February 28, 1924.  She remembers her childhood as a hand to mouth existence.

Making Lemonade

Feb 12, 2013

Let’s give the mailman something to laugh about and send one of those exaggerated postcards of giant insects or oversized rabbits.  You can find them at the Finney County Historical Museum, along with information on their creator, a photographer named Frank ‘Pop’ Conard who found a way to make lemons into lemonade during the dark days of the Great Depression.

Sherman County Hero

Feb 5, 2013

Today we’ll visit the Texas Panhandle and stop by the Sherman County Depot Museum to hear the story of Sam Wohlford.  We’ll take a look at a  silver medal and a plaque that reads, “No greater love is there than for a man to risk his life for friend or stranger.”  And we’ll learn about Sam’s refusal to give up in his quest to save lives during the Great Blizzard of 1948.

A trip along the history trail that tells of the settling of the west is littered with the remains of hundreds of ghost towns.  The lives of many of these settlements were very brief, as they boomed when they bet on the tracks of the railroads and then busted as they watched from a distance as the trains pass them by.  One of the largest communities was called Ivanhoe, and was developed between the Arkansas and Cimarron Rivers on what is now U.S. Highway 83.  Today we’ll visit what remains of this once-bustling community – the cemetery.

Hooves and Wheels

Jan 22, 2013

Audio Pending...

The saying ‘You can’t get there from here!’ must have been on the minds of many of the pioneers who tried to settle in far west portions of the HPPR broadcast area.  For a long time, road making was an individual task which involved taking off  in the direction you needed to go, and then hoping you would make it to your destination.  Eventually trails became roads, which then became highways as travel vehicles evolved from wagons to buggies to new-fangled automobiles, but it could still be a bumpy ride at best. 

A list of the movers and shakers who helped develop the city of Amarillo would have to include Guy Anton Carlander.  An architect who developed his own style by utilizing elements of design and decoration from the 1920s and 30s, his name is on the dedication plaques of many courthouses, hospitals and medical buildings, and office buildings throughout the Texas Panhandle.

Windthorst Windows

Jan 8, 2013

Though the town of Windthorst never really became a reality, the magnificent church that was the centerpiece of an entire community is very real and well worth a trip to Ford County in Southwestern Kansas. The Immaculate Heart of Mary Church features an interior filled with wonders, not the least of which is a series of hand-blown stained glass windows fashioned in the “Munich Pictorial Style”.

Sublette Swatters

Jan 1, 2013

Today we’ll take you out to the ball game.  Though we won’t buy you some peanuts and crackerjack, we’ll have another type of treat.  We’ll tell you the story of a tiny town in Haskell County, Kansas that had a semi-pro baseball team in the 1950s, and of the top notch uniforms they wore.  Sometimes when you think something is over and done with and gone for good, it will come roaring back, better than ever.

Hidden Oasis

Dec 25, 2012

Let's get ready for the new Year by taking a drive to Lake Scott State Park.  Maybe the weather will let us try our hand at some trout fishing, and we'll take a turn on the lake in a canoe.  Afterwards, we can explore the ruins of El Quartelejo, the only Indian pueblo in Kansas.  Keep an eye out for wild turkey and deer.  No wonder Lake Scott made the recent list of Best Beaches in the USA!

A Christmas Blizzard

Dec 17, 2012

We’ll celebrate the Christmas holiday by recounting a Christmas blizzard of long ago, when Santa traveled across the open range of the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles.  It seems that jolly old St. Nick joined some ranch hands in a snowstorm, and he left a special gift in the chuck wagon that he made himself.  

The Big Easel

Dec 11, 2012

Today we’ll travel north to see one of the world’s largest paintings.  Located in Goodland in Northwest Kansas along Interstate 70, the Big Easel can’t be missed.  Look for a vase of giant sunflowers, a tribute to Vincent Van Gogh and his signature series of seven sunflower paintings.

Southern Stage Route

Dec 5, 2012

A major U.S. Highway that runs through Western Kansas began as a rough trail that connected various boomtowns who were waiting for the railroads that ultimately passed them by.  Today we’ll travel in a classic coach on the Southern Stage Line and head south out of Garden City, stopping for a bite of lunch and then an overnight stay by the Cimarron River.

Llano Cemetery

Nov 27, 2012

What began as an act of kindness to provide a final resting place for a pioneer child has become the Llano Cemetery in Amarillo, Texas.  The 130 acres have been developed to include elements of historical architecture, impressive landscaping, and  a sense of a beautiful public park for all who enter the gates. 

After a visit to the Stauth Museum in Montezuma, Kansas, you'll feel like a world traveler.  The museum is filled with art and artifacts from around the globe. Throughout the year it also showcases local art and culture and hosts numerous programs, lectures, or exhibits for area school children.  Since the building is constructed to Smithsonian Institute regulations, is often hosts traveling exhibits from the Smithsonian in Washington DC.

End of an Era

Nov 13, 2012

You get used to things always being there, maybe even take them for granted.  Things like snow at Christmas, Grandma sharing her wisdom no matter how old you are, Mom meeting you at the door when you pull in the drive, calling Dad when you have trouble with your car,  or driving to Herb's Carry Out for a burger and a piece of coconut cream pie.   Somehow, you're surprised when they are not.  November 21 will be the end of an era.  Herb's Carry Out, located on Kansas Avenue in Garden City, will be gone. 

Oslo on the High Plains

Nov 7, 2012

A full history of the Oslo Settlement is provided in the article below.

Oslo on the Texas High Plains
Peter L. Petersen (Volume 28: Page 138)

HPPR thanks the Norwegian-American Historical Society for permission to post this article.  A grant from the West Texas State University committee on organized research assisted in its preparation.

Driving cattle from Texas to the north became complicated when homesteaders refused to allow herds to cross their land.  Quarantine laws were passed to protect herds from tick fever carried by Texas cattle.  

For many, the name Bat Masterson, brings to mind gunfights and the Old West.  He was born in Quebec, Canada.  Masterson came to eastern Kansas with his parents, but western Kansas drew he and his brother with its wide open spaces and hunting.  The most well known part of his life as Ford County Sheriff inspired a television show, but did you know Masterson:

Nicodemus

Oct 16, 2012

Pioneers come to the west, leaving all that was familiar, to create a new community- Nicodemus, Kansas.  To this day, descendants of that hardy bunch return to celebrate.

Commancheria

Oct 9, 2012

Today we'll look at a battle that marked the turning point in the Red River Wars.

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