#84 Library History Brings Back Memories

            In a bond issue that passed by only 8 votes, the Kinsley Library finally got its own, permanent home on March 22, 1954.  No one can deny that the building has served the community well for the subsequent 68 years.  It was tax money well spent.

            Elsie Jenkins, librarian from 1941-1967, supervised the Boy Scouts in efficiently moving the books to 208 E. 8th St.  They were in alphabetized boxes so that the books could go directly into their correct position on the new shelves.   

            The new building was described as “remarkably attractive and tastefully arranged…so that its operation would conform to the particular needs of a small library usually in charge of just one librarian.”

Mrs. Elsie Jenkins behind the circulation
desk in the new library in 1954.

            The original layout remains the same today.  The high-quality maple furnishings have held up well.

             In subsequent years, book browsers were added in memory of Kermit Wilson, Edna Brown, and Elsie Jenkins. In more recent years, Victor Hirsh adapted an original LP music browser into a work table for the genealogy room.  An atlas stand/lectern (built by Bill Olsen) was donated in memory of Gerald E. Herrmann, and an entertainment cart was built by Gene Bender.

            One part of the original building which some folks may not know about is the “Music Room” located just west of the entry. This small room was furnished in memory of Evelyn Carlson and contained a record player, head phones and a stool for listening to LP albums.  Now that purpose has given way to housing the library server and other electronics.  However, this library director has not had time to “deal with” the vinyl records, which have come back in vogue, and can still be checked out.   

            In 1954 a 16 mm film projector was purchased and used to show films at the library.  Films, projector and screen could be borrowed.  I have used the projector to look at vintage home movies of Kinsley. The library also had a film strip projector which the old folks will remember as projecting 35mm film – no sound, just images. 

            The room in the northwest corner began as a place to store the past issues of magazines.  When internet access to periodical databases became available, it was no longer needed for that purpose.  It is now a genealogy/local history resource room containing many resources generated by Ed Carlson.   

            The 15’ high shelving in that room is not very accessible even on the very cool, rolling library ladder. We have left the old issues of Look, Post, and Life magazines up there, and each week the magazines from 50 years ago are placed on the table for browsing.

            This room has also housed the microfilm reader since 1955 when the earliest extant county newspapers were put on microfilm.  The current machine also scans and prints the microfilm up to 2021.

            Elsie Jenkins began keeping a burial card (retroactively) on everyone buried in Edwards County. Eula Westphal digitized the file in 2003, and it is kept up to date and available on the library website.  The Hillside cemetery records were digitized by sexton Ray Wetzel. Mary Graff photographed the gravestones and all were put on the library website in 2004.

            Mrs. Jenkins also started a record book of memorial book donations in 1954. donations Currently there are four volumes, a testament to the public support given to the library over the years.  Memorial donations remain a financial source for purchasing new books.

Edna Brown, Library Assistant and Head Librarian, 1940-1972

            When Mrs. Jenkins retired in 1967, Edna Brown, who had been hired as assistant librarian in 1940, became the librarian She would serve for a total of 32 years, retiring in 1972.

            In 1969 the Kinsley Library became a charter member of Southwest Kansas Library System which is supported by the county’s rural taxpayers.  Through a grant from the system, those rural taxpayers indirectly support the 3 county libraries (Kinsley, Meadowlark in Lewis and Henry Laird in Belpre).

            Over the years, the system has provided summer reading materials, books to rural residents through the mail, interlibrary loan service, rotating book collections, and help for any activity or issue the library has had.  It remains an important resource today.

            Mrs. Jenkins and Mrs. Brown had provided summer reading for many years, but the system began supplying ideas for this programming and still does today. 

Beverly Craft, Library Director, 1972-1997

            Beverly Craft became the library director in 1972 and served until 1997.  She wrote weekly book reviews for the newspaper.  She continued and enhanced children’s programming.  She saw computers come into the library and began the online catalog and check out system. 

            Miss Craft oversaw many art exhibits in the library and created the Vivian Elsbury print art collection for check out.  When the 12 prints faded, their rack was turned into the children’s reading kiosk in 1999.

The history of the library can be seen in what the library has checked out over the years: framed art prints (pictured here), books and magazines, 16 mm projector, filmstrip projector, record player and LP albums, cd albums,  books on cassette tape and cd, and movies on film, vhs, and dvd

            It was a fortuitous move when Miss Craft hired Rosetta Graff as librarian in 1973. She served for 47 years as the circulation librarian and a local historian until her retirement in 2020. In 1997 she was given the difficult task of training me.

Rosetta Graff, Librarian, 1973-2020

            Over the years, talented teens have also helped to furnished the library.  The KHS metals class created the outside book drop in 1974.   Humphré the foyer bookworm was created in 2001 by Marc Adams and Beth and Paul Strong under the mentorship of Bruce White. KHS Industrial Arts classes made a table for the genealogy room in 2008 and the shelf-end poster displays in 2011. Teens did the landscaping and created the Little Free Library in 2017.

            Many volunteers did the research for the Digital Map of Historical Kinsley programmed by Don Benish. Many people have and continue to offer oral histories, photographs, documents and stories for the archive.

            I regret this article leaves out so many contributions by librarians and citizens. All have made the Kinsley library a truly community library.  A more complete offering can be found on the Library Board History and the Library Timeline on library website.

             It is my joy and privilege to be a 25-year part of this Kinsley Library adventure.

#83 The Kinsley Library – Finally a Real Home

Last week’s article left off in 1927 with the library gaining public tax support and being housed in a room on the north side of the gymnasium. 

The Kinsley Woman’s Club continued to supplement the meager tax levy with fundraising teas and activities.  The importance of the library to the school children and high school students was always emphasized as well as the patronage of the citizens for books and magazines.

By 1930, the school board needed that room and asked the city to find another place for the library.  The library board advocated for a bond issue to build a library, and it was put on the ballot of the city election in April, 1930.  It was narrowly defeated by 27 votes. 

Mrs. Lillian Riley, Kinsley Librarian, 1937-1941

In 1934 the library board with the support of the Woman’s Club engaged architect Fred Wilson, in Washington D. C. to design a building.  You might remember him from a past article as Sally Frame’s Uncle Fred.  He offered to provide blue prints if the dream could become a reality.  The lot where the USDA Service Center is now located was offered for the location. 

The city commissioners told the board that they would need to garner signatures on a petition to put a bond issue on the ballot.  Whether they did or not, I do not know.  However, the library continued to be located in the school throughout the 1930s.

            In January, 1941 new rules for the library were set.  Those rules have changed little since.  Books are still checked out for two weeks.  Fines for overdue books have gone from 2 cents to 5 cents per day.  Families outside of the city limits use to be required to pay $1 per year for a library card, and now no fee is charged for non-city residents.  Then and now, children under the age of 14 need a parent’s signature to receive a library card.

 It is impossible to say how long the library would have remained at the school if it had not been for the school burning in a fire on February 13, 1941.  Only the walls of the school and the gymnasium were left standing. 

The Kinsley High School burned On February 13, 1941, but the library located
on the north side of the gymnasium survived. Photo from Kathy Rehmert collection.

When it looked like the gymnasium might also burn, students and citizens carried the 7000 library books, back issues of magazines, and furnishings to new quarters in the upstairs of City Hall at 507 Marsh Ave.  

After the fire, the library was moved from the school to the second floor of City Hall at 507 Marsh.

The book cases were cut down to fit the smaller space, and just one week later, librarian Lillie Riley was checking out books again.   It took a month to get everything back in order. The upstairs location prohibited access to the library for some citizens.

Later in 1941, a new librarian, Elsie Jenkins, took over and began advocating again for a librarian building.  In 1945 she reported to the board, “Now of course what we need most of all, is a place of our own, on the ground floor, where all people can have use of the library service.”

Mrs. Elsie Jenkins, Kinsley Librarian, 1941-1967

Later in 1941, a new librarian, Elsie Jenkins, took over and began advocating again for a librarian building.  In 1945 she reported to the board, “Now of course what we need most of all, is a place of our own, on the ground floor, where all people can have use of the library service.”

In January, 1951, the secretary of the library board, Milton Martin, wrote a letter to veterinarian H. W. Ruhe expressing consternation over his offer for property for a library where the Vocational Tech building is today. I cannot resist quoting the letter in its entirety. 

“I’m the Sec. of the Library Board and as such occasionally I get a job to do I don’t like.  Al (Al Wilson, city manager at the time) reported to us that you would like to donate your lot at 8th and Colony for the use of the library.  Believe me, we appreciate that offer – but on behalf of the Library Board I’m declining it.  Why?  Well, Darn it, we haven’t got the dough to build a building. If we can scare it up, we don’t even have enough to heat it and light it.  We draw only $2000 each year from the city – and the tax levy is as high as it can be put.  We have to pay our librarian at least half enough to live on – and we have to satisfy our customers by buying a new book once in a while.  And there went all our money!  So Doc, we’d better just stay in our firetrap hideout for a while.  Being in the same building with Al makes him happy, I guess – ‘cause he pays our light and gas bill – janitor service, tis another thing we don’t need much of.”

Finally, in January, 1953, the City Commissioners proposed a new city building.  Woods and Starr Architects of Hays drew plans for a city hall with police department and fire station.  The library was to be next to but entirely separated from the city offices and the downtown area.  It would have a separate entrance on a residential street.

“The library should be identified with the residential area, while the city offices deal primarily with the business section,” said Woods.

A public informational meeting was held and someone asked if the library would be on ground level, and it was assured that it would be. A bond issue of $125,000 was voted on February 17, 1953. It passed by only 8 votes.

On March 20, 1954, an open house was held at the current city hall with connected library on land donated by Ed and Ella Lippoldt.  Those eight votes gave the community a library building that has served it well for 68 years. 

#82 Kinsley Library – Congratulations and Best Wishes

            I left off last week’s history with the library on the second floor of the Edwards, Noble & Co. building being managed by club women. 

            In March, 1923, Captain E. F. Ewing, superintendent of schools, was chairman of a committee to try to establish a city library.  He offered a large room in the new gymnasium for no cost except heat and light.

            A petition was circulated to establish a one mil tax levy which would raise $2,191 for a city library.  It was necessary for 25%, or 125 of the 500 registered voters, to sign the petition. 

            “It would cost each tax payer, on each thousand dollars valuation of his property, the sum of forty cents a year, less that the cost of one good picture show, and for the men, the price of cigars for a day.” (Kinsley Graphic, March 8, 1923)

            On March 21, the successfully signed petition was turned over to the city commissioners who placed the question on the April 3 ballot.  It’s amazing that they could get something on a ballot just two weeks before the election.  However, this also gave the supporters little time to promote a “yes” vote.  There was a good turnout of 589 voters, but the library was narrowly defeated 286 to 303. 

            The Wednesday Night Club kept the desire for a library alive.  Margaret Hills was a member and had served Kinsley as its second librarian since 1912.  That June, the club held a fundraising card party in the Knights of Pythias Hall (upstairs of 105-111 E. Sixth St.)  Bowers of spring flowers decorated the rooms including peonies, iris, bluets, and “Miss Florence Erwin’s Oriental poppies, gorgeous blossoms, in pale pink.” The event raised $45.

The northside of the gymnasium offered a home for the library.

            Margaret Hills died on January 28, 1925, and so she did not live to see the library move into the north room of the gymnasium on February 17, 1925.   Miss Jessie Fravel, president of the Wednesday Night Club, became the third librarian.  She and club ladies did all the cataloguing of the books. 

            By December there were 2000 books in the library.  To raise money to buy books, children and adults were charged 5 cents a week to check out books on the “new book” shelf. 

            A new City Library organization was formed with representatives from all the clubs.  A second library mil levy election was held on April 5, 1926. This time it carried with a big majority and now “…the burden of carrying the library will be undertaken by all the people instead of the members of the Women’s Clubs who have given so generously of both time and money in the past…” (Graphic, April 5, 1926)

A mock wedding was held after Kinsley citizens passed a
one mil levy to support a public library on April 4, 1926. 

            On April 15, seventy-five club ladies gathered at the home of Mrs. Roy Hatfield (822 Colony Ave.) to celebrate the victory.  At the door, they were given an invitation to the wedding of Miss Gotta Library and Mr. B. Bigger Kinsley (portrayed by Marguerite Ehlers Coover and Elsie Nahar, respectively). 

             I cannot resist describing the event seen in the wedding picture.  It was taken by local photographer, John Cox “by flashlight”.  A little research explains that Cox would have sprinkled powder into the trough of a T-shaped flash lamp, held it aloft, and then triggered a brief and (usually) harmless bit of pyrotechnics.

            According to both the Graphic and the Mercury on April 22, 1926, this mock wedding was acted out by ladies whose names you may recognize from earlier articles.  It began with the singing of “O Promise Me” and the traditional Wedding March. 

            In the picture, the rector with a Vandyke beard and waxed mustache  was Sue Bidwell.  It was reported that her impersonation caused gales of laughter.

            On the left are the two bridesmaids, Ruth Workman and Gladys Fravel, carrying arm bouquets of pink roses. The page, Naomi Garrison, carries the ring on a satin pillow.

            Next to the groom is Mrs. Del Hoffman portraying “Mother Club”.  Beside her is the dashing best man, Eula Leslie.  The woman on the far right is the Matron of Honor, Mrs. Dick Griffee. 

             The humorously costumed woman with a hat in the left background is Mary Vang.  Mrs. B. F. Tatum, second from the right, stands resplendent in a plug hat, diamond stickpin and gentleman’s attire and mustache.  These two played the roles of “objectors” as in, “speak now or forever hold your peace” objectors.  The rector managed to smooth over their objections, and the library was wed to the City of Kinsley.

            In January, 1927, the city began financial support of the library.  The first board members appointed by the mayor were Mrs. Mary Vang, Mrs. Eva Smith, Mrs. Elsie Nahar, Mrs. Martha Gibson, Miss Jessie Fravel, D.A. Baugher, Mrs. Clinton Little, and John Stoner.  Miss Fravel resigned as librarian in May, and Mrs. Lillie Riley took over and remained the librarian until September, 1941. 

            Ninety-five years ago, the doors of the public library opened on the northside of the gymnasium.  Today, our new library sign proudly proclaims “Est. 1927”.  Next week, the story continues with fire, location changes, and another close vote.  

A new sign library sign went up last week just in time for the 95th birthday celebration.  

#81 Happy Birthday Dear Library

Ninety-five years ago, on April 5, 1927, a tax-supported public library was created here in Kinsley.  To celebrate this 95th birthday, you are invited to come by the library next Tuesday to have birthday cupcakes and coffee.  We hope you’ll enjoy the library timeline on display in the foyer and on the website which records the many changes and events over the years.

The story begins in the early days of Kinsley when “club” or “church” libraries were organized by dedicated women who brought their education and culture to the prairie.  These libraries were supported by fundraisers, donations, and charging a modest subscription fee to members for a “ticket”. Over the years, these libraries came and went, merged together and moved to various locations on main street.

            The first, most prominent and consistent library among these was the Christian Endeavor Society (C.E.S.) library of the Congregational Church.  Their library is recognized as the ancestor of the Kinsley Public Library.  It was located in the church on Niles Ave., but anyone in the county could become a member and borrow books.

The Christian Endeavor Library bookplate was placed in each book.

             One different library was formed in 1886 by two young ladies from Wellington, KS.  It was called the “The Franklin Square Library”.  I imagine is was named after Benjamin Franklin, a great promoter of libraries.  It was located in Mary (Mrs. C. W.) Beeler’s millinery shop at 110 E. Sixth St. (currently the vacant lot to the west of Country Tacs). 

            Early on, the topic of forming a free public library often came up in Kinsley.   Establishing a public library “would fill a long-felt want and would be a saving to the rich, a God-send to the poor, and an honor to the promoters.” (Mercury, Oct. 3, 1887)

            “Our merchants and real estate men should take hold of it because it is one of the best advertisements any city can have.  And our people should take hold of it because it will keep the boys, to a great extent, at ‘home’ instead of frequenting the billiard halls every night which they now do.”  (Mercury, Oct 8, 1887)

            On election day, November 10, 1890, the Congregational ladies held an election day supper to support their library fund.  The Mercury noted that the food would be good as the ladies have a “high reputation as culinary artists.”  (Note that 132 years later, the Congregational ladies’ still carry on the tradition of a delicious luncheon on election day.)

            The libraries seem to have languished in the early 1890s. In 1895 the Mercury reported that the Christian Endeavorites were reorganizing the library.  They moved it to Mrs. Slingerland’s millinery shop, a grey-frame, two-story building located at 210 E. Sixth St. (currently the vacant lot on the west side of the Edwards County Extension Office).

            Often fund-raising socials were held where people could donate a book or money to buy a book. It cost $1 to have a “ticket” to the library.

The Christian Endeavor Society Library moved into the Millinery Bazaar which is just visible on the left in this picture (c. 1900).  The circus wagon parades in front of the 200 block of Sixth St. Next to the Bazaar is Donnell Noble & Noble Real Estate-Insurance, an unknown wood frame building with a balcony, and Falk’s Implement House.

            Slingerland sold the Millinery Bazaar in August, 1897 to the Schnatterly sisters, Morton and Myrton.  They took on the duties of librarians in 1904 and the C. E. S. donated their books for a core collection.  

            In 1906, the C.E.S. also added its 250 volume Sunday School library into the Millinery Bazaar, which “was an excellent thing to do as everything that increases the number of good books in circulation in Kinsley diminishes to a degree the amount of loafing in undesirable places.”

Morton and Mryton Schnatterly, one seen on the far right and the other barely visible behind the hats in the center background, assumed librarian duties in their Millinery Bazaar shop from 1904 to 1910. 

            The library remained in the Millinery Bazaar until the sisters sold it in 1910 after Morton’s marriage to the organist, Donald Seymour. 

            The library was closed until 1912 when the C.E.S. and the Friday Nite Club agreed to support the library together.  Edwards, Noble and Co. offered to house the library in the NE corner of the second-floor of their building at 125 E. Sixth St. (currently Circle K Auto Parts).  It had a collection of 2,080 volumes.  Margaret Hills was hired as the librarian. 

The library was located behind the large upstairs front windows in the NE corner of the Edwards, Noble & Co Building from 1912 to 1923.

            Later the Wednesday Evening Club took on the responsibility of the library. They put on the communities first Shakespearean play, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” that August as a fundraiser for the library.

            The desire for a free public library continued.  In 1914, a plan was formed to combine the various semi-public libraries into one Kinsley Library Association.  Ladies representing the different organizations raised funds and purchased two lots on the SW corner of Niles and Fifth St. with plans to build a library.

            In 1917, Kinsley made application to Andrew Carnegie to build a library.  Due to the U.S. entering WWI, all requests were turned down that year.  Besides the war, 1917 also marked a failed wheat crop and an outbreak of measles which also contributed to setting aside the plans to build a library.  As it turned out, 1916 was the last year Carnegie libraries were built as Andrew Carnegie died in 1919. 

            The library remained in the Edwards, Noble & Co Building until 1923.  Now we are getting close to the 1927 birthday year, and I will pick up the story again next week. 

#80 Going once, Going twice, Sold

            I spent much of the weekend working on an exciting archival project which I’ll be telling you about in a future article.  So with my limited time, I went to our vertical files and pulled out the folder on the Kinsley Sales Pavilion (livestock sale barn) for this week’s article.  I’m hoping if it brings back more information, pictures, memories or stories about the sales barn, you will contact the library and share them for our files.

            Before the sales barn, there was a stock yard located east of the VFW and on the south side of the railroad tracks.  Livestock was loaded and unloaded on the train there.

            In August of 1933, the Edwards County Shippers Association met with local business men to talk about raising money to build a livestock sales barn. Shares were to be sold and then bought back with interest.  To encourage attendance, the association provided dinner and music by Pete Riisoe and Ed Lyman before the meeting.

            Leo Craft chaired the meeting and Earl Ehlers told of visiting a sale in Bucklin and seeing how it benefitted the town. Harold G. Britton also visited a sale in Anthony, and he described what a success it was for the town and merchants.

            The Shippers Association already had a contract with the Santa Fe Railroad for a site just east of the stockyards.  The plan of the pavilion was to be 44’ by 50’, to seat 500 people and to have 28 pens, part of them being 8’ X 16’ and part 16’ X 16’. 

            In December, 1933 the association was making a final push to raise funds to build the pavilion.  Time did not allow me to go through the papers to see how the shares were sold or not.  One way or another, Hugh Miller and Ed Lippoldt did build the Kinsley Sales Pavilion beside the stockyards and opened it on December 27, 1934. These two men were described in a Kinsley Graphic article (Dec. 20, 1034) as knowledgeable livestock men and “live wires”. 

            This was the biggest business enterprise that had happened in Kinsley in a long time probably due to the Depression and Dust Bowl.

              Their building was 48’ by 60’ with a gravel sales ring 30’ by 40’.  It could seat 700 people and offered a lunch room and ladies restroom.  Forty new pens were built with an alley leading into the sales ring. 

In 1938, sales were held every Wednesday afternoon.  Can anyone answer the question of why the phrase “Fair treatment to all” needed to be in the advertisement from the January 6, 1938 issue of the Kinsley Mercury

            I’m not sure when, but sometime, maybe in 1939 or 1940, W. R. Weigand, who had worked with his father at the sales barn in LaCrosse, ran the sales barn here for a short time.  He did have to close it because there was a lack of feed in the county.    

            Then with the backing of 43 Kinsley businesses, Weigand leased and reopened the pavilion on Saturday, November 30, 1940.  On that day, everyone selling or purchasing animals was given a chance to win a free calf. The Kinsley Chamber of Commerce offered free coffee.

This Lewis Bros. advertisement appeared in the Kinsley Mercury, April 11, 1946. The Lewis Bros. owned the sales barn from at least 1946 to 1956.

            By 1946 Bert and Buck Lewis had bought the business which was now called the Kinsley Livestock Sales Co.  They ran it for 10 years when E. H. Snyder of Pratt and Russell Wilkey of Sterling bought it in 1956.  

This picture was taken in the 1940s or early 1950s when Bert and Buck Lewis
owned the sale barn.  (Picture credit:  Mike Lewis)

            On January 21, 1960 the Kinsley Mercury featured the business, being run at the time by Rick Snyder, as “one of Kinsley’s most valuable assets and is of real service to the farmers of this area.  This business provides an outlet as well as a supply for the livestock men of a large area and weekly attracts a large number of buyers from over the state of Kansas as well as the adjoining states.”

            Snyder and Wilkey had the business for six years until the first week of August, 1962, when they announced that it was closing until further notice.  After that, I believe ranchers and farmers went to the sales barns in nearby Dodge City or Pratt.    

            That is the information I gleaned from the library file and a very little research.  It also gets us to a time when some people will remember going to the sales barn. If you can add to our information or have pictures or stories, I hope you will contact the library so we can add it to the file.

#79 Wear Green and Plant Potatoes

            Will you be wearing green this Thursday?  As the saying goes “Everyone is a little bit Irish on St. Patrick’s Day” so you may very well choose to do so.  The people who settled Kinsley were not Irish immigrants, but the celebration of this holiday was observed from the earliest years.

            I found the first reference to the tradition in the March 20, 1879 issue of the Edwards County Leader.  It reported that a dance had been held at Gem Hall (upstairs at 217 E. Sixth St.). Forty couples attended and it raised money to support the city band.

            I’m not sure why, but this holiday was often used to raise funds.  On St. Patrick’s Day in 1896, the Congregational Church ladies held a dinner and entertainment for the price of your age.

“This birthday party is given to you
‘Tis something novel, ‘tis something new,
We send to each this little sack.
Please either send or bring it back
With as many cents as years you are old
We promise the number shall never be told.
If any object their ages to tell,
Please put in one hundred,
‘Twill do just as well.
Kind friends will give you something to eat,
And others will furnish a musical treat,
The Cong. ladies with greeting most hearty
Feel sure you will come to your own birthday party.” 

            The next week, the Graphic editor remarked that “High Bingham is bankrupt since St. Patrick’s Day but thinks he got his money’s worth.  The ladies are thinking of charging him two cents a year next time.” Hiram C. Bingham was 67 at the time.

            A similar fund-raiser was held three years later by the Methodist Epworth League, a group made up of 16-35 year-olds.   Their invitation was to a ‘”Measuring Social” where participants were asked to give three cents for each foot they were tall for an evening of “music and song, recitation and pleasure”. (Graphic, March 24, 1899)

            In 1903, one dollar got you admitted to a St. Patrick’s Day concert held at the opera house to support the city orchestra.  The next year, the city band provided a concert to support raise funds.

            In 1906, the Congregational Christian Endeavor group had their Paddy’s Day fund raiser in order to purchase new books for library.  At the time the library was located at the church.

A book plate from the Christian Endeavor Library of the Congregational Church. 
In 1903, a benefit was held on St. Patrick’s Day to raise funds to buy books. 

            Kinsley hostesses often used St. Patrick’s Day as an occasion for parties where they decorated with shamrocks and candles with green shades. 

            Mrs. J. E. Clark and her mother Mrs. Catherine Steward seated their guests at a long table that had small green ribbons running from the plates to the centerpiece.  Attached to each ribbon was an envelope with a different verse of a familiar poem on the leaves of a broken shamrock, which were to be pieced together to complete the lines.  (Graphic, March 24, 1910)

            That same year, the domestic science class at the school held a dinner for their mothers who were very pleased that their daughters prepared it all at school during class. They served fruit cocktail, pigs in blankets, mashed potatoes with gravy, cabbage salad, olives and pickles, lemon pie, pineapple sherbet, cake and tea. 

            The Royal Neighbors (a women’s insurance group) played a game at their meeting where each member was blindfolded and given chalk to draw a pig on a blackboard.  (The pig was one of the sacred animals of Ireland.)  Then they were given a potato, tooth picks and paring knife to sculpt a pig.  Mrs. King was the winner and was given her pig as the booby prize besides the blue ribbon.   (Mercury, March 13, 1923)

Wishing you the luck of the Irish with this vintage postcard decorated with green shamrocks and a little pig.  Pigs have been a main stay in Ireland since Neolithic times and were sacred to the Druids.

            If you have ever wondered when is the best time to plant potatoes, the following story from March 17, 1917 in the Graphic might answer your question.

            “There were four men in town and they were arguing about when it was the best time to plant potatoes. One said March 17th on St Patrick’s Day was the one and only lucky day for planting.  The next man argued that Good Friday was the only day to do the work.  Naturalist No. 3 said wait for signs, the dark of the moon, etc., etc., etc.  Arguer No. 4 disbelieved all the theories and said plant whenever you have the time and money to purchase the ‘spuds’.  And the argument broke up and each man decided arguer #4 was right insofar as to bury the ‘spuds’ if you had the bankroll to purchase the seed.”

            The last stanza of the traditional Irish folksong, “The Wearing of the Green” reflects the universal desire for freedom and homeland.  This is very appropriate this year as we witness Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and show solidarity with their yellow and blue.

“Oh Ireland must we leave you driven by a tyrant’s hand
And seek a mother’s blessing from a strange and distant land
Where the cruel cross of England shall never more be seen
And in that land we’ll live and die still wearing Ireland’s green.”

# 78 Memories of the Cuban Missile Crisis

Last’s week’s news of Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine shocked the world and put it on edge.  Putin’s nuclear threats have also brought back memories for me from sixty years ago when we learned that the Soviet Union was building missile sites in Cuba capable of launching nuclear weapons at the U.S..  October 16-28, 1962 is now known as the Cuban Missile Crisis.

I grew up in Saline, Michigan about 50 miles outside of Detroit.  I remember in elementary school being taught how to shelter under my desk to avoid nuclear fallout. Really?!

I was eleven in 1957 when I watched the Soviet Union’s Sputnik, the very first satellite, glide across the night sky.  This was only a couple months after they had launched the world’s first intercontinental ballistic missile. 

All of a sudden, the U.S. had fallen behind the Soviet Union.  Our government quickly enacted educational reforms that required we students to take more classes in science, math and engineering so our nation could regain technological ground.

But it was when I was in high school that I really became aware of and saw how political events could impact me.  John F. Kennedy was president, and the Vietnam War was on the horizon. In April, 1961 the Bay of Pigs invasion failed to remove Castro from Cuba. In August, 1961 the Berlin Wall went up.

In 1962, I was a junior.  My chosen topic for the speech contest was on the fear that was leading people to build fall-out shelters. When the missile sites were discovered in Cuba, I vividly remember my fear.  I worried about survival and about my classmates and older brothers who might be called to defend our country.

While the world hovered on the brink of nuclear war, the 1962 KHS football team battled its homecoming game against Ashland to a 7-7- tie on October 19.  The pouring rain, cold wind, and an occasional exploding field light matched the ominous mood of the of the country.

Putin’s recent threats have brought all these memories back to me, and have also caused me to wonder what central Kansans were thinking and doing at that time.  Industrial Detroit was an obvious target for a missile attack.  Were there also targets in the wheat and corn fields of central Kansas?

I found the answer on the library shelves in an article, “Kansas Missiles: Central Kansas and the Nation’s Cold War Nuclear Arsenal, 1959-1963” written by Landry Brewer in the Spring, 2020 issue of Kansas History.          

Schilling Air Force base was located at Salina.  Early in 1960, it had been decided to install twelve Atlas ICBM missile sites within 50 miles of that base.  They were at Bennington, Abilene, Chapman, Carlton, McPherson, Mitchell, Kanopolis, Wilson, Beverly, Tescott, Glasco, and Minneapolis.  It was Schilling AFB and these sites that put central Kansas in the cross-hairs for a nuclear attack. That October, the 550th Strategic Missile Squadron at the base was put on high alert.

Shown here is a Convair SM-65F Atlas Missile at the Abilene, Kansas, site circa 1962.  Photo is courtesy of the U.S. Air Force as it appeared in Kansas History, Spring, 2020. This article is available at the library or online through the Kansas State Historical Society website:  https://www.kshs.org/p/kansas-history-spring-2020/20269

These Atlas missiles sites had been constructed in 1961 for $47 million dollars, a real boon to the local economy. They were big, each being 174’ deep and 52’ in diameter, and were built entirely underground.

According to the Kansas History article, “The Atlas missile was 82.5’ long and 10’ wide and weighed 18,104 pounds when filled with liquid fuel.  In flight, the missile reached speeds of 16,000 miles per hour, allowing it to travel nearly 7,000 miles in just 43 minutes, landing within 2 nautical miles of its target.  Upon arrival, the Atlas’s warhead would deliver a 4-megaton yield” which was 200 times more powerful than the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The fears I had in Michigan were shared by the people here.   Bill Britton was a junior at Lewis High School.  “It was scary,” he told me.  “I was afraid that we would go to war.  It might be one of the reasons I joined the Navy two years later.  I ended up serving on the USS Enterprise which had been part of the blockade of Cuba in 1962.”

Marlin Butler also remembers the crisis well.  “I was scared, and remember it well. I was in my first year of college at Fort Hays and sitting in the Varsity Barber Shop when President Kennedy came on the TV with the announcement.  Some of the guys I knew were in the National Guard, and they were immediately activated.  I was scared to death.  Later I found out exactly how close we had come to nuclear war.”

The guys having coffee at the pharmacy on Monday all agreed that it was a scary deal, “but Kennedy took care of it. He called Khrushchev’s bluff and the Soviet Union backed down.”

These missile sites in Central Kansas soon became outdated and were all decommissioned by June, 1965. The missiles were shipped away, and the equipment and land were sold. 

I will close with this thought from the Kansas History article.  “The Kennedy administration operated with the hope that the Soviet Union would not initiate a nuclear war knowing that both countries would be destroyed. This was the essence of the doctrine of ‘mutual assured destruction’ (MAD)…. Soviet leader (Nakita) Khrushchev pleaded with Kennedy by letter to join him in taking the necessary steps to avoid ‘the catastrophe of thermonuclear war’ between the two countries because ‘only lunatics or suicides, who themselves want to perish and to destroy the whole world before they die, could’ allow such a war to happen.”

#77   Pulling Out All the Stops for 135 Years

                The oldest church organ in Kansas is located at the Methodist Church in Cawker City.  But it might surprise you to know that this beautiful organ’s majestic chords first filled the sanctuary of the Kinsley Congregational Church.

Oldest church organ is at the Cawker City Methodist Church had the Pilcher organ restored in 1976 before moving it into the sanctuary of their new building where “It continues to provide faithful service to the glory of God and is a source of pride for the congregation and community.”  (Photo: Cawker City Hesperian Historical Society)

            In 1885, when the Congregational Church members decided to build a new church on the corner of Niles Avenue and Seventh St, some wanted to purchase a pipe organ. Others thought that was only a “pipe” dream.  Kinsley was a frontier town; there were no organs west of Emporia. 

            But acting with the faith of pioneers, the congregation went ahead and ordered an organ from Henry Pilcher’s Sons of Louisville, Kentucky.  Its $1800 cost would be paid through donations, local fund-raising and the promise of proceeds from future concerts.

The Congregational Church second building was built in 1886 on the corner of Niles Avenue and Seventh St. It was replaced with the current building in the same location in 1982.

            The new church building was dedicated in October, 1886, and the new organ arrived in November.  It was big, occupying a space on the floor of 10 ½ feet wide by 7 feet deep and standing nearly 20 feet high.  It was handsomely decorated in bright colors with gold and silver leaf and had 628 pipes and 12 stops. 

            What really intrigued the people while watching it be assembled was seeing how it worked.  This description in the December 11, 1886 issue of the Kinsley Mercury helped me to understand.

            “The mechanism of the instrument is a marvel of ingenuity and somewhat difficult to describe. The wind is supplied by a bellows measuring seven feet long and five feet wide with double feeders worked by a lever at the back.  The wind is then conveyed to the four wind chests which contain the valves, of which there is one for each key and pedal.  As the keys are pressed down thus opening the valves, the compressed air is admitted to as many pipes as there are stops drawn.

            “There are two sets of keys and twenty-seven pedals, besides the composition movements for rapid changes of stops, and a balanced swell pedal, all brought under the control of one performer.” 

            Professor Willis J. Peck was hired as the first organist, and he carried out a dedication recital on December 15, 1886 which was “artistically and financially a complete success”.  Tickets amounting to $450 were sold to pay toward the outstanding balance on the organ.

            “Mr. Peck seemed in his element as he took his seat at the organ, giving as the opening number the popular wedding march from Mendessohn’s ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream,’ and in which he brought forth the power and beauties of the organ with fine effect.”  Mr. Henry Pilcher, owner of the organ company, had come to Kinsley and played two numbers. Many talented local vocalists and musicians also performed.

            During the following years, the organ provided music for church services, weddings, funerals, and concerts, some of the latter being performed by well-known organists including Dwight H. Seymour of Colorado Springs.  He came in 1907 to repair the organ and to give a concert. 

Dwight H. Seymour

             That’s when Seymour (age 47) met Morton Schnatterly (age 43).  She ran the local millinery shop in Kinsley with her sister, Myrton.  Between his performances in Kansas, trips Miss Schnatterly’s took to Colorado Springs and correspondence, they must have fallen in love.  They married on September 11, 1909, and he became the Congregational Church organist.  For the next few years, Seymour was instrumental in fostering music with the youth and adding to the culture of the city.

            Pipe organs can be expensive to keep in repair.  When Mr. Day of Kansas City was hired to rebuild it, he reported that “…the material in this instrument is all of the best quality, and that when the rebuilding is completed it will be as good as new and will last another twenty years.” (Graphic, May 27, 1909)

            To help fund the repairs, well-known organists were again brought in for concerts including Prof. Charles S. Darling of the 2nd Presbyterian Church of Kansas City and Roland Diggle of the Episcopal Cathedral at Wichita.

Roland Diggle

            One critic reported that Mr. Diggle “is indeed an artist, excellent in technique, exquisite in taste, serious in purpose.  But his playing… lacks spirit, enthusiasm, inspiration …. the writer ventures to believe the musician has not yet had his heart broken.  He will play better after that experience.”  (Mercury, June 2, 1909)

            In August, 1911, the congregation debated replacing the organ as the costs of repairs were more than it was worth.  A fund was set up, but whether the money could not be raised or for whatever other reason, a new organ was not purchased.

The organist of the Salina Cathedral played on the Pilcher organ in the Kinsley Congregational Church for the wedding of Marion Edwards and Jouette Shouse on October 18, 1911.  The organ is nearly hidden behind all the white and yellow chrysanthemums and greenery.

            The Pilcher organ continued to serve the church and community until 1931 when Mr. and Mrs. W. D. West gave a substantial gift in memory of their son toward the purchase of a larger, more “modern” organ from the Reuter Organ Co. of Lawrence, Kansas.  This Reuter organ is still used in the current Congregational Church building.

            In 1931, the husband of the Cawker City Methodist Church’s custodian, Clarence Wolbert and Elda Coe drove a pickup truck to Kinsley to haul the dismantled Pilcher organ away.  Their current organist, Steve Richardson, has done considerable research and created a wonderful website which continues the fascinating history of the Pilcher organ as it continues to fill a sanctuary with lofty praise on Sunday mornings.   https://1886pilcher.weebly.com/1886

#76 Is It Catching?

             “The annual   __  epidemic has broken out in the northeast part of Kinsley with unusual virulence. We understand that some of the young folk have it very badly.  At this time, it is reported to be spreading to other parts of the city.” 

            Before you grab your mask and head for quarantine, the above announcement appeared in the May 25, 1894 issue of the Kinsley Graphic, and the blank did not refer to “Covid” but to “lawn tennis.”  

            In celebration of the new city tennis courts in South Park, I decided to look into the history of tennis in Kinsley.

            One year after Kinsley was founded in 1873, the rules for this new English sport of lawn tennis were set down.  This was the second sport that was deemed appropriate for upper class Victorian English ladies to play.  The first had been croquet because it was not too strenuous for women, and it offered ample opportunity for flirtation between the sexes. 

September 1907, Alice Rossington, R. S. Sowards, Marion Edwards, Mr. Rossington in Kinsley for D.A.R. dedication of Santa Fe Trail marker. Taken at Edwards home. Croquet wickets seen on right.

            If you have ever played croquet, you know it provides little in the way of exercise and certainly cannot be described as a nail-biting competition.  Lawn tennis quickly rose in popularity because it was more competitive, provided more exercise, and still offered the possibility of flirtation, especially during mixed double matches.

            Lawn tennis is first mentioned in the July 13, 1882 issue of the Kinsley Mercury as “the favorite game for pastime on East Eighth street these evenings.”  By the spring of 1890 several lawn tennis clubs had been organized.

            Lawn tennis courts were relatively easy to establish as reported in July, 1907.  “Dr. Haynes (of Belpre) gave a novelty party to a number of the young people Friday evening.  After a weed pulling, the guests were invited into the dining room where refreshments were served.  The doctor thinks with another crowd of such industrious young people they will have their lawn tennis court in fine condition.” (Graphic, July 19, 1907)

            In 1895 a double court had been set up beside the Bicycle Club clubhouse at the octagon house (411 E. Fifth St.). Other courts followed at Senator F. B. Hine’s house (816 E. Second Ave.), in the south part of town (probably in South Park), at Senator F. Demont Smith’s home (816 E. Second St.), at lawyer W. E. Broadie’s home in the east part of town in 1911, and south of the Graphic office (301 E. Sixth St.) in 1912.

Mable Marsh and Charles Edwards “fishing” in the Edwards pond on the west side of the Edwards home
in 1907 (322 E. Fourth).  The lawn tennis net can just be seen in the background on the right side. 

            In the beginning ladies played lawn tennis in their everyday dresses which had long sleeves, long skirts, bustles, and full-covering aprons.  Gradually the dress was simplified by removing the ruffles and bows, and the skirt was shortened to show the ankles. It still would have been quite confining, and ladies were usually expected to lob the ball to their partner who then hit it over the net.

Illustration of tennis clothing which appeared in the
April 17, 1891 issue of the Kinsley Graphic.

            Tennis continued to gain popularity with prominent people playing in large club tournaments here and in neighboring towns.  In 1913, a tennis court was prepared north of the school as “much interest has been shown in this line of athletics.  There is no better school sport than tennis as it is suitable alike for boys and girls.” (Graphic, May15, 1913) 

            The 1914 KHS annual reported, “This season we have two good tennis courts, and judging from the number who are seen ‘swatting’ the rubber ball, tennis is going to be a great factor in helping work off the spring fever from a goodly number of K.H.S. students.”  There appears to have been a tennis team on into the 1920s but when track was started in 1923, it disappears as a school sport.

Ben Ely, Jr., a graduate of KHS Class of 1916, with his racquet. 

            In 1939, the city commissioners used a WPA Park Improvement project to provide labor to build two tennis courts in South Park.  According to the May 18, 1939 issue of the Mercury, “Backstops will be installed and a gravel-clay floor made for the courts, but players will be required to furnish the nets.” 

            I’m not sure when paved courts were first installed, but perhaps it was about the time tennis was revived as a male sport at the high school in 1951.  There was a team in 1952, but again tennis seems to have been dropped when wrestling was added in 1953. 

The KHS 1950 tennis team. Front row: Mr. Kilgore, Robert Fulls, Gary Werner, Dick Harris. 
Back row:  Robert Gordley, Elton Arensman, Neil Hopper, Dean Gatterman, Jerry Whetstone.

            The June 20, 1974 issue of the Mercury showed a picture of city manager Lloyd Britton on the newly “rebuilt” tennis courts in South Park.

            With the new courts available in South Park, maybe Kinsley will again catch the tennis bug.  The sport certainly provides good exercise, and it can still offer an opportunity to flirt with the opposite sex. 

Two young men enjoying the new tennis courts and the 70-degree weather last Sunday in South Park.

#75  One Story Leads to Another and Another     

            Last week I shared a pictures that Hal Maxey of Boise, Idaho sent to us of the George T. Maxey family moving to Kinsley in their covered wagon in 1886.  I called Sally Frame, the granddaughter of Nellie Maxey Wilson who is the oldest girl in the picture.  Sally had never seen the picture and soon came to the library to get a copy. 

            Sally began to reminisce about her Grandma Wilson.  Sally was in 7th or 8th grade when she went on a trip with her to Washington, D.C. to visit her Uncle Fred Wilson, one of Nellie’s sons.

Fred E. Wilson’s 1917 Kinsley High School graduation picture. 

             Fred had graduated from Kinsley High School in a group of very talented young people in 1917.  He started attending Kansas State Agricultural College (KSU) but had to leave when he was drafted into the army during WWI.  He did not serve overseas and was able to return to earn his degree in architecture when the war was over. 

            Fred moved to Tampa, Florida until the crash of 1929 when he was hired as an architect with the General Services Administration in Washington, D.C.  In 1930, he married Betty Newman, a school teacher, and they had two sons.

Fred E. Wilson

            During World War II when Fred was 43, he used his close connection with his KSU fraternity brother, Milton Eisenhower (Dwight’s brother), to get back into the army to serve as an artilleryman to protect the US coastline in California and Florida.  After the war, the Wilsons went back to live outside D.C.  in Falls Church, Virginia.  

            It was about 1950 when Grandma Wilson and Sally got on the train in Kinsley and rode in a sleeper car to visit Uncle Fred.  She remembers going to the dining car and feeling very special being waited on by the Black matre d’.

            They had to make a stop in Union Station in Chicago for passengers.  “I got off the train to explore all by myself,” said Sally.  “Somehow I managed to get back on the right train before it pulled out again for Arlington, Virginia.”

            “We stayed with Uncle Fred and Aunt Betty for a month,” recalled Sally.  “I remember eating in the Salzbury Club, and he took us to the National Gallery of Art.  I loved it!  Afterwards he said that I was the only one of his relative that had ever enjoyed going to an art museum with him.”

Sally Frame loaned this 1954 oil painting by Fred E. Wilson depicting Kinsley’s Main Street to the library.  It is currently on display.  
Indian portrait by Fred Wilson

             When Fred retired to Florida, he devoted himself to painting portraits and landscapes.  Sally remembers the paintings he did of the some of the directors of the Edwards County Bank which are reproduced in Myrtle Richardson’s book, “The Great Next Year Country”.  She owns several other paintings by Fred.

I wanted to know a little more about Sally’s Uncle Fred, so I searched his name in the newspapers.com archive.  Both Sally and I were surprised to find him linked to a sensational D.C, murder investigation in 1930. The headline of a two full-page story in the Daily New-Sun in August, 1930, asked the question: “Who Killed Mary Baker, Girl of Many Loves? Washington Has Seen a Parade of Many Suspects”. 

Picture of Fred E. Wilson as it appeared in the Daily News-Sun on August 30, 1930 in a cold case story on the murder of Mary Baker.

            Mary Baker was a young, navy file clerk.  Her bloody body was found in a culvert of a remote section of Arlington cemetery on April 11.  Fred Wilson and Mary both worked in the Bureau of Aeronautics and had kept company with each other before his marriage earlier that year.

            The day after Mary’s body was found, Fred was questioned by both the D.C. and Arlington police.   He admitted that he was to have met Mary at 5 p.m. on the night she was murdered, but she did not show up.  After hours of interrogation, he was ruled out as a suspect and released.

            In the days and weeks to follow, the Capitol, Arlington County and Virginia State police departments, as well as navy and Department of Justice agents all questioned another dozen men as suspects.  Finally, Herman Campbell, a wealthy real estate man, was arrested and charged with the crime.

            During the trial in October, a new technology was used to microscopically compare the bullets from the crime to Campbell’s gun.  The comparison was found to be unreliable, and he was exonerated. The murder case was never solved.

            What family stories, known or unknown, might you find in newspaper.com.  Kansas residents can freely access some years of Kansas newspapers through the Kansas State Historical Society which is linked in the right menu on the Kinsley Library webpage:  wwwkinsleylibrary.info .   Like Sally, maybe you will discover more of your family’s story.