Our House

Grandpa had bought a little house in South Hutchinson, and Uncle John lived with them. When we arrived, we moved in with them also.

My home in South Hutchinson, Kansas
I’m not sure when this picture was taken. It may have been after we moved. It shows the west side of the house. I certainly don’t remember ever having such a messy yard. We had a sidewalk leading off the small porch and I remember always having lots of many colored moss plants to the north of the walk. Our garden was south of the walk. On the north side of the house were hollyhocks and. I remember as a child playing with hollyhock leaves. They were big and colorful and I would make all kinds of designs with them by laying them on the porch north of the house.

Our home was a small house with only three rooms. There were some outbuildings and Uncle John made a bedroom for himself in one of them when we moved to Kansas. The house was a lot like our little one in Christine. It was divided into a kitchen along the south and the rest was split into two rooms. When we moved in, one became my grandparents’ room and the other became my parents’ and my room. There were double doors between the two rooms, and during the day in the interest of cooling or heating the rooms, they would be opened. So you see, what could be called a front room was also a bedroom. After my grandparents died, my parents moved their bed into that room and I had the other room by myself.

There was a porch along the north side of the house. It was really supposed to be the front porch. However, we never used that front door. The gate in the fence was on the west side and we always entered he house through the kitchen door. On both sides of the kitchen were small porches. The one on the east side was pretty well closed in, but not well enough to be called a room. Outside this porch was our well. All water had to be pumped and carried into the house. Just inside the kitchen door was a little table holding a bucket, a drinking cup and a wash basin. Most of my baths were what we called “sponge” baths taken with the aid of this basin. On Saturday night I would have a bath in a wash tub in the middle of the kitchen floor, just as I had done in Christine.

In the kitchen, besides the small table for the water bucket, were a dining table, some chairs, a kerosene stove and a cabinet for dishes. There was also a small cupboard built into the wall by the cabinet. Later the icebox was added. In our bedroom were a double bed, a single bed, a clothes closet, a chest of drawers and a little set of shelves. The shelves were my private property. On them were all my toys and books. In my grandparents’ room were a rocking chair where my grandmother spent most of her time, other chairs, a pot-bellied stove, a double bed and some kind of table with drawers. In the stove we could burn either wood or coal. Most of the time it was coal and each night during cold weather the folks would try to put in enough to keep the fire going until morning. There might also be a quilt in a frame in the front bedroom. The frame was on pulleys so that it could be pulled to the ceiling when no one was working on the quilt. My Mother, my two aunts and, especially, my grandmother, spent lots of time piecing together and quilting comforters and more fancy quilts.

Quilt-making reminds me that I didn’t write about the quilting get-togethers my Mother and her friends would have in Christine.  They would visit each other in the afternoon as they sewed.  I always went along with my Mother when I wasn’t in school.  I even had a little red case in which I carried my sewing.  Early in life I was taught to sew together a nine-patch quilt block.  During my high school years I pieced together two whole quilts tops.  I also made some blocks for the quilts my Mother was making.  One quilt I made was a sunbonnet girl and overall boy pattern. First, I had to cut all the pieces from various colored cloth and applique them onto a white square.  There was an equal number of girls and boys.  I felt sad when I finally threw that quilt away. The material was ripping and the stitches were breaking.  We had no nylon thread in those days.  The other quilt I made was of blue and white material.  I sewed it together on our old treadle sewing machine.  I’m not sure just when my Mother got a sewing machine.  It may have belonged to my grandmother.  I remember playing with it by just working the treadle with my feet when the sewing mechanism wasn’t engaged.  Of course, when I was older, Mother taught me to sew on it.  At first, folks thought it was scandalous to put quilt blocks together any way except by hand.  Also, all quilting was done by hand--no machine quilting!  After my Mother’s death, my Aunt Pheobe quilted some quilts for me that were left unfinished.  I still have the one I pieced on the machine and another one that was probably pieced by my Mother.

At one time grandpa had a cow and chickens and the necessary outbuildings to care for them.  There was also the typical outdoor toilet.  Another of the outbuildings had a basement.In it there was a deep hole.It might have been a well at one time.  Grandpa and my Daddy fixed a platform on a pulley that could be let down into the deep hole. On this we would put our milk, butter and anything else that needed to be kept cool.It served until some years later when we finally got an icebox. In Hutchinson there was an ice plant.The iceman would make his rounds delivering ice to people like us. On the day we needed ice, we just put his card in our window that indicated the size block of ice that we wanted.

Just as in Christine, as long as my grandfather was alive, we always had a big garden.  My Mother and grandmother canned everything they could to have during the winter.  When my Mother got a pressure cooker to use for canning, it was a great day in her life.  One year after my Mother died we had a big crop of cucumbers.  I thought it was my duty to make pickles of them.  I’m not sure how many cans I made, but it seemed a lot to me at the time.

What a wonderful day when our house was wired for electricity!  At first, there was just one light hanging from the middle of each room.  Each light had a pull chain on it. Our electric bill was one dollar a month!  The first electrical appliances we owned were a radio and an iron.  I don’t know just when we got an electric iron, but I remember well the irons we heated on the stove.  My Mother never had a washing machine of any kind.Aunt Rose had a hand-operated one that Mother would sometime use.  Otherwise all the washing was done on a wash board.

How happy we were when we got a radio.There were three or four fifteen-minute children’s programs on each weeknight.  “Little Orphan Annie” was my favorite.  Since it was sponsored by the makers of Ovaltine, Ovaltine was my favorite drink.One could send in various labels and box tops and get all kinds of things through the mail. My favorite was my Ovaltine mug. Static was a big problem on radios those days.Many evening my ear would be glued to the radio to try to hear above the static.  My friends would then compare notes to see if we heard the story the same.It was very important to know what happened on such exciting shows as the “Lone Ranger” or “The Adventures of Jimmy Allen.”

The day we got telephone service in our area was a red-letter day.There were four parties on our line.However, someway we heard only our ring and one other one. There were two kinds of rings—a long one or two short ones.I forget right now which was ours.However, if we picked up the phone and anyone of the four users was talking, we could hear the conversation.You can imagine that the line was busy a lot of the time.

Home Life

No child ever had a more loving Daddy and Mother than mine.Not only did my parents truly love each other, they let me know that they loved me. I was especially attached to my Mother as she was always at home with me.In fact, my cousins teased me about being a mama’s baby because I didn’t like to stay all night with them.One night in particular, I remember crying to go home when arrangements had been made previously for me to spend the night.

Naturally, we had no automatic dishwasher.In fact, they may not have been invented yet.If we had had one, I would have missed a special time my Mother and I often shared together. We would play games as one would wash and the other would dry the dishes.A favorite pastime was the song guessing game.One of us would hum a tune and the other had to guess the name of the song.

The first job my Daddy got when we moved to Kansas was driving a gasoline truck to deliver gas to the farmers south of town.On Saturday night he and Mother would figure his profit which I believe amounted to around $100 a month.Here is a picture of him standing by his truck in front of our house.One of the best things about his job in my eyes was the big ham the oil company gave him every Christmas.We hung it in the enclosed back porch and had many meals from it.

Daddy and his Gasoline Delivery Truck

On Saturday nights, when there was enough money, we three would go into town.  First we went to Hipp’s Restaurant for chilli and then to see a show at the Strand Theater.  The tickets probably cost twenty-five cents.  There was always a cowboy movie, a cartoon, the serial always stopped at a time when the hero was in a very dangerous situation.  That way everyone wanted to come back next week.  Sometime, on the way home I got an ice cream cone. What a treat! Frankly, I got tired of cowboy pictures, but they were my Daddy’s favorite kind.  Also the Fox Theater, where first-run movies were shown, was too expensive.  Tickets were fifty cents or even a dollar.  The only other theater in town, The Iris, was not too clean and showed really trashy movies.  Of course, the admission price was only ten cents. My friends and I would go there at times because the price was right!  One memory of The Iris was that it had a balcony and that’s where the few Negroes in town were forced to sit.

From what I’ve observed, my friends and I played with our dolls to an older age than most do today.  Favorite toys were paper dolls.  Some were from the store, but most came from the Sears catalog.  I had several whole families of such dolls.  Each could have a whole wardrobe of clothes -- just cut clothes from the catalog and leave tabs to hold them on the figures that had already been cut from the Sears “wish book”. In addition I always had a number of “real” dolls.  Each Christmas another one was a must.  I believe I was in sixth grade when I got my very favorite doll named Violet.  She was a big doll with long blond curls and a beautiful dress.  When we had gone to the toy store at Christmas time and I had seen her, I told Mother that if I could have her that would be all I wanted.  I believe the price was $8.00.  Mother explained that she didn’t have that much money to spend on my present.

In school each Monday was bank day.  One of the local banks had an arrangement with the school that allowed us to have saving accounts.  We could put in as little as a nickel or dime each week.  I had been doing this for about two years and had around $5.00 in the bank.  Could I have the doll if I took my $5.00 to help pay for her?  Mother agreed.

There she was on Christmas morning under the tree!  What happy times Violet brought me.  Mother made additional clothes for her and someone gave me a wardrobe like trunk in which to keep her clothes.

While Violet was my all-time favorite toy, my Tinkertoy set was also a prized possession.  Our kitchen floor often was littered with those wheels and sticks and my creations made from them.  However, sometimes they had to make space for my ball and jacks.  We held jack tournaments on the playground during school recesses and I did lots of practicing at home.  Books were also dear to my heart.  “Bobbsey Twin” books were very inexpensive and I had a whole set of them.

Other pleasures of my childhood days included making mud pies, walking on stilts made of tin cans, working jigsaw puzzles, and playing dominoes and various card games.  Except for the mud pies and stilts, the other pastimes are still favorites of mine today.  And I must not forget crossword puzzles.  My Mother and my Aunt Rose always worked them and I got started young.  My Mother made her own dictionary of crossword puzzle words.  After we had telephones, she and my Aunt Rose would compare notes if one could not get a certain word in the daily puzzle.

School Life

I was in fourth grade when we moved to South Hutchinson.  This time I had to walk only one block south and one block west to get to school.  Our school had grades one to eight at that time.It was not until the late 1930’s that kindergartens became more common.  I continued to love going to school and was always very sad when summer vacation came.  The school hours were nine to four, with an hour lunch time, and two fifteen-minute recesses, one in mid-morning and one in mid-afternoon. When the bell rang in the morning, and after lunchtime and the two recesses, all lined up in pairs at the two front doors.  We then marched in two-by-two to music being played on the phonograph.  One of my Uncle Lon’s duties as school janitor was to start and stop the phonograph.

My school attendance records were discussed earlier.  Most of my grades during the five years I went to South Hutchinson Grade School were either between 95 and 100 or “A’s” depending upon the grading system.  The two subjects that were my downfall were art and writing (or penmanship). These grades were usually “B’s”.
At that time all pupils in county schools had to take final exams in all subjects taught in the 7th and 8th grades.  When I graduated from eighth grade, I was valedictorian of my class.Of course, there were only ten members of my class.  However, there were 139 graduates in the whole county and I tied with another girl as valedictorian of Reno County schools.  The valedictorian always had to give a speech at the graduation ceremony at South Hutchinson Grade School.  I can still remember how scared I was as I gave my talk.  My teacher suggested the different people I should address.  As we discussed together what I should say, he wrote it down so I could take it home and memorize it.  The text might give some insight into the sentiments of that time toward schooling:  (I’m not sure just why I said to the teachers that we had served them.  I’m sure some wondered about that!)

Friends, classmates, teachers,

On behalf of the class of 1934 I wish to express our appreciation for what this community has done and is doing for us.  We are mindful of the fact that this community has been to considerable expense in educating us and we assure you that we shall do our utmost to return the investment the community has placed in us

To our teachers, we want you to know that we are proud to have served you.  We feel that you have done your very best for us and we feel that you have been the best teachers anyone might have had. To our classmates, we wish you to know that we enjoy the fellowship that we have had with you.  We warn you that we are leaving with you the tradition for keeping the best grades in this county in this school and any failure on your part to do so will be reflected against you. To our parents, we wish you to know that we appreciate all your efforts and we sincerely hope that you’re as proud of us as we are of this step we have taken.To all of you, we pledge all our efforts to make all of you realize that this is the best class this school has ever graduated. To the school board, we wish to thank you for all your efforts in providing for us the best school in Reno County. Thank you.

In our county a group of schools regularly held track meets, ball tournaments, and vocal and speech contests.  I was never a champion, but did participate in the tournaments, and vocal and speech contests.  The best I even did was third or fourth in most things.  One vocal solo I sang was “Baby’s Boat’s a Silver Moon”.  My children and grandchildren have heard that many times.  The speeches were either dramatic or comic readings.  One year our team did win the armory or softball tournament.  “Armory” is not in any of my dictionaries, but that’s what we called the game.  That’s what is written in my photograph book by this picture.

Our Ball Team -- I’m fourth from the left in the back row.

For the ninth grade my friends and I had to go into the adjoining city of Hutchinson to their Sherman Junior High School.  At first that big school was a scary place.  Also we didn’t feel very welcome by the students that had been there two years already.  Therefore, some of us just decided we’d show them that we were just as smart and talented as they were.  My friend got the lead in the school operetta and I also had a minor part.  When it came to grades, mine were right on top, especially in algebra and English.  My algebra teacher was one of my favorites.  She entered me in the state algebra contest and I believe I tied for second.

Having a gym class was a new experience, especially taking showers.  Up until then, a bath to me meant a wash tub of water.  How I enjoyed taking a nice warm shower after gym class!

The Hutchinson Senior High School was farther north into the city.  School attendance and studying were still the loves of my life.  Most grades were “A’s” with an occasional “B” for gym, one in sewing, and one semester a “B+” in English.  (I always maintained that those English grades for that semester averaged to an “A-” but the teacher didn’t see it that way.)  Therefore, I came out third in my high school graduating class.  Always, all math classes were my favorites.  One semester I did so much extra work in geometry, just because I loved working those problems, that my teacher gave me “A+’s”.

In my senior year, after my Mother’s death, I decided I should take sewing and foods.  That year I took first in the state contest in foods, and also took third in commercial law.  The foods test was strictly written material so that didn’t mean that I became a great cook.  Our school had great drama and musical departments.I had opportunities to be in operettas, plays, the oratorio “The Holy City”, and numerous choral group performances.  Of course, none of these activities held as much prominence as the boys’ sports, especially basketball.  Hutchinson was then and still is a “basketball” town.  There are happy memories of yelling myself hoarse at those basketball games.  In my senior year we had the winning team in the state.

In high school we had a Christian organization for girls called “Girls Reserve”.  The boys’ group was called “Hi-Y” and was affiliated with the YMCA.  Membership was strictly voluntary and there was never any talk about keeping religion out of the school.  I doubt if there was a single person in our area who would admit to being an atheist.  If there were any Jews, I never met one.  One of the stores downtown was said to be owned by Jews, but there was no synagogue in the whole area.  There certainly were no other religious groups around.  In that kind of situation there were no objections to Christian groups at the high school.  It is a different situation in multi-cultural communities, such as the Los Angeles area.  I have always been glad to have the opportunity in my later years to live in this type of environment.  It has often been said that if we knew everyone as well as we know our best friends, we would probably like everyone.  Of course, I’m sure there would be some exceptions to that rule, but we would be a lot less prejudice against those a little different from ourselves if we really got acquainted with them.

One year my office in the Girl Reserves was Service Chairman.  I happen to have kept a speech I gave, which will tell you a lot about my philosophy of life.

Service - Edward Bok has called “service” the greatest word in the English language.  We do know that the greatest man who has ever lived upon this earth has said, “He who would be the greatest among you must be a servant to all".  Service embodies three immortal virtues, faith, hope and love "and the greatest of these is love".  In man’s work in this life his love for Christ and for his fellow man translates itself concretely through the services he performs.

Most of us, or perhaps I could say, all of us are seeking primarily for joy in one form or another.  The letters of this word have a story of their own to tell us: The first, “J”, is for Jesus, the second, “O”, is for others and the last, “Y” is for yourself.  Jesus first, others second, yourself last.  That is a good motto for each of us as high school students to make our own.  When we enter the high school as sophomores and notice those juniors and seniors who have won honor, we are apt to say,” humph”, “lucky” or something like that.  But if their records be delved into, it will be discovered that their school years have been filled with service for others.  Many times that “service” consisted of only the “little things that count”.

The kind of luck I believe in
Is that which comes from work,
And no one will ever gain it
Who is willing to wish and shirk.
The men the world calls lucky
Will tell you, everyone,
That success comes not by wishing,
But by hard work bravely done.

Do you court distinction? You cannot gain it by serving yourself.
Do you court honor and long for joy? You can only gain it by service to others.

Note that I didn’t give any credit to the author of that little poem.  Maybe it was original.  If not, I guess I was guilty of plagiarism.  If anyone ever reads this that has ever heard it before, please let me know.

High School Graduates:  Me, Roberta and Juanita
Same Gals, in "Dress-Up" formals

I graduated from high school in 1938.  Here I am with two friends, Roberta and Juanita.  We had been in school together since fifth grade.  First we posed in our caps and gowns and then in our special “dress-up” formals.

When I graduated in 1948, the high school building also housed the Junior College.  How lucky we were to be able to get our Junior College education for only the cost of our books.  During my second college year, the city built a new Junior College and my class was the first to graduate from it.  Again we had a great music teacher, Mr. Regier.  How thankful I am for those vocal lessons and choir experiences.  Also, Mr. Regier directed the city production of “The Messiah.” and I really enjoyed singing in that for several years.  Incidentally, when we were planning our wedding five years after my Junior College graduation, I had the nerve to ask him to sing for us, and he said he’d be happy to do it.  What a thrill that was for me and what great music we had for our wedding!

In those days if you took the proper Junior College courses for two years, you could get a two-year teaching certificate.  It could be renewed for another two-year term so long as one taught successfully.  That was a great opportunity for me because I knew there was no way, financially, that I could afford to go away to a four-year college.  Besides, all I wanted to do was to teach school.

My Girl Friends and Boy Friends

During my childhood and teen years I was blessed with many friends.  Before finishing this section on life in South Hutchinson, I must tell something about each of my five special girl friends.

First, there was Velma Mae.  I believe we got acquainted in the fourth grade.  Her parents were even less well off financially than mine.  They moved often and no matter where they went, we always kept in touch.  She went to high school in a nearby town, but we still found opportunities to visit back and forth with each other.  Now that I think about her, I find it remarkable that we have always felt so close.  Especially in light of the fact that she is no letter writer.  She was a candle-lighter at our wedding.  That is, she and Roberta tried to light the candles.  Unfortunately, those were the days before dripless candles, and it was a very hot July night.  Those candles just bent over and defied anyone to hold them up long enough to even light them.  Velma Mae still lives in Hutchinson and we had lunch together a few years ago when Glenn and I were in Hutchinson.  Again she promised to write, but so far no letter has come, not even at Christmas.  She always talks about how jealous she was of my other girl friends because she wanted to be my best friend.  She did send a note to our daughter Jean to put in our 50th wedding anniversary book.  Even if I don’t ever get letters from her, I still love her.

My other best friends lived close and always in the same house most of our school days.  Ferne lived one block north of our home and was also an only child.  She is one year older than I, but when our 5th and 6th grades were in the same classroom, we became close friends.  She was a champion speller and we used to study together, taking turns giving each other words to spell.  We also played tennis together on our grade school courts, both after school and on weekends.  They had a storm cellar close to their house and we spent many hours playing in it.  We made up dramas, patterned after the cowboy movies we had seen.  One of us would be the hero and the other the heroine.  There was a culvert in the middle of the block between our houses.  When one of us visited the other, we would walk together as far as the culvert.  Before saying good-bye, we would often sit on that culvert for a long time just talking together.  When I stayed all night with Ferne, I had the unique experience of sleeping in a bed that had a mattress made of feathers.  I’m not sure what kind of fowl donated the feathers.  The summer I had to stay in bed for weeks because of typhoid fever, Ferne would come to see me often.  She would make up plays and enact them on the porch outside my bedroom window.  Sometime when we would go to Oklahoma to visit my Aunt Phoebe, we would take Ferne with us.  By the way, her mother named her Fern, but in high school she decided that was too plain and she added the “e”.  She also became a schoolteacher.  Unlike me, she continued to teach after marriage and a family.  She even kept taking summer courses until she earned her BA.  She and her husband lived in Arkansas for many years and we were able to visit there on two of our trips.  After her husband died, she moved back to Hutchinson to be near her son and family.  Because of poor health, she is now in a care facility.  Unlike, Velma Mae, she is a good letter writer and so as long as she is able, I know I’ll hear from her every Christmas and sometimes in between.

Roberta lived one block east of my home.  She came to South Hutchinson when we were in 5th grade and we were in school together through Junior College.  Her talent was writing stories.  She should have published some in a book.  They were full of adventure and romance.  When we were in the 8th grade, she would let us read the chapters as she wrote them and keep us waiting to see what was coming next.  She was an excellent student, the salutatorian of our 8th grade class, and a good singer.  She was the one who got the lead in the 9th grade operetta.  She also became a teacher and, like Ferne, kept teaching after marriage, and kept taking college courses to earn her BA.  Roberta’s mother was a talented singer and she organized some of us into a girls’ chorus during our Junior High years.  Roberta was a candle lighter at our wedding and her mother was kind enough to give us a pre-wedding party.  It would be called a rehearsal celebration, I suppose.  It wasn’t a big dinner, however, like everyone seems to have now.  We just had some ice cream and cake.  I have always thought it was so nice of her to do that for us.  She knew I had no mother to help in my wedding preparations.  Through the years when my graduating class had reunions and we would go to Kansas in our motor home, we always parked at Bert’s home.  Unfortunately, on my recent trip to Kansas, I found her and her husband in a care facility.  I now miss her phone calls and long letters informing me all about our mutual friends.

Juanita lived one block south and one block east of my home.  She also came to South Hutchinson when we were in 5th grade.  She immediately had trouble with her arithmetic and I became her tutor.  Juanita took violin lessons and how I envied her.  So she could teach me the fundamentals of violin playing, we made a play violin from a couple pieces of wood.  Of course, we got the giggles during the process.  Another invention of ours was a telephone line made of cans and string and strung between our two houses.  Remember, since she lived a block south and one east of me, we had a few obstacles along our route.  We tried to string our line as near diagonally as possible, but ran into several obstacles in the back yards of other houses.  There were also fences with which we had to content and one road to cross.  At least we could feel the tug on the line when we were each on our end.

Juanita’s mother and mine were very dear friends and often worked together on projects for the church.  They both did lots of Sunday School class teaching and running summer Bible Schools.  Since they spent lots of time together, we naturally were together, too.  Juanita sang alto and I sang soprano, and we thought we really sounded good together.  Others seemed to think so, too, and we were often asked to sing for various church programs, worship services, and, even funerals.  When we graduated from high school, Juanita had no desire to teach school so saw no reason to go to Junior College.  Instead she got a job at Morton’s Salt Plant which was also where her father worked.  Because she had money of her own to spend, I’m afraid we who were still students felt considerable envy in our hearts.  When Juanita was married in 1942, I was the friend to give her a bridal shower and serve as her maid of honor.  When I was married in 1945, she gave me a bridal shower and was my matron of honor.

While we were on our honeymoon, she and her sisters trashed our little house, taking the bed apart and filling the place with toilet paper.  To atone for all that, she also filled our little kitchen with all kinds of food.  That we really appreciated!  She and her husband have visited us in Maryland and in California, and we have been in their various Kansas homes a number of times.

Katy, who lived two blocks east of me, is three years older than I.  How we got to be such close friends is really a mystery.  Of course, for several years we were in our young people’s group together at our church.  We often walked together to the Sunday evening meetings.  For some reason we started calling each other “Ducky”.  I was her “Ducky” and she was mine.  To this day when we write letters, we sometime still use that nickname.  I wish I could remember how the term originated.  I remember lots of giggling over using the term “Ducky-Wucky”.

My “Ducky” was especially good to me after my Mother’s death.  Also, we had several common interests, including Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald movies, which we attended together.  We both loved music and spent time at my piano and her little pump organ.  Katy’s ambition was to become a nurse.  She accomplished this later in life.

When she and Fred were married in 1938, I was her maid of honor.  One summer, during the war while Glenn was overseas, she invited me to spend several weeks with her family in Texas.  Through the years we have managed to visit each other no matter where we were living.  In her case, that was Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and more recently, Colorado.  They came to California to see us several times.  On our visits together, we usually had music.  What a great quartette we were—Katy, alto; Fred, bass; Glenn, tenor; and I.soprano!  We have tape recordings of our renditions.  After Fred’s death, Katy worked in the hospital for a while and did lots of volunteer work, such as delivering Meals on Wheels.  I was sad to hear that after a bad fall she had to quit her activities and move into a small apartment near one of her daughters.

I’m not sure how much all my friends’ stories will interest anyone, but reliving the memories was good for me.

A few months after my Mother’s death and a few months after my sixteenth birthday, I had my first date.  My Daddy wasn’t too happy about it.  I think since he was alone, he felt a weight of responsibility for me.  He didn’t have to worry because I really didn’t care for the guy and refused another date.  There were two other boy friends whom I dated for longer periods of time.  I quit dating both of them because I felt they were getting too serious and I wasn’t.  For awhile I really had a crush on one member of our church youth group who was older than I, but he would never pay any attention to me so nothing came of that.  In those days, a girl would never ask a guy for a date.  That would have been scandalous.  Girls just waited and hoped, except when we celebrated Sadie Hawkins Day.  That was the time the girls did the asking.  Mostly, though we just asked the guy we had been dating.  A lot of nerve we showed!!!

I had a pretty fixed idea of what kind of person I wanted for a husband.  I didn’t find too many that fit my requirements.  My ideal guy would be a church-going Christian who didn’t smoke or drink.  Ironically, the two guys I mentioned above met those requirements.  However, something was missing!  Maybe I just wasn’t interested in being a farmer’s wife or maybe I needed someone who shared my love of music.  I believe that the “going-to-church-with-me” part was important because my Mother always felt badly that Daddy didn’t attend church.  There seemed to be quite a number of “church widows” in our church and I decided I didn’t want to be one.  Often the husbands, like my Daddy, were fine fellows, but they just didn’t feel going to church was important.  They would support various church projects, but just stayed home on Sunday.  One time my Daddy said he wasn’t good enough to go to church.  I’m not sure where he got that idea.  I might add that my Aunt Rose and my Aunt Phoebe were also “church widows”.

One day the news was spread around about this family moving back from western Kansas.  The little country Methodist Church near their old farm, to which they were returning, was now closed and the farmers in the area now came to our church in South Hutchinson.  All those who knew them before they went to Western Kansas for several years had only good things to say about them.  The word was they had two sons, one married and one single.  The single son had graduated from college with a Music Education Degree and would be a music teacher.  Furthermore, he was a singer and pianist.  Now that sounded interesting to me!  However, I wasn’t the only one interested.  My friend Ferne said she had an advantage because she was teaching the country school near their farm.  In fact it was Elmer School where Glenn went to school for his first eight grades.  Roberta, who also taught in another country school a little farther away from their farm, was also interested in this newcomer.  We often joked together about what he’d be like and who might get a chance to date him.

Well, I was the lucky one!  It seems that before long many of our friends in the church also decided that we would be an ideal couple.  I might add that my Daddy didn’t make one single complaint when I told him I had a date with Glenn.  The rest of the story is already told in Glenn’s autobiography.  As I write this in the year 2000 we now have had 55 wonderful years together!

Mother’s Death

I’ve already related how close my parents were to each other and how much love they always showered on me.  When death comes to one so loved, it is especially sad for those of us left behind.

On my sixteenth birthday, Mother had given a surprise party for me.  On some excuse my Daddy, Mother and I had gone to town.  When we returned about 8pm, my friends were waiting in the dark house.  As was my custom, I rushed in to turn on the light.  Then I was greeted by loud shouts of “Happy Birthday”.  All my friends from our youth fellowship at church were there and what a nice party my Mother had planned for us.  That party was just one of the many pleasant things my dear Mother did for me through the years.

Just a month later, both Mother and I were sick with the flu that was going around.  Before she got sick, she had been helping our sick neighbor across the street day after day.  I seemed to recover rather quickly, but Mother wasn’t so lucky.  On Friday morning, we suddenly noticed that she could hardly breath.  We immediately took her to the hospital where she was diagnosed with pneumonia.  In those days the only treatment for pneumonia was an oxygen tent over the patient to help with the breathing.  My Aunt Phoebe was notified and came from Oklahoma immediately.  I knew then that my Mother was very, very ill.  With her in the oxygen tent, we could only stand and look at her labored breathing.  She died just two days later.  The whole thing seemed unreal to me.  My poor Daddy was devastated.  I found myself trying to comfort him.

Her funeral was held at our church the next Wednesday and the packed church was evidence of how much my Mother was loved by all who knew her.  Her burial was at the Pleasant View Cemetery near Darlow in the same plot with her parents.  This was February 3 and one of the coldest days of the year.  It had snowed and sleeted and the roads were slick with ice.  It’s about nine miles from the church to the cemetery and the cars had to move very slowly and carefully to stay on the road that day.  It was the longest and saddest ride of my life.  I learned later that the gravediggers, using only hand shovels, of course, had a very hard job because the ground was so frozen.

For several years Mother had been the South Hutchinson correspondent for a small weekly newspaper, called “The Record”.  The small towns around Hutchinson each had a column with folksy news about people in the town.  Such items as birthdays, weddings and anniversaries, deaths, who was visiting whom, who went on a vacation, who was sick, and who lost a pet cat or dog. were in the columns.  Mother had enjoyed that job and the few dollars they gave her always helped with the household expenses.  She got her news mostly via he telephone, and her pay more than took care of the monthly telephone bill.

This is a short part of the article in the paper about her death:

It is with great sorrow that “The Record” this week records the death of the correspondent for this department, Mrs. S. E. Williams.  For some time she has faithfully provided the readable and interesting news items for South Hutchinson found each week in these columns.  Without question her friends and neighbors will greatly miss the contacts and the friendliness and neighborliness which have been so characteristic of this woman.
Mother and her two sisters always had a very close relationship.  After Mother’s death, Aunt Rose got a letter from our former pastor’s wife, Mrs. Moody.  Rev. Moody had been our pastor many years and had retired just a year before my Mother’s death.  Aunt Rose gave the letter to me.  Here is a quote from part of it just as Mrs. Moody wrote it, grammatical errors and all:
I have thought of you oh so many times and how lonely you will be for in all the charges we served and the many people we came in contact with I never seen the devotion with sisters their were between you and Mrs. Williams.  I realize how difficult it will be to find one so loyal so devoted to the building up of the master’s cause and one so willing to give her all in every way to the church at S. H.  It may be she had done far more in her young life than many who run the allotted time.   Anyway we all know our lives have been made richer the world better by her influence---“
My Daddy, like most in those days, was not used to doing any housework or cooking.  Since I felt all that was now my responsibility, I gave up some of my extra curricular activities at school, such as operettas, plays, and Girl Reserve after-school functions.  Although my Mother had taught me quite a few things about cooking and sewing, I really felt unprepared to take over our household duties.  I decided I should take those subjects in my senior year.  That proved to be a wise decision and I enjoyed both classes.

For some reason my Daddy lost his gasoline truck-driving job.  For a time he had no job.  How well I remember charging groceries until our bill was around $20.  Then one day the grocer told me he was sorry, but he couldn’t let me have any more credit.  A few years ago, when we were back in Kansas on a trip, I visited the daughter of our grocer.  She told me how bad her Daddy felt when he had to tell his customers no more credit.  He simply had no money himself to replenish his shelves.

There were lots of people who were out of money during the 1930’s.  We lived close to the railroad track and often the guys, called “bums”, who rode the boxcars, would wander into our community.  I don’t remember their stealing anything.  They would just come to the door and ask for something to eat.  Mother would give them a sandwich, probably bread and butter with jelly and, maybe some peanut butter, if she had some.

As I wrote the above, a picture of our grocery store came to mind.  How different from our help-yourself aisles and clerks scanning prices by dragging one’s purchase over that magical surface to determine the price.  The merchandise was on shelves behind long counters on each side of the store.  You just told the clerk what you wanted and he took it from the shelf.  Likewise, behind the meat counter stood the butcher ready to prepare and wrap your purchase.  Such food as peanut butter, lard and butter were also behind the meat counter in large containers.  The amount you wanted would be spooned into a small paper box and weighed.  When all your food was stacked by the cash register, the clerk would calculate your bill by punching in each price and then hitting the total button.  Out would come the drawer where the cash was kept.  Our grocer had a file of credit books, one for each customer who didn’t pay him cash.  Often, people would pay at the end of the month or whenever they got a paycheck.

We never really went hungry but I remember making a stew last for a week by just adding more potatoes and onions.  I’m not clear about what happened next after we were denied credit. My Daddy finally got a job driving a bus in Hutchinson.  As the buses were finally replaced by taxis, he became a taxi driver.  He drove taxis many years, even past the usual retirement age.  I was glad that his period of unemployment came after my Mother’s death so she was spared that worry.

Throughout my life, I have missed having my Mother most at important events, such as graduations, my marriage and the birth of my babies.  However, she was such a wonderful Mother the years I had her, I feel very blessed to have had her for sixteen years.