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DCU Travel Guide

by Mathew D. Rhys

The Twin Cities: Central and Keystone

Thirty miles northwest of Kansas City sits two of the many cities in our nation dubbed the Twin Cities-Central City and Keystone City. These two cities are so closely tied together, that no report of one cannot include the other.

In 1807, Robert Fulton was awarded a patent for the steamboat, and almost every American waterway became a highway for commerce. The Missouri River was no exception, and towns along her bank prospered. This included Keystone City. Founded in 1727 as a French trading post, Keystone City, Kansas is one on the oldest cities in the Midwest. Keystone was acquired by the United States along with the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. At the time, the primary occupation was horseshoeing; but with the coming of the steamboat, Keystone's fastest growing industry became the production of steam engine components. The coming of the trans-continental railroad in 1869 brought on more business and also prompted the incorporation of Central City, Missouri.

Located directly across the river from Keystone, Central City had previously been a loose group of farming communities. However the existence of the railway provided for the export of beef, and before long Central City rivaled the size of her neighbor. The two cities steadily grew, Keystone providing the industry and Central geared toward agriculture. By 1890, Keystone was the largest producer of engine parts in the Midwest, while Central harvested, processed, and shipped more foodstuffs than Omaha and Kansas City combined.

In the late 1930's, talk of the war in Europe and growing unrest at home brought a dramatic increase in crime to the nation. This advance was met dead-on by the appearance of costumed vigilantes now referred to mystery men. Nineteen-forty found Keystone its own protector--the Flash. In red and blue and silver, he ran faster than eye could tell, defending the city from evil and crime of all sorts.

With the onset of World War II, government contracts flooded the Keystone plants. In order to keep up with the demand, new plants were erected in Central, bringing with them an influx of workers. The twin cities continued to grow, earning them the name "Backbone of the Midwest." Crime of both the organized and costumed kind grew along with the cities. Villains such as the Thinker, the Shade, the Turtle, and the Fiddler plagued Keystone again and again, each defeated by the Flash. Inexplicably, Central City was primarily free of costumed crime during that period.

Aside from a brief period in the early fifties, the Flash served his city whenever the need arose. In 1956 three of his foes, the Thinker, the Fiddler, and the Shade created a device that took the entire city of Keystone out of sync with this dimension. In short, it ceased to exist. The sudden absence caused Central City to boom as an economic and industrial center.

About twelve years ago, Central City became home to the second Flash. Garbed in scarlet, this speedster attracted Rouges of his own: Captain Cold, Mirror Master, the Top, and many others. Within a year of his debut, the new Flash's unique speed powers allowed him to locate the lost Keystone City, and with the help of his predecessor, return it to our world. Although Keystone had been missing for decades, to them it seemed to only be a few weeks. The people of Keystone at first had difficulty adjusting to the changes in the world, but have long since regained their place at the forefront of industry.

Six years ago, Central City's Flash died in a great crisis. His protégé Kid Flash became the third Flash and eventually became the protector of Keystone City. Though his efforts, and those of the original Flash, Central and Keystone remain a safe and pleasant city for both its residents and visitors.

There are two restaurants inside Keystone city limits that I suggest trying. The first, Planet Café, is within easy walking distance from the Keystone Arena. It's a theme restaurant, and I strongly suggest the papaya Rocket Malt. The second, the Central Point, is exactly where you would think-the exact center of the twin cities. They have a great lunch menu (which is available until 5:30) and a comfortable dining environment, that makes it a great starting point for an afternoon visiting all that the Cities have to offer.

If your fancy yourself an art fan, Central City is where I would begin. Built in the 1920's, the Central City Museum of Art is the oldest of similar institutions. Its innovative layout encompasses a beautiful interior and detailed, open-air garden pathways. Many statues for the garden were imported from Italy just prior to World War II. The Museum of Antique Arts, showcasing the great art and craftsmanship of ancient cultures from tribal America to Persia and China, is the only of its kind in the Midwest United States. Local celebrity, millionaire collector Orval Petty has opened his private collection to the public at the Petty Gallery; and two smaller collections of more modern art are available at the Centrex Art Museum and the Skytop Art Gallery.

If aspiring artists are to you liking, I would suggest taking the extra time to travel north to the Museé de Bivolo. Former super-villain and foe to the second Flash, Roy G. Bivolo has set up his museum and art school to give young artists what he never had--the opportunity to excel.

One of the primary attractions of Central City is the monument to its fallen hero. Although consructed prior to his death, The Flash Museum serves to honor the great sacrifice of the Flash. The exhibits include the weapons of his greatest foes and dioramas of many battles. Also on display are many devices of his own invention, including the time travel device, the Cosmic Treadmill.

If museums are just not your thing, or your coming to the Twin Cities on a family outing, Central City can fill that need, too. The Central City Amusement Park and Walt Demsey's Funland, both built in the fifties, have been entertaining families for years. The Wyler Zoo has the second largest display of rainforest animals in the United States; and despite its recent financial troubles, the Central City Aquarium is back on its feet with shows that rival Sea World.

For evening entertainment, the Central City Arena hosts a variety of events on a regular basis. For you movie buffs, the Keystone Cinema is a good choice. Originally built in 1932, the theater was the first in Kansas to install a Sony SDDS theater sound system. Beginning in 1997, much of the formerly decrepit area surrounding the theater has been reclaimed and turned into a lovely shopping community. I must also mention that Central City the most active, and arguably the highest quality, live theater community outside of New York.

While much more can be said, Keystone and Central Cities remain down to earth and pleasant, a great place to visit.

Special thanks to Kelson Vibber (http://www.hyperborea.com/flash/) and John Wells. All historical information gleaned from Microsoft Encarta.

The highly odd Mathew D Rhys is an obsessive storyteller and family man whose wife graciously allows him to prattle aimlessly, and gives him no end of joy in life. He hopes to one day write comics his son can read. You can read his original character fiction at dreamerpress.cjb.net .

 
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