Thursday, December 23, 2010
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Monday, December 20, 2010
Every Christmas morning, before most people were even awake, my family and I were up, dressed, and on our way down the empty streets and across the city to the First Evangelical Covenant Church in Wichita, Kansas. It felt odd to be out so early in the morning, with the lighted streets lined by houses with windows still dark. Walking into the church, we were welcomed by dozens of candles that provided the only light in the sanctuary and the smell of coffee and breakfast wafting up the stairs from the kitchen in the basement. Before we could concentrate on food though, we gathered in the sanctuary to participate in a very special early morning service. There were Christmas carols, special music played on many different instruments over the years, (including guitar when I began playing as a teenager) and a celebration of the birth of Jesus.
After Julotta, we made our way downstairs to enjoy a breakfast that had contributions from every family present. Swedish pastries, fruit, fruit soup, little smoked sausages, bacon, egg dishes, juice and coffee filled the long table close to the kitchen. Food was eaten, dishes were washed and everything was dried and put away by 8:00, just in time for us to head for home and then on to Christmas Day celebrations with extended family.
Monday, December 13, 2010
|Here are my great grandparents on my mother's side getting |
ready for a winter car trip.
The memory that sticks in my mind about traveling at Christmas came from a Christmas Eve when my parents, two sisters and I were on our way from Wichita to Boulder, Colorado to visit my grandmother, uncle and cousins for the holiday. My sisters and I were so excited to be going because we always had so much fun with our cousins. Just across the Kansas/Colorado border, on I-70, the fan belt broke while we were passing through a very small town. Dad pulled into a service station, that was getting ready to close early for the holiday, manned by one attendant. I remember the sinking feeling in my stomach as Dad came back to the car to tell Mom that there wasn't a mechanic to help us. Sitting in the back seat of the dark, cold car, my sisters and I looked at each other and felt sorry for ourselves. I watched people walk by and hoped someone would come to our rescue. It was such a helpless feeling. Mom tried to remain cheerful amid our questions that seemed all too important to us. "Would we miss Christmas? Will we have to spend Christmas in this little town? In this car? Would Santa know?" Mom answered our questions calmly. Finally, Dad returned to the car with an announcement. He would have to do the repair himself but the attendant had offered the light and warmth of the garage to do the work. I'm not sure how long it took him but I do remember the sense of hope that settled inside me. We got to Boulder that night, albeit later than planned. My only other memory is feeling relief and happiness at arriving at Uncle Duane's house, lit welcomingly with Christmas lights, before Christmas day. It made it that much more special.
Thursday, December 9, 2010
According to my dad's memory of the event, he was innocently driving down the road with his happy little family when he noticed that the car needed more gasoline. It seemed simple enough to pull into a nearby filling station for more, right? The way Dad tells it, it almost seems like a horror story but I remember it differently...
Dad pulled up to the pump and rolled down his window. Out of the station popped a friendly gas station attendant ready to put gas in the car, wash the windows, check the oil and, generally, be as helpful as possible.
He must have seen me sitting in the back seat and realized I was totally without a toy. What three year-old would want that? That nice young man left the gas running and ran as fast as he could back into the station. He was back in a flash. Now he was my hero, for in his hand was the cutest little Santa anyone had ever seen.
He proceeded to tell my dad how wonderful it would be if he would purchase the Santa for me. (After all, I deserved it!) What a great idea! Of course, I was all for it! For some strange reason, Dad wasn't impressed at all. I began to try to convince him which cause the attendant to have to speak louder and my dad to shake his head a little quicker.
Now, this is where our stories really begin to differ. Dad says I began to cry loudly when I realized that my hero might loose the debate and have to return to the station with my Santa! Surely not! I thought we were just having a conversation about the benefits of having our own personal Santa come to live with us.
Eventually, I made my point and Dad agreed to buying Santa AND the tank of gasoline. For some reason, I don't think Dad liked my hero as much as I did. He talked to Mom about that attendant for quite awhile on the way home. Oh well, what did it really matter? I no longer felt alone with my new friend, red velvet suit, shiny black boots and belt and silky white beard and all, sitting on my lap.
Just look how happy I am!
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Anna married Arthur R Dibbens in November, 1865 in the island and they started their family with the first five children; three of whom survived and moved with them to America in 1873 where they added three more children to their family. By 1876 they were living in Wichita, and finally settled near Kingman, Kansas by 1900. They found the land they had been looking for along the banks of the Ninnescah River. The family moved into a sodhouse on that land with six children and survived at least one river rising while in the sod house, but it was worth it as they watched their kit home coming toward them on wagons. It had traveled to them by train from halfway across the country; a mail-order house that is still standing over 100 years later. (I hear there is a picture of the kit being delivered somewhere at a local museum but I have yet to find it.) I began this blog back in 2009 with some pictures and stories about that house, which is still a home. (pictures of the home are in my blogs from 2009.)
Anna and Arthur raised their children in the kit home, making several trips back to England. The last trip to England to visit family was in 1919. The picture above was taken during that trip. Anna died, just across the bit of ocean that separates the island with the mainland, in Southsea and was buried in Highland Road Cemetery in Southsea: Plot M, Row 2, Grave 23. Her stone is no longer there. The acid from the bombings that happened over the area during WWII destroyed many of the stones in that cemetery according to the historian who works there. Her stone may be gone but her legacy lives on and... her eyes are my eyes.
Monday, November 29, 2010
I've had questions about this picture and now I can't resist telling about it. The woman on the left is my 2nd Great Grandmother, Anna Ruth Jarman Dibbens. She was born very close to the place this picture was taken in June of 1843 in Newchurch, Ryde, Isle of Wight, England, and died shortly after this picture was taken in Southsea, England, on December 20, 1919. Its the journey in between those two dates that is the real story. (See next post)
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Monday, November 15, 2010
The story that Simeon told was about a time soon after he and his wife, Sarah brought their family to Kansas, in 1874. Simeon was a minister and trusted God to guide and protect them in their homesteading venture as they were headed into an area that had a reputation for being dangerous. Many times they prayed and then relied on God; asking Him to guide their journey and give them direction in their lives. A few months after settling in Rice County, they had already experienced the ups and downs of life on the prairie. A good corn crop had disappeared in three days, eaten by a huge cloud of grasshoppers. In the weeks that followed this life-threatening and hunger-producing disaster, Simeon placed his focus on God, scripture and prayer. After an entire week of seeking God, a mysterious thought came and settled in his mind. He felt that God was telling him to dig a cave on their land. The idea wouldn’t go away but instead grew stronger. He and his family dug the ten by twenty foot cave, amid questions from neighbors and friends. “What do you expect to do with a cave?” they asked. The only reply Simeon had for them was, “I might need it sometime.” The act of obeying what they believed God had asked of them relieved the feeling of despair and renewed their faith and courage to face what they thought might be a bleak future.
The cave was finished in September, 1874 and, between rainstorms, Simeon and his neighbors built the Swartz family a sod house. The settlers prepared the soil, once more, for a crop of wheat. In October, the men set off to hunt buffalo down in Oklahoma, hoping to replace the food the grasshoppers had devoured. They returned home four weeks later, in time to celebrate the holidays with their families, bringing buffalo meat, one man with his arm in a sling from an accidental shooting but minus two horses, poisoned by bad water.
Eight days into 1875, the weather turned cold. At twenty degrees below zero, it was colder than any other time Simeon ever experienced in the many years since. Along with the frigid air came snow in blizzard amounts. Sometime, during that cold night, the raging wind carried the roof of the sod house up and away, leaving the family exposed to the blinding snow. It was their fourteen year-old son, Charles, who snapped them out of the shock and dismay of their situation by yelling for everyone to run for the cave.
For the next three weeks of that cold January in 1875, the cave was their home. They waited for the snow to clear and thanked God for His providential care. Simeon didn’t give much of a clue in his story about what those three weeks were like. We don’t get to know what they ate, how they stayed warm or how they spent their days but I can imagine that God took care of that, too.
It was nearly February, that winter of 1875, before the weather cleared enough for neighbors to help Simeon repair the roof on their soddy. They thanked God that they had the cave when it was needed and that they had listened to and obeyed God despite their doubts and the questions of their neighbors.
Journal Free Press - Wednesday, February 7, 1945
Funeral services for John Nelson, who passed away in Trinidad, Colorado on Sunday, Feb. 4, will be held in Osage City on Thursday afternoon, Feb. 8 at 3:00 at the McElfresh Mortuary, the Rev. Reuben P. Kron, Pastor of the Grace Lutheran Church, conducting the services. Burial will be in the Swedish Cemetery. Mr. Nelson was a brother of James Nelson of Kansas City, MO and a Mrs. Ellen Christianson of Osage City and an uncle of Emile Nelson. He lived here a number of years ago and has visited many times since leaving and will be remembered by a number of people.
(copied by Erin Tabor in Cripple Creek, Colorado)
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
For the past few years my dad, my Uncle Don and I have been "arguing" about what happened to their Grandpa (James) Nelson's, brother, John. We had all seen the simple black stone in the cemetery outside of Osage City, Kansas. Uncle Don insisted that he had been buried there but we had doubts about that because he died a long way from his family home.
Johan Nilsson was born in Snårestad, Malmöhus län, Sweden on May 6, 1866. He followed his brother, James, who had left Sweden a few months after their father died in 1883, to America when he was about 21.
Gr gr Uncle John became a miner. He mined coal around Osage City on his brother's land just at the edge of Dog Town, which is what their part of Osage city had been dubbed. He was injured in the mine early on and walked with a little bit of a limp from then on. Later in his life he found himself mining gold in the Rocky Mountains near a little town called Cripple Creek, Colorado. His nephews remember that he would visit his family in Kansas about once a year and always dug a new hole for their outhouse during his visit.
I wish I had a picture of him. Since I don't, I'll have to use my imagination for this one. I've seen pictures of gold miners in Colorado and that is what I imagine when I think of him. Maybe he still had a slight limp from the earlier mine accident. He never married, so I imagine he arrived in the same type of clothes he worked in every day.
The story we had up until a month ago was that he died in Cripple Creek Feb. 4, 1945 at the age of 78. His sister, Ellen, traveled to Colorado and had his body brought back to Osage City, Kansas before telling the rest of the family that he was gone. We had no proof one way or another but it seemed a little hard to believe that they would bring his body back from Colorado.
That was before my niece, Erin, and her family moved to Colorado Springs. My dad put her husband, Tom, on the project and together, they started investigating. The letter that arrived in the mail a few weeks ago contained some pictures of a mountain town, Cripple Creek, and a one page letter from Erin. They had visited the town the day before and had found something interesting.
An obituary article in the Journal Free Press, dated February 7, 1945 told about the funeral service that would be held in Osage City, Kansas, for him on February 8th. It also stated that he had lived in Trinidad, Colorado for many years after leaving Cripple Creek and that is where he died.
For now we will have to accept that he is truly buried in the cemetery in Kansas...
or WAS he.....?
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Saturday, October 30, 2010
Halloween was a different kind of day seventy-five years ago, according to my dad, Earl Johnson. He grew up near McPherson, Kansas, on a farm. He is so full of stories, that I haven't heard yet, that I now talk to him a few times a week just to see if I can get him to say something new. Tonight, all I had to do is ask if he was ready for Trick or Treaters and the stories started coming! Only one of them is familiar to me.
The president of McPherson College once received the very special treat (or was it a trick) of finding a cow in his office the morning after Halloween. A buggy was found on top of North Union School. One dark night, a farmer helped some boys (unbeknownst to them), carry all of his corn shocks out into the middle of the road. Once they were finished, he politely (but at gunpoint) introduced himself to them as the owner of the shocks and asked them to put them all back. They complied! The most common trick to find yourself a victim of would be the outhouse turnover. That trick you might discover a little earlier in the morning. Reportedly, Uncle LeRay, my dad's youngest brother, had some experience with this trick. He and one of the Clark boys happened to be spied doing this very thing over at the Lambert Lamberson farm down the road. The next morning, poor LeRay found that a trick had been played on him. Lambert had snuck over in the middle of the night and grabbed the keys to LeRay's car. The only way LeRay would ever be able to drive to school or work again would be to right the wrong. Grandpa and LeRay went over that day and righted his outhouse together. It was the only way to get the keys back. I'm sure Grandpa had a few things to say about this father and son problem solving time but I'm not sure Uncle LeRay has ever told! Dad says it was all tricks back then; never treats.
When I was growing up in the sixties, Halloween was a big deal around Pleasant Valley. For weeks before, plans for costumes, parties and who I would trick or treat with were the main topics of my thoughts. The parties at my school consisted of classes of children dressed up and parading through every room and into the playground, eating giant cookies iced like pumpkins and playing games such as bobbing for apples.
It’s funny that I can’t remember very many of my costumes. I remember an early one. The plastic Snow White mask with the eye holes that had to be positioned just right to keep me from tripping over anything in my path is a hard one to forget. Once I was in upper elementary school, I think I just alternated years between homemade hobo and hippy costumes.
In 3rd grade, a boy in my class invited me to his Halloween party. When I knocked on the door of his house on the night of the party, it opened to reveal a tunnel made of tables covered in sheets. I remember having to immediately drop to my hands and knees and start crawling. I finally came to what was probably the family room which was lit only by black lights. The game is what I remember most. My friend’s big sisters told a scary story as we passed bowls around in a circle. Each bowl held something horrible and slimy that went along with the story. They made sure each of us put our hand in each bowl to touch whatever was inside. Such a kinesthetic experience of pealed grape eyeballs and spaghetti brains has stayed with me forever.
There was always lots of activity on Halloween night as my friends and I would grab the largest paper grocery sack we could find and headed out in our costumes. There were some pretty cold years but that didn’t stop us. We had the entire area to canvas before 10:00 and our plan included every house. Many times we exchanged our weighty sacks of treats for empty ones half way through the evening; hiding the full sack safely at one of our houses before heading out again. The loot included many things that aren’t seen very often now. We found homemade treats; cookies, popcorn balls with sticky, sugary coatings, and caramel apples, along with the regular assortment of candy. No wonder the sack got so heavy! Once in a while someone would feel sorry for us with our red-cold hands grasping tightly to our sacks as we shivered on their front porches. Then we would be invited in to warm up. Sometimes it was a cup of hot chocolate that warmed us. Once we reached our limit of either time, temperature or the heaviness of our sacks, we would head for our homes. Soon, I would be sitting and sorting my goodies on the living room floor, trading certain items with my sisters and dumping everything in a large shopping bag. That bag served as a sweet depository of candy that hung on the back of the utility room door and would be visited after supper for months.
Halloween was different forty years ago. I wish my own children could have experienced it the way I did.
Monday, August 30, 2010
Sunday, August 1, 2010
On June 19th, Emily, Brittany and I traveled to Lucas, Kansas to visit the Grassroots Art Center. We were there to attend the open house for a new exhibit on display in their museum. A display of my Grandpa Johnson's metal replica's of buildings he made in his later years. Arthur Theodore Johnson (Art) died back in 1986 but you can find his buildings all over Kansas.
Grandpa, the artist, fit right in with the others that have their work displayed in this gallery. Most of them were self taught artists who developed a passion for a specific medium and began creating the majority of their work after they retired. Grandpa fits this description but his creative work began many years before he retired.
For as long as I can remember, Grandpa has loved creating things. He was a farmer with a Swedish accent and a lot of ideas rolling around in his head. I recently learned from my dad that Grandpa would begin work before sunrise on their farm outside McPherson and, many times, when his sons had finished their chores and were ready for farm work, he would find a reason to go to his metal shop or wherever he was working on his latest project, and work for a while there. He couldn't resist the call to create. It was important enough to take up valuable daylight. I understand this and so, have developed an even stronger connection with him.
Besides farming, Grandpa was an inventor. I learned much later that at least one of his inventions, a handheld machine that would pick up grain from the ground and deposit it in a truck, was produced and marketed. Grandma and Grandpa's old crank telephone hangs on my wall. The insides have been gone a long time. I wonder what project they ended up in. He definitely was ahead of the times with the whole reuse recyle, reduce idea. That's all pretty cool but not what I remember him for.
When I was young, I was never wanting for original play equipment. My swing set was the tallest any of my friends had ever seen. The only ones as tall were on the school playground and Riverside Park. It was made entirely out of recycled parts from farm machinery carefully fitted and welded together to form a strong frame. The swings had long chains that made me feel like my feet could touch the clouds and we sat on tractor seats to ride the glider. The merry-go-round in my backyard spun over a huge tractor tire.
That was all really neat but not even close to the coolest thing he made us. When we went to the farm, we were sure to find something new to entertain us.
One of our favorites was a gas powered car. The body was metal, of course, and it had a seat and steering wheel. This is me in one of his earliest cars. It was a lot of fun to drive around the farmyard. At least once a year we would arrive to find that our car had been updated. Sometimes it had two doors and other times four. I remember when it had been transformed into a four seater, painted green and sporting a hood ornament. Then more of us cousins and siblings could ride.
I think I believed all grandpas made things like this for their grandchildren. It was later when I realized that this had been a very special "grandchildhood." Not every grandpa made cars or rowing machines with a (you guessed it!) tractor seat. The homemade camper, complete with bunks was my favorite place to sleep when I spent time there during the summer. Didn't every grandpa make one of these? My sisters, cousins and I were allowed to use the equipment in his metal shop. We learned to use his riveter to make swords out of scrap metal. The only rule was to leave everything the way we found it. Now that was trust!
Well, most grandpas do finally retire and their interests adjust to a new lifestyle. That is when grandpa started crafting buildings out of metal. He worked from memory and pictures creating two or three hundred little metal buildings in his basement workshop in a little house in McPherson. People would bring him pictures of the sides of their favorite building or house and he would recreate it on a smaller scale. At Christmas all of the kids might open a present and find a very small church or windmill. That workshop was always open to us also.
I am fortunate to have acquired several of his buildings over the years. They are some of my favorite things and have a special place on my mantel and in my heart. Several Kansas museums display one or two, also. Looking at them brings a flood of memories of my Grandpa Johnson.
Saturday, July 24, 2010
My mother-in-law, Helen, handed me an old canning jar during one of our trips to pick up more stuff for a garage sale we are preparing for. She said I might be able to sell it. Emily, standing on my other side, said, "Mom, that would look good in your kitchen". She knows me very well! It's now sitting in my kitchen window with it's glass lid clamped down tight and proudly displaying it's logo, "Ball". According to the Internet, it was made in the early 1930's.
I like how it looks, but even more, I like how it makes me feel when I look at it. This jar would have been in kitchens when my mom was a little girl. She would have watched and helped my grandmother and her sisters can all sorts of things in jars like this one.
I look at it and immediately smell dill or vinegar or tangy apple or sweet preserves. I see sunny windows in Aunt Ella's farm kitchen near Kingman, Kansas. This is the same kitchen my grandmother helped her mother in when she was growing up and my mom visited and cooked in during her childhood. Embroidered dishtowels hold clean jars ready for some yummy food that is being prepared by skilled hands. Steam is rolling above tall, well used pots on Aunt Ella's gas stove. There is talk and laughter as sisters, mothers, grandmothers, aunts, daughters, cousins and granddaughters all find a way to be a part of the process of preserving fresh food and fond memories.
Without all of the sensory input of those days, the memory might be buried deep in my mind forever. There is no chance of that happening, considering the activity of the day.
One small object, like my canning jar, opens a portal into my past that allows me to experience again the love and rich heritage I share with so many special people.
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone, which is a very advanced skill considering the keyboard I'm working on! :)
Sunday, July 18, 2010
I sat down with 2nd cousin Glenna and her mom, Donna Mae, last night to put names on some pictures I had come across a while back. Donna Mae hurt both of her ankles last week and is sitting in a wheelchair while she heals. I know its wrong to take advantage of a situation but right now she can't run away very easy so I had her captive for a few hours. Very mean, I know, but necessary! Actually, the 3 of us had a great time looking, guessing, arguing and writing the names of people in pictures that are only 15 or 20 years old.
Even pictures that new, relatively speaking, proved to be a challenge. If I am studying a picture that is 80 years old, imagine the difficulty! Take the picture above. At one time it was so newly taken that anyone in the family would have known exactly who everyone was. How silly to write names on a picture like that! Now it is a very difficult task. Never write something like "Grandma and me" on a picture. In 80 years, your decedents will not have any idea who that refers to and it will become one of the mysterious pictures that gets set aside as unidentifiable. Do you see where it says "Great Grandmother Warnken"? This would be okay if we knew who labeled the picture but there is no clue as to the writer. I'm lucky that Henry is in the picture which would be "Great Grandfather Warnken", so this must be my Great Grand Aunt Sophia. Henry is my Great Great Grandfather but his first wife, Wilhelmina was my Great Great Grandmother. This is Henry's 2nd family after his first wife died and he had remarried her sister. This is where names REALLY help!
Still, it's a lot of fun trying to solve these mysteries.