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Morning Sun
  • Students play famed Kansans at the Center

  • Wantha Davis, top woman jockey, Oscar-nominated actress Annette Bening and Karrin Allyson, Grammy-nominated jazz singer, showed up in the Family Resource Center gym Tuesday.

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  • Wantha Davis, top woman jockey, Oscar-nominated actress Annette Bening and Karrin Allyson, Grammy-nominated jazz singer, showed up in the Family Resource Center gym Tuesday.
    Joining them for the special Kansas Day presentation were many others, including Mort Walker, creator of the comic strip “Beetle Bailey,” and Gov. Alf Landon.
    They all have two things in common. First, all are famous Kansans, and second, all were portrayed by students in the Gecko Room.
    “We also did this program Friday for the parents and family members of the children,” said Nilla Madden, Gecko lead teacher. “It’s part of a month-long unit on Kansas. We looked at geographical features and people of Kansas.”
    The program has become a tradition, and Madden said this is the sixth year the Geckos have presented it. Youngsters in the room are ages 3, 4 and 5. Assistant teacher is Alicia Miller.
    “Each year we try to do different famous Kansans,” Madden said. “Kansas has had a lot of firsts for women and African-Americans, and we try to push this.”
    For example, one of the Geckos portrayed Susanna Madora Salter, who was elected mayor of Argonia, Kansas, in 1887.
    “She was the first woman mayor elected in the United States,” Madden said. “This was when women were fighting for their rights and her name was put up  as a joke, but she got elected.”
    Wantha Davis also excelled in a profession that had been limited to men. Born near Liberal in 1917, she became a top jockey and won 1,000 races.
    Caroline Celestia “Carrie” Ingalls, sister of famed author Laura Ingalls Wilder, was represented, Madden said, because she was the only one of the Ingalls children born in Kansas.
    “There are also some famous fictional people from Kansas,” the teacher added, introducing Dorothy from “The Wizard of Oz” and Mary Ann Summers from the TV comedy series “Gillligan’s Island.”
    The program closed with the youngsters singing “Happy Birthday” to Kansas.
    “A lot of people who did really great things came from Kansas, and we should all be very proud of our state,” Madden said.
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