Speeding Through April in Iowa and Kansas

I’ve been AWOL. It’s the 12th of April and there has only been one post for Chi Omega’s Founders’ Day. There are several other NPC Founders’ Days coming along and I hope to commemorate those as well.

Where have I been and what have I been doing? I’ve been working on projects and visiting family, with limited internet access. Here are some highlights of the last two weeks.

Libbie, Pi Phi’s Ring Ching Roadshow car, visited the P.E.O. Executive Office in Des Moines, Iowa.

When I knew my friend Daphney Bitanga and Libbie the Pi Phi car would be in Iowa the same time as I was going to be there, we made plans to meet in front of the P.E.O. Executive Office in Des Moines. The early years of Pi Phi and P.E.O. are intertwined so it was fitting that Libbie the car visit the organization that was founded after the real Libbie, Libbie Brook (Gaddis) organized Pi Phi’s second chapter at Iowa Wesleyan University in Mount Pleasant in December 1868. A month later, on January 21, 1869, seven Iowa Wesleyan students founded P.E.O.

My trip included a short stay in Lawrence, Kansas. One of the first places I wanted to visit was Weaver’s (https://www.facebook.com/weaverslawrence/). It’s been in business since 1857. As I climbed the stairs to the second and third floors, I could envision the founders of the Pi Phi (1873), Kappa Alpha Theta (1881), and Kappa Kappa Gamma (1883) chapters climbing those same stairs, two centuries ago. Honestly, it was a throwback to another era, with salespeople greeting me as I walked through the floors, asking if I needed help. If you are ever in Lawrence, be sure to visit Weaver’s.

The plaque outside Weavers store in Lawrence, Kansas.

I also found Fraser Hall on the University of Kansas campus. It is named for John Fraser who served as the Chancellor of the University of Kansas from 1867-74. He has a place in Pi Phi history for he gave a name to the organization’s oldest tradition. At an 1873 social gathering to honor Sara Richardson for her role in the founding of the chapter at Kansas, he dubbed the event a “Cookie Shine.” The name delighted the women and it has become a beloved part of Pi Phi events. Nearly every Pi Phi who was initiated has taken part in a Cookie Shine. 

At Fraser Hall, I came upon this bench. It commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Kansas Alpha chapter of Pi Beta Phi.

The bench commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Pi Beta Phi chapter at the University of Kansas. 

As I was leaving Fraser Hall, I saw the Chi Omega Fountain. Here is the description from the University of Kansas website:

The fountain was authorized in October 1952 as a memorial to alumnae on the 50th anniversary of the founding of Lambda chapter at KU. Students, alumni and friends donated about $5,000 to the construction fund; the balance of the $11,800 cost was contributed by KU Endowment’s Elizabeth M. Watkins Fund.

James L. Bass, then a student of professor and sculptor Elden C. Tefft, won a competition to design plaques embodying aspects of the Eleusinian myth that were to surround the octagonal tank: an owl; the figure of Hades; a pomegranate; Persephone and Hades; wheat; Demeter and Persephone; carnations; and a gift plaque.

The Indiana limestone fountain is based on one at a manor in Northumberland, England; the pool is 12 feet in diameter, and three spigots spill water into a bowl mounted on the 7-foot shaft above the octagonal tank. It was fabricated by Erkins Studios of New York and dedicated April 23, 1955.

The Chi Omega Fountain in front of the Chi Omega chapter house.

In touring one of the neighborhoods, I saw a great big Omega and then a Chi, followed by an Alpha. As my mind was trying to determine which organization started with Omega Chi, I realized that I was looking at the letters from the backside. Once we passed the sign, I realized that it was the Alpha Chi Omega house. And I laughed and laughed at myself.

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