Today’s Flyover People column as seen in The Emporia Gazette:






Where were we 10 years ago? Step back in time with me, a decade, if you will.

While cleaning my junk room over Labor Day weekend, I found newspapers and clippings, all from 2003. I started writing this Flyover People column in January of that year, and I apparently clipped several dozen articles that I thought might offer future column topics.

So what I found, in effect, was a time capsule from 2003. The clippings that I saved aren’t all-inclusive, but they brought back the year in bits and pieces.

The first article I pulled from the collection was a story by Scott Rochat about the Granada Theatre fundraising project. As of July 27, 2003, the Granada Theatre Alliance needed to raise $395,000 more by the end of the year to obtain challenge grants of $416,000 from the Mabee Foundation of Tulsa, Okla., and $425,000 from the local Jones Trust.

As we all know now, 10 years later, the fund-raising campaign was a success. The money came in, a long restoration process followed, and these days the Granada Theatre is a shining star in Emporia’s downtown.

In the fall of 2003, Corkys could be seen around town. Sponsors purchased fiberglass sculptures of the Hornet mascot, decorated them, and put them on display. They were later auctioned with proceeds going toward scholarships.

Among the clippings was a tale of a tragedy that occurred Labor Day weekend in 2003. Heavy rains caused flash flooding on the Kansas Turnpike at milepost 116 in Chase County. Seven vehicles washed off the roadway. Six people died. In a heartbreaking article, Gwendolynne Larson told the story of a hero that night. Al Larsen, from Texas, helped others to safety before being swept away to his death, along with a Missouri woman and her four young children. A memorial of that event and a monument honoring Al Larsen were later placed at the Matfield Green Service Area.

In my stash, I found two Gazette tabloids about schools. In May, the newspaper published a section featuring three elementary schools that were closing: Mary Herbert, Maynard, and Butcher. The second tabloid introduced two brand new schools: Riverside and Timmerman.

2003 was the year of the mural. Former Emporian Louis Copt, of Lecompton, and Stan Herd, of Lawrence, painted the “Spring in the Flint Hills” mural at Sixth and Merchant. During April, May and June of that year, Louis and Stan climbed a scaffold and painted a lush green landscape.

This south-facing mural has had its share of heat and sunshine and is a bit faded now, but it is a constant reminder of the beautiful scenery just west of Emporia.

The eagle and American flag mural on the building at 1025 Commercial was a Leadership Emporia project in 2003. Recognizing Emporia as founding city of Veterans Day, this mural was created by an art teacher from Florida, Marilyn Dailey, a former Emporian.

A third mural, painted by local artist and musician Josh Finley, brightens the alley behind Flint Hills Music. Emporia added a lot of color in 2003.

November brought a special Veterans Day, the 50th anniversary, and Emporia hosted a week-long schedule of events. Crowds lined Commercial Street for a rainy, but huge parade. Camp Tribute, with reenactors, exhibits and activities, was set up at the fairgrounds. Gov. Kathleen Sebelius and other dignitaries spoke at a Veterans Remembrance ceremony. It was a big week for Emporia.

In other 2003 news: The Purple Heart Memorial was dedicated at the All Veterans Park. Olpe revived its Down Home Festival. The European Bake Shop opened its doors in Hartford, and the haunted house in Neosho Rapids celebrated “10 spooky years.” ESU’s football team defeated Pittsburg in Pittsburg, something they hadn’t accomplished for 30 years.

Since 1895, The Emporia Gazette has documented news and activities in Emporia and the area. It is a witness to our daily lives, a record of progress, tragedy and triumph.

The newspaper’s stories are the stories of our lives. Articles and photographs enable us to go back in time, to see where we’ve been and what we’ve accomplished.

In July of 2003, we didn’t know if the Granada would actually get restored. And 10 years later, we are enjoying that building as much as the Granada Theatre Alliance promised that we would. (Emporia, you totally rocked that project.)

Copyright 2013 ~ Cheryl Unruh


  1. 2003 — the year we left western KS for Topeka, and you and I must have become blog friends not too long after. It’s neat to read all these events in Emporia when Emporia was only a couple of years from being on my radar.

  2. September 2005… I ended up giving myself a little research project. You wrote,

    “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.”
    – Thomas Mann

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