There is both good news and bad news in this column. The good news is that halfway through an eight-day event in downtown Leavenworth, more than 200 people have gone to see it.
The bad news is included in the above statement. The event is at its midpoint, and the other 41,089 or so people who live in the Leavenworth and Lansing area who may want to see it better hurry. The final day to see this never before offered spectacular is Sunday.
The event is the first-time ever display of worldwide prison memorabilia at the C.W. Parker Carousel Museum. It was the idea of Carousel volunteer LaRae Cross who was the publicist for last fall’s nine-day display of WW I memorabilia. Since the area is known around the world as Prison City USA, why not display artifacts and photos of the area’s five places of incarceration? I use that word as the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) houses people there against their will, but legally, and is not a prison.
But in the 20-plus tables of displays, only one cap and one lapel pin are on display, so items from it are really a non-factor.
All the real prisons in the area are represented, and quite well, by uniforms, artifacts, badges, restraint devices, signs, inmate art and miscellaneous items.
The display also includes items from prisons, prisoner of war camps and concentration camps from countries around the world.
This year’s special display was better publicized than last year’s WW I display. An early visitor to it from Liberty, Missouri, said there were flyers posted “all over Liberty” about the display. That puzzled Cross, as she sent none to anyone in Liberty and knows no one in Liberty. But hey, if publicity is being seen, that’s fine.
Comments are cropping up on Facebook about the display. One said, “The prison display at the Carousel is a must see event.” Since it is free, I asked one satisfied viewer if he got his money’s worth, and he replied, “I certainly got that, and much more.”
And before I run out of room, it is important to let readers know when they can see this not-yet-award-winning-but working-on-it event. It is open anytime the Carousel is open, which is Thursday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from 1-5 p.m.
The items are from four sources. Pete Grande is chief of staff at the fort’s U.S. Disciplinary Barracks (DB) and unofficial historian. As an avowed history buff, he has saved archival-type material of all types from being destroyed during his long tenure at the DB.
Ken LaMaster served at the DB, Lansing Correctional Facility and retired in 2010 from USP Leavenworth. While there he became its unofficial historian, and he too saved for posterity those artifacts and photos he could.
Jennifer Myers, who runs the Lansing Historical Museum, does not have a prison display in the museum as such, although there is a temporary special photo display on exhibit. But she does have artifacts in storage pending the possibility of a regional prison museum being built, so she has provided a table of artifacts and information.
And yours truly, a collector of militaria for many years, began collecting prison memorabilia when I moved to this area in 1978. If you are going to live in Prison City, USA, and are an unabashed collector, why not gather a few items for future prison displays?
The only further bad news is that the Cross family is moving to Florida next month, so if the Carousel has a third special fall display, it will have to find a replacement coordinator. The displayers wish the Cross family a smooth move, and appreciate her efforts in making the current special display a great success. So far. Now get down there and enjoy it before it is too late.
John Reichley is a retired Army officer and Department of the Army civilian employee.