Thursday, November 29, 2012

Five Places of Christmas Open House

Coco-cola Santa - ready to greet visitors.

If you are having trouble getting in the holiday spirit, let us help! 

On Saturday, December 1, HCHM will participate in the annual Five Places of Christmas along with Kauffman Museum, Warkentin House, Carriage Factory Gallery and Bethel College Women's Association.  

Our volunteers have been busy decorating every corner of the museum!

Nancy Krehbiel & Linda Koppes
set up the large tree in Harvey County Hall

Snowmen are the featured collection.

Other volunteers decorated the outside.

Richard Hege and Thomas Carroll hanging the garland.

Ljuba DeSmith fluffing the garland.

With festive results.

The Five Places of Christmas will take place Saturday, Dec 1 from 10:00-4:00.  Admission is free and refreshments will be served.

Visit our web page for additional information and a copy of our latest newsletter -

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving Greetings

Wishing everyone a happy Thanksgiving.

The Harvey County Historical Museum & Archives will be closed for the Thanksgiving holiday, 
Thursday, Nov 22 through Sunday, Nov 25. 
 We will reopen with our regular hours on Tuesday, November 27 at 10:00 a.m.

Enjoy these postcards from 1908 and 1909 and try the pumpkin recipes from the early 1900s.

Postcard, 1908
Postcard, 1909
Recently, a cookbook was donated to the museum.  
The Kansan Kook Book, published by the Newton Kansan, is filled with recipes 
submitted by Harvey County cooks.

The Kansan Kook Book

Pumpkin pie recipes
from the Kansan Kook Book 

Recipe for Pumpkin Chips

Thursday, November 15, 2012

This has surely been a beautiful day: Thanksgiving 1918

The holiday season is almost upon us.  At the museum, decorations are going up for Five Places of Christmas, our annual holiday open house on December 1. However, before the rush of the season takes over, we will celebrate Thanksgiving.

1917 Postcard - front
1917 Postcard - back
 To "Ma" (Mrs. M.L. Trask) from Jessie 

This post highlights Thanksgiving Day 1918 as celebrated by the rural Harvey County family of George Kline.  In 1918, the Kline family lived on a farm in Macon Township.  Family members were parents, George & Linnie Kline, and sisters, Grace & Waive.  A son, Maurice, was serving in the Navy. The letters between Waive Kline, and her fiance, Glenn Wacker, who was with the AFE in France, are featured in the exhibit, Harvey County on the Homefront.

Waive Kline, 1915

Peace had been declared on November 11, 1918, but American troops were still in France. Often the families at home did not know where their loved one was and mail service was sporadic. Glenn Wacker was with the Motor Transport Corps and the Grave Registration Bureau in France during the winter of 1918-19.  Waive's Thanksgiving Day letter expressed uncertainty and concern regarding his location.
"I have been wondering where you were - in England or France and now I know. Your father called up yesterday and said he had just rec'd a letter from you and that you were in France. . . . they surely took you there in a hurry.  I am glad to at least have an idea where you are."
Another anxiety mentioned by Waive was the increasing fear of the "Flu". Officials urged people to stay home and several schools were closed.
"The schools in Halstead, Burrton, Hutchinson have closed again on account of the Flu. Also heard that Normal at Emporia had closed until the first of the year."
Weather also influenced the family's Thanksgiving Day plans. Overnight it had snowed a great deal.  This meant that the rural roads were impassible and any guests that had planned on joining the Kline family would not be able to come.  
"We had invited Aunt Elva's here, so we were rather disappointed when the roads had to get so bad."  
Despite worries about Glenn, the flu and bad weather, the Kline family enjoyed a quiet Thanksgiving at home.  Waive wrote:
"This has surely been a beautiful day.  This morning when we got up everything was covered with snow.  The evergreen trees in the front were so full of snow that they bent almost to the ground.  The sun shone all day and it was so warm that most of the snow melted.  The roads of course were bad."
Waive to Glenn Wacker
Thanksgiving Day 1918
"As it was the Kline family ate their Thanksgiving dinner by their 'lonesomes.'  We didn't have an especially big feed but had a plenty.  We had enough so that this evening we didn't get supper as no one wanted much."
Heart of the Blue Ridge
by Waldron Baily
"I read a lot and tatted some.  I started to read a book last night after supper entitled "Heart of the Blue Ridge."  It is a southern story and very exciting.  I just finished it before I started to write this letter." 
Waive gives us a brief peek into life during the winter of 1918, a time without TV (so no after dinner football), the internet or passable roads.  Even the telephone was  relatively new to rural Kansans in 1918.    Waive was able to see the beauty around her and be thankful during an uncertain time.

Postcards from HCHM Postcard File
Letter -Waive Kline, Harvey County, Ks to Glenn Wacker, AFE France, Thanksgiving Day 1918.  Glenn & Waive Kline Wacker Collection, Harvey County Historical Museum & Archives, Newton, Ks.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

A Long Way from Home: U.S.O. Piano Signatures

Signing the piano
Those Who Served
~~This is the third in a series of posts about the Harvey County U.S.O. during World War II~~

"A long way from home,
A long way to go,
I hope my next stop
Is Spokane,
but it is Tokyo."
-A verse written on the USO Piano

Signatures cover nearly every surface of the U.S.O. Piano.  A total of  2,643 signatures can be identified.   Some include a poem, like above, or a small drawing. One person signed as "Donald Duck".  Most are simply a name, city and state; a tangible record of one moment the history of the United States.

Each person that came through Newton and signed the piano had their own story and circumstances.They came from all over the United States including California and New York.  The majority of signatures are men, although some women, like Private Betty Carrington from San Gabriel, CA, signed the piano. Race was also no barrier - all were encouraged to sign the U.S.O. piano.

Newton was in a unique position during World War II.  As a rail hub, trains stopped longer to refuel  and load supplies. During the peak of the war, as many as 44 passenger trains filled with troops stopped at Newton in a twenty-four hour period.  The tired and hungry service men and women needed a place to stay while they waited for the next leg of their journey.  The U.S.O. provided a space, and musicians played the piano to provide entertainment.

In 1998, museum volunteer, Stephanie Hill, took on the task of cataloging all of the names on the piano.  She created a data base with the list of names which is cross referenced alphabetically and by state.

A few years ago, it was noted that one of the signatures on the piano was "Roy Acuff, Knoxville Tenn".  Photo tech, Linda Koppes decided to research to see if it could be confirmed that the piano was signed by 'THE' Roy Acuff,  famous country singer.

Signature detail - Roy Acuff
She wrote to Brenda Colladay, Museum & Photograph Curator of the Grand Ole Opry and sent some photos of the signature. Ms. Colladay agreed that the signature matched other signatures by Acuff.  She also noted that he frequently entertained troops for the U.S.O., both at home and abroad.  She added, "He was named most popular singer in a poll of G.I.s stationed in Europe during World War II - even beating Frank Sinatra." 

Letter Confirming Acuff's signature

Roy Acuff was born in Maynardsville, TN Sept 15, 1903.  A country music singer and fiddler, he sold more records in the 1930s and 40s than any country music star. In 1938, Acuff recorded the Wabash Cannonball, one of his most enduring songs.
Listen to it here

Roy Acuff
In addition to performing, Acuff co-founded a recording company,the Acuff-Rose Publishing Co.  During the 1940s, he appeared in eight movies. He earned the nickname "King of Country Music" and in 1962 he was the first living inductee into the Country Music Hall of Fame.  Throughout the 1970s, he performed almost exclusively with the Grand Ole Opry.  He remained active in the music business until his death November 23, 1992 at the age of 89.
Roy Acuff, 1992

The U.S.O. Piano is on exhibit at the Harvey County Historical Museum & Archives.  A data base of the names on the piano is also available for researchers. 

Sources:  Those Who Served by William Jewell, Kansan Printing Co., Newton, Ks; World War II Piano Signatures, compiled by Stephanie Hill, Harvey County Historical Society, 1998; U.S.O. Piano File, Curatorial, HCHM

For more information on the Harvey County Historical Museum & Archives, visit:

Thursday, November 1, 2012

An Irreplaceable Piece of History: The U.S.O. Piano

USO Group No. 11
Note Piano in background
Those Who Served
~~This is the second post in a series of three about the Harvey County U.S.O.~~

Our October 18, 2012  post focused on the history of the Harvey County U.S.O. organization during World War II. The Post can be read here:  This second post will feature the U.S.O. Piano, perhaps the museum's most unique artifact.  Also, in the course of additional research, more photographs of the interior of the U.S.O. were discovered and are included with this post. 

U.S.O. Group No 7 Dinner Party
V.F.W. Post 971
Mrs. Estellee van Rossum at the piano

Identification for above photo from the book, "Those Who Served.

USO Scenes
Note Piano in backkground.
Those Who Served
The Harvey County U.S.O. provided showers and food to the traveling soldiers.
Providing clothing
Those Who Served
The volunteers also provided a space for socializing and entertainment.

Relaxing in the Lounge
Those Who Served
 Local lawyer, Fred Ice and his wife loaned a pool table for soldiers to play.
Pool Table
Those Who Served
A Kreiter upright piano was given to the Lounge by a local family, businessman, George A. & Effaye A. Sharp.
George A. Sharp
The piano was manufactured by the Kreiter Piano Company in Milwaukee, MI.  The company was opened  by German immigrant Conrad Kreiter in 1880 (or some sources say 1897).  At one time the company produced 10,000 pianos a year including grand pianos, uprights and player pianos.  There was also a plant in Marinette, WI, but it closed around 1930.  The Kreiter Piano Co. was out of business by 1945.

It is not clear if the Sharp family bought the piano specifically for the U.S.O. , or donated one that they had in their home.

Music Trade Review Clipping

After the Sharp family donated the piano to the Harvey County U.S.O., it was painted white and someone had the idea to encourage soldiers to sign their names and give their home address.

Which they did.
Signing the Piano
Those Who Served
Detail of U.S.O. Piano, 2012

After the war, the piano was given to Bethel College, North Newton for a short time.  American Legion took possession of the piano in 1949 or 50. In 1993, the American Legion was in need of more room and they offered the piano to the Harvey County Historical Museum & Archives, Newton.

The piano was no longer white.  One theory is that nearly fifty years of tobacco smoke in the Legion turned the color of the piano to the golden color it is today.  Another theory is that at one point, in an effort to preserve the names, the piano was varnished.  This theory has merit, if you look closely, some of the signatures are slightly blurred.
U.S.O. Piano 2012
Harvey County's U.S.O. Piano was not done traveling yet.  In the fall of 2009, the museum was contacted by the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, LA about borrowing the piano for an exhibit they were planning, "Entertaining the Troops"

So, in November 2009, the piano traveled to New Orleans to be part of a national exhibit open December 7, 2009 through March 2010.

Loading the piano with help from Micheal J's Movers, Wichita
Loading the piano.
The piano, "an irreplaceable piece of America's wartime history," was returned to the museum in the Spring of 2010. It remains on exhibit at the Harvey County Historical Museum & Archives as a reminder of soldiers who passed through Newton, Ks in the 1940s. 

The last post in this series will focus the soldiers that signed the piano and answer the question - did any famous people sign the piano?

Sources:  Photos and identification from HCHM Photo Archives and Those Who Served published by Kansan Printing, Newton, Kansas, N.D. available at the Harvey County Historical Museum & Archives.

Ever wonder what service organizations were developed during the Civil War to aid soldiers? Visit to learn more.