Origins of Jeannine Tour (8): Hanover
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.
Hanover is where my mother’s memories merge with mine and my sister’s. It is where her parents, Harley and Ida Prichard, moved while she was in college, and it is the place I visited every summer and Christmas until we moved to Hawaii when I was in junior high. For me, it is inseparable from my fun-loving, adventurous, industrious grandparents.
Hanover is where Dad proposed to Mom, driving her to the historic Pony Express Station, their make-out spot when they were visiting Mom’s parents. He pulled out a ring with a tiny diamond in it. Mom hadn’t wanted him to buy a ring. He had no money. But he did, anyway.
They were married in Hanover’s Zion Lutheran Church, Mom wearing a waltz-length dress of white lace that she designed herself and sewed with her Aunt Anna’s help, her roommate Doris standing by her side. Dad wore the dress-white uniform of the U.S. Navy. Mom went back to the KU Medical Center in Kansas City to finish her nursing degree, then moved to San Diego, where Dad was stationed and shipped out for the Korean War.
She came back to Hanover after Nancy was born, driving home with her mother and putting Nancy to bed in dresser drawers at the motels where they stayed. She went to work at the Hanover Hospital, where she was the only nurse. She assisted in surgery, tended to the patients on the ward, set up the nursery and gave instructions to the assistants who stayed when she left at night.
She remembers one snowy day, when she met one of her patients as she was getting out of her car in town. She was so excited to show her Nancy, who was bundled in a blanket lying on the back seat. She picked her up, cradled her in her arms, delicately unfolded the top of the blanket and revealed two wiggling pink feet. Sixty years later she still laughs at how the patient must have thought, ‘What an idiot.”
We visited the hospital, where Mom shared memories with Roger and Linda Warren, a husband and wife doctor team serving the community. Roger, the hospital’s administrator for about 50 years, was stepping down but would continue practicing.
We drove down the street where Grandma and Grandpa lived, where their house had been the last one before the cornfields began. Our pals, Val and Thelma Miller, lived in one of the two houses across the gravel road. I always remember Grandma’s face in the oval glass window of her ornate front door, watching for us through the snow at Christmas. During the summer, we’d play on the front porch, or on the merry-go-round Grandpa put in the back yard for us, or in the shed we’d take over for a clubhouse. We’d swim in the town pool that Grandpa, on the town council, had helped build. We’d pick beans and strawberries and raspberries and cherries and apples from the backyard garden and orchard. We’d serve pie at the church booth during the annual Days of ’49, celebrating the town’s founding, then ride the rides, throw nickels to win glass plates and bowls, and bet on the rat roulette game, where you would put a nickel on one of the colored spots on the counter. The carney then spun a wheel, a rat sitting under a cup in the center. The wheel was painted in pie-slices of the colors, a hole in the wide end of the slice. The carney lifted the cup and the rat, who must have been very dizzy by the end of the night, ran down a hole. Whichever color the rat chose determined the winner. It was Nancy’s favorite game.
After Grandma died, the house was sold for $2,800 and was torn down, the porch where she sat in her wooden swing shelling peas gone, the windowsills where her African violets bloomed gone. But Nancy saved the front door for me, and for years, it has been in my living room, leaning against the wall.
We drove Mom down Grandma’s road, where there are now 10 modern homes and, at the end, a pen filled with Texas longhorns. We had trouble finding the exact spot of the house because things had changed so much, and figured it out based on Val and Thelma’s house across the road.
We had lunch at Ricky’s, the café on the main drag, where Grandpa used to have coffee with the farmers every morning and afternoon and would buy Nancy and I Cokes and candy. After Grandpa died, Grandma would have lunch there every Sunday after church, slipping a quarter under the lip of her plate for a tip. Ricky is still cooking there, and the Sunday we stopped to eat, we had salad with Dorothy Lynch dressing, Grandma’s favorite. I had roast beef with mashed potatoes and gravy and Mom had fried chicken.
We drove past the school where Grandpa was the superintendent, principal, coach, and math and science teacher, and where Grandma worked in the lunchroom. In the town park, I played on the same merry-go-round and monkey bars that Nancy and I frequented, and at the town pool, I walked through the same dressing rooms we used and the pool deck where we sunbathed, read romance novels and ate frozen Big Hunk candy bars.
And we visited the church where Mom and Dad were married, the church we attended when we visited even after our family had eschewed religion, the church that brought Grandma such comfort. It’s exactly the same, the same Jesus above the altar, leaning toward the congregation, his arms outspread, the same well-worn wooden pews, the same wooden placard listing the day’s hymns hanging from the wall. It looks just the same as the day I spoke at Grandma’s funeral.