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Background Image Visitors to the monument near the Geographic center of the United States in Lebanon, Kansas, 1953.

Lebanon: True Middle

Meet the Hub Club, a group of Lebanon, Kansas, residents committed to helping their hometown hold onto its claim to fame—i.e., being the geographic center of the United States, as first declared by the US Coast and Geodetic Survey in 1891. Founded in 1940, the Hub Club is perhaps most well-known for erecting a stone-and-mortar monument in Lebanon to mark the exact center of the country that has attracted visitors from far and wide. As part of Humanities Kansas’s Crossroads: Change in Rural America initiative, the Lebanon Community Library’s online exhibit "Smack-dab in the Middle" tells the story of the Hub Club and its efforts to conserve Lebanon’s unique status in a changing world. 

view the Online Exhibit

 

Questions for Discussion

Take a few minutes to explore the Lebanon Community Library’s "Smack-dab in the Middle" online exhibit, and then answer the following questions:

  1. When Alaska and Hawaii joined the Union, the Hub Club had to amend its claim that Lebanon was the geographic center of the United States—now, it claims Lebanon to be "the geographic center of the 48 contiguous United States." It can be hard to adapt to change when one’s identity is so closely tied to the way things were in the past, but Lebanon was able to make small changes to keep their uniqueness while acknowledging a new reality. Consider a time when change has posed a challenge for you or your community. How did you adapt?
  2. The phrase "true north," while literally signifying the direction in which the North Pole lies (as opposed to North as determined by a possibly flawed compass), is often used idiomatically to refer to "the one right path" or "the correct moral direction." What might we imagine it means to find the “true middle”? Would you define the "true middle" as a state of indecision, of not knowing? Or could it somehow be a state of possibility—a point from which all options are equally realizable?
  3. Here in the Midwest, we are sometimes written off as "fly-over country." Being in the middle is seen as synonymous with being uninteresting, uneventful, and even uncultured.Of course, as Kansans, we know this isn’t true, but why do you think "the middle" is so often disregarded or looked down upon? What makes living in "the middle" special to you?

 

Go Further

Now that you’ve explored "Smack-dab in the Middle," consider the following activities as ways to enhance your learning:

  1. Research the middles that matter to you.  What is the geographic, cultural, social, or spiritual middle of your county, city, neighborhood?  What is the middle of your house, your apartment, your living room?  How do you define the middle of your body, your breath, your mind?
  2. Write a “poem from the middle” about what being in the middle means to you.  The middle you write about can be any middle, defined in whatever way you wish. As you write think about ways in which the format of your poem can itself pick up on the concept of “middle-ness.”  For instance, can your poem have three stanzas, the middle one being special in some way?  Can your poem use internal rhyme to create an emphasis on the middle of the poetic line as opposed to the end of the poetic line?  What other ways can you think of to explore the middle through both poetic language and poetic form?
  3. Watch "The Middle," the 2021 Super Bowl Jeep ad featuring Bruce Springsteen at the U.S. Center Chapel in Lebanon. How does the ad use the concept of the geographical middle to talk about common ground and unity?
  4. Visit the Lebanon Community Library to see the full “Smack-Dab in the Middle” exhibit.  Wear a mask and keep a safe distance.  Then, stop by the Hub Club’s monument to the middle of the contiguous lower 48.  It’s a great way to spend an afternoon!

Don’t forget to share what you’ve learned by telling us about it on Facebook or Instagram.  You can tag us with your thoughts at @humanitieskansas, using the hashtag, #CrossroadsKS. We can’t wait to hear what you’ve taken away from these Kansas crossroads! 

 

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