The Meandering Smoky Hill


     Several months ago I showed a photo from the 1927 Trail of a river in the winter.  I assumed it was the Smoky Hill and wondered where the photographer was standing when the photo was taken.  Sheri and I now think we know.  We checked out four potential spots in Kenwood and Oakdale Parks but found a fifth view from just outside the parks that we think solves this meaningless, but fun, riddle.




The original photo from 1927 is on the left.  A portion of it is duplicated below with landmarks highlighted that Sheri and I used as keys back in April.  We found the same bends in the river aligned with a bridge in the background.  The bridge is fuzzy in the original photo, but Sheri spotted it right off and convinced me of its reality.  That was a key clue.




     The location where we could get these same features is on the river bank west of the current Salina Water Works, just south of the present-day Salina Journal building.  Vegetation has grown tall and thick on the river bank where we stood but by moving your head around you could build up the view and the match with the 1927 photo was clear to us.  A single modern photo from that bank could not give a convincing view because of all the brush in the way.  Take a weed whacker and check it out.


   This satellite photo shows part of Oakdale Park.  The multicolored spot in the center is a modern wading pool.  The new water park (the old SHS football field!) is in the lower-right corner.

   The tail of the long arrow is where the photographer stood in 1927, we proudly declare.  The head of the arrow is at the Mulberry bridge in question but also points to where the old boat dock on the Smoky Hill was located.  See the bridge in 1944 in the next photo below.

   The old Washington High School was on Mulberry between 2nd and 3rd Streets.  I show it in red, near the bridge that is in the 1927 photo.  Why call this old high school out?  Because of the second photo just below.


Here's the Smoky Hill boat dock and bridge in 1944.  The old bridge had the thin skeletal design Sheri saw in the 1927 river photo.  The present-day replacement park bridges from the 1980s are studier with a more solid design.  But this photo helps convince us that we found the spot where the photographer stood in 1927.  Plus, it's fun to see the boat dock as it was back then.  Note the tiny motors used to power these boats; to ensure low speeds you provide only a low-power motor.  This subject will come up again at the bottom of this page whether you are interested or not.


This photo below is from the 1930 Trail and shows the Kodak Club standing on the bank of the Smoky Hill with the large, brick Washington High School in the background.  Is that the start of a bridge on the far right edge, or a way down to an early boat dock?  The white fence on the bank at the far left seems to have a design much like that in the 1927 photo; I'm not surprised.  (The small white buildings are probably overflow classrooms, a repeated response to the way Salina always quickly outgrew new schools.)



     It wasn't the Photography Club in those days, it was the Kodak Club.  Kodak made photography easy for the masses and became the every-day name for cameras and photography.  Mr. Sites (later our Physics and Chemistry teacher) was the 1930 sponsor of the 35-member club.  The club adopted a constitution that required each member to have a camera, turn in one good print and negative before the first semester, and pay dues of 35 cents!  The school had a dark room so members could develop and print their own photos.  So says it in the 1930 Trail.

     I see that the Smoky ran, or sat, so quietly that reflections from it were quite sharp.  The shadows show that the photo was taken in mid-morning, giving the kind of good lighting you'd expect to be used by a camera club.

     The President of the club in 1930 was Richard Porter.  Three decades later he had some public prominence in 1958 when he headed America's space satellite program and announced the successful orbiting of our first satellite (the one AFTER two Sputniks).  That's Salina's Porter behind all the microphones telling the world about our Explorer I satellite (note that it went up on a U.S. Army rocket!  Von Braun's Redstone was the successor to his V-2.). tells about Porter (he didn't make the SHS Hall of Fame).

     I wonder if Porter took the photo across the Smoky Hill in 1930?  I don't know how to solve that bit of a mystery, but finding where the photographer stood would be a snap.  (Is that snarly tree still there?)



     By the way, I discovered this 1965 photo of mine last month and don't even remember taking it.  But it's the Smoky Hill filled with muddy water.  ("Too thick to drink, too thin to to plow.")  The diversion channel on the east side of town was finished in 1961 but a culvert let water into the old river bed.  It had to be letting water in for this photo but for years it's been clogged and no water goes through.  Only rain water gets into the river bed and then soaks in.

     I'm assured that is the Oakdale Ave. bridge on the far left.  Would that be the then-new (now demolished) swimming pool across the street?  If my orientation is correct, this is just where the old rental boat dock was.  (Straighten me out if you know better.) 



      And again by coincidence (honestly!) I just ran across this old boat photo (below) on the web.  I think it's from way before our time; it seems primitive compared to the one show above from 1944.  Furthermore, the white house is not the same as in the 1930 Kodak Club photo (compare the windows).  And where's a Mulberry bridge?  Just what era is this photo from, anyway?  It's purported be the Smoky Hill on .

     I bet those boats had to be rowed.  Outboard motors were made popular by the Norwgian-American Evinrude in 1909.  But that doesn't mean they could be afforded for a small operation like Salina's shown here.



     You think if that tree in the middle lost its leaves it would turn out to be that snarly tree in the 1930 photo?



        Just for Fun


     There's no accounting for taste and that certainly goes for what is considered to be fun.  For me, it was fun to figure out where a photographer stood in 1927.  I infected Sheri with this same disease and we decided to seek it out last April while I was in Salina.  If we failed...well, who would care?  But we didn't.


   A Salina bridge is in that 1927 photo.  They don't make bridges like they used to.  This is the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, over a mile long and 430 ft. above the

waters south of St. Petersburg, FL.  Allene (Cox) and Bill Grossman sent in this photo, taken by a friend on a plane coming in for a landing.  Carole & I drove across this bridge to visit the Grossman's last January and it's spectacular from all angles.  Google for bigger images from more angles of it and you won't be disappointed.