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Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Toilet Papers

The Toilet Papers


The Outhouse Oracles


Don Nelson
Merritt Plantz
Barbara (Skinner) Lamb
Barbara (Jochem) Mahrt
Jo (Rohwer) Mayber
Janice (Masters) Terry
Anne (Gilchrist) Osborn
Lolita Jo (Gilchrist) Purviance
Raleigh Emry


Don Nelson

This involves an outhouse out behind my grand-ma's house The year, about 1937, Johnstown, Nebr.

Now my grandmother had 2 Daughters and 2 Sons, the daughters ( my mother and aunt) were at least fairly normal girls, However the sons, (my uncles) were not at all "normal" Like Bob Burns, I had a drinkin' uncle and the other was a slippery uncle.

I know a lot of you know about the old crank telephones, Uncle Slippery (we'll call him) they must all remain "anonomouse" for reasons that will become clear, had just such a phone no longer in service. He discovered that the phone could be dismantled and the two carbon electrodes, were just wonderful to use for a pretty good shock, You just held the two electrodes in your hand and turned the crank and got some really interesting reactions from whoever or what ever was on the receiving end.

He tried various things with this toy from hell. I remember he got the whole family to stand in a circle with one of the electrodes at each end of the circle, and we'd get shocked that way, He also surprised a mouse who got between them.

This of course was not enough, also at gra-ma's house lived three foster daughters, They were very nice girls to me, but always the subject of many pranks by my uncles.

With their two little pointy heads together, the uncles figured, If this thing will shock THIS way, would it not also shock, WELL HIDDEN AND WIRED TO "SOMETHING" Aha! your getting ahead of me RIGHT??

A few tiny brad nails, a hank of very fine copper wire, removed from a model-T coil, strung around the wooden outhouse seat and run out the back, to where sat the two orneriest, meanest, trickiest, characters you ever want to meet, hunched over in ambush, with the precious crank in hand!

The first unsuspecting soul to get "the thrill of his life" happened to be my great uncle (their own uncle) His reaction was to charge out of the little house, follow the wiring and proceed to remove both their HEADS!!

Right away they knew they needed a new and different victim, well certainly NOT my Grand-ma because she WOULD remove their heads. s o o o o o it fell to one of the foster daughters to get the "treatment" next. As fate would dictate the very flightiest and nervous one of the girls fell victim.

She had no sooner sat down than they spun that crank, (the faster you'd spin, the more electricity it would produce!!) I think that is probably the most activity the world has seen since the Dunkirk Evacuation!! The boys later joked to her that they thought for sure, the C&NW RR had put on an extra that day and was highballing through town!! She didn't take kindly to their joke ! wonder why??

As for the old outhouse, It did require some maintenance i.e.., cleaning and couple of hinges on the door, but it survived to serve on for many years.

The boys did have to lay low for awhile and hid the "device" because all three girls offered to PAY my great uncle to "get them at night with that thing, while they were sleeping !! No report of that!!

Well there's my outhouse story, and I assure you it's true, I was just a very young boy, but I do remember that!!


Merritt Plantz

I have a couple of stories: I got caught stealing watermelons, so don't believe I should tell that one.

An out house story: The neighbor boy and I used their unused outhouse to have a cornsilk cigarette. We set the outhouse on fire, so don't believe I should tell that one either. But my friends older brother saw the smoke and put the fire out. So that was a streak of luck.

Guess I had better quite while I'm still ahead! Don't want anymore trouble!


Barbara (Skinner) Lamb
Barbara found this poem written by an anonymous poet
that was too good not to include.
I think he got his inspiration from Don Nelson's uncles.


The service station trade was slow
The owner sat around,
With sharpened knife and cedar stick
Piled shavings on the ground.

No modern facilities had they,
The log across the hill
Led to a shack, marked His and Hers
That sat against the hill.

"Where is the ladies restroom, sir?"
The owner leaning back,
Said not a word but whittled on,
And nodded toward the shack.

With quickened step she entered there
But only stayed a minute,
Until she screamed, just like a snake
Or spider might be in it.

With startled look and beet-red face
She bounded through the door,
And headed quickly for the car
Just like three gals before.

She missed the foot log -- jumped the stream
The owner gave a shout,
As her silk stockings, down at her knees
Caught on a sassafras sprout.

She tripped and fell -- got up, and then
In obvious disgust,
Ran to the car, stepped on the gas,
And faded in the dust.

Of course we all desired to know
What made the gals all do
The things they did, and then we found
The whittling owner knew.

A speaking system he'd devised,
To make the thing complete,
He tied a speaker on the wall
Beneath the toilet seat.

He'd wait until the gals got set
And then the devilish tyke
Would stop his whittling long enough,
To speak into the mike.

And as she sat, a voice below
 Struck terror, fright and fear,
"Will you please use the other hole,
We're painting under here ."


The Snowed-in Outhouse of "49
Barbara (Jochem) Mahrt

This was serious business!! Our "necessary room was inaccessible.....
We lived on a ranch west of Ainsworth. My Dad struggled early one morning against the snow to get out of the door of our two story house. He climbed up a snow bank higher than the house and went looking for the outhouse. Usually it stood toward the north next to the chicken house and grove of trees. Nothing was there except this huge snow bank. So taking shovel in his hand, he started digging where the 'house normally was. He found it! But then he had to dig steps down to the door and wide enough to open the door of the outhouse after he got there.
I have a black and white snap shot of those steps and the outhouse roof, but will never forget that "cold" experience and unusual winter.

Jo (Rohwer) Mayber

A long time ago our dad, Rollin Rohwer, told us this story...There was an Ainsworth family whose outhouse was often the victim of Halloween pranksters. Year after year people snuck into the family's yard and pushed the outhouse over. Then they loaded the outhouse into a truck and delivered it to the front steps of AHS!

Growing weary of reclaiming his outhouse every year, that Halloween the owner loosened the outhouse from its base. The pranksters came, as they always did on Halloween, and with one big push the outhouse tipped over. As the outhouse fell, all the pranksters went tumbling into the hole the outhouse had been loosened from! The owner arrived to help the pranksters out of the hole and that was the end of THAT trick!


Janice (Masters) Terry

Back in the "Good OLE days", well probably in the 40's, dad had his Lubritorium on main street in Ainsworth. Bill Beatty, class of 43, was working for him. On Halloween, back then, there were still a few outhouses in the city, and it was still a common practice for the mischievous to tip them over, for the trick of it.

The following day an elderly lady called dad to have him pull her outhouse back up from it's Halloween tipping trick. Well as justice is usually done, Bill was told to take the wrecker and go upright this lady's outhouse. He confessed to dad he was the tipper, but doubt if he ever told that lady.


Anne (Gilchrist) Osborn

Outhouse---Not so Fond Reminisces

When we were young, our job after school each day was to gather the eggs from the henhouse in pails to be saved for sale at Honakers Produce store or to save for family consumption. Eggs were used a lot and were an important protein staple on the farm---in pancakes--they were boiled, fried, poached, scrambled, French toasted, and any other way you could think of, and were also a source of financial revenue.

So we were impressed with the fact that egg gathering was an important job! Jo had another big responsibility---candling the eggs---for city folks, that is where you looked through a light to make sure the egg was okay to sell.

Well, now to the "OUTHOUSE" part of this tale---we didn't always like the chore of gathering eggs for a variety of reasons. My recollection is that some of the chickens were mean and pecked us when we went to get the eggs---and there was this one particularly mean chicken, so I just left the eggs under her, and of course after a few days, we knew the eggs weren't "good" so we just left them until she got off the nest and then we put them in an extra bucket.

My sister's recollection is that she didn't want to candle some of the eggs, so we just put them in the extra bucket---and of course we knew they weren't fit to eat or sell after nature took its course. We can't agree on whose idea it was that we dump the rotten eggs down the outhouse to dispose of the evidence of our criminal deed----but we both agree that we dumped the whole bucket (or buckets) down the outhouse---and of course they broke---and of course we had to face the music.

My recollection is that I hid out and watched my sister getting disciplined from an upstairs window and feeling very guilty for not owning up to my participation and for letting her take the punishment. Jo's recollection is that she was the guilty party but didn't ever get disciplined. At any rate, I think we both shared in the "dirty" (and smelly!!) deed and had a case of the guilts afterwards.

Other outhouse recollections deal with the outhouse at our Rural school---and I can't think of one good thing about them---except that one year we had an especially mean teacher who terrorized the whole eight grades---and we all actually celebrated when she had to use the outhouse---and traded answers to quizzes, helped each other out, etc., and were SO grateful---and waited daily for her trips to the old outhouse and even kept a "lookout" for her return.

One day after I had been absent for several days she made me stand at the blackboard with a Math problem and told me I could stand there all day until I got the answer---and I'd still be standing there if my classmate hadn't taken pity on me while she took her outhouse break and crawled in the window and gave me the correct answer. When she returned I can still hear her saying, "Well, I KNEW if you stood there long enough, you would think of the answer." The parents---finally---got wind of her unorthodox teaching methods and she was fired.

The school outhouse is long gone, and I'm not sure what happened to our old outhouse on the farm---maybe it still dwells in the orchard---but it's one place I've never had any desire to return!

PS: I asked Ken ("Goose" to his old buddies) if he had any "outhouse adventures" to share and he said, "No----but I did tip over my share back then," but is not revealing who, what, where or when----he did say that one of his buddies slipped and got a foot in one and that definitely put a halt to the "fun" of toilet tipping at Halloween. (I can just hope it wasn't our rotten egg filled one!!)

Lolita Jo (Gilchrist) Purviance

As Anne said, outhouse stories are not exactly a country girls "fond" memories. I will let Anne tell the egg story we both recall differently.

This difficult subject makes me think of our one room school house and it's primitive outdoor plumbing. I can still see those two little houses looming up from the treeless, sand hills behind our school.

One year we had a very strict teacher with a severe hairstyle and a face to match. She wore long sleeved dresses with black stockings, even in the hottest of weather. She could be very unkind and all the children feared or disliked her. One day she had to use the bathroom (ER outhouse) and I recall seeing her make her way up the hill. When she returned, the back of her skirt was tucked up into her mysterious undergarments, which was a hilarious sight, especially to the older boys. One of her tight, black stockings had a hole in it and the funny bulge that her white skin made through the opening was a curios sight.

No one had the nerve to tell her what her stiff corset was revealing. Anyway, it was so funny and a bit of a secret revenge. I do not remember how long her dress was in such an unladylike way but I still chuckle thinking about it. I wonder how many other kids in our little country school remember that incident?

Kodak Moments
Raleigh Emry

When I think of outhouses, several stories come to mind. Most are related to the obvious function of the outhouse in times of weather extremes. I could therefore write about the agony of exposing tender flesh via the portal on the back of my long johns when the mercury in the thermometer wouldn’t even expose itself. Or I could write about the real and imaginary critters that lurked beneath the two holes in the outhouse bench on warmer days. Those critters ranged from reasonably friendly but tickly flies and spiders to the rattlesnake under our schoolhouse privy.

I could also write about our having to extract our pet goat from the outhouse hole after it had fallen in. We had no water under pressure, so we had no garden hose to help us rid the goat of its smelly coating and return it to its normal, and almost as offensive, goat odor.
I could tell about the time my parents moved a rustic old outhouse from one place to another on the back of an old Model-A Ford pickup. It was such a ridiculous sight that it was preserved on film. Those were the days before campers and motor homes so we never whimsically titled our Clampet-esque photo, “Our Pickup Camper”. Jet airplanes were just making their debut in the skies so we titled the snapshot, “The Jet-propelled Chicken Coop”.

I could write about helping dig an outhouse hole for Morris Skinner’s outhouse that went half way to China. But a hole in the ground, no matter what size, leaves little room for hyperbole… except for the worn out phrase “half way to China”.

As you can see, I do have fodder regarding the old two-holers I have known. I could write a real long toilet paper if I wanted to. But any reader would expect such a story from me. So I’ll share with you a use for an outhouse you might not have contemplated.

My Dad made us a new outhouse when I was maybe five or six. New boards from Searle and Chapin’s or Hagle’s lumber yards were out of the question. We even had to scrounge and straighten rusty, bent nails from Dad’s old nail bucket. So the new outhouse never looked new from its first day. It looked as old as the usable scraps from the old outhouse and some bits and pieces of another old outbuilding. I’m not sure how we could spare some bits and pieces from an old outbuilding as “old outbuilding” described our most attractive assets.

It was dark in the Niobrara canyons at night and almost as dark behind the closed new outhouse door at high noon. My Dad apparently didn’t have a keyhole saw to cut the traditional crescent moon in the door. Either that or such a slight modification to the rickety boards would have caused the door to fall apart. Instead, Dad decided to bore a hole in the side of the outhouse, centered on one side and about half way up. Dad was apparently limited to a half-inch bit. The solitary half-inch hole was on the North side and so provided no direct sunlight.

But once you were inside and settled onto one of the holes that you had found by Braille, your eyes would slowly adjust. You could then barely see the spiders that hung in the webs in the corners and see to find the softest pages in the Montgomery Ward catalog when you needed them.

I suppose Dad could have drilled more holes and thus made more illumination but I suppose he stopped with one solitary hole because he was either concerned about the structural integrity of the outhouse, he broke his brace and bit, or else it was the notion that although a dozen holes would provide light and ventilation, they would also change “privy” to “publy”.

If a user of the outhouse worried about someone spying on them, a peg in the hole would prevent a potential peeker, or a pointed stick thrust quickly through the hole would deter a peek in progress. So because of the unwritten sharp-stick rule, I don’t recall a peeking problem. The single hole remained unrestricted at least when I used the outhouse. My only memories of outside meddling were the persistent hammerings on the door by someone in a hurry.

By now you are wondering, “So what?” You are asking,” What’s so unusual about an outhouse with a half-inch hole in the side?” Well, I’ll tell you.

Have you ever built a pin-hole camera? Ah hah! You are catching on aren’t you? Yes indeed! On the inside wall opposite the hole was an inverted image of the scene directly to the North of the outhouse! Directly to the north of our outhouse was our old two-story house nestled in some trees. On a bright day you could see the silhouette of that scene upside down on the outhouse wall... a virtual Norman Rockwell! You could see the image better if you had a piece of white bed-sheet to use as a movie screen. We didn’t have a piece of white bed-sheet to use as a movie screen so we had to squint and fill in with our imagination to see the complete pastoral scene on the weathered old boards.

As we sat in the dim light of our two-holer, unicameral outhouse and waited for nature to take its course, we had many pleasant Kodak Moments looking at our upside down world and thumbing through the glossy pages of the Montgomery Ward wish-book for the hundredth time.

The Blizzard of '49

The Blizzard of '49


The Story Tellers 

Pat (Manifold) Cerny
Jacque (Anderson) Bokelman
Claude Reyman
Dale Masters
Leroy Wacker
Ortha (Reynolds) Emry
Shirley (Denny) Beasley
Sandra (Masters) Propst
Jeryce (Meyers) Russell
Raleigh Emry


Pat (Manifold) Cerny

My parents and I went to my Grandparents in Idaho for Christmas. We were to drive home on Sat. and Sun. It snowed a lot in Idaho and the farm roads had been closed. Before dawn on Friday, Mom woke me telling me to get dressed and packed as the snow plow just came by and we were headed home. I raised my teary voice in complaint - first I was being shorted a day with my cousins and Grandparents and also I hate getting up early. Did then and still do.

After a hearty breakfast, we were on the road. Driving through the barren Idaho land we started counting dead rabbits on and along the road. We would count as many as 20 in a mile. Dad commented how unusual this seemed.

As we headed to Casper, Wyoming (our usual overnight destination - halfway point) the Wyoming hills were snow covered and moving. Herds and herds of antelope and deer, and many rabbits were coming down to lower ground.

We left Casper early the next morning and the headlines of the local paper stated that one semi truck had plowed into a herd of antelope killing at least 40. The animals were still moving down out of the hills. The black cloud started following us and at noon we were seeing snow flakes. By the time we reached Valentine it was snowing hard and I spent the time from Valentine to Ainsworth with my nose pressed against the window (on the passenger side) letting Dad know if he got too close to the edge of the road.

We did reach home and by the time we had the car unloaded you could not see the house across the road. (For those who don't know where we lived - our house was on the northeast corner of the intersection on Highway 20 one block east of Main street). Because my Dad was most nervous about the next approaching storm, he headed us home a day early or we would have been one of the unfortunate people stranded in Wyoming - and some of those were not lucky enough to be stranded in a town!

Years later coming from Idaho headed into Casper I again saw the hills covered with deer and antelope. It was summer and we had been watching the huge, very black clouds to the north. We topped the divide above Casper and started down the hill to get stopped halfway. The wall of water coming down the valley wiped out part of the interstate. We were fortunate enough to be high enough the water only got to the bottom of the doors. Couldn't back up as both lanes were filled all around us.

Back to '49. Now, without school to keep kids busy there is often too much time on their hands. Well, we were no different and wanted to do something! The adults kept talking about the blizzard and what a story it was. One of my classmates and I decided we needed to do something to make this a most memorable occasion. Next question was what to do. Well, there was this huge pile of snow in front of our house (remember where we live). We dug out our bathing suits, climbed up on the snow and took each others pictures as we attempted to look like bathing beauties. It is a wonder we didn't get pneumonia. I have often wondered what people thought about us two idiots. I can't find the pictures but I do remember we looked rather dumb wearing bathing-suits and those brown type school shoes we had back then. Now, the partner in this dubious effort of frivolity was on line with this group at one time - I don't know if she still is. If she wants to admit to this, I would welcome her comments about the escapade. 


Jacque (Anderson) Bokelman

I was just a little kid! My mother and I were discussing the blizzard - one thing she remembered was that our dad - O. J. Anderson (or Ollie) - went on a horse to the south homestead of the ranch. We were on the north part of the
ranch - about 1/4 mile south of Johnstown - the house was in "city" limits - the barn wasn't! Anyway, dad was away during the height of the storm and mom remembers that she was afraid one of us kids would choke on something, so she would feed us only things that would slide down the throat easily!

We did look at several pictures of the snow - in one picture, dad and another man, shovels in hand, were trying to dig out the road in front of our house leading to Johnstown. Mom had entitled the photo - "they gave up!"

Judy and I had fun in the snow, of course - I remember being able to walk over the clothes lines! And, at school in Johnstown, we had rooms in the snow, with tunnels leading between them! Lots of fun!


Claude Reyman

We can really say that Christmas is now all around us with the amount of snow that we have accumulated this past week. I went out this morning to shovel the walk and noted that we must have about 6 inches more and on top of the 9 inches we received last week. This sort of reminds me of the early years growing up on the ranch. I can well remember the blizzard of 49. 

We had just returned to Valentine and it was so bad that we could not get out of town. As I remember we stayed at our Dentist's home, Dr David Summers, and spent the night. In the morning we had drifts up to the roof of the house on the North side and it was impossible to get the doors open. We ended up staying a week at his home before we could even think about leaving for the ranch. We did finally get out and left and as I remember it took many hours to get to the turn-off from the highway. 

In many places only one lane was open. I can remember pictures of the train with the huge V plow on the front trying to get the rail line open for trains to travel the good old Chicago Northwestern Transportation Line East to West with goods, mail, and people.

I can remember my father, Bruce Sr., bringing the V-plow with a team of horses to the highway and we rode it home going through the hills and valleys to the ranch. It took about 4 hours to get back to the ranch. Dad was very lucky on the cattle as he had just moved them from the Cames' pasture home the day before the storm. If not, he would have lost about 200 head. Anyway we got to the ranch house on the V-plow and it was a sight beholding, the snow was to the slope of the roofs on our house, the north side of the barns and you could not see the corals in some cases.

The snow remained on the North side of the hills till about July. We had a great time sledding from the hill North of the house. We used the grain scoop to sit on and away we went down the hill. We had to fall off the scoop as the fence was not the best thing to hit. What fun we had in doing this. 

Our cousin Leah Rae from California sent us a ski set that had a strap over the boot - but it worked. It is a wonder that we did not break our legs when we attempted to ski down the hill. 

I remember the air-force flying over our ranch and dropping hay. You could only see tops of the hay stacks and it was almost impossible to get the hay onto the sled and naturally we used 6 head of horses to do this task. Once in awhile, the horses could not be stopped and we would pull the hay off the sled and had a mess on our hands. 

Talk about cold, but we dressed for the weather and seemed not to freeze. The up-stairs in our old ranch house was not heated and you could imagine how cold it was during the night. We used many blankets and made it through the winter months. Dad would get up around 4 a.m. and go down stairs to start up the coal stove in the kitchen. 

He normally started on the work around 5 a.m. and then would come down for breakfast about 7.00 or so. I guess it was good training for us and we had to milk about 10 cows each morning and night. It seemed that the milk cows did not run out of milk. We sure did have fun spraying our cats mouth so they had milk too. 

We did not get to school for several weeks do to the amount of snow that this blizzard gave us. When we did get to school, the old pot-belly stove got so hot that it would turn red. It is a wonder that it did not burn up. We would get our desks and place our backs to the stove to keep warm. Taking out the ashes was always someone's job and we took turns to do this job. 

After school, back to the ranch to do the evening work. We would eat about 6-7 p.m. after the work was done. 

Christmas was fun and we did not get much but the parents did what they could for this special day. Mother was the best cook in the world and we never went hungry. Even through the war years, we would save sugar so that we could have a cake or cookies once in awhile. These were the good old times that one cannot forget, even when we get older and the bones start to hurt once in awhile. 

I hope that each of you have a great Christmas and remember the "good" old times that we had growing up. I would not trade this for anything even though it was tough. Catch you all later - keep warm and "god bless" each of you and your families. 


Dale Masters

Anyone who might have lived in the plains area of Nebraska during the Winter of 1949 will have clear memory of some particular event or events involving themselves that is still quite vivid and easy to recall in detail. Although I could relate a number of things that include a multitude of people who performed acts of heroism, benevolence or generosity, sometime without recognition, one personal event stands out in my memory more clearly than any.

My sister, Janice, class of '45, had been visiting with my parents so that she could assist my mother, who had been ill, during the holiday season. It became my responsibility to return her, and her year-old son, Jim Bartlett, class of '66, to their home in McCook as soon as the roads were cleared enough to permit travel. Shortly after the first of the year the roads were plowed out and limited traffic was permitted. On a beautiful, clear Saturday morning, the ninth of January, accompanied by my wife, Jean Jackson Masters, class of '46, we loaded Janice and her son in my father's car, leaving our three month old son with my brother and his family. It was our intention to return to Ainsworth the next day, Sunday. We took all of the suggested extras, clothing, blankets, snacks, etc., and headed South on Highway 7, taking a more direct route toward our destination. In 1949 this highway was nothing more than a gravel road that would not pass for a farm-to-market roadway today but was a route that was used by many who were heading toward the North Platte area. The road had been cleared well enough to permit traffic but, in many instances, travel was limited to one-way stretches, sometimes as long as a mile or more. On longer stretches flag-men were stationed at each end to eliminate a total stop up. It was not uncommon to find that the drifts, which were opened with rotary plows, were as much as two to three feet higher than the roofs of the cars driving through. The deepest that I can recall was between Brewster and Dunning, which was also the longest. 

We arrived in McCook without incident, other than the length of time that the trip took, and had no more than gotten there when the phone rang, it was my father advising us not to return the next day, as planned, but stay over until Monday because the wind had come up and all of the roads were drifted shut again. We waited until Monday morning, called the State Patrol regarding the road conditions and we were advised that we would be all right but we should return home by way of Grand Island, checking for road conditions there to see if things were clear on North to O'Neill. We did as told and, when eating a lunch in Grand Island, inquired as to the road conditions to O'Neill. The Patrol advised us that everything was clear so we started on North. At St. Paul the conditions got a little bad so we stopped at a service station and asked again. We were assured that it was all right, in fact the passenger bus had just came through from the North. So, being re-enforced with current information, we headed toward O'Neill feeling confident that we would be home and in our own bed for the night. It was getting a little late in the afternoon so we wanted to get as far as we could before it would be necessary to use our headlights and we could continue to see the countryside. It was not too long before there was a light snow starting to fall, not a good sign, but we pressed on forward. We continued on, the snow getting worse, and just North of the little town Of Bartlett we were confronted with a semi truck-tanker, stuck in the roadway. With no other option, we returned to Bartlett, a little community of about one-hundred people, pulling into the only service station, which, fortunately had a small cafe attached, to determine what we were going to do. When we walked into the cafe we were greeted a bunch of questionable stares and we were asked 'what in hell are you doing out there and what do you think you are going to do?' This is exactly what I was asking myself at the time and we were greeted with the news that the road to O'Neill was impassable and had been closed all day, since the tanker had jack-knifed, blocking the road. When we asked about the bus having just gone through St. Paul we were told that it got as far as Bartlett and had turned around and returned to Grand Island. So much for all of the excellent advice received from the State Patrol and the service station in St. Paul. We decided to go on back South but now the weather had closed in so badly we were unable to do so. We were prisoners of Bartlett, Nebraska! 

Even then it did not look too bad. We were at a service station that had gasoline for the car. There was this little cafe that could provide food and a number of people were here under the same circumstances to share our concerns with. We prevailed upon the cafe owner to let us stay and we were waiting out the storm. It didn't stop and our only option was to try to find accommodations where some of us could stay, the cafe only had chairs or stools for about twenty people and there were seventeen of us stranded. The cafe owner did find housing for a few, luckily we were one of the more fortunate. We were permitted to stay at the local bank president's house as long as we did not drink or obtain any liquor for the banker. He was an alcoholic and his wife watched over his activities very closely. Since we are tea-totalers we passed the examination and were permitted to stay until we could get on our way home. We could not phone out because all of the phone lines were down. We could not leave because all of the roads were sealed shut. No one knew where we were except for the few people that were in Bartlett. We were stranded!

On Wednesday the conditions looked bleak. Food at the cafe was running low, they were enjoying the biggest run of business they had ever experienced but they could not replenish their supplies. Fortunately one of the stranded was a meat delivery truck and he was able to provide some provisions and another was a cookie distributor's truck. Diet might be suspect but starving was not an issue. This day also brought word that the snow plow, that was stationed in Emerson, was working its way towards us and would be there sometime that day. He didn't make it but word of our plight was given to a ham radio operator in Emerson and messages were provided for him so that he could notify people of our whereabouts. Out of pure chance our friend, George Botsford, was manning his ham radio at the time and picked up the message indicating that we were all right and he relayed this information to our parents so they would not have to worry about us. 

On Thursday the snow plow did get to Bartlett and was going to go on North to meet a plow that was dispatched to meet him at Four Corners, a few miles North of Bartlett. One other couple, from Sioux Falls, the cookie truck and ourselves formed a convoy following the plow toward its destination to meet the O'Neill plow. We followed until he got to Four Corners and he turned around and went back to Emerson, advising us that the other plow was on North of us a few miles and would soon open the road to connect with the part that he had opened up, we could see his lights approaching. Our three vehicles were setting in a row, awaiting the other plow opening the last couple of miles, and we could see no apparent progress. By this time it was dark and, to save gas, we alternated running the two cars and stay warm. We were unable to see to turn our vehicles around so we spent the entire night trying to keep our spirits up and continuing to hope that the plow up ahead would open up the remaining strip of drifts. Finally, at daybreak, the driver of the other plow walked up to our vehicles to advise us that he had broken an axle and could not get the road open until the repairs were made. With the coming daylight we were able to see to turn around safely and then we returned to Bartlett to await the clearing of the highway up ahead.

Finally, on Friday afternoon, the road was opened and we were able to go on home to Ainsworth, tired, relieved and broke, (I had to borrow some money from the banker to pay for food and gas to get us by), and get re-united with our little boy.

If this would have happened today, all of this would not occurred the way it did. The methods used in clearing snow are much improved, the roads are considerably better and communication would not have been a problem, with the cell-phones that are everywhere, including my car. In spite of the ways things are today I still have learned that I do not take the chances I did during that storm of 1949. There are too many uncertain factors that could be faced and no need to force the issue.


Leroy Wacker

I suspect that it would be proper to put this winter in relation to my age, which would place me graduating from high school in the spring of 48 and starting Norfolk Junior College (NENTEC now) in the fall of 48. 

The winter started simple enough as I recall, nothing much happened before the middle of Nov. The days aren't exact but fairly close. We had just finished our corn-picking, either the day or two before the first (real) snow storm. I can recall that my Dad would look back and say, "we were lucky" to have gotten our corn out where so many had not finished and would never finish. 

The things that stick in my mind the most is trying to get to Norfolk for college (a 71/2 mile trip, one way) and back home, doing chores in blizzards where you couldn't see your hand in front of your face, a full mile drive on county roads to the Highway, and a brother that decided to get married on the 15th of January 1949. I believe that I shoveled more snow that year than I have the rest of my life-time. 

It was a fun time, in between storms, the neighbors would get together and try to open a path to the highway, probably a lot like our old thrashing "B's". The County couldn't even think about keeping up, but the State highways, like 275 were open, our problem was getting that mile to the highway. Contrary to what you "youngins" might think, we did have cars, tractors, and other modern appliances but there were 3 things that worked the best that winter and they were, snow shovels, chains and horses.

My most memorable part of that winter was my brother Don's wedding. As is normal there was the 'rehearsal' the night before plus other 'festivities'. While taking care of these responsibilities the wind had come up so when my twin-brother and I turned off of the highway for that final mile home we encountered new snow drifts. As young boys might or might not do, we left home in our winter coats, no caps or earmuffs, no gloves and our 'penny-loafers' with no boots. 

Brother Leon was driving & as we came to the half mile mark the road turned a 45 degree angle plus a short but steep hill. That was also a point for a snow drift and we became stuck. As the passenger I was elected to push, shove, shovel or whatever. Although we made it thru after a fashion the cold froze my ears, my finger tips and my toes. To anyone that has suffered those torments I need not say more but for those that haven't, I want to tell you that it was the most painful night of my life and is my memory of the winter of 48-49. 

Leon & I did manage our daily trips to school, maybe 'daily' is the wrong word but we received credit for the full year and when we couldn't get home we enjoyed staying with our 'friends' in the big city of Norfolk and learned a popular game in school called 'knock poker'. Hey, that's a card game, so don't be spreading false rumors, okay!!! Will look forward to hearing other stories since this is not something that can be limited to any one event for THAT winter. 


Ortha (Reynolds) Emry

Six weeks without electricity, telephone or mail, how terrible you say? Well not really. You see this was in the '40's and electricity and the telephone service hadn't made it out to our isolated farm on the Niobrara. So we didn't miss them. We did miss getting our mail for six weeks and our being able to send messages to let everyone know we were alright.

We milked cows, had our own meat and chickens, a cellar full of potatoes and hundreds of quarts of canned vegetables and fruit. We always stocked up in the fall with flour and other essentials, including kerosene for our lamps. I was very concerned that someone would get hurt or sick. Our son, Bob, had asthma really bad at times and required a doctor's attention but thankfully we all stayed well.

The radio (ran off a battery pack) told us if we had an emergency to mark an X in the snow and darken it with ashes or dirt so a pilot could see it. It was six weeks before the first plane flew over! We all ran out into the snow to see it and tears streamed down my face as I realized that had we needed help it was available. Don Higgins and other pilots saved a lot of lives by flying people to doctors, getting people from stranded cars and even flying food to those who could call in for help.

The radio was our only source with the outside world. Radio stations, especially in South Dakota, would relay messages. Sometimes parents had attempted to go to town on a day when the wind wasn't blowing only to have the wind whip the snow into a blizzard before they could get home. The parents were either in town or made it to a neighbor's house and had to stay until the storm was over. The instructions and pleas of the distraught parents to the children at home were heart wrenching.

Several weeks into our isolation, a neighbor, Mrs. Paul Jones, rode her saddle horse six miles to our place. She had a fifty pound sack of flour tied behind the saddle and pockets full of yeast cakes (packaged yeast was not heard of yet). She said she was worried as no one from on the river had been out past their place since before the storm. I had plenty of flour and yeast so she rode on to the Lawrence Conrads and Jess Emrys. Her ride that day would have been thirteen or fourteen miles in deep snow. I'll bet her horse got an extra ration of feed that night. I will always remember her and her great act of thoughtfulness. What a good neighbor!

We were very fortunate that we lived where there was plenty of wood for cooking and heating. In the evenings we had lots of hot card games and other games for entertainment. We had raised a lot of popcorn so we shelled and popped some about every night.
I'm sure we were all more aware of the beauties of nature. There were lots of birds and the beautiful cardinals ate from a feeder outside our kitchen window. Even the snow was beautiful if you could look past the extra work it made.

I'm so thankful that we were some of the fortunate ones of the Blizzard of '49.

Shirley (Denny) Beasley

Yes I remember the blizzard of 49, was a fun time for us kids, my brothers and myself. Some of the snowdrifts were so high we could almost walk on top of some of the trees. My brother Ray and I went sleigh riding just outside of the front yard where the drifts were the highest. We had heard on the radio that they were dropping feed for the cattle and food if it was needed, so I decided to lay down in the snow and make a snow angel without my parents knowledge. Guess what? An airplane landed and ask what we needed, my Dad said -- "Nothing". I remember getting much more than a light spanking. I did learn my lesson.


Sandra (Masters) Propst

I had just turned seven the first of the year and my brother Dan was a baby. We lived in the second house south of the highway on Osborne Street. It was a two story, white frame house with the bedrooms upstairs with windows facing the south. By the time the snow finally quit falling that winter, there was a drift that extended from the bottom of the second story window to the property line. In the following years, I often thought of that drift and wondered if I could have tunneled through if I'd been older and more adventurous. 

At the time, Masters Nite 'n Day had an auto dealership and one type of vehicle they sold was Jeep. My father, Paul Masters, spent many hours during those storms delivering groceries and prescriptions to people, and those Jeeps were not known for their heating capabilities. He would be at Master's Lube waiting for phone calls from people asking for help, and when one came he would be on his way. We didn't see a lot of him during that time, and didn't even realize how serious the situation was till years later when we were older. Living in town as we did was really a blessing.


Jeryce (Meyers) Russell

The Blizzard of 1948 to 1949 started right around Thanksgiving with a storm and then several storms in December just practicing for the "big one" that started on New Year’s Day and really got worse with each following day. 

My parents Don & Irene Myers had the Midwest Furniture Store and Midwest Hotel. We had an apartment in the hotel that was fairly large for the times as we had 3 bedrooms. My daddy always joked during bad weather that he didn't have to worry about shoveling snow to get the car out to get to work. All he had to do was walk across the lobby of the hotel and go in the store, which was in the same building.

By the second day of the big blizzard, he really started to moan and groan as the drifts were getting so tall that no one could get in the front door of the furniture store let alone make a purchase. Clay Patterson worked for us and lived on the third floor studio apartment in the hotel. Clay was very strong and a really hard worker so he was reassigned from the furniture store to "in charge of snow removal".

We had a tunnel dug into the hotel lobby and a tunnel that put us to the back of the hotel so we could get to the basement and laundry room. By now the hotel maid Nellie Yeoman and laundry lady Mrs. Berger were snowed in and couldn't get to work. I was reassigned from a H. S. student to the assistant hotel maid and laundry person. My mom had taken this job and she was a tough boss.

We had no business in the store but the hotel was booming!!! We had stranded people and even the banker from the bank on the southwest corner from Spearman’s grocery store came and stayed as he lived too far away to try and walk home with the blowing snow and cold temps.

I remember school being out for what seemed like a very long time and I was looking forward to going back to being a student again as it was lots easier than the temporary job I had 7 days a week. However, I was becoming independently rich as I was making 25 cents an hour and that was pretty good at that time.

As the highway was slowly opened for a few hours at a time, we had new people checking in and out of the hotel. There was even a college choir that made an unscheduled overnight stay. That night we had a big sing-a-long in the lobby area, which was fun. More than once we had group-singing during the storms as Ella Sisson worked at the hotel and lived in an apartment next to the lobby. Ella was very good on the piano, she would play and many would gather around and join in some very good harmony. There also were some exciting card games and poker games in the lobby to help pass the time while people waited out the storms.

The storms had now taken on a very dangerous turn for area residents and folks that lived on farms and ranches. The Army had been called to help and "Operation Snowbound" had its historic beginning. My hard work in the hotel had just started!! The Army needed beds and rooms for the soldiers that had been brought in to help with the air-lift of supplies, food, medical, and hay for the cattle. They worked around the clock and slept in shifts, and we had to change the bedding with every shift.

The laundry of this small hotel in those days was hung on lines to dry, as there were no large commercial dryers in Ainsworth. The hotel had a very large full basement and we put up more lines, dried all the towels and sheets in the basement and then used the big mangle to iron the sheets. (My mom ironed everything!!)

One of our biggest concerns during this time was fear of power failure as everything in the whole hotel was electric with a coal burning electric run stoker furnace with steam radiator heat. With the howling high winds and huge drifts we had around the building there was not one time that our electric flickered once for even a second during each new blast of arctic air and snow.

The drifts and weight of the snow was so bad on the large plate glass windows in the furniture store that we put mattresses and box-springs against the glass to give the windows strength and it worked.

The Smith's owned the cafe across from the hotel and they stayed at the cafe and kept open to help feed the downtown people.

We never ran low on food as my mom always believed in "stocking up" my folks always bought a 4-H beef at the county fair and we had it stored in the locker at Harr's and were able to walk over and get out meat as we needed it. Much of our Christmas mail was not received until February and of course, the trains were blocked in big snowdrifts on the tracks with passengers for quite awhile. Another thing the Royal Theater was open when Mr. Bailey could walk and open up we did see the same movie more than once but it kept us from really getting cabin fever from the storms.

There were many heroes during this Blizzard of 49 and the people of that area of Nebraska that was so hard hit by the storms will be forever grateful to the Army and all the volunteers that pitched in and truly helped their neighbors. I am sure that all of the survivors of the blizzard have more stories to tell and hopefully we will never have to relive such a storm in our lifetime.

P. S. My dad moved to the desert here in Las Vegas in 1963 and swore he would never pick up another snow shovel again and he didn't!!! I moved to Las Vegas in 1957 and its always fun to talk to others that have stories to tell of the blizzard as we have many residents here from Nebraska and the Midwest. I have never picked up another snow shovel either!!!


Raleigh Emry

[My mother, Ortha (Reynolds) Emry,
and I wrote our stories without collaborating.
If there is a difference in facts between the two,
please believe Mom's version.
I was just a little kid at the time.]

I was not quite five years old when the Blizzard of '49 kept us snow-bound at our Niobrara River home for six-weeks. Although I have memories of that winter, forgive me if I mix in a few other memories from those years on the river. Events tend to run together that far back into my childhood. Winters to me, including the Blizzard of '49, were times of snow. Snow, to me, meant great sledding and tunneling in the drifts. 

To most adults, the Blizzard of '49 was like no other. Old timers had to search back in their memories to the Blizzard of 1888 (I think) to find something comparable. The Blizzard of '49 brought a storm of worries. Feeding livestock was difficult. Roads were impassable. Supplies ran short.

We were economically poor but self-sufficient. I like to think of the four-hundred acre home-place we lived on then as a ranch. I suppose subsistence farming is a better description. As long as there were trees in our canyons, we had fuel for our stoves. As long as the cellar protected the piles of potatoes, carrots and onions, and dozens of Mason jars of meat, fruit and vegetables that we had canned the summer before, we wouldn't starve. Of course Dad could get fresh meat as often as we wanted by plinking a cottontail or squirrel with his .22. We also had squash buried deep in the grain-bin in the granary. The chickens were miserly with their eggs in mid-winter but they offered up a few. The hens that didn't, often ended up in a pot of chicken and noodles. 

Doing chores twice a day was rigorous activity. We had no milking barn, except for a small pole-shed that we seldom used. So we usually milked our cows right out in the middle of the corral. The milk-cows were gentle so they would stand still. With our command "heist" and a nudge, they would move their right leg back so we had easy access to their warm udders. Dad had made our one-legged milk-stools from buggy wheel hubs. The tapered hub held a round post leg and a board was anchored across the top of the hub for a seat. In the summers, when the corral was soft, the one legged stools would slowly sink into the ground under our weight and we would soon be sitting like bullfrogs. But in the winter, the ground was frozen. So as long as we had a spot that was relatively free from snow we could burrow our face into the cow's warm flank and capture a bucketful of milk without losing the milk-stool. My hands were small and so I was often given other chores such as gathering eggs and feeding the chickens. But sometimes Dad or Mom would start the cow to "giving down" her milk and I would finish up while they moved on to the next cow. My older sisters and brother helped milk the cows and completed chores that were appropriate for their age. 

We had several small "A frame" hog-sheds scattered around the trees and plum thickets for the pigs to find shelter in. They would come running when we called, "Pig... Pig... Pig!" Each would try to be the first to have its snout buried eyes-deep into the hog trough. They got the left-over milk after we had separated the cream. The milk, still warm from the cow, tasted wonderful on a bitter, cold day. I know, as I often dipped a cupful from the separator bowl as a mid-chore treat. 

Our chickens roamed free, but during the blizzard they stayed close to the chicken house and "scratch" shed next to it. Our creeks ran all winter long so they supplied all the livestock and poultry with water. We also got our drinking water from a spring-box in the head of the canyon near our house. A pipe carried the pure, cold water to a tank near our kitchen door. The tank of cold spring-water was our refrigerator in warm months. We didn't need a refrigerator during the Blizzard of '49. 

Mom bought flour in large cotton sacks and made delicious bread and biscuits in her old wood-burning kitchen-range every few days. She then turned the calico flour sacks into blouses, shirts, dish cloths and aprons on her Singer foot-powered sewing machine. Fresh hot bread, churned butter and choke-cherry jelly was a heavenly treat. Bean soup and biscuits made one of my favorite winter meals during those winters on the Niobrara. 

If the blizzard had dragged on any longer, we could have butchered another pig or steer. We had plenty of firewood although it was sometimes difficult to wade through the deep snow to saw it into stove-length pieces, split it and carry it to the wood-box in the kitchen. The kerosene supply for our lamps was limited. But if it ran out, I had no doubt that my folks could make candles out of tallow, lard or beeswax. I don't recall that we ran out of kerosene and so don't remember the fun of making candles. If we had to, we could get our work done by daylight and then use up the dark hours cuddled under piles of warm quilts. So we were self-sufficient. Although I'm sure my parents may have had occasional worries about the prospects of someone becoming seriously ill, I was carefree. 

We had no electricity so we had only a battery powered AM radio. Ainsworth didn't have a radio station then. Our news came from WNAX in Yankton, South Dakota or on a good day KRVN in Lexington, or WOW in Omaha. Of course after nightfall, the AM radio brought in stations from far away. But we conserved our batteries during the blizzard. When my parents turned on the radio to listen to the news, we would discover that the storm was wide-spread and that people all up and down the Great Plains were in the same blizzard conditions that we were. The announcer would advise anyone who was in trouble to make a big S.O.S. or an "X" in the snow and fill it with ashes or other material so an over-flying plane could see it. We never saw an airplane for weeks and only when the blizzard was nearly over. 

I remember making a little S.O.S. out near our ash heap and filling the letters in with ashes. But then I would worry that a plane equipped with skis might actually see my distress signal and land to investigate when we weren't in trouble. I loved airplanes even back then and would have enjoyed seeing one up close... but not by decoying them in. So I kicked snow back into the signal with my five-buckle overshoes. My little signals were probably not visible from a tree-top, let alone an airplane. Nonetheless, I didn't want to get in any trouble with outsiders! 

I had no reason to believe that Santa Claus would not find our home on Christmas eve. My parents had reasons, but they didn't worry us kids with them. They could see that deep snow could even delay Santa Claus. On a day or two before Christmas my dad and my uncle, who lived a mile upriver with my grandparents, hitched a trailer onto a Ford tractor, and set out for Ainsworth, some 17 miles across open country. There was no point in following the existing roads that followed section lines as they were blown full of snow. So they let down fences as they went and tried to follow the crests of hills where the snow had been blown away. With much digging and expended energy, they finally made the round trip and returned home after dark. 

Of course Ainsworth merchants had few supplies or gifts remaining on their shelves. But the men brought back some needed flour, sugar, kerosene, etc., and Santa came on time.

Santa brought me a little red kerosene lantern for Christmas. I still have it. It is sitting within view on the end of our kitchen cabinet. During those years on the Niobrara, it provided me with a halo of light when I went up our old rickety stairs to bed each night. It sometimes lit the way for midnight visits to the privy. I usually reserved that trip for morning or warmer days. On bitter, cold nights a makeshift chamber-pot, often an old Karo syrup pail, allowed us to conduct business in the "comfort" of our home. It was little "comfort" to sit on the thin, sharp rim of a syrup pail. I presumed that the ring it cut into my behind would be with me for life; but sitting on a freezing hole in the outhouse was no better. 

The boxes of supplies that the men had brought home on the bumpy ride from Ainsworth had not come through unscathed. The packages of sugar and baking soda had both broken and run together. My mother, in her resourceful way, tried to salvage some of it by making taffy for Christmas candy. Her recipe called for sugar and baking soda, but not in the proportions that were mixed in the bed of the trailer. We had a taffy-pull and I remember that the result was candy that looked like amber glass, similar to horehound. (Whatever happened to horehound candy?) I thought Mom's taffy was good, but anything I could get my hands into and help make tasted good to me. 

Mom would use up her "free time" sewing or embroidering dishcloths, etc. Dad, after the livestock was attended to, carved beautiful canes from diamond willow, cedar and other native woods. We four kids played with the few toys we had and played card games such as Casino and Old Maid or board games like Parcheesi and Checkers. I suppose, like all children, we complained about being bored. However, I don't recall boredom. Those early years produced some of my favorite memories. 

One day replaced the next and then eventually we heard clanking and rumbling sounds far in the distance out of the canyon and toward the road to town. The sounds came closer and closer... and closer and then rumbled and clanked down our hill into our canyon. The Army, in big green tanks with dozer blades, had come to plow out our roads and we were saved! I thought they were big green tanks as they said U.S. Army on their sides, but they were probably big green bulldozers. 

The big green tanks rumbled and clanked away into the sunset, the roads presumably blew full of snow again, my parents went back to surviving the Blizzard of '49, and I went back to sledding down the long, steep, winding hill that propelled me at exhilarating speed through our barnyard and out across our alfalfa field in our bottom-land toward the Niobrara River.

The Fourth of July

The Fourth of July

The Story Tellers

Claude Reyman

Merritt Plantz
Darlene (Kohlhoff) Cleal
Sandra (Masters) Propst

Pat (Manifold) Cerny
Judy Soles McMillie

Terry (Ketner) Emry
Anne (Gilchrist) Osborn

Ortha (Reynolds) Emry
Lolita (Gilchrist) Purviance

Raleigh Emry


by Claude Reyman


Growing up before our time, it seemed very possible that our parents raised two sons to be Ordnance Engineers.

At about a yard stick tall, Bruce Jr. and I negotiated with our parents and bought fire works from a mail order house in Texas. Oh, the wait was terrible and each day we would run to meet the rural route mailman. He would say – "nothing today". Finally, this box would arrive and would you believe that it was 36"x36"x36" in size? Nothing but the best for us to do our damage and smell up the air with the pungent burnt odors! M 80’s and the works were our fond memories. This box would cost us about $12.00 and this took the last cent we had to pay for our "fun in the sun" excursion.

Together with Dick Kreycik, we would fight a war against each other until it was time to do the chores (i.e. milk the cows etc). Now our war plans would be started. We would take two boards 1" by 8" inches and form a 90-degree angle and then nail them together. Then, we would take two 2"x 4’s cross them for support and that formed our weapon. Somehow we got the idea that placing a gallon container at the base of this "weapon" and then placing another smaller can inside, we had the mass destruction weapon. We would fill the first can with about 3 inches of water, take the second can and place a pin hole in the top and run the "cracker" fuse through the hole. "Let me tell you", if you wanted to see force, with the water as the sealer, the can inside would travel about 200 foot in the air and land about 100 foot away. Boy, this was a big deal and to think that we designed it ourselves was awesome!

It would take us all summer to get through the box of fireworks. I guess we were lucky as we never removed any fingers or started any fires; however, we did place "damage control" into effect after engineering our major last war effort. It was on a Saturday afternoon and the parents had gone to Valentine to shop, we decided that we needed some new excitement to stir up or blood. At the South end of the coral, we had a 10 foot diameter water tank for the cows. Dick Kreycik, Bruce and I took our water can cannon unit and decided to throw it into the tank, allowing it to sink to the bottom. Boy, when it went off, the water spray went 30 foot into the air and the can went to several hundred feet. Oh, this was great until we goofed and the can tipped over and you're right, it went out the wall of the water tank. This took another ordnance degree to explain to our parents our thoughts behind this project. Bruce Sr. was tongue tied over this event.

In a later year at Lincoln, the three "evils" got together (Bob Tyler, Dean Honnen and myself) and we lit up the skies in Lincoln, Nebraska. Talk about bottle rockets; yup, you guessed, we would place the bottle rocket in a bottle and aim. We about burnt down the Tyler’s home as one of the rockets fell onto the roof and caught it afire. Now that is excitement watching three grown men and the wives run in circles attempting to put out the fire. This certainly caught our attention for future fun time. Enough is enough about firework!


A Cool Reception at Halsey
by Merritt Plantz

Here is one I try to forget, or at least not have happen again.

For many years when we all had kids, our favorite way to enjoy the 4th Of July was to have a family picnic. In 1951, I believe it was, we decided to picnic at the Nebraska National Forest near Halsey, Nebraska.

The several families all got up that morning, packed our picnic dinners and headed west, dressed as one normally would for a summer picnic. In the wintertime we usually carry blankets and heavy coats in the car, but in July, no way! 

As the ladies got the food out and ready for a delicious picnic, the people dressed in shorts, etc. began to look for blankets, coats, or anything that was warmer than shorts. There was no ice on the swimming pool but certainly no one was thinking of putting on their swimming suit.

I have no idea what the temperature was by then, but for the 4th of July it was mighty cold. To this day, when the subject of a 4th of July picnic comes up, someone will say, "Do you remember the year we went to Halsey for the 4th? We all remember and no one suggests we try it again.


No Ifs, Ands or Butts
by Darlene (Kohlhoff) Cleal

This happened to my friend. She was carefully cleaning up the house after 4th of July fireworks. Gathering firecracker duds, going in the house, emptying ashtrays, emptying trash, etc. She then took all this into the bathroom and emptied it into the trash can there. She was going to take this trash to the main trash sack when BOOM!!!

First, she was sure she was losing her hearing - small acoustic bathroom, LOUD noise. Then it began snowing in the bathroom. It seems a cigarette butt had set off a dud and shredded all the paper in the trash can. The paper all went vertical and then came drifting down, onto her hair, the sink, the shower curtain, the floor, well you get the picture.

She learned that one must be sure cigarette butts are cold before one trashes them, and that duds are not necessarily duds! Oh yes, and gravity


A Day In Paradise
by Sandra (Masters) Propst

I awoke that morning with a sense of excitement. Already my room was flooded with light, there was a strange smell in the air and I could hear popping noises from outside. Then I realized it was the FOURTH OF JULY, and my whole family was going to Hidden Paradise. My grandparents, Glen and Rose Masters, owned a rustic cabin on the Pine Creek and all the relatives that were home would be meeting there for a day of fireworks, food and lots and lots of fun.

I quickly dressed and ran downstairs to find mom putting the finishing touches on her potato salad and baked beans and dad was putting a chunk of ice and a big watermelon in the car. A chunk of ice sounds strange today and even though the cabin had electricity, it didn't have a refrigerator but a trusty old ice box and with a big chunk of ice installed would keep the perishables cool enough to keep us from being poisoned. My brother Dan and I helped load the car, not forgetting our fireworks, while mom and dad loaded baby Randy.

Back then highway 20 going through the hills north of Long Pine was steeper, and dad knew how I loved it when he gave the car more gas to speed down then up the hills. The sensation would give me butterflies in my stomach, and I'd lay giggling on the floor of the back seat. Mom would always admonish dad for driving too fast, but he would look at me in the mirror and wink. Driving down the main street of Long Pine, dad would point out the landmarks of the once bustling train town. My favorite was the old round house where they would turn the engines around to send them back east.

And finally we would be going down the big steep hill heading for what truly was a paradise for children. We would wind our way through all the vehicles from other counties and states and people toting inner tubes over their shoulders. I could feel the excitement growing, anxiously wanting to get in the creek. Then we came to the slope that was the parking area for the family cabin and was glad to see that already some of our relatives were there. We all loaded up with all the essentials, including the inner tubes that dad had stashed in the trunk, and went to greet everyone.

Already the temperature was climbing in the 80's, but the water was so cold that dad put the watermelon in to keep it cool. To get into the water was an experience of courage and daring. You either jumped in all at once to get the shock over fast, or you took it slow and only lowered your self by inches. Of course, there always had to be one sneaky cousin that had to splash you. Soon we had the tubes under us and were floating down the fast moving current of the creek. I was always proud of the fact that I learned to swim in Pine Creek. Even though it was shallow, the current was strong enough that swimming against it was good training, so when I finally swam in a pool, I could swim with no fear.

One of the warning signs the grown-ups would watch for was when our lips started to turn blue, then we would have to get out of the water and warm up. That meant it was time to start shooting off firecrackers. To keep from burning down the cabin and protect the smaller children, we would go up on the road where there was no grass, just good clean sand, and with the tin cans we would gather, we would start blowing up cans, blowing holes in the embankment on the side of the road and have a blast with no adult supervision. The only time we needed an adult was either for a lit cigarette or to light another punk. The sounds of the firecrackers would echo up and down the canyon, and you could always hear someone's M80's up the road.

Time to eat. There's fried chicken, salads, baked beans and chocolate cake and home made ice cream along with cold watermelon. And conversation. I loved listening to my aunts and uncles telling of their lives in the different places they lived. It seemed so alien to live in another state or town. I'd listen to grandpa tell stories of his childhood days and the early years he and grandma lived up on Turkey Creek north of the Niobrara, or when he delivered mail from the train station in Ainsworth to Springview before highway 7 ran north of Ainsworth to Meadville, but was west of town then north. They were stories that I've passed on to my children.

Then it was time to rest. We waited an hour before going back into the creek, and the babies were put down for their naps on the big double beds with chairs and pillows stacked around them to keep them safe. The men stretched out for naps and the women cleaned up then sat and visited. We older kids would hike the roads and paths or sit on the bridges and watch the water beneath us, hoping to spot a trout. Of course they were all in hiding since the creek was full of people tubing.

Finally the magical time of the day was here. We were close enough to the Pavilion that the sound of music reached us but it seemed like it floated in the air. The grownups started getting dressed up and the ladies fixed their makeup and smelled so good. I don't remember if it was one of the Dorsey Brothers bands or Glen Millers or one of the other big time bands that would play at the dances on the Fourth, but I'd lay listening to the music and could hardly wait till I was grown up so I could go to THE DANCE, but soon I'd fall asleep, exhausted from one of my favorite childhood days.


Paradise Lost
by Pat (Manifold) Cerny

Many of my age group enjoyed renting a cabin at Hidden Paradise for special occasions - renting if you were not fortunate enough to own a cabin. Just prior to our buying a cabin, a group of we girls rented a cabin for the 4th. Next was the BIG job - getting someone to stay with us because we were not allowed to stay alone. We finally talked my mother into the job. The owner of Hidden Paradise was Mrs. Schlepp, and she was as tough as the name sounds. I will not use any names in this story because a number of persons in our e-mail group were involved.

The cabin we rented was fairly close to the Pavilion and the cabin across the crick was rented by a group of guys - older classmen. After the big dance the 4th, we girls were in no way ready to 'hit the sack' and neither were the boys. None of we girls had anything to drink but I will not vouch that this held true for those in other cabins. In the wee hours of the morning, residents of various cabins were in the crick and being noisy. Mom looked out the window to see one of the boys in only his shorts (he had forgotten to bring a bathing suit). She yelled at him, calling him by name, telling him to get his pants on. He immediately did. Now, with rolled up pant legs he was getting the pants wet. He asked me who that old woman was who yelled at him and I told him it was my mother. "Oh" he said "if I had known it was only your mother I wouldn't have put my pants on". She heard him, and yelled "oh yes you would".

The frolicking in the icy cold water finally came to an end and everyone retreated to their abodes. I don't remember what we were doing at sunup but we were making a lot of noise as we started eating breakfast - after all night raising cane, we were hungry. One of the girls had just picked up a sweet roll, when Mom looked out the door and said "be quiet and get into bed here comes Mrs. Schlepp." The girl with the sweet roll jumped in bed forgetting what was in her hand. She was a sticky mess when the coast became clear later - I can still see Mrs. Schlepp tromping back and forth in the road in front of our cabin. My bed was such I could peek out from under the sheet and see out the door.

We had the cabin rented for two nights but Mom (a working woman) said she had to have some sleep. Dad refused to baby-sit us and no other mother would come. Hence, we packed up and went home.

I know many of our e-mail group have wonderful memories of Hidden Paradise.


Soda Pop and Fireworks
by Judy Soles McMillie

I spent my grade school years in and around Seward, Nebraska, the place of my birth. Each summer I would spend a week or so at my grandma's house playing with my cousins, swimming in Seward's now-famous pool and watching the parade and fireworks in Seward, dubbed Nebraska's Fourth of July city. Times were tough, and my family seemed particularly finance-strapped, but we always had a good time at Grandma's, catching quart pickle jars full of lightening bugs, then listening to Grandpa play his guitar late at night after we'd gone to bed. We could hear him light his pipe with a match he struck on the seat of his bib overalls, and it made us giggle.

The very best part of Grandma's house was the soda pop. Seward had a beverage company called Husker Beverages. We always referred to it as the pop factory. The word "pop" is rather Midwestern, and certainly archaic, as I rarely hear the beverage called pop anymore. People in the south call it "soda," or they refer to it as "Coke" whether it's the Coca-Cola product or not. But to us it was Husker pop.

Meals at Grandma's usually consisted of cold sandwiches made from bologna or liverwurst, with lettuce and tomatoes from the garden, and Husker pop. We kids LOVED that menu every meal, but our parents often objected. Nevertheless, Husker pop was brought home by the 24-bottle wooden case, and we could have a bottle with every meal. What a wonderful treat!

Years later, my dad and his brothers and sister instigated a yearly family reunion in Seward on the Sunday closest to the Fourth of July. All the aunts and uncles, cousins, in-laws and family friends would eagerly look forward to our Seward reunion for the Fourth, and the icy tubs full of Husker pop.

In the year my older son Chip, turned two, we drove from Ainsworth to Seward for the reunion on the morning of the Fourth. We arrived about noon, just in time for the picnic potluck lunch. There were about 100 people, many of them children, and soon my 2-year-old let go of my leg and wandered off to play with the older kids. I saw little of him that afternoon, and as evening approached we gathered up our belongings and started for home.

In the car, I talked with Chip about what he'd done that day, his new friends, his newly learned games, his adventures with the older children. His most memorable experience was drinking Husker pop!

I asked him how many bottles of pop he'd had, and he said three. That's a lot of pop for a 2-year-old; no danger of dehydration! But he was one happy little guy, and so was his mother. I believe the love of Husker pop must be genetic!

Chip now has children of his own. It is my hope that his children are having the Husker pop experience just as Chip did as a youngster, and his mother before him. It's a great legacy, don't you think?


Memories of the Fourth in Faith
by Terry (Ketner) Emry

The small village of Faith, North Carolina was my grandfather’s hometown. Most places of business faced Main Street sandwiched between the Reform Church on one end and the Baptist Church on the other. I suppose any baseball little-leaguer worth his cleats could smack a power hit from one church to the other. The same gray granite buildings along the Main Street of my youth are still there today. They still speak of strength of community as well as the obvious resource that came from the nearby quarries. In fact, my grandfather’s quarry furnished the curbing for Main Street that the W.P.A. installed during the Great Depression,

My grandfather had once been the town mayor back when, as a young widower, he was trying to raise his five children with the help of his sister and her husband. The children had all been born in the home of my grandfather, which fronted Main Street. My mother was the next to the youngest. Her Papa never ceased to be her hero. He was a gentle man who loved his family, loved the game of baseball, and loved hosting family gatherings in his hometown during holidays such as the Fourth of July.

When I think of the Fourth, I think of Granddaddy Ritchie and the big parade down Main Street, the exhilarating carnival rides in the Faith Park, the pit-cooked barbecue washed down with freshly-squeezed lemonade and the brilliant fireworks display that evening.

My family’s connection to the parade goes back more than fifty years. My mother participated in the very first one after World War II. She was Lady Liberty with flowing robe and torch held aloft. A picture of her on that float still hangs in city hall as proof. I was never in the Faith Parade, but if I were to wish for such a thing, I would have been wearing a cowgirl hat, a western "snappy" shirt and a leather fringed skirt and I would have been riding atop the back of a prancing chestnut horse. My two youngest sisters and Cousin Jane, the "three ballerinas", did march in the parade one year with their dance troop. I can still remember the wild six-mile car trip over the narrow, hilly road to Faith from our country home to get the girls and their tutus there in time for the early morning start.

We would drive back the side streets and park up the hill at my Aunt Nez’s house. Then, equipped with folding lawn-chairs, we would walk through the orchard and garden path that joined both lawns down to Granddaddy Ritchie’s white frame, one-story house to join the throngs of other people vying for viewing position along Main Street. Granddaddy’s front porch, front porch swing and front yard would be full of relatives and friends all laughing and catching up on the latest gossip and cooing over the youngest babies in the group. Kids sat along the curb in the shade of two large maple trees hoping for the chance to catch the candy tossed to the crowd by the parade politicos, beauty queens and clowns.

After the excitement of the parade, which ended with the ear-deafening sirens of what seemed like every fire truck, police car and emergency vehicle in the surrounding counties, people migrated down the street to the city park. There they could enjoy the carnival rides and eat sweets like candied apples, snow cones and cotton candy or more substantial treats like pork barbecue with coleslaw, hamburgers or hotdogs, lemonade, tea or pop. My favorite ride was the Scrambler, my favorite sweet a cherry flavored snow-cone and I "lived for" the lip-smacking tangy taste of a pit-cooked pork barbecue sandwich topped off with Cheerwine pop from the nearby Salisbury Bottling Company.

Then it was time to mosey over to the ballpark for an exciting baseball game featuring local talent, young and old. I can picture Granddaddy up in the stands dressed in a white crisply ironed shirt, slacks, and a gentleman’s hat. His happy face was ruddily flushed with excitement and his sparkling blue eyes watched the action on the field. He had coached many baseball teams in his younger years, not to mention teaching his many grandkids the fine arts of the game.

Sometime during the afternoon, a skydiver would parachute down in the grassy field between the baseball diamond and the elementary school. Then came the greased-pig chase, the greased pole climb and other frolics and relays. A mellowing-out time followed at Granddaddy and Aunt Nez’s houses – all within easy walking distance of the day’s activities.

Of course, to top off such a day at the park, there was a fantastic fireworks display, which we sometimes watched from Aunt Nez’s side porch. The sounds seemed just as majestically loud from our hillside vista as from the park. The bangs, booms, fizzles, shrill shrieking calls and whistles and blooming colors erupted and rained down in sparkling brilliance.

It’s fun to remember those glorious Faith Fourth of Julys from my youth and I am exceedingly grateful for the experience. When I think of that first Fourth ever, I am reminded of how our forefathers risked everything for a cause greater than themselves. It required faith in their cause, faith in their ability to pull together as a young nation to defeat a mighty foe, and faith to make their dream of liberty and an optimism of spirit and ideals a reality. I can’t think of a more suitably named place to celebrate the Fourth of July than in a town called Faith – unless it’s Independence, Missouri. But then that is someone else’s story.


Memories - Both Happy and Sad
by Anne (Gilchrist) Osborn

None of my 4th of July's in the good old days sticks out in my memory---I think they were all converged in my memory, so I'll put them all together.

My very earliest memory of the 4th of July was when we lived near Long Pine and had huge neighborhood picnics and wonderful food---home made ice cream and chocolate cake under the trees--I think I must have been about 3 or 4 years old at the time. I remember some white balloons with red and blue decorations on them--maybe the first balloons I had ever seen---they seemed just miraculous to me. I still like balloons.

Other 4th of July's were spent at Meadville playing in the Niobrara which had warm water versus very cold water at the Long Pine Hidden Paradise which was where I remember other 4th of July's from early childhood on and more delicious food and watermelon.

When our brothers were alive, we always celebrated their June and July birthdays on the 4th of July, as well as my older sister Jo (Lolita) whose birthday is in July also. My younger sister Cindy and I were always envious that we didn't have a summer birthday, ha. (On a sad note, I thought this week that my youngest brother would have turned 68 this month---and the same age as my husband.) Hard to believe that much time has gone by.


We Don't Know Where Mom is,
But We Have Pop on Ice!
by Ortha (Reynolds) Emry

The first Fourth of July celebration that I remember was at my Grandparents' home northwest of Springview , Nebraska.

Cousins, Aunts and Uncles gathered at the farm from as far away as Pine Ridge, South Dakota. That was a long way to come in a Model T on gravel and trail roads. We kids had the run of the farm and played lots of games and had a great time. Evening came and the accumulated fireworks were shot off to the oohs and aahs of we kids. But what came next outshadowed the fireworks - my first bottle of pop!! I selected strawberry and what a treat with the sparkly fizz and wonderful flavor! That is one fourth of July I'll never forget.

Why Mothers Get Gray
by Lolita (Gilchrist) Purviance

One summer I let my two boys, Steve and Jim, fly to Nebraska for a visit with my family when they were about 12 and 14 years old. I wanted them to get to know my parents and their Bower cousins better and to have a real Midwest adventure. Since their stay was during the Fourth of July, I warned them about the hazards of playing with firecrackers, which are illegal. They were not to even think of touching one of those dangerous things! Nor were they to drive any vehicles while they were there, as I knew how they would be tempted to try since most country kids are very familiar with tractors, etc.

The boys had a wonderful time in the country and had many exciting experiences. I was so relieved to see them return safely in one piece. They were eager to unpack and proudly opened one of their suitcases. To my horror, it was crammed full of firecrackers and not one pair of sox or underwear could be found! Obviously, a whirlwind had sucked all my words of caution right out their little boy brains! I can't imagine what trouble they would have been in with today's airport security.

As for driving, nothing was ever said until years later when I happened to overhear the boys reliving their Nebraska experiences. They now get a bang out of the times Grandpa Frazier taught them how to drive the farm equipment or when a car slid in a muddy ditch with their cousins, Tammy and Tom. I guess grandpa got them out of that predicament. I am so glad I did not know THE REST OF THE STORY.


Meadville Memories
by Raleigh Emry

In 1945, we moved to our home-place on the Niobrara. I was one year old and my brain began to fill with memories. With passing time, it is now difficult to sort the hodgepodge of memories into two piles: "first-hand" and "hand-me-down". My memories then are a mix at best, and memories of Meadville are some of my first.

Meadville is about five and a half miles, as the crow flies, upstream on the Niobrara River from the home of my childhood and at the bridge that linked Brown and Keya Paha Counties. Old State Highway 7 linked the County Seats, Ainsworth and Springview, and at that time went through Meadville. There was no bridge south of Springview then. So Meadville was a convenient and scenic meeting ground for folks from both sides of the river. My parents were both from Keya Paha County and so Meadville held lifelong memories for them too. Some of my favorite memories are of the 4th of July holidays at Meadville in the "good old days" of my childhood. The folks who gathered there were a mix of family, shirttail cousins and neighbors from up and down the river, interspersed with a few folks from the surrounding towns.

For some of the years of my youth, Meadville had another convenience. My Aunt Phyllis and Uncle Perry Campbell and my cousins lived in the little house just across Highway 7 from the Meadville Park. In later years, my Emry grandparents lived there after the Campbells had moved to Ainsworth.

We gathered to picnic under the trees on the south and west sides of the Meadville Park near the Niobrara River. The park held a few rickety picnic tables that survived from season to season. Picnickers would also bring makeshift tables or set food dishes on the tailgates of their pickup trucks. Food was plentiful and delicious. I made many trips to the picnic profusion to pop another deviled egg into my mouth or to snatch a cold, fried chicken drumstick from a pile and gnaw the delicious delicacy to a cleanly picked bone. If I had left some room, I would then savor some mincemeat pie, before getting into the truly sweet stuff.

When the picnic dinner was over, people would scatter in pursuit of their various interests. Some would walk to the giant spreading cedar tree. The spreading cedar, a curiosity, grew only a foot or two above the ground but spread for quite a large area. The river has since claimed the tree. Some would walk off their dinners on short jaunts to the Meadville store or to the river bridge. Others would don their best excuse for a swimming suit, usually cut-off overalls for me, and would go into the river as far as mothers would allow. Some would walk to the Meadville bayou to fish or swim in calmer waters. The men and older boys would often play baseball and horseshoes.

Then, as predictable as the phases of the moon, Mr. Harr, from Harr’s Cold-Storage and Creamery, in Ainsworth, would show up with his insulated canvas bag of ice cream and would begin to yell, "Ice cream… Ice cream… Come get your ice cream!" Children would scurry from far and near to flock to his call. Sometimes my folks had enough loose change to treat us to an ice cream cone. Sometimes I stood wistfully by and wished for a taste. Nevertheless, there sometimes were freezers of homemade ice cream at the picnic site if I could wait for it.

Everyone brought their own fireworks -- usually firecrackers and sparklers. Some of the more well-to-do brought roman candles and treated everyone to an evening show. I always wished for firecrackers, the bigger the better, but sparklers were the fireworks for little kids. So, for those early years at Meadville, I usually had to be content with sparklers. Unfortunately, sparklers required waiting until dark and we had usually gone home before dark to do evening chores. Firecrackers could be set off at any time of day. I was jealous of those who were old enough to set off firecrackers. When a firecracker went off in my older brother’s hand and blistered, blackened and broke the skin, he too was demoted back to the sparkler brigade for the rest of the day. I remember being rather happy about his demotion to my ranks but was slightly envious of his nifty wound.

In the heat of the afternoon, the men would gather in the hot sun to play horseshoes (with real horseshoes) or to play baseball. The ladies would sit in the shade and visit. Older kids wandered between groups. Some competed in sack races, three-legged races and other track and field events. Toddlers and babies were content to play in the shade with the women. The shade is where I was when I can recall my earliest, fledgling Meadville memory.

On that 4th of July, the men from the river, I suppose the Meadville/Norden team, had challenged a team from Long Pine and perhaps Ainsworth to a baseball game. My Dad’s cousin, Earl Clark, was always a ballplayer, often a catcher, and never intimidated. The Long Pine team’s roster listed a Hollenbeck or two. The Hollenbeck name was famous around the state for their rodeo bucking-stock. Many a rodeo cowboy was pitched on his head from his luck of the draw of the Hollenbeck string of feisty broncs and bulls. A few of the Hollenbeck men were as scrappy as their rodeo string and some of them were in the ballgame that day. My dad was along the sidelines and rooting for the Meadville/Norden team. My Brother Bob, then maybe six, watched with Dad.

Something happened to change the flavor of the game from a friendly contest to a skirmish. I don't know what happened. This account was told to me by my dad many years later. Of all people, he may have been the least likely to have a clear memory of the events that day. The altercation was most likely caused by a close call at home plate… whether the ball had made it to Earl Clark’s catching glove before a Hollenbeck foot slid home. Earl and the Hollenbeck began to duke it out. Before long, Hollenbeck had pulled Earl’s shirttail up over his head, effectively trapping his arms and bending him double. He held the wad of trapped arms and clothing with one hand and proceeded to give Cousin Earl a few uppercuts to the nose with his loose hand. Blood began to gush through the shirt fabric as Earl danced to free himself.

My Dad, although not a large man, was known to hold his ground and voice his opinion. He saw this mild infraction of gentlemen’s rules for boxing and made a comment about fareness to no one in particular. If Dad had intended to say more, he didn’t have the chance. Baseball has a way of arousing tempers. An informal and seldom kept baseball statistic is the numbers of punches thrown to punctuate a point of view. Dad was standing between two Hollenbecks and didn’t realize it. 

The Hollenbeck, to his left, took a roundhouse left to Dad’s breadbasket. This doubled Dad like a jackknife. The Hollenbeck, on the right, then had an opportunity to plant an uppercut right to Dad’s jaw. This unfolded Dad and laid him out on his back. Dad’s observations about fair boxing were over. He lay there collecting his wits as Bob ran to tell Mom. Bob’s relay race of the boxing results accompanied by his worried look was how I discovered that Dad had had an early fireworks show on that 4th of July. I was worried too, for Dad, until he joined us in the shade and sat to clear the cobwebs.

The baseball game ended like most, I suppose. Someone won, someone lost, someone vowed revenge next year. Few held grudges. Meadville and Long Pine players shook hands and went home friends. Dad recuperated with little to show for his time out. Earl Clark? He was none the worse for wear. He showed up in the shade for an after game snack. Fellows clapped him on the back and they all laughed heartily. Earl sported a bloody shirt… maybe a shiner… nothing that a big slab of watermelon wouldn’t cure.