Monday, October 27, 2008
His name was Vern Wilkerson!!!!!!
HAPPY NEEWOLLAH, EVERYONE! :)
Sunday, October 26, 2008
Remember when we went to the Caney River Dam to catch the metal ring, attached to a high limb of a tall tree by a cable? Even now, I can feel the exhilaration of leaping off a muddy bank, with its slippery toe and foot holds, and swinging out over the river into the water below! Many times these "brave" leapings and swingings were accompanied by blood-curdling Tarzan yells! When interest in "the ring" began to wane, we wandered towards the dam. The water was usually flowing over, at different rates, according to the time of year! When it was "really flowing over," we would walk underneath the waterfall, clear across the dam! Damn, what a great feeling that was! You could reach out with one hand and feel the moss on the dam, while with the other hand, you could touch the water spilling over! The main objective was not to fall, maintaining your balance, not wanting to slip into the "dangerous under-tow" beneath the spillway! I remember Sunday afternoons when many people would come to "visit" the dam, to swim, splash, and have some fun. I vividly remember one of my favorite teachers, Althea Walker, coming to the dam one Sunday. I must tell you, all eyes were on her and the water must have increased in temperature by several degrees! Downstream from the dam was the Caney River Bridge. One, not so pleasant memory, is one of "turtle-hunters" shooting turtles as they surfaced. I always felt sorry for the turtles... A little further down from the bridge was a little gravel bar that stretched out into the river. Dad and I used to park our car and wash it as the currents swirled by! What great adventures and memories! And, as with all great adventures and memories, the dam is still there!
Friday, October 24, 2008
I remember going across the highway to Harve Barger's blacksmith shop. Usually I'd be barefooted, I learned to watch where I stepped, often there was hot metal on the floor. Harve was always friendly and glad to see me. He would ask me if I wanted a nickel and of course I did. I don't know where he kept that nickel but it as so hot I dropped it quickly! "Oh, you don't want it, " he would say as he picked it up. He must have used that same nickel over and over. I don't think I fell for that trick more than four or five times.
Behind the cafe down the alley was the side door of the Williams Garage. I liked to visit the mechanics. I was intrigued by one employee that whistled all the time because I couldn't whistle. I occupied myself by trying to learn to whistle.
One person not mentioned that owned the cafe in the early 50's was Don Enlow and his wife. Did Art Alexander and his wife run it at one time?
The beauty shop, cafe and barber shop were all one building, at the west end there was a space between the building and the Skelly Service Station. I could crawl in this space and grownups couldn't get me. This building at that time was owned by Ernestine Leonard's parents. Ernestine reminded me not too long ago that her Dad was worried that I'd get stuck in there and no one could get me out. Ronnie Sartin
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Don't grieve for me, For now i'm Free
I'm following that path God laid for me.
I took his hand when I heard him call,
I turned my back and left it all.
I could not stay another day
To laugh, To love, To work or play
Tasks left undone must stay thet way
I found that peace at close of day.
If my parting has left a void,
Then fill it with remembered joy.
A friendship shared, a laugh, a kiss,
Ah yes, these things I too will miss.
Be not burdened with times of Sorrow
I wish you the sunshine of tommorow
My life's been full, I've savored much
Good times, good friends, a loved one's touch
Perhaps my time seemed all to brief
Don't lengthen it now with undue grief.
Lift up your heart and share with me
God wanted me now; He set me free.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Thursday, October 16, 2008
This is a posthumous commendation and thanks to some of the kindest persons I knew from my hometown of Cedar Vale, Kansas. As I say, most of these have passed on and will never hear my words of thanks; the thanks should have been stated when they were alive to hear them. Most of these are concerning kindnesses that were granted to me or my family, but one in particular was not.
I have lived in many places, from huge cities like Los Angeles, to smaller cities like Las Cruces, New Mexico and Tacoma, Washington, to large towns like Hutchinson, KS. But nowhere had I experienced kind, friendly people like those of a small town, Cedar Vale. Perhaps that is because I and my family knew all those kind souls, but I feel that
there is an inherent kindness in folks that inhabit a small community and they lose those qualities when forced to live close together with large herds of their fellow man.
But I want to tell about some of the kind people that had an effect on my family’s lives.
Some of these I have mentioned in various articles previously, but now I want to put them all together in context, so be patient.
Thanks to Rolla and Mary Holland. When my father suddenly died, my mother and sister living on the family farm were suddenly burdened with a small herd of milking cows and larger herd (you know, I cannot remember the proper word for a herd of pigs)
of pigs that needed milking and feeding. My mother was much better at playing bridge than milking cows, and my sister thought that the milk just appeared in the refrigerator.
But that evening, Rolla and Mary arrived and fed the livestock, milked the cows and did what needed to be done around the farm. They did this for several days until the next episode in this commendation.
The following Tuesday, Ralph Snyder and Fred Archer arrived at the farm with trucks and trailers, loaded the cows and hogs and took them to their Sales Barn, where they were all auctioned off and my mother was presented with a welcome check, which as I remember, was much more generous than those animals would have normally been worth. Thanks to those two great men.
But, I am not finished with the thanks to Mr. Snyder. Soon after, he approached my mother and offered to farm our little acreage for just a share of the profits. So, for the next fifteen years, he and his family continued to give mother a check each year that was certainly usually more than my father ever was able to earn from the same farm. Kind neighbors that were never properly thanked. It was probably much more bother for them to take care of our few acres in addition to the many that they owned.
Carl Steward. At my dad’s funeral, Carl came up to me afterwards, and told me quietly that my dad my one of his best friends and he wanted me to know that anytime I needed a summer job, there was one waiting for me at the Caney Valley Electric where he was the manager. And he was as good as his word. The next three summers I had a steady job with him, and even though I was a worthless employee, those checks helped tremendously when I went back to school each fall. Belated thanks to him.
Thanks to Kale Williams. I was good friends with his sons, but did not know the father well. He was a quiet, unassuming gentleman who had always been close to my father. I am not sure how he knew that I would like to have a car to take back to college, perhaps one of his sons had mentioned it to him?? But, one day Ben Bird, the sales manager at Mr. William’s car dealership, called me and said that a couple from Wichita were driving through on their way to the Ozarks, and had blown an engine on their 1951 Chevy. The garage had rebuilt the engine, and he said Mr. Williams was willing to sell it for just $300. That price would have been just about enough to cover the expenses they had in getting the car fixed, and was low enough that I could afford to have some transportation. Thanks to another kind man.
Shortly after my dad’s demise, my mother was confronted with many legal decisions and had no knowledge of how to cope with these problems. In came another very kind gentleman, who, over the next several years provided legal assistance and advice on many aspects, and Bill House would never accept any payment for all the work that he did for us. You might say, Well, he could afford to be magnanimous, but the fact is, he did these things out of love and kindness for lifelong friends. Maybe Mr. House is still alive, if so, he would be “old”, but thanks to him.
Dr. L. Claire Hays would never accept payment for the care he provided to my father at the time of his massive heart attack. Again, you might say that he could afford it, but he had been called out of bed and driven at a dangerous speed from his home well north of town all the way down to our home. To many he seemed to be a gruff, distant person, but he was never adequately thanked for this kindness.
Flo Hays, his wife, was another wonderful lady who went out of her way to help our family in a time of near crisis. She recognized that my mother was not a farmer, and had no employment skills, but she had taught in a one room school house in northern Kansas shortly after being married. She had no degree and no teaching certificate. At the time, Mrs. Hays was on the school board, and she convinced the rest of the board that mother should be able to teach first grade at the old school, and complete her teaching certificate at the same time. So thanks to her, mother had a job which I believe paid around $2000 a year; much better than nothing. Many thanks to her!!
There were many other kindnesses shown to my family by the good folks in this small town, but I will mention just one more name .. Dr. Herb Stone. Over the years, he had done thousands of dollars of dental work on me and my family, and due to his wonderful book-keeping system, we never seemed to get a bill. At the time my mother moved to Winfield, she had asked him again, how much she owed, and she got the same answer time and again, “I will figure it out and send a bill”… No bill ever came and I suppose to this day we owe Dr. Stone a small fortune. Kindness to friends. Thanks to him.
Now, away from my family. I am going to try to relate a history that may have many errors and misconceptions, and I am sure that some of the readers will not hesitate to add to or correct part of what I am going to say. I am telling this not to belittle anyone, but to again relate the kindness of a small town.
One of our early classmates was Harrison White. His nickname was Lizard, and he had an older brother whose nickname was Spider. Spider, as I recall was an athlete, but Harrison could not be recognized as any kind of athlete. He was small and skinny, quiet and shy. He was near sighted, and in the first years at school, the teachers thought he was “slow”, but eventually someone realized that he could not see the blackboard. The family lived in the abandoned hotel down in the Santa Fe addition of Cedar Vale, and the story was that there were no facilities there, no electricity, etc. Maybe true, maybe not. But, when Harrison came to school, most of the time he came in ragged (but clean) clothes and barefooted
Then came the kindnesses. From somewhere, someone, came glasses to correct the eye problem, shoes for the bare feet and clothing to replace the rags. When the school lunch program started in the third grade, Harrison changed from a pathetically skinny child to a normal appearing boy because someone had kindly decided he did not have to pay for those meals. He changed from a “slow” student to a smart boy who could be proud of himself. He finished school with the rest of us and hopefully had a happy life. But some kind people in the little town helped the start of that life.
Corrections and additions are welcomed.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
A few days ago I was watching a great TV show called “Baseball’s Golden Age”, and in the course of the program they had a short segment on Joe Gordon, the outstanding second-baseman of the N.Y.Yankees during the 30’s and 40’s. Just that name, Joe Gordon, brought back many memories of a very close friend from my distant past.
In 1949, when I was about twelve years of age, some of the men of Cedar Vale in association with the Lion’s Club, decided that the town should have a youth baseball program. There was no Little League, nor Mickey Mantle League, so this was to be just an independent endeavor on the part of the community.
When the word went out for boys who were interested, my parents, who were not really sports fans, asked me if I wouldn’t like to participate. “Maybe you would like baseball”, they said. I said that I would not like to do that, that I would prefer to swim in the creek and swing on the long grape vines that extended out over the little stream. There was not much more said on the subject, however about a week later my dad said that I had a package in the mail that day, so I excitedly ripped open the paper on the box and found that it had come from Montgomery Wards in Kansas City. Opening the box, wrapped in white tissue paper was a beautiful brown leather baseball glove with the name Joe Gordon written on the palm. It had the glorious smell of new leather, and I put it on my hand, pounded my other fist into the pocket, and immediately fell in love with that little piece of leather. Dad said that the boys were going to practice that evening at the baseball diamond, so at five o’clock I walked across the Hewins Park and was met by a motley group of boys who were destined to be the baseball stars of Cedar Vale.
Practices were to be each evening and were conducted by Roy Smith and Oliver Hall, and usually some other men would show up to help with the teaching of the raw recruits. When he could get off early enough, Frank Gilmore would arrive to help teach the art of catching to Bill and Dick Williams, as Frank had been a minor league catcher in the St.Louis Cardinal organization. Many times Grant Utt would come to amaze the boys with his massive ability to hit the baseball over the fence, and pass along pointers to the boys. Gradually we became a team, and The Joe Gordon glove, went with me to each practice, every game, and became an important part of my right arm. I slept with The Joe Gordon and whenever I had time, I was pounding a baseball into the pocket, until it was a natural place to catch a ball. I could never find enough boys that wanted to “play ball” quite as much as I did, so I exercised my good left arm for hours a day by throwing a baseball- sized rubber ball against the brick chimney on the side of the house. There was one brick that was discolored, about three feet above the ground, and this was the spot I aimed at for hours at a time. Looking back, I am surprised that that one particular brick was not distorted by the ball striking it time and time again. I soon figured out that I could throw the ball against the bricks and as it bounced back to me, I could practice hitting it with the old bat that Herb Toothacre had given me from the high school storeroom. That form of practice was not nearly as good as actual batting practice at the ball field, but the constant attempts did improve my bat-eye coordination. The other thing that it accomplished was the destruction of many of the asbestos shingles on the side of the house, and several window panes. Surprisingly, there was very little punishment for these “accidents”.
Early in these years, the town had voted to install lights at the ball fields, and soon the towering light poles were being put into great holes by the crews of the Caney Valley Electric, under the guidance of Buck Melton. It was quite a sight to sit on the bleachers and watch the huge poles rising to the skies, and soon we were playing games under the best lights in southeast Kansas, better even than those in Arkansas City and Winfield. The Joe Gordon went with me to all the practices, the games and even games that I was playing for other teams in Ark City and Winfield, but the ones that meant the most to me were the ones played on the ball field under the lights in Cedar Vale. Those games were a complete community experience. At one time or another, I think that every inhabitant of the booming little town were in attendance. In those times, very few folks had TV sets, so in the summer evenings the people sitting in their back yards or on their porch swings would see the lights of the ball park, and having nothing better to do, would head for the ball park, and it became a place one could watch the game, commune with his neighbors, and listen to Charley Cable announce the “play-by-play”. He was never a Mel Allen nor Harey Carey, but he enjoyed being there, and he kept the crowd informed who had just struck out or dropped a fly ball. At times,.Vic Hollister would help out with the announcing and he added a little more color.
The Lions Club had built a little refreshment stand , and it was enthusiastically manned by Lions members. The ones I remember seeing most often were Don Hankins, Glenn Cross and Carl Steward. Usually in about the fourth inning, several of the Lions would head out into the crowd to try to entice some to contribute to the cost of the electricity. It was funny to watch the same folks at each game that would start up their cars and leave before the Lion could reach them, all to save the cost of a quarter or fifty cent piece. I firmly believe that the collections never were enough to pay the cost, but the Caney Valley Electric under the leadership of Carl Steward under-wrote the difference. There were some folks that came to all the games. I remember Pauline Woods always being there. And Aaron Alexander never missed a game. Aaron was crippled, paralyzed, but always put in his quarter. Ralph Snyder was often there, sitting on the front of his pick-up, sometimes talking with Fred Archer while they watched Lloyd pitching. Floyd Goode usually showed up, and it was always nice for the boys when he brought his pretty daughters. Ethel Ledbetter came from Hewins sometimes, also to watch Lloyd, whom she later married. It was also nice when she brought her special Hewins friend. Hubert and Nita Cox would come when the summer evenings were nice. Of course, Nellie Walkinshaw and the Kale Williams families would come, sit on the bleachers and watch their sons play. Don Hankins wife, Mary Bess and her daughter Nancy were at the games most of the time, especially if Gary Metcalf was playing. The guys I worked with on the Caney Valley Electric were there, usually giving me a hard time; Floyd Patteson, Doyle Littrell and wife, Gerald Magnus and wife, Buck Melton’s family; it was nice to have the support. Ray Oltgen and Elsie would come, sometimes sitting in the car and sometimes on the bleachers. Some folks would always sit in the cars and others would always be on the bleachers. It seemed the bleacherites were always the most sociable. The cars were all lined up, usually along the left-field foul lines, facing the diamond, and whenever we players would do something spectacular ( like actually catching a fly or making a good throw) the horns would honk and the headlights flashed. Some excitement. But it was. It was a place where the town of Cedar Vale could come together to enjoy the game and each other. Times like that are gone??
It was a great place for the kids of the community to meet in the evening and get to know each other better, sometimes too well. And the little tykes could get a nickel by chasing down the foul balls that were necessary for the game to continue. If too many balls were lost in the weeds and darkness behind the backstop, then the game would have to stop until a ball was found. Some games were started with only one or two balls, well used at that.
The Joe Gordon traveled with me to play in games in just about every baseball venue in southeast Kansas, and some farther away. One of the highlights for The Joe Gordon had to be playing against the great black pitcher, Satchel Paige, in the NBC baseball tournament in Wichita in 1958. Satch had had his days of glory in the major leagues, but at the time he met The Joe Gordon he was on his way down, but it was still a real privilege be on the same ball field with him.
The Joe Gordon by that time had had a long glorious career, but the end was growing near. For ten years the leather had been lovingly treated with neatsfoot oil or Glovolium or saddle soap, but in spite of that it was cracking from the sweaty palm that had been a part of it for ten years. Then in the spring of 1959, the head coach for the University of Kansas team said to me, “You need to get a real glove! That little, old glove is a joke”. Well, that was a crushing blow to us both. I could not part with my old friend and The Joe Gordon never played in another game.
There were a few times when The Joe Gordon would come out of the closet. When my sons showed a slight interest in baseball, I would take out the old glove and we would play catch. But they never had the passion and enjoyment of baseball that I had. At one point, The Joe Gordon suffered the ultimate disgrace of being used for a softball glove when my daughter thought she was a star. The Joe Gordon went back onto the back shelf of the hall cupboard, to be forgotten until one grandson showed a fleeting interest a few years later. But as with all of us, it’s time had come to be totally retired and virtually forgotten. Relegated to the shelf, neglected. No more tender treatments with the saddle soap. The pocket was neglected, and The JoeGordon was dead, and no one cared.
When my wife died, two years ago, it was time to move. In clearing out the house, I came upon the long-forgotten Joe Gordon glove in the back of the cupboard. It was indeed a pitiful old piece of leather, shabby and dull, with the inner lining cracked and torn. No good to anyone any longer. With no more than a thought, I carelessly threw The Joe Gordon into the dumpster and the trash man carried it away, to be perhaps cremated at the city dump, or better yet, re-incarnated by some little Mexican boy who valued it again. I know as little about it’s fate as I know about my own. I suppose we will all be able to identify with The Joe Gordon??
Thursday, October 9, 2008
When I was four years old my parents rented a house in Cedar Vale in that southwestern corner of town where the crazy angle of all the streets in the downtown area suddenly straighten out and we are with the rest of the world. North is really north and west is really west—amazing. We called the house ‘The Custer House’ because we rented it from its owner, Frank Custer. Just next door was my very best friend, Donna Burch who was one year older than me. Donna was a beauty with her blond curls and winning smile and I was totally enamored. She called me her “little fat cutey” which I loved. We were inseparable playmates in those early years.
Across from our houses was the only concrete sidewalk in the neighborhood, except, of course, the short sidewalks leading up to each house’s front door. This broad expanse of smooth sidewalk led from nowhere to nowhere. It started at the corner of a street and left off mysteriously well before the end of the block. It ran in front of an empty lot, so no one used the sidewalk for any adult purpose. It was perfect for Donna and me and we took ownership by calling it our Good Sidewalk. We could ride our tricycles up and down this freeway or give each other rides in our wagons. We pushed our toy cars along there and drew elaborate hopscotch diagrams in colored chalk. The Good Sidewalk was a perfect surface for our chalk artwork and it was usually decorated from one end to the other with a colorful array of the best of our drawings. If our parents wanted to know how we were or wanted to call us to dinner they could depend on finding us on the Good Sidewalk.
When I was five years old Donna started to first grade and I had the Good Sidewalk to myself during the day. I would play there and wait for Donna to come home from school so the real fun could begin. Donna carefully taught me everything she had learned at school during the day, using the Good Sidewalk as her chalkboard. I soaked up the numbers, spelling, and reading and was well ahead of my classmates the next year when I started to school.
It was during this year that Donna was given a pair of skates, which allowed her to go at tremendous speeds up and down the Good Sidewalk. I asked for skates for my birthday primarily so Donna wouldn’t get too far ahead of me. Donna promised to teach me to skate. My father acquiesced to skates, which he thought was a bit much for a five-year-old, but he put his foot down at Donna teaching me to skate. No mere girl was going to teach his son to skate.
So on my birthday it was just me alone on the Good Sidewalk with my brand new skates. I strapped them on my feet and tightened the clips at the toe to hold them firmly on my shoes. I managed to get the skates under me and stood up to begin skating. Boom! I came down hard on my behind with a teeth-rattling shock that left me hurting from head to butt and wondering what had happened to me. When I was finished crying about that I tried again, but over compensated and fell headlong forward, scraping both knees and the palms of my hands. Suddenly the Good Sidewalk was an enemy that was inflicting great bodily harm. I tried again several times and each time a new scrape appeared on my body. Elbows, knees, hands, and even my chin came in for abuse.
I loosened the straps and took the skates off, replacing them in their box. Limping home, I told my mother that I didn’t want skates after all—they were just too dangerous. That was the end of roller-skating for me until my teen years, when the Baptist Youth Fellowship went to Arkansas City to the roller rink. There I got my sea legs under me and was able to stay upright most of the time. I could do it, but I never enjoyed skating as much as my classmates seemed to.
On my recent trip to Cedar Vale I looked around and actually found the Good Sidewalk. Like all of us kids, the Good Sidewalk isn’t as beautiful and smooth as it was 67 years ago, but it’s there and it still leads to nowhere. I wonder if any of the local kids have found it and play there. I didn’t see any chalk drawings on the sidewalk and there may not be any kids left in the neighborhood anyway.