|Hays, Kansas Fire Station|
Photo Credit: Lyn Fenwick
|Photo Credit: Lyn Fenwick|
|Hays, Kansas Fire Station|
Photo Credit: Lyn Fenwick
|Photo Credit: Lyn Fenwick|
|Copyright by artist, Lyn Fenwick|
|My 2021 jelly making|
Jim Newhouse managed the airport at that time, and also operated Pratt Air Service. The article admitted that "air traffic is never very heavy" but touted the unicom radio and the two long runways of 6,000 and 4,000 feet.
|Ted Turner's plane on the Pratt Runway|
Today the airport remains a valuable asset for Pratt. The 1962 article mentioned that "some 20 aircraft owners make use of the facility, and local pilots continue to utilize the airport and house their planes there." That continues to be true today, and in addition, planes from across the nation land there. During hunting season, another growing business in the region, hunters often fly in to hunt.
The history of the Air Base and the men and women who served there are honored today at the airport, which includes not only the museum housed in the former parachute building but also descriptive signs around the airport identifying locations and the structures and purposes of those places during war time.
|An exhibit at the Pratt Airbase Museum|
One of those things is the decorative Custer Hall mug that belonged to my mother-in-law. She had already been widowed twice when my husband and I married, the first time having been left to raise two little boys alone, and the second time having thought she had found a husband to enjoy the rest of a long life together, only to be widowed again after a few happy months.
Of course, we realized her sadness, but perhaps we were too young to fully understand her courage. At the time of her second marriage, she had given up her job to move to a new town. With the sudden death of her husband, she had to turn away from the plans they had made together to make new plans for herself. That decorative Custer Hall mug is a symbol of her courage. She decided to go to college.
To be honest, today I see it as courageous, but as a young bride having my mother-in-law join us at college wasn't quite what I had in mind. Today, I see it differently, and that is why I struggle to know what to do with her mug.
It had been a long time since high school for her, and stepping back into a classroom was challenging. Her grades weren't great, but she persevered. Then, she discovered a way to make it all work. She continued to take a few hours, but she became a dorm mother at Custer Hall. The transition from a coed with gray in her hair to a dorm mother was a better fit.
Today, each year hundreds of people over the age of 50 go back to school. Some get degrees to change careers and others choose to explore long-held passions that had to be deferred until retirement. That was not common when my mother-in-law began her college career. She had been a working mother when that was less common--although mothers at that time certainly had important responsibilities that did not include a pay check. My mother-in-law had the responsibility of parenting alone and being the sole bread winner.
The idea of senior citizens continuing their studies is fairly common today, and if not directed toward a degree then for other reasons. Some places offer senior citizen tuition waivers. Other seniors return primarily to enjoy campus amenities. In fact, in some places, retirement communities are planned nearby the university. Some schools offer classes just for seniors, and there are also opportunities for online courses. I have now taught two virtual Osher classes, a program designed for continued learning for people 50 and older.
But in my mother-in-law's era, what she did was unusual and brave. For me, her Custer Hall mug is like a trophy, awarded for her courage and determination to push sadness and disappointment out of her way and get on with life.
With Mothers' Day not far away, being on May 8th, this seemed like a good time to share my mother-in-law's story and the symbol of her courage that I see when I look at the Custer Hall Mug.
I cannot but wonder how many people are still living who remember the old crank phones and the party lines. Our ring was 2 longs and a short: rrrrrring, rrrrrrrrg, ring. When our phone rang, all of the phones on the party line rang, but only the family whose number had rung was supposed to pick up the receiver. Sometimes, that was too tempting to lonely neighbors eager for some gossip, and my Great-aunt Abbie was one of those lonely people. An often told story in my family involved Abbie and her nephew Ray, who lived just a quarter of a mile down the road and who shared the party line with his aunt. He was on a long distance business call and was having trouble hearing. When an additional receiver was off the hook, the quality of the transmission was reduced. Patiently, he said, "Please hang up, Auntie. I'll call you when we finish and tell you what we said." My great aunt's loneliness and curiosity often tempted her to eavesdrop on the party line, and her nephew understood. As the family story was told, Abbie did hang up, and he did call her for a chat when his call was finished.
On the other hand, the party line had a valuable benefit. The emergency ring could be dialed to bring everyone to the phone without having to dial each one on the line to spread a warning or ask for help. In the county, that could quickly bring help to put out a fire or help someone who was injured or ill.
Pratt was quite proud of its new dial phone building under construction at 5th and Ninnescah Street! The total gross expenditure for the building, dial equipment, landscaping, and installation of dial telephone would be about $920,000, according to the construction manager out of Wichita. The building was to have an air conditioning system, a full basement underneath, and was constructed so that a second story could be added to allow future expansion "if Pratt continues to grow."
Today we pick up our smart phones and give little thought to the wonder that it is.
In my family, long distance phone calls were reserved for very specific purposes--good news and bad news. You could expect a phone call on your birthday or to share the excitement of a new birth in the family or to deliver a compliment for a special achievement.
On the other hand, if a long distance voice was heard on the other end of the line and there was no known good news explanation for the call, your heart skipped a beat. Had someone been hurt? Was someone in trouble? Were they sick?
Unless you are of a certain age, these responses to a ringing phone will make no sense, and perhaps my family was more thrifty about spending unnecessary money, but those memories were called back to mind by the 1962 add.
To complete the story I must include the small hour glass filled with sand that always sat on the desk beside the phone. I think it took about 3 minutes for the sand to go from one side to the other in the hourglass, and good news or bad, in my family 3 minutes were regarded as sufficient to deliver either one! The little red hour glass in the photograph is the one that my family always set by the phone.
At the time, I laughed to myself, since she had overlooked the 'modern' dial in the base of the phone. However, the joke was really on me, since dial or no dial, the phone really was 'old fashioned' to her, since she had never used a dial, and it would soon be obsolete to us, when cell phone service was eventually available at the farm. How quickly the world changes from one generation to the next! My memory even goes back to the old-fashioned crank phone party line of my childhood!!
|Lynda & Jerry|
It isn't as if we no longer stop for a bag of ice at the convenience store. We still do. It is just less frequently that we stop to get enough to keep our cooler cold for a long afternoon at a picnic, with enough extra to keep the huge container of ice tea cold too. Air conditioning seems to have practically eliminated the wonderful picnics I remember from my youth.
I'm not sure the exact occasion pictured above, but I suspect it might have been a 4-H tour from farm to farm to see the livestock raised by 4-Hers for the County Fair, judging from the water tank and gate in the background. Church picnics, Mothers' Club picnics, family picnics, picnics between baseball games...summer was filled with excuses to get out of the sultry house and find a shady park for a picnic.
Our family often headed for the Pratt Lake, hoping to stake out a claim on a nice shady place below the dam. But, on the way into Pratt, we would stop first at Bettis Ice Company Plant on North Main.
In his interview, Mr. Bettis, owner and manager of the ice plant, said that their plant was one of the first in Kansas to push the packaged ice business fifteen years before his interview, meaning sometime about 1947.
Air conditioning is wonderful, and I would not want to give it up, but I can still recall fondly those picnics at the Pratt Lake, when you needed to get there early if you wanted a good spot below the dam. Above the dam, cars came and went, pausing to watch the water skiing on the lake, and we kids would certainly have gone up there to watch the skiers too. It was a busy place, both above and below the dam.
The first 4-H memberships in Pratt County, organized in 1927, by 1962 had involved 6,331 boys and girls, although technically the early clubs were called "Project Clubs." Those organizations became 4-H Clubs in 1931. Each community could decide the projects their club would offer. While rural clubs might focus on livestock and poultry, clubs with more urban members might focus on other projects. In either case, the rules required that the young members do most of the project work themselves and keep their own records.
Listed in the article were agricultural and home economics, junior leadership, bees, rabbits, tractor maintenance, home grounds beautification, soil conservation, and wood working. Also mentioned were developing personal confidence by participation in demonstrations, project talks, and skits.
The clipping at the beginning of this post appeared in the "Pratt Tribune" showing the chicken dinner hosted by the 4-H clubs for Pratt Businessmen. Notice the reference to "business men," although there must have been several business women in Pratt at that time.
I did not have livestock. My projects were cooking, sewing, and home improvement. I do recall giving a demonstration describing how to select items for a first aid kit, which I carefully packed into a tin lunch pail. I also remember the emphasis on learning how to conduct a meeting with the proper motions, seconds, and voting. As an adult sitting through a few meetings, I sometimes wished those adults conducting the meeting had benefitted from the same 4-H training I had received.
I also remember the dances at the fairgrounds, with 4-H members from all the clubs in the county attending. I think we learned the bunny hop and the schottsche, as well as various square dances, but whatever the dances were, we had fun.
This past Christmas we were surprised by a knock on our door one evening for the delivery of a Christmas ornament decorated by the local 4-H club. The traditions live on!
By 1961 the library collection had expanded to 153,214 books, pictures, clippings, classical records, and films. There were 403 adult and 330 children new borrowers registered, as well as 160 new rural patrons, part of the 6,027 total registered borrowers. Of the 36,000 books available for loan, about one-third were loaned each month. Librarian Miss Johnson indicated that local patrons read about an average of 12 books per year from the library.
One of those rural patrons may have been me. Until my grandmother's death when I was five, we tended to shop in St. John, where she lived, but after her death, we shopped in Pratt most Saturdays, and I was a regular at the library.
The city provided $10,000, and county provided $7,000, and gifts to the Library added another $308.70. Also included in their budget were fines ($1,011.25), fees ($64.) and charges for lost books ($33.85.) The Library Board Members were: Mrs. Paul Tupper, John H. Calbeck, Eldon Green, Miss Johnson, Dr. Julia Barbee, Miss Flavel Barner, Mrs. Don Brown, John Megaffin, and Jess Kennedy.
(I cannot help but notice as I share this information that many of the ladies are identified by only their last names, or if married, only by their husband's given name instead of their own. That practice drives people trying to search their families' genealogy on the maternal side crazy, but it was very common even into the later decades of the 1900s!)
Today we have the beautiful library pictured at the top of this blog, recently renovated, and located next to the Vernon Filley Art Museum, making joint efforts to celebrate the arts possible!
|Kids at the Pratt Library|
|Close-up of the Larned Opera House|
Photo Credit: Larry Fenwick
|Photo Credit: Great Bend News|
Sadly, by 2022 the elegant Victorian structure had deteriorated to the point that it was dangerous. The City Council was compelled to do something, but not everyone agreed just what that should be. To give the citizens an opportunity to express their views, a poll was taken: 20.83% wanted the building repaired at the cost of the owners; 39.58% wanted the building razed at the cost of the owners; 18.75% wanted the building repaired at the expense of the city; and 20.83% wanted it demolished at the cost of the city. If it were destroyed, nearly 3/4th wanted no compensation for the various owners, some of which had active businesses in the lower floor, but 26.53% believed owners should be compensated. Obviously, there was no single majority among the Larned citizens about how to proceed.
Yet, a decision needed to be made. The decision was made to raze the once grand old building, which had become so unsafe that even the inspectors were reluctant to move through the entire building, described as being "in emanate danger of collapse." One tenant had made repairs to his portion of the property, but he agreed to "do what's best for the community."
|Photo credit: Larry Fenwick|
More about the Larned Opera House next week.
|Early Newsboys selling papers|
A century later, with radio and television, we were able to get our news more quickly, but local newspapers remained important. My family subscribed to four different newspapers at least some of the time while I was at home--Pratt, St. John, Hutchinson, and the weekly Macksville paper.
At the close of the day, the family watched the CBS station hosted by Walter Cronkite, who was such a familiar and trusted newsman that he acquired the nickname of 'Uncle Walter.'
Times have obviously changed, and today newspaper are struggling. Those changes have brought us immediate access online, as well as television news. But, one of those changes is the blurring between newscasters and commentators.
To understand the difference between those two roles let me first share the Journalist's Code of Ethics.
1. I shall scrupulously report and interpret the news, taking care not to suppress essential facts nor to distort the truth by omission or improper emphasis. I recognize the duty to air the other side and the duty to correct substantive errors promptly.
2. I shall not violate confidential information on material given me in the exercise of my calling.
3. I shall resort only to fair and honest methods in my effort to obtain news, photographs and/or documents, and shall properly identify myself as a representative of the press when obtaining any personal interview intended for publication.
4. I shall refrain from writing reports which will adversely affect a private reputation unless the public interests justify it. At the same time, I shall write vigorously for public access to information as provided for in the constitution.
5. I shall not let personal motives or interests influence me in the performance of my duties; nor shall I accept or offer any present, gift or other consideration of a nature which may cast doubt on my professional integrity.
6. I shall not commit an act of plagiarism.
7. I shall not in any manner ridicule, cast aspersions on or degrade any person by reason of sex, creed, religious belief, political conviction, cultural and ethnic origin.
8. I shall presume persons accused of crime of being innocent until proven otherwise. I shall exercise caution in publishing names of minors, and women involved in criminal cases so that they may not unjustly lose their standing in society.
9. I shall not take unfair advantage of a fellow journalist.
10. I shall accept only such tasks as are compatible with the integrity of my profession, invoking the 'conscience clause' when duties imposed on me conflict with the voice of my conscience.
11. I shall comport myself in public or while performing my duties as journalist in such manner as to maintain the dignity of my profession. When in doubt, decency should be my watchword.
Without commenting on my observations of how well today's journalists are adhering to their Code of Conduct, I will only say that we have come a long way from 'Uncle Walter,' but it is significant that the ideals of the Journalists' code remain.
What has crowded into "news" is commentary rather than journalism. There are many problems as a result, and at the top of the list is that many people do not recognize the difference. To balance this consideration of journalism and commentary I would like to be able to include the Commentators' Code of ethics. Unfortunately, I have not found any such Code for Commentators. That in itself says a lot.
Newspapers have long had Opinion Columns, clearly identified as such. Perhaps a good place to start considering how commentators became so prevalent is with the coverage of the O.J. Simpson trial. Many people followed that closely, and commentators were used to help explain legal rules of evidence. Since then, the use of Commentators has only grown.
In today's competitive world of news reporting, often reporters and journalists are dealing with incoming news in real time. They are trying to report the news when they lack the needed expertise on the subjects. In the past they would have been expected to research what they needed to know, but real time reporting does allow time for research. To help with that problem, experts are often sitting beside them to offer such explanations as historic comparisons, related political issues, laws, previous court rulings, and countless other matters. Who are these "experts" and what is the extent of their expertise? Most of the time, we do not know.
There is a huge difference between a Commentator with a knowledge of the topic under discussion vs. a Commentator lacking adequate knowledge of the topic or spouting his or her opinion rather than sharing informed knowledge to help journalists and viewers better understand the issues being reported. Even a knowledgeable commentator must be aware of speaking beyond his or her expertise or wandering off into opinion.
If journalists have chosen to be guided by a Code of Ethics, shouldn't those Commentators who are willing to present themselves as experts in their fields also be willing to accept a Code of Ethics for Commentators?
Here are some suggestions to consider:
1. Lawyers are familiar with the duty to avoid a conflict of interest. Should a commentator consider whether he or she can avoid a conflict of interest regarding the subject or the person involved, and either recuse themselves or at least disclose the potential conflict.
2. If a commentator has gained his or her expertise through the person about whom the topic concerns, how should that impact any confidentiality the person may have expected?
3. If a commentator puts him or herself out there as an expert, shouldn't the training, experience, education, or whatever is regarded as creating expertise be disclosed.
Americans value freedom of speech, and it is a right to be protected. However, some commentators take that freedom as the right to express their opinions about whatever they choose, and they occupy settings that give the impression of expertise they may not have.
The importance of Americans being well informed in our complicated world is obvious. Reflecting on ways to protect our access to information without exposing us to misinformation in disguise is a challenging issue but remains one worth trying to protect.
There could be no better example of the importance of journalism than events happening right now throughout the world. Yet, when I began drafting this blog, there was no invasion of Ukraine. The reality is that the need for journalists is always essential, and the importance of accurate reporting and commentary never disappears!
The group met twice a month, pursuing a program intended to last 10 years. Although the Great Books Foundation did train leaders and would supply informational materials, the group itself selected the books they wanted to read.
As this Pratt group began their fourth year, these are the books they had selected: "Ancient Medicine," Hippocrates; "Republic," Plato; "Confessions," St. Augustine; "Novum Organum," Bacon; "Metaphysies," Aristotle; "Philosophical Dictionary," Voltaire; and "The Brothers Karamazo," Dostoyevsky.
Their 10-Year Study of Great Books was obviously serious business! Interestingly, Isaac Werner, my Prairie Bachelor, had some of those books in his library.
The newspaper article closes with the explanation that the fifth year class had already completed the above listed books and would be reading their own selections, with the following authors: Plato; Aristotle; St. Francis; Dante; Tocqueville; and Melville.
Perhaps some of the people in the photograph can be identified, but I am certainly impressed by the aspirations of those Pratt readers of 1962!
|1873 1st Vernes book|
Next week's blog will share an even more dramatic challenge accomplished by the courageous Nellie Bly.
The New York Times chose to celebrate its 125th Year of the Times Book Review's existence by asking readers to nominate their favorite book. "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee was chosen as the Best Book of the Past 125 Years. I am thrilled. I have recommended that book to so many people, and I particularly urge anyone considering law school to read it before they begin and read it after they are licensed to practice. If they still think it is a youth book, they probably should read it a third time.
In an essay, NYT editor Molly Young began with these words, "When you revisit in adulthood a book that you last read in childhood, you will likely experience two broad categories of observation: 'Oh yeah, I remember this part,' and 'Whoa, I never noticed that part.'" Her wonderful essay continued with sharing the things she missed and why it was worth revisiting. She describes what impressed her most: "...which is how keenly Lee recreates the comforts, miseries and banalities of people gathered intimately in one little space."
In the announcement of the selection, the New York Times explained the process for the selection. More than 1,300 books were nominated. Of that number, 65% were nominated by only one person. Of those nominating a book, only 31% of them saw their book included in the list of 25 finalists.
Another interesting discovery is that certain authors were particularly popular. Three authors had seven of their books nominated. Those authors are John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway, and William Faulkner. Another group of three had five of their books nominated. Those three authors are James Baldwin, Margaret Atwood, and Virginia Wolf. They also mentioned Joan Didion, who recently passed away, who had four of her books nominated. Of course, I would like to have seen Willa Cather among those authors named for having several books nominated.
If some of you are still making your New Year's Resolution reading list, you might consider these authors and the idea of reading several of a single author's books.
Some of my favorites included among the other finalists are: "All the Light We Cannot See," by Anthony Doerr, "Lonesome Dove," by Larry McMurtry, "The Grapes of Rath," by Steinbeck, "Charlotte's Web," by E.B. White, and "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" by Rowllng. There are a few more that I liked at the time I read them but can no longer remember why, and one I tried my best to read and finally gave up.
The link to the NYT article, including the essay by Molly Young referenced in this blog, is https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/12/28/books/best-book-winners.html
|Photo Credits: Lyn Fenwick|
However, assuming your resolution to read more books is going to be solitary reading, there are many good reasons for you to make a New Year's reading pledge. I will share just a few of those reasons.
42% of college grads never read another book after college.
Last week's blog described two friends who read to relax at bedtime in one case and to just pass the time without any particular reason in another case. There is nothing wrong with reading to reduce stress. Personally, even if I am reading to relax, I still prefer to read something of value to me, so I keep a book of poetry beside my bed which serves that purpose well. The rhythm of poetry and the shorter length, which makes it easier to find a stopping place, are both reasons why poetry is especially restful and relaxing. Often the substance of the poems offer content for reflection as I fall asleep. In a similar category, reading can be inspiring, whether read at bedtime or any other time. Reading about the achievements or courage or good deeds of others can be an inspirational reason for reading.
The more a child reads, the better they are able to understand the emotions of others.
|Photo Credit: Lyn Fenwick|
Three hundred years ago, Joseph Addison described another important reason for reading: "Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body." Studies have shown that reading really does increase the blood flow and improves connectivity in the brain. It is not just what you learn by reading but also an actual physical impact.
80% of U.S. families did not buy or read a book last year.
Obviously, reading can provide information that can alter your thinking. Right now, with health issues limiting travel, we can still learn about other people and other places through books. Books can even take us back in history. Mark Twain wrote that history may not repeat itself, but it does rhyme. Instead of every generation needing to learn hard lessons for themselves, reading can spare the mistakes and build on the achievements.
70% of U.S. families have not been inside a bookstore in the past 5 years.
Children are not alone in benefitting from reading books that challenge their imaginations. Fiction authors of the 1800s are believed to have inspired and challenged inventors and scientists who read their books and made fantasy into reality. How many young boys credit reading a book about an athlete as what made them believe they too could run faster, jump higher, or enter a sport that they believed had been closed to them because of a disability or their color or financial limits. How many people have built something or written something or baked something or explored something because they were inspired by a book they read, and age need not be a barrier to readers inspired by a book.
I do not know the source of the statistics I quoted. Frankly, I hope they are wrong, because I cannot imagine not wanting to continue reading for a lifetime. But, I do know that other sources support the severe reduction in reading, and I know too many bookstores closed because people stopped buying books.
Whether you read to relax, to be inspired, to be educated, to learn, to improve something about yourself, to gain confidence--and I am not referring to "self-help" books but rather well written books that appeal to you for many reasons, I hope you believe that reading is worth making time to read.