Thursday, June 21, 2007

Victoria = Herzog

June 13, 2007 (Recap of the Day)

Awoke at 8:20 a.m. We obviously needed sleep. Our hotel room has a window on the hallway but not to the outdoors so we could not gauge the time by sunrise. Got ready and was surprised that clouds covered the sky and it had rained earlier today. Headed across the street to McDonalds for large coffees. Good stuff, just want I needed

We drove a few feet to I-70 and headed east. Rain dripped on the windshield. Ashley asked, “Is this ok?” as we passed the Oz Museum billboard. Yes, we are in Kansas, and I said, “It is ok.”

Three or so exits later we were on Hwy 255 south to Victoria. The entire drive totaled about 10-15 minutes. Victoria is actually the combination of two towns. It started as Herzog, Kansas founded by Germans from Russia. Victoria, which was south of 10th Street, was started by George Grant, an Englishman. Ultimately the two towns combined into one Victoria, Kansas. Herzog was a name I could not pass up and Ashley and I had to visit.

We drove past the St. Fidelis cemetery and headed south to the Cathedral of the Plains. The church was built in 1903 and was absolutely gorgeous. Not the scale of Holy Name Church in my hometown, but a wonderfully intimate beauty for a smaller, farming community. We were mesmerized by the joy of the place. We lit candles. My prayer was for all of my ancestors. I hope I can do them justice with the stories I tell, that I can authentically tell their stories. Ashley lit a candle, too, and we took pictures of each other.

We photographed the outside and the downpour started. We made it into the car before being soaked. We drove down the street to the St. Fidelis gift shop. We listened to the end of Second Summer of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants while we waited for the rain to let up. Once inside the gift shop, we met two women who were very helpful. I told them my Herzog tale and they were very welcoming. The gift shop was small but we found wonderful gifts for everyone. I was so happy to have tangible memories from Herzog.

As we drove to the business district, we saw the statue of the Germans from Russia that was duplicated for the AHSGR headquarters in Lincoln, Nebraska. I see this statue daily on my home web page and almost drove past it! Ashley braved the rain and photographed it since she had the best view.

The rain pours down faster and faster as we head off to Main Street. The town has beautiful old sandstone buildings, but is fairly desolate. I spot the post office as we drive the remainder of Main Street, then turn around to go to the post office. The rain truly pounds the car as we drive up to the mailbox outside the building. We wait for a few minutes, and then I decided I should write the new postcards to Mom and Joan. Once written, I scurry out of the car and into the post office.

Two men were chatting at the desk. One was the postmaster; the other was Ken of an excavating company. It was his pickup truck parked outside. I bought the postcard stamps and accepted the postmaster’s suggestion of buying some forever stamps. The postmaster answered many of my questions about Herzog. He told me about Grant and the founding of Herzog. He grew up on a farm and did not have electricity until the 60’s. His father sold his horse team in the early 60’s to buy a washing machine for the family.

He discussed wind power. I asked how people made a living now. Many farm but they also commute to Hays for jobs. Even as a young boy, many people farmed and went to Topeka for work. They would walk, hitch rides or get there however they could. Then on weekends, they worked in the fields.

I talked with them for at least fifteen minutes. I love the pace of this town. While Ashley was waiting in the car, she had written a postcard to Becky while she waited. We headed north on Hwy 255 and stopped to photograph the St. Fidelis Cemetery entrance. It was raining too hard to venture outside now. So, onto I-70 west and back to Hays. The rain pounded the windshield but it was a comforting drive.

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