Excerpted from: McPherson County: Facts, Families, Fiction; Established in 1890
Memories of the Callander Family – by Ann Callander McGiff
Oh, how times have changed since the Pioneer days. I was born June 22, 1918 to Fred and Agnes Callander in the sod house on the old homestead. I am the youngest of their seven children. Those were good days but very hard times. I remember how hard we worked putting up hay and raising crops for the livestock. We would go for miles and miles to find chokecherries and wild plums to make jams and jellies for the long winter ahead. Sometimes the horses would become frightened and run away, leaving us stranded. We would have to walk for about five miles before the neighbor found us and took us home.
The homesteaders suffered much in those early days, fighting the elements to survive: raging blizzards, high winds, ice and snow, summer drought, hail storms, electrical storms, loss of crops, property loss (and/or) damage with no insurance.
On Monday, May 22, 1933, the old sod house was destroyed by the cyclone that caused so much damage on that fateful evening.
On the previous Friday afternoon, on the last day of school when I walked home with little Iola Pyzer, I had no idea that the next time I would see her she would be with younger sister in their Mother’s arms lying in a casket. Along with the other five victims in the mass funeral services held in Miller Chapel. The Harry Pyzer family lived less than a mile north of us.
In the early 30’s, I became a high school dropout, when my father started work on the W.P.A. road project. His only means of transportation was by his team of horses and wagon. It was such a long distance to travel that he had to leave at 4 a.m., this left no one at home but me to do the morning chores. Things were better by 1935 so I attended Parochial school in Tabor, Iowa, but again in 1938 I was needed at home so I became a high school dropout for the second time. Due to my father’s ill health I had full responsibility of raising the livestock and poultry, this continued through most of World War II when my father passed away in January 1944.
By that fall I went to be with my sister, May, and her husband, Rasmus Gordon “Joe” Johansen. A prince of a man, a veteran of World War I. In the early ‘20’s after the war he was undersheriff of Green River County, Wyoming. Later he went to work for Union Pacific Railroad. For many, many years he was Station Master in U.P.R.R. Depot at Cheyenne, Wyoming. Joe was very well known and respected by all, everyone in the family adored him, but most of all the nieces and nephews thought he was the most fantastic story teller in the whole world.
My sister, Ruby lived in California. She had five sons and a daughter. Three of her sons served in the service of our country. William Wayne Cass, Jr., her eldest son, a veteran of World War II, arrived in North Africa three days before Field Marshal Rommel surrendered. Wayne’s tour of duty with the 5th Army under General Mark Clark’s command continued through Sicily, Salerno, and Cassino. James Cass, second son, was in the U.S. Army Air Corps in European Theater Operations. Later her fourth son, Robert, served his tour of duty in Occupied Germany during the Berlin Air Lift.
My brother Archie’s eldest son, Glenn, entered the service in March 1944, received his basic training at Fort Maxie, Texas. He spent 13 months in the Philippines under General Douglas MacArthur’s command, with the Engineers re-building Manila.
November 17, 1947, I married Cpl. Francis “Mac” McGiff U.S.A.F., a veteran of World War II. He had entered the Army in January 1942 and after about five months was shipped overseas. There he was engaged in five major battles, landed on Omaha Beach on D Day June 6, 1945. He also drove a truck in General Patton’s Red Ball Express. Later he served on the Task Force Frigid in Fairbanks, Alaska. Our veterans have served a great deal of time in Military Service, both in peace time as well as war time to keep our country safe from the enemy forces.
In July 1955, we adopted Randy James (Jim) seven years old and off to Alaska we went. Jim graduated from high school in Santa Ana, California, attended Citrus Junior College in Glendora, California. He received his Master’s Degree from San Diego State College. He married his lovely wife Sandra, a Dental Technician and he is a financial consultant in the San Diego area.
June 1, 1966, I went to work for the County of Los Angeles at Rancho Las Amigos Hospital in Downey, California. I also attended Downey Adult night school along with Administrative Housekeeping courses, and finally, at the ripe old age of 53 I graduated and received my diploma, but I made it! I retired February 22, 1981 as a Custodian Senior Supervisor.
When I look back across the years and remember the enormous contribution the pioneers have given to their families, the heritage we have derived from their efforts, it is no wonder that we are living in the greatest country in the world, because our forefathers made it great for us.
I have flown above the clouds and sailed the briny deep. I’ve seen the spectacular Aurora Borealis and the great frozen glaciers. I’ve lived in the Far North, the Deep South, and at present in the Golden West. I have worked with all kinds of people and ethnic backgrounds, but I have never known any finer people than the dear hearts and gentle people with whom I grew up.