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  Field Notes From
ZipUSA: 67210

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ZipUSA: 67210 On AssignmentArrows

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From Author

Cliff Tarpy

ZipUSA: 67210 On Assignment

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From Photographer

Ira Block

In most cases these accounts are edited versions of a spoken interview. They have not been researched and may differ from the printed article.

Photographs by Ira Block


ZipUSA: 67210

Field Notes From Author
Cliff Tarpy

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    For anyone with the slightest interest in airplanes, the Kansas Aviation Museum offers a rich and colorful slice of history, beginning with the early years of the 20th century. That's when a happy conjunction of daring aviation pioneers and copious oil revenue fueled the genesis of Wichita's aircraft manufacturing tradition. The 1930s-era art deco gem that is home to the museum served as the city's airport terminal until the vastly larger Wichita Mid-Continent Airport was built in 1954. Though the interior needs renovation, the building and its grounds exhibit a fascinating collection of vintage craft, including a massive Boeing B-52 bomber, Cessna's tiny T-37B Tweety Bird—the U.S. Air Force's first jet trainer—and a number of early experimental craft, some so small they seem like toys. I was intrigued and delighted to see this display, which included many of the planes I saw and heard about while growing up.

    The terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, were traumatic for all Americans, but they had a special impact on zip code 67210. Boeing manufactured all of the airliners flown into the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon building in Virginia, as well as the one used in the thwarted attack that ended in a crash in Pennsylvania. 
    Boeing Wichita assembles fuselages for several airline models and ships them to sister plants in Washington State where assembly is completed. As word of the disasters spread, "the portable radios were pulled out all around the plant," recalled Barbara Clasen, a parts dispatcher. "Whenever we hear of a jetliner going down, we all wonder: Is it one of ours?"

    As a Wichita native now living on the east coast, I always visit members of my extended family when I hit town. But I admit that sometimes I first make a beeline to a Wichita institution: a small restaurant on West Douglas Avenue called NuWay that makes a curiously addictive sandwich. It's like a hamburger, but the beef is ground exceedingly fine, cooked with steam until it reaches a crumbly consistency, then ladled onto a steak bun and served with or without cheese, mustard, and chopped onions. Many fanatics wolf down their NuWays with frosty mugs of root beer as they sit at the counter or in one of the Formica booths. Stories abound of Wichitans who pack NuWays in dry ice and ship them to famished relatives who have moved away.
    The restaurant wall has a map of the U.S. on which out-of-towners paste stars on their hometowns. My wife, Alexandra, who is from Europe, is not among the NuWay-addicted, but she tags along whenever we're in town. The map now has a star labeled Romania just off the coast of Maine.


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