Thursday, August 14, 2014

Emulating Isaac

A man doesn't plant a tree for himself.  He plants it for posterity.  Alexander Smith  

Isaac Werner planted many trees on his homestead and timber claim, using cuttings, seeds, and plants bought from growers.  (See "Isaac Plants Cottonwood Trees," 12-2-2011 in the blog archives.) He also sold some of the small trees he had grown.  This summer I emulated Isaac by transplanting some volunteer seedlings that had grown where they were not wanted.

My transplanted redbud tree
For two seasons I had watched small silver maples growing in my vegetable garden, hiding alongside veggies that I did not want to disturb by digging up the little trees.  There were also two volunteer maples and a redbud tree in an ivy bed next to the house.  Because they were a foot or two tall, my husband suggested that he should probably be the one to dig them up. At that time, neither of us knew that maples are surface feeders with shallow roots.  Redbuds, however, are a different matter.

My husband forgot his offer to dig up the seedlings, and the following spring, I decided I would dig them up myself and find a place to transplant them.  The maples were surprisingly easy, but I had no idea when I began digging that redbud roots are so deep.  The little volunteer was only about 16" tall, but its root was longer than my arm, more like a pig tail than a typical root. I was determined not to cut the main root, and I stubbornly dug for most of the morning.  After a break to eat lunch while water soaked into the hard soil at the bottom of the hole I had dug, I returned to dig some more in the muddy bottom of the hole until I finally reached the end of the root!  In the photograph above, notice that the root begins at about elbow height and the end lays out slightly on the ground by my foot.

A red bud branch covered with seed pods
I know that redbuds thrive in the shade of taller trees, yet I foolishly planted my little tree in a place shaded during the morning but in the hot afternoon sun.  Its leaves turned brown and became as crisp as potato chips before falling off, leaving nothing but naked branches.  

Much to the amusement of my husband and his friends, I refused to give up on the naked redbud, continuing to water it.  I trusted in the long root to save the tree, but after many days of seeing what appeared to be a dead tree, I was about ready to concede defeat.  Just in time, I spotted a tiny speck of green--too small to be identified as a sprouting leaf, but worth continuing to water for a few more days.  Eventually I could determine that it was a leaf, and soon a few more green specks appeared.  It was then that I clipped a white towel to the west side of the wire cage around the little tree, providing it with afternoon shade.  It rewarded me with more leaves.

The row of silver maples in their new cages
I am told that it is uncommon for the seeds from a redbud tree in a cultivated landscape to root naturally, but apparently one little seed found a perfect spot in the moist shade of our ivy bed on the north side of the house.  I have never paid much attention to the redbud seed pods, but they are forming now, and I think I may try planting some of them.  I will choose the planting location more carefully, providing the shade of taller trees to protect the seedlings from the hot afternoon sun, and maybe I can grow more redbuds to join the brave little transplant that I planted in the sun.

Isaac could not have been more proud of his sprouting cottonwood cuttings than I am of my little redbud tree and the five transplanted silver maples.  Because deer rubbed the cottonwoods my husband transplanted last year to death, we put tomato cages with mesh around the little trees to protect them, and this week my husband made proper cages for the growing maples.  My little redbud is still in its tomato cage, but we think all six of the transplanted trees are thriving and will mature along with the new bald cypress trees we bought from the nursery.

Bald Cypress with Hedge Apple tree row
My great grandmother and her son, my grandfather Beck, planted cottonwoods and hedge apples; my parents planted elms.  Their trees are aging, and even the self-seeded elms growing all around the farm are getting old.  We have enjoyed the shade of trees planted two generations ago, so now my husband and I are planting trees for others to enjoy after we are gone.

As long as people plant trees, there is hope for the future in their hearts.  As Albert Schweitzer believed:  Never say there is nothing beautiful in the world anymore.  There is always something to make you wonder in the shape of a tree, the trembling of a leaf.  

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Stafford (KS) Opera House

Weide Opera House, Stafford, Kansas
On November 5, 1888, Isaac B. Werner wrote in his journal:  "While eating my breakfast I decided should occasionally enjoy a holiday at least, so got ready & soon took off for Stafford City.  Got there by noon when they were forming the procession for Union Labor rally.  Looked hastily over the town which had improved a little surprisingly since my last trip through there some 7 years ago.  Had some speaking in a hall...  Close to 500 people attending, some 200 women and an enthusiastic audience it was too."

Although Stafford had vied with St. John for the Stafford County seat, it was St. John that won the battle at the ballot box.  (See "Isaac's Victorian Courthouse," 3-29-2012 in the blog archives.)  Consequently, Isaac traveled to the county seat in St. John more often than to Stafford.  Even so, it seems surprising to those of us today who think little of traveling  25 or 30 miles, that Isaac would not have returned to Stafford City for 7 years!

Eventually, Stafford got a new Opera House, but that structure had not been built when Isaac attended the Union Labor rally.  His only description was "some speaking in a hall," so I am uncertain of the building that might have hosted the speakers.  As always, Isaac was encouraged by seeing women taking part in political matters, although they did not yet have the vote.

Interior, Weide Opera House, Stafford, Kansas
The post card images in this blog, including The Weide Opera House, Stafford, Kas. at the beginning of this blog are part of the Yost/Leak Collection and should be credited as such.  The post card image of the interior of the Weide Opera House bears on the reverse side a postal cancellation with the date "1911, Sep 18," although the "Stafford County History, 1870-1990" indicates the building date as 1912.  (The postal cancellation would seem to establish that the construction was completed by the earlier date.) It was clearly an impressive building for public performances.

Unfortunately it fell on hard times and was demolished in 2013.  We are left to imagine what wonderful social evenings the residents of Stafford must have enjoyed in their Opera House in its prime!

(If you missed the blog about the Opera House in St. John, KS, you may visit it in the blog archives at "St. John (KS) Convention Hall & Opera House," 6-26-2014.)

Thursday, July 31, 2014

My New Landscape

Before Landscapers Arrived
I am slow posting today's blog, but it has been a wonderful day.  Several days ago, we discovered a nursery in Kingman, KS whose owner, Roy R. Riggs, is the third generation of his family to operate the business begun by his grandfather.  John W. Riggs was born in 1887, and Roy's father, C.W. Riggs was a late in life baby born of John's second marriage, so it is almost as if the business has been owned for four generations, based on the number of years that it has existed.


We have enjoyed several beautiful yards, some of which we inherited when we bought a home with an existing garden, and others of which we designed and planted ourselves.  But, until today, we had never had the nursery do the landscape installation.  At 7:45 a.m. Roy called to say he would arrive late morning to begin installing the plants I had carefully selected with his assistance.  I had done the design, but I needed his advice about which plants would work best in my sandy loam soil and the sunny and shady conditions of our yard.  I was already working in the yard, getting ready for his arrival when he called.  I have just come inside from my day involved in the landscaping, and after 12 hours I am tired but delighted.  I decided I would share my day with you.

As you can see from the "Before" photograph above, I have spent many days plugging Bermuda grass from our existing yard into the new area, also building the stairs and raised bed in the picture, as well as installing pavers for the sidewalk and small patio area.  I was ready for some help!

Taking a lunch break
Roy arrived at noon with J.L. and Joseph, ready to unload the plants but inquiring about the closest restaurant.  They had counted on The Hornets' Nest, a wonderful cafe in Byers that has closed, so Larry offered to go to Macksville to get their lunch and bring it back to the farm so they could get started.

By the time he returned, the crew had set all the plants where they were to be installed, and they were ready to take a break before beginning to dig!

My objective was to select plants with colorful foliage, different textures, and a significant number that would retain their leaves or needles year round.  I chose bald cypress trees, two colors of bayberry, two different yews, a spruce and a pine, two different euonymus plants with yellow and green leaves, and two flowering deciduous shrubs--crepe myrtle and hydrangea. 


At day's end
I am thrilled with the result!...as you can see from my smile as I posed with the crew at the end of the day.  I told them what a pleasure it was for me to stand with my hands on my hips and watch someone else dig, after all my days of sodding the yard.  Actually, it was an even greater pleasure to watch their professionalism and their genuine effort to do a good job and make sure I was pleased.  What a joy to experience a crew who worked so hard to make sure their customer was completely happy.

No, they don't know that I am posting this blog about them, and no, I am not getting a discount for praising their work and their beautiful plants.  But if you want a nursery with over a century of experience and a determination to make their customers happy, you may want to visit Southwestern Nurseries in Kingman, KS...or, (for all my international and distant blog followers), you may just have to wish you lived close enough to be able to do that!


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Do You Like Isaac?

Isaac loved Shakespeare
There are a few writers' blogs that I follow occasionally, and one of them is "Live, Write, Thrive."  Recently a post there was titled, "Make Me Like Your Protagonist or I'll Stop Reading."  The advice was directed more toward novels, but I had fun applying some of the advice to my history of Isaac and the Populist Movement.

First, the suggestion was that the character has to grow and change, perhaps learn a life lesson by the end of the book, a technique sometimes called a Character Arc.  I'm going to give Isaac points for his constant belief in the importance of learning.  While he did most of his learning from books, he also learned how to work within his community, directing his attention toward helping others as much as he sought to help himself.  At the end of his life, the lesson that he learned was that even an independent, solitary man must sometimes accept help from others.
Catalpa blooms like Isaac's

Second, the character must have a clear goal.  Double points to Isaac on that one.  His personal goal was to make a success of his farm, and he created a farm described as one of the best in the community.  His social goal was to work with his community through the Farmer's Alliance and the People's Party to make better lives for working people, and while he and the People's Party declined at about the same time, they left accomplished goals behind.

Isaac's friend "Doc" Dix
Third, don't make me wait to like your character.  That's a little tricky, since I start the book with Isaac's funeral.  Yet, the friends gathered at his grave are those who cared about him, who knew the good things he had done for the community, and who would miss him and his thoughtfulness.  Readers won't meet Isaac until the next chapter, but they will get to know him in the Preface through the eyes of his friends.
Isaac's Gravestone

Last, make your character sympathetic by showing his passion, needs, and vulnerabilities.  None of you has read the manuscript, but as you follow this blog, I have showed many sides of Isaac, and I hope by now you are invested in his life and find him a sympathetic man.  You cannot answer whether I have done a good job in the manuscript of meeting these suggestions for developing the main character, but from reading the blog, I hope you can answer the question at the top of the blog!  Do You Like Isaac?

Isaac was not a character that I created in a novel.  He was a real man, with his talents and his flaws, his intellect and his idiosyncrasies.  But, in the end, I've enjoyed spending the last few years in his company.  I definitely like Isaac and I hope you do too!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Bibliomaniac vs. Collector?

Bibliomania - a disorder involving the collecting or hoarding of books to the point where social relations or health are damaged...characterized by the collecting of books which have no use to the collector nor any great intrinsic value to a more conventional book collector. 


Having just spent several days boxing up some of my precious books to be stored while we are remodeling, at least part of which construction is motivated by the need to have more bookcases for my books, I might seem to some people who read less seriously or who have converted to reading e-books to be a candidate for the above-defined disorder.  However, I do read the books I buy--or at least intend to read the books someday--and except for the fact that I save paperbacks whose contents are worthy, even if the yellowing pages and dog-eared books are not, my collection does have intrinsic value recognized by other serious bibliophiles.  I think I am still relatively sane in that regard!


Sample of Isaac's handwriting from his journal
I also believe that Isaac Werner acquired books worth collecting.  (See "Isaac's Library," blog archives 2-2-2012.)  His journal from his mid-20s describes how he planned space on his bookcase for future acquisitions, and he consulted a particular book and other publications for recommended reading.  He approached additions to his library very seriously.


Thanks to Marcia Brown, past director of the Pratt County Historical Museum, I now own a book from Isaac Werner's library!  Her sharp eye and amazing memory spotted three books in the recent deacquisition sale at the public library, and she bought them for me, delivering them to me the afternoon of the Filley Grand Opening (See "Arts Thrive on the Prairie," 7-3-2014), making that special day even more special for me! 


All three books bear the library's inventory bookplate reading: "Presented by Dix Collection," and the book titled Among My Books by James Russell Lowell, copyright 1870, bears the inscription "I.W. Werner, Rossville, Ills., May 29th, 1870," a date consistent with Isaac's years in Rossville as the proprietor of a drug store.  I assume that Dr. "Doc" Dix, a close friend of Isaac, may have bought these three books at Isaac's Estate Sale following his death.  Isaac's probate records document the sale of many titles from his library with the name of the purchasers; however, there were so many books in his collection that a large portion of his library was boxed and sold in lots, without the specific listing of titles contained in each box. 


All three books bear copyright dates prior to or during the years Isaac lived in Rossville, when he was doing his most active collecting (having more disposable income as a young druggist than he had later as a struggling farmer on the prairie).  One of the books is McGuffey's New Juvenile Speaker:  Containing more than Two Hundred Exercises for Reading and Speaking, published in 1860, at a time when Isaac was still a student in Wernersville, PA.  Isaac mentions in his journal referring to books on grammar and elocution in his library, which also supports the possibility that this particular book could have been owned by Isaac when he was a young scholar.


The third book is Recent British Philosophy, by David Mason.  There are penciled notations in the margins
A margin note from Philosophy book
on several pages, as well as at the back cover.  I have examined samples of Isaac's handwriting to compare with the margin notes in this book, and many of the letters appear very similar to the style of Isaac's penmanship.  However much I would like to be certain that this book did belong to Isaac and the margin notes are his, I cannot be sure.  You may make your own comparison from the journal sample above and from the sample of Isaac's signature at the opening of last week's blog.  (See "What's in a Name?" archives 7-3-2014.)  

As I shared in earlier blogs, prior to beginning to write the manuscript about Isaac and his community, I bought several books that I knew from his journal that he owned, and I attempted to buy the editions near the time of his acquisitions of the books.  I wanted to see what Isaac was reading in order to understand more closely who he was, and it was obvious to me that Isaac's education did not end with his formal schooling.  His curious mind explored history, art, literature, medicine, and other serious subjects.

In the Commencement Address I delivered this past spring, I told the graduates, "Learning doesn't stop when you leave school, and if each of us isn't learning something new every day, we just aren't trying."   Isaac obviously agreed.  (See "School & Community, Then & Now," blog archives 5-21-2014.)

I suspect there are still Isaac's books to be found on book shelves in his old community, and thanks to Marcia Brown I definitely own one of Isaac's books.  If you have some dusty old books on your shelves that were published in the late 1800s, check to see if Isaac's signature is inside.  I know there must be more of his library to be discovered!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

What's in a Name?

Like many prairie settlers of his generation, Isaac B. Werner had ancestral roots in Germany.  Although his surname was Werner, it was apparently pronounced Verner, judging from that spelling having been used occasionally in newspaper references to Isaac.  His signature employed his initials, but newspaper references used his given name of Isaac.  There were apparently some who called him Ike, as he quotes in his journal the words of an acquaintance who referred to him with that shortened version of his name.

We have no control over the names our parents choose to give us, and recent choices are sometimes quite unorthodox.  When the Social Security Administration revealed the most popular names given American babies in 2013, Noah and Sophia topped the lists.  However, the SSA also shared unusual names that were used, including the number of babies given those names.  On the girls' list, 63 babies were named Vanellope, with Happiness (8), Envie (7), and Rarity (7) apparently expressing the emotions of the parents.  Ransom, Sierraleone, and Snowy were each given to five little girls.  Boys were also given unusual names:  Jcelon (10), Tuf (8), Charger, Forever, Kyndle, Power, and Warrior each having been given to 7 little boys.  Sometimes vehicles seem to play a role in the naming, with 5 little boys named Subaru.  We recently met a young girl named Ramsy, who told us she was named after a truck.

Studies have been done on the impact a person's name may have on their character or their future success.  Of course, if a person is so unhappy with the name they were given, it can be legally changed later, but most people adapt to their unusual names. 

Sometimes our names are modified by others.  Laura becomes Lori; Sarah becomes Sally; Barbara becomes Barb; Charles becomes Charlie, Johnathan becomes Jack; and Nicholas becomes Nick,--names shortened, lengthened, and transmogrified by friends and family, with or without the concurrence of the person whose name is altered.  In the past the identity of women nearly disappeared, as for example when Miss Hillary Rodham married and became Mrs. William Clinton.  Those tracing their family's genealogy know how quickly the identity of female ancestors disappear because of that older tradition.  Today, women often retain their maiden names, whether as a middle name, a hyphenated combination of their maiden name and their husband's surname, or as the surname they retain for themselves.

Informally, I prefer to be called Lyn, but for official documents and publications I use my formal name, consisting of my given name, my maiden name, and my married name.  Uncle Sam and some businesses seem to disapprove, insisting on changing my maiden name to an initial, a modification I find irritating.  As an attorney, I had to prepare affidavits to clear title to land (and for other legal matters) when people took title in one version of their name but conveyed the land using a different version.  I want to be consistent about my informal and my formal name to avoid that problem!

Kansas Governor John Pierce St. John
Many governments around the world are inclined to tamper with the naming process.  Among the naming restrictions in several countries are:  prohibitions against using names that imply a title (such as Prince, Princess, King, Major, Sargent, and Knight), unisex names that do not make the gender of the person obvious, names of products or surnames as given names (such as Isaac's middle name of Beckley which was his mother's maiden name), shortened versions of a name (such as Tom rather than Thomas or Tomas), spellings that indicate ethnicity or a religion different from the national majority (such as banning Sarah, which is the Hebrew spelling but authorizing Sara, which is the Arabic spelling).  Some countries oppose names from nature, which would present a problem for several American celebrity babies, such as Apple (Gwyneth Paltrow), Sage Moonblood (Sylvester Stallone), Bear (both Kate Winslet and Alicia Silverstone's sons), and Birdie and Cricket (Marc Silverstein's daughters).  The daughter of Bristol Palin's ex, Levi Johnston, was given the name Breeze Beretta, combining nature and weaponry, while Kanye West and Kim Kardashian named their daughter North West!  (Maybe their next child will be named three-one-five, the compass point for northwest, or maybe they will choose South West for their second child!)   The United States concerns itself more with name changes for concealment of identity or deception than with creative choices by parents.

The city of St. John, KS (Isaac Werner's former County Seat) had been struggling for years, trying to end the practice of the United States Post Office changing their name to Saint John.  St. John was named after Kansas governor John Pierce St. John who served in office from 1879 to 1883.  The official name of the city was never Saint, and the use of "St." is not an abbreviation of that word!  Because of the USPS misuse of the city's name, the error had been picked up by others, such as businesses and schools that did not know the origin of the name.  You might think it would be easy to simply let the USPS know of their error in order to get the practice stopped; yet, that had not been the case.  However, an online petition succeeded quickly when other efforts over the years had failed.  One week after the petition was started, the U.S. Postal Service agreed to change the name in its data base, the only omission being the period after St., because the data base does not include periods.  Bravo to the internet, where voices were apparently heard after the sounds of real human voices and letters had been ignored. 

As it turns out, "What's in a Name?" is not an easy question to answer.  I hope some of you will add a comment to this blog, sharing unusual names among your family and acquaintances.  If you are a grandparent adjusting to an unusual name given your grandchild, maybe you will take comfort after reading this blog that your descendant isn't named Moonblood or Beretta!

Arts Thrive on the Prairie















While my blog of 6-18-2014 declared that "Isaac Would Have Been the First One Inside the Door" when the new Vernon Filley Art Museum held its Grand Opening on June 29, 2014, he would have needed to have lined up early to have been the first visitor!  The crowd began to gather well before the 2 p.m. ribbon cutting, and when Mimi Filley arrived, applause filled the air.



 





Awaiting Mimi were Stan Reimer, who had worked with her for nine years to establish the museum in Pratt, and two members of the Filley Foundation Board, Chris Himmelwright and Lu Sherer, who were waiting with a festive red ribbon.



As the ribbon was cut, the Brass Ensemble announced the moment with their fanfare!  Musicians were Abby Giles, Peter Weinert, Steve and Brittany Novotony, and Blake Lee.  The crowd formed a line to await entry into the museum, eventually adding their names to the guest book, a document that will forever evidence the huge support the community showed their new museum on opening day.


By the end of the day, estimates of the crowd attending the Open House ranged from 500 to 700 visitors.  Not only had they filled the galleries to enjoy their first opportunity to view the Filley Collection, but they were also treated to entertainment by harpist, Julie Rewerts, from the Stafford community, just one of the communities in the surrounding region served by the museum.  A trio of young fans particularly enjoyed the music!

It was overwhelmingly apparent that support for the new museum is strong.  The museum is located at 421 S. Jackson Street in Pratt, KS and will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesday - Friday and from 1 to 4 on Saturdays.  Regular Docent Tours will be available for the public without prior reservations at 1:30 the first Saturday of each month, and arrangements for planned Docent Tours may be made by calling the museum at 620/933-2787 or e-mailing INFO@VERNONFILLEYARTMUSEUM.ORG.  Classes for children and adults are now available, and rental opportunities of the museum are also available by contacting the museum.  Volunteers to help in many capacities have already been of great benefit to the mission of the museum, and more volunteers are welcomed!


In addition to revenue received from memberships and rental of the facility, financial support from individuals and businesses is important.  On Saturday evening a dinner in the museum lobby was held to honor Mimi and to show appreciation to the generosity of early supporters.  A member of the Filley family said that nothing reflected the community support more clearly for her than the willingness of members of the community to loan their fine China for the table settings.  In the background of the image at right can be seen the harpsicord that was used to entertain during the evening.

  At the close of the evening, Mimi Filley and Stan Reimer shared a private conversation, undoubtedly relishing the occasion marking the fulfillment of Mimi's childhood dream and the years of hard work it had taken to make her dream come true.  You may read more about the museum at www.vernonfilleyartmuseum.org.

(Remember, to enlarge the images, you may click on them.)

Thursday, June 26, 2014

St. John (KS) Convention Hall & Opera House

Parade around the St. John, Kansas Square
[You can still read last week's blog about the Grand Opening of the Vernon Filley Art Museum in Pratt, KS on Sunday, June 29th from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the end of the current blog.  This week's blog continues the theme of  the tradition of high regard for the arts in this region.]


On November 3, 1888, Isaac B. Werner wrote in his journal:  "I off on horse back for St. John, there by noon as the U. L. [Union Labor] procession was about forming.  I hadn't time to get lunch but went into rink early for a front seat & soon the house filled & Mrs. Lease of Wichita entertaining the respectable audience for 4 hours on the political issues of the day...audience of nearly 1000 persons attending."

Isaac's journal references refer to "the rink" and "the opera house" interchangeably during this period.  Having seen The Opera House in Willa Cather's hometown of Red Cloud, NE which has been beautifully restored by the Cather Foundation, I know that opera houses did not always have sloped, fixed seating.  I assume that the structure to which Isaac referred had a flat, board floor which could hold chairs for performances or be cleared for use as a roller rink, much like the rink in the movie, "Days of Heaven."

The St. John (KS) Convention Hall
 It was in 1906 that a new brick convention hall and opera house was built in St. John.  The post card image at left is from the Yost/Leak Collection, together with the post card image below, and should be so credited.  The building was 50' x 100' and was built on land located on the northeast corner of the square which had been donated by Dr. C. C. Hoaglin.  It featured a drop curtain, an orchestra pit, and numerous dressing rooms, and traveling plays came from Kansas City and Denver to perform!  School activities and graduation exercises were also held in the building.  (The Opera House can be seen in the background of the photograph at the top of this blog.)


Post card of St. John (KS) buildings
The post card at right, also from the Yost/Leak Collection, shows the Convention Hall & Opera House in the upper right corner.  Buildings featured in previous blogs also appear on the post card, and going clockwise around the card are the 5th Avenue Hotel (See "5th Avenue Hotel," 3-14-2013 and "Postscript to 5th Avenue Hotel," 3-20-2013 in the archives), the south side of the square, the "new" water tower, the school, the mill, the 1st Baptist Church, and the courthouse (See "Isaac's Victorian Courthouse, 3-22-2012 in the archives).

The remodeled Convention Hall & Opera House


Less than three decades after it was built, the structure was remodeled to house the city offices, the fire department, and the library in 1934.  Many people felt that a landmark structure had been sacrificed in the process.  The remodeling was well in the past by the time I was a child, and I have very fond memories of the old library housed there.  The stacks were crowded and the floors uneven, and as I recall, the half-round widows were low to the floor, all combining to make that library an unusual space that fueled a child's imagination.

For others, it was the memory of the Convention Hall & Opera House that stirred their imaginations, remembering the festive occasions and glamorous theatrical productions that were once held there.  However, the older rink and opera house Isaac mentions in his journal seems to have faded from all memories today.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Isaac Would Have Been the First One Inside the Door!

Painting on the reverse side of glass
Isaac loved art.  (See "Art in Isaac's Life and Today," 1-22-2014 in the blog archives.)  His estate sale included not only his art books but also many framed engravings, slides of art for this stereoscope, and images of artists from his card albums.  One of his ideas when he was still just a boy was painting a landscape by looking through glass.  In fact, creating art on glass, to be viewed from the unpainted side, was very popular during the Victorian era.  My own family collection includes the beautiful pink roses painted on glass shown in the photograph to the right.  Remember, unlike paintings in which the objects and figures are blocked out and the details are added, painting on glass requires you to paint the details first and then fill in the backgrounds, obscuring the details as you layer the background areas.  That seems very difficult to me!

However, this week's blog is not about art history or antique crafts but rather about making an even richer art history for our region's future.  Mimi Filley wished to honor the memory of her late husband, Dr. Vernon Filley, by gifting art she had collected, together with a generous donation for the building of the Vernon Filley Art Museum which allowed the building to be built free of debt.

Several members of the Board at the Slab Party
Mimi's dream came true because of the generous efforts of many members of the community, several of whom served on the museum board when fulfilling that dream seemed overwhelming (some of those board members having remained on the board long enough to see the dream fulfilled).  Many volunteered along the way, and continue to volunteer their time and effort, in many capacities.  Many others gave generously, their contributions allowing construction extras that would not otherwise have been done, and just as important, funding the services that will be available immediately.  Not every generous donor appears on the Founder's Plaque, but those particular donors and others stepped forward to make sure there were funds to hire staff, equip a state-of-the-art storage facility, landscape beautifully, train docents (whose generous gift of time and study to give tours is essential to the programs for adults and school children), equip and stock a gift shop that will offer original art and books not available in other local stores, commission a bronze made especially for the museum, gift custom gates for the court yard, provide funding to prepare for adult and children's art classes, support training for grant writers, fund an advertising budget to bring visitors to our museum and our town, and provide the support for the operating budget for our start-up year.  The dream is coming true because of countless acts of giving, whether gifts of time, talent, or money, without which Mimi's dream would not have happened.  Each of those gifts, big or small, made a difference.

 Our Co-Directors, Stan Reimer (who has shepherded the dream from the beginning), and Brittany Novotony (who brings her Master's Degree in museum management to the Filley's future success), as well as the members of our current board of directors, have brought their many talents and have donated countless hours in preparation for the exciting day so long awaited (and for the days ahead).

The Grand Opening of the Vernon Filley Art Museum is Sunday, June 29th, 2014, from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.   Help us spread the word!  Pratt and the surrounding region have a long history of appreciation for the arts (some of which I have shared in this blog), and now the region has a new member to add to its family of museums, galleries, and other attractions.


Landscaping underway at 421 S. Jackson St., Pratt, KS
 We have some surprises in store for you, and we hope many of you arrive in time to see Mimi Filley take the scissors in her hands for the ribbon cutting.  The Directors, Board Members, and Docents will be present to answer your questions and make your first visit to your museum more enjoyable and informed.    

The Grand Opening is free to the public, and we hope everyone will come to learn more about all of the activities the Filley has planned for members.  Membership forms and people to help will be at the Opening to answer your questions about the various membership levels and the benefits they offer.

I just know that Isaac would have been the first one through the doors when the ribbon was cut at the Grand Opening at 2 p.m. on June 29th, to take advantage of the membership benefits of joining an art museum with both a permanent collection and rotating visiting exhibitions constantly bringing new art to his area!  Isaac did not live to experience that opportunity, but you can!  Come celebrate the opening of the new museum at 421 South Jackson Street, Pratt, KS, one block west of Main Street between 4th and 5th Streets!!   

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Learning Early



Whatever the cost of our libraries the price is cheap compared to an ignorant nation.  Walter Cronkite

Jody Suiter introduces Lyn Fenwick as the day's speaker.
Everyone watches for the next pop-up illustration!
The flyleaf of Isaac's journal included a notation, "Vol. 5th."  At that time, Isaac was in his mid-20s, apparently having already filled four earlier journals!  His twin brother also kept a journal, now in a library in Reading, PA.  According to school records, Isaac and his brother were both attending school at the age of seventeen, longer than many students of that era.  Apparently Isaac's parents taught their children a love for learning, a quest for reading, and a habit of regular journaling.  (See "Advice from Henry Ward Beecher," 12/7/2012.)  

The training to learn these things is best taught early, and Isaac's old community is fortunate to have excellent small-town libraries. (See "April Delight," 4/30/2014 about the Kinsley Library.)  St. John has a wonderful library located next to the school so that it can be utilized by the students.  Several old photographs appearing in previous blogs were found there.  (See "Music on the Prairie," 1/24/2013 and "Women on the Prairie," 2/2/2013.)

I am particularly impressed by the Macksville City Library and its librarian, Jody Suiter.  It was Jody who contacted me to do a program about "The Wizard of Oz."  (See "Isaac and the Wizard of Oz," 12/15/2011.)  That program, initiated by Jody, was held in the library of the Macksville Grade School, with several grades attending a series of programs planned for the different grade levels throughout the afternoon.
Sharing Robert Sabuda's art.

The Summer Reading Program for Macksville kids is amazing for such a small town.  I was pleased when Jody asked me to do a presentation about engineered books.

Remember, you can click on the images to enlarge them.


Sometimes a little help is really appreciated.
I began with a fairly simple engineered book from the 1950s, "Santa Claus in Toyland," and followed with another Christmas book by Tasha Tudor.  I told the children about the National Center for Children's Illustrated Literature in Abilene, TX and shared  "Knick-Knack Paddywhack!" by Paul Zelinsky, whom we met at the NCCIL.
This young artist needs no help.

When I shared the beautiful pop-up book illustrated by Kees Moerbeek, an artist from the Netherlands, depicting the classic "Raggedy Ann and Andy and the Camel with the Wrinkled Knees," I told them about checking out this original story by Johnny Gruelle from the old St. John Library over the fire station, a magical place in my memory from my pre-school visits many years ago.  I followed that with a recently published pop-up book of the classic by Antoine De Saint-Exupery's, "The Little Prince."

A special card for Dad!
I had asked the children if they could ever imagine a trip to the dentist as being a wonderful memory to one famous artist of children's pop-up books.  I explained that it was in a dentist office where Robert Sabuda saw his first engineered book, and I told them to remember to listen for his name.

Young artists pose with their cards.
When it was finally time to enjoy the Sabuda books, several hands shot up to show that they remembered his name.  I began with "Fairies and Magical Creatures." Next I turned every page and read aloud Maurice Sendak's "Mommy?" engineered by Sabuda's partner Matthew Reinhart, and they loved all the ghoulish creatures!  Many of the children remembered Sabuda's "Wonderful Wizard of Oz" from seeing it when we did the Oz programs at the school, followed by Sabuda's "Peter Pan."  I saved Sabuda's "Alice in Wonderland" for last, finishing with the dramatic scene of Alice throwing all of the playing cards into the air.

The children help each other make their cards.
When my part of the program ended, Jody had a special project for the children, inspired by ideas from http://robertsabuda.com.  Using the ideas for creating pop-ups that she found there, she provided the materials for the children to make pop-up Father's Day cards, or cards for anyone they wanted to surprise with a hand-crafted card.

Mrs. Loomis helps with a pop-up card.
All of the photographs on this blog were taken in the Macksville City Library on a rainy day where a group of eager children learned about the magic of engineered books and created their own special pop-up cards.  Walter Cronkite and Isaac Werner would have smiled at the enthusiasm of these children as they selected the books they wanted to take home to read!  It certainly looked as if they were well on their way to a lifetime love of reading!!


To see more photographs and read more about the Summer Reading Program you may visit macksville.scklf.info.  


Thursday, June 5, 2014

Not Everyone Goes to the Lake




VFW Honor Guard enters Macksville Cemetery

Many Americans look forward to the 3-day weekend at the end of May as a time to celebrate the beginning of summer, but the historic roots of the holiday are quite different.  Ancient customs of honoring soldiers and decorating their graves exist in many cultures.  "Jubilee Day" was held on Monday, May 16, 1783, in Connecticut to commerate the end of fighting in the American Revolution.  After the Civil War, the federal government began creating national military cemeteries in 1865 for the War dead, and specific observations in both the South and the North occurred during the years after the Civil War, observing the custom of cleaning and decorating cemeteries.  This custom became known as "Decoration Day," but by the 1880s the name had gradually begun to change to "Memorial Day."  Many communities, like my own childhood hometown, continued the use of the original term.  (See Memorial Day at Farmington Cemetery, 5-10-2012 and Guest Post by Misty Beck, 5/24/2012 in blog archives.)


Jubilee Celebration in St. John, KS Park

Because many communities observed some sort of ceremony or tradition, the origin of the first Decoration Day is uncertain.  However, a ceremony organized by teachers, missionaries, and Black residents of Charleston, SC, for the purpose of cleaning up and landscaping the burial field there in 1865 is often identified as the 1st Decoration Day.



Food is an important part of the Jubilee Celebration.

It was not until after W.W. II in 1967 that the name was official changed to "Memorial Day."  Ironically, it was one year later, on June 28, 1968, that Congress moved Memorial Day from the traditional May 30th to the last Monday in May, creating a 3-day weekend, a change that many see as diminishing the observance of the original purpose for the day.  Many Americans now take advantage of the 3-day weekend as an opportunity to travel to a holiday destination like the beach, a lake, or a mountain cabin, overlooking the significance of observing Memorial Day.

The  dusty/muddy town square of Isaac's time is now a park.



At the time Congress created the 3-day weekend, several states declined to adopt the changed date for Memorial Day, continuing to observe it on May 30th, but gradually all fifty states complied.  Seeing the shift away from Memorial Day observances, Senator Daniel Inouye, a W. W. II veteran, initiated an effort to return to the traditional observance, an effort he continued until his death in 2012, but the recreational holiday seems firmly established for too many people for the return to a day of remembrance and honoring those who gave their lives for their country to return as the universal practice.

Jubilee Celebration 2014

The traditional observations are not entirely forgotten, however.  Many cemeteries in the region where Isaac Werner claimed his homestead continue to conduct Memorial ceremonies, such as the ceremony performed by the local VFW in Macksville pictured in this blog illustrates.  One member of the honor guard is a 90-year-old W.W. II veteran, and the veteran who recites the traditional memorial pledge is 93.  The trumpeter who plays "taps" for the ceremony is a 2014 high school graduate and young children continue to offer poppies to those who enter the cemetery gates.

The fountain is popular with young & old.



Several communities continue patriotic parades and celebrations in the city parks, including the Jubilee Celebration in the St. John Park near the Stafford County Courthouse, the same county seat that Isaac Werner visited more than a century ago.

Many parade participants displayed flags.

Isaac's regard for Union veterans was complicated.  His hometown in Pennsylvania provided soldiers for the Union Army during the Civil War, but there was also a strong contingency of Southern sympathizers and draft dodgers in his community.  (See How Far is Gettysburg, 5/24/2012 in the blog archives.)  Because Union veterans tended to remain loyal to Lincoln's Republican Party, in opposition to the People's Party that Isaac supported, he resented their political alliance and called them "moss-back Republicans."  However, Union veterans were also among his best friends, whom he respected.  Isaac never mentioned the observance of Memorial Day in his journal, but the old traditions continue to be observed in his community to this day.  (See  St. John Park, 6/20/2013, in the blog archives for the story and images of the old St. John town square and the creation of the park.)