Wichitan Shares Her Love of ICT Through Facebook
There are few things more truly Wichitan than Debbie Rader Clanton (don’t worry, she bears no relation to the infamous BTK killer who shares her last name).
A Wichita Wesley baby, Clanton was born and raised in the Air Capital, attending Funston Elementary, Jardine Junior High and South High School before moving during her junior year.
“I loved my hometown. I grew up on the south end and my home was at 4542 S. Washington. At that time, there was a huge wheat field across the dirt road from our home that we could run through,” Clanton said.
Though the Rader family moved to Panama City Beach, Florida, Clanton’s mind often wandered back to Wichita.
“My two brothers [Dennis and Bill] and I loved our home,” Clanton said. “We invested our time and lives into Wichita via our parents and family and this provoked my love of the great city.”
Growing up in Wichita
Clanton’s parents were Wichitans through and through. Her father, Wayne Rader, attended North High School and managed the Riverside Boys, a gospel quartet with their own show on KFDI radio. Patsy Widener Rader, Clanton’s mother, was a majorette at East High, graduating in 1955. Together, the two owned the Rader Vacuum and Appliance stores that branched through the city. If that’s not enough, the two were engaged at one of Wichita’s most iconic places: Joyland amusement park.
The Rader children were equally involved in the Wichita community, attending local sporting events, visiting parks and taking advantage of all that the city had to offer.
Remembering Her Childhood Home
“I loved our nights at Lawrence Stadium watching the Wichita Aeros play baseball, which was almost nightly in the summers. Dad coached in city leagues as well for some 18 years,” Clanton said. “We also loved the games for football, basketball and baseball at Wichita State University,” she added. Each year, Clanton and her brothers attended the state fair and every other festival or rodeo in the area.
“Our roots are in Wichita,” Clanton said of her family.
Among her favorite memories of Wichita are listening to KFDI’s storm chasers on the radio and watching KAKE’s special Christmas programming. Clanton had a unique connection to the program, as her parents were friends with Henry Harvey, who portrayed Santa Claus.
“No other city has a daily show for Santa to present his North Pole to the children like Wichita had” Clanton said.
Clanton also remembers singing with her family in several area churches and performing on the Elmer Childress Show on KARD TV. The family began singing together when Clanton was just two years old. Her mother had fallen ill and was not expected to live. Clanton's father prayed fervently, telling God that if He were to restore Clanton's mother's health, he would forever proclaim His name. A week later, his wife was as healthy as ever. The family sang at many churches after that. This was the beginning of the Rader Family music group, which remains the largest family musical performance group to date. The Rader Family still performs today and has a Facebook page with a following nearing 2,000.
Returning to ICT
In 2009, Clanton visited her midwestern home to attend her South High School class reunion.
“I took my teenage children and husband on that trip to see where I grew up and in sharing my memories, they were intrigued by the Wichita atmosphere and how nothing really changed from what I shared up to that day!” Clanton said.
Before attending the reunion, Clanton took her family to the home she grew up in.
"I went up, knocked on the door and met the family that bought the house," Clanton said. She noticed that a few of her friends and school teachers lived in the same houses they had when she left and they even had the same cars in the driveways.
After sharing her memories with her family (and a few of her former classmates at the reunion), Clanton decided to create a Facebook group dedicated solely to people’s memories of her beloved hometown.
Sharing Wichita Pride
Called "If you grew up in Wichita, KS, then you remember. . .", the group allows current Wichitans and former Wichitans alike to share their memories, generating interest from people all over the country that love our city.
Today, the group has an astounding 17,647 members, a larger number than Clanton ever dreamed possible. With members from several different generations, the group offers both widely-shared memories and unique perspectives of Wichita to all who join.
“I just can't explain enough how so many share the same precious memories which causes a unity!” Clanton said of the group.
Clanton is particularly interested in memories that have been shared of Wichita in the olden days. Before her time, the photos and stories offer a look into the Wichita she never knew.
“I have read, learned and seen things I didn't know of, like the island in the river back in the 40's and 50's where people would swim and dance. That was before my time,” Clanton said of the former Ackerman Island in the Arkansas River.
Clanton says that part of what makes Wichita so special is the fact that it has remained so unchanged. No matter where she goes, when she returns to Wichita, it always feels like home.
“I love my hometown, I love my friends and am honored to have been born and raised there!”