Prairie State Bank Robbery

We were recalling things from the time the kids were small and Pat reminded me of this story.

We had gone back to visit with friends and relatives in our home towns of Augusta and El Dorado, Kansas. In Augusta, we were staying with my great uncle and aunt, Dave and Rachel Peebler. Our twin boys, Russ and Doug, were probably between 2 ½ and 3 years old. That would put us in 1961. Aunt Rachel and Uncle Dave were always gracious hosts and fun to visit. Aunt Rachel was all excited about having an outing with just the boys and her so she could take them to town and show them off to her friends.

Aunt Rachel got all gussied up, jewelry included. The boys were all excited and Pat got them slicked up and they piled into Aunt Rachel’s car and she took off with them. She decided she would stop at the Prairie State Bank first and pulled into a parking place out front. I don’t know who she expected to see but I imagine that Roy Haines was still the bank’s president  and Noah Morris and Dixie Wisner and the other long-time employees were still there. I don’t know what happened to tip her off but as Rachel and the boys got to the door, she realized that the bank was being robbed. She whirled around and since she was holding hands with both boys, almost jerked them off their feet. She took off directly across the street and rushed through the front door of Larson’s shoe store. Russ Larson was an old friend and she yelled at him and told what was happening. He shooed them to the back of the store and then called the police. They waited for some time before leaving the store and making the rounds of Rachel’s friends. When they got home, all three were still wide-eyed and excited. They were all talking so fast it was hard to understand what had happened. We finally got the boys settled down and Aunt Rachel told the story with the boys chiming in with their comments as she talked.

I tried to authenticate this story by searching the Internet. I even found an abbreviated history of the Augusta Department of Public Safety but nothing mentioned this incident. After Pat and I discussed the story, we were talking with Doug on the phone and asked him if he remembered going to town with Aunt Rachel and seeing a bank robbery. He jumped right in by saying “Yes, and she rushed us across the street to the shoe store.” Doug will be 57 next month and remembers something that made a big impression on him when he was 3.

We just talked to Russ a few minutes ago. He remembers something happening but says that Aunt Rachel down-played it and he doesn’t know what it was. However, he says he does remember meeting a lot of people that day.

Dave Thomas
October 25, 2015

 

 

The Slumber Party

 

Y-Teen is a Christian organization for girls created and guided by the YWCA. The club was organized in 1918 as the Girl Reserves. In 1946 the YWCA decided to modernize the club and make it more appealing and part of that effort caused the name to be changed to Y-Teen. At Augusta High School the club was well received and at one time had as many as 135 members. Two of the high school faculty members were designated as sponsors of the club each school year. The Y-Teens enjoyed a number of social functions each year. Two of the most popular activities were the Mother and Daughter Banquet and the Slumber Party.

We were sophomores in the 1951/1952 school year and when the date of the annual slumber party was announced several of us thought it would be a good idea to crash it. As we all know now, the brain of a teen-ager is not fully developed. That’s what causes them to come up with one dumb idea after another. I’m not sure what crashing the slumber party was supposed to accomplish. We might see 40 or 50 girls in their pajamas but that was about as titillating as it would get.

The slumber party was held in the high school gymnasium on the night of November 16th. After dark, we met at the school and immediately started making plans to crash the party. The first obstacles to consider were the two faculty sponsors, Edna Chapin and Averil Hawes. I didn’t know Miss Hawes but was well acquainted with Edna Chapin. At school, boys and girls alike were afraid of her. She taught Health and Home Economics and took them both very seriously. Her normal attire was a starched white dress that looked like a nurse’s outfit. She was normally tight-lipped and unsmiling and her countenance was enough to put the fear of God in you. In high school I was always tickled by the reaction of the other kids to her. You see, I knew she was just wearing her “work face”. Miss Chapin lived across the street from the high school and I grew up just a half a block from her. When we kids were running around the neighborhood, Miss Chapin often would come out with a plate of cookies or some delicacy she had just baked. I got to know her as a nice, warm, giving person. However, don’t forget that at the slumber party she was “on the job”.

Under cover of darkness, we split up and prepared to breach the walls of Miss Chapin’s fortress. A couple of the guys went to check the windows on the west side of the gym. The windows were in plain sight but no one ever paid any attention to them. An examination showed that the glass was all painted white and there was a steel mesh covering each window on the inside to protect it from hits by volleyballs and basketballs. This was observed through small places where the paint had flaked off. After seeing this, the guys headed back to the front of the building.

Some of the boys decided to try the main entrance doors that were located in the first floor hallway. Night lights were on in the hall but only gave off enough light to keep you from running into something. The guys had split up to try both entrances and just as they reached for the doors, the doors were opened from the inside! It turned out that some of the girls were just as excited at the possibly of a rendezvous as the boys were. At this moment, Miss Chapin and Miss Hawes arrived at the doors. What a sight! Girls squealing and trying to get back inside and the boys were yelling and trying to get some traction so they could get out of there. “Bedlam” is the word that fits this situation! It was like the Keystone Cops all over again.

The guys returned from their points of failure and humiliation and gathered in front of the building. As they licked their wounds, they were suddenly startled by one of them yelling “Here come the cops!” Sure enough, the cops were pulling into the parking lot and the culprits scattered like a covey of quail. Some headed for the bushes at the neighboring Junior High School and the rest were ducking behind trees and trash cans. The police caught two of them who were taken to the station and lectured before being sent home. Altogether, this was a mission that should have been aborted.

You’ve probably noticed that we didn’t mention any names in order not to embarrass any of the participants. Remember, however…we know who you are.

Dave Thomas and Keith Scholfield
October 28, 2015

 

Here’s A Kid Story

Pat reminded me of this one. The boys, Russ and Doug, must have been 10 or 11 and that would make Terri about 8 or 9. After supper we had gone to visit our friends, Roy and Lois and their kids. Roy’s horse was sick and a Veterinarian was there tending to her. When we got there, the vet had a big plastic syringe in his hand. It didn’t have a needle on the end of it so he must have used it to squirt some anti-biotics down her throat. Russ asked if he could have the syringe to use as a squirt gun. The vet was a good guy and let him have it and the kids ran off to play. We visited for a short time and then went home. It was getting close to dusk and the kids were playing in the front yard. They were squirting each other with the syringe and taking turns climbing the olive tree and were just doing what kids do. Pat was working in the kitchen and could glance out the window from time to time and see that the kids were okay.

A couple of the neighbor girls from down the block were riding their bicycles up and down the sidewalk. One girl was making snide remarks to Russ as she went past. We suspect that she might have had a crush on him but didn’t know how to deal with it. They kept riding back and forth and the one girl added name calling to her insults. Pat had the kitchen window open so she overheard some of the remarks. The girls quit coming by so Pat figured they had gotten tired of their game and went home. What she didn’t know was that Russ was sick of the girl and her comments and told her that if she called him one more name he was going to pee on her. Well, she pushed her luck and when she came by again, Russ squirted her. She screamed and rode off and didn’t come back.

A little later, an El Cajon police car pulls up to the curb and an officer gets out. He heads for the front door, and the kids, being curious, fell in behind him. Pat had seen the car pull up and she headed for the front door and yelled at me. “Good evening, Ma’am”, says the cop. “Are you Mrs. Thomas?” “Yes”, says Pat, “What can I do for you?” He says “I need to talk to your son Russell”. “What’s it about” asks Pat.” “The little neighbor girl says he urinated on her”, said the cop. “My son would never do that” exclaims Pat. Just then, I’m joining them at the door and heard Russ say “Í didn’t do that”! “I saw the water stains on her clothing” the cop says. ”Well, I just squirted her” says Russ. “Why don’t you show me what you did” says the cop. “Okay”, says Russ, “I put the thing in the garage.”

Russ headed for the garage with Pat and I, the cop, and the rest of the kids falling in behind him. The big overhead door was open and Russ got the syringe from where he had put it and took it over to the deep sink where he filled it with water. He then demonstrated how he held it down at his side, out of sight, and then squirted the girl as she rode past and called him a name. His story was quite convincing and the cop turned to Pat and I and grinned. Then he put on his “stern” face and turned back around to Russ and told him that he was keeping the syringe to show to the father of the neighbor girl and after this, if anyone bothered him, he should just go in the house and forget it.

Dave and Pat Thomas
August 10, 2016

 

I Remained Calm

The 4th of July weekend was a great time for Pat and I this year. A lot of our family members were able to visit and make it special for us. Visiting from northern California were our grand-daughter, Michelle, her husband, Tony, and their 4 ½ year old daughter, Quetzal. If you are wondering, a quetzal is a beautiful South American bird and it rhymes with “pretzel”.

Pat and I have not been around a 4-year old for quite some time and had forgotten how active they are. They run rather than walk and their little mouths never seem to stop. One minute, Quetzal, will be down on all fours, pretending to be a tiger, and roaring at the top of her lungs, and the next minute she will be talking quietly in a well-modulated tone and using the most adult words she can think of.

One day, lunch time was approaching, and I was seated as I prepared to give myself an insulin shot. The “Q”, Quetzal, was standing by my knee and her big eyes were taking it all in. She watched for a short time and then said…”I got a shot at the doctor’s office, once. I didn’t cry. I didn’t whine. I remained calm”. She said it with such seriousness that I almost laughed but managed to tell her that I would try to remain calm as well.

Dave Thomas
July 11, 2016

 

Living Off The Land

Sometimes it’s necessary for a kid to live off the land (for a few hours). For instance, a young person might want to go hiking or might want to go to the river or some other neat place to play. He certainly wouldn’t want to go home to get something to eat. “Home” is the place where plans get changed after a mother sniffs out the plan for the day. So, now is the time for this young person to use his wits and be resourceful enough to subsist for the day. It will be my pleasure to pass on some of the things my friends and I came up with to quiet a growling stomach.

What’s available depends on what time of year it is because so many things are seasonal. Of course, we should start with the things that can be found all year long. A person would probably be accompanied by one or two of his friends so the first thing to do is find out if they can come up with a snack without their Mom squashing the plan with a bunch of chores or something.

During the growing season there are a number of food choices available. We had a number of places we liked to go that were within about a 2 ½ mile radius of home. A couple of them took us past corn fields and if the corn was in season we could grab a couple of ears. Then, as we walked, we would keep our eyes open for a tin can large enough to boil some roasting ears and whatever else we would find.

If we were going out to Dry Creek there was a riffle there that was good for two things. First, the water ran over rocks and sand for about 20 feet and according to camping lore that was enough to purify it. We only half believed that but figured that boiling the water would finish off any germs that might be present. Secondly, the riffle made a wonderful hide-out for crawdads. I know the people in New Orleans call them crayfish but in Kansas they are crawdads. There were flat rocks laying in the riffle and just moving a couple of them would cause the crawdads to scatter in all directions. So, at this point, we’ve got a can, a couple of ears of corn, some crawdads, and some water. A prudent young person would have one of those waterproof Boy Scout match holders for wooden matches in his pocket and, son-of-a-gun, we’ve got lunch.

We also knew of some abandoned farm houses and sites within our hiking territory. One of my favorites was on the west side of town. There was nothing left of the house but a fireplace and chimney and some stone footings. However, behind the site of the home you could see the remains of a rail fence that was practically overgrown by an old blackberry bush. Every year that old bush produced berries and it made us a delicious snack.

One of the other old places had some old tomato vines that somehow produced a few tomatoes every summer. Another place had a gnarly-looking old peach tree that could give you a snack if you got there before the birds did.

A few times we tried fishing with a hand line but I don’t recall ever catching a fish let alone eating one. One time, when we were carrying our rifles we spotted a covey of quail. We got down in the prone position and after laying there forever the two of us got off shots about the same time and bagged two birds. We plucked them and roasted them on sticks. It was a lot of time and work with a very small reward.

I f we were near the railroad tracks west of town there was always the alfalfa mill. Alfalfa  was grown by some farmers and sold to the mill rather than being used to feed their own livestock.. It was hauled to the mill where it was pulverized and turned into powder. Later, the powder was pressed into pellets and was an efficient way to feed cattle and rabbits. I think some of that powder was put in gunney sacks but I believe that a lot of it was blown into railroad cars. Near the blower or conveyor, on the side of the building nearest the railroad tracks there was a gap in the galvanized siding and there was always a pile of alfalfa powder there. It was like having our own food dispenser. You could reach down and grab a handful of powder and start eating. It actually had a pretty good taste.

Schneider Brothers Granary was like a buffet. Besides the elevator and a silo they had a long building full of bins and each bin contained a different kind of grain. You could scoop up a handful and have something to chew on. My favorite was wheat. Once in a while we would go into their store where the smaller bins were kept and sample the rabbit pellets. The Schneider brothers were a couple of really nice guys and they never complained about us.

With these examples you can see that a young person (kid) can come up with a lot of ways to keep from going home for a snack or lunch. Chores and homework can be avoided all day long.

Dave Thomas

December 14, 2013

 

“A” IS For Armadillo

  We’ve covered a lot of animals and a few days ago even had some zebras. To make sure we have covered the animal kingdom from A to Z, let’s go with some armadillos.

We were living in Keller, Texas and decided to drive up to Wichita and Augusta Kansas and visit friends and relatives. It’s a straight shot from Keller to Wichita on I-35 and usually an uneventful ride. This trip, we must have been out during mating season as there were armadillos everywhere. No, we didn’t see a one that was alive…they had all been run over on the Interstate! This was so hard to fathom that Pat kept track of how many we had seen. I forget how many we saw on the way to Wichita but by the time we got back to Keller, the total was 43! My vision was already getting poor when we took the trip so Pat was the official counter. What looked like a “lump” to me, she would identify as an armadillo or a rabbit or a possum or whatever.

Pat has got sharp eyes and I’ve always known I could rely on her to see things correctly. This particular trip though we had a little credibility problem. We were rolling south through Oklahoma, on the way home, and we passed another road kill. Pat yelled out, “Oh, my gosh, that was a monkey!” “No”, I said, “there are no monkeys running loose in Oklahoma.” “Yes,” she insisted, “that was a monkey!” All I can tell you for sure is that we argued the rest of the way home.

In 2005, we invited all the kids and grand-kids down for Thanksgiving. Almost everyone made it and we had a great time. Besides the Thanksgiving dinner, we also enjoyed a day in Old Fort Worth at the Stockyards. We ate and shopped and the kids went through the maze and rode the mechanical bull. Some entrepreneur had even set up an armadillo race in front of the Live Stock Exchange. The kids had never seen armadillos before and the only ones I had ever seen had been squashed on the highway. The grand-daughters, Michelle and Christie, got to participate as starters in the race. They held onto the armadillos until the guy yelled “go” and then they acted as cheerleaders for their charges. It was so exciting I could barely contain myself. Sorry, I don’t remember who won. 

54-024

A Contender

54-022

The Track

54-023

Christie and Michelle 

Dave Thomas
November 9, 2014

 

The Big Trip of 1944, Part 1

This is about a vacation trip my family took just prior to my eighth birthday in 1944. We saw so many extraordinary things that made such an impression on me.

My Mom’s Dad, my Grandpa George F. Sicks, lived in Los Angeles. Mom’s 1st cousin, Ruby Mae (Peebler) Bernard lived in San Diego. Grandpa’s trip to come back to Kansas and get us and take us to L.A. had been scheduled for quite a while. The fact that Ruby was traveling at the same time may have been just a coincidence. She drove back with her baby son, Barney Jr. who was probably 6 months old. Ruby had come back to show off her baby and get her sister, Carol Jean, who lived in Wichita. Carol had three daughters, Vicki Sue, Carolyn Jo, and Carmen Jane. Vicki was the oldest but I doubt that she was more than 4 or 5. Carol, Vicki, and Carmen were going to San Diego for a visit with Ruby and then going on to Klamath Falls, Oregon to visit with our great-uncle, Virgil Peebler and his wife, Peggy. Carolyn Jo was going to stay with Peggy’s sister, Edith, and her husband, Ted. They would take Carolyn Jo to Klamath Falls to join the rest of the family.

Ruby was tall, good-looking, had red hair, and was brash. She was fun but you never knew what was going to come out of her mouth. Her husband, Barney, was in the Navy and was overseas in some war Zone. Carol was tall, good-looking, and had long blonde hair. I hadn’t thought about it before but Terri looks a lot like Carol Jean.

Grandpa and Ruby were both driving 1942 Pontiac, 4-doors, with the “torpedo” rear ends. Grandpa’s was black and Ruby’s was sky blue.

1942-Pontiac-4dr

Mom, Dad, Sylvia, and I traveled with the rest of the group, in the two cars. We swapped cars now and then to keep from getting bored. Cars didn’t have air conditioners back then so it was impossible to keep cool. Most filling stations still had outhouses rather than tiled restrooms and quite often they were 4 or 5 holers in order to take care of crowds. Quite often, you had neighbors on either side as you tried to cope with the stench and the flies in the 100 degree heat.

What must have been our second night was spent in a motel in San Simon, Arizona. This was one of Grandpa’s favorite areas and he knew the people who owned the motel. (When I spent the summer with him in 1950, Grandpa owned 160 acres about 1 ½ miles west of town). When we were loading up to leave the next morning, Grandpa put a couple of boxes with chicken wire covering the ends, in the trunk. He opened one of them and reached in and lifted out a Gila monster and scared the devil out of me. He had already told us a number of stories about Gila monsters and how they bite down on you and won’t release their grip unless you cut their heads off. Grandpa said he had caught these two and was taking them to California. He said he was giving one to the Griffith Park Zoo in Los Angeles and the other to the San Diego Zoo. He said he had provided critters of different types to both zoos in the past.
Gila Monster

Another thing I remember about San Simon is that when you leave town, driving west, you can look to the south, to the Chiricahua Mountains and see what is known as “Cochise’s Head.” When you are in the right area, and several mountain peaks are lined up correctly, you can see the profile of a man’s head as if he were lying on his back and looking up. Cochise is still there looking after his stronghold.

The next thing I remember (besides the stinking outhouses in the desert) is arrival in Yuma in the early afternoon. We were ready to eat some lunch and were looking for a place to stop. Remember, this was during the war and everything was rationed. We were looking for a café when we came to one which had the word “Butter” painted across the window in big, bright letters. Since we were all sick of eating the margarine which had become available during the war. We thought we were in for a treat. We got in, got settled, and ordered a meal. Everything was fine until we were served and Grandpa realized that the stuff in the butter dish wasn’t butter but was the hated margarine! First, he called the waitress over and explained the error to her. Well, she was sorry but margarine was all they had today. Her explanation wasn’t adequate and as Grandpa started getting up a full head of steam he demanded to speak to the owner of the place. When the owner came in from the kitchen where he presided over the grill, Grandpa tried to explain the error to him. He got the same response…”no butter today.” Grandpa was soon shouting at the top of his lungs about people that painted “Butter” on their windows to lure people into their place and then had the gall to serve them margarine. Grandpa felt that he had been tricked and cheated and he wasn’t going to stand for it. I remember a lot of noise and embarrassment but don’t remember how this was resolved. I don’t know if we went somewhere else or if the owner of the place somehow placated Grandpa.

We split up in Yuma with Ruby and Carol and the kids heading for San Diego and us heading for Los Angeles. Grandpa owned a home at 6151 Dennison Street in East Los Angeles. It was a nice neighborhood with Spanish-style houses and well kept yards full of flowers. I remember being amazed at the sight of streets lined with palm trees.

My Dad only had 2 weeks’ vacation but Mom and we kids were going to stay for 6 weeks. Grandpa set up a sight-seeing schedule that would allow Dad to see as much as could be crowded into his time period.

Dave Thomas

February 4, 1994; Revised and added pictures March 5, 2015.

 

 

 

 

 

The Communicators

I once read that a cat will have the intelligence of a two to three year old child. I believe that. Both learn quickly and the first things they learn are those that are good for them. To guess what they are trying to talk about you can rule out politics, world affairs, and religion. In other words, it’s generally going to be me, me, me. I had two experiences the other day that were based on two little girls trying to entertain themselves.

Our great grand-daughter, Quetzal, will be 2 ½ years old this month. She has been using just one word at a time like “Mama” or “Dada” but recently decided to start putting several words together. However, instead of going from words to sentences she jumped from words to paragraphs. I admire her ambition but her vocabulary hasn’t grown fast enough to support it. Yesterday, I answered the phone and all I heard was a little girl speaking gibberish. I picked out the words “book” and maybe “school”. She stopped to take a breath and I jumped in with “Is this Quetzal?” She took off again with one of her excited word storms. I wasn’t picking up much but interrupted with “are you playing with your dog?” In a stroke of genius I had decided that I could identify her through her dog. She was chattering again so I interrupted again with my brilliant “what is your dog’s name?” Well, that really energized her and I was able to pick out the word “dog” but didn’t hear any name. About this time I’m starting to hear a more mature voice in the background. “Where’s your Mama” I said. “In the kitchen” she answered very distinctly. “Let me talk to her”, I say. In a few seconds I recognize Michelle’s voice as she says “hello”. “Your kid just called me” I said. Michelle recognized my voice and laughed. “I was busy in the kitchen and she got bored and said she was going to call somebody. I guess she wasn’t kidding” says Michelle. We talked a few minutes and hung up. I don’t see well enough to use a cell phone but Pat can do all that stuff. I asked her how a little girl who can’t read can call people on the phone. Pat explained that Quetzal had learned to turn on the phone and bring up the “Contacts” list by watching her parents. You can scroll through the list and by touching a name can bring up a profile page for that individual. If the owner of the phone has been diligent in putting together the profile, it will contain a picture of the individual. Quetzal recognizes all of us from the many Skype calls we have made so she just thumbs through the pictures until she finds someone she wants to talk to. Quetzal and her Grandpa Russ are pretty tight and I guess she was driving him nuts with her phone calls at work and any time of day. Michelle had to remove his picture from the phone so he could have some peace.

Isabella or Izzie the cat is our next communicator. I can certainly attest to the fact that cats are as smart as toddlers. They generally communicate in more subtle ways than kids and you have to be alert to their body language, the twitching of the ears and tail and their overall demeanor.

Izzie has decided that she is ready to talk. Like Quetzal, she’s not expanding from words to sentences. She’s jumping straight from words to paragraphs. She used to express herself with just one meow but now she cuts loose with a string of them and tells the whole story. It goes “meow, meow, meow, meow, meow, and meow”. And, it’s just like listening to Quetzal in that I don’t understand a word she is saying.

The other day after I got the phone call from Quetzal, Izzie tried her new vocabulary on me. I should tell you how this incident developed. Pat was working in the kitchen and Izzie came in and sat down next to the sliding glass door to the patio. Izzie meowed once to say that she wanted to go outside. Being an “inside” cat and not to worldly regarding coyotes and fast-moving traffic we don’t let her out by herself. We have to put the harness on her and attach the leash and then be prepared to follow her as she explores. Pat was busy so she just told Izzie to “wait a minute”. Izzie gave her another “meow” and got the same response from Pat. Well, Izzie blew her top. Her ears went back, her eyes narrowed, and she read the riot act to Pat. It’s coming out like a machine gun…meow, meow, meow, meow, and meow. Then she got all stiff-legged and stomped out of the kitchen.

Meanwhile, I’m in at the computer, blissfully ignorant of what has transpired between Pat and Izzie. Izzie comes in and jumps up on the desk, walks up and turns to face me and cuts loose with some sad story and the words are coming a mile-a-minute, just like with Quetzal, only they are in “Cat” language and I don’t understand that any better than “Baby” talk. Meow, meow, meow, meow, and meow. I can see that she is terribly upset so reach my hand up to stroke her back. She dodges my hand and jumps down from the desk and huffily stomps toward the door. As she reaches the door she looks back over her shoulder at me which is always a signal that I should follow her. So, I get up out of my chair and take off after her. She leads me down the hall, looking over her shoulder a couple of times to make sure I’m following and then goes into the kitchen and over to the door to the patio. About this time Pat bursts out laughing and says “I wouldn’t do what she wanted so she chewed me out and stomped over to you and told on me. Then, she convinced you to get up and follow her to the door so you could take her out. You talk about a spoiled brat!”

Well, there you have it. Two young entities, still novices as communicators, but both thinking they are really laying down some words. I admire their efforts but can’t understand a thing they are saying.

Dave Thomas
March 30, 2014

 

Take Cover!

The summer that Russ and Doug were 12 and Terri was 9, Pat drove them back to El Dorado, Kansas to spend the summer with their grandparents, Melba and Eddie Wygle. They had a great time boating, fishing, shooting skeet, and doing all the things that Melba and Eddie came up with to entertain them. They also got acquainted with some of the more sobering parts of Kansas life such as tornadoes.

Here in California, the kids were used to hearing the sirens of police cars, ambulances, and fire trucks. In Kansas, cities had installed sirens that could be heard for a mile or more. They were used to indicate that a tornado was coming and it was time to take cover. The kids didn’t actually experience a tornado that summer but a number of times they heard the warning siren and had to take cover in the neighbor’s cellar. This was enough to impress upon them that tornadoes were nothing to mess with.

In the summer of 1974, we rented a 35 foot motor home and made the trip to Kansas. The boys were 15; Terri was 12, as was her friend, Susan, who was traveling with us. When we arrived in Augusta, we went to the home of Aunt Rachel and Uncle Dave Peebler at 124 High Street. I parked the RV in a driveway in their back yard. When it was time for bed, the girls shared a bedroom, Pat and I were in a bedroom at the front of the house, and the boys were going to sleep in the RV. The boys were especially happy with this arrangement. It helped them maintain their image as independent young thinkers who didn’t have to conform to the conventions of mortals and sleep in the house…they would take care of themselves in the RV outside.

After some visiting, we said our “good nights” and headed for bed. It wasn’t long before a siren started screaming across the town. Pat and I didn’t worry about it because we knew two things that the kids didn’t know. The first was that it was a very nice evening with none of the tell-tale attributes of an unsettled tornado condition. The second was that Augusta has a volunteer fire department that alerts its members using the same siren as is used for tornado warnings. We recognized the siren immediately for what it was. The boys, however, were out in the RV alone, in a strange place that was already a little bit spooky. All of a sudden we heard a wild pounding on the back door (which was locked). Russ and Doug were yelling at the top of their lungs, “Let us in! Let us in! We’re going to die! The tornado is coming!” As I said, Pat and I were in the front bedroom and it was taking us a little time to reach the back door. Pat got to the door first and was trying to get it unlocked but not being familiar with it was fumbling around and not having much luck. The boys were getting more frantic every second and were screaming “Why won’t you let us in? Do you want us to die out here? Please! Please! Help!” Pat yelled back at them “Look at the sky…no clouds…no lightning…no twister…no noise…no strange atmosphere!” The boys were so shook up they wouldn’t listen and couldn’t think of anything but running to safety. Pat got lucky and got the door open and let the guys in and we tried to quiet them. They were excited and big-eyed and it took a little bit for what we were saying to register. When it finally sunk in that the siren was not for a tornado but was a call for the volunteer firemen, the boys settled down. Naturally, Aunt Rachel and Uncle Dave, and Terri and Susan heard the commotion and were all at the back door, too. As you can imagine, it took a while for us to settle down and think about sleeping again.

Dave Thomas
March 15, 2015

 

Quarry Story 2

The rock quarry and surrounding area always had an “old West” feel to it. The quarry itself was hardly 100 yards from the road but it was hidden by the trees so being there caused you to be isolated from the reality of roads and cars. When you were in the pasture above the quarry and you got in the creases between the hills you could look off toward the skyline and see nothing but grass, just as it was during the days of the buffalo. The hills themselves looked like loaves of French bread scattered around the landscape. If you took a sharp knife and sliced down through one of the loaves (hills) and removed the cut-off portion, what remained would look like the sheer limestone wall of the quarry.

Another curiosity that added to the feeling of the old west was the old dynamite shack. It was only 30 or 40 yards from the quarry wall. Built of stone, it was maybe 10 foot by 10 foot, with a barred window that never had glass and a door jamb that was still intact though the door was long gone. The roof had long since disappeared, too. The barred window made you think “jail” and added to the mystique though you knew it was a dynamite shack.

Every square inch of limestone was full of fossils. Most of them were little round things shaped like wheels and were approximately the diameter of a large pea. Some were larger and were actually well-formed and intact sea shells. I spent hours digging through the fossils and looked up the shells and memorized their names and the names of the formations or clusters they were in. The only thing I can remember is “brachiopod”. I know that information and five pennies is worth about a nickel.

We camped out overnight at the quarry on several occasions but only one stands out in my memory. It was almost the first of April and though we knew spring was coming we were still anxious for a break in the weather so we could go camping. This particular weekend looked like a good chance for us. There was still a little snow on the ground but it hadn’t been too cold.

We loaded up our stuff, drove out to the quarry, and set up camp near the old dynamite shack. We scrounged up enough tinder and dry branches to keep our fire going all night. We thought we had prepared a pretty good camp site so when the time came we piled into our bed rolls and looked forward to a good night’s sleep. Unfortunately, the temperature had started dropping at sundown and it didn’t quit dropping. A cold snap caused it to be one of the coldest nights of the year. We took turns tending the fire all night and didn’t really get any sleep. What’s more, the next morning when we went to make coffee, the water in our canteens was frozen. Okay, so we can’t have coffee, we’ll get going on the bacon and eggs. Well, the eggs were frozen, too! About this time we were deciding that we were too dumb to be “cold weather campers” and started loading our stuff into the car. We each had a buck or so in our pocket so we headed for our favorite café and ordered coffee and bacon and eggs. Remember, this was back when a cup of coffee cost a nickel and I think breakfast was 65 cents. The warm café and a hot breakfast greatly improved our dispositions.

 

 

Dave Thomas
October 25, 2013