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My Only Home is Kansas
March 13, 1944
I would like to think this day is like every other. Lenard leaves for work early in the morning and left in this flat is little Ruth and me. But it’s not just an ordinary day. It is the one 1 year anniversary that my life changed. I know I should be thrilled that Lenard has a steady job and that I can still stay home and sew and take care of Ruth, but I miss Kansas. I really do. Of course I can not say anything to Len. He already feels bad that he took me away from my family. Gosh I miss them so. So I will write to you my troubles of living in a place so different than home. Even after I describe the past years, I will close the cover and see the picture taped on, that was taken that last day in Kansas. My eyes will fill with tears with the fact that I know we won’t go back. Well I will just start from the beginning so that you can see what we went through to be where I am now and why I don’t find this place too fond.
It was October 27th 1929, when the stock market crashed. Economists though this was just a bump in the road and that it would be corrected by the next week. No one could possibly see what was coming next or how their world would fall as fast as the blink of an eye.
At this time, Lenard and I were living in a small 2 bedroom house that my daddy had built when he was younger. We lived in the small town of Bisbee in Greenwood County, Kansas. Born and raised there. Lenard was working as a salesman for the local farm equipment store. I stayed at home cooking, sewing, making preserves, and working out in our vegetable garden. My family lived on the same land as we did, considering daddy owned 5 acres of it. We were a very close family. That’s all I knew growing up. You live next to your family; growing up next to your cousins and seeing your extended family daily. It was something I loved, something I treasured and would treasure forever. Sadly, Lenard was not close to his family due to the automobile accident that had killed his mother, father, and brother when he was 19. He loved my family but I don’t think he was so keen on the fact that we lived on the same land as my parents. Oh well. The one thing is though; we had no idea of what was to come.
It was in the fall of 1938 that Lenard had lost his job. The store that he was working for could not pay the employees and was forced to shut down. Everyone was losing their jobs. Left and right people were moving away to find places with money. Some people could not live in their homes any more because they couldn’t afford to take care of it. Luckily, we had money saved up in case of a “rainy day”.
In the year 1942, there were a lot of surprises. Our daughter, Ruth Marie, was born. We weren’t trying to get pregnant but it happened. Now I am not saying it’s a bad thing. I thank God everyday that I have Ruth in my life. It just would have helped if we had waited till we had gotten where we are now.
Another surprise is the whole downhill spiral that the United States had been going through was what they called the Great Depression. I can see why now. Everyone was losing their homes, and some even had to live in those shanty towns called Hoovervilles, named after our President at the time, Herbert Hoover. What scared me was I knew we were close to running out of money and Lenard still could not get a job.
It was March 13, 1943. Lenard finally got a job, but it was not in Kansas. Nope it was smack dab in the high rise city of New York. He was hired by this newspaper company called the Wall Street Journal. He was hired to be a reporter about the stock market and the new businesses.
Lenard, Ruth, and I were at the train station waiting for our train to arrive. My family was there as well to say our final goodbyes. Lenard was in a black and white pin stripe business suit with a matching hat. His business shoes were covered in dust and dirt but that’s because the train station did not have cement. He was holding Ruth, who was six months old at the time and wearing a white dress with a matching bonnet. And then there was me, wearing an everyday white dress that I had sewn with a black coat with my hair up in a bun. I had on my stockings and my favorite pair of saddle shoes. I know Lenard wanted me to dress all high class but I was a country girl. I was not made to wear fancy earrings and heels that hurt my feet.
Our train was in sight so my parents wanted to take one last picture of the “happy” couple before we took off for their new adventure. I was not happy. I did not want to go. I cried the whole time I packed up our belongings because I knew that we would not come back.
We stood in front of the station’s building which was made of dirt stained bricks and had black bars on the windows of which I don’t know why. There was never any crime in our town. While staring off into the distance in remembrance of what I was leaving behind, Lenard whispered in my ear, “Dear smile for the camera and for the new life we are going to have.” I was not happy at all and there was no way I would smile for this picture. How could you smile at a time like this where you are leaving your family, your childhood memories, and your whole life behind! So as my father snapped that picture, there we were. Lenard with a big grin on his face, Ruth whom was crying because she had not eaten yet, and I with a soured face that told everyone I did not want to go to New York.
It took us nearly 2 days to arrive to New York. Not only were we exhausted but overwhelmed of the huge buildings and skyscrapers that lined the sky above our heads. I had never seen such tall buildings before. I was not in Kansas anymore. This was a completely new world and I did not like it.
Lenard had found us an apartment among the city. They were called “flats” which I still have no clue why. It was a lot different than our home we had. We had no front yard and surrounding us was a loud environment of car horns and people’s raised voices shouting at each other. Lenard was excited for the change. He told me it had great potential and success for us. All I wanted was to be at home sewing a new dress for Ruth or making homemade preserves with mother. There was no way I was going to accept this city. It is not home to me.