Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - Nov. 18, 2004
Another time and place
I'd forgotten that Dad's favorite color was red, his favorite time of day was evening and his favorite flower was the marigold. I remembered that his favorite soup was tomato, his favorite actor was Humphrey Bogart and his favorite song was "Amazing Grace."
I was reminded of these and many of his other favorite things last weekend, when I brought out "Grandpa's Story: A Keepsake and Memories Album for Grandchildren" that Dad filled out several years ago when Mariya was just a baby.
Although he died two years ago this week, reading that little album helped bring him back for a short while. I could picture him at the kitchen table at the farm - pen in hand - carefully answering each question in the book.
I got out the album because I wanted to use the questions in it to "interview" my first husband's father so one day his grandchildren will have part of his history written down.
There were many similarities between Dad's and Ken's memories.
They both grew up on farms - Dad near Crystola, Colorado and Ken near Manchester, Oklahoma. They had similar farm chores during their growing-up years in the late 1920s and 1930s. Dad carried in wood from the wood pile, pumped water from the well, helped with the harvest and took care of the animals. Ken chopped wood, milked cows and helped during harvest.
Neither family had electricity or running water. Their homes were heated by wood- or coal-burning stoves. Both families cut Christmas trees from pastures near their homes and celebrated holidays with traditional family dinners. Both families canned their own vegetables and fruit and stored the extra jars and potatoes in cellars.
Dad and Ken liked school, although both admitted to playing hooky now and then. Dad got A's in spelling, and he liked history and arithmetic. Ken got a medal in storytelling and he got good grades in all his classes. They could buy sticks of gum or lollipops for a penny and candy bars for a nickel.
Neither had many store-bought toys. Dad and his brothers chased each other around the farm with the chicken legs - feet attached - that the family had lopped off in the process of butchering fryers for special family meals. Ken made guns from sticks for his games of cops and robbers.
Along with interviewing Ken, Art and I took him to Manchester, where many of his childhood memories were made. He shared a story about how when the school principal got married, he tried to teach his new wife how to shoot. She shot him in the head! Although it turned out to be just a flesh wound, he decided not to teach her any more about hunting.
We traveled the red clay and sand road to Ken's Grandmother Emma Koehler's large house - now in a state of disrepair - where he was born.
A few miles down the road was the St. Peter and Paul Catholic Church - now locked up - where Ken's parents, Henry Johanning and Irene Koehler, and he and Rita Claflin were married. His maternal and paternal grandparents and parents are buried in the tiny cemetery to the west of the church.
Further south from the church was the farm where Ken, his parents, two brothers and three sisters lived in a small house. He and his brothers shared a bed on the porch that was converted into a bedroom and his three sisters shared another in one of the two bedrooms in the house. All that is left of the house is the foundation.
We finished by following Ken's directions to the home where Rita and her family lived just a few miles away. Rita and Ken met when Ken returned from his Seabees service during World War II and his cousin suggested a double date. Ken had been away so long he didn't know who to ask, but his cousin suggested Rita, even though she was dating Ken's brother Leonard at the time. She said "yes" to the date and later said "yes" for a lifetime. Ken said he had to talk hard to convince Leonard to be his best man at their wedding.
Ken thoroughly enjoyed the day and the evening that followed as we plowed through photo album after photo album. I've known Ken for 25 years and although I've heard about many of the places we saw that day, the visit made them real.
And the grandfather book capped a great weekend. I not only learned more about Ken, but I re-learned some of what I had forgotten about Dad. These things were about another time and other places, but now I feel more connected to them.
Ken and Rita Johanning were married in the St. Peter and Paul Catholic Church south
of Manchester, Okla. and many Johannings are buried in the cemetery to the west.