When I was growing up, I truly believed Kansas was the center of the universe. In our house, the word ‘home’ meant Kansas. More specifically, Wichita. 

My parents were from there and, to hear them tell it, Wichita was an idyllic place to grow up. Wichita people were honest, friendly and levelheaded, unlike so many around us in New Jersey, said my folks. The schools were far superior, just ask some of my aunts! Even the corn was better. 

Almost every summer, my dad packed us all in our un-air-conditioned Nash, and we headed west for 1700 miles of pure bliss. We looked forward to this trip all year. Just my mom and dad, my brother, the dog, sometimes my grandmother and cousin, me, a big metal cooler and couple of hundred pounds of luggage. My brother and I packed our little bags with coloring books, crayons and other things we could torment one another with. The dog just hung out the window. 
Once we got there, we spent a few weeks going from one relative’s house to another, eating in backyards, oohing and aahing over everyone’s gardens and the height of their children.  Our aunts and uncles took us to the zoo and the park along the river. We got to eat Nu-Ways, drink Waco (later known as Dr. Pepper) and eat Steffen’s ice cream, right out of the vats because one of our uncles was a milkman. We had lots of kids to play with, and that was great. 

(Click Read More to continue)