Friday, December 20, 2013

Happy New Year! Snippets and stories from past years…

As we ring in the New Year I thought it might be interesting to look back at the old newspapers and see how much things have changed over the years.

In the January 2, 1914 Daily Union there were many social events to ring in the New Year. There must have been something to do every night in December in Junction City.

The highlight of the season was the annual Gamma Tau Beta event.  The Ball was held at Woodman Hall on Tuesday evening. “The occasion was a full dress affair, with the ladies becomingly attired in gowns of the new shades, while the young men in dress suits added dignity to the ball.” The hall was decorated with hundreds of pennants representing schools and colleges across the nation. Streamers of green and white, the fraternity colors, formed a canopy above the crowd and framed the GTB symbol. The Sixth field artillery orchestra from Fort Riley serenaded the party.

The paper continues on with more mundane matters. There were forty six fires in 1913. It seems that July and August were the most active months with eight fires each month.

Cattle were selling for above average prices. Col. L. R. Brady sold two Holsteins. One for $165 and one for $150, three heifer calves went to the same man for $25 each. The livestock reports from Kansas City price prime fed steers at $8.50-$9, dressed beef steers $7.25-$8.40, cows and heifers $4.50-$9.00.   

The B. Rockwell Company paid the highest tax for a privately owned business, $2,895.96, according to the County Treasurer.

Dickinson County was having quite a problem with gophers. Crop losses were estimated to be $50,000 according to farmers. The county commissioners raised the bounty on gopher scalps to ten cents each.

The parcel post celebrated its first birthday at the first of the year. The allowable weight was also raised from twenty to fifty pounds.

There was an organized gang of box car robbers operating out of this area but their headquarters was believed to be Salina. The police are still investigating these crimes.

Over fifty men participated in the wolf drive that was held in the west part of the county. After the hunt the total count was an astounding one coyote and a sighting of two others that escaped.       

The Cozy Theater will be showing vaudeville acts on the Sullivan & Considine circuit this coming season. Ticket prices will stay the same, 5 and 10 cent admissions, except when a tabloid musical comedy is shown in conjunction with the regular act.

Fifty years later the Junction City Republican from January 2, 1964 starts the year on a more sober note. The front page features a large photo of the elevator at Alida with the caption, “Silent Sentinel in the Republican Valley… All activity has ceased in this once bustling community. Houses are all torn down. No school stands…only the elevator is standing… a silent reminder of things past… a silent reminder of Milford reservoir of the future.”

Inside the newspaper is more optimistic with the first major headline stating “Prizes Offered To First Baby Born in 1964”, there are twelve sponsors participating by offering a plethora of prizes ranging from cash and baby supplies to a box of cigars for the new father.

The YMCA sponsored a ski trip to Hidden Valley, Colorado for a large group of Junction City youth. Youth paid $25 each to participate in the trip and will be returning by the end of the month.

Highway construction contracts in Kansas reached a record breaking total of $84,480,000 for 1963 due to the increased volume of work on the interstate system. Interstate contracts in 1963 totaled $36,112,000 for work on I-70, I-35, I-35W and I-435. 90 percent of the project was funded by federal taxes and the state funded 10 percent from the collected highway user taxes.

Agriculture fills a good portion of the paper; “The first consolidation of regional grain co-operative in the United States was announced in Kansas City, Friday by P.J. Nash, secretary and general manager of the Farmer’s Union Co-operative Marketing Association.” They will now be able to better serve co-operative grain elevators in Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Colorado, and Wyoming because of combined assets valued at $35,000,000. They will be processing and storing grain for over 100,000 farmers. The storage capacity will be in excess of 50 million bushels. This allows for an increase in exports, grains will be loaded on barges at St. Joseph and Kansas City.    

On the next page there is a large article about the Kansas Agricultural Convention. Topics to include Wheat Marketing in South America and What’s Ahead for Beef Producers.

The Agriculture outlook for 1964 is “much of the world is short of food… heavy purchases of grains will do more to bolster U.S. farm income than will government-supported prices in 1964.”

As I turn to the next page full of advertisements a used car ad catches my eye; 1963 Buick Skylark $2,895, 1960 Chevy El Camino V-8 $1,499, 1959 Chevy Bel Air $1,099.

On the last page of the paper is the newspaper’s prediction for what will be major stories in the coming year. The Milford Dam project will feature heavily as it nears completion. At this time the contractor is 105 days ahead of schedule and may have the project completed by mid-summer if the weather cooperates.

            Fort Riley is discussing the feasibility of acquiring approximately 50,000 acres. If acquired it will double the size of the fort. “The additional land would provide for adequate firing range and maneuvering of vehicles and personnel.”

            The article concludes with the prediction that “continued growth and development of Junction City and Geary County appears to be the pattern for the New Year. “
            I guess some things don’t change as much over the years as you would expect. From all of us at the Geary County Historical Society we wish you a safe and happy New Years!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Winter Weather

Brrrr it’s cold outside but somehow it doesn’t seem quite that bad as I sit at my computer next to my heater. As I look through our archives and read about winters in early Geary County I’m so happy I live in this day and age.  

            In December of 1885 “an unbroken blanket of snow extended from Williams, NM to Kansas City” covering the state and giving settlers a small taste of what was yet to come. The blizzard of 1886 hit in January and caught settlers completely unaware. Drifts of 6 feet were common across the state.

The Annuals of Kansas starts Kansas history describing the blizzard of 1886.  25 degrees below zero was recorded at Fort Riley. Many settlers did not have permanent dwellings and it is estimated that 100 Kansans perished due to the cold. Frozen carcasses of rabbits, prairie chickens, quail, and antelope were reported across the state. It is estimated that 80 percent of the cattle in Kansas froze to death. Many major cattle companies across the state were ruined because there was no insurance to cover their losses.

 The Republican of January 8, reports that “trains on all the roads here were abandoned” because they could not get through the drifts. The Kansas State Historical Society reports that a “force of eleven Union Pacific locomotives was unable to "buck" through and cut in the snow near Salina. The telegraph wires went down on Thursday morning essentially cutting Junction City off from the outside world.           

              On April 5, 1920 the Union Newspaper reports that Junction City was completely isolated from the outside world after a two day blizzard. It is estimated that two feet of snow fell accompanied by thunder and lightning. Rural mail carriers reported that the wind had swept the fields clean leaving ten foot drifts to cover the roadways. Travel on all railroads was stopped for at least 24 hours because of the drifts. Men worked quickly around town to get the snow off roofs to keep them from collapsing. Peach and plum trees were blooming at this time of year but after the freezing weather not much crop is expected. 

A funny side note to illustrate how high the drifts were, “Carl Stevenson walked out onto a drift back of his home and suddenly slipped into a rainwater barrel.” It seems the county roads were the worst “Dr. King got stuck with his big car… in a place in the canon road north of the city, and came into town afoot, sending Dan Baker out Monday with explicit directions as to where the car would be found… [Dan] located the spot but no car could be seen. Certain that no one could have taken the car…he started prodding about on the level snow and found the car two feet under snow level.”    

Tuesday after the storm the fire department “did valiant service… after the snow got good and slushy, by getting out in the business section with the fire hose and washing off the brick paving.”    

February 18, 1926 the Republican tells us that a near blizzard swept through Kansas in the early hours. Falling rain turned to sleet and then snow as 45mph winds blew it across the plains and deposited it in low spots making huge barriers across roads. The county’s “big snow plow was ordered onto the Victory Highway... snow had drifted” covering the road. “Orders went out to all patrolmen to clear their roads as soon as the snow stopped or if there was no let-up, to get out and clear them anyway.” This seems to have been a hopeless job because the museum has several photos of the snow plows stuck while trying to clear the snow.    

             On January 4, 1947 the Union newspaper reports that the temperature reached twenty-six degrees below zero that morning. “This almost-unbelievably cold temperature was reached about 7 a.m. after a steady drop throughout the night,” according to L.W. Sargent, local weather observer. The cold was alleviated some by the absence of wind. Also, reported is that the local taxi service, tow trucks and plumbers did a booming business that day. 

  In December of 1973 an ice storm knocked out power in Junction City and the surrounding area. The Union newspaper has an unofficial report of an estimated $500,000 in tree damage. KJCK was off the air and the FM tower was flattened.

            February 1, 1983 the Union reports an 8 inch snow that made roadways in much of Kansas dangerous to travel on. This was accompanied by 30mph gusts of wind. Junction City Manager, John Higgins, declared a snow emergency after getting stuck in his driveway only getting his car out half a car length before deciding to walk to work. Junction City reported 8 inches of snow and was expecting another 2-5 inches by the end of the day.

            In more recent times, Geary County and the surrounding area was paralyzed when a major ice storm, with an accompanying 6 inches of snow hit in December of 2007. I am sure that many of us remember the storm. The Union reported on December 13, 2007 that many were left without power for several days, some up to 10 days and some in rural areas longer. Utility crews came from as far away as North Carolina to assist with restoring the power.

Christmas Traditions

Scanning through old newspapers I ran across an article in the December 14, 1911 Junction City Union newspaper which describes Christmas customs around the world. It was interesting to read about Christmas customs from over a century ago.   

The article starts in England with the “pretty custom of bringing in the Yule.” Children help the family bring in a “huge log”. On Christmas Eve the family gathers around the burning log to “sing carols and tell Christmas legends.” The halls are hung with mistletoe “under which the unwary are kissed soundly” and all join in the eating of a “rich and blazing plum pudding.”

Christmas is the “gala day” for children in Holland. They have a beautiful custom for ushering it in, “at midnight on Christmas eve, the men and boys dress in fancy costume, march through the streets in long procession, holding aloft a brilliantly lighted star, as they chant the Gloria in Excelsis. The little girls clad in white stand at the windows and bow to the star as it passes.”

One of the most lavish Christmas traditions can be seen in Germany. Church bells are rung on Christmas day to usher in the day and call everyone to early church. As the bells are ringing lights are quickly put in every window to light the way. After church the day is celebrated with a huge feast. The presents are “simple but in every home is a blazing tree hung with cakes, colored candles and gifts. It is a pretty sight to see the children march in to see their tree.” It is interesting to note that the German Santa, Kriss Kringle generally leaves a switch in the stockings to remind children to be good until his next visit.

     Servian children look forward to Christmas Eve when their father brings home a freshly cut young oak. He enters the house calling, “Good evening and a merry Christmas!” The children will gleefully respond, “May God grant both to thee and mayst thou have riches and honor.” They then shower the tree with corn and throw it in the fire to burn until Christmas morning. The day is greeted with pistol shoots.

   French children do not celebrate with a tree or stockings. They hang their slippers to be filled with treats. They also hang sheaves of grain along the eves of the house to feed the birds.

On Christmas Eve the children of Belgium “on Christmas Eve are dressed in gay colors and form a procession, which marches through the streets” they are led by musicians. Each child will hold a figurine of the Christ child or a crucifix.

 Throughout Russia work is suspended for a fortnight during the Christmas season. In the country side the boys dress like animals and they are led through the streets by a band of boys making dreadful music. The procession goes door to door where they are given food, drink and small amounts of money. 

After reading through the article I realized some of the traditions were familiar. I think that many of us can identify with some of the customs because at some point in the distant (or not so distant) past our families immigrated to the United States and brought with them traditions that allowed them to connect to their past. Some of these traditions have been carried on by each subsequent generation.  

Many of us have started new traditions but in some way we have carried on traditions from the previous generations. As you go about this holiday season take a minute to stop and share with your family where those traditions come from. 

From all of us at the Geary County Historical Society, we wish you a merry and safe holiday season!

These youngsters were captured on camera at 7th and Washington streets in 1900 being pulled on a sled behind their trusty mule. The children are identified as; Parker, Victor Parker, Schillito, E. Hall, M. Hall, N Wotling, B. Turner, Wotling, Grace Shillito, Harold Victor.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Learning Toys

For those of us who were born in the latter half of the 19th century, the Easy-Bake Oven was always a highly requested toy on Christmas lists. I remember, when I first received my Easy-Bake Oven (a hot pink toy that looked just like my parents microwave), I would spend hours and hours mixing the cakes and cookie mixes with water, pouring them into their little metal pans and carefully inserting them into the machine, and then watch through the tiny opening as my treats cooked, as if by magic, by the heat of a single light bulb.

            What I didn’t realize, as a young child of eight or nine, was that my Easy-Bake Oven was not an original idea, but had evolved from generations of little girls learning to cook at their mothers’ sides, not for fun as I did, but out of necessity.

            Toys like the Easy-Bake Oven, play irons and even dolls were created to teach young children, particularly young girls, how to become the perfect housewife. And, while we might associate the Easy-Bake Oven with hot pink or avocado green plastic from the 1960s and 80s, toy ovens actually have a much longer history than plastic.

            As early as the late 1800s, child sized stoves were available purchase. These stoves were miniature versions of popular models of their day, which meant they were made of steel or cast iron, stove pipe and a place to add real hot coals or burning embers inside. "Cooking can be done upon this range," proclaimed one ad from 1898. Yes, small children of the 1800s were playing with toys heated by actual coals and, in some cases, flames. A far cry from our carefully incased light-bulb units.

            In the 1927 Sears and Roebuck Catalog available to Geary County residents, two types of real-to-life toy stoves were available for little girls: The Fancy Large Nickel Plated Cast Iron Stove, complete with stove pipe, coal scuttle and draft damper; and the more modern Combination Gas Range and Stove with blue trimmings. The advertisement for the new gas stove read: “A new Stove, just like Mother’s” and it truly was, with four gas burners, iron skillet, dinner kettle and lifter. But there was a purpose behind the danger. Little girls were taught at a young age how to stoke a fire, safely cook with dangerous materials and then clean up after themselves through their miniature stoves.

With the rise of electricity in the 20th century, these toy stoves evolved, though they still relied on children being cautious enough not to burn themselves, or their house, with the heating elements that allowed children to boil a pot of tea, or cook a tiny cake. An article in the Junction City Union on December 17, 1930 recounted toys available in local toy departments including toy percolators, stoves, irons and washing machines that could be operated just like mother’s were in abundance. These stoves featured an electric cord that could be plugged into an outlet, hot coils, and a fully working oven, which could get up to 500 degrees.

These heavy-duty child-sized stoves fell out of favor when World War II required all steel production to go toward the war effort. Children were required to use their imagination during the sparse war years, and mud pies were back on the menu.  But by the 1950s, the war had ended, plastic had hit the market and mass production was starting to take off in the toy industry. Suzy Homemaker baking kits, with prepackaged mixes and plastic ovens took off, and while these still looked like the grown-up ovens of the 50s, they had lost some of the fire power of the earlier brands.

Still, Suzy Homemaker was too dangerous and in 1963, toy company Kenner introduced the world to the Easy-Bake Oven. Hands-off cooking and safety for junior bakers helped the company sell their new invention and children nationwide were able to slide their tiny creations into the stove from the side, without coming close to the heating element. The play cook stove evolved further in the latter half of the 19th century, and the design changed from a full size oven and range, to the popular microwave look in the 1970s and 80s. Each design evolved to allow little girls, and boys, to cook just like their parents.

Come into the Geary County Historical Society to see an early 1930s electric toy stove. Scorch marks and a worn stove top indicate that a child cooked on this tiny toy, perhaps boiling a pot of tea for her dolls. And, of course, the evolution of the toy stove wouldn’t be complete without a 1980s hot pink Easy-Bake Oven. Both can be found in the Playtime exhibit through 2014.