Saturday, May 3, 2014

Our Tenant's Connection to Gen. MacArthur

Pictured above are Louis Clifford Powell (1876-1959) and his wife Dora Jane (Thomas) Powell (1899-1971). In 1956-1957 they lived in the basement of my parents' home at 2201 Jefferson, Great Bend, Kansas. Lou, at age 81, was a retired farmer and Dora worked in the kitchen of the local Elks Club. I remember that because I interacted with them quite a lot. They didn't own a car and they didn't have a telephone, so I often called a cab to come and pick up Dora to take her to work. Lou sat in our kitchen after I came home from school in the 4th and 5th grades and listened to me read the weather report to him each afternoon when the Great Bend Tribune was delivered. I remember Mr. Powell talking about his hometown of Whitewater, KS and also recounting his tales of the MacArthurs, Gen. Arthur and his son Gen. Douglas. Also living in the basement apartment of our home was their son Douglas, who was named after Gen. Douglas MacArthur. In doing a bit of research for this post, I found this article at  

"Emporia, Kansas, Monday, May 14, 1951 THE EMPORIA DAILY GAZETTE 
He Knew the MacArthurs Years Ago 
Emporian Was a Messenger for Gen. Arthur MacArthur

Lou Powell doesn't look like an old army man. His big, heavy figure and ruddy face, accented by thick white hair, is that of a man who has spent his entire life out- of-doors. He was the farmer that he appears to be until his recent retirement several years ago. The last few years, he says, his only farming activity has been confined to the vegetable and flower garden behind his home at 23 East. Though he may hoe and rake and search for weeds, his thoughts are with the soldiers he has known.  

Thomas James Coke Powell
His father was the first—a Union captain who fought at Vicksburg (pictured at left); and was with the reconstruction forces in the South. Powell has his well-polished sword that was alleged to have saved his father's life on several occasions. During the first part of the century the Emporian was in the Civil Service—a Job which acquainted him with American generals whose names made the history books — Generals Otis, Greeley, Bates, Sumner, Funston and Arthur MacArthur, the father of Gen. Douglas MacArthur. In the recent war, the Army was brought even closer to him, because his son was in the armed forces. Powell is proud of "his" generals and particularly proud of having worked for Gen. Arthur MacArthur. For four years, from 1902 until 1906 his Civil Service job was as a messenger. Powell had a desk outside of the general's private office and let only callers with urgent business in to see the officer. During this time he lived in the same house in San Francisco with the 'general, his wife and two sons, Arthur and Douglas, and came to know them. Of the older general, the ex-messenger has this to say, "He was the hardest man to get to know." 

Lt. Gen. Arthur MacArthur (1845-1912)
Arthur MacArthur was a man who had won his stars the hard way— he had enlisted as private in the Civil war and was promoted up through the ranks. Powell describes him as a huge Scotchman who talked only when spoken to and then seldom answered with more than a short yes or no. He was feared by the office staff for his stiffness, but respected for his ability to accomplish whatever he set out to do. The soldiers were always a little in awe of him. General Arthur shunned publicity and avoided making public speeches. At the christening ceremony of the battleship California, Powell recalls that the general was to make a dedicatory speech. A moment before speech time, the thoroughly stage-frightened general turned to the young messenger and asked, "Powell, what in the world am I going to say here?" At social functions, the general seemed to feel out of place; he disliked dancing and small talk.

(Perhaps a separate article): LOUIS POWELL, a former messenger in the Civil Service, worked with the father of Gen. Douglas Mac Arthur for four years in San Francisco, he became acquainted with the family of Gen. Arthur MacArthur shortly after the elder general returned to this country from the Philippines. In contrast to her husband, Mrs. MacArthur was a vivacious person, liked and understood by everyone. She was the happiest when surrounded by a crowd of people. Her family used to say of her that she had "pull" in Washington and for favors one ought to see "Mom." Arthur, the son who was killed in the first world war, was reserved like his father, and General Douglas is like his mother, Powell believes. When Powell worked with the MacArthurs in
Gen. Douglas MacArthur (1880-1964)
California, Douglas was a commissioned officer right out of West Point. The young lieutenant was liked by everyone and widely acclaimed as good looking. Powell admired the young lieutenant, who was only a few years younger than himself, and shared the belief that some day the world would be proud of him. Douglas was sent to the Philippines on his first assignment while the Emporian was with the MacArthurs. Shortly after 1906, Powell quit Civil Service work and came back to Kansas to live on a farm. As a parting present, the elder general gave his messenger a picture taken of Douglas MacArthur soon after he was commissioned at West Point. Powell gave the picture to his son, Douglas, (named after the general) on his 21st birthday." (Douglas MacArthur Powell 5 Mar 1923--31 May 1994)

I learned a good lesson as a 9 and 10 year old while visiting with "Mr. Powell" in our kitchen each afternoon. I was looking at a feeble, white-haired old man, but he was a gentleman who had an impressive history and was very proud of it. I learned to respect that. 

Born of Russia: Golda Meir and my Grandma Mollie

I've often thought that my grandmother, Mollie Margheim, bore a strong physical resemblance to Golda Meir. Golda Meir was born in Kiev, Russia in 1898 and my grandmother was born 1500 km away (21 hours by car) in Kratzke, Russia in 1902. Just for fun I created this photo collage of Grandma Mollie and "Golda". 

The Women in my Early Life--Together

I really like this picture and was extremely surprised when I found it. From left to right are my maternal grandmother Nannie Becker Flanders (1887-1962), my mother Ruby Nadine Flanders (1925-1990), my paternal grandmother Amalia "Mollie" Koleber Margheim and my father's younger sister Laverna Margola Margheim (1929-1973). I think it must have been taken about 1942 in the back yard at my paternal grandparents' home at 114 E. 6th St, Hoisington, Barton, Kansas. At the time the picture was taken in the Spring of '42, their ages would have been: Grandma Flanders 54, Mother (Ruby) 17, Grandma Margheim 39, and Aunt LaVerna 13. Surprising, huh? How the styles and appearances have changed over the past 70 years.   

Let me tell you the story of why this photo is significant to me. My dad, Ernest L. Margheim, married Ruby Flanders in July 1943 in Hoisington, Kansas. My twin brother and I were born in November 1947 in Great Bend, Kansas, where my parents had their home and where my dad was employed by Thies Packing Co. 

Ernest & Ruby Margheim with twins Dennis and Becky 
at home at 2201 Jefferson, Great Bend, KS 1948
But in November 1949 my mother left her marriage to Dad. She was involved with a man with whom she wanted to spend her life, so she moved to Manhattan, Kansas to be near him, leaving Dennis and I with our dad. Dad moved with us from our home in Great Bend to live with his parents, John and Mollie Margheim, in Hoisington, KS. We are pictured below on their porch with our Grandpa Margheim. 
My dad's brother was serving in the US Army at the time, but his twin sister LaVerna was living at home, while teaching piano lessons and working in the local music store. My Aunt LaVerna helped Grandma take care of us and as I grew to ages 3 and 4 while living there, it was my Aunt LaVerna whom I remember washing my hair while we sang the songs we were hearing on the radio, like Kitty Wells' "It wasn't God who made honky-tonk angels", and Patti Page's "Tennessee Waltz". It was Aunt LaVerna who polished my fingernails to discourage this shy little insecure toddler from sucking my thumb. At age 4 Aunt LaVerna sat Dennis & I down and began to teach us to play her grand piano. She and our Grandma were our substitute mother those early years of our lives.   
Aunt LaVerna pictured with me and Dennis 
and our Dad Ernie and Grandpa John Margheim.
In 1951 my Dad remarried to Phyllis Jones, whom he had met in Great Bend at a community dance for which he played guitar in the dance band. Throughout 1951 Dad and Phyllis, while living with my grandparents in Hoisington, had a house constructed on top of the basement house as pictured below.
Looking north from the corner of 22nd and Jefferson, 
Great Bend, KS 1948-9
Looking north from 2201 Jefferson, Great Bend, 
KS 1952
We moved into this house in 1952 and started attending school in the Kindergarten class of 1952-3 at E. E. Morrison School, just 4 blocks south of our home. Dennis & I were age 4 in the Fall when we started school. 

Phyllis is roller skating with me and Dennis
in front of Grandma Margheim's house. 1951
Our step-mother Phyllis was a very good step-mother and took excellent physical and financial care of us. However, she held very hostile feelings for our mother Ruby. In our household there was minimal mention of our mother's name or role in our lives, which by then was also very minimal. Though Dad was awarded full custody of Dennis and me, we had a court-ordered visitation schedule which allowed us to visit "Ruby" the 4th weekend of each month, from Sat 9:00am to Sunday at 2:00pm. During those weekends Ruby and her new husband Don would pick us up for an overnight stay at the home of her parents Milo and Nannie (Becker) Flanders in Stafford, Kansas. 
Our suitcases are packed for our weekend visit 
with our mother and grandparents.
Because of the animosity between my step-mother and my mother and her family, I grew up feeling like I had two totally separate families. Not just two families, but two separate "Camps". Enemy camps. Our court-ordered visitations with our mother and her "new" family stopped July 1, 1960. (I didn't have to look that date has never left my memory.) When my maternal grandmother Flanders died October 30, 1962 we were not allowed to attend her funeral. Nor did we have permission to attend Grandpa Flanders' funeral after he died August 31, 1965. 

After Dennis and I started college in the Fall of 1965, however, we were finally "free" to resume visits with our mother Ruby and her husband Don and 3 daughters. (As an interesting side note: my brother Dennis drove with our mother Ruby to Ft Hays State College to pick me up for a weekend visit at her home in Valley Center, KS. As I crawled into the car I noticed that I was carrying a purse that was IDENTICAL to my mother's purse. I hadn't seen her for 5 years and yet I had purchased a purse that was identical to hers).  

Because of the animosity between my two families I have always held them in separate compartments in my memories. That's why I was so surprised and delighted to find that photo at the top of this story that shows my two grandmothers, my mother and my aunt--both sides of my family---together and happy at the home of my grandparents. When I saw it I finally realized there was a time when the two families were friendly and met together in unity. It's such a shame that it was so temporary.