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Wednesday, March 31, 2004


Essentially, Esther is trying to catch up after being gone a few days. We had a wonderful time as you can tell by reading Becky or John’s blogs……..I think the trip was all any of us could have hoped for…….and being together was special, as always.

I’ll be back tomorrow………good Lord willing……

Until then,

Essentially Esther

Thursday, March 25, 2004


We are making plans today to leave for Becky’s big birthday week-end with John and family. My oldest son, George, is driving down from Shawnee, Kansas this evening after work We will all get up early tomorrow to take our combined critters for boarding and be on our way.

The trip is about 10 hours and requires serious driving to stay on schedule. However the journey is worth it and the big party waits for us in New Orleans. I know you will read all about it in our blogs later on.

Have a great week-end yourselves and God willing, we’ll be back on our sites next week.

Until then,

Essentially Esther

Wednesday, March 24, 2004


The first two years at Tyrone were educational. We worked at fitting in with the culture and their way of doing things rather than thinking like “back home.” Dad was broke of that the first Spring when he planted corn and it burned up in July after looking so beautiful in May and June. The soil was different, the seasons were different, and we were different. It was time to either switch our way of thinking or get out. Later on, we did both.

Louis and I cut sprouts with a corn knife, mom and I burned the leaves out of the timber, we fed calves, got the cows in to milk, worked getting our own hay up and did every and anything to “get ahead.” No matter how hard we all tried it seemed a never ending road going nowhere.

Dad plowed up garden space and we all worked up the dirt and planted seed. The army of insects, fungus, wilt, and mildew seemed to choose the garden plot to ruin. It was like we set the table for them. Mom and dad used force against force and we prevailed enough to can some of it and eat a lot of it. Mom and I worked on green beans in a hot kitchen with a wood stove boiling the jars of beans until they were presumed safe. It was an arduous job, but we knew it would pay off later. Next came the tomatoes with the same process.

Finding wild blackberries in the Spring was like winning the lottery. I couldn’t imagine them just there for the picking. Greg Aldridge told dad about an old farm- stead where there was a peach orchard. We all piled on the back of the truck and Greg directed dad to the place. It was unbelievable. Once we turned off the main road it was a paradise for a 4-wheeler. We had never seen such a “non” road before. Dad managed to wind his way through all the rocks and trees and when we got to the farm, the peaches were all wormy. Life had it’s little disappointments to our expectations quite often.

Blackberries were a different thing. They were plentiful and wonderful tasting. It took a lot of well water to wash them but mom canned all she could and when aunt Beulah and uncle Ted came to visit I think she ate her weight in them. She would finish every meal with fresh blackberries and thick sweet cream. It was good with mom’s sweet biscuits or cake.

Mom and dad had to make a quick trip to Nebraska for some reason. I don’t remember why. The strawberries were soon going to be ripe and mom was worried they would be ruined when she got back. She had the ingredients to can them so while she was gone, I picked them all and following the directions they were safely put in jars. Jelly jars, that is. When they came back I can still see the amazement on mom’s face as to how I did all that. It was what needed to be done and I did it. Because I didn’t know the failure ratio I was over-ridden with confidence.

During the summer months the first two years Greg Aldridge and dad mowed right-of-way for the highway department. Dad’s team of horses had to get over the traffic and sudden noises along the way so dad had his hands full. While he was gone mom and I had the feeding to do and Sophus did the milking. Louis left the first of the year and was shipped overseas so he wasn’t there to help. We ran out of grain for the cows and mom was worried about what to do.

Dad made a nice two-wheeled wagon to cart groceries home from the store (while we lived in Omaha) so I took that and walked to Tyrone. I got a 100 lb. sack of feed and had Wayne put it in the wagon for me. The road was gravel all the way home and it was hot so by the time I got to the corner of our farm, I decided it would be a lot quicker to go through the timber to the barn rather than pulling it 40 acres down to the gate and then up the lane which was about two football fields long. The only obstacle being I would have to lift the wagon and the feed over the fence.

It seemed like a good plan. That’s because I’d never tried it before. I don’t need to tell you how big and bundle-some a bag of feed is……I got the wagon next to the fence and tugged and lifted until I had it as high as the fence. I couldn’t make it over so the feed ended up on the fence which was sagging down but I managed to flip it over and the fence popped back up. I thought the wagon would be easy but it was made of solid boards and dad always made everything stout enough to endure any problem. MY problem was getting it over……….after many tries it finally fell over on the other side.

Another thing I miscalculated was pulling such a heavy load through the spongy leafy ground beneath the timber. It was too late to do otherwise….I simply had to get it to the barn and finally did. I made a mental note to stay on the gravel road the next time…….lesson well learned, but I can’t help saying, I felt good knowing that I did it……..

Until tomorrow,

Essentially Esther

Tuesday, March 23, 2004


Living in the Ozarks had it’s own way of life. If you were a “move in” they showed you hospitality and then let you make your case. If you were a braggart from a big city who moved in and felt superior you could forget being accepted. On the other hand if you moved in and showed yourself to be a good neighbor they took you right in. They were not influenced by what you had but who you were.

Our mom and dad were common folks and didn’t talk down to anyone. They listened to advice and accepted many of the suggestions made. After all, Romans living in Rome ought to know how to live there best. In no time mom was known for her good cooking and dad was known for his mechanical knowledge. They became part of the landscape and were content there.

If being together makes a good family we were great. We did everything together. When we needed wood dad took his chain saw and we’d cut down a few small trees. Dad had Barney hitched up to drag them over to the saw where they were cut into stove lengths. It was my job to take hold of the short end and throw it over in a pile. Mom and I took turns doing that and piling it up as Louis split it. Sophus fit in with the piling it up and splitting. It was hard work but you could feel a personal bond with each piece you put in the stove later on.

The hardest thing for me was the outdoor toilet. Of course the smell is not a good thing but I always had the feeling a snake was down in the hole and would rear it’s head up and bite me. I visualized it so much it was almost real to me. I hated going there…in the winter it was so cold you put off going as long as you could. There was a cave dug not too far from the kitchen and once in a while a snake would get in there. It’s where mom kept the butter, milk, cream and the like. She also put her canned goods there. It took a lot of courage to climb down the ladder and get things for her.

Mom had a Daisy Churn and a milk separator. We had wonderful thick cream and good butter. In fact mom sold butter at the store because we couldn’t eat it fast enough. Tyrone had two general stores. One owned by Wayne Irwin and the other by Wayne’s sister and her husband, a Mr. Johnson. We usually shopped at Wayne’s and that is where mom sold her butter. If you’ve never been in a general store you have missed a lot. They absolutely had everything…….if they didn’t have it you didn’t need it. Anytime you went in there were always old timers sitting around gabbing to one another. In the winter they sat around a big wood stove with a cup of coffee in their hand. They always had some ‘yarn’ to tell and enjoyed joshing with the kids.

The exciting thing was to buy feed for the chickens. It came in prints and the idea was to get enough of one kind to make a dress out of them, or curtains or any other household item. They proved to be very durable and made excellent dish towels. I still have a few left of my grandmother’s. It was always funny on the school bus as many of the girls were wearing feed sack dresses that you had seen previously at the store. There was no shame to wearing them, it was better than what most of us had to wear otherwise. I have quite a few feed sack pieces in several quilts I have made and love to look at them and remember a bygone time.

Play-parties were new to Louis and me. The Aldridge kids invited us to go to a “play-party” with them several times. We didn’t know what it was so they told us there were games, singing, usually refreshments and a lot of fun. If you’ve never walked to a “play-party” on a moonlit night in June you’ve missed a lot of fun. We walked with the Aldridge kids to Tyrone where the party was. Kids from all over were there, most of whom we didn’t know, but that didn’t ruin a thing. I wish I could remember the games played but in these many years since I have forgotten. I DO remember the laughter, the smell of June in summer and the innocence. The thing that struck me so (and still does) is the lack of anything material but how happy and carefree those times were. We sang all the way home, walking down the back road to our house with the Aldridge kids, feeling very much like a native.

We walked to church on Sunday nights and during revivals. It was always fun to walk in a group, go to the service and walk back home. Church at Tyrone was much different than the churches I had been to in Nebraska. I didn’t know what a Free Will Baptist was but that was the only church so we went. During revivals the preacher would carry his open Bible around the little one room church and yell and holler about sinners going to hell. He would preach till he was wet with sweat and red faced. At the close of the service he asked all the “saved” people to stand against the wall around the room, which they did. That left a small group of us sitting there. Since Louis and I didn’t know what they meant we sat there too. After singing a song the preacher told the “saved” people to go pray with someone seated so they would “get right with God.” They all descended upon us moaning and crying and prayed for us as they dropped on their knees. To say we were mortified would be putting it mildly. To think of myself as “lost” was absurd for I knew I loved Jesus all my life. It was a conflict I had never known before……but I knew one thing for sure………my belief was certainly different from theirs. It would take some years and some maturing but that matter was settled later on………

Tomorrow, more about Tyrone.

Essentially Esther

Monday, March 22, 2004


The move to Missouri was memorable. Dad sold our Ford Sedan and sold his half of the plumbing equipment to his brother, Emil. Only the priority things were loaded on the truck……all except one. My mother let dad talk her out of most things but not her piano.

Dad bought a ton-and-a-half Ford truck with a flat-bed on the back. Everything was loaded and a canvas was used to cover the top and sides. An opening much like the entrance to a tent closed the rear. Louis and Sophus each had a chair to sit on in a little area. The month of May was cool yet so they wore their coats and I’m sure were very uncomfortable.

Missouri was much further away in 1945. The roads weren’t that good and the highway ran through each town between Nebraska and Missouri. We crossed the Missouri River from Omaha to Council Bluffs and then proceeded south and east to Red Oak, Iowa continuing in an east and south direction to Clarinda, Iowa. Dad took Hwy 71 from there due south until Joplin, Missouri. After reaching Joplin it was just due east until we reached Cabool. From there it was eighteen miles to Tyrone.

There are no words to describe the place. The barn was beautiful but the unpainted buildings that were to be our house and chicken house were pretty dismal. Imagine a tin roof, big slab boards grayed from the weather, bigger slabs that had bowed were the small porch and a solid piece of wood roughly cut from a tree was the step. The building had been empty for some time and was in total disarray inside. Holes in the floor showed dirt underneath, cobwebs and gross neglect every where.

Mom must have wilted when she walked in. Of course she had seen it before but coming back to make it livable had to take a lot of determination. Dad, of course, was concerned about fences and getting the barn ready for animals so it was pretty well up to mom and me to make a home out of nothing. Louis and Sophus were needed by dad to work outside. The first order was to go to Houston and buy a cook stove. It was a nice white enamel wood stove which would suit mom’s purpose. They bought a couch and chair and a heating stove for the living room. With the kitchen table and chairs we all had a place to sit.

Our closest neighbors were the Aldridge family and they came to call shortly after we moved in. They were friendly and had a lot of children. The three oldest were married and gone but they still had three girls and a boy at home. None of them went beyond Tyrone to school. There were two options for high school. School buses ran in front of our farm to Summersville and Cabool both. For some reason I decided to go to Summersville and Louis opted to go to Cabool. School mornings were a rush just like they are today. We had to be down at the road to be picked up and some mornings we would one or the other have to run to make it.

School at Summersville was enough for me the first couple of years. I rode the bus 17 miles going and coming from school. The scenery was absolutely breathtaking on the way. Rough hills with jutting rocks and raging creeks over the bank after heavy rains, green trees everywhere. Hardly any land was cleared back then and the area in Southern Missouri was relatively untouched. Most of the roads were gravel until you got to a US HWY…….even at my age I knew it was a treasure.

I made friends at Summersville and became very interested in basket-ball…..the schools main sport event. The student body was too small to gain State finances for foot-ball and the only sport girls engaged in was volley ball but only at Phys. Ed. time. I took mostly business courses and classes that would enable me to be able to teach school after graduation. One of those classes was General Agriculture which would be important to teach in the rural area.

The summer of my freshman year dad, Louis and Sophus worked around the area putting up hay. Greg Aldridge knew of farmers that wanted their hay cut and bailed so they worked together with the bailer’s. Dad took pay both in hay and cash. We had three cows that were going to have calves and with the team of horses the hay was as good as money to Dad.

One time uncle Alfred and Nettie came down from Nebraska to visit. Mom and dad wanted to show them the Shepherd of the Hills area and other points of interest. Since they would be gone until late that evening dad had Louis take the truck to help with the hay in his absence. Sophus went to help Louis and I was home alone. By lunch time the sky was blowing up some dark clouds that looked stormy. All of a sudden I saw Louis coming up the lane with a truck load of hay. He was driving faster than usual so I knew he had seen the clouds as I had. He backed into the barn and began throwing bales up in the haymow. He told me to get the hay hook and drag them back while he and Sophus unloaded as fast as they could.

When they had all the hay unloaded they went back as fast as they could. He made several more trips and we managed to get the hay safely in before the fury of the storm hit. Louis and Sophus came up in the haymow with me and stacked them all in order, leaving breathing room for the fresh cut hay.

Later that night as mom and dad neared home with uncle Alfred and Nettie, they could see there had been a bad rain storm. Dad was worried about the hay but when he came in and we told him it was all in the barn he was greatly relieved. I think that is the first time we had ever done something together that evoked praise from dad. In our generation we were rarely braged on by our parents…..not that they didn’t love us but mainly because………that’s just the way it was….Louis, Sophus and I went to bed that night feeling good about ourselves……..

Until tomorrow,

Essentially Esther

Sunday, March 21, 2004


After moving to Lake Street Louis and I had to be enrolled in school. Dad drove us by the school which was about six blocks from our house. He suggested a route to walk and told us to take our transfer papers from Central with us. When Monday morning came I was a little unsettled about it but Louis said all we had to do was go inside and find the principal’s office. I tagged along after him and he handed our papers to Mrs. Grace Griffith who was the principal. She took us each to our respective rooms and told the teacher what our names were and after that we were pretty much enrolled.

My teacher was a Miss Joniffer who was young and very pretty. She had auburn hair and rusty brown eyes…..she wore pretty clothes and was nice. I liked her right away. She found the necessary books and materials for me and took me to a desk. Of course I felt terribly conspicuous and self-conscious. However, I had been moved around a lot and knew that in time it would all become routinely familiar. The lessons were never hard for me because I loved to learn and had a good memory.

By the end of the third school year we were established and had made friends. Shortly after school was out I went back to Blair for a good part of the summer. There was always Bible School for a couple of weeks and I liked that. My aunts always had a large part in teaching and planning. When we moved to Lake Street Louis and I walked to the nearest church in our neighborhood and attended Sunday School. It was a Presbyterian Church and on Sunday nights they had “C.E” which stood for Christian Endeavor. It was a good time of Bible games, relay games, things like that, and refreshments were always served. Some very nice people were in charge and we always felt welcome.

When school started in the fall I was assigned to Miss Turk’s room. She was one of the two fourth grade teachers. She was short and plump with a round face, short, straight dark hair that was shingled up the back and she wore glasses. The only thing I remember of any consequence in her room was one time someone had done something that was really bad…..just what or how bad I don’t remember. The thing I do remember is that she made the whole class stay in at recess time and I was broken hearted. I really looked forward to recess because I was very active and loved the activity it afforded. I can remember thinking how terrible it was to make all of us suffer because one person did something wrong. It made a big impression on me apparently because it’s the only memory I have in her class.

Fifth grade teacher was Beulah Browning. Louis had had Miss Turk and Miss Browning ahead of me so I was happy to have teachers that he had. The thing everyone knew about Miss Browning’s room was that above the blackboard she had handwritten the Preamble of the Constitution. Each morning we would all stand with our hands over our heart and say the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag and then read the Preamble. Doing that every morning we soon had committed it to memory and to this day most of it comes back when I stop to think. Those were the days when every school room had a flag and a picture of George Washington on the wall beside it. Those things that were so commonplace then are almost extinct now….anywhere. It’s a shame that so many feel being proud of our Country has passed being important or necessary. Miss Browning was a portly, older lady with a soft pink face and kind eyes. I learned a lot from her.

Beulah Adams was my seventh grade teacher. She looked like a “school marm” from the early 1900’s. She had known my grandmother Stricklett and seemed pleased to have me in class. She was our home room teacher and taught geography. I probably learned more about that subject from her than any one else. When there was extra time or we had been very good she would pull down the map, mention a country, and the student who was selected by her would come to the front of the room and with her pointer, name the country. By the end of the school year we also knew the capitals of the countries around the world. Now it has changed so that many of those countries have been absorbed into others and many of them are even pronounced differently.

Mrs. Ralya was my home room teacher in the eighth grade. She was very much the professional teacher and reminds me of Judge Judy. She was prettier and not sarcastic like Judge Judy but had much of the same quick thinking…..there was no fooling her. By the time I was in her room, the war was almost over and one day a new student was brought to our room. Her name was Frances O’Kura, and she was Japanese. Her family had been moved by our government to the Midwest from California and it was obvious she felt out of place. However, many American born Japanese were as patriotic as anyone and served well in defense of this country. Frances was an asset to our class and none of us treated her badly.

A few weeks before graduation from the eighth grade we moved to Missouri and so I missed the graduation exercises. Mrs. Ralya mailed a class picture to me after we had a new address. I was very sad that my picture wasn’t among my classmates………..

Now I would be in a new State and a new school and my life would take a very different path……..

Until tomorrow,

Essentially Esther

Saturday, March 20, 2004


I finished second grade at Central and as usual I spent a lot of time at Blair that summer with grandma and my aunts. There were always dogs and cats to play with and I spent a lot of time watching whatever grandma or they did. I would trail after grandma when she put on her big brimmed straw hat and took the scythe with her. That always meant she would be working in the weeds. As tiny as grandma was she could swing that big scythe for a long time before she would stop to rest. She hated the weeds that grew up around the pig lot or the chicken house.

I used to think it was impossible to ever get them all cut and it really was. She worked some every day on them and I thought when I grew up I would never pull or cut weeds but many years later I found I rather enjoyed it.

When I went back home it was time to start school again. Louis had been taking free art lessons at the Joslyn Memorial all summer and was quite good. I started in the third grade that year and school was easy for me because I loved everything about it. I read book after book that I could borrow from the Public Library which was a long walk but worth it to me. I loved books.

This was the year that dad went into business with his brothers, Emil and Ted. They were plumber’s laborers which meant at that time a lot of digging. They dug the holes, city workers made the repairs and then dad and the crew would fill them back up. In 1939 there was no ditch digger or mechanical tool to make the job easy, it was all manual labor. For dad and his brothers it was no big deal. They had worked hard all their lives and this was better because they were in business for themselves. They did buy a compressor eventually that powered a jack hammer. It was a big help to break through city streets.

Every Friday night they would get together to make out statements, usually at our house. After they were finished they would send us kids to the store to pick up salami, bologna, cheese and stuff to make a lunch with. We were always told to stop at Fuff’s Bakery half-way up the next block to get pumpernickel and French bread.

Fuff’s bakery was a delight. Mr. Fuff was a large man with sandy hair and very light complexion which turned red when he was working the dough. He always wore white clothes and a white circular hat on his head. His hands were enormous but clean. He would always give “a baker’s dozen” when you bought doughnuts and they were wonderful tasting. Nothing since can compare in my mind.

It was exciting to get home with all the good snacks and listen to the laughter and stories the men would tell. Mom would be fixing everything for the table and I loved the smell of coffee they drank. Danes love their coffee and I certainly fit into the mold. Louis and I would fix a plate for ourselves and sit and listen to the grown-ups talk until sleep overcame us. Mama and aunt Beulah were always good listeners and after lunch a lot of times they would clear the table and play cards. They loved pinochle and pitch. I fell asleep many a night with all of them playing cards and enjoying the time together. It was such good fun after a week of hard back breaking work.

It would be my last year on 24th Street because mom and dad had been saving every penny they could to buy their own home. Dad wanted to have a yard and a garage to store their equipment and so it was at mid-year we moved to 4237 Lake Street. It was a nice blue-collar neighborhood and the school was fairly new. One thing it didn’t have that I always enjoyed was an attendant in the bathrooms who would wash our hands for us. It was provided at Central but not at Clifton Hill. I always liked the lady because she was so nice to all of us.

Dad parked the trailer in the back yard and we stayed in it until the repairs were made and we could move in. At last we would have our own home……it was a wonderful feeling for all of us. It would be our home for over five years until we moved to Missouri…….

Until tomorrow,

Essentially Esther

Friday, March 19, 2004


One of the advantages of living on 24th Street were the sidewalks. Mom and dad got me some roller skates and I was in heaven. Dad showed me how to fasten them on to my shoes and to tighten them with the skate key. I had narrow feet so it was important to get them tight enough to stay on.

You could always tell the girls that skated because their shoe soles had a tell-tale black mark and an indention pressed deep into them. We would put them on and skate up and down the block, jumping the slabs of the sidewalk that were pushed up and broken. Once in a while one of us would take a tumble and it amounted to running home for Mercurochrom and some TLC. I think Mercurochrom went out with the “fasten on” skates.

Sometimes Louis and I played dominoes with Hilda who lived in the apartment building. She was a nice older lady who seemed to love the company of children. She would have a dish of candy on the card table for us to enjoy as we played the game. Her living room was beautiful to me as a six year old. The lamp shades had fringe around the bottoms, there were heavy brocade drapes, a velvet couch and printed tapestry matching chairs. A Persian rug with beautiful colors and designs captured my attention. I loved pretty things and Hilda’s apartment was beautiful.

Another beautiful place we were exposed to was the Joslyn Memorial. It was just half a block away on the opposite corner and took up the whole next block. It was a marble building which housed all of the paintings and art forms of the Joslyn family. They were extremely wealthy and bought items all over the world. They lived in a mansion with a huge yard and iron fence all around it. After the last of the Joslyn’s died the home was donated to and occupied by the Omaha School Board and used for offices. As a field trip our class toured the home once and we were told all about the artifacts and history of it.

The Memorial Building on Dodge Street was a wonderful refuge for us in the summer time. We would play and skate until we were so hot you could melt butter on us. We would dart into this beautiful edifice all hot and sweaty, our hair plastered to our heads with sweat and walk around looking at all the things housed there. Fountains trickled and gushed everywhere. We would sit on the edge of the pools and even stick our hands in the water. I’m sure we were a bad influence on the place……we looked like the unruly pack from the Orphan Annie movie. Occasionally a guard would walk towards us with an unpleasant look on his face and tell us to keep out of the pool. We would then walk around the many halls and rooms until we were cooled off and then exit. We were oblivious to the fact that our presence was unwanted……..we enjoyed the building until we moved later on.

Central Grade School was right across the street on the South side of the Joslyn Memorial. It was a brick building and had a round turret on the front of it. The name of the school was carved in the concrete above the large front doors of the building. The area in front of the building was all brick, laid out in nice designs. I loved to walk on it because it was so smooth. The school was old and the bricks were worn.

When we first moved there dad worked at the Dodge Street Garage as a mechanic. He was a good mechanic and the owner was Sam Goldware. Once in a while mom and I would stop in there to see dad if it was necessary. Dad would be working way in the back of the garage with a single light bulb hanging from the ceiling. The garage was cold in the winter. I can see him standing there yet wiping his hands on a cloth as we approached him with the hood of the car up in the air.

Mom told him she bought me new Easter shoes and I had them on. Pretty white slippers with a strap across the top…..white patent leather. Dad grinned and said, “Pretty fancy stuff,“ and then he would say, “Come ‘mere, Esther….let me break ‘em in for you,” and he would be acting like he was going to spit on them. Of course I always ran even though I knew he wouldn’t, but it was something that always happened with new shoes. I was very proud of these because normally I would be taken to Sears and Roebuck and dad would want a “good, durable, brown oxford that gives your feet good support.” Dad thought anything from Sears would last better and be cheaper than anywhere else.

On Friday and Saturday nights there would be all kinds of activity going on across the street. There was a dance hall on the second floor of the building with metal stairs going up the side. At the top was a landing where people would come out and smoke or get some fresh air. It was fun to watch the ladies all dressed up with high heels on and lots of make-up. We could hear the band from across the street and I loved to listen to the music. You could hear people laughing and having a good time.

One of the favorite things I used to love to listen to was a radio show on Saturday mornings. It was called, “Let’s Pretend.” I would sit with rapt attention while a lady read a story to us. I can still hear the tune in my head that used to announce the beginning of the show. I loved the voice of the woman who read the story….she had a kind voice and seemed to enjoy it as much as her little listeners. Saturday mornings were special when I was six and seven…….I could live inside of a Fairy Tale for a half hour……..that’s pretty special.

Until tomorrow,

Essentially Esther

Thursday, March 18, 2004


Like any new kid on the block I investigated everything at hand. It was fun to sit on the bank across the street from the White Castle and watch the people come and go. You could see the cooks frying the burgers and serving the customers. That was when everyone ate at the counter on those neat seats you could twirl around on. I loved going there, which we got to do now and then.

The floors were black and white small hexagon tiles with a pattern that was fun to visually trace while I waited for my treat. In the winter I would order chili and a hamburger. We always drank water with our orders but mom and dad had coffee. We didn’t know anything about soda pop (which my dentist says accounts for my good teeth). I can see those small round heavy white bowls of chili yet. Best of all you got a little package of oyster crackers which I thought were grand. I well remember the smell of onions on the back of the grille while your burger fried. When it was finished the cook would scoop up the onions with the burger and put it in a bun. Louis and I thought there was nothing better in the whole world than burgers at White Castle.

When we were finished dad would announce we needed to hurry to get to the show on time. It was usually at the Town Theatre which was kind of a blue collar theatre. Dad liked to go there because we could see a matinee of two shows, see the evening shows and then settle down for the midnight shows. All this for the price of one ticket. When you’re a kid it was a good life. Incidentally, at our house, they were not “movies”……….they were “shows” or “picture shows”.

At that time they would usually have a stage show between the afternoon and evening movie. I remember one time a man led a white horse onto the stage with a pretty lady in a long red satin dress, long blonde hair and a large brimmed red hat. I thought she was the most beautiful lady I had ever seen. She was sitting side-saddle with her dress all spread out on the back of the horse. She sang a couple of songs before moving off the stage. My dad was not musical at all and he would always suffer through that to get back to his favorite…either comedy or Western’s. I saw every cowboy on a horse from the time I was four until we left Omaha for Missouri. We saw a lot of Abbot and Costello, Bob Hope, Burns and Allen……..it gave dad a lift from after a week of hard work. Mom, as always, liked anything dad did………..and I guess Louis and I did too. Sometimes dad would go to a musical because he knew mom loved them so.

I’ll never forget one time at the midnight show, it was “The Were-Wolf. I didn’t want to see it because I knew it would be scary. Of course there was no hope of avoiding it because dad always wanted to see everything. Most of the time I kept my eyes shut because as the movie progressed a fortune teller saw a star with a circle around it in the palm of his hand which she knew was the mark of the were-wolf. She ran from the wagon and in no time his teeth started growing and his hands turned to paws with claws, he was the scariest thing I’d ever seen. Of course the beautiful damsel was his target…….in his real state he loved her…when he was a wolf he wanted to kill her. I know…….you’re thinking Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde…..with Spencer Tracy and poor Ingrid Bergman and Lana Turner. I also was privileged to see the original Frankenstein with Boris Karloff and later Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man with Lon Chaney. I saw every horror movie any of them made and their sons as well. I should say I “heard” them because most of the time my hands were over my eyes.

Don’t marvel that I remember all that………I couldn’t FORGET them. I’m like dad. He could recite what everyone in the movie said and with the actions implied. Sometimes a good memory isn’t a good thing…….especially on things you would like to forget.

During the war years we saw wonderful movies of strength and courage so that we had a steady diet of morals in the right way. Since we didn’t go to church at that time it was almost spiritual to see some of the movies we did.

I digress. Talking about movies made me fast-forward a few years but since I got caught up in them you got a preview of things to come. Right now, chili and burgers at White Castles is where we shall stop. I hope you got to eat some of them back when they were ………..REALLY good………..from a kid’s standpoint.

Until tomorrow,

Essentially Esther

Wednesday, March 17, 2004


My memories at the age of four when we were living at ‘Hook’s’ farm are scattered. When I scroll back to that time frame I remember playing with the other children and tagging after Louis. I was his shadow because he always dreamed up things to do. He was the organizer. We all waited until he told us what we would play and who would do what.

In the summer time we didn’t own a fan and the small trailer dad built for us was naturally like an oven. After supper mom and dad would sit on a blanket on the hillside. When we children wore ourselves out playing tag we would join them and those were the times dad would point to the stars and tell us which ones were in constellations, their names, and how the sailors knew where they were by the location of them at certain times of the year.

He also taught me how to tie my shoes one of those times. I came running up to him once and asked him to tie my shoe. He said, “You need to know how to do that and then when they are untied you can do it yourself.” Then came the lesson. “Make a loop in your right hand with this string, like this. Then take the other string with your left hand and go around your loop, like this. All you have to do then is poke your left string under your loop and pull both of them tight, like this.” I was excited. To know how to do something all by myself made me feel “grown up.” Grown ups knew how to do all kinds of neat stuff and I wanted to be that way too. I spent the rest of the evening tying and untying my shoe-strings.

At Halloween I remember mama making pop-corn balls and red-cinnamon candied apples for the neighborhood. They were wonderful because they looked just like the ones in the stores. Besides that they tasted as good as they looked. Sometimes Buster would be visiting and dad would give him and Louis some money to walk to Reed’s Dairy Store and buy a gallon of ice-cream. They were always given the same directions……”take your time going……and hurry back.” It was one of those things dad always said. I grew up knowing that ice-cream was the talisman for the mood around the house. If it had been a good day quite often we would get ice-cream. That was a good thing. If the day was beset with problems or expenses there was no ice-cream. That was very bad. My family will tell you that since I am very very grown up……….I have ice-cream almost every day…..and THAT is a good thing.

Winter came and we were warmed with a brooder stove in our little trailer. I don’t remember being cold and I thought everyone had to take “spit baths” like we did. Mom made our young lives good and dad loved ice-cream and movies so we never felt deprived of anything. Remembering the trailer and how it supplied our needs we felt very lucky not to have to live down-town in an old apartment. Mom and dad were always able to point out our benefits and never dwelt on the things we didn’t have…..therefore we didn’t know what we didn’t have. Life, for us, was good.

Spring came and the asparagus fields were green with the crop coming up. It was harvested and sold by the owners. For mom and me Spring meant birthday time. This year was especially one that would be different as I turned five. Louis walked quite a ways to school and being older (and being a boy) this worked. I would be school age in the fall as five-year-olds went to school then but to kindergarten. Mom and dad didn’t think I should walk that far to school and especially in winter weather. After much soul searching they decided to take me to grandma Stricklett’s for my first year.

Grandma knew everyone on the school board and they knew I spent a lot of time at grandma’s which would count for residency. The only thing was…..no kindergarten. I was enrolled in the first grade in September after becoming five in May. Naturally I was the youngest in the class and though I could do the work well enough I was not emotionally on a par with my classmates. In retrospect I guess it didn’t matter because I was always at grandma’s and didn’t have contact with any of them anyway.

I walked to and from school with Buster and Sally. I remember one time Sally was putting my overshoes on and she was having a lot of trouble. I kept squirming and complaining but she persisted. I limped to and from school, still complaining when I came home. Sally took my overshoe off and a dead mouse fell out along with my foot. I felt sorry for the little mouse for I had a story book called, “Suzie, the Shy Little Mouse.” She was real to me and I loved my book. That is how I got my family knick-name of “Suzie.”

I loved being at grandma’s for it was like my second home. Besides grandma, there was Buster and Sally, aunt Inabelle and aunt Mary came on week-ends. However, by Spring I was very homesick. Although mom and dad came as often as they could I was anxious to go home by the end of school. They moved the trailer close to downtown again so that I could walk to school. It was only two blocks away and besides Louis, Doris and Billy would be going there. They lived in an old apartment with their dad a block away from the school. My cousins and Louis and I were very close in our young lives.

So I joined the family the Spring I was six and ready to start the second grade in the fall. I would have all summer to get used to the new location. Dad had moved our trailer to 124 South 24th Street and parked it behind a large hotel and to the side of an old apartment house. We were just a block away from Billy and Doris so we had everything we needed………life was very good.

Until tomorrow,

Essentially Esther

Tuesday, March 16, 2004


Didn’t you just know that when I finished with my mother and her family, my dad and his family and then my brother that I would HAVE to write about me, next. I know me better than anyone else so I am the best one to write my story. However, the first four years are very sketchy because I didn’t know I would be writing about all this later. Had I known I would have made notes along the way.

Facts state my entrance was on a Saturday night about 10:00 pm when I finally exited my mother who was pretty well out of it at the time. Poor mom had eaten her way through a cellar of raw potatoes the winter she carried me, which made me a lot bigger than her little frame could get rid of. She suffered for days until at last she heard the cry she had been waiting for. When talking about my birth mom would always say Dr. Burr held me up by my feet and said, “My God, that’s not a baby….she’s half grown.”

I weighed in like a prize fighter at a whopping 12 lbs. 2 oz. Mom said I was so chubby I had dimples above each finger and rolls down my arms and legs. I had dark hair growing half-way down my neck and I raised the roof with my hollering. The date was May 28th, 1932. Mom’s younger sister, Inabelle, was graduating from high school that evening so grandma had gone to see her graduate and grandpa stayed with mom. He wasn’t one to like dressing up or going to social functions. Mom’s aunt Nonie was the nursemaid and gave me my first bath. After some thought about a name for me, my mom’s uncle Joe (who was there at the time) said, “Why don’t you name her Esther after yer ma?” And then my middle name was for aunt Inabelle whose birthday was the day before I was born and the day she graduated…..and so it was settled. I would be Esther Belle Andersen.

Dad had taken mom to grandma and grandpa Stricklett’s when she went into labor so I was born at Blair in their house. Louis and I were the only two grand-children born at our grandparents. Mom and I were there until she was able to ride to Omaha where we lived. I was placed in a dresser drawer for a bed since it was a small apartment run by a Mrs. Brewster.

Dad was working nights and sleeping days. With the warmer weather and small quarters with a baby crying it was becoming unbearable. When dad discovered cockroaches on my bedding one morning he decided we had to get out of there as soon as we could. My brother was three years old at the time and he couldn’t go outside to play so it was not good living conditions.

Dad set about making a trailer for us to live in and worked hard to get it finished so we could move. Dad might have been poor but he was never lazy. He worked on it as much as he could and finally had it good enough to move into. Dad’s brother, Emil, and his two children, Doris and Billy lived out on 76th and Center Streets. He had their trailer parked in the yard of a farmer who grew asparagus and raised chickens. They rented space to mom and dad and so we moved immediately. We were a little west of the Aksarban Race Track on the other side of the road.

My earliest recollections are at the “Hook’s” place. Doris and Billy, Louis and I were all very young. Their mother, Helen, had died of breast cancer and their baby brother, Harold Gene, was being raised by their grandparents. Mom watched after Doris and Billy while uncle Emil worked, as well as Louis and me. In fact, she kind of watched all the children who stayed there.

One day we were playing in the chicken yard where an old cook stove had been discarded. It was under a mulberry tree and I wanted to pick mulberry’s and make a “cake.” The lids were gone on top of the stove so I picked up a piece of orange crate and placed it over the hole. I climbed up and stood on the thin piece of wood, reaching for the berries…..suddenly before I could react, the wood gave way and I fell into the firebox. A rusty screw was sticking out from the edge and as I fell it scratched my leg clear to the bone on the outside of my right knee.

A neighbor lady come running and wrapped a diaper around my leg to stop the bleeding and then took mom and me to a First Aid Station up the road a ways. They told mom it was too deep for them to fix there, that I would need to go to a doctor and have stitches taken. The neighbor lady took us on to a doctor and he took us right in. They put me on a table and laid me down. The doctor explained he needed to put me out to sew it up and told her to go out of the room and sit down somewhere.

She sat on the top step, just out of the room and heard them ask me if I liked perfume? I said I did and the nurse said she was going to give me some. She walked up behind me and slapped a cloth over my face and I couldn’t breathe or get my breath. I was crying and calling for mama when I passed out…….mom told me later it was so hard to sit there and not come in. The smell of ether just about made her sick. We were to go back to have the dressing changed in a few days.

When we did, the doctor ripped the tape off and it really hurt. On the third visit, I sat in the waiting room peeling very gently, hoping to get the tape off before we went in. No luck. He just laughed and pulled it off as before. I didn’t have to go back after that. Being so traumatized that ordeal is something I never forgot…..and so it was, that I lived over my first accident…….and never, ever stepped on anything that thin again……….

Until tomorrow,

Essentially Esther

Monday, March 15, 2004


I would have to say there were two things Louis was proud of concerning his working years. One was being in the Regular Army of the USA and developing the generators needed for Operation Deep Freeze.

I think Mechanical Engineers are born, not made. You either have the stuff in you or you don’t. Here was a man who had two and one half years of high school who was designing generators to keep the power running for the US Navy and scientists who stayed at the South Pole.

When the arduous task was finished he was to accompany the delivery of them to set up and get them running. He and two of the men who worked on the project made arrangements to go. They were briefed and transported by the Navy, flying out of Sea-Tac to Hawaii and then taken to Bellows Air Force Base. They were fed at the Officer’s Club, more briefing followed.….finally a cottage on base for sleep.

They were transported to Hickum AFB …..and got the last three seats together on a C-141 which carried dependents and family as well. Departure was on time….to Pago Pago for a 45-minute layover to refuel and get some coffee … glance at the sights which were beautiful and back on the plane. The runway was built so you were taking off right into the sea…….it was quite a take-off.

Christchurch , New Zealand was the next stop and they were outfitted for their stay at McMurdo. “The food was nothing but mutton“….Louis complained about the meat in his notes. “Nothing on the island but sheep.”

They arrived at McMurdo Pole Station at 9:00 am and were met by Capt. Glen Shorb (U.S. Army) who motioned them away from the plane. They loaded their gear on a banana sled with the Capt. in the harness and Dewy pushing. The three of them were shown around and taken to their quarters to stow their gear….then chow and briefing.

They had a short time-frame to get their job up and running due to the weather socking them in until Spring. There were many set-backs due to the length of travel it took to get them there. Also because the air was so thin everything was twice the effort. Louis and Al had terrible colds and Louis couldn’t eat much of the time he was there. They worked through problem after problem and by the end of the month their work was finished.

Louis spent his last day writing his report and the next day the three of them were flown out in a Herc #319. The notation for the day was “Goodbye South Pole.” ETO McMurdo 5:00 pm. Their return trip made the same stops in reverse.

From his personal notes I copy the beginning of the project.

I was told by my friend and Chief Engineer that I was to head up the project of Operation Deep Freeze. He went on…“it’s a Power House for the South Pole, must be constructed, tested and shipped in 45 days.” Also all long lead items had been ordered. My mind reflected back to the many Power Houses we shipped to the North slope, and many in a mere two or three days effort.

Monday morning brought in a ream of blue prints and reality. Most of the prints were so complicated, you could only tell top from bottom by the Title Block. What I thought would be a Power House the size of a mobile home was actually 25 ½ ft. wide X 10 feet high X 70 feet long. As Power Houses go this is not large but about now I begin discovering the complications.

#1 After the project was completed it had to be reduced into packages no larger than 8 ½ feet X 8 ½ feet X 36 feet. This would permit it to be delivered by truck to Davisville, R.I. and from there by cargo ship to Christchurch, New Zealand….on to the South Pole by air.

#2 Because of the company work load at that time I was informed I had to do my thing somewhere else. I believe it was Fred Ward, also an Emerson employee who located an empty factory at 3301 So. 1st street. It had two ancient overhead bridge cranes which after some repair saved many days work. Everyone remarked of room enough for an indoor Stock Car Track as well as Operation Deep Freeze. That remark was short lived.

#3 Because of the company work load I could have no Emerson personnel. This is the one that hurt most of all. I had been told by several shop personnel including the Shop Foreman that no way could it be done. I was in no position to express my doubts and now I feel why should I? Most help came from agency’s and a few off the street. I did manage to make off with two heads from the company….one a Ben Harwood who acted as my straw-boss, the other fellow was Dick Barnett, a fine person but no longer with Emerson Diesel. Last heard he had moved to California.

Dick acted as my Purchasing Agent. Within a few short days materials began rolling in by truck and the indoor Stock Car Track rapidly vanished. The floor within our construction site was about as flat as a dragons back, so was the underside of the compex. However, inside the compex the decks were flat all due to the manner the complex was to be reduced to modules.

In an effort to save time I ordered cement blocks adequate to build a Holiday Inn, along with a transit. At that time a friend and neighbor, Bill Goddard (also an Emerson employee) doubled in many areas; crane operator, liaison to the company and most important, Bill ran down steel, tell sticks and procedure for construction of supporting base frames. Reason being, steel structure at low temperature is equal to dropping a fine piece of china on concrete. All weld joints had to be preheated prior to welding…the reason for tell sticks. If a joint was pre-heated properly, a tell stick similar to a crayon, would melt when touched to the area.

As the sub-bases arrived from our fabrication shop we bolted to them 3-in.X 6-in. fire retardant wood stringers and over that three laminated layers of ¾” ply wood. All with a fire, water, temperature proof glue which was prescribed by Uncle Sam.

The nails used were the size of standard writing pencil’s and some 5,000 were used. The team met the 45-day deadline and the prescribed shipments were made. At this juncture Louis, Al and Dewy made plans to hook up with their “baby” at McMurdo.

The notes he kept are very special to me. He worked in a world I could never know. The value of a man is measured by the work he does, his family, friends and a God he fears. I would say Louis was “all man.”
Until tomorrow,

Essentially Esther

Sunday, March 14, 2004


After Louis flew home from aunt Mary’s funeral we received a call from Warren’s niece that his sister’s breast cancer had returned. Her birthday, in July, was to be a surprise party for her and they hoped we could come. She also invited their younger brother, Don and wife, Sally. Included were a few cousins from Nebraska.

Since they lived near Seattle it also gave us the opportunity to visit with Louis and Gail a day or so. We had a wonderful reunion of relatives at the birthday party and when it was over we arranged transportation to Renton. Louis and Gail were ready for us and we enjoyed a good visit as we sat at their bar overlooking Lake Washington.

We told them about the events of the last two days with Warren’s sister. They were empathetic and thoughtful in the conversation. We had a nice meal at suppertime and the next morning we had to catch an early plane out of Sea-Tac. Louis took us as Gail had to work.

The next time we saw Louis and Gail was on their 25th wedding anniversary when they came here and then planned going to Milwaukee to visit Gail’s family and their many friends. Mom was still with us so it was a happy occasion for us to be together. As we walked to the RV with them mom asked when we would see him again. He gave mom a gentle hug because she was very frail at the time and said, “Ohhh, I don’t know, mom. God alone knows that.”

We hugged each other and waved until they were out of sight. We didn’t know it then but it would be the last time we would see Louis. He had been battling what he thought was ulcers and had been taking aspirin by the bottle to kill the pain. Sometimes it would be better and sometimes, not. He continued doctoring himself until he was so bad he finally went for help. The diagnosis was unexpected and serious. He had lung cancer and would have to have surgery. There were no choices for his condition.

He called late the Saturday night after he had seen the doctor. We talked about old times with mom and dad and everything along the way. It was a phone call I will treasure always. I told him I would be praying for his recovery if he didn’t mind an old Baptist prayer…..he laughed because he always chided me about being so “religious.” It is true I probably was more so than him but he always had the most fun. His gregarious personality drew everyone in and he didn’t have an enemy in the world.

Before he was able to go for the surgery on Monday an ulcer in his stomach broke through and he was rushed to the hospital on Sunday. They performed emergency surgery on the ulcer which spread the cancer quickly. He never left ICU. He was admitted in the hospital on September 17th and was on a respirator from then on. He never spoke again.

Gail called the morning of November 10th to tell us he was gone. I don’t care how much a person expects a call like that it is always a shock and anguish beyond compare. Emotions run rampant and an instant sense of loss fills your body. Scenes of our childhood together flicked past my mind like shuffling a deck of cards and finally from inside a tidal wave of tears found release.

They say time takes care of everything but whoever said that did not lose a brother. I have well passed into the time frame where it should not hurt anymore but the pain persists. Memories are sweet but cut too short. I not only felt my own pain but I had to drive to the nursing home to tell our mother. Seeing her tears for the loss of her first-born was as painful for me. No mother at her old age should have to deal with her children dying…..

……..and still we know dying is a part of living and it is not an option. They say we begin dying the day we are born……and it’s true my brother’s years were shortened…….still he left family and friends knowing he was off on another grand adventure. This last one will have no end…….

Until tomorrow,

Essentially Esther

Saturday, March 13, 2004


When aunt Mary died all of the nieces and nephews came from every corner of the country. There were seventeen of us all together. We had a deep attachment to her as she had always been a source of inspiration and mystery. Since she never married we had greater access to her and therefore felt she loved us as much as we loved her. In looking back I think she saw our potential and teacher-like, urged us to capitalize on our gifts. At any rate we loved her enough to make arrangements to be at her funeral.

In many cases the great-nephews and nieces attended. John and Becky were unable to go but we stopped in Kansas City to pick George up and then drive on to Blair. The large Stricklett home was bulging at the seams with family hugging and reuniting. Some of us hadn’t seen each other for many years. We made routine trips to Omaha to pick up others who were flying in, one of which, was Louis. He never liked to fly and was glad to be “grounded” again. It was always a relief for him to step OUT of a plane.

The night before the funeral was family night and we gathered at the mortuary to pay our last private respects. It was the same funeral home that all of the Stricklett kids and even I walked by going to school. I only attended the first grade there but the routine was etched in my mind….I was putting my feet each day in the same steps my mother did on her way to school…….as well as the aunts and uncles.

Since mom was the eldest of the six Stricklett kids Louis and I were the first grandchildren. The closest cousins we had were uncle Bud and aunt Pearl’s two children , Ronnie and Mary Beth. Later on a bevy of others followed. Louis lived away so much of the time they weren’t that familiar with him……only through stories. I had been the one to stay close but our ages were so spread my younger cousins all thought I was an “aunt” and not a “cousin.”

Part of that assumption was the fact I was closer in age to some of the aunts and uncles and since I had grown up around them I preferred to sit and visit with them rather than my cousins who were much younger. It was the same on family night. They were not acquainted with Louis at all and somewhat with me.

The day of the funeral brought a horrendous rainstorm. The nephews were to be the pallbearers for aunt Mary and of course had on their good shoes and suits. The attendants from the mortuary had temporary raincoats for the guys but nothing could be done about the shoes. Having lived in south Missouri most of my life I had forgotten how soft the black dirt is in Nebraska. With red clay and all the rocks in Missouri it was no problem to walk in the rain but this was a different story.

The nephews were determined to fulfill their duty and declined any substitutes. The service was in the little church I had been to so many times with Grandma, aunt Mary, Inabelle, Sally and Roger. Grandma had been a charter member of the church and her funeral services had been held there in 1974. I had been baptized at the age of seven in the same church.

The church was full of family and many good words were said for aunt Mary. The nephews carried her to the hearse afterwards and rode together to the cemetery. We followed and waited in our cars while the nephews placed her at the gravesite; then stood in the rain while the last rites were given. I was so proud of my brother and happy he was able to come and be a part of the services.

Uncle Roger and aunt Phyllis who lived on “the hill” next door to aunt Mary for some years was host to the family-at-large afterwards. It was a time of getting acquainted with each other again, of remembering aunt Mary and the telling of family stories. Everyone had a favorite aunt Mary story.

In late afternoon the cousins decided to go to the local pizza shop to eat and visit with each other. It was a fun evening because being so diversified many of us had questions about each other from old stories that needed further explaining. The evening passed with a lot of pizza, laughter and happy memories. By comparison Louis and I had one foot with our cousins and another foot with our aunts and uncles….my brother and I were the bridge between the two generations.

The next day we left in all directions and as we drove down the hill from the house where Louis and I were born I remembered something mom always said. “Blessed are the dead the rain falls on”………if that is true…….aunt Mary was really blessed because she was buried in a Nebraska down-pour……..

Louis boarded his plane for the return trip to Seattle and Gail…..it was hard to say goodbye…………..

Until tomorrow,

Essentially Esther

Friday, March 12, 2004


The irony of dad’s death was that he was so worried about mom but after the return from Seattle he was the one we lost. Mom was devastated and since it was so sudden and unexpected it took her a long time to cope. It was good that we lived next door to her so we could take care of her the way dad would have.

Eventually she wondered what to do with dad’s new Ford pick-up and camper, along with his boat and motor. I suggested that she give them to Louis since we didn’t fish or go boating nor did we need another pick-up. Dad also had a new Maverick car so that went along with the package.

Louis flew back later to drive the pick-up and camper, pulling the boat and trailer back to Washington. Mom went back with him for the fun of the trip and to be company for Louis. They stopped in Blair (NE.) to see aunt Mary and Roger and family on the way. Mom always enjoyed traveling and missed that after dad was gone.

They told lots of stories about things that happened along the way. Mom was always one to chronicle her trips and so it is all in her journals. They finally reached Seattle and both were pretty well worn out from the long and arduous trip. Louis had to go back to work and mom got rested up and enjoyed her time with them. Mom loved the beauty of the area and also the ducks that begged for bread in front of the house. She spent a lot of time watching them and their new hatches. Baby ducks are so cute it’s hard not to like them.

Later on after mom came home Louis had an idea to transport the Maverick to Seattle. He called and said if we would drive it out to him he would fly us back to Missouri. His treat. So we did just that. We three packed our bags, filled the Maverick with gas and headed West. Mom had never been to California and we decided to take the southern route to the Pacific and follow Hwy 1 all the way up the coast. She was a good little traveler and could sit for hours without having to get out to stretch. Actually I was worse than she was…..the scenery was wonderful seeing it the first time and she enjoyed every aspect of it.

We arrived in Seattle after days on the road and it was good to stop moving and relax a few days. In due time, Louis took us to the airport and we said our goodbyes once more. The flight home was a treat and my first time on a large plane. I was uneasy as we had to wait some time before take-off due to the rain and low ceiling. Fog obscured the airport from our runway observation point. Suddenly the plane began moving and picking up speed….it was shuttering and shaking with screaming engines that were in the process of lifting the huge weight they carried. Fog and rain were running down the outside windows so that you couldn’t see anything. It seemed we were submerged in water….then just as my heart was about to jump out of my throat we popped up atop the clouds and to my amazement the sun was shining gloriously, the sky was azure blue and below were big, puffy white clouds spread like a feather bed below us. It was suddenly peaceful as if we were floating rather than about to shake ourselves apart. The wings were now steady and all was calm. I told myself if I was ever tempted to feel depressed on a cloudy day I would always remember how beautiful it is on top of the clouds. The experience was, for me, a spiritual one.

With Louis and Gail both working and the girls getting older the time flew by. Eventually the girls finished school and married and they found themselves alone again. When their 25th wedding anniversary rolled around Louis decided to make a lengthy trip back to see all of their families. He rented a large RV and a friend of theirs did the driving….when they arrived in Missouri we enjoyed a good visit with them. Louis decided it would be fun to see aunt Beulah again so we all packed into the RV and headed for Arkansas. She lived in Gassville, just a few miles south of Mountain Home.

Of course we called ahead to make sure aunt Beulah would be home and she was delighted we were coming. When we arrived with our “bus” load of people she popped out on the driveway to welcome us. Everyone should have an aunt Beulah. She was always happy to have you come, to come see you, or whatever. She was good company and a joy to be around.

Needless to say we had a great visit and headed home at dusk. It was the last time aunt Beulah and Louis would see each other……..

Until tomorrow,

Essentially Esther

Thursday, March 11, 2004


The next time I saw my brother was in October 1974. Dad and Louis had birthdays just nine days apart in that month. Mom had been experiencing some small glitches in her head and having gone to a doctor it was diagnosed as an aneurysm at the back of her neck. She was also having mini-strokes which we didn’t know at the time.

Dad was quite worried about her and while they were in Blair visiting, aunt Mary decided she wanted to go to Seattle to see Louis. It was arranged that mom and dad would drive to Blair, pick her up and they would leave from there. In the meantime, they asked aunt Beulah if she would like to go and she accepted the invitation.

After mom had more spells with her head, dad was afraid she would need help getting around and especially if she had a bad stroke on the way or coming home. That was when he approached me about going. I really didn’t want to and tried to beg off but dad persisted and said if I’d go he would pay all my expenses. I finally relented and said I’d go. So the last part of October in that year, aunt Beulah, mom, dad and I left for our first leg of the trip, which was Blair.

We stopped along the way to view Historical Markers and beautiful scenery. Aunt Mary had been West before and aunt Beulah had been somewhat but neither had ever been to Seattle. With five of us riding in the same vehicle it got pretty tiresome at times as we were riding in a car instead of a van. Aunt Mary wanted to take her car so it was agreed that she would furnish the transportation and the rest of us would make up a gas kitty. She had a late model Chevrolet which was roomy enough but after a lot of miles we were anxious to get out and stretch.

Finally we made it to Seattle and the fun began. Louis had an RV parked in the yard for the extras to sleep in and it held our luggage as well so everyone had lots of room. Aunt Beulah, aunt Mary and I slept there. Louis had borrowed the RV from a friend of his for the time we would be there.

We saw all the sights again that we were familiar with and then some that we hadn’t. It was fun to watch our two aunts enjoy all of it. They took pictures and soaked up everything they could see and hear….they were very good travelers. Louis and Gail had the whole trip organized and the main event was to celebrate their two birthdays together, however, both dates were past. It had been years since they had been able to do that and it was real important to dad who usually didn’t make a fuss over special events.

While we were there someone read in the paper that a ferry boat, the Princess Margarita, was leaving port at Seattle for the last time. It was going to Vancouver and would return the same day. The ferry was being replaced with a new one. It spiked our interest so all of the gals decided they wanted to make the last trip with her. Dad got us down to the pier and we boarded. All the way north we watched fantastic scenery pass along the railing, but we were not prepared for the entrance into Vancouver. The harbor was gorgeous with flowers cascading everywhere. One of the main sights as you come into port was the large castle-like hotel that was named after English Royalty. I’ve forgotten the name…..

As we left the ferry we had just a short time to look around before we would have to board for the return to Seattle. We took in the beautiful shops around the immediate area and enjoyed the Europe-like atmosphere of the city. It was a place I would love to return to someday. We were impressed with the beauty and quaintness of the city. We all bought a piece of pretty English china before returning to the Margarita for our return to Seattle.

We had a lot of fun going and coming and finally the day came to head for Nebraska and Missouri. I had a wonderful time but my thoughts were beginning to think of home. A few days after our trip dad had a massive heart attack and died instantly. The pictures I had hoped to have of his last birthday supper at our house ( before we started the Seattle trip) were lost. Someone stole the camera from our car along with the roll of film I had taken.

Louis and Gail flew back for the funeral and afterwards I noticed Louis had dad’s Masonic ring on. He told me he had switched rings on dad’s finger at the funeral home. Louis had a diamond ring and dad’s was a red stone. It was….for my brother…..a final gift to our dad………..

Until tomorrow,

Essentially Esther

Wednesday, March 10, 2004


Louis had great success working at Emerson Diesel. We were proud of him and Gail as well, who continued working at Boeing. Their lifestyle was surrounded with friends and raising the two girls. They had a new dock built and Louis had a dingy to putter around on the lake with. On our next trip out we would have a great baptism of the dingy.

Mom and dad were visiting at the time when we drove out one summer. John loved to fish so he asked Louis if he could use the dingy to go fishing. Louis was dubious because of the small boat and John being so young. Warren and I agreed to go with him, however, dad and Louis were still hesitant. Finally Louis agreed to let him use it and warned of all the possible dangers etc; etc; Stupidity and over confidence didn’t heed the warnings.

I had just showered and shampooed my hair. At the time I was wearing a French roll and so it took some time getting it dried and coiffed for the day. I put a pants suit on and arrived at the lake edge complete with make-up and sun glasses. As soon as the fishing trip was over I planned to go shopping.

The dingy had a small engine and we had been instructed how to start it, what to do, etc; etc: Again all this fell on deaf ears. How complicated could it be? So we stepped gingerly into the dingy, Warren in the bow, me in the middle, and John by the engine. There was enough breeze coming from the West to keep the dingy bumping into the concrete wall so Warren reached out to push away from it as John struggled to start the engine. He gave a hearty push and with his weight in the bow and not all that much in the rest of the boat it did a sudden flip and threw us out into the lake. We were splashing water like three beached whales.

Panic reigned for several minutes and when I came up out of the water dad was laughing so hard I thought he was going to fall into the lake. Even mom, who usually only managed a chuckle, and Gail were holding their sides. Who could blame them? I’m sure we put on quite a show. Dad hollered to John and told him to get the engine out of the water…..so between all of us we managed to get the boat upright and dad helped us get it out. The boat of course was not hurt, but wet. I guess you could say that for all of us.

After the foretold splashing and fear when we relaxed our bodies so that our legs were under us again, guess what? We were only in about four and a half feet of water. When the realization hit us that we were in no danger of drowning we felt so silly we just stood in the lake laughing at ourselves. In fact we laughed all day long over it but when Louis came home he was obviously disgusted with us. He had never used the dingy himself and here we flipped it the first time out. He was concerned about the engine more than the boat but the more we explained how it happened and the more we all laughed about it he finally found some humor in the situation. He fixed a drink for himself and pretty soon we were all laughing about it together. As a rule I didn’t drink but after the events of the day, I had one myself. Louis came up to me, put his arm around me and said, “ I should have known letting an old Baptist take the boat out you would have to baptize the son-of-a-gun.” He gave a hearty roaring laugh and we all had a great family time. Whenever we got together something would always happen to make a story worth telling.

I would give a lot to hear that forgiving laugh once more……………..

Until tomorrow,

Essentially Esther

Tuesday, March 09, 2004


When morning came it was time for our goodbyes. It’s always the worst part of the trip for me….I love hello’s but I hate goodbyes. It runs in the family….my grandmother Stricklett would only say, “So long” I never heard her say goodbye. Usually we go one step at a time towards the car….inch by inch…being followed by the family host……finally getting there….one leg in….then two….then sit there with the motor running. It prolongs the torture and stops all hopes of getting an early start but in defense of the ritual we always knew it would be a long time before we would get to see each other again.

My dad, on the other hand, preferred getting up about 3:00 am, slipping out and eating breakfast 200 miles down the road. No complaining by my mother ever changed his mind. In my senior years I can see that dad hated it as much as the rest of us but he had the tactic of avoidance. Leave them sleeping was his motto.

This particular morning we had a compromise. Since we didn’t drive out together, we decided to follow one another all the way back to Missouri. Becky and Di Di were going to ride with mom and dad in the back of the pick-up, in the camper. John and we would be in our car. We left Louis and Gail standing at the picket fence waving and smiling while they grew smaller and smaller in the distance. We all had a lump in our throat.

Popping up over the hill was the work-a-day world. Traffic humming a monotonous sound of engines taking commuters to work. We had previously decided to gas up at a nearby station and pulled in by the gas pumps. Plans were made to follow I-90 and I-82 down to the Oregon line. We finished at the pumps first so pulled over to the side to allow others to fill at our pump. We were visiting and waiting for dad to fill and take the lead when we saw their pick-up shoot out of the parking lot and barrel down to the InterState below. He was driving like the devil himself was after him and by the time we came over the hill to see where he had gone, we lost him in all the traffic. We didn’t see them anyplace.

Then the perplexity hit us. We were at our starting point so how would we ever hook up to follow them home? We had the girls luggage with us and they didn’t have any money to eat on. We drove like mad on the pre-planned route and then were afraid we might be ahead of them so we would stop and wait. We spent the whole morning driving fast to maybe catch them and then stopping to see if they would catch us. By late afternoon we decided it was a lost cause and we may as well just give it up. We continued driving until we crossed the Oregon line, caught I-84 and stopped at Huntington. We were starved and decided to go ahead and get something to eat.

Warren, my husband, pulled into the parking area and we got out of the car shaking off the stiffness from riding so long. We went in and were pleased with the appearance of the place. It was clean and friendly so we ordered and sat there discussing the events of the day. We couldn’t figure why dad drove off so fast and why we never saw them on the road anywhere.

As we were sitting and thinking about it all, I happened to look towards the large window in the place and saw mom, dad and the girls walking to the door. My chin dropped to the floor and I jumped up as they came in to let them see us. It was their turn for the “chin drop.” They had been as puzzled as we had as to how we got separated. As dad’s story unfolded we could see the problem.

Dad had finished filling his tank and gone in to pay. In the meantime we had pulled over on the opposite side of the lot. He, coming out, saw we weren’t where we had been, looked towards the InterState and thought he saw us going over the hill the wrong way. He drove like mad to catch us but never saw us again. So all day they drove fast, stopped to see if we were behind them……on and on…..until they gave up the chase and decided to eat at Huntington.

For some reason, a giant revision of plans brought us both to the same place to eat within 10-minutes of each other. It was something we laughed about and puzzled over it’s happening for many years. I am still amazed as I write this that it all came out so well.

Of course, after that we were VERY together the rest of the way home. It was a story book ending of a wonderful trip…….

Until tomorrow,

Essentially Esther

Monday, March 08, 2004


Our first visit to Seattle to see Louis and Gail was quite eventful. Mom and dad drove out with their pick-up and camper, we traveled in our Plymouth sedan and took John along with us. Becky and Di Di were flying instead and we were to pick them up at Sea-Tac the day of their arrival. We made connections without any problems and made our way back to the family.

The house faced Mercer Island and was on the East side of Lake Washington. We enjoyed seeing the sun go down from their deck every evening. In the mornings we didn’t see the sun until mid-day because of the hill behind the property. The house had a lot of glass windows and doors to view the lake from every angle. About 20-feet of lawn divided the front of the house from the lake’s edge.

The interior was light and airy. They had a kitchen, dining room, living room with fireplace, a rec-room with a wet bar and a finished basement. There were also two bedrooms and full bath with a half-bath downstairs. From their house you could see the Olympic Mountains on a clear day and when you were up on the road above the house you could see Mt. Rainier much of the time. Of course we absolutely loved all of the scenery the area offered…….it was a vast domain of nature at it’s best.

One day we visited Mt. Rainier and it was perfect weather for it. We drove around as much as we could and feasted on the sheer delight of the different faces it presented. In July the snow was still on the higher elevation and quite deep at that. We went up as far as we were allowed and then viewed it all from the different perspective coming back down. It was a very enjoyable day for all of us.

Of course we went up the Space Needle and saw Seattle from the high point. The elevator is quite impressive going up or coming down. We saw all points of interest around Seattle and took one full day to drive around the Olympic peninsula over to the ocean. We had to drive a long way before we could find an entrance down to the water’s edge. We spent some time picking up all of the pretty rocks that were around the shore…….in fact so many that the car had to pull hard to get back onto the road home.

Louis and Gail didn’t have a yacht at that time but the neighbors, Bill and Anita did. They offered to take us for a nice ride around Lake Washington and so we all chipped in for gas and took them to dinner at a nice steak house. It seemed odd to take a boat to dinner and tie up so you could go eat…..but in Seattle everything is done by boats from canoes to yachts.

We had pretty well run the course for a first time sight-seeing venture but Louis thought we should enjoy a “potlatch” before coming home. He explained it was the best way to eat salmon so he and Gail and Bill and Anita made all the preparations for the party. They had to soak planks of wood in the lake overnight so they wouldn’t burn. We made a trip downtown to the market area and went to a certain fish shop Louis was familiar with. Once selected, a very capable vendor took a large salmon, cleaned, filleted and boned it with quick graceful movements much like a surgeon. In no time at all we had the fish for the potlatch.

The next day, preparations were being made to tie the fish to the plank. Nails were hammered in all around the perimeter of the fish and then twine was wrapped back and forth to hold the fish on the board. A huge bonfire was lit and when it was burned down just right the planks were propped on saw-horses on each side of the fire. The fish were constantly basted with beer and it wasn’t long until the yard was filled with a wonderful aroma of cooking fish.

The ladies set up tables and placed food of every description on them, the guys got chairs out for everyone and about time for the meal a small group of musicians appeared that Louis knew and played Hawaiian music while everyone ate. Other guests had been invited…….mostly people that Louis knew from work….and it was a wonderful afternoon for all of us to remember. We watched the sun do down over Lake Washington as lights began to twinkle on Mercer Island……it was one of those Kodak moments families have that makes memories to last down through the years………..

Tomorrow the road leads back home.
Until then,

Essentially Esther

Sunday, March 07, 2004


The house Louis and Gail bought was as unique as their home in Milwaukee. They were both fond of the lake view so nothing else would do but to buy property on Lake Washington. The house had been built by the previous owner’s mother and dad. They worked in Seattle and when summer came they always headed for the lake area to cool and refresh from their hard work. Anita had inherited it from her folks and now lived next door.

The house was approached from a heavily traveled road above. There was a street to turn on, a railroad to cross, another turn and there was this pretty cottage with a white fence around the yard. It was manicured with a Japanese maple, a fig tree and several flowering bushes. Flowers are abundant due to the areas location and the Japanese current. Warm air flows up the northern coast and the winters are mild compared to the Midwest.

Once you reached the house it was quite private because the traffic noise and busy street were above the house and lake. It was like turning off the city and relaxing in the country. The dock in front of the house needed repair but for the rest of the property it was quite livable upon moving in.

Gail and her mother tackled the unpacking for days on end while Louis was getting comfortable with his new job. He liked the owner and already had a friend there who had previously lived in Milwaukee…... Don Lapaka who was responsible for getting Louis to come to Seattle.

In no time at all the house was livable and well organized. After Gail’s mother left for Milwaukee Gail began to feel a little out of pocket with no job. She had worked ever since high-school and didn’t have enough to fill her days. She applied for and received a position at Boeing which was the main employment provider of the area.

The neighbors, Bill and Anita were cordial and had good information of the area so Louis and Gail were a leg up on finding certain stores, doctor’s and the like. They hadn’t been there very long until Gail’s older brother, Doral, was diagnosed with cancer. It traveled fast and he died in a very short time back in Milwaukee. Two months later his wife, Leona, died of cancer as well. We were stunned to hear of their passing…..we enjoyed getting acquainted with them at the wedding. Sadly, they left two young girls and a younger boy.

Louis and Gail took the two girls, Diane and Julie and Gail’s younger brother, Gary took Tim. Gary was a coach at one of the high-schools so he thought he would fare better raising Tim. The kids hated to be separated but it was the best way that would work for everyone. When Louis and Gail returned to Seattle they took the girls and Tim went home with Gary. They all had a hard time adjusting to their parents dieing so suddenly and it was a huge undertaking for Louis and Gail who had no children of their own.

Time went by and the four of them had good days and bad as they tried to cope with the situation as it was. Mom and dad made several trips out to Seattle and would come home telling us how the house looked and about the lake and surrounding points of interest. It was so unlike anything we had in the Midwest that we were anxious to see it all in person.

Eventually we were able to go and the reports were right….the Northwest was unlike any thing we had ever seen. Our first trip out was in our passenger car and we took John with us. Becky and her best friend, Di Di, were flying out to join the family and see the sights…..

Tomorrow……our visit to Seattle….
Until then,

Essentially Esther

Friday, March 05, 2004


Late the next morning we kissed mom and dad goodbye as they left for Missouri. Louis and Gail took our little bunch to the train station and after our goodbyes we boarded the train for Kansas City. We were all mighty tired but happy. The media was full of the horrific death of President Kennedy and most of the passengers on the train were talking about the tragedy. It was to be unresolved forever…….

After the wedding Louis and Gail had a lot of things to finish up and get back into the swing of things. Since they both worked at Allen-Bradley life was fairly simple during the work-week and on nights and week-ends there was always a lot going on. Louis was the one to dream up things to do and for six years they enjoyed their home and their life.

I can’t think about their early life together without talking about Mame. Before they were married, Louis bought an adorable little black poodle for Gail as a gift. Mame had the cutest personality of any dog I’ve ever known. She was a party dog for one thing because Louis worked after hours as a bartender for a friend. Gail would wait for him to get off work at the bar and Mame grew accustomed to having a drip or two out of everyone’s bottle when they had emptied it. She was the true vernacular of a booze-hound.

Mame was the child they never had. Louis felt she needed exercise so while they lived in their two-story house he would sit on the floor in front of the stairs and throw a ball up the steps. Mame would tear after it up and down time after time until she just couldn’t wiggle. Louis had fun incorporating new twists to their fun and Mame absolutely loved playtime. “Hide your dirty little face” became a favorite. He would put his hand over Mame’s eyes, throw the ball and when he said OK she could run find it. She was oh so smart……hardly ever got stumped on that one.

One time we visited and they had never eaten tacos. Louis had several of their pals over for a Saturday get-to-gather since we had met them all before. This was before the big taco thing hit everywhere so I went to several stores to find the tortillas and had to fry each one in the shape to put the fillings in. I worked for several hours frying the shells and preparing the rest of the fillings one uses to make tocos. Finally it came time for the taste test. I showed Louis how to build one and after the first one he was hooked. I don’t know how many he ate but I can honestly say he did them justice. A next door neighbor of ours back in Kansas City had served them once to us and I knew it would be something Louis would like. He introduced us to pizza and we introduced him to tacos. It was a love affair for both of us from then on.

On these visits there were always two ingredients. Watching Mame play and visiting with all of their friends. Louis and Gail were apt hosts and everyone loved coming to their home. This was home to them for six years……but it was about to change…….

Louis had a good friend who had an excellent job offer in Seattle with Emerson-Diesel. It was a company that made huge generators and machinery, much of which was used with deep sea equipment. His constant phoning back to Louis with details of his job were interesting and inspiring. He kept telling Louis to come out and go to work for him……..he had a good opening.

The offer finally took root and the decision was made. Louis gave notice to Allen-Bradley after working thirteen years for them. Gail stayed behind to sell the house and get ready to move the household. When the final preparations were made Gail gave notice to them also; she had worked for them since high-school…..eighteen years in all. With the furniture loaded and on its’ way Gail and her mother headed for Seattle in their red Mustang convertible. Mame of course was on Gail’s lap with her favorite toy…..a ball she loved to chase…….

Tomorrow…..a new address in Seattle…..
Until then,

Essentially Esther

Thursday, March 04, 2004


After our amazement settled down in seeing each other we gathered our luggage again and headed for the cars. We split up in two groups and made our way to the house Louis and Gail bought. It was a beauty. The location was perfect for the house and the view overlooking Lake Michigan was beautiful. A rock jetty below the house made quiet water for small boats to moor. In the distance you could see huge ocean freighters on their way to Chicago.

A large window in the living room was perfect for a telescope and the children spent a lot of time watching traffic on the lake. Gail had put a lot of their pre-wedding gifts away in the house and it looked warm and inviting. The bedrooms were upstairs and kitchen, dining room, living room and entry way made up the lower floor. There was a bath upstairs and down.

Louis enjoyed cooking and had his things around the kitchen so that it was ready for use. We were all impressed with their organization. Gail had quite a drive from midtown Milwaukee to the south part of the city to transport household items the family had given her. All was in readiness for their life together.

We were shown our rooms where we would be spending the nights we were there and after freshening up somewhat I showed Gail the dress I made for Becky. She was so taken with it she insisted Becky be in the wedding. Of course Becky was thrilled and I was pleased that Gail was that generous with her special day. It was growing past dinnertime so we hurried to a restaurant to eat. Afterwards we said goodbye to Gail as she headed home and we went back to the house with Louis.

We were up early the next day as the wedding was to be at 2:00 pm. We lined up to get showers and get our clothes pressed while Louis was busy checking in with his best man and groomsmen. We arrived at the church early and were instructed of the ceremony plans; I went to the room where Gail was getting ready. She was so pretty with her dark shoulder length hair and the full white gown. She was absolutely radiant.

Before going into the sanctuary Gail presented her sister-in-law, Leone, and I with crystal chocker necklaces and she had a dainty crystal pendant for Becky. Her little eyes lit up as Gail handed her a small bouquet to carry as a junior bridesmaid. She was very pretty as well in her aqua dress and long curly blonde hair.

When we heard the music begin we lined up at the back of the sanctuary and as the door opened so that Louis could see us coming down the aisle he paled so I thought he was going to pass out. Gail floated along behind us a reigning princess and we all agreed she was the most beautiful bride we had ever seen.

Pastor Remmington was young and presented meaningful vows. And so on November 30, 1963 at 2:00 pm at the Highland Avenue Methodist Church in Milwaukee, Louis and Miss Gail Hope Perkins were married. It was truly one of the happiest times in our family……so completely wonderful for us all.

After the ceremony we went to the Ram’s Head for cocktails and then back to the house where Gail and her family had planned a sit-down dinner for family and the bridal party. It was the first time I had participated in a wedding and was informed as the matron of honor I was to sit with the best man during the dinner. It was a time of joyous conversation and good food………which is mandatory when one visits Milwaukee.

After dinner we went to a rented hall for dancing and more food. A long table held potato salad, baked beans, Polish sausages, delicious bakery breads of all kinds, desserts and more. It was wonderful tasting food. A spirited band was playing polka music so the bride and groom began the dance and the best man came towards me. He reached for my hand to dance but I tried to beg off. “I don’t know how to polka,” I said……..(hoping he would dance with someone else)…..but he laughed and said, “Nonsense, in Milwaukee everyone knows how to polka” and he took my hand and out on the dance floor we went. I found myself hopping along with him to keep from being drug…….it was all in good humor.

Many hours later we arrived back to the hill where Louis and Gail would start their married life. Mom and dad went to bed, along with the children. My husband, Louis, Gail and I sat on the dining room floor reliving the wonderful day as the two of them took envelopes from their clothing. When they finished they had a pile of money on the floor in front of us. It is the custom in Milwaukee to present gifts of money at the dance to the bride and groom.

The sun was coming up as we went to change clothes and go back to the train station for our ride home. It was the end of a perfect day and the start of a new beginning……….

Until tomorrow,

Essentially Esther

Wednesday, March 03, 2004


The wedding was set for November 30th 1963. Louis and Gail were looking for a house to buy and found the perfect one atop a hill overlooking Lake Michigan. It was a two story gray with white trim and all the charm of an old sea captain’s home. They bought it ahead of the wedding and had much of the furniture they would need to start housekeeping.

I was asked to be the matron of honor and Gail’s sister-in-law was to be the bridesmaid. When I knew the colors she wanted I began making the dresses for both of us. I found pretty deep aqua velvet and chose the same color in satin for the cummerbund. They had scoop necks, long sleeves and slim skirts. When I finished I had enough material left over to make a matching dress for Becky. It was to be a surprise for Gail.

When all this was happening I worked at a junior high school in our area as an assistant baker. The sewing had to be done evenings and week-ends but I made the deadline. I mailed the dress to Gail for her sister-in-law in case alterations would be needed.

Mom and dad decided not to try and make the wedding. Dad had retired earlier that year but they didn’t want to drive the long trip. However, we went on with plans to ride the train to Chicago where we would have to change trains to Milwaukee. The children were all excited about going. At the time George was twelve, Becky was nine and John was six.

The week before the wedding President Kennedy was shot in Dallas. The country was in a state of turmoil and the shock waves touched every life. The day he was killed we were busy in the school kitchen working and chatting about normal events. When the principle came over the loud speaker with the news everything stopped and we stood in utter disbelief with our mouths open. It was unthinkable and yet we knew it must be true. Tears filled our eyes and we strained to hear any further update………later the announcement came that President Kennedy had died. It seemed impossible………

Of course upon reaching home that day I called to see if it would make any difference in the wedding plans. Louis and Gail decided to go forward because it would be too difficult to cancel and reschedule….and so the events leading up to the wedding were unforgettable to us all.

We boarded the train in Kansas City the day before the wedding and we were all in high spirits. The important day we had been planning on for so long was only one day away. The children were looking around wide-eyed about the activity in the depot and when we took the escalators down to the tracks it was awesome. A kindly old porter asked where we were going and took our tickets….noticing the children’s obvious excitement he chuckled and teased them a little. They were beyond excited.

We made the ride without event except for the first time we were seeing the towns from the back-side instead of the front where cars traveled. The children busied themselves looking out the windows and occasionally the porter would come through and talk with them a while. He was amused at their excitement of the trip.

We changed trains at Chicago and finally made our destination to Milwaukee. I can still feel the energy of the crowd getting off the train and looking for relatives to greet. Louis found us as we made our way out of the immediate entry to the station…….he was walking towards us laughing. He was alone and after all the hugs he told us to follow him through the station and he’d take us to the car. As we got to the outside doors Louis turned and said, “Aren’t you going to say hello to those two people?” I asked who he was talking about and he laughed and pointed to two people I had just passed by………it was mom and dad. In our haste to keep up with Louis and the excitement of the moment we hadn’t even noticed them standing and smiling just a touch away from us…….. it’s something we laughed about over and over………through the years…….

Tomorrow is the wedding.
Until then,

Essentially Esther