Newton Digital Collections

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Friendly Acres Interviews


Friendly Acres Interviews


Newton, Kansas - History
Newton, Kansas - Fred Harvey's


A. W. Holt interview several of the residents at Friendly Acres Home for the Aged. Their discussions cover topics such as education, religion, railroads, Fred Harvey's restaurant, drinking water, Turkey Red wheat, and general changes Newton. KS has undergone over the years.



Newton Public Library, Newton Kansas


Newton Public Library, Newton Kansas


Newton Public Library, Newton Kansas




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Newton Public Library, Newton Kansas, “Friendly Acres Interviews,” Newton Digital Collections, accessed May 29, 2024,

A.W. Holt


Friendly Acres:


Friendly Acres



24. MAY, 1977
200 S.W. 14TH
INTERVIEWER: This is Ann Holt at Friendly Acres, 24. May,
1977. And we have Mr.
MR. SMITH: I am F.M. Smith. I was born and raised four miles
Southeast of Hesston, I'm just past 80 years old. I'm at Friendly Acres. And we're meeting for our regular afternoon get together. And to discuss things in general and get acquainted. Well, I went to Hesston Academy when I was thirteen years old. And Reverend Landis who is right here with us now was my teacher. He taught English and ancient history. Reverend Landis was firing the toilers when there was only one building on the grounds. That was the old Academy. And it housed both the men and women. That was all there was. It was Hesston Academy at that time, in 1910.
INTER.: What did you farm?
MR.S: Well, we just did general farming.
INTER.: Like the wheat.
MR. S.: Yes, wheat, wheat.
INTER.: Did you have cows?
MR.S.: Yes, we had a few cows. We used to pile a big barn full of hay. And it was just general farming. [He had played the harmonica, "There's No Place Like Home'ear1ier in the meeting. I asked him about it.)  
MR.S.: I learned to play the harmonica when 1 was twelve years
old. (About other duties on the farm) 1 rode some. 1-1 chased the
cows on horseback.
Inter. : You did a little bit of cowboy work, huh?
MR. S.: stalks. Oh, just chased the cattle back and forth in the corn

INTER.: This is Mr. Roberson, Mr. E.P. Roberson and Mrs. E.P.
MR. E.P. Roberson: Yes.
MRS. E.P. Roberson: Tell them what you were, where you worked.
MR. R.: I was the principal of McKinley for 37 years, from the
time that I first came to Kansas. I came to Kansas in..

MRS. R. : 1921.
MR. R.: 1921 and I became principal of McKinley School right away.
And was continuously principal there for 37 years

Inter.: That's quite a record.
MR. R.: That's right.
Inter. And you told me that you were with the Library Board, too,
weren't you?

MR. R.:
years. Yes, I served on the City, Newton Library Board for eight I was chairman of the Library Board for two or three years--
don't remember how many years, but several years

INTER.: Thank you.
MR. R.: Is there anything else?
Inter.: Well, I'm curious about how Newton has changed on what you
remember about Newton.-

MR. R.: Well, I just know that the schools, 1 know more about the schools than I do the individuals. That at one time, McKinley and Cooper and one other, there were three.

MRS. R.: Lincoln.
MR. R.: Lincoln School were the three principal

MRS. R.: Grade schools.
MR. R.: - public schools in Kansas, in Newton. And then later, they added new buildings. They built new buildings for the—
MP.S. R.: I don't know how many they were, three or four new ones.
MR. R.: Four hundred children in the three buildings, see? We had three grade schools. And all the grade schools for the whole town were congested in three, those grade schools. And then, then later the other schools were built. And then the children were divided up according to the building. I think we're running about five or six schools now. About four hundred children enrolled in that McKinley school. At one time we had four or five elementary schools in one grade in the sixth grade. All the sixth grade children were divided into two different schools.
F.M. SMITH: There was a cement block in the middle of Main Street
and Fifth by the depot that marks the spot where the wall was that Jesse Chisholm watered his horses and cattle on the way up to Abilene, where the end of the railroad was at. And -they called the railroad the Kansas-Pacific. They drove the cattle from Texas up here to Newton and stopped at Newton and watered and stayed all night and then went on up 15.

INTER.: Thank you. Would you tell us about why we have such good water.
MR. E.P. ROBERSON: Well, we have good drinking water because we
are in the equus beds and that is natural water underground water, streams of water that they have tapped. And consequently we have good water here, not only for drinking water, but for water for household use and everything.
INTER.: Reverend—
REVEREND LANDIS: Landis. And a better town than most of them because
of the high standard of morality that we have here. They have,
I think there's more religion emphasized in Newton, too, the Christianity than there is in a good many cities. You don't have the low morality that they have in so many towns. We don't hear much about that in our local paper. We have quite a number of Mennonite churches here. That's one reason that we have the moral standards that we do.
INTER.: Thank you.
CATHERINE WESTERHAUS Methodist churches, of which this is
supported, that I would say because we have so many different religions. It's very integrated as far as religions are concerned. And there are churches. There's many other religions have established churches
^Non-resident of Friendly Acres
The equus beds were so named because of very small horse bones found in them. 3
here. That's very true. I was really glad that he said that.
And they have worked well together. I think there hasn’t been the prejudice the religious prejudice here in this community as there has been in some places because of the fact that many denominations, many religious denominations have settled here and have worked wel1 together, have been ecumenical in their actions towards one another. Wouldn't you say that's pretty true of this community?
INTER.: Thank you Catherine Westerhaus.
ANITA PENNER: My mother worked for two Baptist Ministers. They
were twenty years at the same place, when they came across.
C. WESTERHAUS: I think that's a good point. Many of the settlers
that came from other countries were of different faiths. And they came together. They shared, just like she said the Mennonite and Baptist and the Lutheran and the Methodist and the various religions all came together and worked good together.
GLADYS ROLAND: --springs, but Newton is supposed to have the most
perfect water in the country. I've always heard. I imagine they have springs. You see, I don't know much about Newton. I lived in Wichita. But that's the thing we've always heard is the perfect, the water in Newton. You can't beat it, anywhere!
MRS. E.P. ROBERSON: We have a weekday Bible school in Newton that
is quite unique, because we have so many different denominations i that. And I taught in that for a number of years. And you couldn't tell by the group of teachers which church they came from, you know, because there was just such a good feeling in there. Taught there for thirty five years or so. And he [Mr. Roberson] was treasurer of the Weekday Bible School. And he had to pay all these teachers.
So he knows there were a lot of them a lot of denominations represented
E.P. ROBERSON: I served as treasurer of that group for many years.
INTER.: Congratulations.
MR. R.: It was a good idea, because denominations were not mentioned
except everyone paid for their own school. Each church paid for its own members. But insofar as membership in the classes, no denomination was ever mentioned.
INTER.: [l asked Mr. Soule more about the aqueous beds.]
MR. CLYDE SOULE: Mission Field. It's about, oh, west of here.
I think about seven miles, six or seven miles. It's the equus beds where he's talking about.
MR. S.: Clyde Soule, S-o-u-l-e.
INTER.: And you came to Newton?
MR. S.: 1927.
INTER.: And what was your business?
MR. S.: Dry cleaning business. I came in 1927- Just closed up
In August a year ago.
INTER.: Very good.
MR. S.: My wife and I kept it. She passed away and I lost my eyesight
so we had to quit.
INTER.: That's a long time to have been in business.
MR. S.: That's a long time. That's a long, long time. I came in
with my dry cleaning. There weren't very many here then.
INTER.: And you were in what building?
MR. S.: Well, I was in the Ripley Hotel when I first started.
I moved across the street to the uh - oh I forget the name of it.
ANITA PENNER: When my parents came across from Russia; they settled
around Newton because one reason was because they had good water. And another reason was because they thought the land would be good
for sowing wheat. They brought sea wheat along from Russia. That
Turkey Red wheat. So that was one reason. They left Russia on account of because they didn't have any more freedom of religion
there. That's why they came here. Now you see that was 1874 when
they came across.
MRS. MYRA HEINZEN: Did that have something to do with the Russian
wheat that was started in Kansas? Was that the beginning?
MRS. P.: They were Mennonite people that came from-and they didn't
have no more freedom of religion when they, you know when Catherine the Great, after she passed away. They didn't have any more freedom of religion. That's why they came across and they brought Turkey Red seed wheat along. Each family brought a little along, and that's how that Turkey Red wheat came to America.
INTER.: What is your name?
MRS. P.: Anita Penner.
VIOLET WUNSCH: You know Newton is quite a railroad town. And the
people come here to go, used to go all over every place, just can get trains here. I don't know if that's true anymore. People would leave from here because they couldn't get from Wichita.
INTER.: Do you remember Fred Harvey's?
GLADYS ROLAND: Oh yes, sure we've been to Fred Harvey's to eat
dinner. But it was a very famous place, Fred Harvey's.
VIOLET WUNSCH: Considered the best place in Newton.
G. ROLAND: Oh it was a wonderful place. We used to drive up from
Wichita, and come up here and eat at Harvey's, Fred Harvey's.
V. WUNSCH: -eat at Fred Harvey's.
G. ROLAND: I just didn't think of that. And then, you know that
Mennonite religion is quite, they've had a big organization here. They do more volunteer work, stricken cities and countries around, more than any other place around. Mennonites.
INTER.: Let me get both your names again.
G. ROLAND: Well you have mine, it's Gladys Roland.
INTER.: Right. And your name again?
V. WUNSCH: Violet Wunsch. We're sisters.
G. ROLAND: I lived in Wichita many, many years, and of course that's not too far from Newton. But we haven't lived here for a good many, many years.
MRS. CURTIS: And Newton is fortunate to have Friendly Acres, and
Friendly Acres is fortunate to be located in Newton. They take care of our needs. When we go in to trade, they're very lovely.
The people of the business district.
INTER.: What is your name?
MRS. C: Mrs. Bertha Curtis.
INTER.: Thank you.
MRS. C.: [A relative] made a trip, lived in India and the Holy Land.
And she brought me home some things and this is one of them [a pin].
M1LRED OTT: I'm coming all right
INTER.: Good. How long have you lived In Newton?
M. OTT: Well, my folks, they lived out of Burns. But I worked
different times in different homes. And one time I was working clear down on Thirteenth Street for a lady by the name of Mrs. Green And she was an older lady. And they had to take us up to the hospital.

INTER.: By boat! Oh!
M. OTT: And I had to take my shoes off and they were just ruined
afterwards. And then I, my youngest brother lives just two blocks down here. They took me out, out home, and there were places you just couldn't hardly get through.

INTER.: That's really something.
M. OTT: 1 came right close by. For a lady by the name of Mrs.
1 NTER. : Right. And what is your name again?
M. OTT: Mine? Mild red Ott.
Inter.: Thank you Mrs. Ott.
M. OTT: It's just Mildred.
INTER.: Mildred. Thank you.
M. OTT: Burns. My youngest sister's got the farm place out there by
Inter.: Still in the fami1y.

M. OTT: And I helped my mother to pay for it. I took care of her
mother for four years. Yeah, have helped to take care of a lot of older people.
MRS. WINNINGHAM: Me? I've just been here two and a half years.
INTER.: And what is your name?
MRS. W.: Joyce Winningham.
SPEAKER: In Newton
HRS. W. : No, no. In Newton? [She has worked at Friendly Acres
for 2 1/2 years]. I've been here on and off since I was about s i x years old.
INTER.: (I asked her how Newton had changed).
HRS. W. : It's hard to tell. It's changed so much, when you get
to thinking back, like our grade school. I mentioned you know when we started at Lincoln. We went to junior high in Lincoln High School. And then we moved to the high school when I was a freshman. So that's quite an expansion in schools from the top to the from the second, it was the second floor in Lincoln was where our junior highs were in Newton. And urn oh goodness, we kept, Daddy kept two cows in the lot adjoining the swimming pool. So that you know,
I mean its spread out quite a ways.
SPEAKER: Her father had a barber shop here.
HRS. W.: Yeah, Dad, my father had a barber shop on the south side.
He barbered downtown in, close to what used to be the theater, uh where the theater was, there used to be a barber shop there.
And then he owned his own here on the south end then before he died.
INTER.: What was his name?
HRS. W.: Carl Hontague.
INTER.: It was Hontague's Barber Shop?
HRS. W.: Yes. Yes. Umhum. He was a barber until he died.
INTER.: Did he do a lot of beards?
HRS. W.: No, not that I recall. I don't remember him mentioning
it too much. Probably he did in his young years, but I don't remember that part of it, you know. 'Cause he started real young in his daddy's shop* See, they didn't go to school when he started.
And his dad had a Barber shop in Arkansas. And that's where he learned to cut hair is over there. And then he got his license here in Kansas. But they didn't have to go to school, as long as they met board requirements. And so that's how he started.

MRS. DELORES PROCTOR: I haven't been here that long.
INTER.: Hi. You're
MRS. P.: [Works at Friendly Acres] Dolores Proctor. Oh, off and
on [has lived in Newton] for thirty years. Here, there and yonder sometimes and then back to Newton again.
MRS. P.: Yeah, I went to Junior high and high school here. And
part of the time when we were married, and then we moved away.
We were Wichita and Pennsylvania, back home again.
INTER.: And your parents, where were they born and when did they
move here?
MRS. P.: Oh my mother was in Galva and my father was in Wooded,
Oklahoma. So that's where I was born, too, Galva.
INTER.: How did you meet your husband?
MRS. P.: Oh! That'd be telling!
MRS. P.: Well, actually, no, I don't really care. I used to
love to go skating when I wasn't working. Actually, that's the first place I ever met him first.
And then he came to the house and met my folks and went for there.
INTER.: That's good. This was?
MRS. P.: Mr. Work used to have it then.
INTER.: Where was that?
MRS. P.: It's the same place it's now, on the 100 block on E.
Third. But it's under new management now.
INTER.: Same place.
MRS. P.: It's been redone, just this year inside. And Dicker has
it now. It was the only place we had for kids to go in high school to really go anywhere, really. Of course during the wartime and all you know you didn't have the gasoline to go anywhere like kick do nowadays. And so, you either went to the movies or went skating, and church, this was your three main things. I guess swimming too,
I suppose, [skating] that was a lot of fun, yeah. [About Friendly Acres Home for the Aged] But then I know this wasn't out here, either, it was just a big field. And then they later had a, I think it was a hot rod kind of a run out here, too, for a while before it turned, before Friendly Acres bought it. So it, the town's really grown.
[The population] Sixteen and something, over 16,000, last I heard.
INTER.: Do you have any idea what it was when you came here?
MRS. P.: Yeah. Well, as I recall, it was somewhere around ten, I believe I think it was ten.

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