Thursday, September 26, 2013

Forestry, Fish & Game at the Fair

Forestry, Fish & Game in Eisenhower Bldg
I previously shared Isaac Werner's affection for wild birds.  (Isaac & his "Pet" Game Birds, 8-8-2013)  Early settlers failed to recognize the need for conservation of game birds, and although laws were passed to protect against unlimited hunting of game and song birds in the late 1800s, it was too late for some.  I'm sure that if Isaac could have joined me for a stroll around the fairgrounds, he would have enjoyed the display in the Eisenhower Building pictured at left. 
However, this blog is not really about Isaac.  In about 1940, my father went to work at the Forestry, Fish & Game headquarters near Pratt, Kansas.  At that time, most people called it The Fish Hatchery, and many people still do.  My parents had married in 1934, and when they moved to Pratt about 1940 for my father's new job, my older brother was about three years old. 

Early photograph of the Fish Hatchery

Soon, they were able to move into one of the cottages on the Hatchery grounds, and it was a happy time for them, with other young couples living there.  When the men were at work, the wives finished their household chores and gathered for coffee breaks and card games, while their children played together. 
One of my father's responsibilities was driving a fish display truck to fairs and other public events.  The back of the truck was outfitted with tanks displaying fish found in Kansas rivers and lakes.  Naturally, when I saw the mobile fish tanks on display at the state fair I thought of my father and one particular trip he made with the fish display truck.
Mobile fish display at KS state fair 
In over forty years of marriage, my parents spent only four nights apart (excluding a couple of short hospital stays), but as the employee who drove the fish display truck, my father was required to travel to a destination where he remained overnight.  Apparently, my mother had raised quite a fuss about being left at home.
Here's the romantic part of my story--At the end of a long day watching over the fish display and answering visitors' question, my father returned to his hotel room, exhausted.  Those were the days of overnight delivery of letters, and he knew he had better write a letter to my mother or he would be in even worse trouble when he got home.  He had brought no stationery, and there was no complimentary writing paper in the hotel room.  All that he could find was a can of Dutch Maid scouring powder under the bathroom sink.  Carefully, he tore along the overlapping edges of the Dutch Maid label, and as he had hoped, the back of label was white.  He took out his pencil and wrote my mother a love letter, explaining how sorry he was that she couldn't come with him, telling her how much he missed and loved her, and asking "Corky" to take good care of his mother.  I don't know how he managed to find an envelope and get the letter mailed to my mother.  What I do know is that when Mother went to the nursing home over sixty years later, I found that love letter in the top drawer of my mother's bureau.


Lynda Beck Fenwick said...

I'm sorry so many of you still struggle with the "gatekeeper" making you read letters with bites taken from them! I will continue to share come of the comments sent to me via e-mails.

Lynda Beck Fenwick said...

JM wrote, "This is a wonderful story, Lynda. You could always tell, by watching them, they were a devoted couple." I answered her, reminding JM that my father's name for my mother was "Madam Queen."

Lynda Beck Fenwick said...

CW wrote: "I loved it! What a very special treasure you must have been for your mother." I replied to CW that like most daughters, sometimes yes and sometimes no. I look so much like my mother that I believe she was able to live vicariously through me many times, and after she was struggling with dementia she chose me as being her whenever we showed her a photograph of the two of us together.

Lynda Beck Fenwick said...

LK wrote: "I just read your blog about the love letter on a label. That is such a good memory. That letter meant so much to your mother that she kept it all those years. Do you still have it?"

Lynda Beck Fenwick said...

My answer to LK: Because my brother was mentioned in the letter, I thought he should have it. I framed it for him between two pieces of glass, so that the letter could be read on one side and the label could be seen on the other. I certainly hated to part with that letter! I have a few Valentine and birthday cards that they exchanged, but no other letters--probably because they were never apart long enough to send letters.

The Blog Fodder said...

What a wonderful memory. Of such letters, and other tokens of love, are good marriages made. Your father was thoughtful to write it and your mother to appreciate the love behind it.

Lynda Beck Fenwick said...

My dad was definitely a romantic. I'm not sure Mother had ever opened a car door for herself until after Daddy's death! (Certainly she had only done that if he wasn't with her.)