The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on October 13, 1996 · Page 45
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 45

Salina, Kansas
Issue Date:
Sunday, October 13, 1996
Page 45
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THE SALINA JOURNAL COMING HOME SUNDAY OCTOBER 13. 1996 B SURVIVING TOWN WORKING AS Fred and Vail Smith are the owners of Tlpton's only grocery store, which they purchased when they moved from Chicago. Photos by DAVIS TURNER / The Salina Journal Late on a summer day, softball teams from Lucas and Belolt battle for first place In a men's slow pitch tournament. The games, which draw a smattering of fans In the bleachers, have players who have been Involved with the North Central Kansas Men's Slow Pitch Softball League teams for as many as 25 years. Cooperation keeps Tipton alive By LINDA MOWERY-DENNING The Salina Journal IPTON — It's a cool summer evening in August — a night so perfect that even the mosquitoes have abandoned their blood-thirsty quest in favor of a more suitable setting. Music drifts through the large double doors of the downtown Knights of Columbus building, the place where residents in this Mitchell County town of about 300 often gather for wedding receptions and funeral dinners. Inside, aspiring country singer Kelli Brummer Hake and her husband, Ken, practice the songs that Kelli will perform a month later at the Kansas State Fan* in Hutchinson. On the other side of the street, at Tipton's new restaurant, the Headquarters, area farmer Bud Palen passes out samples of ostrich steak. Few have tasted the meat before. Most are surprised by its pleasant flavor. On the edge of town, in the shadow of the Farmway Co-op grain elevator, teams from Beloit and Lucas battle for first place in the end-of-season tournament of the North Central Kansas Men's Slow Pitch Softball League. The hits come often and go far. Calls are questioned. In the end, it's the Beloit team that wins and advances to the following night's games. This is life in small-town Tipton, an isolated community in many ways, but one that manages to survive and even thrive in a time when the death knell has sounded for many other villages its size. "This is a pretty unique town," Tipton This town of about 300 that supports a private school and continues to thrive. In the Knights of Columbus Hall, Kelli Brummer Hake and her husband, Ken, practice a repertoire of country songs this summer that Kelli later would perform at the state fair. The hall Is the site of a variety of activities, Including weddings and parties. said Edgar Hake, whose family has operated a successful hardware store in Tipton since 1933. "We have a lot of workers. Even the older people. They may have a cane, but you'll see them outside mowing their lawns." The landscape of most rural towns is dominated by the towering white silos that hold each year's bounty of wheat and other grains. Not so in Tipton. The grain elevator is overshadowed by the town's stately St. Boniface Catholic Church and Tipton High School next door. The large majority of Tipton residents are German and Catholic, but everyone — including the Protestants who trek to nearby Hunter each Sunday for church — send their children to the local school. This summer, during the town's 50th annual picnic, more than $60,000 was raised to support the school and its 35 students. Another school for youngsters in kindergarten through eighth grade is operated by the public school district that serves Downs. The district's headquarters is in Cawker City. "I feel bad for other towns that have lost their schools," said Fred Smith, who with his wife, Vali, owns the local grocery store. "I look at the old high school in Hunter, and I think of all that went into that building, all the memories. It's a skeleton, a rotten body sitting there. If Tipton ever lost its school, it would dry up like the rest of those towns." The Smiths and their four children moved to Tipton four years ago from Chicago, where Fred Smith worked as a police officer in a west Chicago suburb. His family history in Tipton dates back to the 1860s. Many of his rel- atives are buried in the community cemetery on the edge of town. "We would have been the first generation not to have been buried there," Smith said. His father was a trooper with the Kansas Highway Patrol for many years and the family moved often during Smith's younger years. Fred eventually joined the U.S. Army, where he met Vali during a tour of duty in Germany. They settled in Chicago and had few thoughts of leaving until the Downs grocery store's former owner, Mary Pfeiffer, called to say her business was for sale. "Tipton was always our home base," Fred Smith said. "You get kind of lost in city life, but every year we'd come back for the church picnic or harvest. I jokingly asked Mary Pfeiffer one year when she was going to sell her store so I could get out of the city. Reality hit when she called three or four years later. We had never given it any serious thought until then." Smith said he returned to Tipton mostly for his children. See TIPTON, Page 8

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