Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Our Visit to Hazelton, March 2008 - Karen Brockway
When my husband Ken and I were planning a long road trip from Kelso to Texas this year, my dad Karl mentioned that we would be going right past the town where he was born--Hazelton, Kansas. When he said that he and Grandma Jansen were both born in the same house, 23 years apart, I knew we would make the visit. Mom and Dad had been to that town 20 years ago and so they had lots of advice to offer. One thing they neglected to tell us was that Hazelton is now nearly a ghost town with only unmarked roads leading to it. Our mission was to find the house or at least discover its former location, but compared to locating the town, that turned out to be a piece of cake.
The town of Hazelton is well preserved but most of the buildings on main street are now vacant. We drove down the wide, wide street looking for the senior center where Dad told us we would find names and historical information. We parked our car and walked down the sidewalk to check out the vacant buildings. I remember how noisy it was. Never had I heard so many birds singing and crickets or cicadas chirping. Only one other car was parked on the street, and that’s how we knew the bank was open. A helpful lady behind the desk told us she would call Ralph to open the senior center for us as it is only open one day a week. While we waited for Ralph, we continued to visit with the bank employee and two bank patrons who were passing time with her. When we told them what we were looking for, they all agreed: "You need to talk to Lucille". Lucille, a 97 year old native of Hazelton, would know about the Prock family. She used to be a beautician with a shop right next to her house in a little red trailer and she knew everything, so they claimed.
We saw Ralph pull up at the senior center. He had driven the block from his house in his big old silver Buick because it was too hot to walk. Ralph was about 90 years old and very kind and friendly. He unlocked the doors and pulled out all the books of names and photos but we weren’t able to find anything that would help us. Nothing. It was time to call Lucille. Ralph reached for a bright red telephone on a table and dialed her number. Lucille was waiting for us, he said, just a walk down the street, brick house on the corner past the bank.
It was hard to imagine anyone allowing two strangers to walk right through your front gate and up to your kitchen door but she did. A voice called “come on in!” I expected it to be a caregiver and that Lucille would be sitting in a wheelchair, but it was Lucille herself. She was bustling around in the kitchen making lunch for her son who also lived in Hazelton. She had beautiful youthful-looking skin, flushed from cooking soup in a big kettle. If this woman is 97, I want to move to Hazelton too. Sitting at her kitchen table we were treated to a story of a booming farm town with several churches, three grocery stores, a hardware store, and a theater. She remembered going horse buying with one of the Prock girls and her husband or boyfriend one time. The family was a very nice family, she recalled. She also remembered going Christmas caroling during her high school years with her church group and singing in front of the Prock family home. It was a pretty two-story white house and the family members came out on an upstairs porch or landing to listen to the carolers. The house was located west of town past the grain storage tanks, across the railroad tracks, and down a dirt road about a quarter of a mile. She said we would be able to see some evergreen trees that used to be right next to the house, although the house had fallen down years ago.
Driving back down the main street, Ken and I met two cars whose occupants waved cheerily at us. The whole town knew who we were, it seemed. We saw the grain co-op towers and turned to cross the tracks. We knew the house location when we saw it from Lucille’s good directions. The photos we took don’t really do it justice, and we regret that we didn’t walk back to the small pile of boards and grab one just for a souvenir, but there was a cattle pen and a windmill next to a grove of old trees.
We found out later that Dad had only lived in the house for a year at the most so he didn’t have any memories of it, but we are hoping Aunt Martha can recognize the setting. Experiencing Hazelton, the town where my Grandmother became a wife and mother, the town where my Dad was born, well, that was worth the trip. I only regret that we didn’t take a picture of Lucille.
Photos: Hazelton Main Street, windmill and cattle pen at right side of house location, Karen at left side of house location with evergreen trees.
Posted by KandN at 6:24 PM