Vacation Time

Kansas Dust Bowl – 1930s When we were children and vacation time was planned – it was a train trip to Kansas to visit family. My father worked for the Milwaukee R.R. and could have a “pass” once a year. Since both of my parents came from Kansas, there was no question – it was a trip to Kansas. We looked forward to seeing all the cousins since it was a yearly trip. Above all we looked forward eagerly for the sleeper car ride. Mom would put us in the upper berth and close the heavy curtain. Next to the bed was a small window where we could look out and watch the spreading landscape roll by and listen to the clickety-clack as the train stopped at stations along the way. It was so exciting!!! Even better we would go to the dining car and have breakfast. Black waiters awaited our orders at the neat white cloth tables. We felt so elegant. The train ride was wonderful but then we arrived at Grandmother Corsauts house. She had a neat house with air conditioning. (At that time, it was a box packed with straw and a hose attached with water running through – all was attached to a window and water dripping outdoors. I don’t think much was cooled, but we thought it was great.) Grandma had a parlor where she kept her stereoscope with many pictures of many subjects. The double pictures were on a cardboard card that were projected on a handheld holder. We would look at those pictures for hours. We had cousins who lived nearby who kept us busy with various activities but I must tell you about our Western Kansas cousins who lived on a farm. It was Depression and a big drought in the mid-west. Kansas was devastated by the Locust which ate everything in sight including wooden fencing. It was barren and Hot! The locust would fly up into your face as you walked across the yard. My Father’s family living on the farm was poor as were most families living on the farm. They were unable to raise any crops. Everyone had a storm cellar for weather protection. My uncles would sit out in the storm cellar and drink home-made beer. We would go to the storm cellar to cool off and sometimes they would give us sips of their beer. (My Mother had a fit!) She would be in the Hot kitchen with my Aunt Anna. They would be preparing food over the wood-burning stove. Hot! Hot! Sometimes we could have a turn at churning the cream to make butter – a fun job! The cousins would entertain us by riding their Shetland pony at high speed – scaring us and the few chickens roaming the yard. They also had wonderful accordions and a pump organ and all played by ear making wonderful music. I still enjoy accordion music. We would go to the barn and jump into the piles of wheat kernels and dance around in the wheat. By that time we were pretty dirty but they had a wonderful shower hooked up in the windmill where we took refreshing showers! It was a wonderful time! It may have been “tough times” in many lives but their family never seemed to be depressed. Being a child I wasn’t aware of those “hard times” but I’m sure life was very hard out in the prairie of Kansas during the Dust Bowl. Most of my cousins are gone but my memories of that time are still close to my heart. The few cousins I have left, we keep in touch. We still recall and laugh about those experiences. Thank goodness, we didn’t have the responsibilities of that era. Elsie Johnson Southbury, CT ©2012

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