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Archive for Wednesday, January 29, 1992

EARLY YEARS

January 29, 1992

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Kansas turns 131 today, and although no one remains alive who witnessed its birth, many Kansans still can recall the state's fledgling era, including three area women who were born here around the turn of the century.

In anticipation of the state's annual birthday celebration, Jessie Dimmitt, 97, remembered her dad's livery stable in Colby, once known as "the Windmill City" because "almost every householder had a windmill."

Lida Smart, 95, recalled her mother's insistence on cow chips dried manure for the cookstove on bread-baking days, because the chips' intense heat produced the nicest crusts.

Imogene Trouslot, 82, said that, as "daddy's girl," she loved to ride with her father behind his team of work horses, Patsy and Buster.

Today, Mrs. Dimmitt lives at Presbyterian Manor, 1429 Kasold, and Mrs. Smart and Mrs. Trouslot reside at the Eudora Nursing Center.

The Eudora women were teachers, and Mrs. Dimmitt, who also taught for a short time, and was a librarian.

MRS. DIMMITT'S father homesteaded in Thomas County, near Colby in 1885, and 10 years later, she was born on that farm, the eldest of six children.

When she was 5, she said, they moved into Colby, where her father opened a livery stable and where most of her childhood memories are centered.

Mrs. Smith said she was born in a sod house near Meade and spent her early childhood in a frame house that her father built on the same farm. She was one of two girls and four boys.

As mayor of Meade, Mrs. Smith recalled, her father moved his family into town when she was 8 or 9 to more easily conduct the community's business.

Mrs. Trouslot also was born on a farm "three miles south of Allen, which is 18 miles north of Emporia."

She had one older sister and one older brother, and when she was only 5, her father died suddenly from a blood clot.

To care for her children, Mrs. Trouslot's mother moved the family into Allen after her husband's death and became a school teacher as well for the next 36 years.

"MOTHER WAS very courageous," Mrs. Trouslot said, "and did a good job of raising her children."

The community of Allen, she added, was on the main line of the Missouri Pacific Railroad and at one time at 13 blacksmiths' shops.

"It has quite an interesting history."

Mrs. Dimmitt recalled her father's livery stable as a place deemed unsuitable for his daughters.

"Father didn't want us girls to come down there much," she said, "but the boys could."

People left their horses at the livery when they came to town, she explained, and her father kept other mounts there to rent out. Her own pony, Cricket, also resided there until Mrs. Dimmitt outgrew him and her younger siblings couldn't handle him.

He was, Mrs. Dimmit noted, "put out to pasture" sold.

She added her father also ran the drey line in Colby and noted that today, few would know what that was. The purpose, she explained, was to deliver goods, which was done by horse and wagon then.

HE ALSO kept the town's hearse at his stable, and, always, a black team of horses to pull it.

"They always walked that team all the way to the cemetery and back," she said. "There was no trotting along."

Mrs. Dimmit also recalled that early-day Colby restaurants kept pigs in pens out back, fed table scraps to them and then, fed the pigs to the customers.

Her family of eight never ate in the restaurants, though, she said, noting they always dined at home usually on meat and potatoes, and home-baked bread and pies lots of pies.

"There were eight of us to eat," she said, "and we all went to the table three times a day a little different from now."

Mrs. Smith remembers her mother's bread baking as well, and the cow chips her brothers gathered for the fire, which she also noted few today would understand.

HER FOLKS came from Iowa "followed the railroad" and her father had two years of college, so education was important in his household.

Mrs. Smith said he gave each of his children $400 to attend Kansas University Mrs. Smart graduated in 1920 and she noted that all through her years at home, studying was their "common goal."

Her first teaching assignment was "a one-room school with a few little rows" of desks. She carried her own water in, as well as wood and coal to keep herself and the children warm.

Later, Mrs. Smith taught in North Dakota and Montana, where she stayed for a number of years and met her husband before returning to Kansas in the 1940s.

"It was a hard life," Mrs. Smith said of her early years, "but it was a good one."

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