The Lope: Greensburg Before and After

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Greensburg Before and After

The photos of Greensburg before the tornado, which I posted on May 5, certainly sparked a lot of interest as to the current state of the places shown. I was back in Greensburg on May 8 and 9, working for Land Line magazine. While there, I was also able to take some photos for The Lope and update that "before" post. Here are the same places as of May 8 and 9. I'm sure substantial clean-up has occurred since.

Hunter Drug

This was Greensburg's Hunter Drug store, with its old Rexall sign, on Feb 9, 2006.

It says a lot that the front of Hunter Drug used to be a vertical shot and now it's horizontal. The place was destroyed so thoroughly that it wasn't until I saw the remains of the blue and white cloth awnings that I was sure I had the right building. This is May 8, 2007.

The soda fountain was the heart of Hunter Drug.

It is still visible within the rubble. I believe it to be salvageable - or at least to have been so on May 9. It has rained a few times since then and I'm concerned that the structure may have survived the impact of debris only to warp from subsequent moisture.

This pattern on the front of the counter is quite distinctive. I've seen a lot of lunch counters and soda fountains over the years, having made a point to frequent them, but the Hunter Drug counter is the only one I'd seen with this pattern.

Richard Huckriede had manned these soda water spigots since 1952; here he is on May 9, 2006. He manned this station right up until the day of the tornado, May 4, 2007.

When trying to discern recognizable objects in rubble...well, it's like excavating with your eyes. I had a very mixed reaction to seeing the spigots. On the one hand, this counter had been the nexus of Greensburg to me, Sure, the Big Well is cool, and who wouldn't like a big rock from space? But the soda fountain was a social center of the town; and here is it, entombed in rubble, yet exposed to the elements. On the other hand, there it is...not destroyed, just...well, extremely inconvenienced at the moment.

I hope that the soda fountain is saved. Even if very battered, it would still make a great centerpiece for a Greensburg museum, its every dent a part of the story. But what I really cross my fingers for is that the soda fountain is restorable to the point of operability - that future residents and tourists can experience it as a living part of the city, a social nexus once more.

This is all I could see of the back bar on May 8.

On May 9 this note, which had apparently been posted in the store, was out on the sidewalk. It had been set there with obvious care.

Perhaps someone can explain this to us.

Dillon's Food Market

Dillon's Food Market, Feb 9, 2006

On May 8, 2007, Dillon's looked almost normal at first glance when seen from the west.

However, a front view reveals the damage to the east side of the building.

This is a view toward the interior from the front. Dillon's made news - other than the fact of its damage - in that five people were arrested for looting it. Four were soldiers from Fort Riley Army base and one was a reserve police officer.

The BIG Well

The World's Largest Hand Dug Well was Greensburg's main tourist attraction. Most of the reports I've read indicate the well itself is fine, but some technicalities have to be dealt with before it could open. On the left you can see part of the green legs of the water tower.

The building is simply gone. The pallisite meteorite was found intact and is in storage. The water tower is crumpled and on the ground now.

On the left is part of a little building which covered the ground entrance into the well.

The little building is gone, but these boards cover the actual entrance to the well.

Old Sinclair Station

I am told this used to be a Sinclair station. Here it is on Feb 9, 2006.

This is May 8, 2007.

This is the east end of the building. I like the masonry above the doors; it's too bad I didn't photograph it when the building was complete.

Perhaps someone can comment and tell us about the rocket.

A grandfather clock lies in the ruins.

Cowboy Supply Company

The Cowboy Supply Company had a beautifully dated sign.

May 8 - no cowboy, no anything. As a matter of fact, note the other posts without signs in the distance.

western town

A reader responding to my previous Greensburg post informs us that this western town used to be Burketown, part of Burke's Restaurant and Gift Shop. More recently, it may have been part of the grounds of Faith Tabernacle church, which was between it and Hwy 54.

On May 8, this was the only recognizable part of the western town I could find.


And what of the people shown in that post? I know only about the two shown in this picture, the soda jerk and the girl in the mirror. Richard Huckriede is fine, though he lost his home. The woman is named Angelique, and she and her family are also OK, though they lost their home and their dog to the storm. She wrote to tell me how they were doing and gave me permission to reprint this account of she and her husband and kids during the tornado:

"We have no home or vehicle but we have our lives and our children...I can't even explain how scary this was. We hid under my desk in the back room of Kwik Shop with a single dad with his 2 children and a college student with our 2 children. I was still closing down the computers in the checkstand area when it started to hit. The first window shattered and I took off running for the backroom. We had all 4 kids against the wall under the desk with the college student next with the father and me hiding our heads only under the desk so we could talk to the kids to try to calm them down. Trav couldn't fit under the desk so he layed across my back to keep me from being hit from debris. He had absolutely no protection and it scared the hell out of me."

I dearly hope to see those folks at that soda fountain again. It'd be a different building, but the same syrupy charm.

Many of these photos were used in a short televised feature CNN aired; they archived it here.
See also my CNN I-report, here.

"The Lope" Greensburg posts as of June 11, 2007:
Remembering Greensburg
Greensburg Before and After
Greensburg "After" - Downtown
Greensburg "After" - Highway 54


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the before and after photos! I have many fond memories of Greensburg. My Uncle Claude owned the Sinclair station at one time. I was born in Pratt but lived in Greensburg until we moved to California when I was 3. But most of my Dad's family still lived there and we went every other summer to visit. We always made sure we went to Hunters to sit and have a soda. My mom says she remembers when Mr. Huckriede use to deliver Avon! My most cherished memories are of Greensburg. As kids we would be walking down the street and someone would say, "You must be Kenneth's kids-we heard you were in town!" I went back as an adult about 15 years ago and am so glad I did. I remember walking down the streets and feeling safe. People waving to you as they drove by as if they knew me-perhaps they did-they probably knew Kenneth's daughter was in town! I visited the Gift Shop at the Big Well and walked through the park where we had alot of family picnics. Little had changed. I still felt the warmth and will always have those wonderful memories. Thanks again for the photo's!
Signed, "Kenneth's Kid"

Mon May 28, 05:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is Della I used to live near there in Pratt. You have done such a good job on this I have really enjoyed reading it but it makes me so very sad.

Wed Jun 06, 03:24:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was born in Greensburg hospital and lived in the county my whole life, moving into Greensburg before my freshman year of high school and my parents still live in town. (I now live 2 hours away) I just wanted to say thanks for these pictures and your previous post. Both are very well done and a nice tribute to my hometown. When I was in high school we attended Faith Tabernacle church. Burke's sold the building and at the time the church had outgrown their church on the east edge of town. The buildings out back weren't to sturdy and I'm not to surprised when looking at the rest of the town. I know the church used those buildings for youth functions and such, and used the kitchen in the main building for many town functions. One being a breakfast feed for the football team before homecoming. I always looked forward to that day. And everyone in town always loved getting a "Dickie drink" as many called it. Many times when I was back in town mom and I would go down for a drink, ether cherry Dr Pepper or a 7-up were my favorites. And that was where mom and dad filled their prescriptions. I don't think the western store was still in business, if they were, they were trying to sell off their inventory. The people that lived across the street from us owned that store. I guess when you live in town you take things for granted, but I didn't notice the rocket or know what it was about. So many memories in town.

Tue Jun 12, 10:53:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your website, perhaps holds the last clear memories of Greensburg for me before the storm.

Dick (or Dicky as I knew him) Huckriede went to school with both my father and mother. As a boy, I frequented Hunter's Drug Store and each year when I returned for Thanksgiving with family we always stopped in to say hello and to have a cherry coke.

I was born and raised in Greensburg and have many remembrances that have resurfaced. I'm in the process of writing them down.

I spent the last week in Greensburg helping clean up the business and home of my former teacher and basketball coach, Verle Joy.

I went back home to comfort and encourage, to pray and to work. I think I was the one comforted. The spirit of the people of Greensburg is amazing.

Each dinner and supper at the Methodist Church food trailer found me reunited with more and more family and friends, each one with a smile and a resolve.

My second cousin, Myrna Weber is 82 and each day we would talk and each day there was a smile. She has a contractor and is in the process of replacing the half of her home that is missing.

Continue to pray for the people of Greensburg, KS. The response has been tremendous but there is coming a time when the volunteers with go home, FEMA will leave, and the people of that community will still be faced with tremendous obstacles to overcome.

God Bless Greensburg, KS - my hometown.

Mark Stephenson
Five Islands, Maine
GHS Graduate 1971

Thu Jun 14, 09:59:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The note you included with the Hunter Drug after photos is actually a cross stitching embroidery in a homemade frame. The note starts Starla....Starla is the name of the owner of one of the main st. businesses...Starla's Stitch N Frame. I hope that answers that question.

When they finally let us back into town to try to salvage our belongings it was heartbreaking to see the destruction in the light. Sure I saw it that night but it was dark and you couldn't see the true damage. When I walked the blocks of Sycamore and saw the Big Well Tower folded in on itself I couldn't believe it. My heart still twists when I walk the streets of Greensburg in between customers @ work.

Thank you for the awesome job you did with these photos, once again you captured the true essence of the town and told the story of this strong community perfectly.


Fri Jun 15, 12:53:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I was born in Salina, but my family moved to Greensburg during the winter of '70. One of my first memories is the blizzard of '71, and walking with my dad up Olive street to the Kerr McGee station that used to be on the East side of town, and stopping at Sadie's to get something hot to drink. Later we lived across the street from where Burktown and the old cowboy supply (across the highway in the old roundtop), and the best western motel.

Mon Aug 16, 04:22:00 PM  

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