Friday, December 26, 2014

Memories of Christmas Plays and Mischievous Students

District 19, Morris School, was established in 1871. The first school meeting was held March 6, 1871 in the home of James B. Morris. Morris School was also known as Wreford School. Morris is located on East Lyons Creek Road almost two miles from US-77.  The limestone school is still there and is private property.
James Morris donated the property for the school, and a limestone schoolhouse was constructed. There is double front door flanked by two windows, one on each side. There are four windows on each side of the schoolhouse as well. The district boundaries which bordered the Smoky Hill River changed four times and in April 1962 when the district disorganized students were split between County District School Joint 80 and Chapman.
While we don’t have much information on the schoolhouse itself, we do have a number of interesting school memories.
Don Dibben, who attended the Taste of Geary County Bus Tour in 2010, remembered, “one night there was a parents’ meeting and at least some of the children were playing outside. They got the idea to have some fun by a few of them standing on each side of the road would pretend to be holding a rope across the road whenever a car would come along. . . there were a lot of screeching brakes during that escapade.”
One of Angela Dietrich Irvine’s favorite memories was the really wonderful plays. “We might not have had a lot of kids but by golly we put on plays that were really something! Our mothers helped out and sewed costumes—circus spectacles, Native Americans, and Christmas extravaganzas that featured Santa, a sandman, and ‘we little fairies’.
“The Christmas programs were always attended by not only parents and grandparents, but literally every resident in the Wreford area attended for a fun and social evening. After our Christmas play, everyone shared cookies, hot chocolate and coffee, and Santa would make an appearance before evening’s end.”
School Pageant: Back Row including elephants: Unknown, Richard Baird, Janice Witt, ? Spittles, Doris Allen, Carol Dietrich, Phillip Dietrich, Unknown, children in front unknown.
There was a greater sense of community in the rural schools than can be found now in huge school districts. Angela remembered, “I found out as an adult that parents brought gifts in advance as well as provided extra ones for those children whose parents might not be able to afford [it]. I’m sure this was coordinated by the teacher; it’s just how people cared for one another in those days.”
Carol Dietrich Brown remembers from her days at Morris School that there was no indoor plumbing.  There were two outhouses, boys on one side and girls on the other. “There is no way to make a winter bathroom visit—a good thing.” Imagine having to race across a freezing schoolyard to a freezing toilet to do your business. Bladder control was a must if students, and the teacher, wanted to avoid frostbite in uncomfortable places.
The bathrooms at Morris School were two-seaters, and if students were lucky they could get another student to go to the bathroom with them. Carol said, “Currently our national emphasis on washing hands to prevent disease—makes me wonder how we ever washed our hands [after going to the outhouse]—it is still a mystery.”
There were multiple generations of Dietrichs that attended Morris School, but of particular pride was Eva Dickson Dietrich who carved her name in the limestone. According to Carol, “it was hard to think of her doing such mischief,” but there was proof, literally carved in stone.
While we are sure the students at Morris School worked very hard, many of the memories we have collected about this district center around extracurricular activities. There was a two story swing set on the grounds, an “OSHA horror story” according to Brown. She remembers that the students all played together. The eighth grade boys were fond of standing on the swing set with their feet on the edge of the seat, usually spanning a first grader who sat in between. They would have pumping contests, “to see which eighth grader could go the fastest and the highest while the first grader hung tight with fear.”
We’d like to thank those of you that shared your memories of Morris School, and the others as well.  These personal stories are what bring the schoolhouses to life for future generations. If you have memories of a rural school you would like to share we would love to hear from you. Please write your story down and send it in by email to or mail it to 530 N. Adams, Junction City, KS, 66441. You can also stop by the museum and we’ll record your story for you.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Christmas in the Newspaper

For hundreds of years the newspaper was the only way to keep abreast of activity going on in the town. Junction City was no different than any other town. However news has not always been as strictly defined as it is today. Around the holidays the newspaper was a way for people to connect with traditions of the past, and one of the most popular methods was the “Letters to Santa” column. Children from all over town wrote letters to Santa Claus which were then published, free of charge, in the newspaper. The following letter came from the Dec. 12th 1963 edition of the Republic Newspaper.

Dear Santa Claus,

I am five years old and I go to school. I am a pretty good boy most of the time. My little brother, Timmy, has the chicken pox. He’s two years old.

I want an Army tank, some tools, and a truck for Christmas. Please put something in your sack for my little brother too. He likes cars and trucks.

Thank you for all the toys you left last year.

Your friend,

Terry Wunder

135 W. 3rd St.

The Republic Newspaper wasn’t the only one in Junction City that would publish these letters either. The Blue Jay Newspaper had a column called “Santa’s Letter Box” and the letter below was sent in by a Mr. Bob Baity.

Dear Santa:

I am just a “Freshy” this year, but I have been awfully good. Please bring an electric cho cho train, a B. B. gun and a jumping jack. I’ll leave you a chicken sandwich by the fireplace.

Your friend,

            Bob Baity.

Letters like these were printed each year in the weeks leading up to Christmas. These letters were a regular feature throughout the month of December in many of the small-town weekly papers. Many are short and to the point, lots are amusing, and a few reveal heartbreaking details about the difficult lives led by some of the kids, especially during the depression.

Another popular section in the newspaper around Christmas was the “I REMEMBER WHEN –“column. In 1953 the newspaper printed Christmas stories from 15, 25, and even 75 years previous. This column was meant to highlight annual traditions, and remind readers of how these traditions have grown over the years. One such tradition that was highlighted in 1953 was the annual Christmas Light contest. This column mentions the winners from December of 1938.
Awards made for the Christmas light contest sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce are as follows: R. V. Sjoholm, 240 West First, first place, $15. Arnold Deppish, 426 North Webster, second, $10. Mrs. Mae Wood, 404 North Adams, third, $5. Prizes for displays costing less than $10 went to Glenn and Harry Lytle Jr., 436 West 8th, Ray Couger, 117 East 11th St, second, __ewton Dent, 832 W. 5th, third. Others who entered in the over $10 class were E. L. Patterson, 826 North Jackson, and Abbie Moses, 332 West Sixth. Other entrants in the under $10 class were Mrs. J. W. Deppish, 903 N. Jefferson, Dr. D. L. Garrigues, 524 N. Jefferson and A. W. Weaver, 537 West Second.

Lincoln School Children in the Departmental Auditorium.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Family Recipes and Family Memories

The holidays with all the presents and decorations are always accompanied by food.  It doesn’t matter if you have turkey, chocolate pie, spiral ham with cloves, corn pudding, Mexican, Italian, or steak and crab legs, we all know when we go home for the holidays there will be food, the kind that doctors suggest we stay away from, and lots of it.
Many family holidays are the time when we make those old family recipes that grandma served at her Christmas dinner. The food we eat for the holidays not only satisfies our cravings for rich and savory cooking we try to avoid the rest of the year, it also satisfies our need for the nostalgic.
The food we eat during the holiday season brings back memories of our childhood and prompts the family stories that keep us all entertained and remind us of the good times we had and the new memories we want to create for the future.
As time passes the recipes for the food we remember from grandma’s table can fade. One way you might be able to bring back a family recipe to your holiday gathering is by perusing the cookbooks we have at the museum. Many of these recipes  have been passed down for generations and local groups like churches, clubs, and other organizations wrote them down to pass on to future generations.  And usually the name of the person who supplied the recipe is included.
This one is from the United Methodist Women’s cookbook, Recipes We Like:

Corn Pudding
1 (1lb.) can cream-style corn, 3 eggs slightly beaten, ½ c. milk, ½ c. half and half or light cream, 2 Tbsp. butter, melted, ¼ c. chopped pimento, ¼ c. chopped green pepper, 1 Tbsp. grated onion, 1 tsp. sugar, 1/8 tsp. salt, dash pepper
Combine corn and eggs; stir in milk, cream and butter. Add green pepper, pimento and onion. Mix well. Blend in seasonings. Pour into greased 1 ½ quart casserole. Set in pan of hot water and bake, uncovered, at 325 degrees for 1 hour or until knife inserted comes out clean. Makes 5 to 6 portions.
Provided by Mrs. Edna Leathers

This one is from Cook Book and History, Milford Kansas, City of Beautiful Sunsets:

Boston Brown Bread
1 c white flour, 1 c corn meal, 1 c rye flour, 1 c graham flour, 1 t salt, 1 t soda, 2 t baking powder, ¾ c molasses-sorghum, 2 c sour milk or buttermilk, ¾ c raisins
Add molasses and milk to dry ingredients and mix thoroughly; add washed raisins which have been coated with flour. Fill molds 2/3 full and cover with waxed paper. Place on a rack in a large kettle with 3 inches of water. Steam for 3 ½ hrs., adding boiling water as necessary to keep water level above 1 inch at all times.
Provided by Mrs. E. C. Cook

If you have been looking for the recipe for a food your grandmother served we just might have it as the historical society. The Historical Society has 8 cookbooks published by local organizations. These books not only offer great recipes but a history of the organizations in the area. If you’ve been looking for your grandmother’s recipe for bread or cookies we just might have it in one of these cookbooks.
So if you want to look for an old family recipe, or try a new one, for your family gathering this season you can come by the Museum and look at our collection of local cookbooks.  You can copy the recipes or we can photocopy them for you.  I hope your family holiday this season is filled with fun and good cheer. And if not, then I hope your family holiday is at least full of delicious food.

This is the cover of the United Methodist Women’s cook book published in 1988. It’s one of 8 locally published cookbooks you can copy recipes from at the Geary County Historical Society.