Page 1


Legacy h


  T H E   J O U R N A L   O F   T H E   R E N O   C O U N T Y   H I S T O R I C A L   S O C I E T Y

the atomic energy commission conducts testing in carey mine…page 4

I 14 new name for salt museum explained





E 20 mine storage room gives up secrets from last century


Legacy h


Linda Schmitt, executive director, rchs

Jamin Landavazo, chief curator, rchs

Gayle Ferrell, director of operations, strataca

Tonya Gehring, docent supervisor, strataca

Dave Unruh, maintenance supervisor, strataca

4 salt mine tested for storage

13 we’re preserving history

Tina Moore, administrative assistant, rcm

Kourtney Krehbiel, visitor services, strataca

Myron Marcotte, mine specialist, strataca

...directors explain the reasons why

19 collection care fund vital

...helping protect and preserve artifacts

20 mine room provides window on past

...documents date back to early 1900s

22 meet strataca’s tonya

BOARD OF DIRECTORS Shannon Holmberg, president • Richard Shank, president-elect • Billy Klug, treasurer • Laura Snyder, secretary • Nan Hawver • John Doswell • Tim Davies • Sherry Mundhenke • Michael Armour • Elaine Fallon • Mary Wilson Conrad Koehler • Bill Pfenninger • Lee Spence, ex-officio Mike Carey, ex-officio

...thanks to our loyal supporters

14 “strataca” is our new name

Lynn Ledeboer, curatorial assistant, rcm

...of reactors’ radioactive waste

...overseeing docents, do’s and don’t’s

24 music, murder, miners and more

...filling up strataca’s calendar

26 go ahead … “bee” a little bad

...don’t resist the lure of naughty napkins

27 peek inside our jewelry box

...rcm exhibit gives a glimpse of past finery


hutchinson’s carey mine was the scene of testing in 1959-60 by the atomic energy commission. the aec was trying to determine the feasibility of storing radioactive waste in salt deposits.

Volume 25, No. 3 Legacy is published quarterly by The Reno County Historical Society, Inc. 100 S. Walnut St., P.O. Box 664, Hutchinson, Kansas 67504-0664 For advertising or membership information, call 620-662-1184. © 2013 The Reno County Historical Society, Inc. ISSN 1045-3423 All rights reserved. The RCHS disclaims responsibility for statements of fact or opinion made by contributors.

Atomic age ‌comes to Hutchinson mine By Myron Marcotte, Mine Specialist, Strataca


he Atomic Age and

Howard Sr. and Jake Car-

could conduct field exper-

ey sought out the Atomic

iments to determine the

seem like polar opposites

Energy Commission (AEC)

feasibility of storing radio-

in the technological arena

or the AEC came to them,

active waste from atomic

of science.

but in the fall of 1958

reactors in salt deposits.

the salt mine might

two men work on a control panel box situated behind a pyramid-shaped cover to test equipment.

But in 1958 these two opposites were merged in

negotiations between the two began.

Associated Press article from The Hutchinson

an attempt to solve the growing and, I might add, still relevant problem of atomic reactor waste. It is not clear whether

In a December 23, 1958


News, it was announced

The goal of the AEC

that the AEC was coming

was to secure a location

to Hutchinson to consider

in a salt mine where they

using the Carey Mine for


at top, a large rigging of railroad ties was constructed to allow the undercutter to create the testing stage area. on the ladder is frank parker. below, three unidentified men work in the larger aec testing cavity.

non-radioactive testing using simulated waste. This mantra of no radioactivity must have been a worrisome point to the Careys because it is repeated three times in just this one article. Howard Carey states that “…the experiments will in no way affect our salt mining operations … no actual atomic material will be used.” This announcement must have caused quite a stir of emotions in the public.

atomic garbage.” I believe there was a lot

SENATOR OPPOSED U.S. Senator Andrew Schoeppel of Kansas came

of confusion on this topic in the early stages. Despite all the negative

out against any plans to

emotion generated in the

“…bury radioactive wastes

public, negotiations be-

from the nation’s reactors

tween Carey Salt and the

and chemical plants in

AEC continued until an

Kansas,” according to a

agreement was reached

January 21, 1959 article

sometime around March

in The News.

1, 1959.

He went on to declare

A March 7, 1959 AEC

that “…those who feast-

news release announced

ed on this magnificent

that an agreement had

19-billion-dollar atomic

been reached between the

bird [can] dispose of this

(See GEOLOGY, page 6)


chemicals would be used to simulate such materials. n The AEC would not be buying the mine. If the tests indicated salt was a good storage medium, there was no reason this column of control panels and equipment was barely complete in january of 1960, as evidenced by the tool box in the lower left corner of the photo.

Geology, facilities perfect for tests (Continued from page 5)

matically be selected. n The mined and shipped salt would not be radioactive. This was not a big fat con-

AEC’s Oak Ridge Nation-

be $42,000. Tests were

tract, rather Carey Salt simply

al Laboratories (ORNL),

expected to be finished by

hoped not to lose money on

which was run by Union

January 1960.

Carbide Corporation, and the Carey Salt Company. It went on to say that

The following talking points were released to

the venture. The main rea-

all employees by

field study based on

Howard Carey Sr.

promising results from lab

on March 9, 1959:

experiments conducted at

n No radioactive materials

ORNL and the University

would be used; instead

The Hutchinson mine was selected, it continued, because of the geology of the area, its geographic location, and the facilities available at the mine. Fees for the use of the mine were based on a cost-plus, fixed-fee subcontract expected to


son Carey Salt entered

message clear: no radioactive materials

this was a small-scale

of Texas. three men at right begin jackhammering at the square testing cavity.

to assume Kansas would auto-

into the arrangement was its interest in the problem and particularly the salt formation

aspect. Dr. E.G. Struxness of the ORNL was in charge of the

three unidentified men, below, work in the aec testing cavity in the hutchinson mine on april 21, 1959.

project and coincidentally had a brother, Dr. E.B.

north and west. It was located in old

the potential for tripping hazards posed by the un-

Struxness. who was living

workings from the 1920s

in Hutchinson.

or ‘30s and had an orig-

I was told by the old-

inal ceiling height of six

timers that this was an


area of the mine where

Jess Willoughby, Carey photographer who documented much of Carey’s

The ceiling height was


parties were held during Prohibition but there is no proof of that. This rumor may have been founded on the stage-like structure cut into the wall of one of the rooms. Photographs taken at the time support the fact that the stage was built specifically for the AEC experiments.

WIRES EVERYWHERE Wires were running out of holes in the floor and history, took detailed pho-

raised to 12 feet by a

walls everywhere in this

tographs of the prepara-

method referred to by

area. These holes were

tions and final completion

miners as “high topping” –

used for thermal conduc-

of the testing and staging

blasting the higher ceiling

tive experiments. Still in


down. The ceiling was

this area of the mine are

then painted white to help

large graphite electrodes

with lighting.

used to heat up the salt

TEST SITE CHOSEN The area of the mine se-

The floors in this area

to observe its thermal

lected to conduct the AEC

were very smooth with the

conductivity and heat

tests was relatively close

undercutter kerfs filled in


to the salt shaft just to the

with salt to help remove


(See TESTING, page 8)

pieces of testing devices like the one above can still be found littering the floors of the mine.

this smaller pyramidshaped cover with eight rods rests on metal drums before being lowered over a testing hole.

Testing done in large pits (Continued from page 7) Most of the major

“project cowboy� was the name of the aec testing project in carey’s winnfield, la., mine. it represented the quintessential name given to such operations during the height of the cold war.

mid-shaped hood was set

with a tent-like structure

reactivity experiments oc-

above the pits, sealing

that still houses rolls of

curred in an area contain-

them off from the outside.


ing two large pits, each

Vapors generated were


four-feet square. These

pulled off by a pump,

pits were filled with acid

condensed and stored in

What ORNL hoped to

which is chemically simi-

stainless steel tanks.

understand from these

lar to radioactive wastes. Large graphite elec-

The acids were heated, and

trodes were placed in


the pits, and a pyra-

were set in the salt around the

tests were the an-

answers sought on waste storage issues

pits to measure the migration of heat

swers to three major problems resulting from the storage of liquid radioactive

waste in salt cavities:

from the pit. Strain gaug-

n How would the salt en-

es were attached from the

vironment be affected by

floor to the ceiling and

the heat from the decay

wall to wall to monitor any

and dissipation of fission-

movement of salt during

able products?


n What would the chemi-

A control room was built

cal reaction do to the salt?

and chart recorders were

n How would the integrity

used to record the mea-

of the salt caverns be affect-

surements as they oc-

ed by the radiation, heat,

curred. The control room

liquids and pressure?

remains in the area along


In an October 21, 1959

the aec’s oak ridge national laboratory was only one of many organizations involved in the aec testing. others included the u.s. geological survey, university of texas, harvard university and the geotechnical corporation of dallas.

article in The Hutchinson

These stations consisted

News, Dr. Struxness stat-

of two stands with metal

ed that the preliminary

rods that were connected

tests were completed and

into the ceiling and floor.

that they were delighted

Measurements were taken

with progress to date.

in a gap in the rods to determine if the floor and

INCONCLUSIVE In an Internet search

ceiling were creeping closer together.

on the subject, however, I

Wires also ran from

found a story that stated

floor to ceiling and pillar

that the Hutchinson tests

to pillar with tensioning

were too inconclusive to determine if salt was suit-

(See OTHER, page 10)

able for waste storage. While the chemical tests were being conducted, a long-range study was also in effect at the mine.

MORE TESTING At various other locations in the mine, stations had been set up to measure flow and movement of the salt in the formation. I know of five of these stations in the mine. Two were located east of the museum and two were south of the museum. One was in the AEC testing area.


fragile glass tubing for testing is wrapped and taped in soft insulation and rests in an old powder box near the testing stage in this august 27, 1959 photo.

the cartoonish lettering on this 1960 shipping safety booklet from the u.s. atomic energy commission belies the potentially toxic and dangerous nature of the tests being done in the carey mine. at right, page 9 of the booklet shows the proper (top photo) and improper (bottom photo) rigging of radioactive shipping.

Other mines involved (Continued from page 9)

springs attached to the

the Hutchinson mine,

sians could be conducting

wires and steel rulers.

it seems that another

underground nuclear

contract was negotiated

tests. Ten explosions were

or horizontal wire served

for use of the Winnfield,

scheduled to be conduct-

as a measurement refer-

Louisiana mine.

ed with as much as five

On the rulers, a vertical

ence point. Measurements were taken and charted

An article in the July 2, 1959 edition of The

tons of dynamite shot at one time.

to study the closure rate of the mine in various locations. Several old-timers told me that the reason waste

concern over russian testing prompted tests in louisiana mine.

EMPLOYEES REASSURED In a July 17, 1959 company memo from Jake Carey to all salesmen and

was never stored here was

district managers, Carey

because this mine moved

apologized to them for not

very slowly. It was just not

Winnfield Enterprise

telling them in advance

a suitable candidate for

News focused on the use

about the negotiations.


of explosives to test how

WINNFIELD TARGETED Soon after Carey negotiated a contract with the AEC for use of

He stated that appar-

well underground nuclear

ently the story was leaked

tests could be muffled and

and he was not authorized


to release information at

It seems there was great concern that the Rus-


the time. He went on to say that they were still

a smaller square testing hole is surrounded by electrodes and wires in this august 27, 1959 photo.

in negotiations with the

nuclear or radioactive

mine. The fee for the proj-

AEC and that it had yet to

materials involved.

ect was set at $420,000.

conclude. Carey added that if they were to go forward with

A more recent article

RIDE ‘EM COWBOY! A July 30, 1959 Enter-

on the website, Louisiana,

the explosions a new-

prise News story an-

stated that the Winnfield

ly mined tunnel would

nounced that the plan

mine project was known

be constructed just for

was finalized and that a

as Project Cowboy, a part

the explosions and that

new 36-inch shaft would

of Project Plowshare,

production would not be

be constructed into the

designed to advance the

affected. He emphasized

mine to carry test cables

use of nuclear energy in

that there would be no

and exhaust air from the

industry. This article states that the explosive testing occurred from January to March, 1960. It was concluded that indeed such tests could be conducted and concealed.

PHOTO NUMBERING SYSTEM in a note written to howard carey, photographer jess willoughby explains his numbering system for the photos. “X10” referred to the aec testing project in the hutchinson mine. the next three numbers were the month, day and year. at the end was the individual sequential number assigned to each photograph taken on that day. for example, “X104215957” refers to a photo of the aec project, taken on april 21, 1959, and was the 57th photo taken on that day.

PROJECT SALT VAULT The Lyons project was known as Project Salt Vault. Begun in 1963, it was designed to show the feasibility of storing and handling high-level waste in the mine environment. A special Cat-built transporter was constructed and lowered

(See NO GO, page 12)


ben houser is shown at left evaluating salt samples, a process conducted throughout the testing period in the mine.

at left is the journal that contains measurements from september 18, 1959, through january 17, 1961. among them are extensometer readings that enable geotechnical engineers to determine if wall or roof failures are imminent. An article by Robert Peltier, “U.S. Spent Fuel

Survey also determined

Policy: Road To Nowhere,”

that without further study

stated that the project was

to understand the migra-

designed to be reversible

tion of water through salt

underground to move the

and never intended to be

and the rock mechanics

nuclear fuel assemblies

a permanent solution.

involved, they could not

No go (Continued from page 11)

recommend the storage of

from a specially constructthis certificate commemorates project salt vault in carey’s lyons mine. the program was designed in 1963 to show the feasibility of storing and handling high-level waste in the mine environment.

The Kansas Geological

ed shaft to lined holes in the mine floor.

FIRE PROBLEMS He pointed out that a

waste in the Lyons mine based on the study alone.

fire at the Rocky Moun-

This is despite the fact

is now the escape shaft

tain flats facility left high

that they fully endorsed

hoist at the Hutchinson

levels of plutonium-con-

Project Salt Vault.


taminated materials

The hoist for that shaft

that were stored in Idaho.

POTENTIAL DISASTER It was stated many

Looking for a

times in The Hutchinson

fast fix, the AEC

News articles that if the

declared that the

Hutchinson experiments

Lyons mine would

had been successful it

be a suitable stor-

would have lead to an

age facility for such

atomic waste reprocessing

waste. Public out-

plant here in Hutchinson.

rage ensued and the

The reasoning was that

project was aban-

it was much easier to

doned in 1967.

store the waste from a re-


(See AEC, page 13)

Preserving history …thanks to our supporters


hank you to these renewing members from April 3 through June 26, 2013. Your continued generous support of the Reno County Historical Society allows us to preserve and interpret history for future generations. Friends Gladys Bos Karen Hall Orr

Wayne & Polly Lowe Cliff & Polly Shank Mr. & Mrs. Clark Wesley Supporters Elwin & Margaret Cabbage Kenneth & Jo Hedrick Mr. & Mrs. Ron Leslie Dr. & Mrs. Robert T. Morrison Sam & Judy Ontjes Tom & Kyle Philbeck Del Ruff Laura Snyder

Barry & Gale Wall Michael & Kelly Wesley Backers Butch & Tremenda Dillon Martha Fee Gary & Sue Poltera Jerry & Joan Wray Preservers Helen Rogers Donors’ Circle Downtown Hutchinson Revitalization Partnership


AEC… (Continued from page 12) processing plant close by than to transport it long distances. From my experiences with ground movement and the closure rates in Hutchinson, I believe such a storage facility here might have been a disaster. If such a facility had been built in the Hutchinson mine, we would most certainly not have Underground Vaults & Storage or Strataca, the Kansas Underground Salt Museum. These two facilities have helped put Hutchinson on the map, and are a source of pride for the community.



new name, new brand, new shirts!


n the next few pages, Linda Schmitt, Executive Director of the Reno County Historical Society, and Gayle Farrell, Director of Operations for Strataca, the Kansas Underground Salt Museum, will address the much-discussed change to the Strataca name.

By Linda Schmitt, Executive Director, RCHS What’s in a name? By now, many of you have heard that the Kansas Underground Salt Museum has changed. It is still the same fantastic underground experience and adventure but now a new moniker has emerged: STRATACA! This change took a lot of people by surprise and


some were even shocked, so I guess we’ve got some “splaining” to do. Why would we decide to take a perfectly good selfexplanatory name and change it to a made-up word that doesn’t explain anything? We’ve been hearing that a lot lately, so please allow me to make my case.

sporting their new strataca t-shirts at the media rollout (page 14) are kusm managers. kneeling, from left, are maintenance supervisor dave unruh; executive director linda schmitt; operations assistant gaylon green. back row, from left, are mine specialist myron marcotte; assistant director of operations/docent supervisor tonya gehring; director of operations gayle ferrell; and jay brown and chrisi fuhrman, both in docent/visitor services. 


ties to conduct professional market research. Focus groups were convened in Dodge City and Wichita, and phone surveys were conducted throughout the state. The results verified what we had been suspecting and hearing for a long time.

We have been tremendously successful at events, and their numbers are increasing now that the underground restroom complex is completed. School attendance this year was the best ever at more than 7,000 students. Scouts n Although surveys come from 80 percent of surroundshow poor those in Wiching states for understanding ita surveyed camp-outs and of museum had heard of our new geology KUSM, most badge program. didn't differentiate We also have it from the salt mine a powerhouse museand Underground Vaults um store that brings in & Storage. revenue hand over fist. n A museum about salt It has taken hard work didn't sound compelling to develop these areas of enough to visit. our business, particularly n KUSM was viewed designed to carry KUSM primarily as a place for through the off-season. kids, schools and other


Ticket sales have remained stagnant at about 55,000 a year for the last five years, and nothing we’ve tried has been effective. This past year (May 2012 through April 2013) the total was 53,000, so the trend is not favorable. The obvious conclusion is that if we are to grow and prosper we must increase the number of feet through the door. To help identify why the numbers are disappointing, we joined with five other Reno County enti-

educational groups but not as an experience or adventure. n Millennials, the largest generation since the baby boom, don't frequent museums. They want unique and authentic experiences. Since day one, the comment that we get every day is, "This is so much better than I expected!" So, the question for the marketing committee and the board became: “How do we get the people that know we exist to make the decision to actually come?” The board decided that throwing more money at an underwhelming image probably wouldn't yield better results and that something bold was necessary. (See INITIAL, page 16)

linda schmitt, left, and gayle ferrell, both of rchs, unveil the new strataca logo for the media.


a new logo and branding make a splash on a t-shirt held by jajo’s steve randa.

Initial risk paid off (Continued from page 15)


There was a lot of concern prior to the opening of the salt museum in 2007 that there wouldn't be enough finished underground and visitors would be disappointed. We opened with a very limited underground venue consisting of the Mining Gallery and a primitive Dark Ride. What we discovered immediately was that people didn't care. They loved the experience of going underground. That was great because there was no money for the expensive exhibits that had been

planned. Those of us who were trying to figure out KUSM’s development had no choice but to work hard to enhance the experience itself. That's how KUSM has developed – not as a museum about salt but as an underground attraction. And that destination is now known as Strataca.


Strataca is an indefinable word that we hope will interest people in finding out more, visiting, and then defining the experience for themselves. The idea isn't any

So what happens now? By Gayle Ferrell, Director of Operations for Strataca

So what happens now? Since I have been asked several times, let's start with making sure everyone knows how this new identifier is pronounced: Strataca rhymes more or less with Galactica. Doesn't seem like a foreign or made-up word to me because it is mainly “strata,” meaning layers. And that is what this mine is – layers of sedimentary rock. The museum was

formed very much like the salt bed: the dark layers are dry seasons and hard times, while the white layers represent prosperity and good times. So back to our question. What happens now? "Time Changes Everything" is the title of a new CD being released by the Diamond W Wranglers. It seemed like an appropriate theme for our summer

(See A LOT, page 18)


different from the Sedgwick County Science and Discovery Center changing its identifying name to "Exploration Place," or the non-word "Cosmosphere," which historically also ran into controversy when it was introduced. It is important to keep in mind that Strataca is a tourist attraction that must excite and entice visitors to be successful. The rebrand was an economic decision that we believe will reap dividends that will in turn profit Hutchinson and Reno County. The name, Kansas Underground Salt Museum, remains part of the logo and will continue to be used in many different ways. Just as the Cosmosphere became known as the world-class attraction that it is today, Strataca will soon be definable as a singularly unique and amazing underground destination and adventure.

ENDLESS POSSIBILITIES Those of us who work at Strataca and think about its evolution are very excited about the endless possibilities that this re-imaging affords. One thing we know for sure is that Strataca sounds like an incredibly exciting place to be!



f A lot happens now! (Continued from page 16)

rchs directors linda schmitt and gayle ferrell and the marketing team from jajo present the new logo for strataca. from left are schmitt, steve randa, ferrell, ashley devlin, mike gangwere and mark rodriguez.

celebration to be underground on July 27. Picture red checkered tablecloths and a picnic menu of fried chicken, potato salad and baked beans with the Diamond W Wranglers singing cowboy country western while guests relax in a non-humid 68-degree environment. Picture celebrating our new identifier – Strataca – with a new look that retains a tie to all that got

us to this point. Even the sound of it when spoken aloud sounds brighter and more fun. Try it! After recording phone greetings for the past six years, I found myself sounding more fun just by the way the word sounded in the newest greeting. And answering the phone? I can't even count how many callers now say, "Why thank you!" when I say, "Welcome to Strataca." They never thanked me for answering the phone as the Under-

even when spoken aloud, the name sounds brighter and more fun. – gayle ferrell

ground Salt Museum. I find that pretty interesting!

proclaiming their annual lease of one square inch of mine space. (See below.)

There’s more to our metamorphosis than just a name change:

n We’ll see the completion and opening of the Salt Safari Adventure Hike. This rough and rugged trek into the raw mine will be led by two past members of the local mine rescue team. Content will not be scripted but guided in large part by the questions and interests of the participants.

n A new – and still growing – website makes it easier to find information about us and conveys a more adventurous look. n New staff vests will clearly identify those who

can help a visitor or answer a question. n A color change will be seen on the outside of the building when the budget permits. Maybe the cost can be carved out of the current budget for some sort of banner to be placed on the noticeably vacant east side of the building yet this year. n Visitors and/or supporters from around the world can be invited to “Become a Citizen” of Strataca with a certificate


n Our annual Hunt for Red Rock-tober is scheduled for October 5 and Jazz Underground will return on November 8. We also have a total of three interactive dinner theatres scheduled this year. We continue to receive numerous inquiries about events as word spreads about the completion of our underground restroom complex. Throughout the museum’s development, we’ve experienced ups and downs, but now we look forward to the white layer, the salt of the earth, becoming much stronger. But this bold, multi-faceted move into the future promises to be especially memorable.


Check out Strataca’s new website: and “Become a Citizen.”

Collection care: why it matters


ollection care at its most basic involves processing an item … housing it in a folder, box or on a shelf … using specific, long-lasting materials such as acid-free tissue and foam as barriers and padding … and providing a cool, dark, dry place to store the artifacts until they are used. These conditions have been shown to extend the life of the artifacts and delay deterioration. Caring for our artifacts requires an ongoing financial commitment to maintain proper environmental conditions and provide replacement materials. Consider these facts: q The Reno County Museum has more than 36,000 items in its collection, and Strataca, the Kansas Underground Salt Museum, cares for and preserves items exposed to the salty environment of the mine.

q Storing items to maximize their longevity is costly. A standard banker’s box might cost $2-3, but the acid will cause archival items to deteriorate more quickly. The solution is an acid-free box at a cost of $10. q A study done by Wilcomb E. Washburn in 1984, “Collecting Information, Not Objects,” found the cost of storing one square foot of artifacts or archival materials was $50. Adjusted for inflation, that cost has more than doubled to $108.79 today! q Larger artifacts, such as our Siegrist Claim House, require even more upkeep, such as painting, repairs and preventive maintenance throughout the life of such structures. Please remember our Collections Care Fund in your giving!


This fund will help maintain artifacts in both Strataca and the Reno County Museum. As the Reno County Historical Society is a 501(c) (3) organization, your donation will be 100 percent tax-deductible!


note the difference that cleaning made in the base of this vulcan heater in detail photo, above left. below, long-time volunteer richard ewing cleans a spool stool in preparation for an exhibit.

ny (original owner of the mine) and subsequent owners. Blueprints for the construction of the shaft, sales receipts from the 1930s, boxes and boxes of signed forms that had once allowed visitors to take a trip down into the mine in the 1950s – all of them and more are there, stacked on shelves or in piles, waiting to be discovered.

THEY KEPT IT ALL strataca mine specialist myron marcotte discusses the boxes of records with jay brown who works in visitor services for strataca.

also found was a plaque, right, listing the names of carey salt associates who served in the u.s. military with the inscription: “proudly we pay tribute to the members of our organization who answered the call to the colors.”


Mine cache reveals secrets

By Jamin Landavazo, Chief Curator, RCHS


ll 5 feet 3 inches of my hefted boxes full of valuheight ducked through able historical informathe brattice cloth curtains, tion. and I continued to hunch The cliché was true… over as the low ceiling we were like kids in a canmade it impossible even dy store. for me – the shortest of A few short weeks ago, our group – to stand the management staff upright. at Strataca, the Armed with a Kansas Undermine documents camera, marker ground Salt date back and notecards, Museum, was to early we trekked to given an opportu1900s our final destinanity we had only tion and surveyed dreamed of before. stacks of boxes, papers We received permisand filing cabinets coated sion to go into the unwith a thin layer of soot derground records room – a reminder of the diesel of the Hutchinson Salt fuel once used underCompany. ground. The records room holds Immediately, our clean a wide variety of docuwork gloves traced over ments dating back to the box descriptions, gently early 1900s and relating pried open drawers, and to the Carey Salt Compa-


We owe a debt of gratitude to these companies. They have preserved a thorough history in those records unlike many companies that would have been quick to discard them to make room for the current year’s data. They had the room to store everything underground so they kept very nearly everything! We had known that the records room had documents that would provide answers to questions that we have been unable to answer. We hoped we would find information that would shed new light on the mine’s development, the use of different types of

technology, and the workers themselves. What we found was better than we could have imagined – correspondence about purchasing and maintaining equipment, production reports, union negotiations, information about explosives used underground, and so much more.


The amount of material we found boggled our minds! We identified about 20 of the hundreds of boxes that looked the most interesting and promising. After carefully documenting them, we hauled them back to the museum for further processing. It will take months to go through the boxes, compile lists of the contents, and decide what information can be used in our exhibits. We need to determine where we might be able to display some of these original documents that tell the story of the mine. The project will be longterm but the rewards will be great. We cannot wait to discover and share more of the history with you, our visitors!


dimly lit and somewhat overwhelming, row upon row of wooden shelving fills the records room, above left. some records, however, were stacked along walls on uneven and rocky ground, shown at top. above, original blueprints were found neatly rolled and stored along with boxes in the records room.

We’re proud to share our hometown with you. How fortunate we are to live in a community with such diverse and high quality amenities -- including the Reno County Museum and Kansas Underground Salt Museum!

4 Hutchinson locations to serve you


Tonya wears lots of hats

“I will do my best to be honest and fair, friendly and helpful, considerate and caring, courageous and strong, and responsible for what I say and do, and to respect myself and others, respect authority, use resources wisely, make the world a better place, and be a sister to every Girl Scout.” – The Girl Scout Law

After hearing that law, tures well enough to show one might just say that the salt reflecting the light Tonya Gehring, Kansas in the morning,” Tonya Underground Salt Museexplains. um’s Docent Supervisor Being in charge of the and Assistant Director of scout overnights is only Operations, embodies that one of the many hard hats law. Tonya wears. And Her that’s highresponly approprisibilities she oversees ate as one include everything of Tonya’s overseeing from docents to favorite everything do’s and don’t’s activities involved at the with domuseum cents, from is working the Girl Scout scheduling, to training, to Overnight program. making sure visitors are Tonya admits that one enjoying themselves. reason she so enjoys the Tonya must lay down overnights is that she “… the law of all the “do’s reminisces about being a and don’t’s” for visitors scout…” on those nights underground. She also underground with giggly schedules school trips and whispery Girl Scouts. and special events. And there are other All those hats would reasons. keep anyone busy so To“You can’t capture picnya spends much of her


tonya shows off a piece of salt rock, left, and works on scheduling and coordinates her many other tasks below.

free time with 11-monthold grandson, Kalib. Tonya probably wonders if Kalib will grow up to be like his father, Adam, a firefighter in McPherson … or his grandfather, Darin (Tonya’s husband), Battalion Chief for the Hutchinson Fire Department.

An animal lover, Tonya spends much of her summer swimming in their pool – often accompanied by her two dogs. Although it’s been a “few” years since she wore

the Girl Scout sash, Tonya is still guided by those commendable values when working with staff and visitor alike.


BUSINESS CAREER Tonya may be the exception in her firefighting family as her career in the past has centered on accounting, bookkeeping and data processing. She attended Cranford Business College in Hutchinson, majoring in those very subjects. From there, she worked as a bookkeeper at a bank and later Hambelton LaGreca, then served as Deputy City Clerk and Municipal Court Clerk for the City of Buhler until salt lured her away in 2007.

ANIMAL LOVER Born in Fort Riley, Tonya graduated from Hutchinson High School. She and her husband live on 40 acres where she loves to be outside.




STRATACA A EVENTS Dinner & Concert

KANSAS UNDERGROUND SALT MUSEUM 9 am–6 pm Tues–Sat 1–6 pm Sunday closed Mondays last tour departs two hours before closing. advance reservations strongly recommended allow about two hours for your adventure. call us or check our website for holiday hours. SALT BLAST PASS our best deal includes gallery tour, dark ride (both handicapped-accessible) and new train ride. adults: $19 seniors (60+) and aaa: $17 children (4-12) & members: $12.50 reno county residents: $14 children under 4 not admitted due to mine safety regulations. pricing available to add only dark ride or train ride to gallery admission. all prices include sales tax.

“Time Changes Everything” Diamond W Wranglers Saturday, July 27 $35 per person / includes admission, dinner and concert Doors open at 5 p.m. Dinner at 6:30 p.m. Concert at 7:15 p.m. Enjoy dinner and a concert presented by the Diamond W Wranglers, a Western music singing group, below.

Murder in the Mine

Interactive Mystery Dinner Theatres “The Case of the Deadly Killer” 6:30 p.m. Saturday, August 24 $55 per person / $400 for table of 8 Doors open at 5 p.m. Last trip underground: 6:15 p.m. Must be 18 years old due to adult humor Sherlock Holmes is at it again. Help him solve a dastardly crime and save London from yet another band of criminal masterminds. “It’s a Wonderful Knife” 6:30 p.m. Friday, December 13 $55 per person / $400 for table of 8 Doors open at 5 p.m. Last trip underground: 6:15 p.m. Must be 18 years old due to adult humor


Join George, Mary and Clarence in this wonderful Christmas classic with a murderous twist! Coming “Murder” event: Feb. 22, 2014

Other Upcoming Events “Hunt for Red Rock-tober” 3:30 p.m. Saturday, October 5 Return topside at 6:30 p.m. Must be 18 years of age or older Join staff members on a fun excursion into the mine to select unique and colorful salt rocks for your personal collection. “Spooktacular” Sunday, October 27 Return topside at 6:30 p.m. Must be 18 years of age or older Wear a costume to Strataca and get free admission (rides not included). Hard hat required and provided, so plan masks and wigs accordingly. Jazz Underground Friday, November 8 Strataca Event Center Tickets go on sale in the fall for this Hutchinson Community College Jazz Concert. For details and reservations for all events listed above, call: 620-662-1425 • 866-755-3450

special pricing for groups over 28 and school groups with arrangements made one week in advance. 3650 e. avenue g (at airport road) hutchinson, ks 67501

620-662-1425 toll-free 866-755-3450


read about reno county museum exhibits and events on page 27.

check out this fascinating display featuring video interviews with miners in this preview exhibit.

STRATACA EXHIBITS Miners’ Trash Display

See this fascinating new display case of items left behind by miners. It’s a preview of the larger “A Miner’s Life” exhibit coming soon to KUSM.

Salt Mine Express

Hurry aboard to ride the thrilling new underground train on the original rails and ties used underground.

Salt Secrets

Salt secrets exposed!

Permian Playground

Go interactive and explore the incredible varieties of salt. First hand!

Mine Corridor

Explore the general history of salt mining in Hutchinson.

The Iodine Deficiency Disorder Story Explore the efforts of Kiwanis International and UNICEF in using salt to combat IDD.


Take It with A Grain of Salt


nov. 2: boy scout merit Dec. 7: boy scout overnight Discover how live bacteria 2014 were extracted from ancient Permian salt. Jan. 11: boy scout merit Jan. 18: boy scout overnight Myronmobile Jan. 25: boy scout overnight Come see the Feb. 1: boy scout merit “Myronmobile,” from TV’s Feb. 8: boy scout overnight “Dirty Jobs,” filmed in the Feb. 15: boy scout overnight Hutchinson Salt mine. March 1: girl scout The Story of Underovernight ground Vaults & Storage to reserve, call: View costumes and props 620-662-1425 from your favorite movies. 866-755-3450

the napkin below, dated december 13, 1965, typifies the “naughty” nature of alice perry’s napkin collection, now available for special events, such as the april program shown at left.

“Bee” a little bad …it’s all for a good cause

to make a program reservation, please call: 620-662-1184

Looking for a unique program for your adult group? A fun outing for Red Hat ladies or an alternative to card night? Try the Reno County Museum’s adults-only Naughty Napkin program. Collector and Hutchinson resident, Alice Perry, amassed more than 3,000 fascinating specimens of every type of paper napkin. Within the collection is a whole subcategory that we call “Naughty Napkins.” They’re risqué, over the edge, politically incorrect … and totally entertaining! They represent a vastly different era – from the early 1960s when the cocktail napkin flourished to about the late 1980s. The private-showing events are relaxed and more than a little entertaining. We offer two pricing packages that meet any budget. We are unable to show these unique napkins to the general public, so you’ll have to come see what the buzz is all about. You might say it’s an event where it’s okay to “bee a little bad!” Call us now for details and to reserve a program today! All proceeds support the Reno County Museum.





RENO COUNTY MUSEUM HOURS 9 am–5 pm tues-Fri 11-5 saturday closed sunday and monday free admission unless otherwise noted 100 S. Walnut 620-662-1184

see these stickpins in reno county’s “jewelry box.”

Tough, Rough & Ready: Reno County Tools A-Z This tool-tally awesome exhibit displays an amazing variety of tools that built Reno County from the ground up.

A Peek Inside Reno County’s Jewelry Box From rhinestones to fine gold, see what adornment Reno Countians have been wearing from the mid-1880s through the 1960s.

Hail to the Hall: 100 Years of Convention Hall This exhibit traces the history of Convention Hall and officially displays the items from the Convention/Memorial Hall 1911 time capsule box.

Transportation Gallery See the Schuttler wagon, an Amish buggy, the Indian motorcycle, sidecar and much more.


ICE CREAM SOCIAL JULY 18 It’s ice cream time from 5:30 to 7:30 – or until the ice cream runs out – on July 18. That’s on the Third Thursday in the courtyard at the Reno County Museum. Don’t miss it!


ATOMIC TESTING IN HUTCH MINE PAGE 4 reno county historical society p.o. box 664 hutchinson, kansas 67504-0664

return service requested

If your address changes, please call us at 620-662-1184.

Legacy Summer 2013  

The latest issue of the Legacy, Summer 2013, journal of the Reno County Museum is positively radio-active! The feature article in this salt-...

Legacy Summer 2013  

The latest issue of the Legacy, Summer 2013, journal of the Reno County Museum is positively radio-active! The feature article in this salt-...