That Kid, Returns to the Salisbury House.

That kid, returns to the Salisbury House.
By Wayne L. White, Winter Site Manager, Amundsen-Scott Station, South Pole

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Over 50 years ago, on a beautiful spring day, a Des Moines elementary school class visited the Salisbury House. Being kids, there was much merriment and probably some chaos that day as the class toured the great home. Their teacher had both her resolve and patience quite tested that day as she tried to ensure the kids moved through the house in a respectful and orderly fashion. In that class, one kid may have enjoyed it a little more than the rest. That kid had dreams of being an explorer. For that kid, growing up in Des Moines provided the backdrop for great adventures as local streams became the Amazon River, small sections of woods, impenetrable jungles and the Iowa winter ice and snow, the polar icecaps. That kid was amazed by the very structure of the Salisbury house and it grounds, which to him was a full-fledged English castle. That kid marveled at the homes contents and vast collections of items from ancient times. In those years, shrunken heads collected from the South American Amazon basin were on display in a glass case. That kid after seeing them while walking through with the class, snuck back to get a closer look. That kid had the teacher have to go back to get him away from that case and join the class. That kid had an unforgettable experience that day at the Salisbury house.

That kid went on to be an explorer and later in life journeyed to King Tuts tomb in Egypt, the Taj Mahal in India, the Amazon jungle (where he found no shrunken heads but did get a blowgun and poison darts), the most remote jungles in New Guinea and many other exotic places. That kid ended up the Winter Site Manager at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. That kid spent a year at the South Pole facing temperatures of minus 100F and months of darkness. That kid bought a modest, historic home in Texas where he developed a collection of interesting exploration related items from around the world and put them on display. That kid never forgot the Salisbury House and that beautiful spring day.

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Many years later that kid returned to the Salisbury house. I was that kid. Upon entry, I could remember the awe I had felt all those years ago looking up at that beautiful ceiling with the darkened beams, the fireplaces that at the time seemed enormous and the stone and wood floors. This time I saw no shrunken heads but witnessed something I would not have been able to fully understand and appreciate as a kid, the warmth, passion and love, the staff had for the place. That was very apparent upon entry. I also noted that while the Salisbury House seemed to be much the same as I remembered it, the city of Des Moines had grown and now had an extremely modern and beautiful downtown area. While the Salisbury House is nestled in its perpetual place in time, around it, the world was changing. The Salisbury House is a jewel for the city of Des Moines and with proper stewardship will continue for many generations to invigorate the imaginations of old and young.

I hope that kids will continue to tour the Salisbury House. Those kids will enjoy the tour and the break from the normal classroom routine. Those kids will have access to vast amounts of knowledge undreamed of 50 years ago. In those groups, there will be kids that will be more affected by the place than the rest. Those kids will be strongly drawn to the historical nature of the house, its collections and grounds but will also be looking toward the future. Those kids may not stand in an Egyptian tomb or on a polar ice cap. Those kids will stand on Mars. South Pole December 14, 2016 3PM


About salisburyhousemuseum
Salisbury House & Gardens is a historic house museum located in the Salisbury Oaks neighborhood of Des Moines, Iowa. Built in the 1920s by cosmetics magnate Carl Weeks and his wife, Edith, the 42-room estate is modeled after King’s House in Salisbury, England. It was a pioneering sustainable structure in its day, incorporating architectural and structural elements culled from scores of other properties throughout England and Iowa. Carl and Edith Weeks were art and literary collectors of rare taste and refinement, and most of their collections remain in the house to this day. The grounds, house and collections are open for tours through the work of the nonprofit Salisbury House Foundation, founded in 1993 to protect and preserve the property for the educational and cultural benefit of the public.

One Response to That Kid, Returns to the Salisbury House.

  1. How wonderful to read this man’s story. I, too, wish children could see the house and all its treasures. These days, with funding cuts, schools usually can’t afford to bring students. Parents need to take the time to share a trip to Salisbury House with their children.

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