Newton Digital Collections

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Permelia Kannapel Interview


Permelia Kannapel Interview


Newton, Kansas - History


Mrs. Kannapel discusses what life was like growing up in Newton Kansas. She talks about her very large family, married life, life in a railroad town, and traveling around the country.


Newton Public Library, Newton Kansas


Newton Public Library, Newton Kansas


Newton Public Library, Newton Kansas




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Newton Public Library, Newton Kansas, “Permelia Kannapel Interview,” Newton Digital Collections, accessed July 23, 2024,

A.W. Holt


Permelia Kannapel


INTERVIEWER: Mrs. Kannapel, where were you born and when?
MRS. KANNAPEL: Corydon, Indiana, in the country. I was born two
miles from Corydon. That's the town. Corydon, Indiana. Harrison County. Now there's where I was born.
INTER: How old are you now?
MRS. K.: I'll be [100] Christmas, I mean the twenty eighth of
December is my birthday. And I'm 98 (she meant 99) years old.
INTER: Well, congratulations! Congratulations!
MRS. K.: Honey, I, I can remember anything. Everybody that comes
and talks to me, there is somebody else that come and talked to me,
I don't know if I was telling you or not. When I was four years old
INTER: What happened?
MRS. K.: I'll tell you what. We, my dad was, we was living in the
country and my dad owned this property, this farm. And so, there's a man come along and he wanted to buy it, on account of the people that my dad bought it from had a blacksmith shop. They shoed horses and fixed wagons. You know, wagon wheels and things like that?
And he wanted it. And 'course my dad never did, 'course my dad could shoe a horse. And he had a blacksmith shop, and then he sold it to this man. And then, my mother had a brother and she had a house.
He had a house and he let us live in that house six months till he could look around and get the house for the rest of my life, till
I come out here. (What she did socially) girlfriends, and we'd
take turns. And one night, I said to my mother, "I'm going to stay
home, stay all night with my cousin. Letty Hudson. And when we
got there, we played awhile outside, ball. And then we went over to
Idie Didlot's house and (Letty) said let's go over to Oak Miller's
house. And we went over to Oak Miller's house. That made four
places, that made four girls. And stayed all night. And we all
slept in one bed. And they had stewed chicken for breakfast. They
creamed it, you know. And it was so good. Creamed chicken and biscuits for breakfast, Then we played until dinner, Then we went home for dinner, (Another girlfriend) I call her Cad; you know for short. And I went to Letty's house and then we went, and I told my mother, could I stay allnight with Letty tonight, That's about a mile.And we all lived in the country, So I went over to Letty's house and Letty said, let's go over to see Idie Didlot, Well we went to see Idie Didlot, and in the rounds we went, saw Oak Miller and stayed there all night.
INTER.: Your father and your mother, what were their names?
MRS. K. : My mother's name was Elmira, There's another,'
INTER,: And you were named for your mother,
MRS. K.: Now my mother, her name was Elmira Mauck,
And she was named after a steamboat, There was one of them big
steamboats that the people went from there to Washington, D, C,,
on, She went on that. The people went on that,And she'snamed after
it, Because her dad and her uncle owned it, It wasn't
trains, they's steamboats. Yeah, I've been on one, And, this was at
Leavenworth, Indiana, You get on your boat there at Leavenworth, and
that takes you to Washington, D, C, I go all over the country,
I've been everywhere, sonny, Yes I have, I've been to Washington, D, C, three different times, and I've been to Oklahoma, And I've been to-
INTER.: Have you been to New York?
MRS, K.: Huh? No, I don't think I've been to New York, Let's see, where did I go from--- I saw where George Washington was buried,
I touched his grave. He's buried on top of the ground, Did you know that? And | went there, And I've been to Denver, Colorado, twice,
Dodge City, and I've been to Ft, Wayne, Indiana, And I went to Jeffersonville,
INTER.: Some of your relatives were from Kentucky, weren't they?
(Charles Mathes, dentist, Louisville, Kentucky, She herself was not able to go on to any higher formal education, explained Mrs. Westerhaus, because to her fell the responsibility of helping rear her younger brothers and
INTER.; (What was) your father's name?
MRS, K.: My father's name was Eli, My grandfather on my side was John Mathes,
1 lived with him, not quite a year (or until he remarried), | lived with him till his brother, not his brother but you see, my dad had a big family, and he only had four children and two of them was married, And when my grandmother died, I stayed with him a year, And then? after a year,
my uncle come and lived with him, Then I went back home, see?
1 Town at Cumberland Mountains is named Mauckport also,
A Senator from Indiana, served two terms. He wore the black cape of the times.
And you kept house for him?
Yes, I cooked for him. And washed.
And you went to political rallies with him?
The stump speeches, you mean?
MRS. K.: Well, that's good! I went to, one time I went to Dixie.
That's a little town. That's below Corydon. And he made a speech there, and he made one at Leavenworth. And he made one close to Corydon in a, what they called a Grange Hall.
INTER.: The Grangers were farmers.
HRS. K.: Yeah, farmers. That's where they went and talked. See
they're going places they just went to that one building that was
out in the country. It was politics. And sometimes, they got into a fight and get drunk and throw bottles at one another. And I said, ''Grandpa, I'm a gettin' scared." And he said, he said, "They won't hit you." " I mean I want to go home." (He had to be there) till it was over, so I had to stay. 'Cause he had a horse and buggy you know. And I'd been with him. He had a, when you went to Sunday speeches, you had somebody usually go with you, so I went with Grandpa when he made his stump speeched. (Although Permelia Ann did not receive much formal education, she was quite knowledgeable about current events, politics. Her grandfather had many books, Hrs. Westerhaus
reports, and they had many talks the grandfather and granddaughter, about
them and about his activities. This, then, was how she received a larger part of her education,)
HRS. K.: (About her present activities) Yeah. And I, I can knit. I can crochet.
(She also makes doll clothes).
INTER.: Your mother taught you how to do that?
MRS. K.: No, I looked over her shou1der. She didn't, my mother didn't care if
we, she didn't take the interest in us. When we came to Newton, (edited)
(summary- They first lived on Sixth Street, then in the 500's block of Broadway.) And we moved there, and we bought us a house. When we first came here. That
was the first house that we lived in. And we bought it, and Pop painted it
and built some more to it. Because it only had, let me count, it had about two, three, five or six rooms. And he had a man to build it a little bit bigger. Put on a kitchen. And that give us the kitchen then, was a kitchen and we had it for a dining room, you know. And we lived there seven years, exactly seven years to the month. And then we moved in the 500 block. Down here. And lived there six years. Did I say six? Well it was just the same, only...
MRS. K, : And then, we come up here in 1925, And been here ever since,
MRS, K. Ten in their (her husband's) family, And one (Ira) was going to be a priest. And he got sick and died, So he didn't get to be a priest,
And he was so sweet, And you know when he'd go off to school and come home there weren't nobody home but Pop, you know, And we lived right beside of his father's house, (Ira's own mother had died when he was three,) They lived there and we lived here, till we come out here, So anyway, he'd come home, you know. He was young, and he'd be so tickled at me, you know, so tickled at me, you know, so tickled to see me and he just loved me round the neck,
And then he'd get a chair and he'd sit as close as he could to me, And I thought he was so sweet, But he was only thirteen years old when he started to go to college. Then when he got to be 21, he just lacked one more year, and he said to me, "Oh, i'd love to be 22," but he didn"t make it. (Ira attended St. Meinard's Seminary, Indiana),
INTER,{ What did he die of?
MRS. K.: T.B. Well, I tell you, it really wasn’t T.B., anyway, I think
it was something else. Because he went to college and he got wet, And got the pneumonia, and I think that's what did it, He was so young, he couldn’t throw it off,
INTER.: That's a shame,
MRS, K. And so smart,
INTER.: Now, how many people were in your family, altogether, the brothers and sisters?
MRS, K,: I There was eleven of us, (There were) seven sisters. Let me see, there was Maggie and Tenie and Betty and Martha and Attie and Nell (and Permelia),
INTER.: And there were two sets of twins in your family?
MRS, K.; Now did I count myself?
MRS, K.; (Cause there's seven girls, Yeah, there's two sets of twins,
John and me and then Betty and Jim. Both sides. The Bullet's, too. Now his mother was a Bullet. And they had two sets of twins in the Bullet family.
(her husband's)
INTER.: Isn't that something!
MRS. K.: We only had one. I had a cousin named Sally. And she had triplets.
She had three. Three little girls and they was so pretty. Three little girls. (There were) twins in our family. And in his'n too, in the Bullet's. And in the Kannapel's too. Now, see, he had a cousin, and their name was Kannapel. And his first cousin had two little girls. They was so pretty, too. They had black hair, you know. And they was so white and pretty. Seven girls. I had four brothers. (Her brother George has a set of twins, also.)
INTER.: Four brothers.
MRS. K.: (Commenting on the size of families today.) (They don't) have
them (big) any more.
INTER.: Yeah, they do.
MRS. K.: I think it's all right if you don't kill them.
INTER.: Yeah, right.

MRS. K.: When we lived on Sixth Street, we had to walk in mud. We paid and
you know what I said to him "What did you do that for?" You know what?
If he'd a asked me or we'd a talked about it, I'd a told him not to did it. you see, we had five, now let me see, I'll tell you where it went from where you cross, they used to be a grocery store there. Is it there now or
not, in the 500's block. Now 517 West Sixth. Well, now he, he picked, he
and we had three blocks. Do you know we paved, he paid for, we had to pay for all that parking. I think it cost about three or four hundred dollars.
And do you know he paid it cash? 3(Another version is that he could have distributed the cost over a period of years in taxes, instead of paying it all at once.)
MRS. K.: Yes, and you don't have to do that!
INTER.: No, not any more.

MRS. K.: And I said to him, "Why didn't you say something to me about it?"
I said, "I knew that they had passed a law that you didn't have to." There wasn't no sidewalKs. It was dirt. Where the cars was to go, it was brick.
And the sidewalk. Some of them was brick and some of them was cement.
Three blocks, big blocks. And we paid for all of that. And the next fellow come in, he didn't have to pay it. Never, that's forever.
This was typical of a family attitude at that time. He would not buy something unless he paid in cash. He never charged things or used credit.
If he did not have the cash he didn't buy the item, commented Mrs. Westerhaus, explaining how they were taught.
When I lived on Sixth Street, they were too many "floaters". You don't know what a "floater" is.
MRS. K.: Well, I'll tell you what. It was railroad, railroad
town, this is a railroad town, but not any more. They lived in the cheapest houses, and they all rented. And there's where we bought it. And we shouldn't have bought it. Course, we didn't, he didn't know what we know now. And he bought that house and we were stuck with it till we, and we didn't have any trouble, though. And we've had three lots. And there's where he paid all that. Now that's paid. And we had a colored man digging the ditch to put the pipes in. And she (Catherine Kannapel Westerhaus, daughter) stood there.
You know, she'd just a little bitty thing and she was so cute you know. She was a pretty little thing. She had white hair.
And kinda curly. And she stood there just like that and just looked at him. And he got so mad at her. And he didn't see me.
And do you know he threw a bunch of dirt at her. And so I said, "Come here, I want to see you a little bit." Then I told her not to go out there no more. But people owned them that had money. And you know they didn't hurt 'em. They were good to them.
And after they were dead and gone, they didn't have 'em any more, after that was over. They had a table about as big as this chair.
And my dad said to me one time, while I was back there, "Do you see, you see that table over there?" I said, it was that, we used it as a wash stand. It was a summer kitchen. We had everything like that back there. And I said yes and he said well there's where my pap's he called his dad, he'd always say, "My Pap."
He said, "My pap's hands, slaves, washed their hands on that table."
(I didn't think) nothin' about it. I thought it was all right. One of their houses on Grandpa's farm, they had tore down. But they make little houses. Well, they have the stove in there, for them to cook on. And for your fire, had fireplaces you know and things like that. And they give them everything. And that's what they called slaves. Well everybody else owned 'em. Not only Grandpa. Men his age had 'em. You build these little houses and they live in there. Well, how much more would you want? And they have a little cradle, you know, and they have a little trundle bed, you know what a trundle bed is?
INTER.: Yes, I do.
MRS. K. : Unhuh. And they had one of them, you know.
INTER.: What was your husband's name?
MRS. K.: Anthony Kannapel. He first was a miller. You know
what that is?
INTER.: Yes.
MRS. K.: Miller of trade. He could set the rolls and everything.
And he owned the mill. That's at New Middletown, Indiana. There's where we lived.
INTER.: Then when he came to Newton, where did he work?
MRS. K.: For the railroad. He was a, let's see what was he called?
He was kind of a boss. What do you call that?
INTER.: Foreman.
MRS. K.: Yeah, foreman for the Santa Fe.
INTER.: Yes and how many years did he work for the Santa Fe?
MRS. K.: Well, he worked, we came out here in 1911. And he worked 35 years, honey.
INTER.: That's a long time.
MRS. K.: Then he retired. So he went to work soon as he got here.
We got here one day and I think the next couple days he went to work. He went right over and they hired him right now. And that was luck, 'cause they wasn't hiring too many. And one woman got mad at me over that. I couldn't help it, they, that her brother, I guess they both had come in at about the same time. And they liked Pop's work the best. And so they laid the other one off and kept Pop. Well,
I didn't know it till she come and told me about it. And I thought to myself, "You shouldn't get mad at me I didn't do nothin" But I just, I just grinned and was taking it, you know.
INTER.: Were you acquainted with the roundhouse?
MRS. K.: Oh yes, I've been in it, honey! Yeah. He taken me in,
and Joe worked there too. He worked at the roundhouse. He was a foreman, too at Kansas City. He worked here, then they transferred him, 'cause Joe was smart. Oh he's smart as a whip. He made his grades early. And he never missed. He started at six years or so and boy he got nothing but number 2's all the way down the line. (Edited)
Four daughters. I got Virginia and Margaret and Catherine and Martha. Martha was born here. She's the youngest. And Virginia is the oldest.
here couple of years, how many hours to work. They just worked till it got dark-day 1ight to dark. From daylight to dark. And then later, then they worked from eight hours come in. Oh we1s out here a long time before, and then he didn't have to get up so early. (Edited)
I canned everything honey. Because we did, we had everything back home. We raised, we had a farm, my dad did. And my mother would can, well I canned 15 bushels of peaches one year. I paid $2.00 a bushel for them. That was cheap then. And the man didn't want to take it. I said to him, I'll take so many bushel. Bought all he had. I shocked him. I shocked him. But that's all I paid him was $2.00 a bushel. I tell you what I canned. I canned peaches.
I canned apples, and I canned tomatoes and I canned green beans and I canned corn. Corn's hard to keep, awful hard. And red beets.
I canned them too. And tomatoes. I don't care much for tomatoes.
But oh did I have pretty ones, though.
(About entertainment while she was growing up)
When I lived back home? Well you see we didn't have much going on like that. No picture shows or nothing then. All we had was parties, you know. And it, like a "bunch of boys and girls would meet and go to a certain house. And we'd have a little dance. They'd take up the rug. And we'd dance or you know, jump around, till a certain time. And then they'd always have something to eat. We'd have, we'd never, like cake or pie you know. And then we'd eat and go home. Now this was at the schoolhouse, they'd have the spelling matches. We'd call them spelling matches in the country schools.
I don't know what they did in town. And they would go and they'd spell and they'd count so many, you know on number one and then a number two and then see which ones could stand the floor, you know.
(Later she remembers the chivaree, surprise parties for newlyweds.
The couple was taken in a wagon or on a "hayrack" to the place of the party. There was much cider served in her part of the country due in part to a prevalence of apples. The chivarees often took the place of honeymoons.)
INTER.: And you won' the spelling match?
MRS. K.: One time I did.
After that they went to the Sisters (her children), see, and then
she'd give'em out, if you couldn't spell it, you'd have to sit down.
And she (Virginia) always stood the floor. And there's two. Until the eighth grade, and then they graduated to Saint Mary's. Then they went to High School right there. There's where Virginia started. But it wasn't big. There was three houses between the corner and that building. And they tore them three houses down and made the high school bigger. It tells when it was made, how many years.
I did know but anyway I forget. But it's on the outside of the
building, when it was built. And all of ours went there. Every one of them. They all graduated.
INTER.: (I asked her about the delivery of her babies)
HRS. K.: I had a doctor (Dr. Martin and Dr. Daniel, who were brothers-in-law).
No, I never had nobody but doctors when they were born. Well, they was all born at home. At that time, well, you see, they were all born back home, but Martha was the only one born out here. And we didn't have no people, had to pay so much to go to the hospital. And we only had to pay the doctor.
He was such a good doctor, Dr. Smith was his name. He come and delivered her, you know. And we only had to pay him $25.00. What could you get now?
INTER.: How has Newton changed?
MRS. K.: Oh it was run you wouldn't know it. It was just like a little
hole. People's houses was run down. Everybody's got pretty homes now.
And there wasn't a house on the other side of the bridge.
INTER.: Oh really?
MRS. K.: Down here. Well, I tell you what they was. They was two houses, let's see, yes two houses right next to a creek. Hazel, do you know Hazel Walters?
MRS. K.: Well, they lived out there. But they wasn't no houses.
They was one house. And let me study. Oh yes. Mr. Miller. And there was a boy named Rodney Rhoades. His father was a doctor, And he lived right in, just right close to the water, across the bridge on the right hand, on that side. Over there. And he was a dentist. Dr. Rhoades was a dentist.
And he fixed Virginia's teeth. And he didn't fix 'em good. (Catherine said that he fixed hers well).
(She talked about her old block on Sixth Street.) Do you know that big brick house across the bridge?
MRS. K. : Here up at the courthouse (the Judge Shell house). He had just one boy. And he lived there in that big brick house. Then they was another house. Then there was another one. And then 509.
We lived in that, for five years in that house. We lived five years on Sixth Street. Then we lived five years on Broadway. This is Broadway and then we moved up here.

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