My father was from Waterville, Kansas, a little town in the north central part of that Midwestern state. He and his sister and brother grew up there. Their parents ran a restaurant for some years, but I think my grandfather had also been a carpenter. My father and his siblings left Waterville and moved to various places, but they would go back for visits with their families.
I remember Waterville as a pretty little town with wide streets, a park with a bandstand in it, a quiet main street with one movie theater on it and a train track that ran through the town. My grandparents lived in a wooden two story house right across the street from the train station. They had a sleeping porch on the second floor of their house and it was kind of an adventure for us kids to sleep on that porch. The train whistles and the sound of the trains as they came right by the house at night would always wake me up. They also had an outhouse, at least for the first couple of years that we visited, and I was a little afraid to go into it, especially at night.
My grandfather came from a pretty large family and many of his siblings lived in or near Waterville. So when we would go back to visit our grandparents, there were lots of other older relatives we would visit too. As a young child, I didn’t understand who all those old people were and we called all of them either Aunt or Uncle. Two of the oldest aunts, Aunt Ida and Aunt Inez, lived together on the other side of town from my grandparents. Aunt Inez was the oldest sister in the family; she was in her mid-90s. She loved to play Chinese checkers and we kids would take turns playing with her – but she would cheat. We knew we couldn’t say anything about her cheating, because she was old and our aunt. She was just as confused about who we were as we were confused about all the old aunts and uncles. She never did learn our names and I don’t remember what she called me, but she called my brother Richard. Steve just learned to answer to Richard with a smile.
I wish now I could go back to Waterville and find my grandparents and all those aunts and uncles and cousins. I wish I could ask them questions about what it was like to grow up in the late 1800s and early 1900s. I wish I could sit down and talk to my Aunt Inez and ask her about her life as a young girl and woman. At the time I knew her, I don’t think I really even believed that she had ever been young. Now I know and I bet she had a really interesting life, before Chinese checkers.