8th and High

In 1889, more than 30 years before a national suffrage movement would see the 18th Amendment to the Constitution giving women the right to vote in all elections, the State of KS had already recognized that right locally.  The woman citizenry of Baldwin City urged the Mayor and Council to build a bridge crossing the creek from the Train Depot located just west of Baldwin City to its small but growing downtown district located at 8thand High.  Crossing the creek without a bridge was a problem; it muddied the stylish long dresses and coats of the time.  Having had their request denied by town leaders but undeterred in their quest for an improved route, a woman named Lucy Sullivan and four other ladies ran for Mayor and all the positions on the city council.  To much surprise, I am sure, considering it was still the late 1880s, the women won every single position.  Lucy Sullivan, now mayor of Baldwin City and only the 3rd female mayor elected in this country at the time, along with her all-female town council, quickly worked with county officials and commissioned the construction of what would become known as “The Women’s Bridge.”

1900s Baldwin City, KS

This song began as an idea many years ago after my wife and I moved to Baldwin City.  I was immediately struck by the quaint downtown and its history.  A bank on one corner, City Hall on another, a magnificent and historic-looking lumberyard on yet another.  The Post Office was nearby.  At that time, so was a Dentist, a Dr.’s Office, and local shops were all within a short walk.  Church bells rang and still do ring on a regular schedule from what is the town’s largest church just behind the old lumberyard.  For years, I was flooded with the thoughts of how many little moments in the lives of citizens happened right there in what was probably a one or two-block square area of town.  A well-respected University borders it on the north end.  The small chapel where my wife and I were married, fantastic local eateries, and “everyday life” was all within a stone’s throw from those cross streets.  Even sad moments happen there; the “Big Church” is often the location chosen to host the final goodbyes of families and friends who have deceased.  Life itself happens there at 8th and High.  But I could never really pull it all together with a single thread, so the idea just kept building yet never resolving itself for me creatively. 

Early Sullivan Square Rendering

It wasn’t until the city and a diverse representative group of determined and artistic citizens designed and finished improvements to an empty lot next to the old lumberyard which has become the Lumberyard Arts Center – a cultural hub for Baldwin City and the surrounding community.  The results of this collaboration between local government and its citizenry turned this vacant piece of land and what was affectionately called “The Lotatorium” into a park at the heart of town.  The new park aptly named Sullivan Square after Mayor Lucy Sullivan represented to me what can happen when diverse groups come together to make a commonplace for gathering and celebrations.  To me, it also stood as a reminder that history is not always made by those looking to make history or intentionally make their mark. It’s made by those who do their part to improve their communities one day, one park, or one improvement at a time.  The sum of a life of good deeds – if you will.

On a single Saturday in February 2021, at home during the Covid-19 crisis to help weather any ill side-effects from a family member’s second vaccination shot and recently inspired by the announcement and initial performance of a new Live Music Series from the park by The Lumberyard Arts Council called “Live On High,” the first verse appeared from nowhere.

Lucy and her ladies cut the ribbon
Took those first unmuddied steps to the other side
I doubt that they cared their Women’s Bridge was making history
They simply wanted a better way to 8th and High

Baldwin City High School Yearbook – Pep Rally at 8th & High

The rest of the song fell into place from the thoughts and creative mulch (thanks for that term Wendy!) I had accumulated over the years thinking about the lives and memories that crossed that unassuming intersection.

Once the song’s first draft was finished, I decided to play it for some members of the Lumberyard Arts Council.  I kind of saw it as their song in a way and felt like it should be shared with them.  Unknowingly on my part at the time, they were already planning another “Live on High” and springtime “Warm Up Baldwin City” event right there at Sullivan Square.  The theme for this event was to be historical in nature and highlight Lucy Sullivan.  In conjunction with this opening reception featuring local performances on May 21st, other artists have contributed artwork, writings, poetry, and activities centered around “The Spirit of Lucy Sullivan.”  These works will be on exhibit in the Lumberyard Arts Center from May 21st through July 6th.  

Things happen for a reason.  I am very honored to have been asked to perform my song 8th and High at this event.  I am even more honored to have been requested to submit a copy of my song and a hand-written lyric sheet for inclusion in this exhibit at the Lumberyard Arts Center.

As a show of my appreciation to the Lumberyard Arts Council for providing future artists and performers a place to highlight and share their passion, I am providing copies of my song on the old-fashioned compact disc format for any amount of an in-kind donation that will 100% directly benefit the “Live On High” music series hosted by the Lumberyard Arts Center.  I am also making available a limited number of signed and numbered laser-etched CDs (total qty released – 25) featuring this song for any donation to the Lumberyard Arts Center’s “Live On High” program in an amount greater than $10.

Thank you for supporting the Arts!