Name: George Joseph DESAIRE
Given Name: George Joseph
Birth: 14 Sep 1908 in Damar, Kansas
Death: 27 Nov 1954 in Hays, Ellis Co, Kansas
Burial: Dec 1954 St Joseph Cemetery, Damar,Rooks Co Kansas
Change Date: 13 Jul 2008 at 12:25:53
THE TENTH GENERATION OF De Serre
Son of Maxim Desaire
Father of Larry Desaire
Born - September 15, 1908 in Richland Twp near Damar, Kansas in Rooks County.
Died - November 29, 1954, heart attack at St. Anthony's Hospital, Hays, Kansas.
Married - Amy Garringer on Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, 1931 at Justice of Peace, Courthouse at Hi ll City, Kansas. Marriage blessed in St. Joseph's Catholic Church, Damar, Kansas January 4 , 1932. Amy was born August 4, 1912 Laverne, in Beaver County Oklahoma.
George Desaire and Amy Garringer were introduced to each other by "Dad" Plante, a friend o f George from Damar, Kansas. Amy says George was "a good catch" meaning he was a handsome ma n. After a short dating period, they decided to get married on Christmas Eve on December 24 , 1931. They eloped to Hill City, Kansas to get the probate judge out of bed in the middle o f the night. After the civil ceremony, they drove back to Amy's parents' home near Webster , Kansas to tell her folks of the midnight wedding. Amy's mother, Pearl Garringer, lecture d the newly married couple until the wee hours of the morning with a "tongue lashing" becaus e Pearl was dissatisfied because she felt George was a "drunken Frenchman" and a "damn Cathol ic". Pearl Garringer was a non-practicing Baptist.
The next morning, Phillip Desaire, George's brother drove to the Garringer homestead in a Mo del A Ford and brought the newly married couple to George's parents home in Damar, Kansas. T he wrath of Blanche Desaire was even worse than the wrath of Pearl Garringer! Blanche Desair e learned George had married outside the Catholic faith by a Justice of the Peace and his ne w wife was an "outsider". This term loosely meant anyone other than a French Canadian Cathol ic.
Later that day Blanche Desaire would visit the local Catholic parish priest to confess the D esaire family disgrace. The priest decided that George would have to stand before the commun ion rail in St. Joseph Catholic Church and beg forgiveness from his Lord and fellow parishion ers for taking a non-Catholic woman for a wife.
I would have loved to have seen my father, standing before the parish begging forgiveness fo r his wayward discretions. George, being a shy bashful man at the time, had a difficult tim e standing before the community begging forgiveness, but he did and the priest agreed to perf orm a second Catholic wedding ceremony in the Church to bless the marriage of George and Amy.
The day of the church blessing of their marriage ceremony was January 4, 1932. George and A my wanted to celebrate their wedding with their friends. So they enlisted the services o f a couple local musicians to hold a wedding dance in the Damar town hall. The guests were i nvited and the local priest showed up at the celebration telling the friends of the couple th at he was "shutting down the celebration." The friends were told that if they celebrated thi s event that they may be excommunicated from the Church. George loaded Amy and his friends i nto cars and trucks and moved the party to Bogue, Kansas at the pool hall where an enjoyabl e evening was continued by all except the parish priest.
"Tough times bred tough people" the saying goes -- George and Amy were bred from tough stock . Nothing ever came easy for any of the Desaires. George's first job was laying railroad tr ack as a section hand for the Union Pacific railroad at Zurich, Kansas for $2.50 per day's wa ges! This track would lead to a railroad line linking western Kansas farming communities wit h grain markets throughout the world through the Chicago Board of Trade. In those early day s a railroad was of tremendous value to a community. It meant that vital supplies could be b rought in quickly and cheaply. On the other hand, whatever products a community might have f or sale could be shipped out to markets where these products were needed. No wonder that sta tes, counties and settled communities offered inducements of great value to railroad companie s in an effort to get them to build railroads where they were desperately needed.
George and Amy's first home was the non-insulated railroad boxcar with a pot-b ellied coal cooking stove. They used discarded wooden orange crates for chairs and a rough h ewn wooden plank nailed to the side of the boxcar for a dining table. Amy gathered white lin en flour sacks and sewed little red hair ribbons on the sacks for a decorative table cloth an d curtains for the newly weds' first home.
Amy was a school teacher in a one room country school at the time of their marriage. She ha d graduated from Webster High School in Webster, Kansas at the age of eighteen. George qui t school after the seventh grade because he decided to pick corn rather than face his sevent h grade English comprehensive exams. His family spoke Canadian French in the home and I doub t he could speak English before he started school.
Amy?s teacher encouraged Amy to finish high school so Amy could become a school teacher. Am y's teacher asked Al Garringer, Amy's father, if Amy could move into the teacher's home to fi nish her senior year of high school and take the preparation courses needed to become a schoo l teacher. After Amy moved in with the teacher, the teacher took Amy to the doctor and Amy w as diagnosed with malnutrition -- she had been starving to death living in her parent's home . Amy was bedridden for several weeks until she gained enough strength to finish her senio r year of high school.
During her previous years of school, Amy remembers taking gravy or lard sandwiches to schoo l because there was no other food in the house. Many of these "poor folk" sandwiches were th rown away on the three mile walk to school so fellow students would not ridicule her when oth ers saw the type of sandwiches she brought to school.
Amy finished her senior year of high school and was awarded a Kansas State Normal Teaching C ertificate to teach school in a one-room country school house. This teaching certificate wa s a treasured award for Amy and the Garringer family. Amy was the first of the Garringer an d Livingston families to graduate from high school.
George Desaire began farming when he rented his mother farm north of Damar, Kansas. Blanch e Desaire inherited this farm as a wedding gift from her father Mack Newell. Amy says, ?We b egan to get a toehold in farming with the help of three of George?s little brothers - Leo, Jo seph, and Alfred who worked their little tails off all summer for new school clothes for th e fall term. (Not a very good wage scale but their folks thought that was good enough becaus e ?they were learning how to work?. Boy, did they ever learn how to work - with old machiner y, and long late hours but it was all in a long summer?s education. I doubt if any kid toda y could endure the labor those kids put out, without too much complaining. They stayed at i t until the last clod of dirt was turned.
Those were the days! At eight to ten years of age, my brother Adrain, we calle d him DD, started driving the tractor and working in the fields. DD and Amy worked in the fi elds, did farm chores, drove trucks, plowed acres and acres of wheat land. At ten or eleve n years of age, Phyllis went along as she could drive as well as anyone else. Phyllis coul d cook almost as well as her mother and she did most of the housework and cared for Larry. S he was a perfect little mother. All in all we were a very, very busy family.
Soon thereafter George bought his first homestead. George and Amy borrowed money f rom the Farmers State Bank at Bogue, Kansas to purchase their first farm. The Farmers Stat e Bank still exists today, still providing farm and crop loans to grandsons of my father's ge neration who till the soil of Richland Township of Rooks County Kansas. I believe this show s the integrity and the perseverance of the honest men and women who still inhabit this land . Some wise man once said, "No nation is any stronger than the men who own and till it's soi l."
George and Amy picked a beautiful acreage to build their legacy. This beautiful fa rm contained 320 acres of lush, buffalo grass pasture; black fertile topsoil where my parent s raised many profitable wheat crops; and a lush spring fed creek meadow where white-faced He reford cows gave birth to energetic baby calves.
George would borrow money to buy a piece of land by mortgaging the property and giv ing up title to the ground to the banker if he could not repay the loan. He would raise on e wheat crop and pay off the loan. He then would buy a second piece of land and mortgage al l the ground he owned to the banker until he harvested his next wheat crop to pay off the mor tgage. In five years, George and Amy bought and paid off the mortgages on 880 acres of prim e Rooks County Kansas farm ground and built a herd of 100 head of white-faced Hereford cattle . It took five outstanding wheat crops in a row to accomplish this task.
He raised white-faced Hereford cattle, hogs, chickens, and a milk cow or two to keep the fam ily supplied with milk and fresh cream. Extra cream was sold at the Burton Creamery in Damar , Kansas or traded for groceries at the General Store. Cattle and hogs were shipped on the r ailroad to the cattle yards in Kansas City for slaughter or to local sale barns in the area . Vegetables and wild fruits picked down by the Solomon River were harvested from the famil y garden and canned and stored in the family fruit and storm cellar.
The sturdy three room Desaire farm house still stands today although the house has been turn ed into a shelter for black Angus cattle and the home of raccoons, skunks, pole cats, and pra irie rattlers that now roam the farmyard. The tall red milking hay barn that once stored swe et prairie hay, where milk cows gladly gave up their milk and rich cream has since been demol ished by a western Kansas tornado. The windmill that pumped icey cold water from deep belo w the prairie sod, still freely cartwheels in the Kansas breeze bringing cold, clear water t o the prairie surface to quench the thirst of all who visit the well. This amazing water wel l has never been known to go dry even in the driest years. This well was found by "Dad" Plan te using a forked willow stick cut from the willows growing along the creek in the meadow whi le witching for water for the spot to drill the well that would serve the needs of generation s to come.
At the time of George's death his land stretched from what is now the Webster Dam in Rooks C ounty, Kansas; west to the eighty acres of ground that Frank Desaire homesteaded; northwest t o the George Desaire homestead two and a half miles north of Damar; southwest to a quarter se ction of ground once farmed by Hobson Desair located west and south of the St. Joseph Churc h cemetery where George is laid to rest; and west to another quarter section of ground locate d southeast of Hill City, Kansas in Graham County, Kansas.
Six weeks previous to George's death in 1954, he mortgaged all his farm grou nd and bought another quarter section of ground from the Howe Luck family west of Bogue, Kans as. The Luck family agreed to reclaim the property following George's untimely death.
Three children were born into the George and Amy (Garringer) Desaire family. All were bor n with the help of a mid-wife attending the births of first Phyllis, then Adrian, and finall y Larry. The nearest doctor was sixteen miles away and the nearest hospital fifty miles aw ay. It was unthinkable to go to the hospital just to deliver a baby. Old Dr. Peterson, fro m Plainville, Kansas would drive his car to the Desaire farmstead and sleep in the car unti l it was time for his delivery services. With the help of a mid-wife he would deliver the ne wborn baby under the light of a coal oil lamp using water boiled over the pot-bellied heatin g and cooking stove.
Amy says, ?In 1934 my daughter, Phyllis was born. Her baby days were pure jo y to me as I felt like a child with a beautiful baby doll to love and play with. In 1937 al ong came DD, the most beautiful baby boy any Mom ever had. There was another blessed surpris e in our family in 1945. Although I had put all my baby clothes in storage and had started t hinking of myself as a matron of 32 years, I started feeling ?kinda queesey? in the morning a nd not very hungry most of the time. Suddenly it dawned on me, Actually I would swear I wa s pregnant - and I was! There never could have been a happier family when Larry came along i n March 1945. It took some doing for DD to understand that his Momma was not sick that firs t morning after he and Phyllis saw the doctor?s car parked in our yard when the school bus ca rried them to school. They had spent the night with neighbors while all the excitement at ou r house of a new born baby was developing. George drove to school and brought DD and Phylli s back home to greet their new baby brother and the sight of their little faces is a memor y I will never ever forget!"
In the spring of 1945 George and his neighbor Fremont Burton purchased two grain harvestin g combines and trucks in order to make money custom harvesting other farmers' wheat crops. M oney earned would be used to pay for the new equipment. They loaded the trucks and headed so uth for Texas in June to follow the ripening hard-red winter wheat harvest north as the cro p ripened all the way to the Canadian border.
At three and a half months of age, Larry lay next to his mother, Amy, as she drove a farm tr uck heading north toward the Canadian border following this hard working French Canadian whea t harvesting crew. George had stopped in Kansas on his harvest run to harvest his own whea t crop. When George and Fremont Burton's wheat was harvested and put in the elevator for sto rage, they loaded up the trucks, combines, and their families including a six week old new bo rn baby boy and headed north to finish the harvest run. I had the distinct privilege of bein g the youngest "man" on that harvesting crew.
Amy's days were spent trucking grain out of the wheat fields to local elevators while haulin g around a new-born baby boy on her hip as she cooked the meals for the harvest crew over a n open camp-fire. She slept in a canvas Army tent for shelter, keeping her baby warm and dr y during infrequent summer rain and hail storms. Most days in the harvest fields clouds of d ust would be flying. She tried to protect me from dust storms on the prairie with a wet hand kerchief placed over my nose to try to ward off dust pneumonia. I became sick after a few we eks on the road and Amy had to find local boarding houses where she could rent a room for th e night for the two of us. Amy "ram rodded" that harvest crew and a sick baby boy all the wa y to within thirty miles of the Canadian border. We stayed on that profitable harvest run un til the winter snows began to fly in late September in North Dakota.
Watching a winter storm approach across the prairie, Amy turned to George and said,
"Larry's pneumonia is getting worse. It's time to go home and let Dr. Peterson take over. I t's too cold up here for this baby with dust pneumonia. It is time to go home -- I'll walk i f I have to!"
George had pushed the harvest crew and his family to their physical limits in order to harve st as many wheat acres as possible. He was very reluctant to shut down the profitable harves t run. Finally George turned to the crew and said, "Boys, our cook is leaving us. That's i t. It's time to go home," as the winter storm approached from the mountains. The tired, wan dering French Canadian harvest crew loaded the equipment and turned south headed back toward s their families and homes in Kansas
I believe my father, George Desaire was an organizer who taught other men how to survive i n "tough times". George always hired a large working crew because he knew other families wer e short of food during winter as there was few opportunities for men to earn a living durin g hard times. Money from wages paid by my father bought groceries and clothing for many Fren ch Canadian families in Damar, Kansas during hard times. George was a tough man to work fo r -- if you didn't work you walked home! He made sure other men knew who was responsible fo r doing the physical labor and he always made sure there was a profit left over for himself , the man who paid the wages.
George would hire his younger brothers to do the farm work that he could not get Amy or hi s oldest son Adrian to do. He paid his brothers' wages in food or commodities instead of har d cash. He always said if he paid them in cash they would just use it to buy whiskey instea d of feeding their families. He always drove a hard bargain -- he always negotiated a way fo r the other man to do the dirty work and the hard labor. When all else failed, he hollered , cussed, and demanded his wife and children do what he did not want to do himself. "There w as never any job too tough for his family to do by themselves," seemed to be his motto for hi s family.
Life was hard on the Desaire farm. It was not just luck that raised five outstanding whea t crops in a row. Many men believed it was unusual for a farmer to hit five good wheat crop s in a row. This was the days before intensive crop management techniques that today help fa rmers overcome the effects of drought, grasshoppers, and hail from Mother Nature's fury. Ho w did George raise five good wheat crops in a row? Was it luck or innovation?
George was a gambler and an innovative farmer. He was one of the first farme rs to plant a crop of soybeans in Rooks County Kansas. He was one of the first farmers to pl ant lespedeza and clover to enrich and fertilize the soil. This was the first attempt to fer tilize the native sod to increase crop yields. He was one of the first farmers to terrace la nd to control soil erosion from heavy rains and high winds.
George was one of the first farmers in the area to plant a new variety of har d red winter wheat called Red Chief. It shelled hard but it was a tremendous grain producer . All the harvested grain was scooped with a shovel by hand from the grain truck into the gra nary. Wheat grain was kept for seed to plant the next wheat crop.
Wheat flour ground at the Stockton, Kansas flour mill was purchased in fifty pound white lin en sacks so homemade bread could be baked daily. The white linen sacks were saved and sewn i nto shirts for the men folk; skirts, blouses, and dresses for the ladies of the house; or pil low cases, curtains, or bedspreads for the home on the foot peddle powered Singer sewing mach ine. Amy was a very good seamstress and she baked some of the most delicious homemade brea d in the territory!
Amy spent her days attending to the family and doing all the farm chores. Sh e would carry water in five gallon buckets a quarter mile up the hill from the well in the pa sture to water the butcher hogs on the farm. There was no well in the yard and no running wa ter in the house. Water was caught in an underground cistern where food was lowered in a fiv e gallon bucket on a rope to keep perishable food from spoiling. She washed and scrubbed clo thes by hand on a washboard in the wash house in water heated over a coal oil fired stove. I n the beginning the stove was fired by "cow patties" gathered in bushel baskets by the childr en out in the cow pasture. Sometimes corn cobs were burned following corn harvest.
Soap for washing clothes was made from rendering the fat carved from a butcher hog, adding l ye to the mix, then allowing the liquid to cool and dry. It was then cut into bars for perso nal soap, soap for washing clothes, and cleaning soap for around the barn and house. Beef an d hog tallow were also saved to be rendered for fuel for lamps and candle making.
With no electricity or running water in the house, the family toilet was a wooden outhouse l ocated over a hole dug in the back yard. Toilet tissue had not been invented yet. The page s from a Sears and Roebuck catalog or soft corncobs were used and were thought to work just f ine. Baths were taken once a week whether you needed one or not. Baths were taken sitting i n a tin washtub in the visiting room in front of the heating stove.
There were no power tools on the farm. It took a lot of sweat, willpower and muscle to ge t the farm chores done. Cows were milked by hand by bringing the cows into the barn and catc hing them in the milking stall. You then squatted down beside the cow on a one-legged milk s tool squeezing the milk bucket between your knees trying to keep the cow from stepping into t he milk bucket. One of the cows favorite tricks was to swish her tail around and slap you u p side of the head with her dung soaked tail. Certain cows were kickers, and chains had t o be applied to both back legs to keep them from kicking the milker and the milk bucket. O f course all the cats on the farm had to gather during milking time to get a squirt of milk f or a reward for catching all the mice and rats on the farm.
The milk was taken to the wash house where the cream separator was located. You poured th e raw milk into the top of the separator and then turned the hand crank. This spun the mil k around separating the milk from the cream. The cream was put into a cream can and delivere d to the Burton Creamery in Damar, Kansas or traded for groceries at the General Store.
All the farm animals were fed by hand every day come rain or shine. Baby calves born in a K ansas winter blizzard were carried into the farm house to lay in front of the roaring fire t o thaw out! I got my first heifer calf this way. I named her "Frozen Ears" because she los t her ears to frostbite on a frozen winter night after being born in a snow bank. She late r died from a rattlesnake bite giving birth to her first baby calf. All stories did not hav e happy endings on the Desaire farm.
Amy worked long hours to keep the hungry men fed on the farm. During wheat harvest, everyon e would be up at the crack of dawn. Amy would be in the kitchen frying eggs and smoked cure d ham from the meat house; flipping hot cakes to be soaked in homemade maple syrup, surrounde d by the smell of steaming hot Folgers coffee brewing in the "never go empty" coffee pot on t he stove. She was used to cooking for six to seven hired men who made up the harvest crew . She would then wash all the dishes and begin her day by baking homemade bread for the dinn er and evening meals.
I can still recall the sights of Amy working the bread dough with flour up to her armpits an d splotches of white dusty flour in her coal raven black hair. The mound of dough being shap ed into loaves was always a sight to behold. Watching the dough rise in the bread pans was v ery interesting to a boy too young to attend school with his older brother and sister. She w ould pop snow white dough into the oven and an hour later golden brown baked bread would appe ar with all the aroma of a New York city bakery in the middle of Amy's simple country kitchen . I will always remember getting the first hot baked roll from the oven smeared heavy with h omemade butter from the butter churn. It doesn?t ever get any better than that for a countr y boy.
Chickens were hatched from farm eggs. Amy would capture her oldest setting hens to hatch eg gs in old discarded cream cans. A dozen fresh eggs gathered direct from the hen?s nests woul d be put into old cream cans laid on their sides. An old setting hen would be caught and a s hoestring would be tied to one of her legs to the cream can. Fresh straw would be placed i n the cream can and the eggs arranged in the nest. The hen would then be locked in the crea m can except for a short period of time each day for feed and water. The setting hen had t o remain in that cream can until baby chicks broke out of the eggshells.
Fried chicken was the harvest crew's favorite noon time meal. Up to sixteen chickens a da y would be eaten by the hungry field hands. After Amy put the bread into the oven for baking , she would go into the farm yard with her deadly "chicken catching" machine. This machine w as a long stiff ?#9? wire with a hook on the end. It was used to snatch the legs of chicken s as they ran in the yard. Many chickens ran for their lives when Amy entered the chicken ya rd with her chicken snatching machine! It was my job to keep "rounding up the chickens" to k eep them close to Amy so she could snag them with her "chicken catching" machine.
After snatching the chicken by the leg, their necks would be wrung. They were dropped in b oiling water so feathers could be quickly pulled off. Then they were gutted and cleaned. Th e entrails were fed to the surviving chickens and cats. I spent many an hour racing my tricy cle through the chicken yard chasing chickens so that my favorite tomcat, Kitty McGee, the fa mous mouse catcher on the Desaire farm would get the choicest morsels of chicken guts. The s lowest chickens in the yard got quite a few broken legs being run over by my tricycle. Mayb e this is why Amy was so successful in catching chickens with her simple chicken catching mac hine -- I slowed them down so Amy could catch them.
The pieces of fresh chicken were rolled in crackers or flour and dropped into rendered hot h og lard and fried to a crispy golden brown in Amy's favorite black iron skillet. She added f luffy mountains of mashed potatoes and browned giblet chicken gravy, fresh homemade golden br own bread from the oven spread heavy with homemade churned butter. The men washed down thi s delicious meal with gallons of iced "sun tea" with ice taken from the ice cellar from ice c hopped from the spring fed creek before the spring ice melt and stored in the ice cave wrappe d in blankets and covered with fresh wheat straw from the harvested fields. Amy would load h er "chuck wagon" 1949 Ford and head to the harvest fields to present the hungry men with a me al that was fit for a king! After all the men were fed, she would gather the dishes and hea d home to wash the pots and pans and dinnerware used to prepare and serve the meal. There we re no paper plates in those days and the only automatic dish washing machine in the house wa s named Amy.
Often a wheat truck would pull into the yard before she finished washing the dinner dishes . She quickly would run for the granary to shovel the grain from the truck driven by her so n Adrian. He was the twelve year old boy - the designated truck driver. The farm truck woul d hold two hundred and fifty bushels of wheat and all of it had to be scooped by hand from th e truck into the granary.
I remember one hot July day when I was about four years of age, George had the harvest cre w harvesting a wheat crop on the McCormick's quarter section of land near what is now the Web ster Dam in Rooks County Kansas. A thunderstorm was developing very quickly and lightning so on struck a tree within a quarter mile of the combine and trucks. Soon baseball size hail be gan to fall from the storm cloud. George told me and my brother to get in the farm truck a s the combines emptied the harvested grain into the farm truck. When the truck was loaded wi th about 250 bushels of wheat, George jumped in and headed the old red truck towards the far m hoping to drive away from the storm so the wheat would not get wet in the back of the truck . We headed west on a dirt road hoping to outrun the storm. I remember my brother looking o ver to the north side of the road and he asked George, "What is causing all that motion of th e trees down there Dad?"
Sure enough it was a Kansas tornado coming out from the trees straight toward s the road we were traveling on. George hit the accelerator and jammed the truck into secon d gear for more speed hoping to outrun the tornado! He jammed me down on the floor of the ol d truck and told my brother to hold on to the door as we raced the oncoming tornado! The tor nado reached the road about the same time as the truck. The truck shook like a wet dog as th e tornado sucked the wheat out of the back of truck and up into the air in a swirling mess o f dirt, grass, weeds, and anything not permanently tied down to the earth. By the grace of G od we survived and George kept his foot to the metal and raced that old red wheat truck for h ome.
Amy watered the hogs, milked the cows, fed and watered the chickens and gathered the eggs fr om the mite infested chicken house. Many times I can remember being chased from the chicke n house by the meanest Red Rock rooster in Rooks County Kansas! This mean old sucker would f ly and land on my shoulder and peck my head! My sister and brother nicknamed me "Pecker head " after one such vicous attack.
Following the afternoon livestock chores, Amy would prepare the supper meal by coal oil lant ern light, wash the dishes, and finally lay her head to rest at 10:30 PM after all the dail y farm and family chores were done. Even with all the hard labor she performed on the farm , Amy fondly remembers those "glory days" on the farm building a family legacy. The cripplin g arthritis she suffered with in her late years, told another side of the story.
The only vacations ever taken were to Amy's relatives -- her brother, Charles "Bud" Garringe r, and the Alvin and Audrey York family, her sister, in Missouri. Many times word would com e in a letter that the York family's cupboards were bare. George and Amy would load up the c ar with sacks of flour and beans, salted cured pork and canned beef, canned fruit and vegetab les from the storm cellar, and quickly drive across Kansas Highway #36 to the state of Missou ri or into Nebraska in order to keep the Alvin York children from starving to death during th e winter.
If the trip took place during the fall of the year, we would return to Kansas with baskets o f ripe fruit, berries, and delicious watermelons that would be turned into fruit pies, jellie s and jams. These delicacies were stored in the damp, musty, cobweb infested storm cellar ca ve. Many a time we captured a large bull snake enjoying the coolness of the cellar. I was t old the snake protected the cellar from rats on the farm.
George Desaire was respected in his community. He was elected President of the Damar, Kansa s School Board in 1945 and was responsible for getting a major addition built onto the existi ng school house. He was influential in keeping the St. Joseph nuns as teachers in school. T he St. Joseph's nuns brought parochial school education to the parish of Damar in 1904 and st ayed until 1977. The St. Joseph nuns started a convent in Concordia, Kansas in Cloud Count y Kansas in the late 1880's.
Rules and Regulations for Teachers in 1872
1. Teachers each day will fill lamps, clean chimneys, and trim wicks.
2. Each teacher will bring a bucket of water and scuttle of coal for the day's session.
3. Make your pens carefully. You may whittle nibs to the individual taste of pupils.
4. Men teachers may take one evening each week for courting purposes, or two evenings a wee k if they go to church regularly.
5. After ten (10) hours in school, the teachers spend the remaining time reading the Bible o r other good books.
6. Women teachers who marry or engage in unseemly conduct will be dismissed.
7. Each teacher should lay aside from each pay a goodly sum of his earnings for his benefi t during his declining years so that he will not become a burden on society.
8. Any teacher who smokes, uses liquor in any form, frequents pool or public halls, or get s shaved in a barber shop will give good reason to suspect his worth, intentions, integrity , and honesty.
9. Teachers who perform their labors faithfully and without fault for five years will be giv en an increase of 25 cents per week, providing the Board of Education approves. Average mont hly salary for a male teacher was $40.20 and $31.50 a month for a female teacher in 1872.
In 1882 Rooks County Kansas had 745 male students enrolled and 770 female students enrolle d in schools throughout the county. Graham County had 268 male students and 252 female stude nts. Ellis County had 532 male students and 529 females students. Finally Trego County ha d 109 male students and 79 female students.
I remember the privilege of being taught by four St. Joseph nuns -- Sr. Margaret Marie, Sr . Maureen, Sr. Assisiam, and Sr. Mary Godfrey who was my wife's aunt. When we first got marr ied, Sr. Godfrey gave my wife the following directions:
"When you get your first classroom teaching assignment, don't smile until Christmas." Anoth er of Sr. Godfrey's famous sayings was, "If Betty had not married Larry, he surely would b e in prison by now."
On one occasion I asked Sr. Godfrey, "Sister, do you think you will go to heaven when you di e?" She thought for just a second, "I surely hope so." Jokingly I told her, "If you are go ing to go to heaven, I do not know if I want to go there." Sr. Godfrey was a beautiful perso n and I loved her dearly.
Leo Desaire, George's younger brother, told the story of all of his brothers looking up to a nd admiring George and Amy because George always had some work for the boys to do. The Desai re brothers could not ask Maxim for advice because, "Poppa was always drunk."
The story of George and Amy would not be complete without the heartaches of the time. Amy w as diagnosed with breast cancer in the late 1940's. She went to Savannah, Missouri to a spec ial cancer hospital. Exavier Desaire had been treated there for throat cancer in the mid-19 40's. Amy had her breast removed and all the muscles and lymph nodes under her armpit. It t ook almost two years of daily exercising running her fingers up and down a wall to get her ar m raised high enough above her head to brush her hair. Amy survived this bout with cancer . The cancer flared up again in her other breast in the late 1950's. Doctors again amputate d her remaining breast. We always said Amy was a tough old gal -- she stared cancer straigh t in the eye twice and survived. Thank God, miracles do sometimes happen to good people.
George had a drinking problem just like his father. Today he would be considered an alcohol ic. I remember in the late 1940's he had been off the bottle not drinking for a period of si x weeks. I remember George always being angry, hollering at us kids, and cussing his wife . After one such session, Amy went into the bedroom and returned with a half pint of whiske y she had hidden in the dresser drawer. He grabbed the bottle and threw it through the livin g room window barely missing me, his five year old son standing by the window. He jumped int o his car and left for the three day drunk! Amy boarded up the window with a cardboard box t o keep out the freezing winter cold as George drank up all the whiskey he could get his hand s on to spite his wife.
George's drinking problem got so bad at one time, Amy thought about divorcing him . He was drinking heavily and the cubbards were bare. Every summer Amy canned vegetables an d any berries we could pick off wild plum bushes on the farm near the creek. George always b utchered a hog and a homegrown steer calf. Without refrigeration, the meat had to be smoke d or salted in a crock or it would spoil. Those provisions were running short and George wa s drinking heavy. George never gave Amy any money, I guess thinking that if she had no money , she had to stay with him and do all the work chores on the farm. The desparate situation A my was in, caused her to think about divorcing George but she had no idea how she would fee d her three children.
You have to realize back in those days, jobs were few and far between. In the coun try, there were no jobs for women, except to stay at home, do the farm chores, and raise th e children. George took the family car with him when he went on a drunk. Amy lived two an d a half miles from town where the only grocery store was. There were no credit cards in tho se days. George did not allow her to write checks on the Desaire farm account at the Farmer s State Bank at Bogue, Kansas and that was another eight miles away. Amy thought about how s he would make a living if she left George. The only thing she thought she could do to feed h er children, was possibly to teach school if she could contact the Rooks County School Superi ntendent. We had no telephone on the farm and at that time there was no internet, or cell ph ones. The only contact with the outside world was the US postal system. Amy needed three ce nts to mail a letter. She searched the house to find enough money for a three cent stamp. T here was none to be found! Finally she pulled the linoleum back near the kitchen stove and s he found three old copper pennies. She picked up those copper pennies, stared at them, and be gan to cry. A desparate woman in a desparate situation. She pulled herself together, and i n her best imatation of country music singer Patsy Cline, she "stood by her man" whether he d eserved it or not!
George was an alholic and a heavy gambler. He probably used his gambling winnings to pay of f part of the mortgages on the land he accumulated. I have heard many stories of men who dra nk rot gut whiskey, partied, and gambled with my father. Stories of "shooting craps" in Nico demus, Kansas, a black settlement dating back to the days following the Emancipation Proclama tion that freed the slaves.
In the 1870s former slave Benjamin "Pap" Singleton envisioned thriving midwestern communitie s populated by African Americans. Singleton placed his hopes for a better life on a colonizin g campaign he directed toward residents of Kentucky and Tennessee. He successfully distribute d his message through African American newspapers.
Two hundred Black settlers responded to "Pap" Singleton's campaign, moving west to Nicodemu s in Graham County, Kansas. They completed their long journey from Lexington, Kentucky, to th e central Kansas plains in 1878. By 1886 the community supported three Black newspapers.
Since 1876 Black newspapers have been published in Kansas representing twenty-two communitie s and eighteen counties. The first publication encouraged Black voters to participate in th e upcoming election. The paper went out of business the week after the election. Over the yea rs many other newspapers have sprung up and faded during election years urging Blacks to exer cise their right to vote in order to preserve their hard-won freedom.
The Colored Citizen, a Topeka newspaper, promoted education of African Americans. As early a s 1878 editor William Lewis Eagleson and other publishers spoke out against segregation in sc hools. A proponent of colonization, The Colored Citizen encouraged Black migration in the lat e
1870s and provided a unique message of realism. "Never leave home for Kansas without having s ome money over and above what it takes to pay your transportation," Eagleson warned. "For th e old men and women chances for great success in Kansas are not flattering."
George hired many black men including Donald Moore and 'Boo" Switzer to work on his farm loc ated a few miles south of Nicodemus, Kansas. George participated in daily poker games at th e Desbien Farm Supply store, big money poker games with wealthy gamblers from Norton, Kansa s at the Bogue, Kansas snooker hall, or at the Bogue Garage that was run by a black man name d Huey Green. George also placed large bets on political elections, World Series games, an d on local town team baseball games. I have always wondered how much of the farm ground he a ccumulated was won in five card draw poker games or on a single throw of the dice in the har d packed dirt of a back alley in a neighboring town.
My favorite gambling story concerned the Damar baseball team that George managed and coached . He helped organize the Damar City Baseball Association that developed the Damar baseball d iamond with the first electrically lighted playing field in the area. Electricity was suppli ed by the REA. Many baseball games were enjoyed by the community and hundreds of people cam e to the games for gambling and recreation purposes.
An important game was coming up with Hill City, Kansas that had a lot of money riding on th e outcome of the game. George bet "the farm" on the hometown Damar team but hedged his bet b y driving to Hays, Kansas to secretly recruit a former major league pitcher named Vern Leike r to pitch for the Damar team. Everything was kept secret until the night of the game. Ver n Leiker arrived in town a few minutes before the game but he had pitched a nine inning gam e for Munjor, Kansas that same afternoon. He was tired and his arm was getting stiff and sor e.
George said "a deal was a deal" meaning a man's word was his bond -- Vern Leiker had agree d to pitch a nine inning game for Damar on this date and he damn well was gonna head for th e mound and fill his end of the bargain! George handed him the baseball and sent him to th e mound. The Damar and Hill City teams battled scoreless inning after inning. Hits were har d to come by as both pitchers pitched their hearts out. Finally Damar pushed a single run ac ross in the bottom of the eighth inning with a hit batter, a sacrifice bunt, a sacrifice fly , and a squeeze bunt.
Opening the ninth inning, Hill City loaded the bases on three hard hit line drive singles . George called time out and slowly walked to the mound to talk with his tiring pitcher. Ve rn Leiker had pitched 17 innings of baseball and he was definitely feeling the wear and tea r on his body. Spectators saw something exchanged on the mound between George, the manager a nd Leiker, the tired pitcher. Leiker looked down at what George handed him. He pulled dow n hard on the bill of his baseball cap, tugged at his belt around his waist, and then threw h is best fast ball of the night by the hitter!
"Strike One!" screamed the umpire!
Three Hill City hitters faced the screaming fast balls of the former major league pitcher an d all three men failed! Vern Leiker struck out the side with the bases loaded -- the Damar t own team won the game 1 - 0!
What took place on that pitching mound in the ninth inning between George the gambler and Le iker the former major league pitcher? The spectators in the stands thought George had "loade d up the baseball" throwing in a trick baseball. In those days before resin was used to ge t a better grip on the ball, many pitchers would secretly conceal the head of a sunflower i n their hip pockets in order to get the stickiness from the plant on their fingers. This gav e the pitcher an excellent grip on the ball for a tremendous curve ball. We have learned non e of this was true -- George had simply walked to the mound and handed his pitcher $300.00 i n cash with these instructions -- 'Strike out the side and let's go home!" Three hundred dol lars was a lot of money in the 1940's, but George covered his word to the pitcher with the ea rnings he won from the gamblers that backed the losing Hill City team that night.
I remember George coming home from a gambling escapade with his plaid Mackinaw jacket soake d with blood, sneaking in the back door waking up Amy and me yelling for us to get dressed . We needed to leave immediately! We sneaked out like thieves in the middle of the night ! George had cleaned out the gamblers playing five card stud poker. One of them pulled a g un and shot a hole in the Bogue pool hall poker table and slate flew through the air and slic ed George's arm!
George screamed, "I'm shot!" as he kicked over the gas lamp, grabbed the money on the table , and dove through the window into the alley, ducking between the buildings losing the gamble rs in the night while leaving a trail of crimson fresh blood in the snow.
In 1953, my sister Phyllis was getting married and Amy needed money to prepare for the weddi ng. George never allowed Amy to write any checks nor keep any money in the house except fo r the cream check for groceries. So needing money to finance the upcoming wedding, he left f or a three day gambling junket. He returned with pockets full of money filling two gallon fr uit jars with $10.00, $20.00, and $50.00 bills! He hid the money in the fruit cellar for saf e keeping fearing the gamblers would return and rob our family.
This is the one story about George Desaire that will always be remembered by his family. Ou r family was living on the Desaire farm two and a half miles north of Damar, Kansas. He ha d just returned from a three day drinking and gambling spree late on a Saturday night. He go t up Sunday morning and told me I should get dressed for Church and go sit in the car. I jum ped into my clothes and got into the front seat of the car. I feared if I wasn't sitting i n the car when he got ready to leave I would be left at home by myself.
While sitting in the car I realized I needed to use the bathroom in the worst way possible . I did not want to leave the car because the out house was way behind the house. I looke d on the bottom of the floorboard of the car and found several empty Seven-up bottles. Georg e would mix Seven-up and Old Crow whiskey together when he was drinking. What's a five yea r old scared boy to do, but use one of the Seven-up bottles to relieve himself in. I place d the half full bottle on the floor of the car. Dad got into the car, looked at the Seven-u p bottle standing on the floor, and decided it was a mixed drink in a bottle he had mixed th e night before. He tipped the bottle to his lips and chugged hard on the foul contents of th e bottle! He coughed, gagged, and spit while Amy pounded him on his back while he tried to "g et his wind". He just about died.
Dad did not learn a lesson from this experience. He continued to drink "rot gut" whiskey t o the day he died. He would drink homemade whiskey made by Adolph Senesac who would lace hi s barley mash with lye to make the mash ferment faster. I always wondered if Adolph Seneca? s "white lightning" tasted any better than the cocktail I mixed for my father.
Amy got cancer in the late 1940's. After she returned from the hospital, we moved into th e town of Damar, Kansas. Hobson Desair, George's first cousin, had built a new home just wes t of the house that my Great-grandfather, Frank Desaire had built.
Moving into the town of Damar, Kansas brought new technology to the Desaire household -- th e telephone, electricity, natural gas heating, refrigeration, television, and in-door plumbin g. A bathroom with a tub replaced the out-house and a tin tub in the middle of the floor . I can recall seeing the streets of the town being torn up while laboring men laid the til e for the sewer system. Those ditches looked so deep to a small boy playing on the top of th e mounds of dirt that ran down the middle of every street in town.
The first time I saw the indoor toilet as we called it, I asked Mom,
"What's that white paper wrapped around an axle doing in the toilet?" I had never seen toil et paper. We had survived quite nicely on the farm using pages of the Sears and Roebuck cata log.
Our new home had three bedrooms, a bath, a living room, a kitchen, and a washroom. On the f arm George and Amy slept in one room and we three children slept in another room. Now brothe rs and sisters had separate rooms. My brother and I slept in a single bed in the south bedro om. At times it was so cold in that room that frost would form on top of the blankets durin g the night from our breathing. The linoleum on the floor would hold frost until 9:00 AM. W hen your bare feet hit that floor, you got dressed in a hurry I can assure you.
Little furry critters shared our bedroom with us. Many a night we would lay in bed very, ve ry still waiting for Mother Mouse to hop on the bed with her family of young ones. We woul d lay perfectly still until she jumped on the top of the blankets then we would see how hig h we could kick her toward the ceiling. My brother enjoyed this game -- I was scared to deat h!
We lived in this house until Dad died. George's lifestyle was one that seemed to encourag e heart trouble. He was a heavy set man carrying up to 250 pounds on his 5'8" frame. His fr iends called him "Heavy" because of his size and shape. He ate fried meats all his life an d demanded that his family eat at least an egg every day for breakfast. He smoked Lucky Stri ke, Camel, or Phillip Morris cigarettes all his life. He learned to roll his own cigarette s using Prince Albert tobacco under his mother's kitchen table before he started elementary s chool
He died of a heart attack in St. Anthony's hospital in Hays, Kansas in November of 1954 at t he age of forty-six. He suffered from heart trouble, high blood pressure, and sugar diabete s while taking daily insulin shots for several years before he died.
Following George's death, my brother dropped out of high school and joined the Army with hi s cousin Gene Hamel. My sister, Phyllis had married Everett Knipp the year before and Amy an d I moved to Salina, Kansas where Amy started beauty school to earn a living for herself an d her nine year old son. After six months of training, Amy graduated and moved back to Damar , Kansas. Amy almost suffered a nervous breakdown, moving sixteen times in five years back a nd forth between the towns of Damar and Palco, Kansas. Times were tough trying to feed the t wo of us. Sometimes meals only consisted of peanut butter and syrup sandwiches or hot coco a for the morning breakfast, but we always had something to eat in the house.
Father: Maxim William DESAIRE b: 11 Jan 1885 in Rice Lake, Barron County, Wisconsin c: in Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Dobie, Wisconsin
Mother: Blanche NEWELL b: 21 Apr 1886 in Bogue, Graham Co, Kansas
Amy Livingston GARRINGER b: 4 Aug 1913 in Logan, Beaver Co. Oklahoma
24 Dec 1931
in Hill City, Graham Co. Kansas
- Living DESAIRE
- Living DESAIRE
- Living DESAIRE