Thornton Manor Residents
Thornton Manor Memories of Christmas Past
By Jo Konichek
Several residents of the Thornton Manor Nursing Center recently shared some of their favorite Christmas childhood memories. After listening to their stories, it makes one appreciate such things as plug-in Christmas tree lights, lots of delicious food for Christmas dinner, many beautifully wrapped presents under the tree, embossed greeting cards with angels, and many other holiday delights we sometimes take for granted. Now, and hopefully in the next millennium, sharing family Christmas traditions will keep the true spirit of the holiday season alive in the hearts of young and old alike.
|Lucille Byrnes spoke of hitching up their
team of horses to the sleigh with big blankets to wrap in
and hot flat irons on the floor to keep their feet warm.
They painstakingly cut their way through huge snowdrifts
in the bitter cold to make it to church, then it was on
to Grandmas house. Lucille usually got clothes and
a doll for Christmas, but she was happy.
|Marguerite Beck said, My favorite
thing was to wait for Santa. Hed knock on the door
and my brother was so scared, he wouldnt go near
him. She said her mom would never put the tree up
or decorate it with candles until they were in bed. They
usually received lots of gifts, mostly clothes. Her
parents put away $7 each month in order to pay for the
Christmas presents. And the next thing you knew,
Christmas was upon them again. She said, One year I
got a big, beautiful doll and my brother got mad, threw
it down the stairs, and broke its head off!
Marguerite cried then but she laughs about it now.
|Luella Gibbs got her last china doll with
real curly hair at age 11. We usually got two
gifts, most were homemade, she said. They would put
their Christmas tree up the Sunday before Christmas. It
would reach as high as the ceiling. They rode in bobsleds
with blankets over their heads. When my husband was
little, all he had one Christmas for dinner was bean soup
with hardly and beans! It took them three days to get
groceries in North Dakota where he lived, Luella
stated. Luella said there were hard tmes as well as good
times. Shell never forget one year when there was a
flu epidemic. They couldnt go to school and they
hated getting shots from the doctor. My mom almost
died from the flu, it was so bad many children
didnt survive, she reflected. On the lighter
side though, she remembered, Mom used to make
popcorn balls and lots of candy.
|A favorite memory for Ruth Hawes was her
coffee grinder. When her mom would come home with
groceries, including coffee beans, Ruth would take some
beans and put them in her own little grinder. She would
be so tickled. They would cut their own tree, decorate it
with popcorn strands, candles with holders, and colored
paper ornaments. One year my sister came down from
Dubuque and tried to cook our dinner. She cooked the
goose so long it was too tough to eat! Ruth said.
|Gert Darling will be celebrating her 90th
birthday this Christmas Eve! Her favorite childhood
memory is when her mother made doll clothes out of
taffeta, trimmed with pretty buttons. She misses those
happy days with the smell of pine throughout the house
and their cast iron stove. We were happy with what
we had. Christmas is too commercialized now, she
stated. Gert also said how amusing it was when her
husband used to trim the branches of the Christmas tree
until there was almost no tree left.
|Sarah Wilkins loved her fancy dress, and
doll with a buggy. Each of the kids would get a cup and
saucer with one toy. They had a cabinet with glass where
they would put a toy, but they werent allowed to
play with it. However, they were always happy at
Christmas. There were nine in her family. They would
string popcorn for the tree. But we couldnt
light the candles on the tree unless mom was right there
to watch it in case of fire, Sarah remembered.
|Santa came on Christmas Eve at the
Spinner home. Dad would play the violin and the kids
would sing. Postage stamps cost two or three cents.
Lenore Spinner smiled as she recalled the events that
took place at her home as a child. They had to go to bed
early for church Sunday where they would sing Christmas
carols. We would go around town and greet everyone
with a Merry Christmas. Lenore said she has many
fond memories of days gone by.
Notes: Lenore Spinner, 1910- 6/24/2001, buried in Gethsemane cemetery.
|Where does Santa come in
Daddy? Anna Kulps recalled as one of her favorite
memories. Her dad put up storm windows that only opened
up a little bit. I always wondered how Santa made
it through the little gaps in the windows! she said
with a gleam in her eye. We had different colored
wafers with imprints of Jesus, Mary and Joseph that were
blessed in church then brought home. We would break them
for our Christmas Eve dinner.
Notes: Anna (Paulauskas) Kulps
~Allamakee Journal, Lansing, IA, 22 Dec. 1999
~photos & article contributed by Errin Wilker
~additional notes added by Allamakee co. coordinator
Thornton Manor Residents Celebrate 100th and 110th Birthdays
Happy 100th birthday to Laura Fruechte (left) born March 29, 1909, and happy 110th birthday to Sarah Wargin Wilkins (right) born March 27, 1899. Both are residents of Thornton Manor Nursing Center in Lansing, Iowa.
Lansing Centenarians Celebrate Birthdays
Thornton Manor residents Laura Fruechte (left) and Sarah Wilkins (right) recently celebrated birthdays. Fruechte turned 100 March 29th, and Wilkins turned 100 March 27th.
Two residents of Thornton Manor in Lansing recently celebrated their 100th and 110th birthdays this past March. Now 100, Laura Fruechte was born March 29, 1909 in Lansing. Sarah Wilkins was born March 27, 1899 in Harpers Ferry and is 110.
Want any sage advice on how to live a long time? Sarah says she takes an asprin every day. Laura says it's because she still has a lot of interests. The Thornton Manor staff concur that Laura and Sarah both stay active and continue to participate in the activities offered.
Sarah's face lights up when you mention the Toe Tappers, a group that played for her birthday party last month. She recalls walking five miles to Harpers Ferry to school and back home again every day. Sarah would quit school after 8th grade, as was usual for women in her era. She and her husband, Harry Wargin, reared four children. Later, after Harry died, she married Wilbur Wilkins. She and Wilbur traveled extensively overseas. She enjoyed sewing and music and never drove a car. Her younger sister, Marcella Strub, age 102, lives in New Albin.
Laura smiles a lot and remembers games of hop scotch, hide and go seek, and jacks when she was young. She was born and raised in Lansing at 515 Dodge Street, right behind the Old Stone School, and later attended college. She was married young she said, "At 19," and proudly shows her wedding picture. (She married Leo Fruechte, but they had no children.) Although she didn't realize her childhood dream of becoming a nurse, Laura did attend to the sick and elderly in their homes. She was a member of the German Presbyterian Church, which was always..... [the remainder of the article is missing]
~newspaper clippings & photos, March or April 2009
~contributed by Errin Wilker
Sarah J. (Conway) Wargin Wilkins, 03/27/1899-08/08/2009, buried St. Joseph's cemetery, New Albin. Obituary * Biography & more photos
Laura (Bishoff) Fruechte,03/29/1909-08/16/2011, buried Oak Hill cemetery, Lansing. Obituary & another photo
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