Today’s first stop was the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum and Boyhood Home in Abilene, Kansas. I had read that this was the least visited of all the presidential libraries and museums, but after seeing it I’m not really sure why. Maybe the location is a hindrance, but the content of the site and the poignancy of the story of the child who grew up here and left at twenty to head to West Point is history writ large.
The physical site itself is very open and pleasant, and the day was sunny and warm for my visit today.
I was able to tour the boyhood home, a small, spare white house well over a century old, where the 34th President of the United States lived from age eight to age twenty; one of seven boys. His mother was the last of the family members to live in the home before a foundation was formed to put it on display.
Eisenhower came from a highly motivated, hard-working and successful family. His father once worked eighty hours every two weeks for ten dollars pay. He came home and hung his hat on an animal horn that still adorns the wall over the telephone that his mother used while she lived in the house. His brothers were in business, newspaper editors and presidents of colleges.
All of the furnishings and furniture in the house are original. Our docent had her stories down and imparted a lot of information about the family and the reasons the house looks the way it does. We could see everything from a dough box, where Mrs. Eisenhower made up to nine loaves of bread every two days to feed her family, to a set of plates given to her by President and Mrs. Eisenhower, to the old footpedal sewing machine in the bedroom that his mother lived in until her death.
The rest of the grounds included the library and museum, a large statue of Eisenhower, and the final resting place for him, his wife and one of their sons. It was a very quiet, plain, simple place, much like I think Eisenhower probably was in some respects.
Another stop during this travel day was Wyldewood Cellars, a place that one of my friends in South Carolina had told me to check out of I went past it. Just so happens that it is in Plexico, Kansas, just off the interstate. I bought four bottles of elderberry, spiced and mulled wines, and a couple of port-like dessert wines, one of which has strong chocolate tones. Should be nice for the holidays or the cold winter months to come.
The last meal of the day, and definitely the most fun, was at a local Winstead’s Hamburgers in Overland Park, Kansas.
I had not been to this restaurant in over seven or eight years at least, so I was pumped to get a double with everything, onion rings and a chocolate malt. They did not disappoint. It’s good old fashioned hamburger joint-malt shoppe food, and if you like it, there’s no better place to get some. if you’re in KC, go there. Period.
All in all, it was a fine day.
Tomorrow, I will be back on the road bright and early to get to Oklahoma City by lunchtime. I want to have plenty of time tomorrow afternoon to tour the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum, including getting some pictures at dusk or dark if I can swing it. I’m sure that will be a very solemn but educational place to visit.
For now, thanks for reading, and good night from Kansas City.