We’re in the midst of a Midwest driving tour, currently in Saint Louis for the February meeting of the 1904 Worlds Fair Society.  On the way here we made a combined Dust Bowl/Wizard of Oz tour.  We visited several small towns historically in the center of the worst of the Dust Bowl.  We visited local museums and historic buildings; all had reference to the Dust Bowl, and wings set aside for that dark decade.  One town has the “Dorothy House”; another has a Wizard of Oz museum – appropriately both in Kansas.

In Boise City, OK (they pronounce it Boyz) the museum on the north edge of town was much more interesting than we expected.  There we came across two displays (not Dust Bowl related) that really captured my interest.  I share them here.   The first is a long tapestry that looks vaguely like a kitchen skirt.  The second is the story (part true, part imaginative and fanciful) behind an American flag rescued during World War II.

Both are short.   I hope you enjoy.


“Guest” entry #1:

I don’t think our kids know what an apron is.

The principal use of grandma’s apron was to protect the dress underneath because she only had a few and because it was easier to wash aprons than dresses; and aprons required less material.  But along with that, it served as a potholder for removing hot pans from the oven.

It was wonderful for drying children’s tears, and, on occasion, was even used for cleaning dirty ears .

From the chicken coop, the apron was used for carrying eggs, fussy chicks, and sometimes half-hatched chicks to be finished in the warming oven.

When company came those aprons were ideal hiding places for shy kids. And when the weather was cold, grandma wrapped it around her arm.

Those big old aprons wiped many a perspiring brow, bent over the hot oven and stove. Chips and kindling wood were brought into the kitchen in that apron.

From the garden, it carried all sorts of vegetables. After the peas had been shelled, it carried out the hulls. In the fall, the apron was used to bring in apples that had fallen from the trees.

When unexpected company drove up the road, it was surprising how much furniture that old apron could dust in a matter of seconds.

Grandma’s skirt, found in Cimmaron Heritage Center, Boise City, OK

When dinner was ready, grandma walked out onto the porch, waved her apron, and men folk knew it was time to come in from the fields to dinner.

It will be a long time before someone invents something that will replace that ‘old-time apron’ that served so many purposes.

They would go crazy now trying to figure out how many germs were on that apron.  But I don’t think I ever caught anything from an apron – but love ……….

– Author unknown

[I searched online to find an author.  No luck, but I did find it in quite a few places.  There are several versions of this poem – all largely the same.  This is a tad shorter than most: it gets the point across with fewer verses.]


Guest “entry” #2 – “Little Jack” Johnson  — [First paragraph by museum curators]

American Flag in Humble Surroundings

This is the story of an American flag, made from what was apparently a table cloth and other materials available in the humble home of some Belgian woman.  The flag, coming into the hands of “Little Jack” Johnson after the Ardennes breakthrough was wiped out by American forces, was sent with other European war souvenirs to his parents, Mr. & Mrs John C. Johnson here, and have been placed on display at the First State Bank. Jack’s story of the flag follows: [1,2]

“The town of Bastogne will live in the minds of every man wearing the uniform of our country because of the many acts of cruelty performed there by the Nazis during the short-lived Ardennes breakthrough.  Although Bastogne is the better known, the nearby village of Houffalize suffered more heavily in the terrific fighting that went on in this territory.  There is not a single building left standing intact and most of the inhabitants were killed in cold blood.  It was between these two villages in Belgium that I recovered this homemade American flag, filled with holes caused by bullets, and flak and covered with mud, blood and parts of human bodies surrounded by the stench that arises from the field of battle.

“What was the story of the flag?  I’ll never know the entire story, but by filling in the parts I heard from war weary villagers, it was one of joy and sadness.

“The Belgian people had long awaited the coming of their liberators.  Some woman, working in secrecy, as hope welled up inside her heart, using the scanty materials that she could salvage, prepared this flag with which to welcome the American soldiers.

“At last the great day arrived and as the tank columns came into view, the flag was taken from its secret hiding place and proudly displayed in front of this home that was filled with joy at being released from the yoke of the Germans. [3] Each day, with the rising sun, the flag would be hung to fly in the sunshine of freedom.

“Then came the black cloud that filled all hearts with fear and sorrow – the Germans were coming back with their threats of death and cruelty.  The great Nazi onrush could not be stopped in time, and they rolled once again into the village from which they had been driven.  A group of arrogant, swaggering German soldiers pulled the flag from its place and crushed it to the ground.  But, true to its great tradition, it would not stay crushed to earth, but would rise again to fly in greater glory; the Americans returned with a new hatred and venom in their hearts.

“Hurling new and more powerful missiles of destruction they slaughtered those who dared to defile the flag.  Huge bombs fell from the skies and tanks lumbered in to retake the village.  Once again the people were under the protection of a great nation.  But this flag was not to fly again as I found it still on the ground.  Nearby I saw sights so gruesome that they made me sick.  Boots still filled with feet, the bodies blown to bits, blouses still containing bits of flesh and hand; there was a head.

American Flag found near end of Battle of the Bulge, near Bastogne.

“Yes, it made me sick, but with a sickness that made me happy and proud, because they were the ones who had wanted to crush our own homes and kill our loved ones, as they had done in this little village.

“This flag would never again fly in a liberated country; it finds its final resting place in America, the country it so proudly represented.”

— by John C. “Little Jack” Johnson, year unknown

Joe G: Thanks for reading.

Thank you for reading. As always, you can add yourself to the notification list for newly published material by clicking here . Or emailing joe@girardmeister.com


[1] The Ardennes breakthrough is better known as The Battle of the Bulge, Dec 16, 1944 to mid-January.

[2] There is still a First State Bank near the center of Boise City, OK.  So I presume that Mr Johnson was from Boise City, and the flag was donated to the museum (Cimarron Heritage Center) at some point.  The museum is in a house donated by the Cox family, which was designed by Bruce Goff, a direct protégé of Frank Lloyd Wright.  It was built in 1949.

[3] Belgium was 1st liberated in September, 1944

I have found records of a John C Johnson, born in 1918, from Boise City, OK to a John C Johnson.  Also born in Ok and a mother, Nettie, born in Nebraska. [A few sources say Dec 1917 …]

He enlisted in January, 1941.  1yr college, occupation: bookkeeper/cashier.

In 1950 John C Johnson, married, no children, is shown as living in Boise City, OK, in census data as a bank cashier.  Which sort of fits with the First State Bank.

It appears he passed, March 7, 2003.  Sorry that I didn’t start my historical obsession sooner, and thus, never got to meet him.

John C Johnson, Jr, Main cemetery, Boise City, OK

As John Johnson is a very common name I had to stop my search after a few hours.  So much to sift through.  It is the same man.



3 thoughts on “Tidbits”

  1. toni brennand

    I remember my grandmother always wearing an apron, and it was used for many of the same things you mentioned in your story. Great remembrance. Toni

  2. Peggy Gutmann

    Sounds like a really nice trip through the Midwest Joe. I enjoyed your tidbits.

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