Category Archives: Floods

1965 Arkansas River flood movie


Here’s a link to a 3 minute 16mm film of the Arkansas River flood in Kinsley taken from a helicopter on June 21, 1965 by Marvin Ryan.  Gizmo Pictures digitized the film for the library to archive.

It and the interview transcripts and display from the “Turning Point:  Stories of Change” premiere can all be found linked on the Kinsley Library site:

The next post will leave the world of floods and enter the world of droughts as we continue our investigation of the Dust Bowl.  The outline of the discussion series, “It Blew So Hard:  The Dust Bowl and Great Depression in Western Kansas,” winter discussion series starting January 11 will soon be posted.

Premiere a Success

The premiere went well despite a couple of technical problems (Thanks to James DuBois, we were able to get through most of them.)  We had a nice crowd and it was fun to see everyone up on the big screen.  If you missed it, we’ll have the films on the website in early December after the premieres have all happened.   You will then be able to enjoy it on the small screen.

I put together an exhibit of photos, newspaper articles, and quotations from the interviews which was unveiled at the premiere and is now on display at the library.  Visit  to view the exhibit on line.  There are also complete transcripts of the interviews made for both films online.

A big shout out to Leslie Von Holten, Program Director for the Kansas Humanities Council, who oversaw this project.  It was great to have her here yesterday.  I also want to thank Marsha Bagby, Jay Dill, and Steve Samuelson for serving on the panel.  I believe citizens got some answers to questions and at least one learned how to get documentation that would stipulate that her house was not in the floodplain.

This project gives the library an extensive file on the areas flooding.  I have enjoyed researching this historical perspective and appreciate all of the information that the local people have provided in the form of interviews, pictures, and documents.  This blog will be leaving the realm of Too Much Water to one of Not Enough Water as we proceed with our exploration into the Dust Bowl Era.  So stay tuned for more enlightenment from the Best Small Library in Kansas.  (Wamego Public Library will take over that title later this week.)



Countdown to the Premier

This Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Palace Theater in downtown Kinsley will be the premier showing of the Kansas Humanities Council’s Turning Points:  Stories of Change featuring “Navigating Rough Waters.”  This is Kinsley’s very own story of living on the floodplain.  You won’t want to miss seeing your friends and neighbors on the big screen, enjoying the free popcorn, viewing another short film about the 1965 Arkansas River Flood in Offerle, and having your questions about FEMA regulations and Flood Insurance answered by a panel of experts.  Mark you calendar.  Navigating Rough Waters

Panel to answer questions

Following the Turning Points film premiere, there will be a panel discussion to try to answer everyone’s questions about FEMA regulations and Flood Insurance as they affect Kinsley today.  The panel will consist of: Steve Samuelson, National Flood Insurance Program Specialist; Jay Dill, current Kinsley City Manager; and Marsha Bagby, past Kinsley City Manager.  These people should be able to clear up any misconceptions and maybe even give us some ideas about projects which might help us move forward.

At the premiere, I plan on having a big display on the history of flooding in Kinsley. It will feature lots of pictures, quotes from the citizens that were interviewed for the film, newspaper images and other documents of interest.  So mark October 26, 2 p.m. on your calendar and get ready for popcorn and seeing your neighbors on the big screen.


Don’t miss the premiere

Turning Points: Stories of Change will be the feature film at 2 p.m. on October 26 at the Palace Theater in downtown Kinsley.  Eric McHenry of Washburn University in Topeka will be in attendance to introduce the film for the Kansas Humanities Council.  This project explores pivotal moments in four Kansas Communities:  Kinsley, Hays, Ulysses, and Olathe.  Dr. McHenry wrote and narrates the connecting thread that ties the films together.

The film was produced by Gizmo Pictures of Topeka.  Our contribution, “Navigating Rough Waters,” has comments by Kinsley citizens about floods and the challenges of living on a flood plain taken from interviews conducted in January of this year.  It also draws on historic photographs, film and newspaper articles.  It was a difficult task telling the complicated story of our struggle and triumphs in a very short film, but I think Gizmo Pictures have managed to do it.  Be sure to put this date on your calendar.

“The Chickens Survived”

“My dad was down watching the river.  He said that when it came in, it wasn’t rising very fast, but then all at once, there came the trees and the logs and the dead cattle.  It just made a wall; it was just a dam moving slow.”    Kermit Froetschner

Our film premiere on October 26 will begin with a short introductory film about the Arkansas River flood waters raging through Offerle on its way to Kinsley in June, 1965.    This film was produced by Rachel Harmon of Sagebrush Video and is entitled, “The Chickens Survived” Community & Cooperation – Offerle and the Flood of 1965.  The script was inspired from a gathering last March of Offerle citizens who met to remember the flood.  Rachel had a particular interest in this project as her grandparents were Leander and Pauline Lightcap from south of Offerle.  Rachel has produced many full-length videos about Kansas history including two on the Trousdale area.  All of her videos are available at the library for check out.  ”The Chickens Survived” was also funded as a special project by the Turning Points: Stories of Change grant the Kinsley Library received from the Kansas Humanities Council.  More tomorrow about the KHC feature film.



Now the 1965 Offerle flood stories will be recorded

During our interviews for the upcoming KHC film project, Navigating Rough Waters, we heard stories about the 1965 flood waters raging south of Offerle towards Kinsley.  Many told of how the farmers worked together to harvest the wheat before the river flooded the fields.  Others credited the cut straw in the fields and the debris dams created by it with spreading out the water and saving Kinsley from a worst disaster.

These stories sparked the interest of Offerle resident Dr. Galen Boehme who encouraged us to find a way to record these memories also.  I contacted Rachel Lightcap Harmon of Sagebrush Production and former Offerle resident.  She met with Dr. Boehme and myself to explore how this could be done.

The results is a gathering has been planned for Saturday, March 29 from 2-4 p.m. at Zion Lutheran Church.  All the local folk are invited to come together as a group to share their stories and memories which Rachel will record on film.  We appreciate the continued support of the Kansas Humanities Council in this companion project for the premiere of Navigating Rough Waters.

If the Offerle folk enjoy this experience, Rachel will be exploring the possibility of creating a video that records that area’s history similar to the South of the Parallel videos that feature the Trousdale, Fellsburg, and Centerview area.  It sure is exciting when local people find ways they can become involved in preserving the heritage of the area.   Hope to see everyone at the Zion Church on March 29th.

Flooding and Typhoid

1965 Drug Store Ad encouraging Typhoid Shots

Hamm and Pool Drug Store Ad depicts what is important after a flood: typhoid shots, bug control, and Big Flood stories.

One aspect of flooding that has come up in the research and interviews which I had not thought about was the prevention of typhoid fever.  Typhoid is a human disease which is spread by ingesting water contaminated by human waste.  This happens during flooding when sewer lines fill and back up and waste water treatment facilities are flooded.  Whenever there was a flood in Kinsley, everyone was encouraged to have a typhoid shot. During her interview, Mary Kallaus told a cute story of how she went to the courthouse to see about getting a shot.  She discretely went up to the doctor and asked if she should get one as she was in the early months of pregnancy.  He replied that of course she should and “go get in the line over there for children and pregnant women.” After that, everyone in town knew she was pregnant.

June 9, 1921 Flood

Taken of bridge over Hwy 193 South of Kinsley

Taken of bridge over Hwy 193 South of Kinsley

The end of this month, the Gizmo Production crew will visit Kinsley to film our story of living on the floodplain.  I have spent the day looking up newspaper articles on the bigger floods that this area has experienced in 1921, 1942, 1965, 1971, 1973, and 1996.  If anyone has pictures or stories about flooding, don’t forget to share it with the library for possible inclusion in the finished film and as a definite addition to our archives.

An article which brought to mind Noah and his flood was in the Kinsley Mercury of June 16, 1921.  It reported on the June 9 flood that “Every flood brings a revival of boat building, and this one has been no exception.”  One skiff that was built made several experimental trips down the river.  “All went well till they got to the Fred Fletcher place when they hit an obstruction and capsized.  However, as the water was only about four feet deep they rescued themselves and their craft.  The plan on which this good ship was operated was very simple.  The current was too swift for upstream navigation, so the party would voyage downstream to some convenient point then load and go back up the stream and start again.”

It was also reported that another group of citizens “have built the most pretentious boat that has ever been built in this section.  It is 20 feet long with 5 ¾ beam.  They have installed a four cylinder Reo motor.  It has capacity for about 8 adults.  They plan trips on the Arkansas and expect to develop enough power to come back against the current after going downstream.  They launched their craft Sunday and after a few experimental trips, carried passengers for a small fee and did a good business.”