Bowl Plaza public restroom opening draws hundreds to Lucas
By GARY DEMUTH Salina Journal
LUCAS — Dorothy Johnson was honored to be “First Flusher” of the Porcelain Throne. An auction during the Bowl Plaza Grand Opening event Saturday in Lucas gave the 90-year-old Salina woman the victory.
Her designated duty? To be the very first person to push down the handle of the women’s handicapped restroom at the first public restroom in downtown Lucas, aptly called Bowl Plaza.
“I didn’t think this thing would have so much notoriety,” Johnson said.
Lucas residents and hundreds of visitors from as far away as Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., gathered on both sides of the street leading from the Lucas Community Theater to Bowl Plaza. They held toilet plungers, scrub brushes and tissue rolls aloft while Johnson and three other royal flushers regally proceeded across the street, dressed in flowing capes and wearing paper crowns.
Watching from afar, Peter Robinson and his wife, Theresa, who moved from England four years ago and now live in Kansas City, Mo., were amused at all the pomp and pageantry for what basically was an outdoor toilet.
“I have concluded all the eccentric people moved out of England and came to Lucas,” Peter Robinson said with a smile.
In addition to Johnson, three other people were given flushing honors in the restroom’s other three toilets: retired Lucas banker Doug Hickman, who got to flush the men’s urinal, called the “Porcelain Bus”; Beth Schultz of Washington, D.C., who flushed the women’s “Oval Office” bowl; and Inman resident Marci Penner, director of the Kansas Sampler Foundation, who flushed the men’s handicapped stall, dubbed “The Superbowl.”
Linda Harper, visiting from Warrenton, Va., said she’s never quite experienced a town like Lucas before.
“It’s just a cool, funky, fun town,” she said. “I have never heard of a town having an all-day event for a public toilet.”
But this is no ordinary toilet.
The Bowl Plaza Grand Opening was the culmination of a four-year dream to build a downtown restroom in Lucas. In 2008, Eric Abraham, a ceramic and porcelain artist who owns the Flying Pig Studio in Lucas, and Rosslyn Schultz, director of Lucas’ Grassroots Art Center, received an attraction development grant from the Kansas Department of Commerce to build Bowl Plaza.
The facility never was intended to be a typical restroom, Abraham said, but an art attraction that also served a functional purpose.
“We wanted the restroom to be strange, quirky and unusual,” he said.
That certainly is the case. The rectangular men’s and women’s building is shaped like a toilet tank, and the oval-painted entrance resembles an upraised toilet seat lid.
In the middle of an oval seating area in front of the restroom is a ceramic sculpture created by Abraham of swirling water that contains all the things one might accidently flush down a toilet, including keys, a toothbrush, cigarette pack, pocket watch, hairbrush and even an alligator.
The walkway to and from the restrooms is shaped like an unfurling roll of toilet paper. The interior of the restroom is filled with unique and colorful mosaics that utilize colored glass bottles, broken pottery, dishes, tiles, stained glass and mirrors.
The mosaics were created by Marquette artist Mri-Pilar with the help of students from Fort Hays State University. Mri-Pilar said she was amazed at the large turnout for the grand opening, not only from Kansas but from around the U.S. and even overseas.
“You take a risk and people will respond,” she said. “I don’t mind people looking at my art when they come in to relieve themselves. You come in here, you don’t need a magazine.”
Lucas resident Michaela Pate said she loved the artistic flair shown by her fellow townspeople.
“Everyone can be who they want to be, and the community embraces it,” she said. “While so many towns are dying out, Lucas is finding a way to stay alive.”
The daylong event included a toilet seat toss, Tubular Olympics with empty toilet paper rolls, a talent show and a presentation by Lucas-based artist Erika Nelson called “Here’s the Poop.”
“Thank you for coming to a formal lecture about poop,” Nelson told the gathered crowd at the Lucas Community Theater. “Everyone poops, we just haven’t had a place to do that in Lucas.”
At the Flying Pig Studio, artists were invited to participate in a Bowl Plaza Art Show, constructing sculptures made entirely out of toilet paper. Salinan Rick Frisbie created a statue of David (with apologies to Michelangelo) out of more than 200 rolls of white toilet paper.
“Where else would I do this but Lucas?” Frisbie said. “It’s the only place I’d be making a toilet-paper sculpture.”
Abraham was pleased so many people came to Lucas for the grand opening.
“There’s been so many ups and downs getting here and a few setbacks,” he said. “I’m amazed so many people would come out for a toilet.”
Rosslyn Schultz said the bottom line is that the restroom is a great facility that will attract people to visit Lucas.
“They’ve been looking at this from all over the world, and it’s going to draw people off I-70,” she said. “There’s a few finishing touches we have to do, but it’s all OK now. We can take a deep breath.”
Joe Kearns, of Pleasant Hill, Mo., rode his Harley Davidson to Lucas with seven other members of the American Heartland Hog group. He said they had a wild idea to hop on their bikes and make the trek to Lucas just to watch a toilet be flushed.
“It’s a fun day to ride out,” he said. “And I’m always looking for a toilet.”
– Reporter Gary Demuth can be reached at 822-1405 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.