Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Tis The Season

Tis the Season….words we all hear frequently during the Holidays.  This too familiar phrase is applied to snow, shopping, the holiday spirit, the flu, and sometimes, as any police officer will tell you, crime. During the holidays the rate of theft and other crimes rises because the level of desperation people feel increases with the pressure to buy, buy, buy.
Littered across the papers from previous Christmases are articles on the crime that increases this time of year. While searching our news scrapbooks for interesting articles I came across several that just made me shake my head and sigh.  On December 14, 1959 a leather bag containing $600-$700 was stolen from the Flame Club.  Right below that is an article from December 15, 1959. This one stated that someone broke into the pool hall and pried open the back of the music box then the coin box within stealing all the quarters. Next to those is an article also from the 15th about four teens who stole ten cases of Ice Cream Bars, something I know we all want in December.  These same youths admitted to stealing a blinker light owned by the state highway commission, and admitted to two separate thefts of beer.
After being thoroughly depressed by these articles I turned the page only to discover more articles of the crimes committed during the 1959 holiday season. After reading about multiple fires, not all crimes but still equally depressing, I came across an encouraging story.  Couched at the bottom of the page amidst the stories of burglary, fires, arrests, and stolen hubcaps was the article that caught my attention. 
“Wallet is Returned,” is the simple, small headline of this article.  It seems on December 21st a woman shopping downtown for Christmas lost her wallet.  According to the article, the wallet contained $19 and some papers.  While this may not seem like a major loss to some of us now, $19 bought a lot more in 1959 and the woman was distressed to discover it missing.  Luckily for the owner, the wallet was quickly recovered.  It seems that Leslie Chaves discovered the wallet while shopping downtown, and being an honest young man of seven he gave it to his mother who turned it in.  The police returned the wallet to its owner that afternoon. 
The paper commented on this charity stating, “It’s the Christmas season and it’s appropriate that one’s faith in his fellow man should be restored.”  After reading only one charitable article in two pages for December 1959 I was starting to feel like maybe kindness is appropriate but rarely shown.
I turned the page again and instead of depressing articles about fires and robberies was a large, front page picture about the Salvation Army Christmas toy drive.  The photo shows a row of bicycles restored and painted by the firemen of Junction City with four men in the background behind a table piled with toys. This is what “Tis the season” should refer to.
For years now the Salvation Army and other community groups have collected toys for the needy families in Geary County and beyond.  This picture is repeated over the next several years as the generosity of people and the fire department was documented.  Back then it wasn’t only new toys that were collected; toys and bikes that had already had one child love and use them were repaired and painted by the fire department and made new for another child to cherish.
This tradition continues today in Geary County.  While the toys are usually brand new the sentiment hasn’t changed.  This is the time of year, the season, when people give generously to others by providing toys and food for those that cannot supply it themselves.  So the lesson from going through the scrapbooks is that while crime may rise this time of year it is thankfully balanced out by the good deeds people do for each other.

Photo caption: TOYS READY FOR SANTA’S PACK- Toys which Junction City firemen have repaired and repainted were being distributed today by the Salvation Army to the parents of children who will receive them as Christmas gifts. Capt. Carl Amick, Salvation Army officer, said approximately 250 children will receive gifts because of the generous response of the community and the efforts of the city firemen’s services. At the left is Heath Howery, assistant chief, and Delbert Johnson, chairman of the Salvation Army Advisory board is at the right.

Letters to Santa

With the holidays just around the corner the post office is seeing more mail than usual. Many of those letters are addressed to the North Pole for a very special man by the name of Santa.

            Children have been sending letters to Santa for years but it was not until 1912 that the Postmaster General Frank Hitchcock approved postal employees to respond to the letters. This program became known as “Letters to Santa”.

According to the United States Postal Service website  “hundreds of thousands of children of all ages send letters to “Santa Claus, North Pole, Alaska,” every year. Unless these letters have a complete Alaska address, they stay in the area where they were mailed.” Postal “elves” sort through the letters for ones that show serious need. These are then available for “adoption” through the USPS.

Looking through past issues of the Union newspaper there are many “Letters to Santa” that were published throughout the years. It is entertaining to read the children’s letters and to see what the popular toys were over the years.

Dear Santa,

My name is Margaret Virginia Folck but they all call me Jinney and I am 4 years old. I want you to please bring me a doll that goes to sleep and a buggy, some dishes and a little stove also a Christmas tree and lots of candy and nuts. I’ll be a good girl till you come.

December 1920

            Dear Old Santa,

            My little sister and I know you are a very busy man now and are going to write our letter together. My sister wants a dolly with brown eyes that goes to sleep and with long curly hair, a dolly buggy, a wrist watch, a pair of roller skates and a pair of shoes. I want a bb gun and a pair of shoes and don’t forget lots of candy and nuts. We wish you the happiest Xmas you have ever had. Your little friends,

Louis and Dorothy Miles, December 1920

             Dear Santa Claus,

            I am a little boy and I will be 7 yrs old the 23rd of this month. I would like to have a cowboy suit, tricycle, wagon, a big red ball, Mickey Mouse, a tool chest, train, typewriter, football and a drum. Wishing you a Merry Christmas. Please don’t forget to bring me some candy, nuts, and fruit.

Your little friend,

Donnie Gene Hill, December 1936

            Dear Santa Claus,

            Would you please bring me an Indian Suit, Streamline Train, a violin and a game. I would like for you to bring me some candy, nuts, and fruit.

Your little friend,

Jimmy Dodd, December 1936

            Dear Santa,

            I want a cowboys suit and a pair of boots, a hand car, candy and nuts. That’s all this time. I’m five years old and go to afternoon kindergarten at Washington School. Your old friend Jack Fluke. P.S. Please bring my little brother Joe a play black Scottie dog and anything else a boy one and a half years old would like.

December 1941

            Dear Santa,

            Please bring me a doll that laughs and cries a new coat and snow suit.

Barbra, December 1941

Maybe things haven’t changed that much over the years. Remember the gifts that gave you the most joy to find under the tree. Toys like trains, bicycles and dolls are still popular gifts. Children still write letters to Santa today. Not all parents can afford to provide the things their children want for Christmas. This is your opportunity to play Santa for underprivileged local children.

The museum is accepting donations of unwrapped toys for the 2013 Annual Toy Run until December 20th. We cannot accept stuffed animals due to allergies.  These toys will be taken to City Cycle Sales where they will be distributed to children in the USD 475 area. While you are at the museum venture upstairs to the auditorium and view the new “Playtime” exhibit. This interactive exhibit features toys from the turn of the century to current toys.

All donations of toys and monetary donations are welcome. Any donation over $10 or a toy of $10 value will be eligible for a 15% off coupon at City Cycle Sales for the purchase of one part or accessory.   

The museum is open Tuesday- Sunday from 1-4pm. Please contact the museum at 785-238-1666 with any questions.      

December 1955: Here he comes kids! It’s the jolly old fellow himself, headed for the chimneys of Junction City’s homes with a load of toys for good girls and boys. Here, he approaches the rooftop of the C.W. Flower home at 405 West Seventh Street. Photo courtesy of North Pole Photo Service. 

Monday, November 25, 2013

How To Carve a Thanksgiving Turkey...

As I think back on family holidays they are never the calm orderly affairs you see depicted on TV or in movies. In fact it’s more like a three ring circus when we all get together. The first Thanksgiving my husband met my family was the year that my cousin decided to fry a not completely thawed turkey. It should be sufficient to say that it didn’t end well. The fire department will be happy to know that he now has frying a turkey down to an art.    
I got a good laugh out of this humorous account of “How to Carve a Turkey” that was published in a Junction City newspaper in November of 1877. This seems much closer to my experiences than the happy holidays depicted in the pages of those magazines in the checkout line at the grocery store.  With the stress of the holiday season upon us maybe a good laugh is just what you need as you think back to the first time you met “the family”.     
            The article begins, “in many households the prospective son-in-law would be called upon to carve the turkey, the “old man” observing with a fiendish leer that he cannot do better than to learn now, so that when he has a house of his own he can do the honors. Invariably there is no escape, and as the victim has to yield, he may as well do so gracefully.”
It was suggested to the “prospective son-in-law that he would do well to observe, after careful examination, that the carving knife was dull, thus insuring a safe retreat in the event of disaster, a thing that a “good general” always makes provision for.”
The next aim would be to make the guests so fearful that none would again ask you to perform this task. “First, you should ask who cooked the bird whereupon your future mother-in-law will reply that she did so. As this is an ideal opportunity to put the lady down, you should state that the bird is quite tough and overdone.”
“With a little care one can hack the bird so that he looks like the ruins of a nitroglycerine explosion. Once dismembered you should be sure that you have garmented the tablecloth with grease in at least seven different places.”
“If the dish is at all greasy, you can, with a little nerve, and plenty of leverage, send the bird flying through the air to a distance of several feet so that it lands in the lap of a lady. If you do this, do not mar the effect by apologizing; merely ask for the bird back.”
“An expert can also, while breaking up the carcass, send a shower of dressing over the entire party. By judiciously following these rules you would be certain to inspire your hosts with such terror” that they will never again ask you to carve the turkey.
No matter how your holiday turns out remember the best part of the holidays is the family and the stories you will have to tell your friends. From all of us at the Geary County Historical Society have a safe and happy holiday!    

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Toy Craze...

           Every Christmas we see the same pattern: some toy, whether an undefinable creature named “The Furby,” or a gaming console like the Wii, becomes a national craze. People beat each other over the head just to be the parent that brings home that coveted toy for their child on Christmas morning.  These toys change from year to year. In 1964, G.I. Joe was the hottest toy around; in 1977, the Star Wars action figures received the attention, and in 1983, Cabbage Patch Kids became so popular that people would going so far as to bite each other in the isles just to own one. But before Joe, Vader or Tickle-Me Elmo, there was Shirley Temple.
 The first doll to become a “Christmas Craze” was first developed in 1934, in response to the Shirley Temple fan base. The first celebrity-driven doll was manufactured by The Ideal Toy and Novelty Company when Temple was 6 years old, in the third year of her movie career.  The demand for both the “true” Ideal Shirley Temple doll, and the more generic versions, with her trademark ringlets and dimples, hit its peak when Bright Eyes hit theatres three days before Christmas in 1934.
                Ideal Shirley Temple dolls were so popular that they sold for nearly $4.50 in their premiere year, nearly $3 more than the generic Shirley Temple look-a-like dolls that department stores sold for $1.80. The craze to have anything Shirley, but particularly a name brand Shirley doll, was overwhelming and Ideal Toy Company made over $45 million in the first seven years of production. This was an unheard of figure for the time. Other stores latched onto the hype and offered Shirley Temple look-alike contests, set up Shirley Temple displays in the lobbies, sold songbooks, coloring books, paper dolls, and anything else someone might want to buy that was linked to “The Little Curly Top.” Mothers even began to style their daughter’s hair and clothing after Shirley, so hair ribbons and clothes became produced with official “Shirley pins” on them.
                In Geary County, girls and their mothers became a part of the Shirley Temple toy craze. In December of 1935, Shirley Temple was still a best seller. While there was no rush on stores, as there had been in 1934, she was still a sought after toy for many young girls. And Junction City was not immune to her tiny dimpled charm. In the December 23, 1935 edition of the Junction City Union, a section called “From Santa’s Mail Box” was published, and in Santa’s mail box were the letters children wrote to Santa asking for their most important Christmas wishes.  Among those wishes? Shirley Temple.
                In their letter to Santa, Betty and Beatrice Childers of Fort Riley said, “We are two little girls 6 and 4 years old and we have been real good. We each want a Shirley Temple doll.” Ida Mae Schooler had a similar Christmas wish.  Perhaps she already had a coveted Shirley Temple doll because she didn’t ask for one. Instead, she desired the Shirley Temple accessories that had been introduced to the Christmas market in 1935. She said, “Dear Santa Claus- Please bring me a baby doll, teddy bear, bicycle, toy horse, Shirley Temple dress, Shirley Temple ribbon…”  Even grown women were not immune to Shirley’s charm. In 1937, following the release of Shirley Temple’s version of Heidi, Catherine Unfried bought her very own Shirley doll. Not for children, as she only had one son, but for herself because the 32 year old housewife was caught up in the national phenomenon that was Shirley Temple.
                Make sure you stop by the Geary County Historical Society to check out the Playtime Exhibit, featuring the 1937 Shirley Temple “Heidi” doll, among other popular toys from the past century! Open Tues-Sun, 1-4PM.

For more information about the Shirley Temple doll craze:
Cross, Gary. Kid’s Stuff: Toys and the Changing World of American Childhood. Cambridge, Presidents
and Fellows of Harvard College, 1997.
For more information about Christmas crazes of the past:
Hartlaub, Peter. “12-Must Have Toy Hits from Christmases Past.”

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Soap Box Derby

           Remember the excitement of building your first soap box derby car? You wanted everything to be just right. You picked a color that would stand out in the crowd so that your friends and family would be able to pick out your car. Dad would double check your car the night before the big race to make sure it was safe. This was a good thing because you knew that you were going to fly down that slope faster than everyone else. 
Soap box derby racing was first organized by a Dayton, Ohio newsman Myron Scott who was motivated by a group of boys racing their homemade cars in the summer of 1933. If you have never seen a soap box derby car they are completely unpowered; no motor or petals. They are often a narrow wooden frame with a shape similar to a kayak. There is a small area for the driver to sit and steer the car. Weights in the front of the car help them gain speed as they race downhill.
Watching the children’s enjoyment in the races inspired Scott to acquire a copyright and search for a corporate sponsor so that children from all over the USA could compete in a race. Chevrolet was so impressed with the idea that they agreed to sponsor the first All American Soap Box Derby at Daytona in 1934. The following year it moved to Akron, Ohio because it was a more desirable location with many hills.
Chevrolet sponsored the Soap Box Derby’s until 1972 when the Akron Area Chamber of Commerce took over the program. In 1974 the Akron Chamber gave all rights to the program to the Akron Jaycees who established the International Soap Box Derby Inc., which continues to run it.  
            The Derby quickly gained international media attention in 1935 when an out of control car struck Graham McNamee, a popular radio announcer of the time.
            Derby Downs, a permanent track was built in Akron, Ohio in 1936 with the help of the Works Progress Administration. Soap Box Derby’s have been held there every year except for a 4 year hiatus during WWII.
            The popularity of the sport quickly spread and all across the country Soap Box Derby’s were held with the winners moving on to the nationals at Derby Downs in Akron.
            It was popular here in Junction City also. On July 4, 1963 The Union estimated that 1,000 people lined East Sixth Street between Grandview Plaza and Junction City as boys raced homemade cars down a specially built 1,000 foot course to qualify for the National Soap Box Derby. The winner was 14 year old Dana Wolf.
Dana was awarded a $500 scholarship, a trophy, and the right to compete nationally on August 3 in Akron, Ohio. His trip was sponsored by the Junction City Optimist club. They purchased the car for $19.50, the amount Dana had spent to build the car. They also paid for its transportation to and from Akron.  Dana traveled to Akron with his family, Mr. and Mrs. Lewis Wolf, and his sister, Connie. Arriving in Akron the family was given a police escort, complete with sirens to Derby headquarters.
            Dana and the other 238 contestants stayed in “Derbytown U.S.A.” while in Akron. The contestants came from 45 states and 6 countries.  Entertainment was varied and included swimming, horseback riding, baseball and other games. On Friday evening the boys dinned with celebrities Arthur Godfrey, radio talk show host; Paul Anka, singer; John Russell, star of the television show Law Man; Paul Lynde, comedian; and Rock Hudson, movie star.
            Saturday was Derby Day; it began with a big parade featuring all the racers in their race day uniforms, celebrities, and 61 bands. The races began later that day. Dana was defeated by a .03 of a second in the second round. His competitor was John Gaylor of Columbus, Ga. who was later beaten in the finals by Harold Conrad of Duluth, Minn.
            Junction City is proud to have been represented by Dana Wolf at the National Soap Box Derby. His car, trophy, banner, and race wear have been donated to the museum. They are currently on display in our Play Time Exhibit in the auditorium. Stop by the museum Tuesday- Sunday from 1-4pm to view the exhibit and explore how “play time” has changed over the years. 
For more information about the National Soap Box Derby visit:     

Friday, November 1, 2013

Amanda Jones Inventor

There have been women inventors throughout history and it came as a nice surprise to find one with ties to our community.

Amanda Theodosia Jones was born on October 19, 1835 in East Bloomfield, New York. The fourth of twelve children she spent her youth in New York. Her parents loved books and the knowledge that could be found in them. They instilled that love into Amanda. Her intellect was far superior to most children her age. At the age of 15 she alternated between teaching in a one room schoolhouse and continuing her education at the local high school. She graduated from the Normal Course at East Aurora Academy in 1850.
            While she loved to learn she had no interest in teaching. In 1854 she quit teaching and decided to pursue a career in the field of writing. Her Civil war poems and songs published by Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper gathered quite a following. Many of her writings, especially her poetry, were abstract and otherworldly. From a very young age Amanda had believed in spirits and psychic phenomena. This was reinforced by the tragic death of her brother Lester. She connected his death with a dream she had two years before. She became convinced that the spirits talked to her and she could foresee the future.     
             Amanda was a lively robust youth who enjoyed the outdoors. In 1859 she contracted tuberculosis; she spent over a year and a half recovering. She never fully regained her health and often frequented spas and underwent alternative medical practices. A breakdown at age 17 left her as an invalid for 6 years. Some speculate that the breakdown was clinical depression brought on by her inability to cope with her brother’s death. From 1861 to 1869 she lived in the New York countryside writing her verses, communicating with the spirit world and gathering her strength so that she could return to the world.
            The summer of 1969 brought about big changes in Amanda’s life. A dream convinced Amanda that it was time to change her life and move on to new challenges. She took an editorial job with the Western Rural, a popular farmer’s publication and later worked as editor of The Bright Side, a children’s magazine.
            In 1872 while undergoing an air bath treatment she dozed off only to awaken with the idea for vacuum canning. Having never canned, no mechanical ability, and no scientific training she contacted a family member that was a scientist, Leroy C. Cooley.
            Canning had been invented in 1810 by a candy maker and distiller by the name of Nicolas-Francois Appert. The problem with his method of canning was that the food was cooked to the point where there was little taste and the texture can only be described as mush. Amanda’s invention would make it possible to can uncooked fruits and vegetables that would be desirable treats later in the year when fresh fruits and vegetables were not available.
 After many trials and errors she and Cooley developed a process that involved steaming sealed jars to raise the internal temperature to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. This caused the contents of the jars to expand, forcing out the air in the jar. They quickly patented the process and set about perfecting it. In 1873 they received a total of 7 patents.
By 1890 the women’s rights movement was in full swing and while Amanda did not consider herself a feminist she understood how hard it was for a woman to earn a living without a husband. Implementing her canning process she started the Women’s Canning and Preserving Company in Chicago. In the beginning there were only two men working for the company. Leroy Cooley, who had helped her develop the process and Mike, who ran the boiler. Amanda ran the business from selling stock to training the employees. The business showed considerable profits in the first year.
Unfortunately the success of the business attracted investors that expected increased profits. A group of male investors bought into the business and started to manage the business affairs. Within three years Amanda had been forced out of the business.
In 1893 she moved to Junction City, Kansas to live with her sister Marion Manley. While living in Junction City she published articles describing her inventions in Engineer and Steam Engineering Journals. She also contributed to Kansas Bird Songs for The Century, and Flowers and a Weed for the Kansas State Social Science Federation. She passed away in 1914. While her inventions did not lead to her wealth or fame she was able to touch people’s lives by improving how they ate.