Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - March 18, 2011

"Thank you, Watson!"

Mom turns 87 today. While not a big milestone number, it caused me to reflect a bit on her life.

She grew up during the Depression and Dust Bowl years on a small farm near White City, Kansas. Her "Papa" Nels had arrived from Sweden in 1909 and had spent a few years as a miner in Colorado before settling down to farm in Morris County. He planted crops using horses and shocked the wheat by hand. Her "Mama" Hulda cooked on a wood stove. The house had no bathroom. Mom and her older sister Edith usually walked to their one-room rural grade school, but sometimes caught a ride on a neighbor's Shetland pony. The high school was in Dwight, more than five miles away. So when they finished elementary school, Nels took them to Dwight by horse and buggy on Sundays. During the week, they attended school during the day and worked for their room and board in the evenings. Then they returned to the farm after school on Fridays.

To get another perspective on her life, I decided to find out what important events happened in 1924 - the year Mom was born.

Searching on the Internet, I discovered the following:

*British Egyptologist Howard Carter found the sarcophagus of Tutankhamun.
*Congress granted citizenship to all American Indians.
*The nine-year-old Ku Klux Klan raised $5 million, mostly in the Midwest, and vowed to keep America white and Protestant by changing U.S. immigration laws.
*Kimberly Clark Corporation introduced Celluwipes, a disposable handkerchief later called Kleenex 'Kerchiefs and then just Kleenex.

While these events are interesting, I'm not certain they had any significant effect on Mom or our family. But a few other 1924 events certainly did.

*Macy's sponsored its first Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York.

Like many other families, when I was young, getting up on Thanksgiving Day and watching the parade on television was a fixture in our observance of the holiday.

*70 percent of all bread was "store bought," up from 30 percent in 1910.

In my life, I don't recall Mom ever baking bread. An activity that once consumed an inordinate amount of Hulda's time had been set aside by the time I was born.

*Production of the first row-crop tractors began.

Since Dad planted wheat, beans, corn and milo, plowing with a tractor made for big changes in the family. The hours spent and space required to care for horses became a thing of the past.

*Wheaties breakfast cereal went on the market.

I wish I had a nickel for every bowl of Wheaties our family consumed. While my favorite is now Cheerios, having cereal for breakfast almost every day was a habit learned at home.

*Morton Salt iodized its product to help eradicate goiters. It was the first major brand of any food substance to have a medically beneficial ingredient added deliberately to help its marketing effort.

I'm uncertain whether this had an impact on our family. Goiters were once very common, particularly in parts of the country well away from fresh sources of seafood. Kansas certainly qualifies in that regard. But who knows whether anyone in our family would have been afflicted.

To get Mom's perspective on her life, I asked her what she considered to be the biggest change in her lifetime. She didn't mention Dad using the tractor, having Wheaties for breakfast, purchasing bread rather than baking it or the elimination of goiters.

Without hesitation, she said, "The computer."

For someone who never touched a computer until her 65th birthday, she's used one quite a bit. Husband Art and I gave her a second-hand desktop unit that year. She didn't have much luck with that machine, although she used it to write articles about her club and family activities for the local newspaper.

Art made several computer upgrades over the years and Mom has worked on two big projects.

Both of the projects have come about due largely to the encouragement of her friend Stan. He did his memoirs, complete with scanned photos and documents. He even included his rendition of "Anchors Aweigh" in Latin - a salute to both the ancient language he learned as a youngster and his time in the Navy during World War II.

Stan prodded Mom to begin her memoirs and, since about 2005, she has written her recollections of growing up on the Kansas prairie and attending and teaching in rural schools. She also wrote about her impressions of Dad, her partner for 56 years; her parents; her three kids; her grandchildren; and other family members and friends.

It is now a nearly 75-page book that includes photos of people, pets, homes and schools over the years; a photo of the Adriatic, the ship her Dad traveled on when he came to the U.S.; her drawing of her childhood pet pig Pinky; a list of cars she and Dad owned; a Mostrom-Carlberg family tree; newspaper articles; documents; and many other tidbits.

Her other big project is a booklet about the rural schools of Morris County. She's done research at libraries, contacted area teachers and pulled together quite a bit of material on the approximately 100 small schools where farm children were educated in the late 19th and early 20th Century.

In recognition of her efforts, sister Gaila, brother Dave and I bought her a new machine last year. She went from having one of the oldest computers in the family to having the newest.

Coincidentally, one other 1924 milestone related directly to what Mom considers the biggest change in her lifetime is the following:

*International Business Machines (IBM) Corporation was formed by Thomas Watson. It was formed through a merger of three companies: the Tabulating Machine Company, the International Time Recording Company and the Computing Scale Corporation.

So, on Mom's behalf, we say, "Thank you, Watson!"

Left, Mom Edla holding an earlier version of her memoir booklet that she continues to update;
right, friend Stan and Mom share a laugh when Mom missed sitting on the chair edge for a picture.

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