Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sunday Supper - Mom's Sunday Meals

Vera Johnson in one of her first kitchens. (Santa Fe, New Mexico - 1950)
 My mom, Vera Dibbens Johnson, was born in 1929 near Murdock, Kansas. She was raised on a farm and could easily cook for two, a family, or a crowd of people. We had great meals almost every night but she reserved certain meals for Sundays.
Once in a while we ate out at a restaurant after church but most Sundays she was up early and had dinner in the oven before we left for church. The aroma coming from the oven as we returned home would meet us at the front door and announce that dinner would soon be ready.
Mom loved to entertain. Many times a new family would be invited over for lunch. I would sometimes be sent as a human GPS in our guests' car to guide them from the church to our house 11 miles away. If it wasn't a church guest, it was another family from church, missionaries who were visiting or extended family. None of it seemed to fluster my mom. She loved doing something for other people and this was something she was very good at.
Most of the time a roast with potatoes and carrots would come out of the oven on Sunday. Baked chicken was another favorite. My personal favorite was a recipe she called Spanish Steak. I would ask for it as often as possible and many times she would make the effort to fix it when we asked. I never realized how time consuming that was until I tried making it myself before church one Sunday while trying to get myself and my children ready for church. I'm sure I didn't look as calm and in control as I remember she always was!
Mom has been gone more than six years now and I still have people mention how good she was at entertaining and making people feel at home and comfortable. Then they always mention her cooking.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Shopping Saturday

Pearl Dibbens and Frances Dibbens in Wichita about 1957
It looks as if this shopping trip has been going on for a while. What could be in the box and all of those bags they are carrying? I love this candid shot of my Great Aunt Pearl Dibbens and, her sister-in-law and my grandmother, Frances Rutkowski Dibbens. It was taken during a shopping trip in Wichita, Kansas.
When Grandma would come to visit, we would go shopping downtown. I can still remember walking through Kress Department Store, on Douglas and Broadway, and looking at the clothing folded neatly on big square display tables along with anything else you could ever need. They had a bargain basement that we enjoyed wandering through, stopping to admire whatever they had to offer. That is also where the toy department was. I don't remember that they had as many shelves as they did racks and large display tables with drawers and cabinets below where more merchandise was kept. The staircase leading down to the basement was wide with red tile.
Macy's and J.C.Penney's had elevators with operators who slid the metal gate and the door closed before cranking a dial that would take us to another floor. When the elevator stopped, the operator would call out the floor number and what we could find there. I thought that would be a fun job! Macy's had a mezzanine with a walk-way that led to the offices. It also had tall escalators. Coming down from the 2nd floor, I would look down to the main floor with the glass jewelry and make-up counters along with shoes and bags.
At Christmas, it was the outside of the store that was the biggest attraction for me. Every big showcase window had an elaborate display of moving scenes of toy land or a winter wonderland. Our family would stand in front of each window, and bundled up in our coats, hats and mittens, my sisters and I would take in every detail of each window. Then we would pile back in the car and head for King's X Restaurant for a cup of hot chocolate.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Happy Birthday to My Mom

Vera Carolina Dibbens
born: January 19, 1929Murdock, Kingman, Kansas
parents: Frances and Forrest Dibbens
married: January 28, 1950
spouse: Earl Milan Johnson
children: Shari (me), Kristine, Laurie
died: October 24, 2004
Branson, Missouri

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Monday, January 17, 2011

Mystery Monday - Don't Believe Everything You Read

Hmmm... This is a picture of the John Johnsons and assorted others in front of their house near McPherson, Kansas. After I scanned the picture, I zoomed in to see it better and noticed a date at the top. Normally, that's a good thing but in this case, it caused a lot of confusion! The date says Dec . 57. I was two years old in 1957 but the boy in the cap and overalls is my Grandpa's youngest brother, Reuben. He died at 100 years-old in 2003. So... could someone have found a negative and had it developed in 1957? The original photo would have been taken around 1912.

Jessie Christene Field Dibbens - Amanuensis Monday

My great-grandmother, Jessie, was born 137 years ago on January 16, 1874 in York, Carroll, Illinois. At that time Jesse James was robbing banks and trains in the next state over and child labor took a hit as 12 year-olds were taken out of the work force.
I love this picture of her, my great grandpa, Arthur Robert Jarman Dibbens and their children taking a lunch break on their farm between Kingman and Cheney, Kansas. The little boy on the left is my grandpa, Forrest. Jessie was truely a pioneer woman.
I had the opportunity to know her for a portion of my early life. She died before I was nine. What I do remember is that I called her "Grape Grandma" when I was very young. I remember finally realizing that she was "Great Grandma". For some reason it fit her and calling her that was a hard habit to break!

I have a letter that she wrote me in 1962 when I was in 2nd grade. It says:
 Good morning dear Shari Hope you are well and enjoying school a lot. Is your teacher nice and kind? Do you sing songs in the morning and write on the black board to we use to. Is there lots of visitors come to your school. One time a man lost his pig. and he came to our school. just stuck his head in the door and said, "did any of you see a runt pig? it was funny.
lots of love.greatMa D.

She wrote many letters, several of them in my collection, but this one is very special to me. Her letters were typical in many ways. They told of everyday happenings; It is sprinkling now a good rain would be welcome - I have been with Anna & Chas 3 wks will go with Fern's when they come over- oats planting is the order of the day now that is what the deer like lots of nice feeding.
Sometimes it was other news that was on her heart; One of the schoolboys drowned here. it was sad funeral. he lived with his grandparents. It pays to be ready when the call comes.
Always, there was love of family and friends, a few pictures when she was trying to describe something, and a peek into her heart with expressions of happiness, sorrow, concern or disappointment but no sign of giving up.
She spent quite a bit of her time in her garden and those of her children as she got older and started traveling back and forth between their homes. She also wrote many songs in her 90 years and loved to

sing; especially with her husband, Arthur.
I am fortunate that I knew her for a few years of my life.

Pictures: 1) Arthur Robert Jarman Dibbens, JR family about 1911
2) Letter from Great "Grape" Grandma Dibbens to me (Shari) 1962
3) "Grape Grandma" holding my sister, Kristi, while I sit close by. 1957

Monday, January 10, 2011

Snow on our farm in Wyoming - Wordless Wednesday

This is me a few years ago. When I was four (1959) we lived near Wheatland, Wyoming while Dad was working on a job with Eby Construction Company.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Simeon's Cave; Stepping Out in Faith - Past and Present Part 5

Every morning, Helen found the wood for their fire that was put there by their neighbor. They tired of cold food and began cooking warm food in a coffee can by placing it in the coals with a pair of pliers. The neighbor continued to leave wood and Helen learned how to cook at the hearth like a pioneer woman might have many years ago.
It was several days before the ice cleared enough for me to make it the 23 miles from my house to theirs to check on them and bring them a warm drink. Every phone visit had begun with the hope that the electric crews would reach their house that day, along with a firm declaration that they were doing fine. I found them in good spirits and watched as Helen showed me how they were cooking their food. The house was so cold I shivered the entire visit. Sixty five years together had made them good partners in this kind of adventure. I talked about finding a way to get them out of the house and into a shelter, but they were satisfied to wait where they were. Little did we know then that they would wait an entire week before the electricity would be repaired to their house. That winter, I discovered that the pioneer spirit is alive and well, more than a hundred years after wagons carried settlers to homesteads across Kansas.
It was nearly February, that winter of 1875, before the snow cleared enough for neighbors to help Simeon repair the roof on their soddy. The Swartz family thanked God that they had the cave when it was needed and that they had listened to and obeyed God despite the questions and doubts of their neighbors.
One hundred thirty years separate the blizzard of 1875 and the ice storm of 2005. The same years span the distance between Simeon and his great granddaughter, Helen. The difference in strength, courage, and faith between Helen and her great grandfather, Simeon Swartz, is far less.

Simeon’s story was taken from events recorded in
Simeon Swartz Family History: 1727 Ancestors to 1958 Descendents by Orvo Swartz

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Simeon's Cave; Stepping Out in Faith - Past and Present Part 4

When Harry and Helen woke on that cold, 5th day of January, the realization that life might be a little more difficult for awhile set in quickly. The temperature outside hadn’t risen and the inside temperature had dropped at least 30 degrees. With no electricity, the only option for Harry was his old wheelchair. Helen would have to push him for now; an enormous drop in his already diminished freedom. Bundled in coats, they made their way into the “not so cozy” living room. Helen rummaged in the kitchen for something they could eat without cooking. The rest of the day was filled with sitting, mostly in silence because of the cold. They recalled the firewood sitting neatly outside their house that would now be so helpful. At the time that they acquired it, it hadn’t seemed like such a blessing. It was red bud wood from the tree Helen had accidentally backed into a few months before, leading to the chopping down of the tree and the splitting and stacking of wood. Now, it was simple to see that God had provided fuel for the fireplace.
The events of the days of that week ran together for Harry and Helen. They slept, bundled in their clothes, coats, and blankets, and hoped for the electrical lines to be repaired before morning. They waited for lights, warmth and conveniences to return to their lives, along with thousands of other people across the city. The neighbor, next door, made trips each day to stack more of the red bud on the front porch so Helen could bring it in to keep the fire going. Family called them on their old-fashioned rotary telephone that they had held onto for so long, to check on them. Most people had abandoned their freezing homes, for warmer shelter, after the first few days as they waited for the lines to be repaired. That wasn’t an option for Harry because of the thick ice that still coated his wheelchair ramp.
The blizzard raged on for three days and nights and for the next three weeks of that cold January in 1875, the cave was their home. There was dried buffalo meat and a crock of corn mush, that Sarah had prepared the night before the storm, that satisfied their hunger. Simeon and his family ventured out to the sod house several times to search out things that they needed. It meant digging through five feet of snow that had settled into the four walls of their home. Digging out the cook stove allowed them some hot water and warm food cooked under the open sky. They waited for the weather to clear and thanked God for His providential care in urging them to dig the cave months before.

... to be continued ...

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Simeon's Cave; Stepping Out in Faith - Past and Present Part 3

The freezing rain in Wichita, on that cold evening in 2005, turned to ice around the electrical lines beyond the view of the living room window and, before it was time for bed, the lights blinked throughout the house and went out, along with the furnace, leaving their home dark and growing cold. They had become accustomed to the electric wheelchair that helped Harry move around the main floor and the thought of the battery running low and needing to be plugged in for the next day urged them to get Harry out of the chair and into bed where he could try to stay warm. Surely the electricity would be back on by morning. No doubt there were prayers asking for safety for themselves but also for their family, before they fell asleep. The storm raged on into the dark hours of the night and the once cozy home turned cold. Even in the 21st Century there can be a pioneer moment.


Eight days into 1875, the weather turned cold. At twenty degrees below zero, it was colder than any other time Simeon experienced in the many years since that cold night. Along with the frigid air came snow in blizzard amounts. Sometime during the 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, Charley, who snapped them out of the shock and dismay of their situation by yelling for everyone to run for the cave.
Charley (center) and his family

... to be continued ...

Monday, January 3, 2011

Simeon's Cave; Stepping Out in Faith - Past and Present Part 2

Helen and Harry Edwards with grandson, Brandon Edwards
Four days into 2005, Harry and Helen sat in their living room watching through the window as an ice storm cover the world outside their house. Harry maneuvered his wheelchair to get a closer look into the darkness while Helen stood near him. They talked about whether or not the storm would cause them any problems. Harry had been in a wheelchair for more than a year, ever since a stroke had left one side of his body paralyzed while sparing his speech and mind. Helen cared for him by herself for much of the last year. They were getting close to their sixty-fifth wedding anniversary and were thankful that God had allowed them to continue to stay in their home. Reluctant to leave the house that Harry designed and built when their family was young, they had decided to make this situation work. Anything else would signal the end of one chapter of their lives and the beginning of one they weren’t ready for.
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 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.

... to be continued ...

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Simeon's Cave; Stepping Out in Faith - Past and Present Part 1 (The Whole Story in 5 Parts)

Several years ago, on a Sunday afternoon in Wichita, Kansas, I sat in the living room of my in-laws, Harry and Helen Edwards. I read from an old family history book that my sister-in-law had handed me. An autobiography that filled a chapter of the book was written by Helen’s great grandfather, Rev. Simeon Swartz and his children. Because of my interest in genealogy, I was immediately engrossed in Simeon’s story. As I read, I learned that Helen’s ancestors had their strength, courage and faith tested and proven much like the early members of my family, and the same as people sometimes are today.

The story that Simeon told was about a time soon after he and his wife, Sarah, brought their family from Woodford County, Illinois to Kansas in 1874. Simeon was a minister and he and Sarah 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 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 baby had been born to them that summer and had died nine days later. A good corn crop had disappeared in three days, eaten by a huge cloud of grasshoppers. In the weeks that followed these heart-breaking, life-threatening, hunger-producing disasters, Simeon focused 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.

... to be continued...

Simeon’s story was taken from events recorded in

Simeon Swartz Family History: 1727 Ancestors to 1958 Descendents by Orvo Swartz