cropped-SiteIcon-LLO.jpgChapter Two  Kay Eleanor McFarland

My Adolescent and Early School Years

Early School Days

I don’t necessarily have a favorite childhood story but I do remember the hard times of WWII. I was never involved in buying food for our dogs, yet I remember one day we were at the store and my mother told me to go and get canned dog food. In those days there was only one brand. A lady next to me was bemoaning that there used to be so many choices, but during the war many products were rationed. Some days you were lucky to find what you needed in the store, regardless of brand. The next time you went back to that store that brand may no longer be available or perhaps the item wasn’t available at all. I also remember how difficult it was getting tires. My dad could get tires for the Board of Education car that he used for work, but not for the family car. One time when he was in Arkansas for a meeting he was talking to a tire store owner who always seemed to have tires in stock. Senator Fulbright (the same Senator who initiated the Fulbright Scholarships) made sure Arkansas had all the products they needed. Senator Fulbright ran for re-election every six years. He would get out into the farms and fields and campaign for his re-election, and once reelected he’d jump right back into those expensive suits. I remember so many stories about Senator Fulbright from my youth."
My paternal grandparents (James and Frances) had an acre on the edge of Caney. The land had a great big barn, two fishponds, and a flower garden. My grandmother was an avid gardener. When my dad was growing up approximately half of their land was a vegetable garden, which she eventually transitioned into a flower garden. The flowers weren’t all necessarily pretty, and mother nature didn’t help with pollination, so my grandmother would put an old sock over the flowers to collect the pollen and distribute to other flowers. She raised all her own vegetables, iris and peonies flowers. She focused on individual flowers and began hybridizing them.  The Caney garden club would go over to Sarcoxie in southern Missouri and walk for hours looking at the flowers.  Fran would inspect every single plant. She took her gardening and the Caney garden club very seriously. My dad was her favorite child, and she thought he could do no wrong. My dad called her every Sunday night. EH was her next favorite son. For some reason she didn’t seem to care much about the two middle children. When all four boys would come for Christmas and they would do a gift exchange, Francis would write to the boys and tell them whose names to get a gift for. She would always have her two favorites (Ken and EH) exchange gifts and the two middle sons exchange gifts. During my mother’s second year of college, she (Clara) moved to Caney to teach. At that time Caney had the reputation of being completely wide open and wild. Because it backed up to Oklahoma, they had lots of immigrants working there. Her mother, my grandmother Eleanor, didn’t want her moving to Caney as she believed it to be too rough for a girl her age. My mom’s half-sister Edith told my mom not to date my dad, but she did so anyway. Edith thought my grandmother Francis was crazy. She was a take charge person most of her life. Her husband, James, was very quiet. He called her Fran. I don’t remember much about him other than we went on a trip to Florida once with four adults and two kids and there was no air conditioning and that my grandma Fran purchased a cement flamingo and set it on the floorboard of the car. My grandma Eleanor was a real character. I remember a time she had to have cataract surgery and my mother got stuck staying in the hospital with her. There was another patient in the room who had been in an awful car accident and my grandma would ask my mother why this lady was making so much noise, inquiring “doesn’t she know she’s bothering me?” My parents said surgery didn’t do her eyes any bit of good. Eleanor and Edwin had enclosed the screened in porch of their home and one time when she complained that she couldn’t see any better, Edwin fired up a cigar, lit the piece of paper surrounding the cigar, and dropped it on the floor. When it caught on fire she asked, “what’s on the floor,” and my dad answered, “I thought you couldn’t see anymore!” Fran outlived her husband James, who died from colon cancer. James was a teamster who drove horses. He and Fran met on a little farm outside of Caney. Once married and with children, they had the boys attend country school, and once they had finished school, Fran and James decided they needed to go to college, so they sold the farm and moved to town. James went to work for Prairie Pipeline until he was fired. Fran always purchased chicks and raised them to eat as fryers. She would get a huge number of chicks each spring. I recall her kitchen being a porch at one time. I also recall how chicken was a special treat on Sundays and how hot her kitchen would get when she was cooking it. The boys had two bedrooms in this house.  The bedroom for the boys was a small room with no closet. It had a little alcove that was used as storage for my grandmother’s clothes.  This room is where my uncles and father grew up. My grandparents had two teensy bedrooms and a tiny living room. They made the kitchen off the back porch.  All four boys shared the one room and had two double beds squeezed in.  Every Sunday the boys would straighten out their pants and put them between the mattress and the box springs until the following Sunday. One time my Uncle Frank put the ironing board under the sheet and as my dad came running in the room to jump on the bed he hit the board and hurt himself. Fran and James son EH was interested in flying. He went to Pittsburgh and got a flying field going and took people on charter flights from there. This was the same time as WWII and the military didn’t train pilots, but rather hired contractors like my uncle to train pilots.  The second oldest son, Russell, was very strange and married a woman by the name of Betty who was even stranger than he. Russell worked in industrial arts and could make almost anything. When he didn’t want to come to family gatherings he’d say he was staying home to work on his breezeways. The other brother, Frank was a pipefitter, who drank too much and beat on Edith, his wife. Everyone knew he beat up on her, putting her in the hospital more than once. Hugging was outside the realm of acceptable behavior and Edith was a hugger.  She was well endowed and would start bearing down on you and squeeze you to her chest. Edith could hug you so hard you would have trouble breathing when you were ensconced in her grip. My grandfather never had much to say. Frances was so dominant, James hardly talked at all.  Together they had four sons, my father being the youngest. When James died of colon cancer, he had no insurance. To keep him alive the cost was between $2,000 to $3,000. He told his family he didn’t have the money and wasn’t going to have the surgery. That’s about all I remember of his death; that and his colostomy bag. My mother grew up in Eureka and became a teacher in Caney.  I don’t remember her father, Edwin. I was a year old when he died he had a stroke. My grandmother Eleanor was very brave; we called her the official snake killer. My dad thought it was a terrible name.  We had a fish pond that was a stock tank sunk in the ground and it had a big king snake that was spotted and red. I recall the story of when I was a year and half old and the house was full of people. It was Christmas and everyone sat down for dinner. Upon realizing I was the only person not there, they all got up and began searching for me. When they couldn’t find me in the house they moved to the fish pond. My grandma saw my red snowsuit in the bottom of the pond and I was in it.  I had been there for a while.  She jumped into the pond and got me out.  My dad didn’t know how to do CPR, so he started pushing on my chest for what he said seemed like forever. I began spitting out all this black goo from the bottom of the pond.  They had been looking for me for a long time, so I must have fallen in and been there a while.  I was born in 1935, and this incident occurred during the Christmas of 1936. It was over a year before I’d take a bath again.  I never could go under water so swimming lessons were out of the question. My maternal grandmother, Eleanor, was very different from Fran. She graduated from Emporia and had a first husband no one ever talked about. Eleanor married my grandfather Edwin when he was 50, and he already had older children from his first marriage. My mother was never close to my grandmother.  Edith (my mom’s half-sister) lived in Caney. I didn’t have many cousins. I met Ed (EH’s son) one time when they were on their way back to Tulsa. Frank had a son who became a teacher in Denver. My mother remembered that Frank bought a camera and Russel took it as a down payment on a debt Frank owed him. Ed was fairly close in age to my dad. While he was in Kentucky he sold barrels filled with bourbon whisky. One time my dad took Ed to Caney and Ed said, “how many Kentucky Nasties do I have to eat around here to get a Russel Stover?” One time my mom got very angry with Ed. I flew into Springfield with him and my mother was mad that he was flying me around in his plane. If there was a plane that wasn’t in use, Ed would fly it. He was so similar to his dad in that way. He started flying at the age of 12. I remember my mother thought he was doomed to go to hell. He was totally out of control but at the same time a wonderful person. He was a General in WWII. Ed was successful in real estate and married a woman by the name of Glen. Francis was the only other cousin I remember, and she was Frank’s daughter."

Like / Dislike

When I was six years old I lived in Coffeyville and attended Garfield elementary school, which was a 7-8 block from my house. I loved stories back then but didn’t care much about going to school. My parents told me if I went to school then I could learn to read my own stories, which seemed like a pretty good ide. On my first day I came home, and my parents asked me whether or not I liked it and I said the school had a big sand pile and I played in the sand, and they had all of these paper dolls which I played with too, but I didn’t learn to read. I told them I liked my toys better and I didn’t want to go back to school. Being that my dad was the superintendent of the Coffeyville schools, he appeased my wish and I didn’t return for the next few days.

After School

"My first-grade teacher at the Garfield School (in Coffeyville) was a woman by the name of Miss Noble. There were approximately 25 kids in our class. On the way to Garfield I had to pass a Catholic school. The children would always be outside playing and I stop to talk to them which frequently made me late to class.

I finished first grade in Coffeyville and then attended second grade in Topeka at Randolph Elementary. My dad had accepted the position of superintendent of schools for 501. Miss Cook was my second-grade teacher and Miss Snell my third-grade teacher. I don’t recall any of my classes in Topeka being as large as my class in Coffeyville.

Miss Kittle was the 501 school district writing specialist during my elementary school years.  She was in her fifties at the time, and wore her hair slicked down and covered with a hair net. In her mind she had devised a way to teach writing effectively. Ms. Kittle handed out little sheets of paper so that you had to use your whole arm to write capital O’s, and we were made to do it page after page. I recall a time in 3rdgrade when I was sent home with a letter and asked my dad to read it to me. He told me to read it myself, being of age to do so, and I nervously had to tell him that I was unable to read longhand cursive writing. The next day he called for Ms. Kettle to come to his office and asked her why I hadn’t been taught to read cursive. Her answer was simple and to the point, saying, “I haven’t quite worked that out yet.”

My second-grade teacher, Ms. Cook, had kittens and she gave me one, who I named Clarence. I still have letters written by Mrs. Cook. She was a very nice person and had unbelievable handwriting that looked like it had been typed. We wrote many letters back and forth to one another.

Clarence wasn’t used to the outdoors and he’d come besides you and wanted to be petted. As the day progressed, and as one would struggle with the heat, Clarence did not want to be ignored and would come out of nowhere and sink all four claws into your leg and then dash up a tree. He’d give you a look like you deserved it for ignoring him. Clarence ran the neighborhood and all the dogs would come to the yard looking for him. My dad travelled during the week and would come home on the weekends. When he did Clarence would come to his room and meow about all the bad things that had happened to him during the week while my dad was away. We had this big desk and Clarence would go to the bathroom under it, so we put a dirt box under there and dad suggested we put some curtains up so that poor cat had some privacy. I remember having a wicker doll buggy and would dress Clarence up in baby clothes and a bonnet and put him in the buggy on his back, with his tail swinging back and forth. Clarence would have been the tough dog from the bad part of town, if he was a dog.

The Ray Beers family, who lived down the street from us, had a standard white poodle. That dog would get out of its house and come and dive into our pond and go home completely covered in green algae. When he would come to our property it looked like he was a participant in the Westminster show because he was so neatly groomed, yet when he would leave our property he was always covered in moss. Clarence liked that dog.

I recall a time in 7thgrade when I was in math class and there was a new teacher named Miss Showf. She was teaching us about math and a boy in my class who was disinterested in the topic decided it was preferable to watch a sporting game out of the back window. Miss Showf picked up a book and threw it right at his head. After that incident all of the children actively participated in math class.

The subjects I studied in school were the modern 3 R’s: remedial reading, writing, and arithmetic.  In high school I liked history, English and geography.  I did not like math, chemistry, biology or the sciences.

My mother was very active in clubs and women’s meetings and gave book reviews and was one of the very best dressed in our community.  My parents were active socially and had many friends who they would invite over for dinner or go out to dinner with. I wasn’t quite like that in junior high. I didn’t like being with kids my own age. I always preferred being in the company of my parents and their friends.
When I lived in Coffeyville there were a lot of kids and we all played together. We had a regular neighborhood group and my very best friend lived at the end of my block.
When we moved to Topeka (Westboro) most of the children were close in age to my brother and predominately boys. During that time I managed to do my own thing: reading and hanging out with my mother.

I didn’t participate in any extracurricular activities because I was so involved with our horses and farm animals.  In retrospect I didn’t quite realize other kids my age weren’t exactly like myself. One time when my dad asked why I didn’t want to go out with a group of them I said they were just a bunch of silly junior high kids. I was constantly around adults who, I felt, had conversations which were much more interesting than those of children my own age.

My brother James played a lot of basketball, and his team was state champions. He was so good that he was recruited by Kansas State. James did get into trouble at times though. One time he shot a boy by the name of Graden Luthie in the foot. The hand gun he used had a hair trigger which accidentally went off and the boys tried to make up a story about what happened.  James and his friends sent Graden crippling home and told him to recite the fabricated rendition of the event, but eventually the truth came out."

Childhood Illness

I always remember drinking grape juice when I would get sick, and even as I grew older I would buy grape juice to feel better. I don’t remember having many childhood illnesses, but I do recall my brother getting his tonsils out and being disappointed that he couldn’t swallow the ice cream my parents bought him. Besides having both the mumps and chicken pox as a child, I wasn’t sick often.

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