shlebo - (I would think that) you should be able to get *something* with a small amplified antenna at your location. I could pull in WIBW in a basement from Manhattan with a small powered antenna...
Try searching here for a more interesting, interactive map of what your coverage looks like in your area: http://www.tvfool.com/?option=com_wrapper&Itemid=80
Forgive me for asking some simple questions before getting into detail:
1) What type of receiver are we talking about? a) a newer TV capable of receiving digital broadcast signals, or, b) a DTV converter box?
2) How close was the amplified antenna to the set? Often times, placement is very important - try getting a longer cable (possibly using a coax 'coupler' and a spare piece of coax cable to extend...) and locating the antenna near a window - preferably facing (N)NW as that's where the Topeka area towers are, relative to you. Scan for channels again, and you might just be surprised
As for other antenna types, you can even try building your own - there are some interesting guides available on various sites, and even youtube, that show how one can construct a (UHF) antenna using old coat hangars, a board, and misc items (about $2 worth of screws/washers/etc. from a hardware store) - if you really want to save money, that's probably the absolute cheapest route to go for an antenna. ...Other options are out there, but can be a little pricey.
...On a side note, I now live on the other side of a hill in Manhattan, and went full OTA, no cable
...I was amazed to pull in WIBW, KSNT(/Fox), KTKA (with excellent signal), and just barely PBS on occasion. Wish I could get Fox HD, but that seems unlikely in my location - using an "HDX1000" from Radio Shack (a little expensive for what it is, but cheaper than a monthly cable bill for sure!), mounted on a roof where a Dish network dish once was...