#69 Odd Fellows Convene in Kinsley – 1912

Recently Ed Carlson who grew up in Kinsley purchased some Kinsley Independent Order of Odd Fellows (I.O.O.F.) memorabilia on eBay.  My father belonged to this fraternal organization which is similar to the Masonic Lodge with degrees and secret rituals.  You may have seen their symbol, a 3-link chain, on gravestones at the cemetery. 

            I.O.O.F goes back to the 13 century in Europe when men of different labor guilds organized for the purpose of aiding each other.  They were called “Odd Fellows” because unlike the Masons, they  came from different trade guilds.  

            I.O.O.F were to “visit the sick, relieve the distressed, bury the dead, and educate the orphan.”  The 3-link chain reflects the I.O.O.F motto of “Friendship, Love and Truth”.  It was the first fraternity in the US to include both men and women when in 1851 it included the Daughters of Rebekah for the ladies’ companion organization.

Frank Milloway I.O.O.F. Ribbons

            The first settlers in Edwards County already belonged to the I.O.O.F. when they arrived here. On June 14, 1877, men met in Kinsley and within a year they were organized into five lodges in the county.  It was the most popular fraternal organization in Kansas and early on established orphanages.   

The Kinsley High School band leads the I.O.O.F parade up Sixth St. on April 26, 1912.   Mark Parkhurst is identified with an X as the trombonist in front.  In 1912, starting on the east end of Sixth Street and moving west, the businesses were:  Namur Garage, Graphic, Gonder Warehouse, Dinkens & Russell Cleaners, Evans Hardware, Elite Theatre, People’s Store. Popp’s Meat Market, Leonard Jewelry, Geer Grocery, and the OK Lunch Room.
I.O.O.F members stand in front of northside of Sixth St.  In 1912, starting on the west end at 110 Sixth St. and going west, the businesses were:   Green’s Lunchroom, Goldschmidt’s Hardware, Rex Woods Clothing, Goddard & Mairs Drug Store, Schnatterly Jewelry, DeMain Drug Store, Ehlers Mercantile/Farmers & Merchant Bank, and the Electric Light Company.  Note that Rex Wood Clothing (116 E. Sixth St., former Farm Bureau Building) was a 3-story building and the I.O.O.F held their meetings on the top floor.

            Among the collection of pins, medallions, and ribbons that Carlson purchased were postcard images of downtown Kinsley captured on April 26, 1912 during a parade organized by West Lodge No. 150 and Kinsley Rebekah Lodge No. 411.  That day marked the 93rd anniversary of the establishment of I.O.O.F in the United States by Thomas Wildey in Baltimore in 1819. Eight hundred Odd Fellows and Rebekahs from all over southwest Kansas attended the day-long meeting. 

            Carlson surmises that the memorabilia belonged to Frank Milloway (1871-1941) whose I.O.O.F portrait was with the collection.  Frank Milloway had worked for the railroad.  He married Anna Doerr, the daughter of Jacob Doerr of Larned. 

Frank T. Milloway in his I.O.O.F regalia.

            In 1906 he moved his family to Kinsley to a home just east of the Catholic Church.  He managed the Moses Bros. elevator and then the dry goods department of the People’s Store (213 E. Sixth St., antique store lot).  After it burned in 1911, he went across the street to manage the dry goods in Timken Store (212 E. Sixth St., Extension Office).  In 1913 the Milloways moved to Dodge City where Frank managed the dry goods department of Locke Mercantile Co.  He’s buried in the Doerr family plot in Larned. 

            I.O.O.F remained an active organization here and in Lewis for many years.  I am not sure when they disbanded.  If you know that or have any other information, please let me know so it can add be added to our files. 

#68 A LaRue Christmas Story by Joan LaRue Weaver

Christmas is a season for memories, for telling family stories, old stories from the past and new stories created recently.  These stories may be happy, funny, sad or even tragic.  Perhaps you have story about your great grandfather or a new pandemic Christmas story.

My mother and father told family stories.  I was young, and I only half-listened to many of them.  My parents died over twenty years ago, so now I wish I had paid more attention.  Perhaps you have that same regret.  I am lucky, however, in that some of their stories were written down and preserved for me, my children and grandchildren.  

As we move into a new year, I am getting on my old soapbox to encourage you to tell and preserve your family stories.  One thing I have learned from conducting over 80 oral histories and writing a weekly article is that everyone has stories that are interesting and worth preserving.

Think about the connections you have to your old family stories.  You may have photo albums, diaries, scrapbooks and letters that provide a window to the past.  Future generations will not be so fortunate. Today’s letters have become emails and text messages which are not printed.  Photographs are now digital images on devices that get lost or cannot be retrieved on a new computer which no longer accesses floppy discs or CDs.  Super 8 movies and VSH recordings already can’t be watched without migrating them to newer technology.  Even the word processing software I used some years ago to retype an old diary is now obsolete.  This article contains three pictures my father took in the 1950s using slide film that had to be digitized and then printed.  These are just some of the reasons that it is important to print what you want to preserve for the future.

New Year’s Day is a good time to make a resolution to begin preserving your family stories.  You don’t have to write a long memoir – just write recollections whenever you have a little time.

The following is one of my memories that I offer to you as an example of a simple story from my childhood.  Maybe it or the accompanying pictures will spark a memory of your own that you can share with your family.    

It looks like I received a cowgirl outfit, a Christmas doll and a nurse’s kit in 1951. I do remember taking the doll’s temperature that day only to have the toy thermometer fall into the doll’s hollow head causing a rattle she never recovered from.

“When I was four or five years old, I vividly remember one Christmas Eve.  Having been warned that Santa would not come if we were awake, my two older brothers and I had been sent upstairs to bed.  However, we had no intension of going to sleep.  Instead, we crawled under my brother’s bed and gathered our heads around a cold air register positioned directly above the hallway below.  Because we didn’t have a fireplace, my brothers knew that Santa would have to come in the door and down that hallway to reach the living room where the Christmas tree and our stockings were.  Giggling with anticipation, we peered down through the holes of the register awaiting Santa’s arrival.

It wasn’t long before we saw the top of the fur-trimmed red hat go bobbing past below. We scrambled out from under the bed and tore down the stairs to see Santa standing with mom and dad in the living room.  He gave us our presents, wished us a Merry Christmas and left back down the hallway.

John and Brian LaRue in their new cowboy outfits are taking care of the bad guys in 1950.

Happily, I began playing with my new doll house, but my worldlier brothers started to doubt that it had really been Santa Claus.  They insisted on going out into the yard to look for the reindeer tracks and sleigh marks.  Mom and Dad tried to discourage them, but they bundled up in their coats, boots, scarves, and mittens and headed outside.  I was too young to go and had to be content to watch from the window.

After years of seeing deer tracks on the beaches of Lake Michigan, my brothers were experts.  It wasn’t long before they came trudging back through the snow to assure Mom, Dad, and myself that they had definitely seen the reindeer tracks.  It had been the real Santa! And that is why, to this very day, I know Santa Claus exists.  My big brothers proved it!

Diane LaRue on her jumping spring horse in 1953. 
This Christmas her grandson Gene is riding the same horse in Michigan.

#67 Dear Santa…

            “Dear Santa” is the hope-filled salutation that children begin their letters with each December.  This year, like every year, Santa is sharing some of his letters with the Edwards County Sentinel.  This tradition appears to have begun in 1922 with the Kinsley Mercury.  What children wanted back then and they want now has changed.

            One hundred years ago, many children asked Santa to bring them a book – a request that warms the heart of this library. 

            Nearly every child asked for nuts, candy and oranges for Christmas.   I can remember my mother (who was born in 1913 into a family of meager means) told me that she always got a fresh orange and nuts.  If you found an orange in the toe of your stocking it was considered a real treat, a luxury shipped in from some faraway place, exotic place called Florida. 

            Oranges also may have been inspired by a legend of St. Nicholas who once gave three gold balls to a poor man whose daughters couldn’t marry because he couldn’t afford their dowries.   The tale says that St. Nicholas tossed the gold balls down the man’s chimney, where they ended up in the daughters’ stockings, which were drying by the fire. Later in history, people began to honor this story and the saint by gifting oranges instead of spheres of gold.  Santa always gave me, and later my own children, an orange in our stockings.

            A survey of some of these early letters finds that little boys wanted Tinker Toys, Lincoln Logs, cowboy suits, and steam engines.  Many requested some type of gun, from cork guns to Buck Rogers toy guns, to BB, pump, and shot guns.  There were requests for skates, sleds, electric trains and bicycles.  Keith King wrote, “I want a farm, I’ll take a boat.”

LA favorite toy for boys in the 1930s was a Buck Rogers ray gun.

            In 1922, Harvey Shafer asked for a “basketball bladder” which harkens back to a time when the outside of a basketball was stitched leather that covered a rubber bladder inside. 

            Many little girls in 1934 and 1935 wanted a Shirley Temple doll.  I wonder in the midst of the hard economictimes how many were disappointed on Christmas morning?   Other girls wanted rubber dolls with moveable eyes, doll buggies, doll dishes.  Four Centerview girls (Marcia Brown, Marcia Dimmick, Enola McClaren, and Valeta B. Derley) all wanted xylophones. I wonder if that was their favorite rhythm instrument at school. 

Every girl wanted a Shirley Temple doll in the 1930s.

            In 1933, Norma C. Lewis wrote, “I am a little girl and I have tried to be good.  I wish you would bring me a Teddy Bear and a set of dishes.  Also a table and 4 chairs if you will have room in your sack for them all.”

            Seven-year-old Junior Kleysteuber reflected on the times when he wrote in 1932,  “Dear Santa, I hope the depression has not hit you, like it has most of us, for I would like a few toys, and candy, nuts and oranges.  Don’t forget mother and father.”

            Today’s child usually does not hide the disappointment whenever a gift of clothing is unwrapped.  Not so, back then.  Requests for overcoats, shoes, gloves, caps, overalls, and slippers all appear in the letters.  Lida Mae Titus wanted something a little more special, “a fluffy dress”. 

          Many of you are familiar with the quotation, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” that New York Sun editor, Francis Church, famously wrote to answer a little girl’s question in 1897.  Twenty-five years later, Kinsley also had a newspaper man, Jay Baugh, defending Santa.  He was a member of the KHS Class of 1922 and the editor of the KHS Breezes (school newspaper). 

Jay Baugh, KHS Class of 1922

Jay also wrote for the Kinsley Mercury.   In the Dec. 21, issue, he wrote the following:

 There is a Santa Claus
The Letters on Another Page Prove It
He Will Reimburse Them in His Own Good Way 

            “Who can read the letters to Santa Claus from the kiddies of this community, that are printed in this issue and then have the audacity or the nerve to tell the youngsters that there is no Santa Claus, and that Christmas is a joke?

            “Each of those letters tells its own story of love of the unseen—the mythical—and of undaunted faith that can not be destroyed by the mere words of mere men—that exists in the minds of each of those young writers.  The simplicity of the faith that each one has unconsciously expressed in his letter to “Santa” is really great in its portrayal of the childhood dreams, desires and general trend of thoughts.  It gives a far keener insight into the personality of childhood than any grown person can write, regardless of his authority. 

                “We have heard people say that it is rank foolishness and deception to allow children to believe that Santa Claus is really in existence, but it is that to try to destroy that belief, for he does exist in the mental form.

                “Santa Claus is a mental being, the symbol of love and fellowship—in short, everything that tends to make men love one another.  What matter if he doesn’t come down the chimney?  That doesn’t prove that there isn’t any Santa Claus.  It is only the fancy that makes the mental status comprehensible to the mind of the child.  If he were told that Santa Claus was a mental being, he would know even less about it than he did before, and his faith in everything, including humanity, would be shaken, due to the doubts which would fill his mind.

                “Tell the kiddies there is a Santa Claus who represents all that is good.  They like to hear it and you will like to tell it to them.  You will be building the foundation upon which, in time, the essentials of real manhood and womanhood will come to exist.”

                Jay graduated and became the youngest newspaper editor in Kansas when he purchased the Montezuma Press in 1923.  That year he married his high school sweetheart, Ethel Payne, a junior at KHS.  They had one child before she died in 1926. 

                Jay would move on to Montezuma and own the Johnson Pioneer.  His career spanned 50 years and earned him the title, the “Dean of Southwest Kansas Newsmen.”  He died in January, 1973 and is buried in Dodge City.

                The Kinsley Board and staff hopes that all of you find an orange in your stocking and that you have a very Merry Christmas and the Happy New Year

# 66 More Turkey Tales

            I decided to go down another turkey trail this week.  After Marcus Coover read last week’s article, he brought in a Kansas Turkey Champion trophy that Glen and Mildred Bidleman won in 1939 from the Kansas Poultry improvement Association.  A little polish and elbow grease brought out the inscription and shine of the silver plate.  The trophy had been passed down to Marcus by his step-father, DeLos Bidleman, Glen’s son.   This trophy is just one of many trophies and plaques that the Bidlemans won for their turkeys during the 1930’s and early 1940s.  It will be at the library this month if you would like to see it.

Trophy reads:  “Kansas Turkey Champion, 1939, Mr. and Mrs. Glen Bidleman, awarded by the Kansas Poultry Improvement Association.”

            In the course of conversation, Marcus also recalled a more modern turkey farm which was located on the southern edge of the football field in the early 1960s.  I had to laugh when he said that during football practice, those big white birds would run up and down on the other side of the fence chasing the plays.  That would have been fun to watch.

            My curiosity was aroused to know the dates of this turkey farm.  I decided to inquire at the local coffee group that meets every morning at Kinsley Drug.  As usual, the guys were a font of information.  Harold Burkhart and Jerry Froetschner remembered the 20-acre turkey farm being owned by a Don Fourier.  When he sold the land, the two families had bought it from him.

            Harold knew his family owned the land sometime before the June, 1965 flood.  His dad was running a few cattle there at the time.  The flood took out the shed, and when the water remained about a foot deep for a couple of days, three cows sought higher ground on Mrs. Hargadine’s porch.  He remembered having to go and chase them off and herd them over to the old sale barn by the overpass. 

Harold Burkhart looks on as Bill John Bidleman admires his Uncle Glen Bidleman’s trophy during coffee time at Kinsley Drug last week.

            In order to better pin point the dates of the turkey farm, I visited Cheryl Proffitt and Melinda Habiger at the Edwards County Register of Deeds office.  The ladies researched in the big volumes and were soon able to tell me that Fourier had purchased the land in 1961 and sold it in April, 1965.

            I then quarried my go-to local history guru, Ed Carlson, and he came up with a November 22, 1964 article in the Great Bend Tribune which told about the Fourier enterprise.            

            Don Fourier was hired as the Kinsley Co-operative Exchange farm field man in June, 1961.  He purchased the land and was began raising one-day-old birds under 20 brooder stoves.  A maximum of 400 baby turkeys were able to be kept under each stove. In 1964 he raised 5,000 turkeys for the fall market.

            Kinsley no longer had the turkey processing co-op Glen Bidleman had started in 1936., so Fourier’s birds were transported and processed by poultry packing plants in Fairview, OK and Gibson NE.

            Fourier, like the Bidleman’s before him, entered his birds in competitions.  In the 1964 State Turkey Show in Wichita, he took a sixth and a third place.  The later 30-pound winner was sold at auction for $68, considerably more than the $8.70 it would have brought at the time in the grocery store at 29₵/lb.

            I have described this research “trail” to show how “it takes a village” to preserve our community’s history.  When Marcus Coover brought the trophy to the library, it helped me uncover and preserve a little more history.  If one of my articles brings to mind a memory, a picture in your family album, or some vintage object, share the story with the library.  Both myself and the readers will enjoy any tidbit you can add to the Edwards County story.

#65 Pearl Harbor – And an Aftermath Story

This article contains information written by my father’s cousin, DeLos A. Seeley, who was in Waikiki, Hawaii before the attack on Pearl Harbor.  At that time, DeLos was the civilian assistant city planning engineer, but he would be put in charge of coordinating the burial of the dead immediately after the attack.  The following is part of the letter he wrote to one of my high school students on January 30, 1986.

“There was much concern here in Honolulu about a possible Japanese attack in the weeks prior to Dec. 7th, 1941.  I had been asked to be a block warden – just in case – so on the night of the 7th, I went around my block being sure that everyone had their house lights off or concealed (autos had to drive without headlights until special headlight covers were issued).  The Red Cross and civilian hospitals had prepared extra bandages.   But somehow, the military wasn’t as ready.

I was living at Waikiki Beach (about 10 miles from Pearl Harbor) – having come to the Islands four years before to take my first job right out of college (University of Michigan).  At the hotel where I was living there were some military officers living there also.  The attack took place just before 8:00 a.m. (Hawaiian time).  There was considerable noise and for a while we thought the whole thing was just a continuation of some war games that had been held during the previous few days.  But someone noted that the gun fire from over Pearl Harbor was black (the real thing) and not white smoke used in the games.  Also, the officers soon got phone calls and quickly left.  Another fellow at the hotel had his own small plane and had gone to his airport (located next to the harbor) for an early morning flight (it was a beautiful Sunday morning).  He returned to the hotel about ten o’clock to report that the airport (military as well as civilian) and the planes had been strafed by the many small planes with the “red sun” emblem on their wings (the Japanese aircraft planes).

Our local radio stations began reporting what was happening, what everyone should (and should not) do, etc.  Once they asked that all the able-bodied men report to the beaches and waterfront to help set up barriers since it was thought that we would soon be invaded (but, of course, we never were).  The call for help was cancelled almost immediately when huge traffic jams resulted.

Some of our planes had left California that Sunday morning on a routine flight to Hawaii – it took all day then for the 2300 miles.  There was some confusion when they tried to land that evening at Pearl Harbor airbase – at least until everyone learned what the situation was….”

Included with the letter DeLos sent was a Dec. 6, 1984 article by A. A. Smyser, a reporter for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin.  Smyser wrote about DeLos’ report to the Navy and his recollections on the week after the Pearl Harbor attack.  This is a little-known story of what the attack left behind.

In the Navy report, DeLos wrote that at 2 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 7, only a few hours after the attack ended, the cemetery in Nu’uanu Valley received a request to open 25 graves in an area called Navy Plot.  Within a few minutes the Navy Hospital at Pearl Harbor called for 35 more.  Forty men were assigned to dig the graves and worked until night.  The following days found sixty sailors and other Navy work crews added.  DeLos assisted in coordinating this work.  By Friday, Dec. 12, the number of burials reached 341, including 13 Japanese aviators.

It was not in the official report, but DeLos recalled that the inclusion of the Japanese precipitated a work stoppage among the grave diggers until there was assurance that the Japanese would be interred separately from the other dead.

Speed in burial was considered essential because of sanitation and health problems but some body bags were racked up in stacks until adequate wood caskets arrived, and foul smells developed. Some of the first caskets were hurriedly built and were too small to handle some of the bloated remains from Pearl Harbor.

Extreme care was taken in retaining proper identification of the bodies and in marking the graves.  Identification numbers were stenciled on all caskets and stakes bearing the same numbers were placed above the graves.  The bodies of the 13 Japanese were identified alphabetically – J-A, J-B, J-C, etc.

Delos also said he did not include in the report that the Navy did not have sufficient flags to cover the caskets and Cmdr. Houston reluctantly used flags from a department store.  There still were not enough to have one for each burial.

All of the remains buried by the Navy described in this report were later relocated to graves elsewhere on the U.S. mainland, in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific located at Punchbowl Crater in Honolulu, Hawaii and in Japan. 

DeLos would go on to serve during the war as a staff sergeant in G-2, Army intelligence.  He worked as a design engineer for the Army in the creation of the National Cemetery of the Pacific at Honolulu.  During his career he was instrumental in overseeing development of many of Oahu’s parks and scenic attractions and retired as the deputy director of the Honolulu Parks and Recreation Department.  He died in 1999 at the age of 84. 

#64 Turkey Tales

Turkey was only one of the meats at the first Thanksgiving celebration held 400 years ago this year.  However, it was not the mainstay until after President Lincoln made Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1868 that this American bird became the tradition. 

            I found the earliest mention of “turkeys” in Edwards County in the January 4, 1889 issue of the Kinsley Graphic.  The article related how “On Saturday evening, before Christmas, George Clement was on his way home (south of Lewis) with a large (live) turkey that he had won at a shooting match.”  

            When George was passing Squire Polings’ house, he heard music, and decided to stop in.  He did not think it would be polite to take his turkey into the house, so he found a large wooden box and turned in upside down over the bird.  An hour later, when he came out, he discovered that a stray dog had found his turkey, dug under the box, and eaten about half.  “The other half was still alive, (turkeys are very tenacious of life), and the Squire was called upon to act as chief decapitator and put an end to its suffering.” 

            The turkey shooting match mentioned above had been a popular event since early 1800 when it did involve live birds.  But by this time, participants did not actually shoot turkeys.  They received frozen turkeys as prizes for their luck at landing one BB shot in a small circle on a target. Turkey shoots are still held today.

            Another turkey shoot mentioned was held at U. G. Leslie’s in Wendell in 1894 where a lucky Dave Heath won 4 turkeys before he was barred from further competition.  In 1914, Everett Nichols provided 45 turkeys and 10 geese for prizes at his shoot.  The L. J. Runsey farm advertised that 70 turkeys would be given away at their shoot in 1916.

            By the early 1900s, area farmers were raising turkeys for market.  The turkeys were “…brought to the produce house, where one man does all the killing.  He has specialized in that and can stick them so that they will be easily picked…. The ‘picking corps’ consists of a number of men, who, after a little practice, can literally ‘make the feathers fly’.  With a very few minutes work, they can make a turkey look ‘as if it had been born that way’.  After picking, the turkeys are taken to the ice house where they are cooled to about thirty-five degrees before they are packed in wooden barrels and shipped to eastern points.”  (Kinsley Mercury, November 16, 1922)

            On November 30, 1922, the editor of the Graphic reported the importance of the turkey market to the local economy.  “Last week we called attention to the fact that the Lee Produce company (located opposite Kinsley High School) had shipped three carloads of dressed turkeys from this station in one week …. The poultry raisers who made these shipments were possibly paid more than $20,000 in cash; that much money was put in circulation here in one week just by this one firm.  Another thought.  It would take about twenty loaded wheat cars to represent the same amount of money, more carloads of wheat than have been shipped from this station in the past three months.  If you take into consideration the money paid out by this firm for other poultry and eggs, also add the amounts put in circulation by other buyers, the sum paid out for poultry and eggs reaches an astonish total, more than equals the wheat crop of Kansas.  Yet we rarely see a word in print regarding the great movement of poultry and eggs, while the clamor regarding wheat is heard all over the country.”

George Hetzel, Sr. pictured here with turkeys he raised to generate income on the farm NE of Kinsley.

            Turkeys proved to be a good crop during the Dust Bowl, Depression and WWII.  Clair Bidleman was winning prizes with his turkeys in national shows in the early 1930s.  In 1936, Glen Bidleman started a turkey marketing pool called the Southwest Kansas Market association.  Turkey raisers in Edwards, Ford, Hodgeman, Kiowa, Rush, Stafford, and Pawnee counties banded together to process their turkeys here.  They combined with a larger cooperative in Hutchinson which paid 50% of the NYC market price.  A second payment, adjusted for the fluctuating market, was made at the end of the season.

            This co-op rented a building north of the Schnatterly Grocery store (422 Colony, currently Brown Auction) for $1 a day, and rented refrigeration space at the nearby Home Ice Company for 2 cents/100 lbs.  

            The Kinsley Mercury described the operation. “The noise made by pickers pulling the feathers from the scalded turkeys goes on throughout the day until all birds for the day’s kill have been ‘pinned’…. Rubber boots and rubber aprons are used in the workshop since the wet turkeys keep the floor and those who work in the building, damp.”  (Nov. 12, 1936)

            That year, county agent George Sidwell reported that four car loads of approximately 7,800 turkeys shipped from Kinsley in November, and he expected the same would be shipped in December.

            Raising turkeys during World War II not only offered a financial incentive, but also a patriotic one in support of the “Food for Freedom” campaign.  In 1941, the co-op, or turkey pool as it was sometimes called, became the Arkansas Valley Turkey Co-op and it had 430 members.

The Arkansas Valley Turkey Cooperative was located at 319 E. Sixth St in 1941.This picture was taken in 1985.

            The co-op bought the building at 319 E. Sixth St. and installed a new scalding machine and automatic picker.  Charles Schmitt described the picker as having “little rubber fingers on it – little knobs on it.  We’d just hold the turkey up, and it would pull the feathers right off.  Maybe the wings or the tail you had to pull out, but they looked pretty nice when we boxed them up and loaded them in the freight car.”

             “Once in a while,” he continued, “when the steam engines came in, they’d bump the car and it would knock (the boxes) over, and we was asked to go back out for time-and-a-half (pay) and a case of beer!  Us boys would just throw them clear back up there.  We made a lot of fun out of it.”

            Glen Bidleman reported in a magazine article that in 1941 they sold more than 400,000 pounds of dressed turkeys and expected to double that in 1942.  Many people, including teenagers, worked for two weeks in November and again in December.    

Julius Carlson raised turkeys on Carlson farm, north of Kinsley, c. 1944

            Fred Strate was the Secretary/Treasurer of the turkey co-op.  In 1943, he and his wife Gladys earned more than $1300 for the turkeys that their children Delphi, Lionel, Roma and Kay raised.

            I’m not sure when the turkey cooperative ended, but they did sell the building in April, 1952.  Perhaps the fall of 1951 was the last year, but If anyone can pin point their last season, the library would like to know so can be added to the archive. 

            The Kinsley Library Board and staff wish everyone a perfectly roasted turkey and a Happy Thanksgiving. 

#63 “If you learn to read, you can do anything”

                “Just because you grow up in a small town like Kinsley, doesn’t mean you can’t follow your dreams.  Kinsley gave me good preparation for what I wanted to do in life.”  

            This is what Dr. David Kastner said during a recent phone conversation.  He was born and grew up in Kinsley and graduated from KHS in 1971.  He went on to become a medical doctor and the author of nine fiction books.

David Kastner donates his six books to the Kinsley Library.

            “As a kid, I checked out my first books at the Kinsley Library,” he continued.  “There were cards in the back of the book which you signed to check the book out.  I liked science fiction and remember the science fiction spine labels on library books by favorite authors like Ray Bradbury and Asimov.”

            Asimov is a classic science fiction writer, so when I looked on our shelf today, I found we still had books which were checked out when David was a patron.  Some of those date due stamps probably represent times he borrowed them.

            When Dr. Kastner attended the All-School Reunion last September, he came by the library and donated copies of his eight books to the collection.  He describes his book as “mystery-suspense, written clean with no bad language. They promote Christian beliefs and values.”

            He wrote his first book, The Palace Connection in 2004.  He followed the writing rule to “write what you know about” when he chose Kinsley for the inspiration for the book’s setting and some of its characters. 

            I enjoyed reading this fictional story about Rick, a high school junior boy, who went from “loser” to the winning quarterback and an all-A student through the powers of an Indian amulet he dug up in a field outside of Kinsley.  The amulet connected with its powers when he wore it into the Palace Theater, which in this book had been built on the location of a sacred Indian burial ground.

            “I helped out at the Palace Theater when my Uncle John Wire was running it in about 1968 or 1969,” Dr. Kastner explained. Uncle John gave the character Rick a job and plays a prominent role in the novel.

            The book portrays a snapshot of teen life in 1970 in Kinsley with mentions to cruising town, Spudnuts, parties at the river, black and white sundaes at Hamm and Pool drugstore, game bonfires, shooting pool at Young’s, and all the songs of the era played on the radio of Rick’s 1962 candy apple red Chevy Impala.         

            Some characters have the names of real people, like history teacher Mr. Ross, Coach Martin, Mr. Kingry and his “Marching 100”, and others.  People who grew up in this era can judge how well Dr. Kastner captured KHS student life.

David Kastner, 1971 Kinsley High School graduation picture.

            Kastner went on to write The Amulet and The Return of the Amulet as two more parts of this trilogy set in Kinsley. 

            David Kastner is the son of Hermann and Rita Kastner.  Herman was the County Executive Director for the ASCS (Agricultural Stabilization Conservation Service, now the FSA).  They lived in town on 120 Wichita Street but also farmed north of Kinsley.  David worked on the farm in high school and while attending college at Fort Hays Kansas State College where he earned a degree in biology in 1975. 

120 Wichita St. is the house David Kastner grew up in and chose for the home of Rick, the main character in “The Palace Connection.” 

            Kastner then attended the Hutchinson School of Medical Technology and worked 15 years as a medical technician before receiving his medical degree from Ross University in California.  He then worked as a family physician in Ellinwood from 2000-2003 and finished his career working for the Veterans Administration for fifteen years before retiring in 2019.

            Living in Ellinwood gave him the setting for his second trilogy:  Changing Seasons, The Amber Wave Project and The Deadwood Diary.  The last involves a hidden diary which is uncovered in the long- forgotten tunnels beneath the fictitious town of Deadwood, patterned after underground Ellinwood.

            The other three books that Dr. Kastner has written are collections of short stories which explore life decisions and the spiritual, often with a nod to the Twilight Zone.

             “I always loved reading,” concluded Dr. Kastner.  “I started out as a kid reading books from the Kinsley Library.  Now I have books that I have written on the shelf in the library. 

#62 American Soldiers – A Threat and a Promise

            When Dr. William Wolfgang was recently in town continuing his research into community theater and Charles Edwards, he mentioned that Charles was also a poet. We had none of his poems in our files, so Dr. Wolfgang offered to send some, one of which is printed below in commemoration of Armistice Day, which we now call Veterans Day.

            On May 28, 1918 the American 1st Division led an assault on the town of Cantigny, France, making it the first divisional attack by the American Expeditionary Forces in World War I.   When they forced the Germans to withdraw from Cantigny, the UP reported that the message to Headquarters was, “Hello! This is Cantigny!”  The success of this first attack proved that American forces had the training, tools and leadership necessary to be a major threat to the Germans.

“A Threat and a Promise”
By Charles R. Edwards

“At headquarters officers waited anxiously for news of the American attack.  After forty-five minutes a voice came over the field telephone: “Hello! This is Cantigny!” A British officer said: ‘It is both a threat and a promise.’”

Boys of our land, oh boys of our land,
Would to dear God we could have seen ye!
You crossed the May fields, the mist-hung grey fields,
Like flying film reels, you sped the Hun Heels;
And then you phoned back above a red track,
“Hello!  This is Cantigny!”

Lads of our land, good lads of our land,
it is our proud day we call you kin!
For comes a starday—though near or far day—
Maybe in May day, yet gold if grey day—
When you will phone back, above a world’s track:
“Hello!  This is Berlin!”

Boys of our land, clean sports of our land,
Oh, would to high God we would have seen ye!
“Hello! This is Cantigny!”

            On Jun 1, 1918, the editor of the Hutchinson Gazette wrote: “We knew these Americans had ‘the goods’, they have done their first job with swift precision.  Cantigny will one day be repeated a thousand-fold.  That day the Kaiser’s crown will go into an allied museum.”

            I could not discover that any Edwards County men fought at Cantigny.  Chester Bidleman was stationed about 60 miles northwest of Cantigny.  He was hauling water for the troops and wrote in his diary that he could hear bombing at Abbeville on May 27.   On June 28, he had his first night maneuvers which he commented on, “I can’t say much in favor of it.”

Chester Bidleman

            Edwards County men did arrive in France shortly after.  John Pixley wrote in a letter on June 20, 1918: “Our first greeting from France was rain, which continued on and off throughout the day but let up long enough for us to land and get to camp.  On our trip to camp we had ample time to observe the effects of war in this country, and while I must say it is very beautiful, particularly the farming districts, yet the appearance of the people readily causes one to understand the burden they have been bearing for four years.  Of course, the most conspicuous thing is the absence of able-bodied men, no one being on the streets except women, children, the aged and crippled.”

John Pixley

            August Kurth wrote home from France on July 7, 1918: “German aviators fly over nearly every day.  The French have brought down two of them near here, one just the other day, and (the other) about two months ago.  We are in no danger here as we are at least 35 miles back of the lines…. You probably think because we are so near the scene of action we hear all the latest, but such is not the case, as the papers print one thing and the boys that come back from the front tell us different, but all believe the war will soon be over.  I still have hopes of being home for Christmas dinner, but no one can tell.”

August Kurth

            Not quite six months later, on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918 the armistice ending World War I was signed just 25 miles southeast of Cantigny in Compiegne, France. 

            The next year, Armistice Day was set aside for national observance for the sacrifices of the soldiers in the United States, Great Britain, and France.  Since then, it has become the day when we remember all the nation’s veterans and their sacrifices throughout the years to protect democracy and freedom from kings, dictators, and autocrats.

#61 A Late Halloween Trick in Belpre

In researching for last week’s Halloween article, a ran across the following Kinsley Graphic article of a prank that took place in Belpre in 1905.  Halloween had been on Tuesday night that year, and this apparently took place on the following Monday night, November 6.  Because J. M. Lewis, the editor of the Graphic, was such a good storyteller, I am simply reprinting his article as it appeared in the Nov. 9, 1905 issue in its entirety.

“The boys at Belpre were a little slow in celebrating Halloween this year, but when they got started they did a pretty good job.  A young man from Tennessee lately arrived and took position of night operator for the Santa Fe at that station.  It was his first trip in the west and his evident curiosity about the bad men he had heard of suggested to the town boys that they could have a little fun at his expense, so Monday night they gathered at the station and began telling tales of trouble.  The talk ran on ghosts, cowboys, train-robbers and other kindred topics until the tenderfoot had been worked up to the proper pitch of nervousness. When suddenly, as he sat at his desk, a masked face appeared at the window.  This disturbed him a little but not enough to suit the boys.  In a few moments the mask was passed to another and again a masked face appeared, and then a revolver shot was heard.  The crowd inside immediately stampeded and that finished the operator.  He gathered his belonging and was for leaving on the instant.  It was then up to the boys to keep him at his, so they assured him that the trouble was over, and he went back to work. 

This photo taken by Belpre photographer W. O. Durstine, c. 1915, may have been what the tenderfoot depot operator imagined Kansas cowboys or train robbers to look like.  If you know who these hombres are, please inform the library.

Two torpedoes (firecrackers) were placed on the track in front of the station, and when late in the night, a local freight exploded them, the operator thought sure his time had come and reported to the dispatcher that shooting was going on around the depot and asked what he should do; and then the boys up and down the (railroad) line ‘tumbled’ and proceeded to make it pleasant.  The young man gathered up his shattered nerves and stuck to his post till morning, although feeling sure that No. 9 was to be held up.  In the morning he announced his intention of throwing up his job, which put the joke on the jokers, and they were compelled to tell him the whole story.

“We want to say right here that had we been in the place of the young stranger we don’t believe that daylight would have found us in that town.  Any man would have been frightened and most men would have run.  The young man showed courage and a strong sense of duty in sticking to his post under trying circumstances and should be commended for it and congratulated on his nerve.”

The Belpre depot where the trick was played.  Picture taken c. 1915 by W.O. Durstine.
If you recognize any of the men in this Santa Fe Railroad crew, please inform the library.

            I chose two photographs taken by W.O. Durstine of Belpre to accompany this article.  They were probably taken about 10 years after the incident and are part of a collection of images digitalized from glass plates by the Kansas State Historical Society. Unfortunately, we are unable to identify most of the people in the slides. If your ancestors were in Belpre from 1907 through the 1920, come in the library and see if you can find them in the photos.

#60 Halloween Parties and Pranks

When I learned this week that Trick-or-Treating did not really take hold of the Halloween holiday until the 1930s, I wondered how people celebrated here before that?  By reading the old newspapers, I discovered there were plenty of parties and pranks.

Parties were held in private homes, churches, at the high school, the opera house, and in club rooms.  Decorations were much like today, except the Ketelson home did use one particularly spooky effect.  “The rooms were lighted with candles set in half pumpkins… while the electric light bulbs were shrouded in Jack-o-Lantern faces.  When the witches’ dance occurred, these lights were lowered and ghostly figures pranced around a table from which a bowl of blue-flaming alcohol cast a lugubrious light. (Kinsley Mercury, 11-1-1907)

Parties had traditional refreshments of popcorn balls, apples, pumpkin pie, roasted marshmallows, and cider.  One different tradition was not unlike the Christmas King cake.  “In the Hallowe’en cake, Miss Pearl Wire found a silver dime, Master Hugh McCanse a gold ring, and Miss Edith Colver a thimble. (Kinsley Graphic, 11-2-1900)

Costumes were simpler as most donned a ghostly sheet or only wore a mask.

We would recognize the games of bobbing for apples, apples tied to a string, and seeing how many words can be made from the letters in “Halloween”.   But every party seemed to require an old witch, a gypsy or some mysterious fairies telling fortunes by examining tea leaves or coffee grounds in a saucer, by blowing out candles, or by interpreting acorns floating in a pan of water.

Young ladies at the party could find out who they would marry by walking down the cellar stairs backwards at midnight while holding a candle and mirror.  Each would strain to see her future husband’s face reflected in the glass. 

Or a young woman could go to the center of the most remote room in the house and eat an apple just as the clock was striking twelve.  As she timidly waited in the dark, someone would appear and give her a kiss.  According to The Valley Republican, “Both these experiments were reliable and satisfactory.” (11-28-1878)

Adults had their own entertainments including dinners, dancing and card playing. At a party hosted by Judge and Mrs. Vandervert, “A number of amateur poets were developed who had no license but wrote poetry just the same.  There were various styles of poetry, the judicial, editorial, pharmaceutical, transportation, banking, and last but not least the sentimental written of course by the ladies.”  (Graphic, 11-8-1895)

The Knights of Pythias ladies used a unique fund raiser at their Halloween dinner ball which I do not think would go over very well today.  “Each lady was given a number, likewise the gentleman, and those having corresponding ones were partners for the supper.  Each gentleman was then requested to escort his partner up to a pair of scales standing by the doorway leading into the dining hall, and be weighed, the gentleman paying the difference between their weights at the rate of two cents a pound for their suppers.   It was noticed one of the heaviest men present was unfortunate in getting the very tiniest lady there and one of the very light weight gentleman got one of the very heaviest ladies.” (Graphic, Oct. 28, 1920)

I hesitate to discuss Halloween pranks for fear of putting ideas into younger heads, but then, I am sure some readers can remember engaging in similar less harmful antics. 

In 1889 the editor of the Graphic warned, “We have heard several bands of youngsters laying out plans for Halloween.  Citizens had better take everything moveable in the house and then tie the house down.”

According to the Graphic, inclement weather cut down on the pranks in 1903. “A few people missed their gates, found their outbuildings overturned and buggies in the creek, but the actual cash damage was comparatively slight.”

Weather must have been better in 1905 as the Graphic paints a vivid picture of a more typical dawn on November 1.  “The main street of the town looked like the display of machinery at the county fair, all kinds and descriptions of machinery being scattered about the street. A hay derrick was in the street in front of Gonder’s; a windmill tower on the sidewalk in front of the post office, etc.  The principal trouble with this sort of amusement is that the parties who destroy property are never made to pay for the damage.”

On Halloween in 1905, a hay derrick was in the street in front of Gonder Implements
at 220 E. Sixth St. Currently it is a vacant lot.
A windmill tower was put on the sidewalk in front of the post office in the Demain Building at 124 E. Sixth St. Currently it is the location of Twice Is Nice.

An article appearing in the Mercury that same week ended with “However, the town still stands and we ought to be thankful.

”I think the sheriffs did their best to curtail destructive activity and sometime entered into more innocent fun.

“About eleven ghosts were serenading on Main street when they ran into the night sheriff, Will Pierce, and decided they would have some fun. They took possession of the sheriff and took him to the confectionery where he had to treat the bunch.  Although he seemed somewhat excited, the ghosts succeeded in calming his fears and left him a little nervous after his trying experience with so many ghosts.” (Graphic, 11-7-1912)

In 1920 the Graphic reported, “The boys around town decided to make an implement display at the high school in celebration of All Saints evening.  They say you could find every agricultural implement known to man on the grounds when school opened Monday morning, arranged in what might be called “a hit-and-miss effect.”  No particular damage was done….”

I want to encourage all of you to spend some time reminiscing about Halloween when you were a child.  Tell your memories to your kids and grandkids; better yet, write them down for posterity.  Have a safe Halloween, filled with spooky fun and please, only harmless tricks.