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Memorabilia, Part 2
The address on the envelope pictured below indicates that my grandmother Trena was in the Charlotte Swift Hospital in Manhattan, Kansas in November of 1935. The contents of the letter doesn’t really explain why she was there. That year my mother, Donna, would’ve been nine and my Aunt Darlene would’ve been five. So it appears that Trena’s husband Ervin Kleiner's mother (say that five times really fast!) wrote this and was taking care of the girls during Trena’s stay.
I dig a little digging and that hospital has an interesting history. The building was constructed in 1907, at a cost of $24,440, which was raised via fundraisers by the Kansas State Agricultural College YMCA organization. Their new facility was dedicated in late September of 1908. The second and third floors had nine rooms, which were planned to be rented out to students. The main floor had various “parlor rooms,” a large reception hall, a library and a lecture/activity room. The basement held the kitchen, dining room, the boiler, showers and lockers.
In 1926 it was sold to the Parkview Hospital Company for $3500 and for ten years was known as the Charlotte Swift Hospital. In 1936, The Sisters of Saint Joseph bought the building, renaming the hospital, Saint Mary Hospital. In 1955, a new hospital, Riley County Memorial Hospital was opened, and Saint Mary’s building was sold once again to the Delta Sigma Phi Fraternity, for $32,000. The building is an excellent example of both the twentieth century revival style and the mid-century modern style and is still functioning as the Delta Sigma Phi Fraternity House at 1100 Fremont St. in Manhattan, Kansas.
And in the next letter, my great-grandmother Sophia (1886-1976), Trena’s mother, was in the Parkview Hospital in Manhattan for some malady 99 years ago. I could not find very much information on that defunct hospital but did manage to find a post from the Manhattan Republic paper from 1907 that said Parkview Hospital is moving this week from its old home, corner of Juliette and Leavenworth, to its new home on the corner of Juliette and Laramie that looked like a large two-story frame house.
The letter is from Sophia’s mother, Mary Shuel (1853-1940), and she seems to be advocating to bring her home (asking for Sophia’s husband Fred Parrick to help out with the money) to rest and recover, and to NOT go under the knife. The writing is a rambling mess, and she misspelled Fred’s last name, but the intent is clear. Abner and Mary Shuel were living in Wray, Colorado while Sophia, after her first husband Almond (Christinsen) died in 1917, was living with her four children near Abilene, Kansas when she was hospitalized. Could’ve been stress related! (She didn’t marry Fred Parrick until 1925, the following year. Fred died in a car accident in 1950). Sophia spent her remaining years in Riley, Kansas, so I saw her quite frequently growing up in the 1960s. She was one tough cookie—she scared me a bit—but she had a bitchin’ strawberry patch and an attic full of cool stuff. In the large ‘mud’ room just off the kitchen was a giant cast iron kerosene stove where chunks of ham or thick slabs of bacon seemed to be perpetually sizzling. You can hear a reference to kerosene stoves and cane fishing poles in my video for the song Lost In the Graveyard, recorded in 2004.
Almond and Sophia were the ones who, under the Homestead Act, purchased property in Gove County, Kansas, in 1905. They had to “prove up” the claim by living on it for X number of years, which was an incredible hardship. My grandmother Trena was born on that land, which has been passed down through the family eventually landing in my lap some years back. In honor of Sophia, Trena, and my mother Donna, the homestead property is the namesake for my Tales From the Homestead, and my studio is named Homestead Studios.
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