ELLINWOOD — Every year, the Ellinwood Rotary Club solicits nominations of a citizen or citizens who have demonstrated a keen sense of community spirit to be the Grand Marshal or Marshals of the After Harvest Parade. This year, club members selected Joe and Joyce Schulte from among the nominations.
Only a few minutes into a visit with the Schultes, and it becomes clear they are an interesting couple. Joyce was born and raised in Ellinwood. While she admits she truly wished to be a journalist when she was a young woman, traveling did not fit with her other needs and desires. Instead, she enjoyed a long career as a nurse and administrator at a several area hospitals and doctor’s offices over the span of a 50 year career. She continues to be involved in the Ellinwood Hospital Foundation today.
Joe grew up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin, and followed his passion of becoming a cowboy, which led him all the way to Kansas. What better place, so near to the Chisholm Trail, and the stuff of cowboy lore. Who could have foreseen that he would end up becoming a florist, and would own and operate a flower shop in Ellinwood for 28 years. While they readily admit they don’t always see eye-to-eye, (Joe says they dated and fought for eight years, before they married 33 years ago,) these two very different personalities have found ways to compliment one another, and together have helped to define the community they call home.
Speaking of home, Joyce claims that flowers die when she looks at them, but Joe takes meticulous care of the garden that makes up their yard. Big surprises do come in small packages, at least when Joe Schulte is in charge. A pond-like water feature is surrounded by meticulously clipped ornamentals and lilies, and a variety of colorful annuals are interspersed with a pleasant mix of textures from the grasses and small bushes artfully arranged.
Inside is Joyce’s domain, and antiques are on display in every nook and cranny of the first floor of their late 1800s home in the heart of Ellinwood.
One passion unites the Schultes, and that is history. Specifically, local history. Ask them about different landmarks in Ellinwood, and they both come to life. They can tell you where Wild Bill Hickok slept, where a Cuban cigar maker and his son rolled cigars and sold them in town, and how much beer was bottled and sold by the Wolf Brewery to the Santa Fe Railroad on the average day. Joyce, the president of the Ellinwood Historical Society, sometimes leads tours for the Ellinwood Underground Tunnel Tour, and Historic Wolf Hotel owner Chris McCord often calls her with questions pertaining to local history.
Joe is on the Ellinwood History Museum committee and has played an important role in the reopening of the museum after the previous one closed nearly a decade ago. It’s reopening has spurred new interest in the Ellinwood Historical Society among a younger generation, Joe said. They recently inducted eight new members, and some of these younger persons have stepped up to take on the tasks of social networking and internet marketing of the museum.
Joyce’s dream is to partner with the school to get a history club going. Both for highschoolers and grade school students. She wants them to know why the community is here, and what it’s done for the past 150 years. She received a spark from a high school teacher, and she wants to pass that spark on to the next generation.
Her journalism teacher felt Ellinwood’s history needed to be written. She conducted goal setting discussions with the students, and asked them to interview people who are old enough to know the history of Ellinwood. Only three could be relatives. From that, they would redact stories from old newspapers to prove their points about what the history of Ellinwood. It turned into a lifelong obsession for Joyce.
The papers got written, the students were graded, but the teacher was killed in a flash flood near Pawnee Rock, and they never saw their papers again, Joyce said. They were left with the interviews and redactions of the newspaper articles. Several friends gave Joyce their notes and redactions for safe keeping, and she has used them ever since. Sometimes, it was to provide information for the tunnel tours she gave, sometimes it was for articles she wrote for the Ellinwood Historical Society. Recently, they came in handy when the society compiled a recipe book from people in the community.
“They’ve been used umpteen thousand times so far,” she said. “Now, we’re using them when we come across pictures and we’re attempting to identify what buildings are in them.”
That research completed by those students so many years ago continues to come in handy in this way.
Getting the Ellinwood History Museum 2.0 off the ground had its rocky moments, Joe said, but now that the ball is rolling, excitement is growing.
“As it gets going, we want to get the word out beyond Ellinwood,” Joe said. To help with this, the grand opening of that museum will coincide with the After Harvest Festival this year.
The vision, Joe said, is for the museum to work hand-in-hand with the Wolf Hotel and the Ellinwood Underground Tunnel tours to become a third leg in the stool of heritage tourism that has evolved in Ellinwood. Plans are being discussed, too, for how to get the word out to people travelling along the Wetlands and Wildlife National Scenic Byway. However they can help, the Schultes will continue to be active and involved Ellinwood community members, and they look forward to their duties as Grand Marshals at this year’s parade.