Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Fun at the Kansas Book Festival

 The only bad thing about the Kansas Book Festival is that you can't be everywhere!  While books are the main reason for the festival, music and activities are also part of the fun.  Last year I was honored to be one of the recipients of a Kansas Notable Book award at the Festival.  This year I was invited back to the Festival as a speaker.

Our panel was moderated by well-known author and journalist, Max McCoy, who selected wonderful questions that allowed us to share important topics from our books.

My co-speaker was Steve Cox, from Pittsburg State University.  His book, When Sunflowers Bloomed Red, deals with socialism in Kansas during the late 1800s and early 1900s, so while Prairie Bachelor deals with populism, there were issues that overlapped to discuss.  A special surprise was the arrival of Steve's co-author, R. Alton Lee, although he preferred not to participate on our panel.  

What a wonderful audience we had.  There are at least four different program choices for each hour-long session, and attendees are free to go to whichever programs they wish, so you do not know until people begin arriving how many will be in attendance.  We had a full house, as you can see...about seventy people in the audience, which was exciting.  They were attentive, laughed at my jokes, and even asking a few questions.

Most were strangers to me, but I had a few special guests...people from FHSU, special life-long friends from Kansas City, a relative of Isaac Werner, and my wonderful husband.  (I never give the same talk twice, so at least he does not have to sit through the same thing over and over!)  

I also had one very special surprise.  It is the tradition at the Festival for the spouse of the Kansas Governor to present the Notable Book Awards, and last year First Gentleman of Kansas, Dr. Ted Daughety, presented me with my award.  I was very pleased that this year he made the effort to attend our session and even to drop by after the session ended to say "Hello."

Releasing a new book during Covid has been rather challenging, but I have so many people to thank for hosting and attending virtual talks, book club signings, and book talks.  At least two people have attended 3 or 4 talks, telling me that since I never repeat a talk they have enjoyed attending more than one.

My next book signing is at Watermark Books in Wichita, a wonderful independent book store.  It is located at 4701 E. Douglas in Wichita and my talk will begin at 6 p.m. on Thursday, October 13th.  The public is welcome, so if you live in Wichita or are nearby, I hope you might come.

Thank you for so many of you who have supported my talks, have bought my book, or have enjoyed reading it from your local library.  Now, people from coast to coast know who Isaac Werner is and what a significant role Kansas played in the late 1800s, championing things that our two primary political parties implemented, things we take for granted today that were ideas from the People's Party.

Friday, September 16, 2022

Dressing up

One recent winter, we were in town on a chilly, windy day.  As we turned into a parking space, we noticed a young woman, hunched over against the cold wind from the north.  I don't recall the rest of her attire, but one garment stuck in my memory.  She was wearing flannel pajama bottoms.  That was the first, but not the last time, I saw someone wearing pajama bottoms as public attire.  Since then, I have become accustomed to seeing young people wearing light-weight athletic shorts in chilly weather, bundled up in a warm jacket but practically blue-legged from the cold on their bare legs.  I'm pretty sure that in these cases, the people I have seen didn't dress in the dark and overlooked that they had forgotten to put on their jeans!

I'll admit, when I look back at some of the fashion choices in my past, they look pretty stupid.  Probably the most ridiculous fashion trend for women in my lifetime was the extreme padded shoulders that were popular for a while.  I had a few of those in my closet, nicely tailored suits and dresses made of beautiful fabrics that made the wearer look like she had borrowed the shoulder pads of a professional linebacker.

Beck Family Picnic in Macksville Park in Early 1900s

 As for the generation before me, this photograph of my father's siblings having a picnic in the Macksville Park is charming in an overdressed way.  The men had shed their jackets and my father had even removed his tie, but the women still had on their hats, from church I am guessing.  Sunday picnics were common in the pre-home air conditioner years, but if that really was a picnic, they were a little overdressed.

But, getting back to the streetwear of younger people today, I did a little research.  Apparently, the influence of T-shirts has played a huge role in the fashion trend called 'streetwear,' which also included jeans, baseball caps and sneakers, and the influence of skateboarding.  In other words, the casual sportswear being worn because it was appropriate to some activity was adopted by others, even if they had never played baseball or tried skateboarding.

Manufacturers caught on to the trends and in the 2000s companies began to develop streetwear styles.  That was not always appreciated.  "Influencers" often objected to manufacturers horning in on the trend, quoting Eric Brunetti, "Big business corporations have infiltrated streetwear and are currently in the process of rewriting its history to fit their financial narrative."  

One observer wrote, "Streetwear is a culture, not just Product."  As author Bobby Hundreds described it, "Design-wise, streetwear boils down to baseball caps, sneakers, hoodies, and most of all, tees."  Adding, "a culture, not just product." 

However, as I type this, the definition of Streetwear is almost certainly changing.  It differs from region to region and from city to city, changes as quickly as whatever is happening at that time.  Today,  "Streetwear is an art movement."

Lyn at the 2021Kansas Book Festival University Press of Kansas tent
So, as my closet begins to drift toward grays and blacks and neutrals and white, with lower heels on my shoes, it begins to dawn on me that "what's happening" in my life is also trending toward "casual comfortable pieces" that reflect "my culture."  I had no idea I was so trendy!

P.S.  This coming Saturday, September 24, 2022, I will be in Topeka for the Kansas Book Festival on the campus of  Washburn University in Topeka. It is a wonderful celebration of books and art, with authors, poets, and artists present, and outdoor music performances throughout the day.  Admission is free and open to the general public, with children's activities, entertainments, and food trucks.

Last year I attended to receive recognition as the author of Prairie Bachelor, The Story of a Kansas Homesteader and the Populist Movement, a Kansas Notable Book for 2021.  This year I was invited back as a speaker with Moderator, Max McCoy and fellow author Steve Cox.  We will be discussing "Politics on the Prairie" in the Kansas Room of the Memorial Union, starting off the day at 10 a.m.  

Books will be available for purchase and authors will be signing.  If you already own Prairie Bachelor but would like to have it signed, bring your book and I will be glad to sign it.  There are wonderful speakers throughout the day, but our program is at 10 a.m. in the Memorial Union. 

To learn more you can visit   I hope to see at Washburn University in Topeka this coming Saturday, September 24, 2022! 

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

In the Days of Seamstresses

 When I posted about 'homemade dresses' in the past, several people commented that they too had mothers who made their dresses.  My mother was the 4-H sewing leader who taught many local girls how to sew.  One of those local girls stopped Mother on the street in Pratt years later to thank her for her training.  She thrilled Mother by describing the beautiful things she had made, remembering the lessons she had learned in those 4H classes.

This blog shares a particular gown mother made for me.  It began with a picture in Life Magazine, although I did not know that at the time.  The picture below, or one similar, was what inspired my mother.

Jackie Kennedy's Wedding dress

Look very closely at the details of the dress, particularly the circles on the skirt.  That is what Mother saw that inspired her. 

Jackie was young and glamorous, and John Kennedy's brother-in-law was a movie star.  Both Jack and Jackie fit in well with the glamorous movie stars of that era.  

A  Jackie Kennedy doll dressed in her wedding gown.

Jackie appeared on magazine covers, and when she traveled the photographers followed her.  Her fashion choices were admired and copied.  John Kennedy followed President Truman (1845-1953) and President Eisenhower (1953-1961), both older men with older wives during their Presidencies, and having a handsome, younger couple in the White House brought publicity unlike the press coverage of their predecessors.   
The author in her first prom dress.

All of which brings me to the explanation for this blog--how my first prom dress, designed and made by my mother, was inspired by the First Lady's wedding dress.  If you look very closely, you may see that my mother ruffled yards and yards of net, cut into narrow strips, stitched on one side to be ruffled, and then sewn round and round to imitate the circles on the skirt of Jackie's wedding dress. The dress was strapless, unlike Jackie's and there were no rows around the bottom of the dress, nor was the fabric of my dress expensive silk, but when I left for the prom I wore a Pauline Beck Original, inspired by the First Lady's wedding gown.  I think perhaps mother may have added her own designer's touch by putting a tiny silk flower in the center of each circle.  I don't recall that detail, but in the black & white photograph there seems to be some ornament in the center of the circles. 

Bravo! to all the seamstresses in the past.  Today the wonderful fabric shops and the abundant fabric choices in the big department stores have disappeared, (along with many of the old department stores themselves).  The very idea of making your own clothing has nearly disappeared.  But once, every creative seamstress could be a designer.