Tornado 1945


Augusta, Kansas; 500 Block of State Street, looking south. 1945

Fortunately, the tornado veered off and didn’t strike the town but it came close.
Dave Thomas           October 18, 2015


I like this picture because of the drama it displays. The big, black funnel looks like it is coming right up the main drag. The two men in the street seem transfixed and don’t know if they should stay and watch or run for cover.

Since posting this picture, I’ve received information that makes it even more compelling. I have received e-mails from Keith Scholfield and Jack Parker telling me of their connection to the event.

First, let me give you some background. Keith’s Dad, Gene Scholfield, owned Scholfield Hatchery and dealt in feed and grain and chicks. The store, easily identified by its white front, was located on the west side of the 400 block of State Street. Naturally, Keith spent a lot of time there. The first store north of the Hatchery was Bartholomew Furniture, owned by Jack Parker’s Grand-dad, Charles Bartholomew. Jack lived in the neighborhood and spent quite a bit of time at the family store. This information helps explain why the two boys were in the right place at the right time to witness the tornado that was heading for town.

If you look down toward the center of the picture, on the west side of the street, you can see the white storefront of Scholfield’s Hatchery. Keith has seen the picture a number of times over the years. It’s kind of fuzzy because it has been copied so many times, but as Keith points out, if you look closely you will see people standing on the roof of the building. Those are Gene Scholfield’s  employees along with Gene and Keith and Jack Parker. Jack first saw the picture a year or so ago on the museum’s web site and it triggered some fuzzy recollections in his memory of standing on a rooftop and watching an approaching storm. Jack and Keith have conferred about the picture and, though the memories are quite distant, agree that they were on the roof as the tornado was heading for town that day.

Keith says that the day after the tornado was sighted, his Dad took him for a drive southeast of town. They found the track of the tornado crossing Haverhill Road in a spot just north of Smileyberg.

Now, we’ve got a great picture and some people that we know who were associated with it. I think it’s remarkable that 3 old boys like us are communicating through the magic of the Internet about an incident that took place 71 years ago. Keith and I are 80 years old now and Jack is 81 and we have resurrected this story so it can be shared.

Dave Thomas Revised
November 29, 2016



The Augusta Elks Barbershop Quartet

1c Augusta Elks Quartet 1

L. to R.: Al Thomas, Ray Howard, Ross Millison, B.E. “Biddie” Watt

During the 1940’s, Dad was a member of the Augusta Elk’s Barbershop Quartet. He hadn’t been able to join the service during WW II due to heart problems so he tried to do his part in other ways. He was always happy when the quartet sang at the war bond rallies, churches, and local events and sometimes went to neighboring towns to help promote the war effort. Dad sang tenor, Ray Howard sang lead, Ross Millison was at baritone, and B.E. “Biddie” Watt sang bass. They went as far as Kansas City and Oklahoma City to take part in events and barbershop quartet contests.

Any quartet that was passing through town on their way to a contest or an engagement stopped at our house because they wanted to sing with Dad. He was actually a baritone but had a fantastic falsetto voice that made it possible for him to sing the tenor part. Sometimes visiting quartets would stay nearly all night, singing one song after another. Mom enjoyed singing and could harmonize with the best of them so she always joined in. I remember waking up in the middle of the night many times and hearing them sing for all they were worth. 

Augusta Elks Quartet

I remember one weekend when the quartet and wives had gone to Kansas City for a big meeting and sing-off. They came home telling us that the singing had been great and they had met some new quartets. However, Mom said that the accommodations had been scandalous. The hotel had overbooked their rooms and there just wasn’t a place for everybody. Ross Millison was the only single man in the Elks quartet but there were no single rooms available. After some talking, it was decided that Ross would bunk with my Mom and Dad. The way it worked out, Dad slept in the middle with Mom on one side of him and Ross on the other.

Dave Thomas
November 16, 2015



It was June of 1957 and I had graduated from boot camp at Great Lakes Naval Training Center, north of Chicago. I was beginning a 30 day “leave” and had taken trains from Chicago to Wichita. After arriving in Wichita, I walked the block or two to the bus depot and caught a bus to my home town of Augusta, 17 miles to the east.

We arrived in Augusta and stopped at the Bus Depot which in actuality was McDuffy’s Service Station. Getting off the bus, I felt like I was in a strange new world. I’d only been gone about 3 months but everything felt different and I wasn’t sure why. I was wearing “dress blues” with the neckerchief and white sailor hat so I felt a little conspicuous. Boot camp was like a vacation for me but it had done its job which was to cut the apron strings and teach you to stand on your own two feet and live a disciplined and pride-filled life.

I got my sea bag out of the belly of the bus and waited to cross the street at the only stop light in town. As I crossed the street, I saw Clarence “Judy” Williams, our neighbor from two doors down, coming toward me. Judy was at least 6’3″ tall and was as nice as he was big. As we met, he shook my hand and grinned and told me how proud he was to see me in my sailor suit. I should tell you that during WWII, Judy had been a “Seabee’ (C.B.= Construction Battalion). We grade school kids knew what outfits all the local guys were in and considered them all to be heroes. The job of the Seabees was to build roads and landing strips where needed, often under fire. I remember one cartoon showing a Seabee driving a bulldozer with one hand and firing a machine gun with the other.

We walked the block to our homes, talking “Navy talk” all the way. As we got to Judy’s house, he dropped off but shook my hand and told me again how proud he was to see me in uniform. Now, after all that, I felt like a million bucks! I was home and comfortable and proud to be in the Navy.

I guess what I want you to draw from this is that a kind deed such as Judy performed can have an effect that will keep a person warm for a lifetime. It’s been over 57 years and thinking about it still makes me feel good.

Here’s a footnote:

Thinking about this story, I realized that I didn’t know how or why “Judy” Williams got his name. I sent an e-mail to his daughter, Joyce, who is a couple of years older than me but still going strong. Joyce has been a friend since we played kick-the-can some 65 or 70 years ago. Joyce’s response to my question is a good story in itself so I’ll copy it here.

“Hi Dave-

Now, about my Dad. Will be interested in hearing how he ends up in a missive to your grandkids. He was the youngest by 8 years of 8 children. They lived on a farm, and were very hard working, kids included. (They did things different in those days.) A traveling show (circus) came to a nearby town, and apparently the whole family went. At least my Dad and some of the older kids. And this was a rare event. There was a puppeteer there doing a “Punch and Judy” show. I can’t remember how old my dad was, but, not very and he was really impressed, and talked of nothing else for weeks after. Consequently, he became known as Punch and Judy, eventually shortened to Judy.

Now the strange part that I can’t explain. They lived in Indiana. My mom and dad met in Chicago, and later married. Everyone in Augusta called him Judy, and his family back home in Indiana called him Clarence til the day he died. And in later years, he preferred Clarence. Too late, everyone knew him as Judy.


Dave Thomas
January 9, 2015


Standing Up While Sittin’ Down

I was 20 years old and had just returned from Colorado where I had spent several months working as a roughneck in the oil fields. It’s hard work and it goes on for 8 or 16 hours a day and 7 days a week. The old saying is that it’s a job for mules but all the mules have been worked to death so now they are using men. I remember my first week on the job and coming back to the hotel every night and collapsing on the bed. One morning I woke up on the floor with a boot in my hand. That’s as far as I got with my undressing the night before. I got tougher every day and soon was able to work out at night with the set of weights I had been carrying around in the trunk of my car. After roughnecking for a few months I could work an 8 or 16 hour day and still lift weights afterward. I weighed my normal 158 pounds when I went to Colorado but I soon bulked up to 198 pounds and probably got a little too proud of myself. Needless to say, I was in terrific shape and didn’t worry about anything.

After getting back to Augusta that day, I waited around home for Mom to get off work at the Augusta Daily Gazette. We had supper together and then talked for a while. I decided to go down to the pool hall and see what was happening there. The pool hall was set up like most of them with a bar and a bunch of domino tables in the front. Then, there were 3 snooker tables and an 8-ball table to accommodate the pool shooters. As I stepped through the door, I could hear my Dad back at one of the snooker tables sounding off about something. When Dad was sober, he was a genial, mild-mannered man whom everyone liked. When he was drinking he became a mean, loud-mouthed, profane drunk that nobody wanted to be around.

I came on in, took a stool at the bar and ordered a glass of beer. When I got the beer, I swiveled around and leaned back against the bar and kept an eye on Dad. He was getting louder and more obnoxious and a couple of guys at the next snooker table were yelling back at him. All that did was egg him on and he was calling them everything but civilized people. I was kind of enjoying it because after listening to Dad for years I knew just how drunk he was. At this point, he was fried just enough to be hell-on- wheels. Those two guys at the next table, that I knew to be just a couple of loud mouths, wouldn’t stand a chance. Fortunately for them, they decided it wasn’t worth it and hung up their pool cues and left. 

There were two guys in their late 30’s, sitting at a domino table near me. They were tired of listening to Dad, too. They became more agitated as they were cussing Dad and finally one of them starts talking tough and says “god-dammit, I think I’ll go back there and whip that loud-mouthed old wolf!” I just turned my stool a little until I faced them square on, took a sip of my beer, and in my best cowboy drawl said “Shucks…the two of you can’t even whip his cub!” They didn’t want any and got up and left. I just finished my beer and went on home leaving Dad to take care of his own problems.

Dave Thomas
February 23, 2015



Younger people are used to seeing the big Shepler’s Western Wear Store out by the Wichita airport. It’s really something to behold. If you need cowboy stuff, that is the place to get it. My first visit to Shepler’s was nowhere near as grand as what you see today.

Even an Augusta kid like me knew about Harry Shepler. Besides running his store, Mr. Shepler also sponsored rodeos and other western events. I was probably between 10 and 12 years old and that would put the time from 1946 to 1948. On a Saturday morning, I was with my great uncle, Dave Peebler at his home at 124 High Street. I was there to do yard work or whatever needed to be done. Uncle Dave said he needed to go to Shepler’s Wichita and invited me to ride along. I liked the idea and jumped in the car and we took off.

It’s been a lot of years since I have cruised around Wichita, but as I recall, Shepler’s was on Market Street, about 3 blocks north of Douglas. The business was located in a small store front that was completely filled with western gear. In the store, we walked to the back, where the counter was located and there was no one in sight. The door to the back room shop area was open and out came Harry Shepler. He and Uncle Dave shook hands and greeted each other. They told me that they were old acquaintances who didn’t get to see each other very often but caught up on things when they could. Uncle Dave introduced me to Mr. Shepler who invited me to go look around the store while they visited.

I thought I had died and gone to heaven. The place was filled with the wonderful smell of leather and there was cowboy stuff everywhere. I ran my hands over the floral carvings of the saddles and fondled the bridles and smelled them. I looked at the spurs and belt buckles and tried on a couple of cowboy hats. All this stuff fit right in with the cowboy movies I saw at the Isis Theater every Saturday afternoon. Mr. Shepler was indeed a lucky man!

I understand that the Shepler stores have prospered and can now be found in many cities. I’ll bet none of them smell as good as that first one.


Dave Thomas
December 16, 2015

Do It Right!

I was named after my great-uncle, Dave Peebler. He was born in 1893 and grew up on a farm. His parents were hard working people so the family always had enough of everything. But, times were tough and money was in short supply. As a result, everything was used and nothing was wasted. All belongings were cared for because replacements were not easy to get. Being frugal and conservative were necessary parts of life.

When I was in grade school I learned a lesson from Uncle Dave that I’ve never forgotten. Uncle Dave and Aunt Rachel had picked up my sister and I and we were in the back seat of their car and going somewhere. We were traveling south on State Street, the main drag in our town. State Street was one of those pretty brick streets that caused your tires to hum as you rolled along. The north end of the street was all residential and at High Street you started down a hill that lasted for six blocks and then the street leveled out for about four blocks of business district.

We got a couple of blocks down the hill and came to a place where some city maintenance men were working. They had placed those sawhorse-type barricades around a hole that they were digging manually. They had removed the bricks from the surface of the street and piled them off to the side. A pile of dirt was beginning to grow as they worked with their shovels and pick axes. We all looked as we went past and wondered just what the problem was but continued on toward wherever we were going.

An hour or two later we were returning and drove past the site again. Now, it was raining and the men were gone. There were three shovels and two pick-axes, caked with mud, and hap-hazardly tossed on the dirt pile and left to rust. Uncle Dave saw this and started shaking his head. He passionately spat out “God damn a man that won’t take care of his tools!” The vehemence of his voice and words made a great impression on me and I have never forgotten it. Even today, if I have done a job and don’t want to put my tools away as I should because I’m in a hurry, or if I don’t want to clean them up, Uncle Dave’s words come back to me. I end up doing the job the right way because I don’t want the guilt that would come from not doing it properly.

Dave Thomas
December 26, 2013


Take Cover!

The summer that Russ and Doug were 12 and Terri was 9, Pat drove them back to El Dorado, Kansas to spend the summer with their grandparents, Melba and Eddie Wygle. They had a great time boating, fishing, shooting skeet, and doing all the things that Melba and Eddie came up with to entertain them. They also got acquainted with some of the more sobering parts of Kansas life such as tornadoes.

Here in California, the kids were used to hearing the sirens of police cars, ambulances, and fire trucks. In Kansas, cities had installed sirens that could be heard for a mile or more. They were used to indicate that a tornado was coming and it was time to take cover. The kids didn’t actually experience a tornado that summer but a number of times they heard the warning siren and had to take cover in the neighbor’s cellar. This was enough to impress upon them that tornadoes were nothing to mess with.

In the summer of 1974, we rented a 35 foot motor home and made the trip to Kansas. The boys were 15; Terri was 12, as was her friend, Susan, who was traveling with us. When we arrived in Augusta, we went to the home of Aunt Rachel and Uncle Dave Peebler at 124 High Street. I parked the RV in a driveway in their back yard. When it was time for bed, the girls shared a bedroom, Pat and I were in a bedroom at the front of the house, and the boys were going to sleep in the RV. The boys were especially happy with this arrangement. It helped them maintain their image as independent young thinkers who didn’t have to conform to the conventions of mortals and sleep in the house…they would take care of themselves in the RV outside.

After some visiting, we said our “good nights” and headed for bed. It wasn’t long before a siren started screaming across the town. Pat and I didn’t worry about it because we knew two things that the kids didn’t know. The first was that it was a very nice evening with none of the tell-tale attributes of an unsettled tornado condition. The second was that Augusta has a volunteer fire department that alerts its members using the same siren as is used for tornado warnings. We recognized the siren immediately for what it was. The boys, however, were out in the RV alone, in a strange place that was already a little bit spooky. All of a sudden we heard a wild pounding on the back door (which was locked). Russ and Doug were yelling at the top of their lungs, “Let us in! Let us in! We’re going to die! The tornado is coming!” As I said, Pat and I were in the front bedroom and it was taking us a little time to reach the back door. Pat got to the door first and was trying to get it unlocked but not being familiar with it was fumbling around and not having much luck. The boys were getting more frantic every second and were screaming “Why won’t you let us in? Do you want us to die out here? Please! Please! Help!” Pat yelled back at them “Look at the sky…no clouds…no lightning…no twister…no noise…no strange atmosphere!” The boys were so shook up they wouldn’t listen and couldn’t think of anything but running to safety. Pat got lucky and got the door open and let the guys in and we tried to quiet them. They were excited and big-eyed and it took a little bit for what we were saying to register. When it finally sunk in that the siren was not for a tornado but was a call for the volunteer firemen, the boys settled down. Naturally, Aunt Rachel and Uncle Dave, and Terri and Susan heard the commotion and were all at the back door, too. As you can imagine, it took a while for us to settle down and think about sleeping again.

Dave Thomas
March 15, 2015


The Augusta Theaters

Augusta Theater

After graduating from high school I was working at Howard Motors, the Chevrolet/Buick garage. We worked from 8:00 to 6:00 on weekdays and 8:00 to 1:00 on Saturday. One Saturday afternoon, after work, I went home and cleaned up and came back downtown to have a cup of coffee at the bakery. The P & G Bakery was located in the 500 block of State Street, our main drag and was located just across the street from the Augusta Theater. Actually, there were two theaters across the street. The Augusta was the main theater, open every night and was large and beautifully decorated. Next to it on the south was the Isis Theater. It was well decorated in a modern western motif and was open Friday night, Saturday night and for Saturday matinee. Of course, the Isis only ran westerns. 

The P & G Bakery provided first class bread, doughnuts, and other baked goods but also had a fountain and half dozen booths. I was sitting in a booth, sipping my coffee, and visiting with everyone that came along. Bob Bisagno, the son of the owners of the movie houses, came in and sat down with me and ordered a cup of coffee. He was in his 30’s, was a tall, good looking guy, and was well liked by everyone in town. Bob was the manager of the theaters and every night you could see him at the Augusta taking tickets and welcoming the patrons to the movie. There was a small alcove off the lobby and every night, Bob’s parents, Dave and Aline, were sitting on the couch and greeting the patrons, also.

As an aside, I should tell you a little about the family. Mrs. Bisagno had been the piano player for the silent movies back in the old days. The old movie house was still there, in the next block, but was locked up tight and no longer used. The Bisagno family still owned it. Dave, the old man, had been raised on a farm north of town. He was short, maybe 5’ 7″ or 5’8″ tall with very broad shoulders, and big, powerful hands. One of the local legends was that Dave’s hands were so powerful that using a pinch-grip, he could hand-walk the rafters of a barn from one end of the barn to the other. One time, I saw a couple of old boys that had grown up with Dave and asked them if it was true that he was so strong. They swore that it was.

Bob graduated from Kansas State College at Manhattan and did a hitch in the Air Force before coming home to work at the movies.

Bob and I drank coffee and talked for a few minutes and then he changed gears and asked me if I’d like to work for him as a relief projectionist at the Augusta Theater. I was both flattered and flabbergasted. I had never considered such a thing. The relief projectionist or, operator, would give the regular man a break by working two nights a week and would be available to cover illnesses and vacations. Bob explained the job, the wages, and what would be expected of me. It sounded interesting. I asked a few questions and we shook hands and had a deal. I think I was eighteen at the time.

I don’t remember how long I trained before going solo. The regular operator, Lee, soon started going to the lobby and leaving me in the booth alone. It wasn’t very long before I worked a couple of nights by myself. There were a number of things to learn. Most reels of film lasted 18 to 20 minutes so the features normally had 4 to 6 reels. One of those super-duper blockbuster movies could have up to 8 reels. To get a reel ready, you placed it in the upper projector film housing and then threaded the film through several sprockets and then past the aperture plate which sized the projected image exactly to your screen. Then you went through a couple of sprockets and past the exciter lamp that picked up the sound which was imbedded alongside the 35mm image frames. The light source was a carbon arc with a parabolic reflector behind it to focus the light exactly on the aperture plate for maximum illumination. You had to set the carbons so they burned at the correct rate and you had to check them periodically when changing reels. There were 2 projectors and you switched back and forth between them. When a reel was about done, a mark on the film would show up in the upper right hand corner of the screen. That was the “get ready” cue and you got yourself in position with a hand on each of the 2 switches (one for the picture and one for sound). In a few seconds, the second cue appeared in the upper right hand corner of the screen and you hit both switches at the same time for a near seamless transition to the next reel. You had to learn to splice film, trouble- shoot the equipment, operate the curtains and lights and other chores that soon became second nature.

I learned at the Augusta Theater and then learned at the Isis Theater next door and got to work relief there and ran”B” westerns. Then I got to go to the drive-in and learned that equipment. All 3 movie houses had different projectors and sound systems so there were new things to learn at each job. The regular operator at the drive-in was an Electrical Engineer and that’s the work he did during the day. He was offered a job in another town so I was asked to be the full-time drive-in operator. I was tickled to death and accepted before Bob finished getting the words out of his mouth. I kept working at the garage, too, so I was pretty busy. At the drive-in, I kept the booth clean and repaired speakers while the movie ran.

The drive-in was about a mile and a half north of town on Ohio Street. Ohio Street was a busy road that serviced the farms north of town and served as a secondary way to get to El Dorado or Towanda or Wichita. The drive-in was on the east side of Ohio Street but on the west side was Garvin Park and our City Lake that served as our water reservoir. Across from the drive-in entrance and a little bit south there was an entrance into the park. At the time, I was driving a baby blue 1953 Ford convertible and generally had the top down during the summer months. I’d get off work on those beautiful summer nights, go into the park and head for home on the road that ran along the edge of the lake. It was rare to see another car at that time of night and I enjoyed tooling along, under the stars by myself.

One time, I had the night off and Bob Ford and I were going to go horseback riding. Since we both worked during the day this was the only chance we had. The horses that Bob had access to were only about 1 ½ miles from the drive-in. We got there and were saddling up and Bob says “I’d sure like to see that western movie that’s starting over at the drive-in tonight”. “I’ve been looking forward to going horseback riding tonight,” I says. “Well, let’s do both,” he says. I figured that since I worked there I might get away with it. We rode on over and when we got to the ticket booth, Bob bought himself a ticket. Right beside the concession stand there was a patio area with 4 benches on it. We rode on in and as we were sitting down, Bob Bisagno, the owner/manager came up and asked what we were doing. I told him we came to see the movie. After we all talked it over, Bob said it was ok but I’d have to come back in the morning and clean up after the horses. That was fair so we sat down on a bench to watch the movie and held onto our reins. We wanted to be able to control the horses so they wouldn’t get hurt in case some idiot blew his car horn. We watched the movie with no incidents and rode the horses back to the barn and put them up. The next morning, I got up early and went out and cleaned up the asphalt and then went to work at the garage. Another memorable experience and nobody hurt.

Dave Thomas
December 11, 2013


Quarry Story 2

The rock quarry and surrounding area always had an “old West” feel to it. The quarry itself was hardly 100 yards from the road but it was hidden by the trees so being there caused you to be isolated from the reality of roads and cars. When you were in the pasture above the quarry and you got in the creases between the hills you could look off toward the skyline and see nothing but grass, just as it was during the days of the buffalo. The hills themselves looked like loaves of French bread scattered around the landscape. If you took a sharp knife and sliced down through one of the loaves (hills) and removed the cut-off portion, what remained would look like the sheer limestone wall of the quarry.

Another curiosity that added to the feeling of the old west was the old dynamite shack. It was only 30 or 40 yards from the quarry wall. Built of stone, it was maybe 10 foot by 10 foot, with a barred window that never had glass and a door jamb that was still intact though the door was long gone. The roof had long since disappeared, too. The barred window made you think “jail” and added to the mystique though you knew it was a dynamite shack.

Every square inch of limestone was full of fossils. Most of them were little round things shaped like wheels and were approximately the diameter of a large pea. Some were larger and were actually well-formed and intact sea shells. I spent hours digging through the fossils and looked up the shells and memorized their names and the names of the formations or clusters they were in. The only thing I can remember is “brachiopod”. I know that information and five pennies is worth about a nickel.

We camped out overnight at the quarry on several occasions but only one stands out in my memory. It was almost the first of April and though we knew spring was coming we were still anxious for a break in the weather so we could go camping. This particular weekend looked like a good chance for us. There was still a little snow on the ground but it hadn’t been too cold.

We loaded up our stuff, drove out to the quarry, and set up camp near the old dynamite shack. We scrounged up enough tinder and dry branches to keep our fire going all night. We thought we had prepared a pretty good camp site so when the time came we piled into our bed rolls and looked forward to a good night’s sleep. Unfortunately, the temperature had started dropping at sundown and it didn’t quit dropping. A cold snap caused it to be one of the coldest nights of the year. We took turns tending the fire all night and didn’t really get any sleep. What’s more, the next morning when we went to make coffee, the water in our canteens was frozen. Okay, so we can’t have coffee, we’ll get going on the bacon and eggs. Well, the eggs were frozen, too! About this time we were deciding that we were too dumb to be “cold weather campers” and started loading our stuff into the car. We each had a buck or so in our pocket so we headed for our favorite café and ordered coffee and bacon and eggs. Remember, this was back when a cup of coffee cost a nickel and I think breakfast was 65 cents. The warm café and a hot breakfast greatly improved our dispositions.



Dave Thomas
October 25, 2013

A Rookie On Ice

I was 18 and working at Howard Motors, a Chevrolet/Buick dealership in Augusta, Kansas. It was winter and we had been having some lousy weather. It snowed and then the next day it warmed up enough to thaw a little. Then, that night, the water standing in the streets and roads re-froze and a little bit of snow fell and covered it. This resulted in roads so icy and slick you could barely walk or drive on them.

I had been told the night before that the next day, I would be delivering a brand new 1 ½ ton Chevrolet truck to Great Bend, Kansas, about 130 miles away and bringing back the trade-in. The trade-in was at a dealership in Great Bend and the dealer had already removed the livestock bed from the truck. That meant that neither truck I would be driving had a bed mounted on it so therefore there would be no weight on the rear wheels.

I got to work early and got my instructions and by 8:00 AM was heading out on an adventure. I had never been to Great Bend, had never driven so far, and had certainly never driven a truck that far. I was having an exciting time before I hit the city limit. Touch the brakes and the rear end slid out from under you because there was no weight to hold it down. Try to accelerate and the same thing happened. At that time there was no 55 MPH speed limit on the highway but it didn’t make any difference because I couldn’t get over 20 MPH and neither could anyone else who was on the road. Going west from Augusta to Wichita I never got over 20 miles an hour. When I got to Wichita and took Highway 81 North, it was the same story. I kept hoping it would warm up a little and the roads would thaw. Otherwise, I wouldn’t get home until midnight.

I finally got to Newton and stopped for some pie and coffee. I figured I could kill 15 or 20 minutes there and give the weather a little more time to warm up. I got back on the road and headed west out of Newton. After a few minutes, I was tickled to see patches of road that were free of ice. I was actually able to get up to 50 and 55 miles an hour for short periods of time but had to be careful of bridges because they were always shady and covered with ice. This was nice country with farm towns every few miles. Probably most of the farmers through there were Mennonites as they had settled the area many years before.

I finally got to Great Bend. As I recall, it was called “Great Bend” because it was located on a great bend of the Arkansas River. That’s not pronounced “Arkensaw” like the state. It’s pronounced “R Kansas River”.

I got the paper work taken care of and they showed me the old trade-in I would be driving home. It was a pretty well beat up old 1 1/2 ton with slick tires. They told me the engine had a knock in it and it was burning lots of oil. They also told me to stop and check the oil frequently and they put 4 quarts of oil up in the cab with me. I lit out for home and drove as smoothly as I could. I didn’t rev the engine or let it load up at all. I got it up to 50 miles an hour and held it steady. I watched my gauges and stopped and checked the oil often and was getting on down the road. I got to one of those little farm towns west of Newton, and the engine threw a rod! I pulled off onto the shoulder and looked under the hood. Sure enough, the party was over.

I could see a country store up ahead so I hiked on up there. The people that owned the place were real nice and let me use their phone for a long distance call. I called Kenny Markley, the Service Manager at the garage and my boss, and told him what had happened and where I was. Kenny said it was getting late so he had called the Truck Manager at the dealership in Great Bend and after hearing about the truck was surprised that I had made it that far. He told me to sit tight and he would get in the wrecker and come up and get me.

I hung out at that country store and visited with those nice people until Kenny showed up. We hooked up the old truck to the wrecker and took off for home. It was getting late so we stopped in Newton and Kenny bought me supper. It was a big day and I experienced a lot and learned a lot.


Dave Thomas
December 7, 2014