Friday, February 27, 2009

How Highway 166 Changed the Life of One Family

When I want to know something about gardening or local people I always go to my aunt, neighbor, and friend, Norma Wesbrook Knowles. I asked her to tell me a memory about the Wesbrook family and this is the result.

Clarence and Edna Wesbrook lived 12 miles west of Cedar Vale. Their family included Cecil (my Dad), Mildred, and Norma. They were rather shut off from the world. To get out they had to open 3 gates, then drive north to Hooser, on north and west to Dexter or east to Cedar Vale. Edna would sometimes drive the model T up to Hooser to take the train in to Cedar Vale to visit Mrs. Frank Hubbard. She would take the train back later the same day. Clarence, in his younger days, played on a baseball team from Hooser. They had uniforms and played often.

Closest neighbors were the Metcalfs, Wesbrooks had to cross Metcalf land to get to the Hooser road. Carl Metcalf was Cecil's best friend.

When a family lost a loved one, neighbors came to their aid. Clarence set up all night with Mr. Metcalf before his service. Edna was called to get a neighbor lady, that had died in childbirth, ready for burial. There were 3 little boys in the family. The grandparents took the 2 youngest and the father kept the older boy.

Cecil was the oldest of the Wesbrook children. He and his sister Mildred went to country school, Glendale, where his teacher was Nellie McGill Mills ( he thought very highly of her all his life). After 8th grade he went to high school is Dexter where he graduated. He roomed with a Mrs. Marsland during the week, going home only on weekends.

The building of Federal Highway 166 changed this family's lives. Some of the Wesbrook land was purchased for this project. Clarence and Edna were happy about the highway even though it divided their land. It made life easier. They took the money (about $1000) and built a new home. This amazed me, but Norma said $1000 went a long way back then.

This was during the depression, the highway gave work to local men. My dad drove a dump truck for a while. A family from back east lived in a tent in the walnut grove north of the Wesbrook house. The father and oldest son worked on the highway. The oldest boy eventually married a neighbor girl (Gary Metcalf's aunt). Lots of horses with slips were used to move the dirt. The highway people watered the horses out of the Wesbrook pond.

After the highway was completed local men were given the work of mowing, they were still in the depression, so this was much appreciated. Clarence mowed 3 or 4 miles.

Mildred Wesbrook stayed out of school while the road was being built, then drove into Cedar Vale where she graduated. Norma wasn't in school yet, but later rode with neighbors to school in Cedar Vale. She said the car was just packed with kids.

There wasn't a lot of traffic at first, Norma learned to roller skate on the highway. Relatives would come for a visit on the bus, the bus would drop them off at the house and pick them up when they were ready to return. Norma would wave at the driver and he'd honk.

As a result of the depression there were tramps on the highway. Grandma would feed them, if Cecil's Police Dog Bill would let them come to the house. There were also Gypsies in covered wagons, they would trade willow stools for milk and potatoes.

Norma has an invitation to the dedication of the completion of the highway to take place in Arkansas City April 16, 1935. Dedicatory address by Governor Landon.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The good old days ...

The great depression and the dust bowl days were for some of us more than just stories of the past. Those terrible times helped mold and give us shape. More than a few of us were around during World War II. Personally, I remember Pearl Harbor and the discussion around the school merry-go-round concerning what our collective and individual fathers were going to do to 'The Japs'. Also, the national blackouts (when simulated air raids would be practiced) across the country and even at our homes as part of a quite serious time.

Uncles Dale Foust and Neil Smith served our country and this fact made me so proud. Writing letters to them was my way of being patriotic and brought home the ugly war which seriously gave us threat. (One reason that I enlisted into the Air Force during the Korean War may have been to somewhat emulate my brave uncles.) Just before my dad was to be inducted into the service new rules for the maximum age of service participation gave him exemption. During this time he worked at Wichita Boeing for awhile as a guard. In my room hung a photo of Boeing's B-29 Bomber and I was proud of him as he prepared for work where he would tote his gun and holster.

Paper and metal were saved for drives to recycle into war materials. President Roosevelt gave speeches on radio to keep the nation aware of their responsibilities and the scope of our difficulties both prior to and during the war. The depression wasn't really disposed of until after the war started. Many of us were living in conditions that today would correctly be called abject poverty. It is doubtful that any of us considered ourselves to be really poor.

Rationing of our nation's resources was one way that each of us contributed to the war effort. Gasoline, tires, shoes and clothing along with grocery items were among those things that were scarce and part of the system that required "stamps". Other more mundane items for younger folks like bubble gum and balloons were simply not available.

Grade school memories include the country's sadness upon the death of President Roosevelt. Later came the detonation of the atomic bomb on Japan as ordered by President Truman. Earlier, the defeat of Germany gave us jubilation and soon after the two nuclear explosions ... Japan conceded! All of the nation mightily celebrated the end of a most dangerous war and (in reality) the catastrophic economic times.

The sacrifices of the men and women during the 30s and 40s allowed us to become the greatest nation on earth. Let there be no mistake ... the good old days are really those that have followed their tremendous efforts. May we not be the ones that have carelessly discarded that which was so painfully given!

Sunday, February 15, 2009


Having been asked to write a song about "patriotism," for our Lee's Summit Men's Chorus, I have reflected back to some of the "patriotic scenes" I have viewed, in Cedar Vale.

One was for a funeral for one of our veterans. George Beggs, our esteemed band director, asked if I would play the "echo" at the grave-side ceremonies. I said, "sure!" I remember the ride out to the cementary, with all the VFW men. Lots of laughter, lots of stories, lots of remembering. We got there. Services were held. Shots were fired.

Then came the time for "Taps!" Mr. Beggs told me to go a distance, behind a tree, and that after he played "Taps," I was to respond, in kind. He played. Goosebumps went up my spine! I didn't want him to quit playing.... Then, it was my turn, I played the "echo" as well as I could. Not a soul around. Just me, the trumpet and God, and all those who came to the grave to give their final respects. Final is not the right word. Those "respects" will last forever!

On our way back to town, what had been a laughing, joking crew, turned into silence. No words were spoken. No glances met. We arrived home. We departed. That "moment" has stayed with me. Though very young, I felt, in some small way, the way they felt, burying their brother.

And so, if you have "some lines" that might be incorporated into a song that will sing of freedom, of liberty, of justice for all, I will try to use them in a "song of freedom!

God bless you, each and everyone!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Ma Mama's Cooking

I did this as a post instead of a comment because I like to see new posts on the blog.
My mom was a good cook, not a great cook, and certainly not a gourmet cook. A staple of our diet was basic Kansas farm family cooking. She made the best fried chicken, potatoes and gravy, usually with another green vegetable. I loved that and still remember that taste. KFC could not compare. Another dish that she often prepared that I have not had since she died was her own recipe of spagetti and meat-balls. You con-o-sewers (I did that because I could not remember how to spell it)of good Eye-talian food would not like her sauce because it did not have those typical seasonings, but it was delicious. Lemon ice-box pudding was a dessert that she made fairly often, with fresh graham cracker crusts and fresh lemon juice. Sooo Good. And apple crisp with the best topping in the world. But some things I hated. My dad liked oyster soup, so every Sunday evening she would fix home-made oyster soup. I hated that and asked her why she made it, and she always said, "Your dad likes it". He was strange. One of his favorite "meals" was bread and milk. He would break up a slice of bread into a glass of milk and eat that mess with a spoon. Another thing that she made that I didn't like (hated) was her homemade grape sherbet. The first time she made it, I told her I did not like it (I probably had not even tasted it) and we had a big fight, and she made me eat some. But I showed her. I threw up the nasty purple stuff all over the kitchen table and floor. Funny thing, now I like grape sherbet.
We had a lot of chicken-fried steak, and bacon and eggs, lots of stuff cooked with lard and Crisco, homemade ice cream on Sundays made with cream skimmed off the big crock that sat in the old Frigidaire, toast smeared with home churned butter and pork chops from our own pigs. No wonder I had by-pass surgery at age 60. I remember Dad had a two-inch lead pipe that was about six inches long, and he kept a roll of dollar bills in that pipe hidden in the bottom of the old Frigidaire. I guess he didn't trust the banks because he had gone through the times when the banks did fail. (Sorry, that had nothing to do with mother's cooking) During corn season, we would have fresh roasting ears every day until the crop was gone, again smeared with lots of butter, salt and pepper. Funny, now I don't put pepper on them. Oh, yes, she would make donuts; deep fat fried and each of them weighed about three pounds, I think. Another good source of cholesterol for my coronary arteries. But they were sure good. She usually had a tin of homemade cookies hidden somewhere in the kitchen filled with either chocolate chip or peanut butter cookies, or SnickerDoodles, or coconut cookies that I can not remember the name of. It was a game to see whether she could hide the cookie tin where I couldn't find it. Good days.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Yo Mama's Cookin ...

Okay, let's test your taste bud memories! Several of you have mentioned "Herb" and his hamburgers and chili ... how bout yo mama? What were the specialties that set her apart from all the others, (then and now)? It would likely make her proud to hear you brag of her culinary delights (and/or) allow her a smile should you tell of her occasional failures.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Only scratched the surface ...

Actually, we have only scratched the surface of the opportunity given us by Gary White in regard to "CV Memories". Certainly, that which has been published has been very interesting and is a good start. At the same time, so many folks that were instrumental to the town have been largely ignored and it is time to reflect upon their early efforts to establish a good place to live. Some of the folks may not be remembered but others will ... or our parents or grandparents may have possibly regaled us glimpses of the folks of those early times.

There are also many individuals during the time while we were "growing up" that are important to the overall story. Many of them have been mentioned and could be expanded upon but many of our contemporaries have been forgotten at this point. Should you have stories on some of these folks you need not have dates and/or statistical information to back your story but just your memories. Should a need for correction arise most likely others among us will offer our own reflections of the report.

Here are a few individuals that would qualify (in my mind) as good prospects for illumination:
L. C. Adams, W. R. Babb, Jr., Mr. and Mrs. A. T. Baird, George Beuoy, H. L. Cox, Eva W. Dale, J. M. Dosbaugh, Kenneth and Faxine Dunn, Jess Foster, L. N. Guthrie, Dr. and Mrs. L. C. Hays (and those important to the hospital), Swain House, Frank Hubbard, W. M. Jones, John Murphy, Lincoln Robinson, Clyde Shaffer, Dr. Josh Stone, Nellie Study, J. P. Tabler, Stella Walker, Kale Williams, and J. J. Willson.

Even a completion of this listing would most likely allow many important stories of our past to remain untold. For instance, it seems that I do somewhat remember Jim Hutchins (as noted in Rick Hollister's story concerning Hooser). At the same time, I'm not sure that my memory is accurate ... and more information on Jim and others of the times would be interesting and give future generations a more complete indication of what it was like during our era. Very little about the depression and the war years has been revealed to indicate the conditions of our early lives. Though our children or grandchildren have possibly "rolled their eyes" when some of our personal stories have been told may later wish to know more about the times that helped in the development of our personalities. When they want to know (and many of them will) this spot will be available for their study and for others having some interest.

Other individuals of importance would be those that went to school in the area and later attained fame, fortune, or even achieved some bit of important negativity. There are those that read these reports that are rich sources of information and your input would allow this venue to be even more comprehensive. There are others that you should wish to invite to join our motley crew.