Origins of Jeannine Tour (4): White City

  • Mom in front of the now-abandoned house where she lived in White City in high school.

This summer we took Mom in The Epic Van on a tour of all her old Kansas haunts. We’re calling it the Origins of Jeannine Tour.

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8

In White City, Kansas, we visited the house Mom lived in in high school, now abandoned, peeking in her bedroom window. She remembered swinging on the porch swing, watching the cute boy next door come home from dates. Her mother fed hobos from the train tracks behind the house on their back porch.

We ate lunch with several of Mom’s high-school pals, Peggy, June, DeWain “Dean”, and Dean’s wife, Jeanie. They howled at the failures in home-ec: Mom’s blue dress with a white panel in front that went wildly off kilter, and Peggy (North) Stentstrom’s slip with a zipper that wouldn’t fit over her head. Their sewing was such a failure, requiring hours of seam ripping, that it bled over into the second semester, which was supposed to be all about cooking. They only had time for sectioning oranges and making cocoa. Pity the family they tried to feed with that. When the teacher was absent, they made rocklike biscuits that they passed out around the school.

None admitted to being sent to the principal’s (Grandpa’s) office. Harley Prichard was also the coach and math teacher. Mom remembers cringing as he graded papers at home with his red pencil, wondering if he’d notice she hadn’t studied. Once he told her, “I don’t know if you will make it in college.” (She ended up with a doctorate and a job as a professor.)

Dean, who was the class vice-president, once told Mom that, after her wedding reception, he pulled his car to the side of the road and cried because she had chosen someone else. (Sadly, Dean died just a week after we visited.)

We wandered the halls of the high school, saw the infamous home-ec room, found Grandpa’s office, walked on the basketball court with balcony seating where Mom and the other cheerleader worked the crowd into a frenzy, found her picture and Grandpa’s hanging on the wall, and saw the trophies of Grandpa’s four-year undefeated teams in basketball, football and baseball.

We and met the new principal, Joel Kahnt, a White City graduate, whose grandmother, mother (editor of White City’s newspaper), and daughter, also have graduated from White City High School.

Mom sat on the steps of the tiny library, where she read all the Nancy Drew mysteries, and found the brick with her name at the war memorial.

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