Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Happy Holidays Around the World!

Christmas 2014
I realize that the holiday season is not a happy time everywhere in the world this year.  Perhaps it rarely is happy everywhere.  

Yet, I want to use this post to send holiday greetings to the many followers of my blog around the world.  It has been a surprise and a delight to me that readers in other countries enjoy my blog.  I cannot discern which blogs appeal to particular nationalities, but the popularity among countries fluctuates.  It pleases me to see that at least some of my blogs have a universal appeal.

"Christmas Guests," 12-13-2012 in blog archives


 Buone Feste, sretni blagdani, Joyeuses Fetes, Frohe Feiertage, felices Fiestas, Boas festas, Sarbatori Fericite, Priecigus svetkus, bayraminiz kutlu olsun, Glad helg, Wesolych Swiat, Selamat Bercuti, Selamat Hari Raya, and Happy Holidays to all those for which my key board could not provide symbols (and my apologies for my poor script and for the lack of proper accent symbols for some of the greetings given.)  I appreciate your following my blogs!

As past blogs have indicated, remodeling has kept us from putting up a tree this year.  (See "Collections and Creations," 12-4-2014 to read about our Angels and Ancestors Tree at the Vernon Filley Art Museum during the 2014 holidays.)  

"Isaac & the Wizard of Oz," 12-15-2011 blog archives
Our decorating for the holidays this year has been confined to the poinsettia plant my husband gave me and one lonely black haired angel.  When I was a little girl, I noticed that most pictures of angels depicted them with golden hair, and my little friends with blond hair were more likely to be chosen as angels in school and church programs than I was.  So, if I have a choice, I enjoy adding brown and black haired angels to my collection.  I also enjoy seeing angels with different skin colors and eye shapes for sale today, because I remember my own feelings as a child to never see angels who looked like me.

Our red & gold tree in 2011
For our first four Christmases after we married, college expenses allowed no spare money for a tree, nor did our tiny living quarters offer any room.  My father went into the tree belt at the farm one year while we were home for Thanksgiving to cut a cedar tree branch, which my mother secured in a coffee can wrapped in tin foil, loaning us a few Christmas balls from their own decorations.  That was our only holiday "tree" while we were in college.  When we could finally afford a tree we chose a color scheme of red and gold.  We bought a box each of red and gold balls, two gold plastic angels and one red hobby horse.  Over the years afterward, at least one holiday ornament was purchased whenever we took a trip, and more ornaments were added from the various places we lived.  Each ornament was documented on the bottom or back with the place and year it was acquired.  Putting up the tree was an opportunity to recall fun vacations and former homes.
Our Wizard of Oz tree with dolls I made

After we began the collections for the Angels and Ancestors Tree, the gold and red ornaments were ignored for a few holidays.  In 2011, we decided to display our collection of red and gold ornaments and other decorations.  It was fun to remove each one from the box and revive the memories.  (You may visit my Christmas blog "Happy Holidays," at 12-12-13 in the archives, which shares images from Isaac's era.)

Last week's blog, "Flour Mills on the Prairie," 12-18-2014, shares my Scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz dolls I made one Christmas.  Obviously we enjoy decorating and entertaining during the holidays, and the Wizard of Oz tree is always fun.

For us, the holidays are about family and friends.  We look forward to cards from those who live far away, and we love seeing friends and family nearby, especially sharing the food and spirits of the season.  To all of you who follow my blog, "Thank you!"  I hope you have become fond of the old Prairie Bachelor, Isaac B. Werner, and I also hope the New Year brings me time to turn my attention back to Isaac in order to find a publisher for the neglected manuscript.  Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Flour Mills on the Prairie

Grinder near the granary
Isaac Werner went to nearby mills to have his corn ground.  He generally went to the Webber Mill a few miles north, and after one visit he complained about how some neighbors failed to clean their corn properly before bringing it to be ground.  The result was that the dirt left on the grinding stone made his corn too gritty to feed to his chickens.  The foundation of that old mill can still be found by someone who knows where to look.  Isaac also took corn to be ground in Saratoga, where the mill was located on the Ninnescah River.  (See "Cemetery on the Hill," 2-7-13 in the blog archives.)

Site where old grinder was used
I was told that a concrete pad with a metal rod for the pivot located just south of the old family granary was where the grinder was set up for grinding grain periodically.  There was a crib in the southeast corner of the barn where I took a coffee can to dip out a measure of ground milo for the chickens every day, but I don't recall having seen my father grind the milo.  In the photograph above, taken in the early 1920s, a cone-shaped object can be seen.  It is located about where the concrete pad is located.  I was also told the metal rod was used to secure an apparatus used while butchering hogs in the early days, although I never saw my father butcher anything when I was growing up.

However, this blog is about mills, not butchering.  The mill I know about is the flour mill in Hudson, Ks.  It is a very old business, although not quite old enough for Isaac's time, as the business began in 1904 when Otto Sondregger, a German miller, built a small flour mill.  In 1913 the mill was expanded to a 300-barrel capacity, and further expansions have continued to this day.

Bags of Hudson Cream Flour
Recently I was surprised to see a headline in the newspaper reading "Stafford County Flour Mill going green."  It seems that the Hudson Cream flour mill has put up a wind-powered turbine.  According to the current mill president, Reuel Foote, the cost of electricity was one of their biggest expenses, so they began investigating a wind turbine in 2013.  On November 5, 2014 the rotor hub was lifted into place and the three large blades were attached.

Nearly 200 feet off the ground, the familiar Hudson Cream logo can be seen, installed before the hub was lifted into the air. St. John sign painter Brett Younie was glad his Signtec business was given the job of mounting the huge logos but said he had no desire to do the job that high off the ground!

Scarecrow from Oz with flour sack head
Several years ago we were in Montreal, Canada, and as we walked into an upscale bakery we spotted a huge display just inside the entrance, piled high with sacks of Hudson Cream Flour, advertising that they used the "best" flour in their baking.  We couldn't believe that the flour from a mill only a few miles from our farm was so highly regarded that it would be used to attract customers to that bakery.  The bakery is correct about its superior quality, however.  It is great flour and I don't buy anything else.

When I made Wizard of Oz dolls of the four main characters, I carefully read L. Frank Baum's description of the Scarecrow.  It said his head was made of an old flour sack.  Naturally, I had to use a Hudson Flour sack for my scarecrow.  Today, however, the sacks are made of paper, which would not do.  When the mill had a small gift shop in the office, I had purchased fabric with the logo imprinted on it, but nothing I had was small enough for my doll's head.  So, I drew the logo on some unbleached muslin.  I could not imagine a proper Kansas scarecrow with his head made of anything other than a Hudson Cream flour sack!

(To see all of my Wizard of Oz dolls you may visit "Isaac and the Wizard of Oz," 12-15-2011 in the blog archives.  Look closely in the first photograph to see not only the Dorothy doll I am holding but also the Lion, Tin Man, and Scarecrow on the floor beside my chair.  The Tin Man also appears in the photograph near the end of that blog.)

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Saving the old Opera Houses of the Prairie

Railroad in Waterville, KS
Travel to where Unicorn Road (also known as Highway 9) intersects Highway 77, and what the citizens of Waterville, Kansas have preserved is almost as fantastic as a unicorn trotting down the street.  The 2010 Census counted 680 citizens living in Waterville, yet they have preserved a collection of turn-of-the century buildings that larger cities would envy!
The eastern part of Kansas settled earlier than the central part of the state where Isaac Werner lived.  His sister Ettie and her family, including Isaac's widowed mother, lived in Abilene, Kansas, but Isaac never felt able to make that trip.  Therefore, it is unlikely that he ever traveled as far as Waterville, but I am sure that he would have loved its Opera House.

Plaque at relocated depot
When we visited in 2012 we started at the railroad tracks, pausing to read the plaque describing how the Atchison Pikes Peak Railroad started the line in 1865, which arrived two years later in November of 1867 as the Central Branch of the Union Pacific.  Intended to serve the eastern branch of the Chisholm Trail, the train's purpose ended because of increasing numbers of homesteaders and their barbed wire interfering with cattle drives, as well as the government's quarantine of Texas longhorn cattle that often carried ticks as they were driven north to cattle towns.  Interestingly, after the cattle drives ended, the trains were used to transport turkeys driven to market in Waterville.

The Weaver Hotel

The trains may no longer run, but the impressive Weaver Hotel has been refurbished.  Built in 1905 and originally called the Pride of the Central Line, its history includes not only passengers from the trains registering as guests but also those simply waiting in the front parlor, enjoying a meal in the dining room, or lounging on the hotel porch.  Railroad crews and "drummers" who traveled from town to town selling goods and taking orders were also regular guests.

The Opera House in Waterville, KS

Unlike other prairie towns whose opera houses have not survived, Waterville has saved its opera house.  (See "St. John (KS) Convention Hall & Opera House, 6-26-2014 and Stafford (KS) Opera House, 8-7-2014 in the blog archives.) Built in 1903 at a cost of $8,000, it has been beautifully restored and is used for community and school productions.

The day we visited, a performance was scheduled for the 4th of July weekend, and a small group was rehearsing under the direction of a professional with roots in Waterville.

Interior of the Opera House in Waterville, KS

The discovery of Waterville was a surprise to us, and my husband had parked at the edge of the street while I got out to take photographs.  A citizen riding by on her bicycle stopped to visit, the justifiable pride in her town obvious in her every word.  She told us that the restored Weaver Hotel had been booked full the weekend of class reunions in May, and she informed us of the upcoming performance being produced for the 4th of July in the Opera House.  You may check The Weaver Hotel website for the special events they have planned, like Christmas at the Weaver just held, and reservations can be made online.

The Opera House in Waterville, KS

Also to be seen in Waterville are the 1-room school house from the community of Game Fork which has been restored as a meeting place for Scouting activities, the 1907 Train Depot which houses a museum, the Powell home on Commercial Street, and the 200 block of East Hazelwood Street known as "Bankers' Row."

Early settlers like Isaac Werner brought their desire for culture with them to the prairie, and even in hard times they invested in the future of their communities with the construction of opera houses, where music, lectures, plays, and community social and political gatherings were held.  Times changed, and other forms of entertainment displaced what was once enjoyed.  The opera houses were converted to other uses or were allowed to deteriorate, but Waterville saved this rare example of the striving for culture among the early settlers of the prairie.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Collections & Creations

Isaac B. Werner was both a collector and a creator, for at the time of his estate sale there were several framed etchings among his collections, and his journal is lined with margin sketches of his inventions.  He would have enjoyed the current holiday exhibition at the Filley Art Museum in Pratt, KS, where collections from local supporters of the museum are shared with the community, along with  many local artists' creations of a wide-ranging variety.  Visitors will be amazed by the taste and talents of those who have loaned objects to the museum, as well as by their generosity of loaning holiday objects that would normally be part of  displays in their own homes during the winter season.

My own ancestors, including those who were friends and acquaintances of Isaac, are having quite an adventure this December, for our Angels and Ancestors Tree is among the holiday collections on display at the museum.  (See "Christmas Guests" at 12-13-2012 in the blog archives.)  You can see our tree in the background of the photo at right.

As you might expect, there are many Santas on display, as well as several nativity figures.  Several of these nativity groups represent the work of artists from foreign countries, and one nativity has a historical appeal for Pratt residents, having been purchased from the old Duckwall's store on Main Street in the late 1940s or early 1950s.  

There are also fiber artists whose work is on display, the work including quilts, cross-stitch, clothing for the Santa's, needlepoint and ornaments, as examples.

There are ceramic pieces, such as the beautiful example at right, as well as 2-dimensional objects on the walls of the museum.  The pastel painting in the image at right is my work, which was used as our Christmas greeting in 1989.  There are two beautiful photographs by Pratt's own Stan Reimer, and an unique example of paper cutwork, among many other wonderful things.  

An example of living art in the form of a Magnolia Topiary by Lou Lynne Moss centers a table of figures.  In the background of the image below you can see a beautiful carousel horse, hand carved and painted by Jon Hartman, who has carved enough full-sized figures of different animals to fill a carousel!  Some of the needle work can also be seen in the distance.

These images represent only a tease of all the wonderful things to be seen in this exhibition!  I cannot credit all of the artists and collectors, but when you come to the exhibition you will find carefully prepared information accompanying each object
The exhibition extends only through December.  The opening reception for members is Saturday evening, Dec. 5th at 7:00  p.m.  The exhibition opens for the public at 1 p.m. Dec. 6th, and because that is the First Saturday of the Month, there will be a Docent Tour starting at 1:30.  No reservations are necessary for the 1st Saturday Tours, and we hope people in the region are getting accustomed to those regular docent tours held each month.  I will be the Docent doing the tour Dec. 6th, so I hope to see some of you who follow this blog at the tour!

Do you know what a Tomtegubben is?  If you come to see the special holiday exhibition at the Filley Art Museum you can find out, and for those who come to the 1st Saturday Tour, remind me to show you a tomtegubben!