Sunday, September 27, 2015

Sunday Stories: Fred Vernon Laubner

Excerpted from the Sutherland Centennial 1891 – 1991, published in 1991.

Born December 24, 1914 to Leonard (born Oct. 6, 1864, Portsmouth, Scioto County, Ohio; died Oct. 12, 1925 at Hershey) and Estella (Carrico) (born May 18, 1875, Parsons, Labette County, Kansas; died Mar. 28, 1959 at Denver, Colorado) Laubner, who lived and homesteaded in the NW ¼ Section 24 of the O’Fallons District. Was born on this homestead and attended the O’Fallons School. All of the Laubner offspring have attended the O’Fallons School.

My father, Leonard Laubner, donated the land to start O’Fallons School, and served on the School Board for 20 years or so. I loved the subject of history in school, and my favorite teacher was a lady by the name of Jennie Haist. She taught the intermediate grades: fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth; there were four grades in each room. Two teachers were hired in the High School. I graduated in 1932 at the age of 17 years, and with the honor of Salutatorian. The folks could not afford to send me to college so I could fulfill my dream of attending flight school.

I was on the “Championship Basketball” team in 1932; along with Elmer and Herman Swedberg, Vic Young, Ken Johnson, and Mackey. During the playoffs, we beat the Sutherland and Hershey teams, then went to Ogallala and nearly beat them. We had a helluva good team. I was also on the softball team, and was the only guy who ever knocked a ball up on the roof of Hoatson’s Garage. The ball diamond was where the Firehouse is today in Sutherland. A house was sitting in the location of the Adams Bank building, and McNeel’s Hotel was just south of the bank building.

I’m the youngest of five older brothers and sisters; they are: Oscar, Bertha (Mrs. Willard Ford), Clara (married Ed Lingwall, and later divorced), Andrew who married Bess Carvett, and later divorced, Etta (Mrs. Bernard Crews), and I married Lila F. Forshey, daughter of Alexander and Mary (Rose) Forshey on October 2, 1937. We ran off to Colorado to get married. Ken Johnson and Fern Binegar were witnesses. We were married by a preacher, Lila would not have a Justice of the Peace. Lila and I lived on the “home place” until 1959, and since that time, always in and around the Sutherland area until 1979 when I moved to Hershey, Nebraska.

My mother was a sister to Mrs. John Q. A. Harshfield. Grandparents were Pius Mathis and Julia Carrico, and Andrew and Mary Laubner. The Laubners are buried in Ohio, and the Carricos are buried in Sundance, Wyoming.

My Grandfather Carrico farmed before moving to Nebraska, and upon his arrival to this area, he worked for Sam Dikeman. He lived on the place now owned by Gene and Kay Kramer. He was the one that planted all the trees and built a sod house on that place.

I was born on Christmas Eve Day morning, and had a devil of a time getting a birth certificate. My birth was not recorded, no doctor, just a mid-wife was present. Getting a birth certificate was accomplished in 1940.

My proudest moment was when my son, Tom, was born in the old “Fenner” hospital in North Platte.
I didn’t like to dress up as a kid, wore overalls and sandals to school. When it got cold, I got a pair of ankle high button shoes and I hated those shoes with a passion, so hard to button.

Wintertime activities were playing cards, ice skating on “Fulk’s Pond” located across from where Fischers live at O’Fallons. When the ditch was built, they dug the dirt out to build up the banks of the ditch and the low ground made a good pond on the east side of the railroad tracks to skate. The Dringman girls were really good skaters, along with my sisters.

I’ve always liked guitar and banjo music. Lila played in a band “The Nebraska Ramblers”, starting in the early 1930’s. Once a week the band played on radio station KGNF and on station KODY for about one year. Lila was originally from Gibbon, Nebraska and her father hauled sand and had a truck farm and sold garden vegetables and melons.

Harshfields and Laubners always had family gatherings, Uncle John Harshfield would play the guitar, Alva would play the mouth harp, and most everybody would sing.

We would go out and hunt “chickens” (Prairie Chickens). There used to be a lot of chickens, but now all there is are grouse.

One time, during the war, Harshfields had a barn dance; Nicholsons and Beema Combs played for it; all the money taken in was given to the North Platte Servicemen’s Canteen.

My first job other than farming, I got paid $1.55 an hour and out of the first check, they took $1.53 Social Security. No other deductions. Bad times in my life were during the drought in 1934, when the bottom of prices fell on cattle in 1973, and in October 1979 when I lost Lila to cancer.

I’ve seen a lot of changes, not only in Sutherland, but the whole country. I hope people enjoy reading the various histories being written up for the Sutherland Centennial book.

According to online obituaries, Fred Vernon Laubner passed away on Jun. 1, 1994 at Hershey, Nebraska.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Sunday Stories: Ben Kuroki

Ben Kuroki, WWII Hero, dies at age 98

Ben Kuroki, the celebrated World War II hero who was the only Japanese-American to fly over Japan during the war, has died at his home in Camarillo, California, the Associated Press and Los Angeles Times report. He was 98.

Raised on a farm in Hershey, Nebraska by his Japanese immigrant parents, Kuroki and his brother, Fred, quickly volunteered for service following the bombings in Pearl Harbor. Both brothers were rejected by their first recruiter, per the American military policy that did not allow Japanese.

Ben and Fred persisted because, as Kuroki described his experience in an interview for The Omaha World-Herald during the conflict, "I have the face of a Japanese but my heart is American."

According to the Associated Press, the brothers then drove 150 miles to the next recruiter who allowed them to sign up for service. Kuroki then set his sights on another challenge: becoming an airman despite an Army Air Corp ban that prohibited soldiers of Japanese ancestry from flying.

Kuroki earned his chance when, while serving as a clerk at an Army Air Corp base in England, he volunteered from training as a desperately-needed aerial gunner. From there, he quickly earned a stellar service record, flying 58 bomber missions over Europe, North Africa and Japan during the war. His assignments to the Pacific, originally rejected because of his ancestry, were approved by Secretary of War Harry Stimson.

After the war, Kuroki received a journalism degree from the University of Nebraska in 1950 and worked as a journalist until his 1984 retirement as the news editor of the Ventura Star-Free Press.

In 2005, Kuroki's combat efforts and work overcoming prejudice earned him the U.S. Army Distinguished Service Medal, one of the nation's highest military honors. "I had to fight like hell for the right to fight for my own country," Kuroki said at the award ceremony in Lincoln, Nebraska. "And now I feel vindication.

Ben is fondly remembered and honored by the people of the Hershey community and the people of Nebraska as a remarkable man who loved his country.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Sunday Stories - Legacy

This is something different for a Sunday Story. I have been watching with fascination as a contractor has been renovating my Grandma Seifer's home in Sutherland. She moved to town after the death of my Grandfather, Fred. According to the family history, which you can find HERE, she was sixteen and he in his 40's when they married. As you can imagine, she was a widow for many years, from the late 1950's until her death in 1984.

The tiny cottage she lived in suited her just fine. She raised a huge garden and baked many a pie in her old-fashioned kitchen. After her death, the house became a rental unit and had fallen into serious disrepair. It has now been given new life.

Though the interior is unrecognizable, from the outside, I think it still shouts quaint, small town living! See for yourself.
Morning glory vines used to trail up the front porch
Looking from the kitchen to the front door
The dining room
It even has barn doors in the bedroom!
There's nothing old-fashioned about this kitchen now!
Back in Grandma's day, this shed was her wash house.
Here was where she raised a huge garden.
This is a perfect ending to the story. Her home will be home to families for generations to come! Want to make it your home? You can view the listing HERE:

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Sunday Stories: Russ and Esther Walbert

History is never quite as far away as we think it is. Russ has since passed away, but Esther Walbert, a beloved Sutherland resident is still going strong!

Excerpted from the Sutherland Centennial 1891 – 1991, published in 1991.

After grandparents Carl John and Betsy Danielson, and parents Ernest and Cora Danielson, Russell and Esther’s story is a third generation history of this family.

Russell and Esther met while Esther was working as a civilian secretary for the Statistical Air Control Center at Hill Field Air Base at Ogden, Utah. Russ was sent to Hill Field after 28 months overseas in the Army Air Force.
Russ was born June 25, 1916, in Allentown, Pennsylvania. His parents were Clayton and Pearle Walbert. Esther was born January 22, 1918, in Sutherland, Nebraska. Her parents were Ernest and Cora (White) Danielson. She graduated from Sutherland High School in 1936. Russ and Esther were married August 11, 1945, in the Methodist Church in Ogden, Utah. Russ was discharged in October of 1945, and the couple returned to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, where Russ worked for the Bethlehem Steel Company.

They moved to Sutherland in June 1948 and Russ did painting and paper hanging. He was substitute rural mail carrier for 13 years. He helped organize the Cub Scouts, and was Cubmaster and Scoutmaster for several years. Their son, Dale, was one of four boys who received the God and Country award and Scouting’s highest award, the Eagle Badge.

Russ is a member of the United Methodist Church and has held several offices in the church. He is also a member of the American Legion, D.A.V. of North Platte, and Sutherland Lions Club. Russ is vice-president of the Senior Citizens of Sutherland, helping to purchase a building for their use.
The Walberts owned Sno-A-White for six years and hired school students. Russ and Esther hosted the first exchange student in Sutherland. Anders Johnsson, from Molndal, Sweden, lived with the family during the 1972-73 school year. The Walberts visited Anders and his family in Sweden, and the next year, Anders and his family visited the Walberts in Sutherland. Russ retired from the Union Pacific Railroad as yardmaster with 30 years’ service.

Esther began playing organ for the United Methodist Church in 1953, giving 37 years of service and still plays part-time. She is a 50-year member of the United Methodist Church, and has held several offices in the church, now serving as president of the United Methodist Women, and a member of the Bible Study Group. Esther belongs to the American Legion Auxiliary and has served on the Election Board since 1956. She is a member of Wednesday Bridge Club, and is now serving on the Centennial Board. Esther was a Den Mother for Cub Scouts and a 4-H Leader with several girls from her group winning state awards.

Son, Dale, was born April 21, 1946, at Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. He graduated from Sutherland High School in 1965. Dale and his wife Sandra, have four children, Dale, Jr., Jeffrey, Karl and Toni. They live in Modesto, California. Daughter, Anita, was born July 6, 1951 in Sutherland. She graduated from Sutherland High School in 1969. Anita, her husband Jack, have his two boys, Randy and Ronny, now in military service, and Anita’s boys, Russell and Justin. They live in Raymond, Nebraska.

During the years, the family has enjoyed camping, boating and traveling. After Russ’ retirement, they have done some traveling with their trailer, going south for the winters.

Russell C. Walbert died on December 14th, 1998 at the age of 82. Russell was buried at Fort Mcpherson National Cemetery in Maxwell, Nebraska and was a veteran of World War II.

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