Named for James G
Blaine (1830-1893), an American Statesman.
Established 5 March 1885.
From time to time we will feature stories about folks that were part of the
Blaine County community, in some way, time, or another.
This page will periodically change, so keep checking back!
We have just posted "My Father's Memories" which is a wonderful story about Lawrence Wilson beginning about the turn of the century until almost 1930! Take a look - - it is great!
The Past and Present of Jasper County, Gen. James B. Weaver, Editor-In-Chief, 1912 B.F. Bowen Co., Indianapolis, IN, p. 613.
This article is reproduced courtesy of: Jasper County, Iowa Historical & Genealogical Exchange. We extend our thanks to them for sharing.
February 1877, his wife was called to her rest, leaving beside her
husband, three sons, Madison, now residing at Wray, Colorado, and Edgar
and Ernest, residents of Newton, Iowa.
An only daughter, Florence, had died in early childhood.
November 1879, Mr. Finch was united in marriage with Mary Kime, who, with
their one son, Earl Finch, of Los Angeles, California, survives him.
Surviving him are also four sisters, all that are now left of a family of
eleven children. Mr. Finch
was a man of industry and very successful in a material way.
David Finch was the daughter of George W. and Julia Kime, very old
settlers of Jasper County and well known here to a past generation, both
being now deceased. The
mother was born in Ulster County, New York, May 16, 1816; she moved to
Ohio in 1837 and two years later was married to George W. Kime and they
moved to Jasper County, Iowa, in 1852.
Then, ten years afterwards, they moved to a place three miles south
of West Union, Nebraska, where they remained until Mrs. Kime's death,
December 5, 1890. Her remains were brought to Newton, Iowa, and interred
in the cemetery here. George
W. Kime, who spent the latter years of his life in retirement, died at the
home of his son, Jarvis Kime, near Dunning, Nebraska, on December 22,
1898; his remains were interred beside his wife in the cemetery at Newton,
Iowa. He was eighty-one
and a half years of age, having been born in Virginia on July 6, 1817.
He lived in his native state until seven years of age when he
removed with his parents to Seneca County, Ohio, where he grew to manhood
and was there married to Julia A. Springer on November 10, 1839, and their
union resulted in the birth of three children, namely: Margaret E., who
died in her seventeenth year; Jarvis M., who lives in Nebraska; and Mary,
widow of David Finch of this sketch.
1853 George W. Kime moved with his family by wagon to Iowa County, Iowa,
and there lived amid the primitive conditions prevailing all over the
state at that period until 1837, in which year he moved to Newton, Jasper
County, and here made his home until 1879, when he moved his family to
Custer County, Nebraska, where the remainder of his life was spent on a
Finch had been a faithful member of the Congregational Church for many
years,in fact, was one of its pillars of strength.
He was also a worthy Mason, a Knight Templar, one of the last
duties of his life being in attendance at the funeral of a brother Knight,
from which he was returning home on April 24, 1908, when he was stricken
with paralysis which resulted in his passing away a few days later at the
age of eighty-one years, three months and twelve days, his death being
marked with rare fortitude and sublimity of faith.
Chapter 1. The Family
The family consisted of three boys and three girls and my Father. We all lived in a little town named "Georgetown" on the South Loup River in Nebraska. My Mother died when I was about two years old. She had pneumonia and was unable to recover from it. My Dad, or Papa as we all called him, operated a flourmill there. While he was very busy in the mill, he with the help of our older sister, Bessie, ran the household and looked out for the family. Even years later...he selected the food and clothing, and in general took care of the kids.
After my Mother died, Dad wanted to leave Georgetown and do something else. He was able to sell the mill. Then he began looking around. Bessie, still in her teens, took over at home.
Too, many of the neighbors helped. It was said, "they farmed Lawrence out" during those first and second years. He was kept much of the time by the Thompson family. But Papa was boss and a good one. He never remarried. Bessie was the oldest child in the family then Clinton, Lyle, Mildred, Evelyn and me, Lawrence. Bessie was about 18 years older than me.
The family stayed together for a number of years...after Papa moved from
Georgetown to the sand-hills. Clinty was the first to leave home...joined the
Navy and was gone much of the time following his enlistment. A few years later,
Bessie married and moved to a farm a few miles north in the hills...she married
Bob Blakely. Bob later became Sheriff of Blaine County. Lyle left to attend a
business college in Omaha. He finished school, returned home, became a teller in
Papa's bank and married a local girl, Marian Bane. Then Mildred married a local
merchant there in Dunning. Evelyn was last to move out...married a grocery-store
merchant and lived there in town.
Chapter 2. A Venture in the Sand Hills Land Rush
[Through re-told stories by Papa, I remember much of the by-gone history]. There was a Federal Land office nearby in Broken Bow, the county seat of Custer County. The federal "Homestead Act" was in operation. The land-boom was on and many people from all over the country were there in order to file on a claim for land. Dad said he was always interested in having his own place...the land was free provided you made certain improvements such as: erect a home, build necessary fences, put in a crop and provide for some livestock. In return for remaining on the claim for one year and fulfilling all the requirements, one was eligible to go back to the land office and receive the deed to your property.
The Sand Hill-region was open for homesteading. So, after studying options on different pieces of land Papa "filed" on a claim. His choice was in Blaine county, northwest of the "Bow"...on the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy railroad. It was only 50 miles or so away from Georgetown, which was thought to be a great distance in those times.
Dunning was the nearest town and he often told many stories about why he liked the location. He said there many reasons...it had a bank, hardware store, a general store, drugstore, post-office, a lumber yard and a blacksmith shop...all so necessary to a person just "starting-up". Just as important in settling there was the attitude of the people making up the town and neighborhood...how they welcomed you into their mist and how they offered to help in getting you situated. They told him of the difficult times that were in store for families "homesteading" there in the hills, with only bare ground to start with. There were strong feelings expressed by so many people that families need families in order to survive and grow. Their eagerness to help a new family move in and stay there and become apart of the community was most sincere. Such sentiments by the people made a big impression on Papa.
The little town was situated in the fork of two rivers...the Middle Loup was only a hundred yards or so to the north; the Dismal was less than a half-mile to the south. The rivers came together about a mile down-stream...there was good fishing in either of the streams. The Loup was very good for ice-skating and many of the people skated during the winter.
I remember the stories Papa told about going by train to Dunning...making arrangements for a horse at the local livery-stable and riding all over the hills...looking at land and deciding upon what section was best. The government allowed you one section of land to 'prove-up' on. It consisted of 640 acres, laid-out in a square...a mile on each side. There were few if any fences...but there were government survey monuments that tied in with the maps supplied by the land office.
He often recounted how good he felt in finding his piece of land...and he often explained the features he liked about it. It had nice rolling hills; had lots of grazing ground for live stock. An additional feature was that a "school section" bordered on the east...a rural school was to be established and it would be about a half a mile from the location planned for the house...close enough that the kids could walk to school most of the time. The claim had some nice valleys that would provide an ample quantity of wild-grasses that could be mowed and stacked.
Too, there were ample acres of ground, suitable for cultivation of farm crops. Water was just beneath the surface of the ground...less than 10 feet. A windmill could provide plenty of water for the house and stock-tanks. Later it was found the crops did quite well because of sub-irrigation. In sandy soil, because of capillary attraction, water tends to rise to the surface. Papa liked what he saw. He really felt grateful for the venture he made.
Putting up fences was a government requirement. The willow trees growing along river were most plentiful. Papa, Clinty and Lyle, the older boys would cut down wagonloads of willows for posts...about 8 inches in diameter. They made good fence-posts. (Because of the available water, most of the posts later branched-out, and in the course of a year or so, the fence-line grew into nice rows of trees.)
The farm was shaping up during the first two years...the house was completed...a barn, chicken house; a place was made for animals. Fences were in place. Last was the windmill. The well man came out. He used his willow stick in determining where to drill the well. After a few tries with the stick, he said, "Pete, there's water all around the place". Papa said: "Put it right here," marking the place by driving a stack into the ground, "that way it will be on the trail and handy for the travelers going by...and also close to the house and handy for the stock-tanks". After a week's work, we had our own well. No longer would Lyle have to take the spring-wagon over to the neighbor's house with cream-cans for water. The water was crystal clear...soft, cool and good to drink. The frequent winds kept the tanks full.
Nature was a good provider. There were an abundance of wild fruits on the farm or along the rivers...strawberries, cherries, grapes, and raspberries. We kids used to fill our mouths with chock-cherries, a pea-size blue berry that grew in bunches like grapes...eat them and then pop-out the seeds. There were many wild flowers. Evelyn and Mildred roamed the hills for flower and they were beautiful. Especially, In the spring of the year everything looked nice. Papa always liked those features. It seemed there were always flowers in a Mason jar...wild roses, blue bells, sun flowers as well as flowers grown from store-bought seeds.
Prairie chickens and grouse were most plentiful...Papa and Lyle would take "Hunter" our dog and would walk a short distance out over the hills and soon we could hear one or two shots from the old double barrel. They would bring back a couple of birds...just enough for supper.
Time proved-out that Papa made a very good pick from the land available. There was a good feeling of ownership that made the whole family proud...it was theirs.
During the first year, we all stayed with different neighbors while the house was being built. It was a two room "soddy", with an upstairs. It proved to be cool in the summer-time and warm (downstairs) in the winter.
There were chores for everyone to do. I tagged along with Evelyn and
Mildred when they went out to gather cow-chips so Bessie could bake the
bread. I remember how well the bread smelt and how good it was to eat. The
neighbors were more than right when they said that they would help-out in
getting the family settled in. They would come by in a spring-wagon with
canned goods, butter and other provisions. The girls liked the magazines
they brought. We all liked country-living even though, as I remember
Evelyn sweeping out the dirt-floor before Papa got the wood floor down.
Papa, especially, liked the way in which the 'homestead' was shaping-up.
Chapter 3. Life in a Sod-House
Like most of the settlers living out in the Sand Hills of Nebraska, liked where we lived, their buildings were made out of sod, cut from the top-soil of the prairie. Equipment needed: two horses hooked to a breaking-plow, a wagon and most of all -- a strong back. Soil requirements were to select rich black soil, generally found in the valleys. It was known as "topsoil" and it contained a great deal of loam or dark-colored dirt in it. This kind of soil was the best dirt to plant in...it was also the best for building purposes because it contained many root-fibers...which reinforced the sod and made it hold together. Too, it contained a minimum amount of sand particles. A special plow...a "breaking" plow was necessary. The plow turned over a strip of sod; it was all the same thickness -- about three inches by 14. While the wild-grass roots tended to hold the blocks together, they still had to be handled very carefully. A sharp spade was used to cut the sod into uniform sizes...like "building-blocks."
My Dad and my two brothers laid-up the four walls of our prairie "mansion". They constructed an "A" type wooden roof and covered it with tar paper. They plastered the inside walls. Some folks plastered the outside of the house with a kind of stucco, but Dad left it exposed. A few months after we moved in, a wooden floor was put down. After that, the doors were hung, and the house was completed. I remember the old soddy had two rooms downstairs. The upstairs was left open with a draw-curtain on a wire, going across about midway. We kids (six) slept there. The size of the house was about 20 x 40 feet. There were two doors and four windows. The window and door frames didn't fit to well, so plaster and burlap cloth from sacks were wedged into the crevasses.
The house faced the east. The windmill was located near by and right in front of the house. Beyond it were the chicken house, barn and shelters for the pigs and cows. Close to the well was the cave...a cavity dug in the ground about 5 by 6 feet and 4 or 5 feet deep. It had a sod roof and a wooden cellar door. The vegetable garden was on the north side of the house. Further back and among some cottonwood trees, was the outhouse.
Heat for the house came from the kitchen range, a little wood-burning heating stove and an oil stove. For lights at night, lamps...wick-type were used. Cleaning the chimneys was a job. Some people used newspaper to swirl around. We had little of such paper. We had Sears Roebuck and other catalogs, but they were hung on a nail out in the outhouse. So, the chimneys were washed and wiped. Black carbon would form on the top end of the wick. If it wasn't neatly trimmed with the scissors, one side of the it would flair up and blacken the chimney...and that was bad...especially bad for the girls because this is where they heated their curling-irons. Having an attractive kerosene lamp was a sign of "good-housekeeping". Women visitors noticed such things, could and sometime did, make remarks about a dirty lamp. Bessie would ask me to help clean and fill the lamps; she would put something (possibly a bit of flannel cloth -- generally red colored) down in the oil compartment. This would absorb the dirt and stuff so as to help keep that part of the lamp nice, clean and colorful. One more bit about coal-oil lamps. Some people, we knew had the more expensive lamps--"Raeoil". But a problem they had was that soon after the lamp was lighted and began to heat-up, the flame tended to run-up. If you weren't watching it and failed to turn the wick down...black smoke would darken the chimney and if it was neglected too long a time, it would blacken the ceiling of the whole house with an oily soot. So, Papa thought it best to stay with the original kerosene lamps. Of course, all farms had a few lanterns for outside nighttime work.
Fuel for the cook stove was an ever-present problem. We lived about seven miles from the railroad...Dunning was our closest town. Papa would have on hand a small amount of coal but not much because it was expensive. So, what did we kids do? Our job was to go out where the cows grazed and pile-up mounds of "cow-chips." Dad taught us how to do it...it was important. You would carefully reach down underneath the chip with your fingers and pull it loose from the grass growing there. Many bugs and worms lived under the chips...Papa said they wouldn't hurt you and to pay no attention to them. I remember the idea was to keep the chip (4 or 5 inches in diameter) in one piece. That made them easier to handle...were in better shape for stoking the cook stove. Too, they were less dirty or dusty. On the weekends, Dad would go out with the wagon and bring them in and stored them in the chip-box, outside near the front door. Cow-chips were the main fuel. Not the hottest fuel nor the cleanest around. Coal was only used in emergencies. But with steady burning, Bessie could bake bread and do all kinds of cooking with cow-chips. However, it required constant attention and was for Lyle or me to do. Many times she would holler, "come feed the stove." At times the top of the stove became almost red-hot. On real cold days that would help keep the house warm.
I was real small at that time. I still remember the old cook-stove...with a hot-water tank on the right-side, the warming oven up over head, and the oven-door that pulled down. At nighttime, I would lay on there on the door...where it was warm. Some times I would get my feet back in the oven too far. It was HOT over where the firebox was located. That was my favorite place to be. Soon I was ready for bed...then up-stairs I would go...in my fleece-lined underwear.
People traveling by always watered-up at the well. All the roads were a sandy crooked trail...no grading...just two parallel trails; one for each wheel. They were OK for horse-drawn vehicles but for automobiles, they provided many problems. Roads would wear-out so another road would be made right next to it.
During the stormy weather we kids spent much of our time up-stairs. From
there it seemed we could see so far; we really only saw the wind-mill and
horse-tank, the hen-house and barn as well as the sod room connected to
the house. The "privy", a two-holer with a little size hole for
me, was located back of the house a short distance away. These buildings
were also sod construction with sloping roofs, almost flat. Dad put
tar-paper on top of the roof-boards then a layer of sod. That turned out
to be a good idea...it was warmer in winter time and cooler during the
summer in comparison with the "A" frame on the house. Up-stairs,
the ceiling was papered with sheets from magazines. The paper helped in
keeping the warm air in and also helped in keeping the cold air from
blowing in. During bad weather we kids would lie there on the bed and
played, "find the word." Really, it was a learning exercise. For
example, in answer to the clue related to the little chicken and the egg
shell (Bon Ami Ad), I soon learned the words "Hasn't scratched
Yet". The same about the "Leslie" Salt Ad -- I learned the
words "How Dry I Am."
Chapter 4. Lost in the Hills
It was a warm sun-shiny day and I was playing under the old cottonwood tree out in front of the "soddy". I had my wagon and a small toy-shovel...also a few toy-horses (made of cast-iron)...there were not many toys left over from Christmas. I often played "talking-machine." There in the hills, a very few families had phonographs or gramophones. I was impressed in hearing music and voices coming out of the horn of a machine that you wound-up with a crank. And so, I imitated what I saw and heard. I spent a lot of time, spinning a small wheel from a broken toy wagon. As the wheel went around, there on the ground, I would hold a short stick over it like the needle over the record and I would sing the songs that I remembered. It would take many spins for one song. The one song I liked best was, "The Preacher and the Bear." It was a about a Preacher who went out hunting on one early morn; ran into a grizzly bear which gave chase and the Preacher escaped by climbing up a big tree...etc.
And I was playing there underneath the cottonwood tree, something just suggested that Hunter, our dog, and I should go over to the Manderville's house and listen to their gramophone. They had many records. They were made on a black tube -- a cylinder about 2 x 6 inches. I remembered, Mr. Manderville would crank-up the machine and play many pieces of music he had and we thought it was great. But the one record I liked best was the "Preacher and the Bear."
We had been over to their soddy several times in the buggy. I thought I knew the way. Also, Hunter, our dog, had been there many times too and I figured he'd know the way through the hills. So, we took off. I was pulling my wagon.
Looking back, I don't remember how old I was -- perhaps three. We, my dog and I, made trips down the road a piece and I would tell Bessie that Hunter and I were going over the hill. She would always caution me not leave the trail and always take the dog. But, this time, I didn't tell her.
It was mid-afternoon when Bessie was checking on my where-abouts...she didn't see me where I usually played...out under the old cottonwood tree. Being concerned about me, she, Mildred, Lyle and Evelyn were looking every where...down in the cave, out in and around the barn and hen-house. She immediately noticed the dog was gone. She called for Hunter and me, but there was no answer. They looked everywhere -- over the nearby hills and down the schoolhouse road...because I had gone that way before.
Then, she got on the telephone and spread the word along our country-line that Lawrence was missing and asked if anybody had seen him. Of course, the answer was no...by now concern was rapidly developing.
The telephone system was a single wire running from house to house. Papa organized the farmers in forming a cooperative group...all members chipped-in to finance the phone line installation. The phone was a box on the wall with a "ringer" (a hand driven generator) in it as well as coils, two dry-cell batteries and other telephone parts. It had a round box in front to talk into and a "receiver" on a cord to hear with. Five shorts was the "EMERGENCY" call. All the telephone members had a call number. Our ring was one long and two shorts. It was the only means of communications in the neighborhood. Soon, everybody were listening on the line..."rubbering" was the word they called it. People often times would do in order to pick up on any news or gossip along the line. On this day, Bessie had to ask the people to hang-up so she could get a call through to Papa in town...seven miles away. It so happened that as more people came on the line, the fainter the signal became. As a consequence, it would be most difficult in putting a call through. Such a distance required the best of conditions in order for the "ring" to tingle the bells on the switchboard in town. Too, the battery power would become greatly absorbed. Millers, our neighbor living closer to town heard Bessie on the phone. They tried to reach the board on their phone, but were unable to get through. They told Bessie they would get one of their boys on a horse to go find "Pete". Most all people there knew Papa as, "Pete" Wilson...a short name for Pearson.
Bessie remained at home...she sent my brother and sisters here and there...they found no signs. And as the story is remembered, there were several cowboys tieing-up at the hitching post, who heard of the news. They were trying to organize a search-party. Someone said, "I'll go over and get John Mandeville...he's an old Indian and wild animal hunter and he has hunting dogs." Everybody agreed and he was told to go ahead and find John.
After some time of searching one of the cowboys came galloping back. He had the wagon and toy-shovel. "I found it in plum thicket, by the potato patch...there were plum seeds in the wagon...also there were signs that Lawrence dug up a hill of potatoes and that he had eaten part of one."
By now, it was getting late in the afternoon. Papa and one of the Miller boys arrived. Now, the search-party was being organized. There were eight or ten men on horseback...many had their "Winchester" saddle rifles in the saddle-holster...John M. was in charge and giving the orders..."Be sure and check those "blow-outs" -- and that big cactus field east of my house...he could be trapped in there...the dog will stay with him".
A "blow-out" is caused by the wind. A peaked appearing hill would loose it's top and the swirling winds would blow-out the middle part and there resulted a deep cup-like hole, several yards across and as much deep. They were easy to get into, but sometimes hard to get out...as you tried to crawl up and out, the sand would shift and you would slide back down to the bottom. Wild cactus was another hazardous natural phenomena. It grew in patches and covered an acre or more; grew next to the ground and was partly hidden by the wild grass growing up over it. People hunting prairie chickens were cautioned to stay out of the patches especially with dogs. The cactus was covered with thousands of needles...after once in your skin, they were hard to get out. And too, after once in the patch, one soon became confused and forgot how he entered...like in a maze. The thorns would puncture your shoes.
Papa gave Lyle a slip and sent him to town for some provisions. By now, the riders were reporting back to John and were being re-directed. John was talking with Bessie...getting all the facts about what Lawrence was doing before being missed. Bessie described his play habits and where he generally played...out there by the old cottonwood. After thinking awhile he said, "Pete, I have a strong hunch that Lawrence went over my way...I'm going to take a look." John got on his horse and with his two dogs he struck out across the prairie in a westerly direction.
The telephone line Papa had didn't connect with the neighbors over where the Mandevilles lived...they were hooked-up with a different co-op. But our phone was very busy...people calling and volunteering to bring food, lanterns and oil. Everybody just couldn't imagine what happened to Lawrence. They reasoned Hunter would come back for help if something serious happened...like stepping into a wolf-trap, caught in a barbwire fence or some other dreadful thing. By now it was almost dark and every one was really alarmed.
A few of the men returned and were watering their horses and eating some food. All the conversation was interrupted by the sound of a bell. Coming from a distance, one could hear a school bell ringing. Ringing at this hour of night was most unusual. All of a sudden, Papa became all excited. He said, "I recognize the sound of that bell...it's located over in Mandeville's yard...it's John's bell and John has Lawrence...and he is trying to tell us so." On a clear night, the sound of the bell would carry many miles. The other people out searching heard the bell and speculated the same way and began to return. About a half-hour later, a man on a horse appeared at the top of the hill beyond the wind-well. Lawrence was in the saddle in front of John and Hunter and the other two dogs were close by. John yelled down to the crowd in front of the house, "I have him and he is OK." There was pandemonium and some people were crying. Soon, Lawrence was in his Dad's arms. He couldn't understand why all the excitement...everybody was touching him and fussing over him and the commotion made him a bit frightened. But after awhile he yawned and said to Papa, "I want some milk and "Chatchers". That was crackers to him. Soon after, he was fast a sleep in bed.
Soon the phone lines carried the good news. Someone at the Miller house reported back that they got through to the switchboard in town and they passed on the message to the other co-ops. Between what food the neighbors brought in and what Lyle brought back from town, there was nothing but merriment, good feasting and a great feeling of Thanksgiving. John was the center of attention. Women folks were putting their arms around him; the men were shaking his hand and patting him on the shoulders...all were congratulating him over and over. The dogs weren't over-looked -- they received many pats on the head and got much attention and a lot of table-scraps to eat.
Then the people came to a hush, as John began to talk.
"After talking with Bessie this afternoon," he said, "I and the hounds came over here by the Cottonwood tree; picked up the toy wheel and other things Lawrence was playing with today. There was a small sweater lying there and I picked it up and the dogs smelt them. The dogs looked up to me as if to say they were ready to go."
"I had a strong feeling Lawrence wanted to listen to my gramophone. I do remember that when you folks were over the last time, he became very interested in the machine and he liked listening to the record entitled, 'The Preacher and the Bear'." As people have often said, John is one skillful man in figurinq things out, especially in the outdoor life. He then continued, "I found the plum pits and the partly eaten potato over by the patch. By now I felt the dogs had formed a good scent. We moved on, heading for the cactus field when one of the hounds picked up a new scent...they changed the course of direction and began running toward the big blow-out about a quarter of a mile away. As we approached the hill, I knew the hounds had a strong fix on Lawrence so then they were kept in close check and they remained quiet. I went up to the top and looked down. There was just enough moon light shining that I could see Lawrence. He was cuddled up with his dog. They were just lying there on the sand at the bottom of the blow-out. The dog saw us...didn't move but made a low growl and showed his teeth. He soon calmed down and I slowly moved in. "Oh my gosh!" someone said, "What did he say?" "He said nothing at first," John answered, "He was asleep."
John said he first wanted to let the people know as soon as possible that Lawrence was found. They were close to his place and he went in and tried to use the phone...but calling out was unsuccessful...could not make any connections. Then he said, "I realized all the concern through out the community and as he was thinking what next to do, that something just hit me. Use the bell. I rang the old school bell for a long time. I felt it would be heard, understood and most important the sound would carry a great feeling of joy and relief."
After John finished his remarks, there was again excitement and many offers of congratulations. Because everyone felt that he was the most important man in the rescue of Lawrence. Papa and the whole family thanked John and everyone else for all their support and efforts...too, he thanked them for all the food and other things that were brought in and used.
After all the people had left for home, the family gathered in the kitchen; many thanks were said by Papa and the kids. Soon all the talking ended...and life in the Wilson "soddy" slowly returned back to normal.
(Post Script: About two decades later, this little
traveler was asleep in the caboose of a stock-train heading for Lincoln,
Nebraska, where he enrolled in the state university.)
Chapter 5. Beginning School
"Hard-Scrabble" was the name often used when speaking about our school. But "Mizpaw" was the name on the report card. Lyle, Mildred and Evelyn started to go there soon after our arrival. Much of the time they walked over to sod schoolhouse, carrying their lunch-buckets, books and slates.
Following the road was a greater distance than a trail they made "as the crow flies." So, most of the time they started out across the hills. Bessie told me many times not to go to the school...especially using the path. But I wanted go with them sometimes. Papa bought me a slate and slate-pencil and I had a Primer...Bessie was getting me started. I felt I was ready to start right now, although I wasn't old enough
It was about this time, the summer of 1910 when Haley's Comet first appeared, that I was becoming curious about the stars and the world being round. There was a long tail of fire behind the big "star" and many times we would all go and watch. It was easy to see it on a clear night...it was always in the same location in the sky. I wondered what would happen if it fell down and hit the earth. Lyle scared me by saying, "If that Comet would hit the earth, there be a big ball of fire and it would blow us all up." I liked stargazing...I could pick out the Big Dipper and other stars and could figure out the Lady in the moon.
In a year or so, I was big enough to go to school with them and for the first time I saw what school was all about. It was a one-room sod building with two windows on each side and the door in front. Nellie Hauder was our teacher. Everybody liked Nellie and so did we kids. She was strict...one time she pulled my ear because I was doing something bad. But she was a fine teacher and was good to all of us...in school and out. Many of us would catch a cold and if one was sneezing or coughing too much, Nellie would bring out her bottle of cough syrup and would give them a good spoon-full.
There was a blackboard across the front of the room. I remember there also was a clock up front on the wall, the American flag, and a picture of our first President, George Washington. Near the door was a big crock jar and a dipper for drinking water. There were two rows of desks on each side -- double desks -- two students to a desk. But a girl and a boy didnot sit together. They were not new desks...but were taken from another school somewhere. There were initials and pictures carved in some of tops. Each side had its own inkwell (a hole in the top just big enough to hold an inkbottle). There was a shelf under the top for your books and a little groove near the top for your pencil. In the top of the desk where I was seated, someone had carved a grove from the top to bottom...sort of a dividing line. That didn't make a smooth writing board. Many times my pencil would push through the paper.
I heard many stories as to what went on in school...like putting the girl's hair braids in the ink well or putting an old toad or sand-turtle in one of the girl's book shelf. There were other tricks the boys played on the girls. I could see that would be kinda fun. But, for some reason, I didn't do many of those things.
Outside, there was a double sod privy...girls on left side and boys on the right. Nearby was a sod shelter for the horses used in bringing the kids to school.
I soon learn how to tell time...knew when recess was about to occur and what happened at 4:00 PM; that's when school was out. An ungraded schoolroom had some advantages, at least for me. Students in all eight grades were taught by one teacher according to the Daily Schedule, which was written on the blackboard. I learned much from the kids in the grades above me...reciting their lessons, reading from the different books or being drilled in spelling or arithmetic. We were supposed to be busy, studying our own lessons when students in one of the other grades were having class. But one couldn't help from hearing...and sometimes I knew some of answers to questions that "teacher" was asking for.
During recess and at noontime, "teacher" would have contests in running and jumping or in playing leapfrog or pump-pump-pull-away. The girls did some of that, but in baseball some were as good as the boys. Much of the time when it was too blustery outside for them, they were involved in sewing and making things.
In the winter we played much of the time out in the snow. There was a good hill nearby and we would pull our sleds up to the top and coast down. The hill was steep from the top down halfway, then stretched out for a long ways. The snow was packed down and was as slick as ice. Papa made our sleds...from wood. One Christmas we received a new sled...a "Flexible Flier." The runners were made of steel. It was lighter to carry and you could steer it by pulling the steering bar right or left...and with those steel runners, it was a fast sled and everybody wanted to ride it down the hill. It was long enough for two to ride. It was sissy to ride it in a sitting position. Most everyone went "belly-buster"...down on your stomach and hanging onto the bar. Two could ride this way by one lying on top of the driver. Opal Crow, a girl in my class...she kinda liked me and I her too, would ride that way. We would come down off that hill lickety-split...she hung on tight with her hands locked around my neck and her scarf flying around my head. We would coast for a long time. That was fun. Some of the boys would nail a slate or stave from an apple barrel to the bottom of a milk stool. They would come down the hill real fast, riding on the milk stool. It was like a short ski with a stool.
During the winter, Lyle would hitch Maude to the spring wagon and we'd ride over to Mizpaw. Much of the wintertime it was freezing cold and the snow would be flying. During that kind of weather we all bundled up real good...we had a bed quilt and an old horse-blanket to put up around us and it helped in keeping warm. Many of the kids had those charcoal burners on the floorboards and underneath the covers. That was good. Lyle tried using a lantern, with the wick turned down. That was pretty good except it was easy to burn yourself if you were not real careful.
Maude was a good horse. Sometimes when it was late and it was so dark you couldn't see where you were going, Lyle would hitch her up to the wagon and we would start for home. Too, if the snow was coming down like in a blizzard, we'd pull the covers up over our heads and Maude would take off on the trot. She knew the way. There was only one gate on the way home, and when the wagon came to a stop we knew we were there and Lyle would jump out to open it. Evelyn or Mildred would drive through and Lyle closed the gate. Then, we were on the move and after awhile we were at the top of the hill near home. From there you could just see the lights from the house. Soon we were inside where it was warm. Lyle gave Maude a drink from the tank then took her to the barn. He gave her some pats on the head and on her rump to show appreciation for a good job done in navigation. Then he hung up the harness, and fed and bedded her down for the night. Animals do recognize such treatment and it makes for building their loyal and dependable service.
I did like going to school. I had "stars" after my name on the chart for "Good Behavior," most of the time. I liked Nellie and she looked out for me...made sure I was keeping up on my lessons. At different times, the school put on entertainment for the grown-ups. On one occasion I was a "butterfly" and I remember coming in waving my arms up and down. The colored cheese cloth costume she fixed for me had wings attached from my wrists and I danced all around as if I were flying.
Papa liked what he saw on my report card. He made me a little box to put on a kitchen chair...that put me up high enough so I could study just like the others around the kitchen table...with the oil lamp in the middle.
We had a piano and many times at night when the studying was finished we would stand around the piano and sing songs. One of the girls would hold the lamp. Bessie was a good player...had taken lessons. She taught Mildred and Evelyn how to play. We all had good voices. Papa taught us to sing in harmony...I sang alto. Papa talked about our Mother and how beautiful she could sing. I didn't remember her at all, but Bessie could very well...about Mother teaching her to sing and play the piano. She had studied music and sang at public gatherings at Georgetown. Papa said they wanted her to make a gramophone record...but she didn't. Later in life, Lyle became a good musician...on violin and trumpet. I remember his first violin...he got it as a prize in selling cloth-bluing paddles to the people there in the hills. I too, after becoming a young man, was good on trombone...played in dance bands, theaters and big orchestras.
The musical talent we all had must have been inherited. My son, Kent, was an excellent player on trumpet, when he was playing.
When we moved to town, I was put right in the 4th grade. I felt real good when
the teacher told me how well that one-room
6. The First Automobile to Come Our Way
Dad had told us all about this machine that ran on gasoline...that would blow smoke and make a loud noise. And that you drove it with a wheel...and too it would go fast. So, naturally we wanted to see it. The day we knew it was coming out to our place, we (Lyle, Evelyn, Mildred and I) went down the road that led to town and waited for it to arrive. Being afraid to be too close, we all went up on top of a hill near by. There, we laid down on our stomachs and peered down. Soon we heard the noise of the engine -- then we saw it coming toward us chugging away. There was smoke coming out of the back end and the noise was getting louder as it came closer. We didn't move...we didn't know what to do. The driver, Bill Jones, saw us hiding up there. Soon, he coaxed us down and we got in. With a lurch, it took off and we sure hung on tight and it swayed back and forth following the trail. We were soon at home and out by the Well.
Bessie came out and was all smiles. She was proud of us and we all felt big. The car was hot...he loosened a leather strap and opened it up. There was the engine, we could see it...hot and smelly. Bill took the cap of the radiator...steam came out. He let it cool down; then, he filled it with water. On the front end it said "MAXWELL." Bill told us all about the car. How it works...and how it pulled the hills...how he fixed the rubber tires. We walk around it many times...just looking. It had a blue wooden body and a shiny front end -- brass. Then Bill said to Bassi: "Get in and I'll take you for a spin down the trail." He got down in front of the car and began turning the crank around and around...it popped and the engine was running. And with a shove, they were moving down the road.
We just stood there and watched them go. It left a trail of smoke as they drove away...the "cut-out" was wide open and "man" it sounded powerful. We had never seen a buggy like this before and we were so excited.
There were a few automobiles going through town, but Bill's car was the first we ever saw and we sure liked it.
wasn't too long after that when Papa come driving in with a pretty red
automobile...with a folding top that could be put up and down and in case of
rain, it had side curtains. Papa could drive this car in the night...It had head
lights that burned a smelly gas...after it became dark Papa showed them off. He
started the carbide tank located on one of the running boards then he put a
match to the lights. That seem great and you could see way down the road. We
kids played out there in the lighted yard for a short while. The car was a VELIE
and Papa liked it very much so he kept that car for a long time.
Chapter 7. Mr. Ed, the Cowboy
A number of cowboys came by our place...were headed up north. They stopped by the well so the horses could drink and too they would fill up the jug they carried from the back of their saddle. Around the outside of the jug there was several layers of burlap cloth sewn in place like a stocking around the jug. After the jug was filled with cool well water, they would put the cork in tight and submerge it in the tank. They were smart...as the water in the burlap slowly evaporated, the water inside the jug kept real cool for a long time.
The cowboy we liked in particular was Ed Siegler. He rode a grey horse. We could always hear him coming...he would be singing western songs...we thought he was a happy man. He wore leather chaps and an old-looking leather hat...always wore a red or blue handkerchief around his neck.
Behind the saddle there was a bedroll, a yellow slicker and sometimes a small skillet. Another reason we liked him was he would holler to us and we'd go out for a visit. He would always ask how things were going and what we were doing. But what made Ed extra special was when he would say, "I have a sack of candy for you kids and I'll put it right here in bucket...and divide it up after supper." We would always say back, "Thanks Mr. Ed."
Like most people did there in hills, Dad made a small water tank...a cooler with bucket-containers partly submerged and fastened to the bottom. The cool well water circulated around the buckets enroute to the horse-tank. That was the place where the eggs, milk, butter and other things were kept. Also, there was always room for the candy. Bessie used to say that Ed drank too much; was a show-off. But we didn't notice it. He used to tell us about roping horses and cattle and frying bacon out on the prairie and sleeping under the stars. We thought that was great.
Lyle liked his leather chaps...they looked old and were shinny with wear. It was something like wanting old faded denim jeans nowadays. While my brother didn't smoke...perhaps not old enough, he admired the round paper-tag hanging from the yellow string that closed the Bull Durham tobacco sack which he always kept in his shirt pocket. It was the trademark of a real cowpuncher. He entertained us kids. He'd say, "Run Lyle, and I'll rope you by the foot." Lyle would take off; Ed would swing the coil of rope around his head and let it go...and would ketch him. And he didn't miss and would call which foot.
didn't think Ed was a showing-off when he would sit there in the
saddle...telling us cowboy stories and withone hand grasping the horn of the
saddle, he used the other hand to casually pull out the sack of BD
tobacco...loosening one the papers which was attached and before you could say
"Jack Robinson", he filled, rolled and licked it with ONE hand...it
was firm and round...just like a taylor-made. By now the
"roll-your-own" was in his mouth. Then he would feel down in his shirt
pocket and would pull out a wooden match. As he kept on talking, he would
scratch the head of the match with his thumb nail and lighted the smoke...with
one hand. Flipping the partly burned match down into the sand, he would say,
"have to go kids...see you again." Then he'd lean forward in the
saddle and put a spur to the horse and was on his way. As he approached the top
of the hill, we would wave good-bye. Soon afterwards you could hear the fading
sounds of the pounding hoofs of Ed's horse going on up north.
8. Growing Up in Town and the Community
As Papa became better acquainted in the community, many of the neighbors and friends urged him to be on the county board of commissioners. He later ran and was elected. He served as commissioner for several years. Many times he would take me with him and would generally drive "Maude" and "Claude" hitched to our new spring wagon. The distance from the sod-house was six or seven miles, but it seemed a long ways away. The Courthouse was inland (not on the RR) and was located in the little town of Brewster. Its population was about 75 or 100...smaller than Dunning. Had two general stores, a bank, a print shop with a weekly paper, a dry-goods store, post office and a few repair shops. The two-story courthouse caught my attention. It was a cement-block building.
As a little kid and later when I was in high school, I spent a lot of time in the courtroom. First when Papa was a commissioner and later on, when I drove Judge Paine over to Brewster where he held court. In the downstairs of the building were offices for the county officials such as the county clerk, the county attorney, school superintendent, et al. Upstairs was where Court was held. The jury sat on the left side of the judge and in the front part of the room were benches for the spectators. What I remember most about the courtroom setting was the "lock-up" cells located in a small room in the right back corner of the room and to the left of the Judge. It was a small security cell divided into two parts made out of strap-iron and sheet metal, all riveted together. The doors had large hinges and hasps for big paddle locks.
There were a great number of interesting stories told about the people held in there at one time or another. It was the only lock-up in the county, so there were a number of prisoners who had been held there during the early settlement of this little western county. Certain cases that stood out were those about: the noted cattle rustlers stealing from the ranchers, the two desperados who held up and took a lot of money from the local bank, the man who blew open the railroad safe and was caught soon after...made too much noise. But, what most impressed me about the county jail was the story connected with the patch of sheet-iron that was riveted over a hole cut in the back of one cell. The cage was fabricated in the room and was placed right up against a window of the outside wall.
As the story went, two men rode into town during the dark of the moon; scaled up the outside wall of the building and with a hacksaw, cut a hole in the cell and helped the two prisoners escape. The sheriff's deputy lived nearby and was supposed to check on the prisoners during the course of the night. This time no checks were made and when the janitor, cleaning-up next morning, noticed what had happened and spread the word, the whole community was alarmed and upset. I don't remember that they were ever caught.
It was in the courtroom where the commissioners met. Much of the time I would play outside. But after awhile, I would come up stairs and go to sleep on one of the benches. People thought Dad was a very good Commissioner. He was most interested in improving the roads, bridges, installing telephone lines...things which would be of general benefit to all. He fought hard for improving the bridges in the county, especially the one at Dunning over the Loup River. An argument he used was so that the wagon trains (ten or 20 rigs pulled by mules) from German Valley (over beyond Brewster) could safely cross the river in bringing their heavy loads of grain and pigs to the railroad for shipping.
One thing I liked about going to Brewster was having something to eat at Riggs' General Store. Papa would get a can of sardines or potted meat, some crackers and cheese. He would have a bottle of beer and I had a bottle of cream or strawberry pop. I thought that was real good eating.
After some time went by, Papa bought a piece of land in Dunning. On the back part of the lot he put up a frame barn with a loft finished up overhead. He would keep the horses there and we could live upstairs when necessary. At one time the only hotel in town occupied this space. It caught fire and burned down. Dunning had no fire department...just a bucket brigade. Consequently, many of the buildings in town went up in the flames.
Around the year 1910, Papa decided to move into town. All the kids were gone except Evelyn, Lyle and me. He remade the barn into a house and began working on the idea of putting up a Hotel -- a modern fire proof building with steam heat and running water. Several years later, in 1919, the Wilson Hotel turned out to be the nicest hotel west of Broken Bow -- sixteen rooms with fresh linen daily. The rate was $1.25 per night. Most of the time we were booked solid. Many of the guests were regulars. I did much of the work in running the hotel such as making the beds, cleaning the floors and stairway as well as running the desk. Papa was busy, working in the Bank he helped in establishing.
Among the many regulars who stayed with us was Bayard Paine of Lincoln. He was the presiding judge for the Eleventh Judicial District of Nebraska. Papa had a new automobile...a Chalmers, and I drove the car. I would drive Mr. Paine over to Brewster and bring him back. We had many interesting conversations during those times and as a result, he made a great impression in my thinking -- about the future.
My father was very influential in improving the town. It was during the early twenties when the town was on the move. It was "Incorporated" during that time. Papa was Mayor of the Town. It seemed that the many of the things he did, Lyle and I were his helpers. In the spirit of community development, he worked hard in establishing the concept of developing a highway from Anselmo through Dunning and up to Halsey, Thedford and on west to Alliance. I helped in staking out the road's location for the ten-mile stretch east of town. It took many years before a gravel and later a blacktop roadway was in place. The streets in town were another here-and-now problem...just pure sand -- would blow all around in the summer, form drifts and proved to be too soft for the automobiles tires to run on...rear wheels would sink down and cars would be "stuck in the street." I remember it took a lot of effort and local support to improve the streets. Many wagonloads of gravel were brought in from the Dismal River area to complete the job. For the first time in history, the "pot-holes" were gone during the wet seasons and the shifting sand become less of a problem.
Most all towns had a town band. With the help of a music "Professor" from Anselmo, a meeting was held for all who might be interested and willing to sign-up to play. The music-man had a catalog, from J.W. Jenkins Music Co. of Kansas City, Mo., which described the instruments and gave the prices. After much conservation and explanations, there were almost enough people interested in forming a band. There were two remaining instruments, very necessary to have but had not been selected...the base drum and the trombone. Prof. Thacker said, "We can't go ahead without having all the instruments." Right away, Papa spoke up and said, "Sign me up for the drums and Lawrence will take the trombone." I didn't expect this and was totally surprised...had never seen such an instrument. I did think about a small horn but Lyle spoke up and took one of the cornets.
Within a few weeks a number of big wooden boxes arrived...the professor came up and unpacked the instruments...played a few notes on each to see if they all were OK. He handed me the trombone and I soon found out I was too little for the horn. I couldn't reach the 7th position in pushing the slide out. The Professor said, "Don't you worry about that son, your arm will stretch and you'll soon grow into it." And I did. Before the year was over, Prof. Thacker had the band playing on the street corners and it was enjoyed by many.
The next thing the town needed was a band stand...the people chipped in the money and a big band stand was erected...right in the middle of main street...with a roof overhead and fitted out with kerosene lanterns.
Later that year, the people in town believed there were enough good reasons for putting in an electric light plant. The town was wired and a "Delco Light System" was installed. It lighted-up the town with streetlights and the store windows were all aglow (and with 110 volts DC). The system also had wet-batteries to supply current during the off hours...and not run the gasoline engine-generators. One result of this big improvement was the bandstand was all lighted-up and there were no more problems in reading the music during the evening concerts.
Saturday nights were festive occasions; many of the farmers and ranchers would
come to town to listen to the band music and visit around
Chapter 9. Deciding to Attend the University
By the time I was a junior in high school, people began asking me what I intended to do after graduation. I didn't know. By this time I was pretty good playing the trombone. Some people mentioned music. I worked part time in the drug store and the local printing office. "Doc" in the drug store said, "You should think about going to the state university...maybe become a pharmacist. Too, I used to write a piece or two and it was printed in the Dunning Booster. The editor would often say, "You know Kid, you should get out of this town...go to school and be somebody. You don't want to just set-type and feed the presses. You are pretty good in composition...should go to school."
In 1923 and 24, when I would take Judge Paine over to Brewster, he would be "working" on me about further education. "Have you ever been down to the university", he asked. I hadn't and wasn't for sure where it was located. By that time, I could repeat all those phrases lawyers used in making objections in law procedures and he would explain the reasons for over ruling or sustaining a question. One time as we were about home, he said: "Lawrence, I am going to talk with 'Pete' about you going to Lincoln...maybe something can be worked out if you are interested." I said fine, go ahead. Then he added, "You know the Nebraska Bar Association is sponsoring a state essay contest on the 'Distinguishing Features of the United States Constitution.' That might be a place to start." After thinking it over, I said that I would give it try. He concluded, "That is very good and the next time I am down there I'll have someone in the university library send you some material on the subject."
A week or two after, I began receiving literature from the university. One pamphlet I found most helpful had to do with the making of an outline for an essay...how to organize the theme and the supporting points. I had so many monographs regarding the Constitution that it became a problem on what material was best to use. Soon I realized my essay was much too long...it had to be boiled down and still retain the essential points. It was important to be sure the manuscript would not exceed the maximum number of words one was allowed to use.
As I became more involve with the contest, I was at Papa's "Underwood" typewriter night and day. I wasn't good at typing...it wasn't taught in school so I used the "hunt and peck" method. After I finished the writing, I showed it to one of my high school teachers who taught English. She corrected many misspelled words and straightened out some poor usage of grammar. She did, however, say nice things about how well I did.
Finally I packaged up the essay and sent it off to Lincoln...I did not even keep a good copy.
It was indeed a big project for me...never had done anything like it before and to be sure, I was relived it was completed and in the mail. The work caused me to formulate a new and most respectable regard for the "framers" of this most important document -- our Constitution. Yes, I was glad it was over and I had no reason for feeling how well it was done. I soon dismissed what the outcome might be.
Papa took the Omaha World Herald newspaper. One particular day, a traveling man was reading the paper and he yelled out, "Hey Kid, you are in the paper...won first prize and you win the gold metal." It was a story about the Bar Association sponsoring the contest and listed the winners. Later that week a reporter from the Herald as well as one from Broken Bow came to Dunning and interviewed me and took pictures.
The Omaha paper printed a long story...told of my interests such as building radios... (for awhile I wound my own coils and made condensers out of tinfoil...had the first radio in the county). Soon I was making and selling them...making money to help in going to the university. They mentioned my interest in music and me playing trombone. Too, what subjects I liked best in high school...I said math and science...and that I liked to draw. It was my first time in having a story about me in a city daily and with a picture.
Judge Paine was right, writing on the essay opened up things. I received a number of letters of congratulations...a very nice one from the Judge. Many fraternity houses sent invitations to come and visit with them. (Later I found that wasn't for me...too expensive anyway.) After talking with many people, I decided to enter the electrical engineering school. Which I did.
That summer in 1924 went very fast and it was soon time to leave home and go
away to school.
Chapter 10. Beginning a New Life -- The Trip to Lincoln
Breaking away from Dunning, from the friends and school chums wasn't easy to do...at times, it was down-right frightening...the idea of pulling up stakes...going to a big city and attending a big school, was a change in my every day life that was not in my plans for the future. To me, it was a brand new departure...a new venture, that I didn't conceive. But, I went along with all the people, nudging me on. During the final days, I was beginning to realize that the transition was most important. While Papa didn't have the money [It was the time when the great depression was setting in], he also felt it was the right move to make. As Judge Paine often said, "Lawrence, you just can't stay here...a college education is absolutely necessary."
Words of encouragement were coming from every direction. "You can do it...you were good in the high school studies. And you have your trombone to help out with the expenses," so many people said in different ways.
Other than Judge Paine, who started me thinking about going to the university, it was Bert Barnett who did the trick. Bert was a cattleman, who stayed at our hotel and knew all about colleges. He had finished college in Texas and also was acquainted in Lincoln. He gave me a lot of good pointers on what to do and what to avoid. I often thought about the advise Bert gave me...I found his ideas to be very good. He came to Lincoln, a few times after I was in school...I guess, just to see how I was doing.
It was in August of 1924, when Bert said to Papa, "I am shipping some cattle this month and if it would help, I could route them to market via Lincoln. Also, I could geta pass for Lawrence to ride down on the stock-train." That was welcome news. I knew that Papa was in a financial-bind. It was hard times. Consequently, he had little cash.
I remember putting things I planned to take, into an old foot-locker when Bert dropped by to see how things were going...he said: "Lawrence, you cannot very well use the box...the train may be 30 to 40 cars long...it would be easier for you to use bags with handles...the caboose is a long ways down the track."
The final day arrived. We were shipping-out in the early morning...it was pitch-black outside and Papa loaded me and the bags into the Chalmers and drove me up to the depot. The train was already in and they were switching cars around. The Conductor was just coming out of the ticket-office. He looked at me and said: "Kid, are you the one with a pass for Lincoln?" I said: "Yes sir." "That's fine...take off down to the end of the train and climb into the caboose...you'll have plenty of time, we are loading three cars of stock. I will see you later on." There were some parting words and I hugged Papa...shook hands and said good-bye. After that I started down the tracks.
My baggage consisted of three pieces. I had an old suitcase to which I fastened a small valise and my trombone case.
Walking down the tracks is no leisurely job. Sometimes I would try walking outside the tracks, but the ground was uneven. (RR ties are either too close together, to walk on each one or they are spaced too far apart, to hit every-other one.) This problem wasn't new to me because I had been up and down the tracks many times before. But, when you were loaded down with baggage in one hand and the trombone, with a brown bag tied to it in the other, that made a big difference.
After trudging down the cinder shoulder of the tracks awhile, I thought I could see the caboose light in the distance. But to my dismay, what I saw was a switch-light. It seemed like I had walked a mile, when finally there was the light, a flickering oil taillight fixed to the rear end of the caboose.
It didn't take me long to climb in, store my stuff under one of the seats and sit down. I believe all cabooses are laid-out the same...I had been in them a few times before. I was the only passenger. There were two or three double seats on each side of the car. At one end, there was a ladder that led up to a cupola...a two-chair observation room...high enough so the train-men could look-out to see on either side of the train or what may be on top. The purpose was surveillance...to notice the presence of hoboes, the beginning of a fire or a 'hot-box'. On such an occasion a wheel bearing box, which was packed with OKEM and grease, would become dry and the bearing material would heat-up and start blazing...sometimes the car would catch-fire. From the lookout, the trainmen would use signal flags to communicate with the engineer. At the other end of the car was a toilet and across the aisle was a desk or table used by the Conductor. Nearby was a crockery water container with a dipper in it. I helped myself to the water...a couple of dippers or more.
In the course of an hour, the caboose jolted back and forth. That indicated the trainmen were attaching the cattle-cars to the main train. There was a lot of slack in the couplings connecting one car to another...10 to 12 inches per car. When the engine would began moving, it would pull or take the slack out of line...like snapping the whip...each jolt becoming more pronounced for each car in the train and finally the caboose getting the real back-and-forth snapper. I was seated when the last jolt occurred and the caboose began to move. If I had been standing, I could have lost my balance and perhaps would have been down on the floor.
After a number of jolts, the train began to go forward. All was quite for awhile, except for the hissing of air from the air brakes, as the engineer was relaxing the brakes on all the cars. By now, one could feel the train gaining a little speed...perhaps five or six miles per hour. After a few minutes, I could see the depot lights and realized we were leaving town. Then, the back door flew open and the trainmen began to file in...the Conductor and two brakemen.
I have seen the trainmen hook a ride many times. When the train is traveling 10 to 15 mph or faster, it requires much experience and agility to successfully get aboard. In order to be out of each others' way, they would line up along the track about 150 feet apart on either side. As the caboose approached, they would lean closer to the car and would grab the steel bar and jump up onto the lower step, leading to the rear platform. The bar was designed to aid them in accomplishing this physical maneuver.
It was actually a steel rod about an inch in diameter, bent to form a quarter of a circle. It was secured to the caboose with the lower end almost flat...the top part was straight up. With the speed of train and the body action in sync, the hand would slide along the rod and guiding them up the stairs and in an upright position. If they missed the bar, there was no second chance. But, it has happened and in such cases, a crewman would signal the engineer for help.
First, the men took off their gloves...one went over to feel the coffeepot...said it needed warming up. The Conductor had a folder of papers that were placed on the desk. Soon, one of them said: "How about a cup of coffee, Kid?" I said, "That's OK with me." It was black...no cream or sugar. I wasn't a coffee drinker, especially black coffee. But, I drank some.
The stove was made just for the railroad...bolted to the floor...had a metal railing around the top, to keep utensils from sliding off, as the car would jolt and sway. It burned coal and to prevent hot coals from burning the wood floor, the stove set in a metal tray. It also provided the heat during the winter months.
The caboose had a "fancy" lamp, similar to those found in the passenger railroad cars. It was made of brass and the burner used a small wick...the chimney was small in diameter and was tall. It also was designed for the railroad. It was attached to the ceiling. But no matter how badly the car was jolting and swaying, it remained in a vertical position. It had a built-in stabilizing mechanism like was found in marine compasses.
It was a long trip to Lincoln...time-wise and distance. It was a single-track road and much of the time we were on a sidetrack, waiting for other trains to pass. Around noon, we arrived at Revanna. The train pulled into the stockyard where the cattle were fed and watered. This took an hour or so. (There was an old saying about some 'tricky-shippers'...that before arrival at their destination, where the sales yards were located, they would load the cattle up on stock-salt along with the feed. The cattle liked that and consumed lots of water.) This story, however, did not apply to Bert.
I too, was hungry and decided to use the time for lunch. I had a paper sack with fried chicken, carrots, bread and butter and apples. I went outside to stretch my legs and walked up and down the tracks. Revanna was the end of one division of the railroad and the beginning of another. So when we pulled out of town, there was a new train crew in charge.
The weather was hot during that time of year and the windows of the caboose were open most of the time. During those years all locomotives burned coal and though it was a long ways from the engine to the caboose, the smoke and fine cinders found they way in. There was no mirror in the toilet or rather it was broken and only the frame remained. But it seemed to me, my hands and arms were getting darker in color.
I felt the new train-crew were nicer...talked to me about my plans. One brakeman, the nicer one, had a son going to the university...studying to become a lawyer. Around six o'clock he offered me part of the cake he had in his lunch box. Another shared a piece of cheese. The train was moving right along...we were out of the hill country and rolling along on the flat land. We were all talking...they were asking about the kind of classes I planned on taking and so on. Then the Conductor said: "Lawrence, could you play us a tune on your horn?" "Why I guess I could." After getting the trombone put together and oiled, I said: "What would you like to hear?" He said: "The Missouri Waltz, my wife and I always liked to dance to that tune." Another said, "Baby Face". And then, there were other numbers. I couldn't play the horn when sitting in those seats. It wasn't easy standing up, but I braced myself with one leg around the Conductor's table leg and played many tunes. Then the two brakemen began singing and harmonizing in the aisle beneath the coal oil lamp. It was fun for everybody...a merry time in the caboose that night as we went rattling down the tracks in a stock-train...going hell-bent to the Capital City on the CB&Q (Chicago, Burlington & Quincy railroad).
Thinking back on that trip to Lincoln, there were features that became long remembered. The friendly train crew...the music and singing...loud enough to be heard above the clashing of sounds from the wheels and track and by the rocking caboose. It all went to make a dirty and tiring trip one with some pleasant moments.
It had been dark outside for sometime. I dozed off to sleep many times as we rocked along. Finally about twelve at night, the friendly brakeman said, "Get your things together, Lawrence, we are pulling into the stock yards." I was glad. After thanking the crew for all the goodies they gave me, I said: "I didn't think the trip would take so much time. I was short on food...and surely appreciated the handouts."
By now, we were all outside. The Conductor put one hand on my shoulder and shook my hand. He wished me 'good-luck' and said: "This was the best ride I have had on the stock-train and we thank you for all the good music." Another said "Good-bye." The one who had his son in school, gave me a piece of paper with his name and address on it and asked if I could look him up. Then he patted me on back and pointed down the track and said, "Now, young man, you follow this track straight up there for about a mile. After awhile, you'll see three colored lights ahead...they're located on the station house...the best of luck! It was a pleasure to meet you...good-bye!"
It was a long trudge to the depot...I remember stopping to sit down for a rest. Papa said for me to ask the station agent for directions to the Lincoln hotel...where I was supposed to stay. After what seemed all night, I arrived and went up the ticket window to make the inquiry. The Agent smiled and sort of stared at me and said: "Where did you come from, Son? I said, "Dunning." "Oh, that's way out there on the other side of Broken Bow." "That's right, I came down on a stock-train...going to attend the university." He smiled some more and said, "You had a long and dirty ride...the hotel is a short distance...right up the hill there and on the right side of the street...I know you will be glad to get into your room."
The hotel, the Lincoln Hotel, was a biggest one in town and with a revolving door in front. I remember I couldn't make it the first time...had to take the trombone case through first and then went back for the bags. The hotel clerk also looked at me in amazement and asked all kinds of questions and I told him where I was from, that my Dad ran a hotel out there...sixteen rooms with steam heat. He laughed and said, "we also have steam heat...take your key and have a good night."
After going to the bathroom and seeing myself in the mirror, I knew why they were so amazed in the sight of me. My head and face was black as coal...I looked like the 'jazz singer', Al Jolson...black faced with white eyeballs. My clothes were filthy...the water in the tub soon became black and I bathed again until I felt clean.
In spite of the rough ride, I thought how good it was to make it to Lincoln...and riding on a pass. Tomorrow I felt, would be an exciting day. I fell asleep, thinking what I'd do first. Next morning, I had a surprise that shook me up. I noticed a little card full of fine print fastened on the inside of the door. The bottom line was the price of the room. $4.50 a day! I had only $26.50 that Papa gave me. At once I realized how necessary it was for me to checkout.
It was a week before registration day; I was busy that first day, trying to find a job and another place to stay. I had one lead I thought might work out. But after I went back, as the man suggested, he had changed his mind. I did a lot of walking and talking...and at the end of my first day, I become more discouraged than encouraged. In my travels, I found an eating place that was new to me. It was 'Hotel de Hamburger'...not too costly and the food was good.
I returned to the hotel late that evening. The same man was at the desk. I was going to tell him that I would be checking out tomorrow, when he said, "How did the day go for you, Son?" I filled him in on what I did and the lack of success and also the reason why I was checking out. Then after some conversation, he made me feel just fine. He said, "We, here at the hotel, often help out new fellows just entering the university in one way or another...until they can get settled. So, rather then charging you the going rate for the room, how would $1.75 sound to you?" "How would it sound? Wonderful!" I felt like shouting. "I don't have much money and really I didn't expect to receive such helpful consideration." I'm sure, I thanked him again. And as I was leaving the desk, he wished me well for the following day and said, "Perhaps, you will have better news to report, when I see you next."
I found it hard to find a part-time job that would work in with the line-up studies I planned to take. I spent three days looking for any kind of work. Jobs were not plentiful at that time. I found two places where I thought would be good, but the people finally decided they wanted a more or less steady worker. I went by the YMCA several times. I remembered Bert suggesting the "Y". So maybe in desperation, I took his advice and went over to the YMCA and put in a job application. The person in charge was very helpful. After a short interview, he said: "You bring in your schedule of classes and we'll try to work around it so there's satisfaction for both of us." I later found that a number of students were employed there in the "Y".
I was a busboy and made $4.50 a week. But, that included room and board. I was only three blocks from the campus and could walk to all my classes.
The hotel Clerk liked what I had to report. He thought the plan we worked out at the "Y" was just right. When I was settling up on how much I owed the hotel, I felt like paying more...at Dunning we charged $2.50 for one of our two better rooms. I thought all about that but, after thinking it over, I decided to pay him the reduced price, $1.75.
Soon, going to classes was in full swing. I was enrolled in electrical engineering with studies in math, science, drafting and other studies. ROTC was required. I went over to the Armory where I tried out for the university band. The band Director put up the music, 'Washington Post' and he said, "See what you can do with it." I must have done OK because he gave me a slip of paper and instructions to check in my olive drab soldiers uniform and receive the band uniform. I was one of seven trombone players in the ROTC marching band. As Bert often said, "Your trombone will open lots of doors...let yourself be known and things will workout to your advantage.
And so it did. Through a newfound friend who played trumpet in the band, I connected with Herb Smith. He had a small dance band; was well established in Lincoln and was thinking of enlarging his group. I had no trouble in looking him up. After a short conversation, he said, "We are having a rehearsal over in the "Dreamland" dance pavilion at seven this evening; bring your horn and try-out for a number or two."
That was the beginning of a lasting friendship and a needed source of income. I shall never forget that 'try-out'. He had a 5-piece orchestra and was thinking of adding a trombone to the combo. I felt so lucky in being about at the right time. I sat in. They were playing by note and at first, were playing easy orchestrations; numbers I played before out in the hills like -- "Five Foot Two", "Blue Moon", "Singing in the Rain" and so on. Herb said, "Lawrence, you do pretty good; you can read the spots and I like the mellow tone you get out of that trombone...but, there are times when we don't have arrangements for some of the old standards...we just use sheet music and fake it and blend together...how about a go at "Tiger Rag?" I said, "OK, I'll try."
Herb didn't know, and I didn't tell him, I had played that piece many times out in the hills...and with only four people in the band. Most orchestrations were written for the big bands, so consequently we faked and improvised. I listened to recordings of dance bands that used known trombone men. My favorite slide man was Miff Mole. He was top-grade and he stood out.
As Herb said, 'we had go' at "Tiger Rag." I gave it my best and I thought I did well. In that passage in the music -- 'Hold the Tiger', I gave it the Miff Mole touch. By then the band was jumping. Right after it ended, Gary, the drummer spoke out, "Herb! That guy can really play the slip-horn...he's all right."
After the group quieted down, Herb looked at me and said, "I'll give you a try. I pay my men scale...we're a union band. Do you belong to the Musicians Union?" "No", I said. "I didn't know there was such a union...what does it cost?" "Twenty-five dollars," he said. That jolted me. I felt badly because I had no money to speak of...it had all gone to the university.
Then with much reluctance, I said: "I am sorry, Mr. Smith, I can't be in your band because it will be some time before I will have enough cash to join." Right away, it seemed all the fellows in the band were volunteering to raise the money. I really felt like I was wanted. It was such a good feeling...I was thanking the men, when Herb interrupted by saying, "No that's not necessary...I understand not having extra money on hand. The Union will help...they will arrange installments, so as to stretch it out. I know the Secretary very well. We can go down to the hall tomorrow...I will advance your first payment."
To me, those were heart-warming words. But, I still didn't know how much I would make a night. I had no idea what the word 'scale' meant and so I asked: "How much will I make, Mr. Smith?" He said, "I said, I pay scale...that is seven dollars a job...right now we have two jobs, steady a week, here in town. Next week, we'll have an extra job...we're booked out of town...down at Beatrice...25 or 30 miles away."
At that time, I felt my money problems, were well taken care of. "Thank you, Mr. Smith," I said. "Thank you ever so much...I am very grateful for the opportunity to try-out in your band...I hope you and the boys will not be disappointed with me ...I will try my best." After saying all that, I said that I would meet him at the Union Hall tomorrow.
Then Mr. Smith said, "Lawrence, you don't need to call me "Mr. Smith'...to all you fellows, I am just plain Herb. So, call me Herb." Even though he was much older [it seemed] in age than any of the members were and too, because he was somewhat of a 'father-figure' to me and perhaps others, I felt such respect was due him. But as it worked out, it did make for good feelings when we were working on first-name basis. After awhile, it seemed, we were part of a family. That was another reason I felt that it was a joy and godsend, I landed the job playing in the "Herb Smith and his Boys" band.
To be sure, being one of Herb Smith's musicians was a lucky break for me. It resulted in forming a long and lasting friendship. I played in his band for a number of years. I often thought how fortunate it materialized for me, by being in the right place and happened to meet the right person and at the right time.
After a couple of weeks went by, I moved out of the YMCA and into quarters in the 'Free Press' building, at 13th & N, where several university men were living. A German newspaper was printed there, and the older women who provided the maid-service and linen spoke little English. But they cared and were appreciated. The rate was ten dollars per month.
At this time, all of my problems seemed to be resolved and the routine of being
a student was off for a good beginning.
Chapter 11. Beginning A Business -- A New Venture
The first years in Lincoln were made up of many and varied experiences. They all were a means to the end...that of becoming a school Superintendent in the public school at Royal, Nebraska.
By early fall, school was well underway... for the first time in my life, I found out that many students did not know how to study and I was included in that group. In the Press Building, where I was living, there were some smart students. Between them and some of my teachers, I began to work at my study-habits in more of an organized manner. My grades were getting better and I was becoming more efficient in the use of my study-time.
I liked all my classes...they weren't easy but with the application of good efforts, I managed pretty good. I started out by taking Advanced Algebra, General Physics, Draftsmanship, English, and ROTC (band).
Papa came to Lincoln in late October. I was able to get an extra room right there on the fifth floor of the Press Building. He had no idea what he might do at first...he tried selling real estate but, was handicapped because in that business he didn't know the lay-out of the city and too, we had no automobile.
He met-up with a man, a former banking friend who wanted him to buy in with his Trading Stamp company. He was very impressive in predicting how successful Papa could become in such a business venture. S&H, Green Trading Stamps, were given by many merchants in Lincoln and there didn't seem to be any competition. So, perhaps, being in the trading stamp bushiness might be all right.
Papa was never inclined to rush into things...he often sought out counsel before making a decision. I remember, he said to me, "E. J. Burkett lives here in town. ..I'm going to look him up." I remembered Mr. Burkett very well. I drove him over to Brewster many times in the old Chalmers...he was an important lawyer and on some of the big cases held over there, he was considered one of the best attorneys.
Papa did a lot of walking and studying during the following weeks...he talked with several merchants who use S&H stamps...talked to merchants who didn't just to see how they felt about the stamps. Too, he talked and figured with two different printers who were equipped to print on gummed paper and who could pin-hole perforate the sheets of stamps.
The day of decision finally arrived. He decided against going in with Mr. Holmen, and to do it by ourselves. Papa had made another appointment with Mr. Burkett and we went over to his office. First off, E.J. said, "Pete, tell me what you found out about your friends stamp business...what did learn from the merchants who gave green stamps...what were their likes and dislikes...in what ways and how did they believe stamps help in their businesses?" Papa felt like he was being cross-examined by a tough prosecuting attorney. But E.J. was digging for the facts in order to give the best advice and that's what Papa wanted. He answered all the questions and offered other information. Papa said, "The S&H merchants like the green stamps...it helped their business. While some thought it was somewhat costly, they liked the advantage in having the premium department centralized at Golds Department store which resulted in a natural tie-in with all the merchants. Too, S&H Company protected their big merchants with exclusive rights...only Frederick's Grocery chain gave S&H. They will not sell the green stamp service to any other grocery stores in town. Herpolsheimers, the other big department store in Lincoln used their own coupons and merchandise-premiums. They like the plan we were promoting because the redemption was in cash, $2.50 a book. They said if we lined-up a sizable number of stores, they would like to talk to us about being the Red Feather redemption headquarters for all of Lincoln."
After Papa finished, Mr. Burkett said, "Pete, you made a most extensive study and it seems to be a wise venture...you will need to incorporate your business under Nebraska laws and if I am to represent you, I'll need to know about your assets and liabilities." Papa said, "Before leaving Dunning, I took a quick-claim deed for all the property I had and was given a check for five thousand dollars...that's all we have and we owe no one." The bank and hotel was lost by foreclosure.
"I understand what the depression has done to the ranchers and business people out there...perhaps you are fortunate in having the five grand...I feel you and Lawrence can make a go in the trading stamp business...I like the name of your stamp. Where did you get the name?"
"We like it too, I said, 'The Red Feather Stamp Company', just popped-out as we were mulling over a lot of possibilities."
Mr. Burkett complimented us on what was done and the plans ahead of us and he said, "Pete, I am only going to charge $75.00 for my services...I've always liked you people...you folks were most helpful to me in taking care of my transportation problems in getting me over to the Brewster court-house and back...this is a way I can help you in the start-up of a new business. I will call you in about two weeks and you can sign the documents."
Naturally, we were greatly surprised with Mr. Burkett's generosity and we thanked him to no end.
Before we could go to the printer, we had to decide on the size of our book of stamps. Since we were planning on a cash redemption plan rather than premiums, we had to plan on financial arrangements...the value of the stamps and in what lot they would be sold. All these problems had to resolved.
We had a S&H book as an example and decided the book-value would be $2.50. Next, was the size of the stamp pads that would be sold to the merchants and at what price.
After the basic decisions were made, things began to fall into place. By now, we were ready to get estimates from the printers.
A friend of mine, Bob Hammond, who lived in the Press Building, was a show-card artist. He did a numbers of sketches in ways a red feather could used on a trading-stamp. The one we chose was a horizontal rectangle, with a red feather painted across the middle...and with the words 'Red Feather' arched over the top and the word 'Stamps' across the bottom. The manner in which Bob designed the stamp, it looked most attractive. It was planned to print the stamps with red ink and when reduced in size they would be slightly larger than the Green stamp.
Soon, we were back in Mr. Burkett's office. Papa showed E.J. the designs and lay-outs of items we plan to give the printer and the estimates of printing costs. After doing some figuring, he thought the $7.50 overage on a pad of stamps would be sufficient. He did say, "Pete, it is necessary that you protect the money held in a reserve-account. It is not to be used for any other purpose than for stamp redemption. It is reasonable to believe that many stamps will be lost or not cashed-in for some reason...especially since you say right on the stamp-book, 'ONLY A FULL BOOK CAN BE REDEEMED'." He continued, "Leave the fund intact for a few years in order to determine an approximate percentage of stamps outstanding." He than advised Papa, "You should not intermingle your personal bank account with the reserve account. It would be better to set-up your personal account in another bank."
We signed all the documents for making the company a Corporation in Nebraska...and now, as soon as the stamps were available, we were ready for business. Mr. Burkett gave the names of two different merchants he thought might be interested in using trading stamps. Then as he looked at the drawing of the stamp for the last time, he said, "Oh my God!...Pete, I overlooked something here in the artist's rendering of the stamp that must be corrected." I didn't know how Papa felt, but I was concerned...I thought, what did Bob do or we do? We were greatly relieved when E.J. said, "You have to put the value on each stamp...two cents." And, he suggested where to put it.
Many times, I heard Papa tell about the two-cent oversight when he was talking to others about the problems encountered in the early days of a trading stamp business.
At that time, trading stamps were a popular inducement to use in business promotion. Even though, we hadn't received the stamps and books from the printer, Papa was busy, talking to merchants who were not using S&H stamps about his plan. Another grocery store, near the size of Frederick's expressed interest in Red Feather. One feature they liked about Red Feather was that the customer could bring their filled book of stamps back to the store and receive two dollars and a half in cash or apply it on an order of groceries.
By spring of next year, we really were in business...Papa was a good salesman...people had confidence in what he was doing and what he represented. Several months later, he went up to talk with the S&H people. Their office was near the Press Building. To his surprise they were very nice people...they knew we were just starting-up and they, the Manager, said: "There's plenty of room in town for all of us...perhaps we can help by referrals." Papa told them he didn't think we would be considered competitors of theirs because of their size and their exclusive-rights policy. One out-growth of the relationship formed, Papa sold Phillips Oil on the stamps...they had a number of filling stations in town. The Standard stations used S&H.
By now it appeared necessary to have a car. We looked at many used-cars. We settled on a four-door Maxwell sedan. It had good tires, ran smoothly and it looked good. We apparently made a good selection because it lasted many years.
During my "off" times I worked full time and by the summer of 1925, we had installed Red Feather stamps in a number of stores in Lincoln. It was becoming evident that our stamp plan had considerable merits...people often said, "We like the CASH over the premiums because in many cases the $2.50 stays right here in the store." In the course of two years, we were established in one of the next largest department stores in the city. Herpolsheimers became the Red Feather stamp redemption headquarters.
By now, it appeared important to move the business out of the bedrooms up on the fifth floor and into some regular office space. There were offices situated on the second floor of the Press Building. Among the business people there, some were considered quite important...Charles Bryan, brother of William Jennings, former Governor of Nebraska and past Mayor of Lincoln, as well as a Dr. A.J. Maggi, renowned surgeon and Robert Hahn, well known Lawyer in town.
We were able to rent a two-room office or rather a suite there. The large room leading out into the lobby was headquarters for the business. It was large enough for a roll-top deck, chair, a table and three or four other chairs, a wicker sofa and other pieces of furniture. Though it wasn't done before, we used the attached room as a bed room.
We knew we had a good arrangement in our room accommodation and naturally we tried not to abuse the privilege. The living portion had a window that opened out into an alley between the Press Building and the back-side of the Lindell Hotel. In that window, I rigged-up an electric hot-plate and fixed a small fan so it would draw the cooking smoke and odor out into the alley. The wind currents were always in our favor and the fumes went the other way. So, no one really complained...sometimes one could smell the coffee out in the lobby, but most of the offices made coffee through-out the day.
But, one time the wind changed its course and, on that day, Papa brought in a steak for supper. We liked fried beef steak, milk-gravy on bread and vegetables. Things were going just fine until the telephone rang...it was Bob Hahn, whose offices joined ours. "Lawrence, are you folks cooking a steak?...that cooking odor is coming right in my window and my office smells like the kitchen of the Lindell!", he said in a loud tone-of-voice as if he didn't like it. I gave a short answer and said, "Sorry." Bob was a good neighbor and he cooled down. The next day when he saw Papa out in lobby, he said, "Pete, I know you folks cook a little bit in there. But yesterday, when I had a client in the office he remarked about the good smell coming in the window from the hotel...and I didn't say anything." Papa apologized and from then on, everything continued just fine. They say that necessity is the mother of invention and what I did, right away, was to hang a little string of cloth outside the window which served as our weather-vane. Our guidance system warned us when not to cook smelly things.
By the end of our first year in business we were showing a little net earnings. The nest-egg that Papa brought with him was almost depleted. However, we felt there was sufficient cause for celebrating the Yule Season. Consequently, we bought ourselves a special Christmas present -- clothes. Papa always took pride in the way the kids looked and also the way he dressed. So around Christmas, we went over to a clothing store where had become acquainted and were measured-up.
venture in the trading stamp business was showing good signs of success. New
customers were being found and the merchant/customer
response was improving with time.
Chapter 12. Death and Meeting the Wife to Be
In January of 1929, Papa suffered a severe cerebral hemorrhage and died. There was no forewarning. He passed on late that evening in the Lincoln General Hospital. He was buried in a plot he had reserved next to Mama, in a cemetery out at Broken Bow, in Custer County.
In the relatively short time we lived in Lincoln, he had formed many friends and acquaintances. Throughout his life, it seemed he was like a magnet among people. Those he met and associated with valued his friendship. For many reasons, they liked Papa and stuck with him. Only a few if any could I recall as being "unfriendly." An "arch enemy" was an unknown.
The services were held in the St. Paul Methodist Church and was attended by a great number of people. I don't remember much about the services, only that it was nice to see all the people who were there and they were there out of respect for Papa. The family was there. Also there was my girl-friend, Frances Bull and her Mother Pearl. It seemed the church was almost filled. A few good friends from the Sand Hills out in Blaine County were in attendance.
Papa felt very good in founding the Red Feather Stamp Company. He was real proud of himself as well as me, in establishing the stamp redemption headquarters in the Herpolsheimer Department store. It was not only a good selling job but the achievement was a great boost in advancing the popularity of the stamp company. Having one of the major department stores in Lincoln aboard was a drawing card in expanding the number of merchants going the "Red Feather" route in the use of trading stamps. Such an achievement created hundreds of common customers. Profit-wise, all the merchants benefited, as well as the company. Now, S&H Green Stamps were taking notice.
I was doing well in the university; still played in the University band. I liked that because the band made most of the Cornhusker football trips away from home.
Between studies, helping in the operations of the stamp business and playing a few dance jobs, my time was pretty much allocated. The fellows in the Press building used to kid me about not lining up one of the sorority girls. As Zit Schmidt used to say, "This guy plays at most of sorority houses, knows most of the girls, but leaves them alone. I don't understand him!" Up to that time, I really never became serious about dating.
Ralph Price, who was a retired Federal Bank Examiner, visited Papa much. He noticed my lack of interest in women. While he was a few years older then I, he was always trying to figure me in on double dating. So, one time he said to me, "Larry, I know a young lady, you should meet. She is a secretary for a department head out in Ag College which is a part of the University. It just happens that a friend of hers has invited me over for dinner this evening and Mrs. Voite suggested that I bring you along. What do think?" Somewhat reluctant, I said, "Sure, I'll go along with you."
The first evening worked out pretty good. The dinner was real good...much better than I was accustomed of having at the nearby cafeteria. Afterwards, we played cards. Bridge was suggested, but I confessed I knew nothing about the game. But, we played another card-game. It was a nice evening, and to my surprise, we doubled-dated again. At first, my new date, Frances, was a little leery in learning I was playing in a dance band. But, as time went on and we continued going together, her concerns faded away.
One weekend, Frances called me on the phone and said her Mother was in town and that she would like to meet me and have a little visit. I said OK and later we met down in front of the drug store, located on the first floor of the Press Building. I remember they had an old Model T 2-door Ford sedan. Her Mother was concerned that her daughter was becoming somewhat serious about this fellow, Larry. As I later knew Pearl, she was all business and never pulled any punches; a true square-shooter. True, she knew nothing about me, only what Frances had told her; that I was going to the university, had something to do with trading-stamps and was a dance musician.
I could sense the dance band idea was not so good. And perhaps she thought I was carousing around all hours of the night and out with girls of ill-repute. We talked for sometime but of all the questions she asked me, which were many, I'll always remember her last series of statements and inquiries. This was an area of her deepest concern and care. She said, "You know, judging from the letters I have been receiving from Frances, you two are getting a little too serious. You are really a stranger to me. All I know about you and your background is from what Frances says and writes. How do I know what kind of a person you'll turn out to be? I don't want my daughter to do the wrong thing." Then she paused and turned to looked at me straight in the eye and said, "Larry, I want to believe in Frances and perhaps you too, but I must ask, are you going to harm Frances? And, will you promise not to injure her in anyway?"
Because of the street noises, I was sure Frances was unable to hear the many
things Pearl covered in that 'short visit'. I was not expecting such
a personal cross-examination on that first talk. But, as I began to
feel her concern about our going together and her straight-forward probing, I
was forming a strong respect for her. There was a quality that manifested itself
during the years that followed. I remember I put my hand at her forearm and
said, "Mrs. Bull, I appreciate all the things you have said to me. Believe
me, you have nothing to fear. I will not hurt Frances." There were smiles
and the visit ended
Blaine NEGenWeb - 2002 - Patricia C. Ash