Facts and Events
Some of my father's fondest memories of growing up on the farm were the planting of fruit trees and mulberry bushes from which his mother would bake wonderful pies. The creek was located just southeast of the house, down a slight hill where the children were allowed to swim during the summer. Of course there was a rope tied to a tree in order to swing out over the water and splash into the water. There were trips to Marquette where the family enjoyed live entertainment at the opera house and the drug store after a performance for a soda, and maybe some pie, if there was enough money.
When Kenneth was 19 years of age he suffered a perforated ulcer and his father rode the horse to town to find the doctor. The doctor arrived to treat Kenneth, and actually performed surgery on the kitchen table. After a period of recovery, in which the doctor would allow him to eat only milk and bread, he made a decision to leave the farm and travel to Kansas City, where he enrolled in Findley School of Engineering, which was affiliated with the University of Missouri at the time. He received a diploma, and concluded he was just one more mouth to feed at home, so he made the decision to "ride the rails," working from Kansas to Minnesota in whatever capacity he could find employment. (It was the time of the depression and jobs were scarce.)
In his travels, he worked in Kiokuk, Iowa, Hannibal, Missouri, Chicago, Illinois, and many other places. He worked for a time for Western Union Railroad. In 1936, he attended the Chicago World's Fair, having his first taste of ice cream. He visited his cousins in Chicago, the Hamiltons. There is a photograph of Kenneth and Lola Hamilton taken in the Chicago.
In 1936, Kenneth returned to Kansas where he began building windmills for farmers that drew water to the surface for animals and crops. He worked as a hired hand and was involved in construction of power lines to bring electricity to farmers. He was hired by my grandfather, Asa Neel, to build a windmill, and that is when he met my mother, Anna Neel.
Kenneth and Anna decided to get married and in order to avoid a large wedding (remember it was still the closing days of the depression), eloped to Hutchinson, Kansas, on April 29, 1937, where they were married by a justice of the peace. They moved into a small home known as "the Carlson place," and their first child arrived April 21, 1938, my sister, Patricia. My brother, Kenneth Neel (Neel to the family) was born June 22, 1939, completing that portion of the family.
Anna and Kenneth lived for some time in the Windom area, when they decided it was time to move on. My dad was motivated to leave Windom and the used farm-equipment store he opened when his father-in-law decided my dad needed some new equipment to sell. My dad was an independent individual who needed to make decisions for himself and his family. Feeling himself perfectly capable of making a living in used farm equipment, he was disappointed with his father-in-law's interference, concluded his father-in-law had no intention of lasee-faire, he and my mother made a decision that my father would head west looking for something else to employ him and to take care of his family.
Dad took the first bus out of Windom, heading west. It was almost noon when the bus arrived in Great Bend, Kansas. He hopped off the bus and began to look for employment. His first stop was the Western Union office where everyone was about to head out for lunch. Dad asked the manager for work and the manager informed Dad they were not hiring. My dad saw some electric meters sitting in a corner, asked about them and found out they needed repair. He asked if he might stick around during the lunch hour to repair some of the meters. When the fellas returned from lunch to see repaired meters, Dad was hired.
Living in Great Bend seemed a wonderful place for the Holler family. The park was nearby with a small zoo and the swimming pool was just across the grass from the zoo. Swings, slides, a teeter-toter, and merry-go-round livened the play area. Picnic tables and mature trees provided shade and food for the picnic. They stay in Greatbend was to be but a few years when World War II came along. Dad tried to enlist to serve his country but he was not able to talk the recruiter into taking him with such a young family. There was, however, an opportunity to serve his country in Otis, Kansas, where helium was being extracted for use in the war effort. Dad worked at the helium plant for the duration of the war, receiving an "Energy E" for his efforts. Otis would be the place where their third child would join the family in 1943, August 9. My father traded sugar ration stamps for a tire in order for him to drive to Little River, to be at the birth of his third child. My brother, Harris would follow November 30, 1944. The Holler family was now complete.
When the war ended, of course, Dad again needed to find employment. He put out his resume, and was offered two positions, one for the Central Kansas Power Company in Gorham, Kansas, and the other for Westinghouse in Schedectedy, New York. He was proud to have been accepted by Westinghouse, but considered at too long a distance away from family and a good support system. In 1945, the family left Otis and the helium plant for Gorham, Kansas, where Kenneth took the managing position for the power company, perhaps, 500 square miles in the area he oversaw.
The Hollers embraced the Gorham home until all the children were raised. Dad remained with the power company until he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, at which time he retired. During his retirement, my father volunteered many hours to the community of Gorham, as a scoutmaster, master gardener, and a man with a reputation the he could fix anything. His contribution to Gorham was as a member of the City Council, volunteer fire-fighter, mayor, and providing water wells for the town.
After my mother retired from Central Kansas Power Company, my parents moved back to their roots in Windom, Kansas, where they enjoyed years of small-town life with many family members nearby. They are buried in the town cemetery just four miles east of Windom, Kansas. When the tombstone was ordered for my parents grave, my mother was still alive. The stone mason carved Kenneth's name over Anna's would-be grave, and vice-versa. My mother was incensed and had the monument re-carved to fix the error. RIP.