Quackgrass Sally: On the Trail 8-27-12
I love going places with my trail pal Candy Moulton, because it’s like traveling with a tour guide. She seems to know such fascinating bits ‘n facts about a wild variety of places. (Couldn’t hurt that she’s researched and written several roadside travel books, but I’m still impressed ) Often times when we are “working” together, we end up in the most interesting of places. I remember one remote narrow, hillside two-track in Oregon where we had to drive backwards up the hill to get back out. We’ve stood out on the vast rolling tallgrass prairie of the Flint Hills, snapping photos of the twister storms on the horizon, our hair whipping frantically, and huge grins on our faces. It’s never dull when we two gypsy ladies are on the trail, that’s for sure!
Recently, heading back home from a Trail convention in Lawrence, Kan., I commented on all the signs along highway 70 featuring the large image of the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz.
“That’s because Wamego, Kansas, was said to be the home of Dorothy and Toto.” my “personal tour guide” pointed out. “ There is an OZ museum there, although I have never stopped … wanna go?”
(I’ve had a life-long connection to the Wizard of Oz, starting the day I was born. Seems my dad went to have a “new daddy” beer in a little bar not far from the small hospital in Hollywood where I had just been born. A tall fella on the stool next to him heard my dad say he had a new baby girl and offered to buy him the beer. It was Jack Haley, the actor who portrayed the Tin Man in the MGM movie. Maybe that’s the reason my favorite character in the Oz story was the Tin Man … oh, and Toto, too!)
So into Wamego Candy and I found the Oz Museum, nestled amid the unique shops and cafe’s along its main downtown street, Lincoln Avenue. Candy had to stay in the car, stuck on a conference call, so I bravely ventured through the “wizard green” front doors of the museum where I was greeted by a young lady who told me the museum had opened in 2003. It is home to one of the largest privately-owned Oz collections in the world. Open daily, for a small fee, you can enter into the wonder-full land of Oz.
Standing in front of a drab sepia-toned re-creation of “Auntie Em’s” house, I walked onto the porch and opened the wooden screen door … where … just as in the MGM film, I entered a land filled with brilliant light and glorious colors. Here was a life-size scene of Dorothy, holding Toto, about to take her first step along the Yellow-Brick Road. Across the way was the Scarecrow, standing in his field of corn … and soon, oil can at his feet, the Tin Man. Following the yellow path, I traveled the “history” of author L. Frank Baum’s Oz Stories, from the early 1900s to modern day. Editions of the earliest Baum books, many printed in a wide variety of foreign languages, fill the showcases, as well as a rare first edition of the Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Memorabilia from early Oz silent film versions included photos with Oliver Hardy (of Laurel & Hardy fame) portraying the Tin Man. Around the corner I encountered the Cowardly Lion, his stance the famous “growl” with arms up, about to pounce. The Wicked Witch of the West, accompanied by her flying monkeys, gazed out from the dark wood (where’s a bucket of water when you need it?) All the famous characters are here and soon I came to the Wizard of Oz … his green, glowing head floating hauntingly above the Throne seat.
Over 3,000 artifacts are on display including many original items from the 1939 MGM musical staring Judy Garland. You can view the tiny gloves worn by the Lullaby League Munchkin, Nita Krebs and the Wicked Witch of the East’s Death Certificate, signed by the Munchkin Coroner, Meinhardt Raabe. Production notes from the classic film relate the event where actor Buddy Ebsen, who was hired to play the Tin Man, got deathly ill from the aluminum powder used in the silver body paint and ended up in the hospital, so Jack Haley ended up with the role (after some paint “formula” changes)
The Yellow-Brick Road led me past such fascinating things, including a replica pair of ruby slippers, but ended at another door. I must admit, I did close my eyes, clicking my heels togetherreciting, “there’s no place like home,” just in case. I ended up in the gift shop but learned the Oz Winery, around the corner, was featuring “Witch in a Ditch” and “Run Toto Run” wines. Hey, Candy, hang up the phone! ❖