Article brings back pre-Twin Lakes memories of North side

By Richard York | January 5, 2022

Thank you so much for your story regarding Twin Lakes (November 2021). It brought back many memories for me.

I am 72 years old. My parent’s home was at 2616 N. Amidon – a home that my dad built with used lumber and help from friends and family. Most of the home’s lumber came from railroad salvage wood that originated from box cars that were being disassembled, someplace near the old Stockyards Bank on 21st street. As a kid, my job was to pull the nails and straighten them with a hammer so that they could be used again. 

The exterior of our home was stucco, which was left over from plaster jobs that my grandfather, John Daly, performed in Wichita. Grandpa Daly was a plasterer all of his life and he crafted the art deco scrollwork in many of the movie theaters in Wichita. I was told that grandpa worked in over a dozen movie theaters here in Wichita.  Some of his work — grape clusters and vines — still remains at the Orpheum Theater, but nearly all of the other theaters have been destroyed.

Our property consisted of one full acre and it was pretty rural in appearance: a huge garden, fruit trees, geese, chickens and pet cats and dogs. I was often assigned to catching a chicken with a wire coat hanger. Dad would take care of the hatchet work and mom would boil the chicken in a large pan that sat outside the house. Wet chicken feathers really stink! We had well water and yes, we burned our trash in trash barrels too. I would ride my bike to Benjamin Hills to see the rich people in their mansions.

Our modest home served our family until about 1969, when the property was told to Harpool Brothers Oil Company. They owned the Phillips 66 station on the northeast corner of 25th Street and Amidon.  After it was sold, the house and detached garage was destroyed.

I’m going to take you back a bit further than the construction of Twin Lakes Shopping Center. Before Twin Lakes was developed it was a city landfill, with chain link fences that were about ten feet tall. Dump trucks and trash trucks were constantly entering the landfill from the entrance on 21st Street. This traffic created dust that was then carried to the north for many blocks. Light-weight trash would float in the wind for blocks to the North. My dad and others that were familiar with the landfill speculated that the Twin Lakes complex would eventually sink into the trash debris that was the bulk waste in this landfill. Well, to my knowledge it didn’t sink and disappear. I do seem to recall a construction problem on the East end, where the floors separated and they had to construct a concrete ramp to compensate for settling.  

At that time, late 1950’s and early 1960’s, 21st Street was nothing but a pot hole filled blacktop with no shoulder. The old 21st Street bridge that existed then was wooden, rickety and narrow. I don’t know how it survived the weight of the trash trucks that came and went over that bridge. In the summer, I tried to ride my bicycle to the Woodland swimming pool, which was close to Arkansas and 21st Street. The bridge shook so much that my bike would fall over. There were gaps in the wood planking and I could see the river water through the holes in this bridge. It was terrifying to a scrawny kid like me.   

Also, at that time, Amidon was also a two-lane blacktop street with no curb or gutters. As Twin Lakes was being built, the city paved Amidon up to 25th street, and later continued the paving from 25th Street clear up to 29th Street.  We finally felt like we actually living in the city.

— Richard York