Wreaths Across America, New Year’s traditions

(Frank) Today on Around Kansas learn about Wreaths Across America, a group that serves hundreds of veteran’s cemeteries throughout the world with a simple mission to Remember. Honor. Teach. Then find out how most New Year’s traditions are meant to set the tone for the rest of the year. Next enjoy a poem from Ron Wilson and we’ll end with Nola Ochs, the world’s oldest college graduate.Closed Captioning Brought to you by Ag Promo Source. Together we grow. Learn more at agpromosource.com.

(Frank Chaffin) Well, good morning. I’m Frank. (Deb) I’m Deb. (Frank) And this is Around Kansas. (Deb) And it’s our last Wednesday of 2016, Frank. (Frank) Good grief, 2016 has just gone. (Deb) Gone. (Frank) I mean, throughout the year, we were saying, “Can you believe how fast this is going?” and now– (Deb) It’s done. (Frank) Here it is. It’s gone. (Deb) And I still can’t believe it. (Frank) I know. (Deb) Still can’t believe it. Well, it’s been a heck of a year, Frank. (Frank) It has been a very interesting year. (Deb) My year, I have to say, has been very good. I got a good man, and I got a new grandbaby, and that’s an awful lot of blessings in one year. It really is. (Frank) Yes. And you’re living out there on the High Plains. (Deb) Living out in the High Plains of Kansas. I love it, yes. (Frank) Just a stone’s throw from Colorado. (Deb) So Jake the other day said something– I said something about our being nuts, and he says, “Well, we got to be a little nuts to be here,” and I’m like, “What do you mean here? Here, where?” And he said, “Here with, like, 11 horses and 15 sock monkeys”. [Laughs] Not to mention– (Frank) [Laughs] Sock monkeys? (Deb) Jake and his sock monkeys. [Laughs] (Frank) I don’t think I’ll ask you to explain that. (Deb) Well we’ve got them and I had them displayed all around the Christmas tree. I’ve got this all pretty, it’s like little pairs of sock monkeys sitting all over the living room, and you got little Christmas sock monkeys and all that. And the cats are just, like, enamored. They’re just like cuddling up the sock monkeys and– don’t judge me, Frank. (Frank) And they don’t attack them? They just look at them? (Deb) No, they love them. (Frank) Probably freaked out by a sock monkey. (Deb) No, they cuddle up to them and love it. Yes, don’t judge me, Frank. All right, so speaking of nutcases, yes, okay, so. (Frank) Oh yes. Nutcases, Boston Corbett. (Deb) Other than me. In the latest journal of the Kansas Bar Association, this is the November-December issue, and my good, dear friend, Meg Wickham, who– you know Meg, who is Susie Marchant’s daughter? And like that ain’t claim to fame enough, she is, I don’t know, she’s some big deal over at the Kansas Bar Association. So anyway, I have an article on crazy Boston Corbett, and I think we have a segment on Boston Corbett coming up sometime. We may have done one in the past, but it’s always good to visit crazy Boston Corbett, so we’ll have another one coming up sometime. (Frank) Yes. (Deb) And January will mark Charles Curtis’ birthday and so, Corbett is always mentioned with Charles Curtis and, read the article and you’ll find out why. So we’ll find the opportunity to talk about him again. And we’ve got another big thing coming up in January. In our next year, can hardly wait for next year, the museum of Also Ran’s. (Frank) Oh yes. (Deb) In Norton. (Frank) In Norton. (Deb) Yes, so bless her heart, Hillary Clinton will join the– (Frank) Also Ran’s. (Deb) –infamous photos in the Also Ran gallery in Norton, Kansas, and they have a big ceremony, and I don’t know if Hillary is coming to that or not, we’ll have to check. We will let you know that. We’ll check on that and let you know. (Frank) Yes.

(Frank Chaffin) And we’re back again. It looks like we both got the same memo; we’re wearing our vests today. It’s not because we’re cold because the Dillon House is quite comfortable, it’s just that it’s wintertime now. (Deb Goodrich) You walk outside the Dillon House. Let me tell you, the High Plains of Western Kansas. I work with Jake at the Sale Barn in WaKeeney on Tuesdays because he can’t find any decent help so he’s got me. He bought me a pair of insulated coveralls. Nothing says love, Frank, like a pair of insulated coveralls, let me tell you. I will also tell you, some days that is not enough. It is, yes, winter on the High Plains, it’s not for sissies. It’s not for sissies. (Frank) I don’t know, you’re going to have to have somebody following you around with a camera because I just can’t imagine you tramping around on a farm in coveralls and work gloves and a floppy hat. (Deb) I don’t know why people have such a hard time picturing it, I grew up like that, barefoot and the whole nine yards. But, yes, it’s a challenge. Now speaking of WaKeeney, there’s something else at WaKeeney plays into this next story. The Veterans’ Cemetery, State Veterans’ Cemetery, and I think we did that in May, when we were featuring the veterans’ cemeteries, I think we featured the one in WaKeeney. I don’t know if we featured our other state cemeteries or not. We have three other state veterans’ cemeteries and some national cemeteries, but the Wreaths Across America. So if you have one of these cemeteries near you, now is the time, I think the wreaths, they’re still out there. Now is the time to go see this because it is so beautiful with those, just the simple greenery wreaths with the red ribbon on these veterans’ graves, it is beautiful. So this story is all about how this tradition began. WaKeeney and the other three state veterans cemeteries at Fort Dodge, Fort Riley, and Winfield, and our national cemeteries take part each year in the Wreaths Across America project. The effort began with Arlington National Cemetery and now serves hundreds of cemeteries throughout the world. The tradition began with a little boy’s visit to our first National Cemetery, Arlington. Morrill Worcester was only a 12-year-old paperboy when he won a trip to the nation’s capitol. The images of Arlington stayed with him. Years later, he was the owner of a successful business, Worcester Wreath, when he saw an opportunity in the surplus wreaths at the end of the holiday. He contacted Maine Senator Olympia Snowe and arranged to place wreaths in one of the older sections of Arlington, one not often visited. A number of other individuals and organizations stepped up to help and a tradition was born, a tradition not widely noticed until 2005 when a photograph of those snow-covered, wreath-laden graves was shared on the Internet. Others wanted to do the same. Worcester began sending seven wreaths to every state, one for each branch of the military, and for POW/MIAs. In 2006, with the help of the Civil Air Patrol and other civic organizations, simultaneous wreath-laying ceremonies were held at over 150 locations around the country. In 2007, the Worcester family, along with veterans, and other groups and individuals who had helped with their annual veterans wreath ceremony in Arlington, formed Wreaths Across America, to continue and expand this effort, and support other groups around the country who wanted to do the same. The mission of the group is simple: Remember. Honor. Teach. In 2014, Wreaths Across America and its national network of volunteers laid over 700,000 memorial wreaths at 1,000 locations in the United States and beyond, including ceremonies at the Pearl Harbor Memorial, as well as Bunker Hill, Valley Forge and the sites of the September 11 tragedies. This was accomplished with help from more than 2,000 fundraising groups, corporate contributions and donations of trucking, shipping, and thousands of helping hands. The organization’s goal of covering Arlington National Cemetery was met in 2014 with the placement of 226,525 wreaths. The wreath laying is held annually, on the second or third Saturday of December. WAA’s annual pilgrimage from Harrington, Maine to Arlington National Cemetery has become known as the world’s largest veterans’ parade, stopping at schools, monuments, veterans’ homes and communities all along the way to remind people how important it is to remember, honor and teach.

(Frank Chaffin) And here we are again, the last Wednesday of the year 2016. Good grief, 2017 coming. (Deb Goodrich) It is and I was looking at Christmas stories and was talking about the things between Christmas and New Year’s, and you’ve got Boxing Day in England and I think Canada, the day after Christmas, and they don’t know exactly where the term Boxing Day came from. Sometimes they said the churches would box things for the poor after Christmas, and there’s just all kinds of ideas about that. But at this time of year, there’s just a lot of myths and superstitions and traditions, and that’s what your next story is about, Frank? (Frank) [Laughs] Yes, it’s really kind of an interesting time. I mean, we just kind of take New Year’s Eve and the New Year Day– (Deb) Just a big party. (Frank) –As a big party and all that, but [Laughs] there’s a lot more to it. All of the little stories and superstitions and, anyway, it’s an interesting story. I don’t want to get ahead of everything here. (Deb) Well, I will put in one little plug about this story because I found it very interesting. The whole thing about the brunette crossing your threshold. (Frank) Oh yes. [Laughs] (Deb) So I am available on New Year’s Eve if anybody needs a brunette to walk over their threshold on New Year’s Eve, and you’ll hear what that’s about. [Laughs] (Frank) Well and then– (Deb) The blondes will be out of work on New Year’s, let me tell you. [Laughs] (Frank) What about, “Don’t throw anything out,” but then there’s another belief that says, “Well, throw everything out.” (Deb) Throw everything out. (Frank) I don’t know, but it’s kind of a cool story so [Laughs]. (Deb) It’s fun. (Frank) Most of the traditions or superstitions we associate with New Year’s are meant to set the tone for what the rest of our year will be. Our relationships, our fortunes throughout the year, our health and wealth and happiness–all these are set in motion by our actions on New Year’s Eve. Midnight is the magic moment. We kiss someone special at midnight to ensure the affections will continue. Also, making noise at midnight isn’t just about celebration but a means of scaring away evil spirits and making sure that the incoming year isn’t cursed! Many traditions bang pots and pans, fire guns, set off firecrackers–anything loud enough to scare the Devil. Another tradition involves the first person to come into your home after the New Year has arrived. A dark-haired person brings good luck and according to some sources, even better luck if he or she is bearing gifts–a lump of coal (for warmth), a silver coin (for wealth), a bit of bread (for plenty). A sprig of evergreen and a pinch of salt are lucky as well. This person should leave through a different door than the one he or she entered. Redheads and blondes are not so lucky and you should shoo them away until a brunette steps across your threshold. There are some traditions that say nothing should leave the house on New Year’s Day–no garbage, no recycling, no big purging, and others that encourage you to open the windows and toss out the old to make room for the new. Of course, there are many traditions around food; some of the most popular are eating black-eyed peas and greens for good luck and financial prosperity. Chicken or turkey are not recommended for a New Year’s meal, probably because the Christmas leftovers should have been consumed or thrown out by now. It is believed that eating these foods on New Year’s Day will bring financial struggles. There are some things over which we have no control, like the direction of the wind. If the wind comes from the south on New Year’s morn, it brings prosperous times. From the north, bad weather will be the norm. A wind from the east brings famine and calamities, and from the west, the year will bring plenty of milk and fish, but also a death. It’s best to wish for no wind, the sign of a joyful year to come, but not likely in Kansas!! Whatever your beliefs about the new year, we hope you are blessed to spend that day and every day doing meaningful work with people you love. Happy New Year!

(Ron Wilson) A cowboy has a lot of dirty, messy jobs, and oftentimes, that involves the south end of a cow going north. But when we’re sorting cattle, there’s a very important job, and that is the job of the gateman. It’s kind of a thankless job because he has to make some split-second decisions. In his honor, this poem is entitled, “The Gateman”. There are certain thankless jobs that you encounter in this life, like a policeman giving parking tickets or perhaps the farmer’s wife who is sent to town for parts, “Oh, it’s about yay big. We don’t know the model number but it looks like a thingamajig.” Those jobs are truly thankless. But among the cowboy clan, there is no job so thankless as that of the gateman. When we go to sorting cattle, the gateman’s simple job is to open and shut the gate when we separate the mob. But that task ain’t nearly as simple as it sounds. He must decide in a split-second with chaos all around. He may have angry steers barreling straight towards him or a crazy cow that will dodge, or jump or kick upon whim. He gets splattered by manure and will have the gate tore from his hand but he must do the job just right to meet the boss’ demand. His head may be spinning from the contrary directions about, when a cowboy says to stop the calf and the other says, “Turn him out.” So the gateman’s job is thankless but he can always protect his fate by saying to his critics, “All right. It’s your turn to man the gate.” Happy Trails.

(Frank Chaffin) [Sings] Anyway, yes, here we are near New Year’s. We’ve been yakking about that, but as each year passes, it’s kind of like we’re fortunate still be here. (Deb Goodrich) Absolutely. (Frank) And look forward to new things in the new year. (Deb) Absolutely, and we say goodbye to some things that have gone on and some people who have passed on. And one of those is Nola Ochs. And I know that most of you are familiar with Nola’s story, and I won’t get in the way of the story, but I just tell you what I think this means to Frank and me. As you’re leaving 2016 behind and leaving some people behind perhaps or some situations, life changes. It’s all about — the only constant is change– (Frank) Yes. Exactly. (Deb) –and transition. And so, it’s just a period of transition. And I don’t think there’s a better guiding spirit for all that transition than that of Nola Ochs. What an incredible, inspiring lady she was, and we are so thrilled to pay tribute to her with this next spot. In 2007, Nola Essie Ochs graduated from Fort Hays State University. This is a commendable accomplishment but even more so for Nola. The diploma put her in the Guinness World Record Books as the world’s oldest college graduate at 95 years old. Focusing her studies on history, she graduated alongside her 21-year-old granddaughter. Nola’s diploma was presented by then governor, Kathleen Sebelius.
This degree was a long time coming. After the death of her husband, Vernon, Nola began to take classes at Dodge City Community College, graduating in 1988. In 1991, she enrolled as a full-time student at Saint Mary of the Plains College, with the dream of graduating from a four-year college, but the college closed before that dream could be fulfilled. Upon achieving that goal, she garnered many honors, including Kansas Woman Leader of the Year, and she appeared on many television shows, including the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, The Early Show, MSNBC and CBS News. But Nola was on a roll and once the wheat harvest was done, she went back to school and became the oldest recipient of a master’s degree at the age of 98. “I’ve led a long, interesting life. We went through the dust storms. We had some difficult times in our marriage, financially. But it’s been the Lord’s will that I’ve lived this long life, and I thank Him kindly for it,” said Nola in one of the school’s press releases. She marked her 100th birthday as a graduate teaching assistant. Afterward, she went back to the farm to spend time and wrote a book of her life’s memoirs, which is in the process of being published. Nola passed away earlier this month at Manor of the Plains, Dodge City, Kansas. She was born November 22, 1911, near Ramsey, in Fayette County, Illinois. According to her obituary in the Hays Daily News, Nola’s family moved to a farm near Ainsworth, Nebraska, and she attended elementary school in small, rural, one-teacher schools there. In 1927, the family moved to Hodgeman County, Kansas, and Nola graduated from Dodge City High School in 1929. After high school graduation, Nola taught four terms in rural, one-room schools, in Hodgeman County. Nola was happily married to Vernon Ochs on September 3, 1933, and her earthly claim to fame was being the mother of Vernon’s four sons. Vernon passed away January 30, 1972. Nola spent the remainder of her life on the farm surrounded by her sons and their families. Nola served on the Ochs School Board for many years. She served on the Hodgeman County Extension Board, and the Southwest Kansas Library Board. She was a member of Grace Community Church, Dodge City, since its founding in 1988. Nola had researched her family’s genealogy extensively and she traveled the world meeting newfound relatives from all over the United States and Europe. She spent many days researching on the computer, even when her sight and hearing failed her. Godspeed, Nola, Godspeed.

(Frank Chaffin) Well, we’re done for 2016. So, I’m Frank. (Deb Goodrich) I’m Deb. (Frank) And we’ll see you somewhere… (Both) Around Kansas.

Closed Captioning Brought to you by Ag Promo Source. Together we grow. Learn more at agpromosource.com.

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