"The VOICES of the past are heard again in the Kansas Collection through nearly lost books, letters, diaries, photographs and other materials. Listen...."
Imagine ... time travel. Michelangleo, Jules Verne, Gene Roddenberry and Steven Spielberg have all been fascinated with travel into the future or back, through the decades, to the past. This leap through time is possible, you know. Well, not physically, but, with words ... our words; words plaiting memories into sad or humorous or poignant stories and anecdotes. We can form instant connections to great, even double and triple great-grandchildren by leaving our life stories, or the stories of our parents, siblings and peers, for those citizens of the future. We can feel the same sense of oneness by reading the words left for us by voices long silent. Both the leaving (of) and the listening to words sharing memories, in some way, make us immortal.
Humankind has reached its hands out to grasp immortality throughout the ages. And, throughout the ages, our mortality has made itself more concrete with each turn of the calendar page. Nothing seems to underscore that mortality with more finality than the day of our birth. It represents both a joyous celebration of life and the increasing nearness of that bittersweet mark of inevitable conclusion. What better way to still the pendulum at midpoint than to the take the time to remember and share the memories of birthdays past; relive occasional tears and recapture the childish shrieks and giggles of youth? Through our words we can contemplate life's ongoing magic. The simple re-telling of those times when several generations of family and friends gathered close, when a loved one made a special effort or when we received exactly the gift we wished for not only offer a touchstone to the past but often lay the groundwork for a memory to come.
“...We hope that KANSAS-L discussions will provide materials for the various sections of the Kansas Heritage project, the main object of which is to preserve our memories, and the memories of those who have gone before us, for the future Kansans.”
Lynn Nelson, the driving force behind the Kansas Heritage Project, wrote those words in May (1997) in an e-mail message distributed to the members of the Kansas history list. His sentiment echoed in the minds and fingers of those who subscribe to the discussion list and prompted a flurry of replies. One of those replies was my own. Knowing The Kansas Collection was about to celebrate a birthday, I thought it only natural that members of the Kansas discussion lists should include birthday memories of their own. With a bit of prompting, stories and recipes began to fill both the list and my mailbox. Each person who wrote, and who shared a memory, has ties to Kansas. Some have lived in the state; some, like myself, have family from Kansas and look to The Kansas Collection and the mail lists to open the doors which lead to understanding our heritage on a more personal level. The birthday discussion was both entertaining and enlightening.
I was dismayed to learn Kansas University, our host for the Kansas Collection, does not celebrate its "birthday" or founders day. And KU is not alone. Many list members wrote about "non-birthdays." LaDonna Leavens Walen, who contibuted several wonderful memories, began by saying, "I'd share my birthday memory with you if I had one to share. We didn't celebrate birthdays except with a cake. We couldn't have parties and didn't buy each other presents. I'd go to other kids birthday parties with a present but I couldn't have one. Go figure." However, a bit of prompting from another list member as to flavor of cake and who baked it, led her to write, "...I guess you did jar some memories loose with questions about the cake. Mom was a wonderful cook and baked each of us our favorite kind for our bd's. I really can't remember what mine was; they were all so good. My guess would be chocolate. And we did attempt to decorate with roses and writing but we found we didn't like the frosting that was thick enough to produce roses that would stand up. They always melted and fell over. We all sang 'Happy Birthday' when our cake was served after dinner. But we weren't allowed presents. I'm not sure why. I think they both felt it was frivolous to spend money on toys that might be temporary when we had a lot of home-made things: tire swings, tree-houses, etc. We didn't really have the money; but it would have been nice to get one comic book or something.
"Both of my parents grew up so poor that they were lucky to have one set of clothes and enough food to eat. My mother was one of 15 children and they treated the girls terribly. They didn't have shoes at all in the summers and when winter came, the boys got first dibs on shoes so they could go to school. If there weren't any shoes left over, the girls stayed home. They wore shift-type dresses made from feed-sacks. The boys got over-alls. The girls ate last from what was left after everyone else ate. Mom said they made gravy from anything left in the pots on the stove. I think it's safe to say they didn't have birthdays at all." This non-birthday tradition was not carried forward with her daughter. LaDonna admits, "My daughter got parties when she was little and I'm sure too many toys. But she almost always played with them. She didn't like tv like some children so she played with everything." She also added, "See, that wasn't difficult to write a little bit, then another memory pops up, you write that, and so forth. (Now you've done your own analysis and don't have to pay a psychiatrist.) Before you know it, you'll be telling your grand-kids a new story and they'll know more about the real you. I fear every age has lost the art of talking to each other about their lives. That reminds me of the time my daughter started keeping a journal when she was a young teen-ager. She's 27 and still writes every single night without fail. I asked her when she first started if I could read it. She had some very difficult teenage years and I never really understood what it was all about. She has never let me and I never sneaked a peak out of respect for her privacy. She told me, 'This writing is who I AM. It's ME. It's thoughts about each day that I live. If I die tomorrow, this is my legacy.'
"It was rather startling coming from a young teen-ager.
"Whatever writing did for her worked, because she's happy and has a job and life that she likes. Which reminds me, I think it's time I asked her again to read her journal. Maybe she knows something about growing up that I don't. Naahh!...
"Anyway, WRITE IT DOWN! You'll be happier, your relatives will be happier (and if you're like me, you'll need it to tell you what you did yesterday.) No one should hesitate to share a memory because they can't write well enough. I'm sure some great author once said, 'It ain't the story, it's the tellin'.' (Or it might have been Granny Clampett, not an author.) It's variations in writing that make reading interesting. So don't hesitate, get it written so future generations will know something real about you."
"It was also LaDonna who contributed the instructions for Doll Cake. The cake was mentioned by Vickey Baumli, who remembered, "When I was about 8 having an angel food cake with a doll stuck in the hole, then the cake was frosted to look like a 'southern belle' dress. Hours went into making that (makes me think there was a Barbie doll before Barbie!)." Vickey's memory will remind many a grown-up little girl of those Scarlett O'Hara fantasies we all seem to share. These have nothing to do with the dashing Rhett. They revolve around hoop skirts and layer upon layer of lacy white petticoats.
Vickey's mention of a special cake sparked LaDonna's recollections, and, in turn, LaDonna's wonderful story prompted John Ragle, a Kansas-L member living in Massachussetts, to express his thoughts on the importance of personal memories and coffee grinders.
Just as Vickey's cake mention of a special cake "jarred" LaDonna, her wonderful memories prompted John Ragle, a Kansas-L member living in Massachussetts, to express his thoughts on the importance of personal memories. And, although not birthday specific, coffee is a perfect accompnainment for the adults at a party serving Doll Cake. He wrote, "In collecting the genealogy of my immediate family, I have hoped to include a rich fund of such vignettes to enliven the 'begats.' I have received some very nicely-written paragraphs by those who remember. They could well adopt the bumper stickers which one saw at the height of the 'Quebec Libre' movement...unfortunately with no training in French and an aging brain, I can only guess that it was 'J'me Souvien' or something similar (apologies for the fractured french!).
"These memories, be they of birthdays, of holidays, or of death-days, are the only things we have which are truly of our families. The event itself may be unimportant, a trigger.
"In 1942, when I was 9 years old, my sister and I were evacuated from Fairbanks, AK to Colorado Springs, CO because the war had touched the Aleutians. We stayed with my father's mother. She had a routine at breakfast time which included grinding a few coffee beans in a hand grinder which clamped on the draining board. Both the sound and the wonderful aroma wafted into my bedroom, which bordered on the kitchen area, and served as a wake-up call. Of course, as children we were told that coffee was not for us, and besides, we could never figure out how such a pleasant-smelling material could have such a vile taste!
"By the summer of 1943 it was apparent that children in Alaska were not under any peril, and we returned to Fairbanks, where we pursued childish things for a number of years, having very little contact with Gramma #1. In 1960, in transit between an East Coast job and West Coast employment, I stopped unannounced in the Springs to see her, only to find that she was in a nursing home with advanced Alzheimer's disease. When she passed on in 1965, my father was the one who went back home to pack up the bits and pieces for transport to Alaska. When I went to visit my parents in the late 1960's, I was awakened by a familiar sound and smell, and there was the hand grinder which I remembered so well in retrospect. It was one of the mundane objects which my father had saved out as irreversibly connected to his childhood, and it filled me with recollections of Colorado...a breakfront with crystal (and always a small dish of ginger), flickers on the lawn, hailstones which filled the street, how unforgiving an adobe tennis court could be when wet, the repetition of the afternoon thundershowers, the sage and mint garden, and the bing cherries. The horned lizards (horny toads, we called them) who suffered indignities at our hands. The 'crazy water' from the spring in Manitou.
"But what I lost, from parents as well as grandparents, were the stories which I should have retained...stories about Great-Aunt Hulda who bonked the grizzly on the head with her cast-iron skillet, when it had the temerity to stick its nose through the tent flap. Stories about the ranch-hand who got more than he bargained for when he used his boarding-house reach to grab a flap-jack. There aren't any 'coffee grinders' to evoke these any more, and I have lost them, except for vague memories. These are the things I would have liked to include in my genealogy writings."
Linda Morgan-Clark, an ordained Mehodist minister (and my cousin), was also inspired by the "non-birthday" stories. She writes, " I didn't think I had anything to share until I read LaDonna's post. I only had one REAL birthday party when I was growing up in Kansas -- my twelfth. Some sort of a rite of passage I guess. Don't remember much about it though. I was mostly miserable throughout the ordeal. What I do remember were the 'non-birthday,' birthday dinners that were a tradition in our home. My father detested visitors or company in our home, especially if there were lot of them. He didn't even much like the relatives to visit. Consequently we seldom had 'company.'
"The only exception that I can remember was that people were always welcome at 'my mother's table.' Apparently my father would not deny her the only thing she knew she did well -- cook for and feed a crowd.
"So this little crack in Daddy's armor was what my mother used to help us kids have a special way to celebrate our birthdays. We were always able to invite ONE friend to eat 'birthday dinner' with us on the Sunday nearest the actual date of our birthday. And we were allowed to request all our favorite foods.
"My birthday is late in November and nearly always falls within a day or two of Thanksgiving. So my birthday dinners were quite often the family's Thanksgiving Day dinner as well. We never had a turkey for Thanksgiving as long as I lived at home, because my favorite dishes were: fried chicken, corn, mashed potatoes and chicken gravy, jello salad with fruit cocktail in it, iced tea, rolls and Angel Food Cake and ice cream for dessert. Only the Angel Food cake and ice cream were the standard birthday fare for all five of us kids. In fact I thought all birthday cakes were Angel Food for years! And they were made from scratch, with my mother using a rotary hand beater, counting every stroke as she beat the egg whites to stiff perfection.
"The other feature of our 'birthday dinners' came into existence in 1948, after my Dad accompanied my oldest brother to Washington, D.C., when he (my brother) was one of five young men who won the national 'I Speak for Democracy' contest. The souveniers from that trip included commemorative plates that Daddy bought at every historic place they visited in D.C., and the surrounding environs.
"These became our 'company dishes.' In my mother's whole life she never had good china or sterling or crystal. But we had these lovely and unique plates. One for every one of us to have our own and an extra one for our guest; eight plates in all. With those plates on the table, it was like visiting our nation's capitol. (I'm there quite often these days and the information imparted by those plates has made my visits memorable.)
"One of the last things I did with my mother before she died in September 1995, was try to locate those plates. She could not remember what had happened to them. We searched the kitchen cabinets in vain. She thought maybe my younger sister had taken them in a kitchen cleaning spree of a few years earlier. I despaired of ever seeing them again.
"However, when my brother and I were completing the process of cleaning out our parents' home in anticipation of selling it, we found the plates. Safely tucked away in a box, long forgotten in the basement. I carefully lifted each one from it's newspaper shroud, and with great affection looked at these plates that held so many memories of happy times at 'my mother's table.' And much to my pleasure I realized that I not only remembered every detail of every plate, but that I also remembered which plate belonged to which sibling, even though I had not seen the plates in over 35 years! I was the only family member who remembered this bit of trivia and was able to give each of my siblings their own plate as we divided up family heirlooms.
"My plate? Well, it's the only one with a feminist theme in the entire eight plate collection! Imagine that! Martha Washington's birthplace and life are commemorated in the blue on white scenes of my special plate. I could not have told you that before seeing the plates as I removed them from their shrouds. But I instantly knew my plate when I saw it again and smiled inwardly when I realized it's scenes fit my now middle aged life and interests to a tee."
My own mother, Ruth Kyle Frisbie Hedrick, when asked about childhood birthdays, reminded me that, my grandfather, Charles Lester Frisbie, didn't pay alot of attention to birthdays when she was small. Her mother, Minnie Bell Cook Frisbie, died in 1912, the year after my mother was born. And although there was always a hired woman to help care for her and her older brother, Charles Howard Frisbie, birthday parties were not high on the "to do" list. Mom does have two birthday memories that stand out though. Oddly enough, neither involves food but both are tied to some sort of transportation.
In 1923, the year she turned 12, she recieved an early birthday present, Sis-Horse. Mother's birthday is in December but that year Grandpa bought her a dappled grey pacer and a new saddle, blanket and bridle midsummer. The mare, christened Sis-Horse, was to take Mom to school and back. Sis-Horse trotted the three or so miles from the Frisbie farm into DeSoto to school each morning, but instead of keeping Sis tethered at the school all day, Mom would slap the horse's speckled grey rump and Sis would head back to the farm. At the end of the school day, Grandpa Frisbie or one of the hired men would "pat" Sis's rear again and the mare would make the return trip into DeSoto to to get Mom. For about four years Sis-Horse performed this service almost daily during the school year.
Then, on Mom's sixteenth birthday, Grandpa bought her a 1927 Studebaker Erskine. It was aquamarine blue with white leather interior. Studebaker only made the car from 1927 until 1931. It was a very sporty little car and whenever I think of it I can picture my mother, the bows tied to the ends of her braided red hair dancing as she bounced around the less than smooth dirt roads of Johnson County.
The "non-birthday" theme continued with Barb Boese, of Dodge City, KS. Barb shared a story about her husband, Sam Boese. Sam is the son of Tobias and Carrie Buller Boese. Tobias and Carrie were "were Holderman Mennonites and they might have had birthday parties with the other brothers and sisters but not a 'real' birthday party ever. We had been invited to a surprise birthday party for a friend on our our way home he mentioned that he'd never had a real birthday party. Since his birthday was just a couple of months away the wheels started turning.
"I contacted the manager of our local VFW Post and he said it was ok to have it in the bar part. I ended up inviting over 100 of his closest friends, family, co-workers etc. This was for his 70th birthday. No gifts were wanted except maybe gag gifts. We had people there that served in the army with him in WW II and fighting in the Battle of the Bulge, one of his brothers came in for it, pipeliners that the had worked with for almost 50 years, neighbors, etc. He had no idea the party was for him. Even when he parked by a buddy's truck he couldn't figure out why he was up there as he didn't go there. He just kept being amazed at the number of vehicles - said he hadn't seen 'the V' that busy in years and years. I wish you could have seen his face when we entered the lounge. Total shock to say the least."
One of the party highlights, in addition to Sam's amazement, was when "one of his friends had a 'stripper' - the kind that put the padding etc. on. If you knew my still shy husband you would have loved seeing the look on his face when the 'stripper' sat on his lap. We served plenty of food to all and also did a vcr tape of the thing. This party was probably the best one I had ever been to as the surprise was really a surprise and the look on his face will never be forgotten. Friends here still talk about it. The only problem is that he is now 78 and with his 80th birthday approaching, HOW do I top this one?"
Alice Berg Beauchene may have an idea for Barbara. It involves a great many people coordinating vacation time, rearranging schedules and using planes, trains and automobiles. Alice, identified below simply as the cousin in Knoxville, TN, shared memories of "my aunt's 90th birthday in 1994 where both of her sons and all eight nieces and nephews had a reunion. It had probably been almost 40 years since all of us had been together. In fact, we could not pinpoint exactly when the last time had been.
"The set of 10 cousins grew up in the Ozawkie/Meriden/Topeka area except for the two in Wathena. There is one Ph.D., two nurses, two have master's degrees, three more 'just' a batchelor's. One CPA. Four are retired. And we came from coast to coast to the reunion. Like Hilton Head, SC, State College, PA, Knoxville, TN, St. Louis, Springfield and St. Joseph, MO, Topeka, KS, Seattle, WA, near San Francisco, CA. The reunion was held in and around Topeka, including the open house at the church in Meriden."
This gathering was to honor Alice's aunt, "Edna Grace Jensen, born May 26, 1904, northeast of Topeka. Aunt Edna is the oldest of four daughters of George and Mary Jensen. (Two of her sisters were present for her birthday. My mother was in a nursing home and was not there.) She married Clarence William Berg on March 19, 1924. They lived on a farm south of Meriden, first with his parents and then next door south on their own farm. Aunt Edna did not have electricity until the fall of 1949. (She took great care of her wood cookstove -- a cream and light green porcelain stove that we have in our family room in Knoxville, TN.) Clarence died in 1977 but she continued to live on the farm for several years before moving into the town of Meriden where she still lives. Their two sons are Earl Henry Berg of North Topeka and Clyde Clarence Berg of State College, PA.
"The reunion was actually held the weekend after July 4th in 1994. (The reason the birthday was celebrated in July instead of May was to accommodate Clyde's schedule. And then a cousin had the bright idea of trying to get all the cousins together and it just worked out.)" Wonder which cousin this was?
"It started with a dinner at a restaurant and then time to visit together at the Indian Creek Grange Hall on Saturday night. The 'official' birthday celebration was an open house on Sunday at the Meriden United Methodist Church where Aunt Edna is a member. A good time was had by all. The time was just too short. "
Susan Stafford, Voices editor, sent one or two memories of her own, even though "usually my birthdays are complete disasters and I try to hide until they're over. On one birthday, everything seemed to be going wrong. Finally I gave in and went home, thinking I could clean the house a bit at least. The vacuum cleaner blew up!"
When not hiding under the bed, consoling herself with chocolate, or replacing ruined household appliances, Susan remembers "the birthday cake plate that my grandmother always brought out on my birthday (you placed the cake on it, and it revolved and played 'happy birthday') and how we could always have whatever we wanted on our birthday for dinner, and I always chose shrimp. My mom said if I could have shrimp cake, I'd ask for that! Anyway, my grandmother would fry up dozens of shrimp (we all loved it, and we were a BIG family) and made homemade french fries too. The shrimp probably came from Dillon's supermarket, and were the cheaper kind of frozen shrimp. But nothing tastes quite as good as those shrimp that my Gramma Place cooked up in her deep fryer!"
Susan also had a recent birthday celebration that sparkles in her memory. She writes, "My birthday this year was celebrated a few weeks early. I was home and my mom said that she hadn't been able to have a birthday party for me in 14 years, and she wasn't going to miss this chance! The family sang 'Happy Birthday' to me and we had chocolate chip ice cream cake, my favorite kind of ice cream. I even got to make a wish as I blew out the birthday candle -- fortunately only one, if we had the traditional candle for each year we would have had to alert the fire department before lighting them! It was one of the best birthday parties I ever had."
Food always plays a big part in my family celebrations. And one of my favorite shared Kansas memories came from Doug "This train is bound for glory" Lyon. However, it wasn't shrimp this young man had a fondness for! Doug caused many a smile and some great discussion with this story: "One of my favorite birthdays happened when we lived in Wichita in 1958. It was my 8th birthday. I don't know what got into me but the only thing I asked for was peanut butter. For some reason I insisted on peanut butter and peanut butter only. And, of course, that's just what I got. Aunts, uncles, cousins, neighbors all contributed to my peanut butter cache. It was the first time I saw one of those great big peanut butter jars (3lb?). It was great! I bet I ate that peanut butter for months!
"Fortunately for me, some of my relatives had the foresight to include a real birthday present along with the peanut butter. And do you know- I had a peanut butter sandwich for breakfast this morning!"
One of those responding to Doug's tale was Marvin G. Beshirs. Marvin reminded us all about some of the silly notions we seem to have when raising children. He responded to Doug, "Someone was talking about getting peanut butter for presents because that is what she asked for. When I was growing up, the thing I wanted most was a model train set. I asked for it for years and never got one. I finally gave up the idea and sorta convinced myself that I did not want one because they were chldish. I guess that I was hurt because I never got one. The very year I stopped asking is the year that I got one. I then found out later that they did not give me one before because they wanted to give me something I was not expecting. That really hurt me alot and I do not think I will ever, ever figure out the reasoning behind that thought. I am also fifty now and now I wish I had the room to put one because I still like them."
Doug responded immediately. "I'm the guy who got the peanut butter. I also wanted a train. We had the Lionel trains, but I wanted an HO train set. I remember I even got this cool wall bank from a Wich. bank that had a picture of an old timey train on it to help me save my money. I still have the bank. I don't have the train.
"Having been a parent now for some 15 (yikes!) years I've come to have a better understanding of my own parents. That is to say I don't know why they did some of the goofy things they did any better than I understand some of the goofy things I do. (What those goofy things are differ depending on which kid you ask!). It gave me a new understanding of that 'forgive and you'll be forgiven' rule.
"It is never too late to set up a train set. If you don't have room for Lionel (O gauge) look into N gauge. They are the smallest there is (that I know of). If you still feel they are childish then maybe you've got a grandchild, niece/nephew, or neighborhood kid you can take w/ you. There is probably even a train club for grown-ups in your area. " He sgined this sage advice "Doug 'This train is bound for glory' Lyon." We all hope Marvin is setting up train tracks this very minute!
Linda Lipp moved our discussion from the non-birthdays into the realm of those who usually celebrated with a "rite of passage." She "also had only one REAL birthday party (at least what I considered real...the kind with friends). I can't remember now how old I was, I think 10 or 11. We did, however, always celebrate as a family with my parents and brother. Since my birthday is in the middle of August, quite often it would occur during our family vacation, but my birthday would not be forgotten.
"One year really sticks out in my mind. We were on vacation camping in Colorado. There was a big rocky slope that led down to the campground. Every day, when we were at the top of the hill, I would ask if I could climb down. I was the adventurous one in the family (not my brother) and it looked like so much fun to climb down this slope. My parents kept telling me 'no' that I couldn't climb down the hill. Finally, one day they said 'yes.' I was confused, but happy. I'm not even sure that it dawned on my at the time that it was my birthday. Anyway, my father and I climbed down the hill while my mother, brother, and two grandmothers that were with us took the car down. When my father and I got to the campground, they had a birthday party sat up for me. My parents and figured out that this was a good way they could get everything sat up without me around. I always remember that birthday and the presents I received. We had toured the copper mines that day, so guess what I got for my birthday. I got a copper necklace, a copper pin, and two copper bracelets (actually, one may have been the souvenir that was bought when we were there, but they always blended together in my mind as my birthday presents).
"As I got older and was in youth group at church, the youth group retreat often fell on my birthday. One year, the group was camping at Lake Pomona. Someone found out that it was my birthday. Of course, there was no cake and ice cream, but we were having brownies for dessert. Someone got a wooden toothpick and stuck in one of the brownies and they all sang me happy birthday. It's funny how it is the small things that we seem to remember."
Birthdays away from home struck a chord with W. David Samuelsen, Utah. He attended a boarding school. So his birthdays were not celebrated "with my family - always at boarding school. Even after graduation - still haven't got the chance to do so for 22 more years now. The only ones I had with family were a month early when I was home for spring break vacation. Grandma always baked (she worked in bakery for many years) one for me. Never on hand for sisters' birthdays at all, but they had to be at my own! The bummer is that nobody in my family have birthdays in the summer months. Not even cousins either. Except my own dad which is two weeks away now. Only time I ever actually get to be with him for his birthday was at family reunion in 1976 and that was the very day. My parents were divorced in case you were wondering... And the school birthdays were biggies while in preschool and primary (1st and 2nd grade) and they weren't for classes only - whole bunch get in the act! (I'm talking about 40-50 of them)."
David's grandmother wasn't the only grandmother baking. The difference between David and Jane Soder is that he probably ate his cake! One year, Jane tells us, no one tasted a crumb of her cake. "On most birthdays, my mother made some kind of ordinary layer cake, usually with the help of Betty Crocker. On my 8th birthday, however, either Mother or Grandma Rice (can't remember which) baked me a very fancy birthday cake in the shape of a lamb. I think she used a lamb mold. The lamb, which was sitting down, was covered with thick, swirly white coconut frosting. I loved that lamb cake so much that I refused to eat it or let anyone else eat it. I kept it in the kitchen for days, then weeks. It was probably moldy inside, but it didn't show because of the thick, swirly white coconut frosting. My goal was to keep the lamb cake forever.
"Eventually, Mother started pressuring me to throw it out. I refused, but we reached a compromise. Instead of throwing it out, I agreed to keep it outside, on top of our little 'playhouse.' Since my birthday is in October, and it was November by then, it didn't take too long for the elements to take that cake to lamb heaven. I still have a picture of my lamb cake on top of the playhouse." Can't you just see that fluffly little cake, perched bravely on the roof, fighting the rain and snow?
Lora Eccles wrote to tell us she "appreciates all the birthday stories. Don't think I have anything too memorable of my own birthdays but I do remember vividly my mother's birthdays on the 4th of July. My mother's name was Minnie Welch- was married to Joseph Casteel. (She was born Mt. Home, Boise county, ID July 4, 1897 and died in 1971. She also was kidnapped as a child (about 3 or 4)by some circus people while on a train ride from ID to Dayton, Columbia county, WA. Fortunately they got her back rather quickly.)
"We always had a big picnic usually at the Lewis and Clark state park about 6 miles south of Dayton, WA - Columbia county where I was born and grew up. We had a very large (probably smaller than my childhood memory dictates) creamery where we would order ice cream the previous day because they were closed on holidays and Sundays. The ice cream would be packed in containers surrounded by dry ice and placed on the porch of the creamery with our name on it. We would pick it up on the way to the picnic and return the container the next day when we then paid for the ice cream. What a deal!"
I can't imagine anything better! Holiday birthdays and ice cream sparked Jill O'Neall Ching, Maui, to tell us. "My birthday is the 4th of July too, an utterly great day for a birthday, when I was a child (I'll be 45 this year!) Mom always made hand cranked french vanilla ice cream, (still my favorite flavor) because it was always 100+ HOT! and cause we all liked it so much, one year when we were setting off the fireworks my cousins' exploded prematurely, a roman candle, and she got scared but not hurt. Nowadays we sing patriotic songs while we set off the fireworks, oh the country's not perfect, I know, but I have been all over the world and we have the best deal going, imho. Another year Mom asked me what kind of cake I wanted and I told her pumpkin pie, my own, so she made 7! I always wanted one of the dolls my great grandma made and repaired for the orphanages (she'd make 100 or more every Christmas). I'd had my chance when I was 4 and played with my doll to dust! But I wanted another! Well I just got home from my research/vacation and my cousin Gary gave me one of the dolls he'd rescued from his Dad's garage, and now I have my doll from great grandma, and what a beauty she is, there's no better birthday gift this year."
From Hawaii to Alaska Kansas list members continued to share. Kat Thompson, Eagle River, Alaska, not only had ice cream memories but a dandy idea for a children's party. Kat said she was "really enjoying the birthday stories. Brought back a nice memory of one of my birthdays. I got to have a party - 5 or 6 kids - and my mother set it up really great. Each kid got a hobo sack (a stick with a bandana tied to it - inside were treats and a small toy/game). We played games and had an outside picnic with out hobo sticks and hotdogs, I think. I thought it was the neatest birthday I'd ever had (the only one that came even close was the year I got my new bicycle!).
"In the summers I remember we would make home-made ice cream. We had a hand-crank freezer. Somehow all of us kids thought it was the best thing to get to crank that freezer. The fresh peach ice cream was always the best!"
And, last, Freda A. Eaton-Lea, Phoenix, AZ, tied it all together with her words. Not only did Freda share her holiday birthday, but her last sentence underscored, quite nicely, the thoughts Lynn, and LaDonna, and John also expressed and gave me the perfect thought with which to close this Kansas anthology. Freda writes, "I never had a birthday party, but since my birthday was close to Thanksgiving, Mom sometimes baked a yellow cake and put chocolate frosting on it for Thanksgiving dessert. That is still my all time favorite cake. I was visiting a cousin in California one year on my birthday and he and his roommate took me to an Italian restaurant for dinner. Much to my surprise, when the pizza was delivered to our table, it had a candle in the middle of it. That birthday stands out in my mind more than any other.
"Thanks to all of you, my Kansas cousins, I am ready to start writing my memories for my children and grandchildren."
Are the rest of you ready to do the same?
Thank you to all who shared recipes and stories. Thank you to the Heritage community (most especially Susan Stafford). I would also like to thank Dave ("DOC") Hemp, the Automobile Quarterly, and Richard Quinn, who is the editor of the Antique Studebaker Review. for their help in locating the Erskine photo. And thank you to my mother and father (Ruth Kyle Frisbie and Raymond Charles [Bus] Hedrick) for having the good sense to be born in Kansas!!!!