Even though Janice Collins’s mother was a farm girl, she could do so much more. She was good at algebra, geometry, and construction, as well as making cottage cheese and raising chickens to sell the eggs. Shared Stories is a weekly column featuring articles by participants in a writing class at the Norwalk Senior Center. Bonnie Mansell is the instructor for this free class offered through the Cerritos College Adult Education Program. Curated by Carol Kearns.
By Janice Collins
I wish to acknowledge my mother, Gladys Josephine Fouts Hager Husler, for who she was and the many things she did. She faced many hardships in her life.
Mom was born in Missouri in 1906 and was the seventh of eight children. Her father died at an early age, and her mother had all of the children gathered around the deathbed of their father, telling him goodbye and praying. She was seven at the time and her younger sister was five. The hardship came to everyone because even she and her little sister had to help in anyway they could.
One thing was enjoyable for them as children. She and her sister liked to sing. They sang a duet for their school program.
My grandmother couldn’t earn enough money keeping books for the grain elevator in Passaic, Missouri, and she heard of a managing job at a restaurant in Butler, Missouri. They moved to Butler and everyone helped run the restaurant.
Later in life, as the children were becoming of age to manage better at other jobs, the family made a move to Belpre, Kansas, where Mom’s uncle lived.
Mom was in high school and doing well. She was an intelligent person and earned enough credits to graduate a year early. Mom was always good at reasoning problems and algebra, as well as geometry. The teacher would always send her to the blackboard to do these problems and explain them to her classmates.
Since my mother had her credits, my grandmother allowed her to quit school and get married. Andy Hager asked Mom to marry him, and since her mother liked Andy, she agreed. Andy owned a farm. He was good to Mom. Since Mom liked horses, he bought a horse for her to ride. He also taught her to drive.
After four years of marriage, Andy had a swelling of his throat, and the doctor traveled to Hutchinson, Kansas, to get the necessary medication. Andy died, however, before the doctor could get back to Belpre. Mom was by his side, and he told her he probably wouldn’t make it. The swelling cut off his oxygen and he stopped breathing.
Mom and Andy had two children at that time – my half-sister Juanita who was three years old, and my half-brother Arthur who was only six months. Arthur had double pneumonia and a nurse was caring for him.
Mom delivered milk to the people in Belpre, and she tried to keep the farm going by using a plow behind a mule. This was in the late 1920’s. Times got hard again, and she could not make the necessary money to pay her taxes. So the farm was taken from her.
My grandmother and mother moved into a place together so my grandmother could take care of Juanita and Arthur, and also make money by babysitting other children. My mother went to work for the Larned Mental Hospital as head cook. Together they made a living.
After a while, my mother started dating the man who would become my father, Louis Husler. They dated three years before they were married. They made a good couple. My mother had two more children – my brother Edward and myself.
My father had been working his father’s farm at this time, and when his father died, the farm was sold because his siblings didn’t want to keep it. Dad rented land in Kansas to continue farming, and then later, when I was twelve, we moved to Colorado.
During these years Mom helped Dad with farm work, raised a large garden, and canned fruits and vegetables. She also raised chickens and gathered eggs to take to St. John, Kansas to sell.
My parents separated cream and sold the cream to a creamery. Mom made our own cottage cheese and churned the butter. Chickens and steers were butchered and taken to a rented freezer in town.
We moved to Stratton, Colorado, where Dad bought his own farm. Colorado had a serious drought in the 1950’s and both of my parents had to get outside jobs. Once again Mom became a cook – this time at the Stratton Café. She was known to be good at it.
When a trailer factory opened up in Stratton, both of my parents got a job there. My mother was good at measuring to perfection when put to carpentry work. She could use an electric saw and turned out good looking cabinets for the trailers
Mom stayed on the farm after dad died, but she finally hired people to do the work since she was in her ‘70’s.
At the age of 80, my brother Edward told her she needed to be with someone. They noticed that she would fall asleep and drop necessary pills under her rocker. Also, she would forget which day it was. People would come from Stratton to check up on her because they worried. Her driving skills weren’t good anymore.
Mom went to live in the Boulder Mountains where my brother owns a large house. He gave her a beautiful bedroom with a veranda by the mountain. She was happy there. His wife was a nurse practitioner.
Mom died at the age of 92. She had many hardships in her life, but she was good at anything she put her mind to. She was buried in a Stratton cemetery with Dad.