By Doris Schroeder
I invite you to take a walk with me down a broad street in a little town located in the mid-west part of Kansas, to the little town of Buhler. It is located about 12 miles northeast of Hutchinson.
Although my family never lived in Buhler, our parents and grand-parents did. For a few years we lived on the family farm located about two and a half miles from the Cemetery Corner. We had moved around a lot so that is the town I always called home in my thinking. The time period we are looking at is the 1949-50 era.
In these photos of the mind, we will see what love and courage reflected in a determined people whose ancestry stemmed back to Germany and the Ukraine, brought to this community.
My high school yearbook with the date of 1951 pictures the old Buhler High School Music Hall, where sounds of do-ra-me once permeated the air. I recall the patience of the music teacher as he taught me to sing, willing to come in the early morning hours to fit the practice in my schedule. The basement of the music hall was where our cafeteria was located and certainly smelled tempting around lunch time. Our fee was twenty five cents for a somewhat balanced meal
The small auditorium of that day would certainly not be adequate in today’s world, but in our time it was big enough for the basketball games, school plays and for the yearly graduation. They would open the windows and the soft Kansas breeze would sweep through to the seats that had been set up. It was here, I would practice my vocal solos for the music contest (no tapes) with my pianist over the noon hour. Sometimes during our speech class period, some of us would practice our readings or radio plays in the auditorium. Actually it was about the only place to practice anything! If the whole high school of 200 was invited, we had to meet in the one place big enough.
If you entered the town from the north, you would pass the high school, my grandparents’ house on the corner about a block south of the high school, past the big Sam Schneider house on the corner towards the grade school and the North Church, and on down to the commercial part of Buhler.
The Co-op was on the east side, and the large filling station was on the west.
Further on down was the bank, the funeral home, the Crusader Grill, the grocery store and the Nyal Store ( not a drug store because it didn’t have a pharmacy.) The Nyal Store was where I spent a lot of my time during my Junior and Senior years as I worked as a soda jerk. It was fascinating to learn to make the green rivers, the cherry cokes, strawberry sodas, chocolate shakes and luscious banana splits. Our boss, Eldon Froese taught us to make coffee with a touch of salt in the container to “bring out the flavor!” If we worked in the morning, one of our jobs was to get a chunk of ice and chip away at it in the little sink in the hall way. We would then fill it in the soft drink places and in our ice container case. If we worked in the late afternoon, we had to go down those scary cellar steps to a storage place that was like a dug out. It was here we would pick up a gallon jug of coke and root beer and carry it up the steep steps to the soda counter and fill them in. It was certainly a place to develop muscle! Since I was a girl it did sometimes frighten me to go down the steep steps with a load but really, I got over it!
Near the drug store counter, by the front door was a glass cabinet filled with penny candy, peanuts, chocolates and candy bars. Of course this is where the younger ones would spend their time, gazing at the luscious concoctions with hungry eyes until they had decided and we would get it for them or measure out the nuts and sack them. It was so much fun to see their eyes light up with anticipation. Anything sweet was always a treat in those days!
When summer came, I stayed working at the store and of course, was around when they had the town band concert on Saturday night. Later everyone would crowd into our little place and the juke box would be playing the modern songs of that day. My favorite song was “I love those dear hearts and gentle people who live in my home town!” Being a writer, that described my feelings exactly!
One Saturday night we were completely invaded with customers and we were all working like mad to get them waited on. I took an order for a chocolate malt, put in the ingredients, and turned to put it on the machine when I got bumped and the whole thing spilled all over the floor and my new sundress and jacket I had saved up to buy that summer. I felt about ready to cry when my boss just handed me a Dixie Lily apron ( from our town flour mill) swept it to the side and we all continued. That is when I learned to work under pressure and even learned to laugh about it!
Actually the Nyal Store was the meeting place of the town very often and we all loved it. Trips to Hutch couldn’t be made lightly because we all had to watch this thing called money. When I was through work at 10 p.m., I would walk down Main Street to my rented room across from the high school about five blocks and was never frightened…but the world was different then.
I know I will always “love those dear hearts and gentle people who lived in my home town” in the late forties and early fifties. There was little crime in those days…besides I had a heavenly Father who watched over me at all times! I had already accepted Him into my heart. He still does, even though I am now much older (and slower) and live in Hutch. Isn’t God wonderful?
Doris welcomes your comments and can be reached at [email protected]