Pioneer Potluck: About my eighth grade graduation present

A trip to Kansas to see my Dad’s relatives

1950 Fort Collins, Colorado

Beverly and Ellsworth, Kansas


I graduated from the eighth grade in May, 1950 as the only one in my class. There were other kids in Cactus Hill Observatory District #101 but I went all 8 grades as the only one in my class.

My Uncle Guy, Dads brother, who lived with us, decided to take a trip to Kansas. He wanted to take my brother John (Butch) and as a graduation present, he offered to take me with them. I can remember the great discussion between my Dad and Mom about letting me go on such a long trip. I guess my Dad won out because the next thing I knew, Mom was washing and ironing my dresses and shirts for my brother. I was never asked if I wanted to go! I had instructions to wear each dress for three days each, because we were staying for two weeks and I had four dresses. I also had two pair of jeans and a couple of shirts. Plenty of underwear also with instruction! I never told Mom but I lived in those jeans and shirts almost the whole trip.

My Uncle Guy owned a “1940 something” Plymouth Coupe’. I sat in the back with some luggage and brother Butch, as he was known, sat in front with Uncle Guy, the driver. Now in those days there were no bottles of bottled water and the snacks were Mom’s cookies. The day we left, Mom made sandwiches for our lunch. We left the farm, something like four in the morning and traveled through eastern Colorado on dusty washboardy roads, along the dry lands of wheat fields and vast expanses of nothing forever! I am sure we ate our sandwiches right at noon some where out on the prairie along side the road, close to the Kansas border. There were no convenient rest stops at all. Men can do their business behind the car but not this shy almost teen. It was probably a good thing we did not have bottles of water for that trip!

I remember parts of Kansas having cement highways that went clickety-clack, clickety-clack for miles and miles! Still it was better than the dusty washboard roads we had just traveled through. There was no conversation, just the hum of the car and looking out the window for who knows what, maybe a snake on the highway, a pheasant and occasionally a bird. The radio signals faded out and most of the rest of the trip was in total silence. I was so used to looking at mountains, trees, rocks, farmhouses, cattle and horses that I was in disbelief of the total vast nothingness! What a difference today with the cell phones, iPods, Ipads, digital games, and ears plugged into something and yes, televisions! We load up with bottles of water, soda pop and fruit juices and tons of snacks. No one looks out the widow at our vast America from inside a car anymore! And we HAVE To wear seat belts! Those were not invented on our trip!

When we reached Beverly, Kansas late in the evening at Uncle Evan, Dad and Guy’s brother and Aunt Ruth’s. The first thing I told my Aunt Ruth was I needed to use the outhouse. She gave me a big hug, took my hand and led me to their outhouse. She was waiting for me when I came out and took my hand and led me into her nice warm cozy little house. She handed me a warm wash cloth to wash my face and hands, then fed us tasty hot soup and her wonderful homemade bread. I had my own bedroom and now that I think about it was probably Uncle Evan and Aunt Ruth’s bedroom. I slept and slept. A Note: I had two Aunt Ruth’s the other was Mom’s Sister, Aunt Ruth Brown.

I woke up to the smell of ham, eggs, fried potatoes and hot coffee. My Aunt Ruth was a wonderful cook! I do not remember much else about this trip, just that I met all kinds of strangers, every one of them relatives, I had never seen before. Uncle Guy would introduce us as John and Loretta’s daughter and son. I was hugged and hugged and Butch was given a big Kansas hand shakes and a slap on the back.

We visited with Aunt Alma, Dad’s sister, and Uncle Ted and their 5 boys, and spent an evening reminiscing about the McClure’s and how they grew up.

My Aunt Laura Stonebraker, Dads sister, wanted me to stay with her for a week, because it would be fun to have a girl in the house, then they would send me home to Colorado on the train. My Uncle Guy and my brother headed home without me after two weeks and I stayed a week with my Aunt Laura and Uncle Fenton and their eight BOYS! The only thing I remember about the whole visit was the eight boy’s sitting at the huge oval-shaped table reaching for the large bowls of food that Aunt Laura had prepared for those hungry mouths. I sat beside my Uncle and Aunt and I am sure I wound have never gotten anything to eat if my Aunt Laura had not filled my plate for me. The boys never said a word! They never looked at me, told me hi or goodbye. When they were finished eating, they told their mother thank you for the food and excused themselves from the table and totally disappeared. I am sure they were just as shy about having a girl at the table as I was shocked to be sitting at the table with eight boys!

Two of the boys eventually spoke to me, Skip, (real name Atwood) and Robert. Skip visited our farm very often during the following years. He and my Mom were great friends. He helped Dad during hay season and eventually ended up in Colorado working for the phone company for many years. He visited with my Mom for many years after Dad died.

I slept at Aunt Laura’s in an upstairs, big bare bedroom with lots of quilts. I remember Aunt Laura taking me places, but mostly I remember her cooking and baking all the time!

When it came time to leave for Colorado, the train was scheduled to leave early in the morning, my first trip on a train! I woke up right at the time I was supposed to get on the train! I went running downstairs in total panic telling Aunt Laura and Uncle Fenton, I had missed the train! No, said Uncle Fenton, seated at the huge table with a hot cup of coffee, there had been lots of rain in eastern Colorado and a bridge and the train tracks had washed out, so my trip was canceled. I was very homesick and very disappointed!

Two days later, Uncle Fenton and Aunt Laura said goodbye as I climbed on the train. That was to be first and last train trip for almost 60 years! I arrived in Greeley, Colorado, my grinning Dad standing outside the depot waiting for me! I talked all the way home.

I was so glad to be back on familiar ground around my brothers and sisters and Moms great food. My “vacation” was over and I went back to milking the cow and doing chores around the farm and the house. I did not mind a bit!!

The Grannie Annie series is written by a 47 year resident of Alaska, Ann Berg of Nikiski.Ann shares her collections of recipes from family and friends. She has gathered recipes for more that 50 years. Some are her own creation. Her love of recipes and food came from her Mother, a self taught wonderful cook. She hopes you enjoy the recipes and that the stories will bring a smile to your day.

Grannie Annie can be reached at anninalaska@gci. net



Cookbooks make great gifts!

The “Grannie Annie” Cook Book Series includes: “Grannie Annie’s Cookin’ on the Woodstove”; “Grannie Annie’s Cookin’ at the Homestead”; “Grannie Annie’s Cookin’ Fish from Cold Alaskan Waters”; and “Grannie Annie’s Eat Dessert First.” They are available at M & M Market in Nikiski.

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