K is for Kansas. My Dad grew up in and around Altoona, Kansas. He still has lots of family in the area. Last weekend he went back to attend a cousins 50th wedding anniversary. Here he is with the group of first cousins who were in attendance.
While he was there he was given a story written by my second cousin, Toni Ehrardt. The story takes place during the Great Depression and centers around two little girls. Here is a photo of those two little girls today.
Mother's Christmas Program
by Toni Ehrardt
My mother,Irene Dannels Woolery was born in 1925 on a small farm near Altoona, Kansas. Times weren't easy at the Dannel's Place nor most other places for that matter. I remember my mother telling me that most of the time, the family had a nice Christmas dinner of baked chicken, dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, hot rolls and pumpkin pie. Possibly, they had gingerbread, fudge and mady taff. I'm just guessing they had milk, water or home-made cider to drink.
For Christmas, the kids, (my mom and her sisters and brothers), usually got a nickel, an orange, and some gift my grandparents made for them. For example, my grandpa made little tractors out of spools and rubber bands and my grandma made rag dolls or teddy bears and made outfits for them.
The family went to cut down a Christmas tree and decorated their tree with popcorn, little ornaments they made at home, church, or school and possibly with little pieces of ribbon or bits of lace. They went to school and church programs and especially enjoyed those things as well as big family dinners with lots of cousins, grandparents, aunts and uncles.
Times, of course, got even rougher in the 1930's. I remember my mother telling me that my Grandma Zenella Reeve Dannels, had one dress and one pair of overalls. Naturally, the girls didn't have many clothes either but somewhere around 1939 when my mom was about 14, my grandma promised the girls (My mom, Irene and my aunt, Henrietta, who were still in school that she would make them both a nice Christmas dress for their Christmas program at Buffville School.
My mother always loved clothes and shoes, so she was in a rush to get home from school that day to see the dresses that my grandmother, an adequate and basic seamstress, had made for her and Etta. So the two girls hurried in on that cold Winter day anxious to see their new dresses.
The girls ran to my grandmother and asked, "Where are the dresses you made for us for the School Program? My grandmother replied, "I'm sorry, girls. I simply didn't have the time to make any dresses for you. You'll just have to do with your best dress this time. I'm sorry."
My Aunt Henrietta didn't get so upset but my mother was absolutely devastated. She had imagined a new red velvet dress and she was practically sick that my grandmother hadn't made dresses for them. She was mad too, because my grandmother had definitely promised the girls new dresses for this event, which was one of the most important programs of the season.
About that time, the girls heard a car coming and a car horn honking, honking, honking. They ran to see who it was because they weren't expecting anybody and they also had to hurry to get washed up and primped for the program. They were a little surprised to see their oldest brother, Walter Dannels, and his cute young wife, Stelline (Hoobler) Dannels, coming in the door carrying boxes.
"Are you two coming to our Christmas program?" my Mom asked. "Sure are!" Walter said, grinning. "Now you two girls better hurry and get all fixed up so I won't be so embarrassed that you're my little sisters!" "Come on," Stelline told the two younger girls. "Now get in there and I'll help you fix your hair!"
All three of the girls crowded into the girls' bedroom and my Mom asked, "Hey, Stelline, what's in the box?" "Never you mind. Just get your school clothes off and hang them up. And you need to hurry. I've made some sandwiches and cookies for us to eat". Then Stelline started opening the boxes. She pulled out two of the prettiest dresses my Mom and Aunt Etta had ever seen.
"Oh, Stelline, Thank you! Thank you! We had no idea you were making us Christmas dresses! Oh, they're so pretty!" "I just love mine, too. They are so cute and stylish. Thank you!" "Now stop blubbering and get those dresses on," Walter hollered.
The two girls got the dresses on, and they fit perfectly. Stelline also whipped a comb and brush through their hair and sprayed on a tad of Evening in Paris perfume. "You two girls will be the belles of the ball" she told them smiling at their happy excited faces.
About that time my grandparents came in with some eggs and a milk pail to leave in the cellar. "You two girls sure look nice!" my Grandma said. "Wasn't it nice of Stelline to make your Christmas dresses when I really couldn't find the time."
My Grandpa Earl Dannels said, "You girls look dandy. I'm really going to feel proud tonight!" "Oh Stelline, you've made this the best Christmas Program ever!" the two girls said, smiling widely.
Note from Toni Ehrhardt: My Aunt Stelline (Hoobler) Dannels passed away in 1968, much too young. She had a special talent of looking at a dress and the person who wanted it and sewing it up in no time. Everything she made looked like it came from Vogue. She also was a very good cook. I remember especially that she made wonderful Turkey Pie. She is sadly missed by her children and family.
Stelline Elizabeth Hoobler was born November 30, 1916 in Jasper, Alabama and died May 13, 1968. She was buried in Evergreen Cemetery, El Centro, California . She married Walter Louis Dannels December 4, 1935 in Erie, Kansas. He was born April 24, 1914 in Altoona, Kansas and died August 19, 1998. He was buried in Evergreen Cemetery, El Centro, California.
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