Big Brutus' Glory days
March 22, 2007 9:36 PM   Subscribe

"A bad way to make a living." A series on the history and ecological impact of strip mining in southeast Kansas during the early 20th century that includes articles, photo galleries with sound files, and video slideshows about the region. The area, known as the "Little Balkans," because of the large Eastern European population that worked the mines, was a large mining community that has given the US the second largest electric shovel in the country, a home to one of the largest socialist newspapers in the country (called Appeal to Reason and founded by Julius Wayland) as well as the Little Blue Books series started by Emanuel Haldeman-Julius in 1919. Oh yeah, it was also --second paragraph-- the place that most of the bootleg alcohol that fueled the Kansas City Jazz Scene of that time was from as well. Of course, if you should ever find yourself in SEKS, and you eat meat, go to either Chicken Annie's or Chicken Mary's [transcript] since they're only a few miles apart in their modern incarnation. The legends you hear growing up there aren't always true, but it doesn't matter because the onion rings are fantastic. And yes, in some ways all Kansas has left is history.
posted by sleepy pete (9 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
[more inside]
posted by Tuwa at 9:39 PM on March 22, 2007

Mining was a necessary evil for so long. It's amazing how coal revolutionized everything with steam and the industrial revolution, etc--i hope we can make Solar and Wind as transformational now--we really have to.

Fascinating stuff, sleepy--thanks! In terms of the emptying of the midwest--the current Readymade has a story on how a couple bought 4 abandoned public schools in Kansas for a song, and are setting them up as housing and artist studios (story's not online tho)
posted by amberglow at 4:12 AM on March 23, 2007

Thanks sleepypete.
This is some great stuff.
posted by nofundy at 5:36 AM on March 23, 2007

Great post! Now I want some fried chicken...

During the festival, the most asked question is usually, �What is a Balkan?!?�

*weeps for the ignorance of his country*
posted by languagehat at 5:39 AM on March 23, 2007

Cool, amberglow -- similar things are happening all over the midwest as artists turn old beautiful buildings into studios and galleries -- I used to especially love to visit Omaha for that very reason.

I wish I could be more articulate about this, but it's really something to live (and especially, to come of age) in such a symbolically conservative state and run into these remnants of radical progressive thought, a history partly covered in Frank's What's The Matter With Kansas?, originally discussed here. I'll just say it's a strange thing to suspect you'd be having a much better time if you were out drinking and clubbing (though not toiling in the fields or in the mines, that's for damn sure) with your great great grandparents.
posted by melissa may at 6:03 AM on March 23, 2007

I went googling for the world's largest shovel and found this instead, which is either a gigantic trench-cutting machine or a sign that we're living in a sci-fi tabletop wargame.
posted by nebulawindphone at 6:33 AM on March 23, 2007

Picher, which is right over the Oklahoma border from these towns, is the site of the Tar Creek Superfund site, which is now the oldest and still one of the biggest unremediated contamination sites in the US.

It's also notable for being part of the Mickey Mantle lore -- his father worked at a mine in Picher and forced him to marry a local girl, Merlyn Johnson.
posted by dw at 7:13 AM on March 23, 2007

What a terrific post, sleepy pete - thank you so much. That main link is very powerful and the site is very well done - that would have been enough. The rest is just chicken and gravy ;-)

Actually, I loved the way you put all the historical context around the main site. Very well done.
posted by madamjujujive at 8:15 PM on March 23, 2007

Ah, i found the site for the place in Kansas: The Harveyville Project
posted by amberglow at 2:08 PM on March 26, 2007

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