Visiting Aunt Agnes
The House Out Back
The Old "Buggy"
The Wedding Dress
The garage (Aunt Agnes pronounced it in the British vernacular gar' ij) was located off the southwest corner of the house. It too was a wooden structure that hadn't seen paint in many years. It had a huge door that, with great effort, slid to the left. Its old hinges creaked and moaned each time they were forced to reveal the contents it sheltered. The main occupant of the garage was the 1920's vintage Chevy automobile that Aunt Agnes called "the buggy."
Full attention was required when driving one of these wonder machines. There was no power steering or brakes, no automatic transmission, no amenities. There was no radio to provide music, that was provided by the sound of the wind whistling through the open windows. I don't think there was a lot of talking as folks puttered down the road in one of these machines, what with hanging onto the steering wheel with both hands, managing the clutch just so, and encompassed by the many sounds it made. It was a big, black, monster of a car, no longer having a shine on its exterior. There were rust spots here and there. It smelled musty inside and its gray interior was tattered and torn, having seen much better days. That old car coughed and sputtered when started up, and it scared the "bejeebies" out of a little girl. It back-fired and sputtered as it went down the road. When I was very small I remember my mother trying to get me to ride in it with her, but I remained true to my conviction and avoided that dangerous device. I don't know when I finally made friends with the old buggy, but eventually it became an adventure to go toodlin' about in it. The picture is of Raymond and me sitting on the front of the buggy. It was taken in August of 1953. I don't look especially happy in this picture because it was a time in my life when I wasn't particularly fond of "boys," and he was one of "them." I remember very well having this picture taken and I was mad I had to sit beside "him."
My favorite outing was to go to the "Saturday Drawing" over in Moline. In the early 1950's Grenola had the Saturday street fairs too, but they ended at some point in time as the nature of farming changed. When farms were small and operated as independent family businesses, Saturday was a day for going to town to shop and to take care of various errands. It was also a day to have fun. The merchants took advantage of that and did all they could to get the desperately needed business. Those small farming towns came alive on Saturdays. When Grenola had the Saturday activities, we put on our "town clothes" and walked to the main thoroughfare. We went south down the road and walked up the railroad tracks to the main street. Everyone turned out for these events. They provided the opportunity to see friends and catch up on the latest gossip.
After the Grenola Saturday street fairs came to an end, we turned our attention to Moline, a bit larger town of probably 700 people or more. It was located 9 or 10 miles to the east of Grenola, yet it seemed like it took forever to get there. I suppose the old buggy didn't rumble along at a terribly fast speed though. Aunt Agnes liked the Saturdays in Moline better because the drawings were grander she said. It was an all day event and we were always really tired by the time we returned home.
Often Mrs. Eller from across the street would go with us to Moline. We would get up very early and pack a picnic lunch to have in the park in Moline. As I recall, it was a lush green park with lots of big old shade trees all around. I don't remember if there was a playground in it, so I think there may not have been or it wasn't near where we had our picnic. In any case, a playground wasn't the focus of our visit. All day on Saturday, whenever we shopped in a store we put our name on little pieces of paper for various drawings, and for the "big" drawing that was held in the early evening. I'm inclined to think that drawing was for cold hard cash because we never left town before it occurred. The more shops we went into the more chances we had to win so, needless to say, we didn't miss any. Some of the drawings were every hour in the stores, so we probably hit some of them more than once each visit. Perhaps this is where I first got my passion for shopping!
Aunt Agnes often picked up a "piece good" or two and we got a few groceries to take home. I always had a little money that my folks had sent along with me on my visit. I would usually spend for some little trinket that caught my eye. I remember one time winning a little ceramic animal in one of the "5 and dime" shops. I have a blue-gray colored horse figurine that has "Aunt Agnes Connick" written in pencil on the bottom, and I've often thought that that is the prize I won. There I was, looking around in the store for something wonderful to buy, and I heard my name called. Aunt Agnes came and found me and took me to the front counter, where I was presented with my prize. I remember being so excited about winning it. I don't think I had ever won anything before.
Being Kansas and summertime, it was hot and muggy weather most of the time, providing a valid reason too for staying in the shops. There was no air conditioning in those days, but I remember all the shops having ceiling fans circulating overhead. Usually at the counter there was an old black oscillating fan as well. In the mid- afternoon we would go to the Soda Shop for beverages and ice cream. I remember sitting at the counter, up on my knees on the stool, enjoying the cool refreshments and twisting back and forth, back and forth.
As it got close to early evening, everyone in town gathered out on the main street in preparation for the "big drawing." Usually the benches along the sidewalks were filled with elderly folks who had been strolling about all day and were now settled for the coming festivities. Children danced and whirled all about and surreptitiously looked to see what others were up to. Being so shy, I was much more a watcher in those days than a participant. I think there were some minor prizes given out and then a name was drawn for the big one. You had to be present to win, and everyone held their breath waiting and hoping it would be their name called out. When the drawing was finished, we packed into the buggy and headed to Grenola in the warm summer air. I think perhaps there was some sort of nighttime activities too, probably a dance, but we departed before dark. I imagine the buggy didn't have great lights for being out on the road at night.
When we arrived back in Grenola, we pulled into the pathway leading to the garage. Mrs. Eller and I would get out to open the big sliding door (I doubt I was much help), and Aunt Agnes would put the car away. Mrs. Eller would take her packages home and they each changed into their "house dresses." Aunt Agnes would make up a cold refreshing fruit drink, Mrs. Eller often returned, and we all sat on the big wooden porch to sip our drinks, review the day, and cool off.
We really didn't use the buggy for getting around town in Grenola, everything being within walking distance. I don't know where gas for the vehicle came from, but I suspect from some local farm, as I don't remember a gas station per se. That old garage provided adequate shelter for the buggy and the yard tools as well. I'm not sure I ever went all the way inside it, being as how it looked like a place where creatures and critter might hang-out. I just remember vividly how it looked and what wonderful treks that old buggy inside took us on.
Carol J. Swander Clark
(These are my memories - accurate to my way of thinking.)
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