Origins of Jeannine Tour (6): Winifred, Home
This summer we took Mom in The Epic Van on a tour of all her old Kansas haunts. We’re calling it the Origins of Jeannine Tour.
In Winifred, Mom found the spot where her grandfather, Gottfried Keller, built what everyone called the big house, a place where the family gathered for Christmases when Mom was a little girl.
Mom’s grandmother, Rosina, died young, when Mom’s mother, Ida, was only six. The oldest daughter, Emma, helped raise the other seven children.
Mom remembers climbing the grand circular staircase in the big house to light real candles on the fresh pine in the hallway and listening to her Aunt Rosina (Rosina’s namesake) play the rosewood organ on the second-floor landing.
The family farmed and raised chickens and turkeys, and after getting married, Ida would visit every weekend to help with the chores. Mom remembers playing on the merry-go-round by the school across the road, and we found it still there. She would play hopscotch by the school, which had the only sidewalk in town. And she remembers running barefoot down that sidewalk one day and nearly stepping on several snakes sunning themselves on the concrete.
She would walk down the road to the old bank building, which housed a grocery where she could buy penny candy.
At the big house, Mom would watch baby turkeys hatch under lights in the basement, then moved to the turkey shed in the yard. Her first job, for which she would earn a nickel, was to herd the birds up the hill across the dirt road to eat the new wheat in early spring. She was about six years old and would use a long switch to move them over the cold, often snowy ground. But they would always fly over her head back to the turkey shed, and she would have to go gather them all over again, crying all the way.
She remembered how the “stupid” birds would peck each other until the skulls showed, and how Emma would sew tiny denim caps to protect their heads. Mom was always happy to eat the turkey at Thanksgiving.
An electrical fire burned the big house to the ground, taking the organ, too, and Gottfried and Emma moved into a much-smaller house on the property. Emma supported them raising and selling chickens and eggs, and Mom would go with her as she made her customer rounds in town.
After Nancy and I were born, we would visit Aunt Emma and collect eggs from the hundreds of chickens in the large yards enclosed in wire fences and make “dolls” out of the hollyhocks she planted around the house. We walked to the same store to buy raspberry sherbet, a treat for everyone, because Aunt Emma didn’t have a refrigerator or freezer. Or indoor plumbing. Nancy and were fascinated with the outhouse out back.
At nearby Home, Kansas, we found the house where Mom’s father, Harley Prichard, was born. He delighted in telling people he was born at Home. Minnie Prichard raised her nine children alone after her husband, Jesse, joined his father, A.J., mining in Idaho, where A.J. found the first silver ore in the Coeur d’Alene. Minnie always claimed he abandoned her, but he apparently asked her to go with him and she refused. Harley never saw his father after he left.
Mom’s Uncle Otto, Harley’s brother, ran the grain elevator and was the postmaster at Home, and her Aunt Mary, Harley’s sister, owned the grocery store, where Mom and her brother, Hal, would climb the rolling wooden ladders to the high shelves and sit in the lofty deep window wells to watch customers in the store. Each Christmas, Mary would give them a box of canned goods and other food, fancy things they never bought for themselves.