THE SALINA JOURNAL GREAT PLAINS SUNDAY, APRIL 29, 2001 B? • KEEPING IN TOUCH Old friends still make the rounds 'Round robin' pals kept letters flying for almost 60 years By DONALD BRADLEY The Kansas City Star KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Friends in youth often become a blur in old age. j Recalling a school pal, once I as easy as a test on state capi- j tals, can be like trying to keep I your eye on a single, falling snowflake. Not so with the robins of Wathena, Kan. In the early 1940s, fresh out of high school, single and with World War II greeting them into adulthood, these girls decided to live life together no matter how far apart roads took them. They started writing "round robin" letters. In the beginning It started with one girl's letter to another, who in turn sent the first letter and one of her own to another girl. Before long, 12 letters filled the package. Each time the "robin" arrived, a girl would take out her old letter, pen a new one and send the package on. I They kept up on romance, I marriages, babies and careers. ] They shared war, news of hus- ibands, brothers and boyfriends. They learned of the deaths of their friends' parents. More than 60 years later, their robin still flies. The letters are their way of getting together, just as the 12 did years ago in the hallways of tiny Wathena High School. Now, they gather on the pages of their letters. ;; "We loved each other, and pur lives were important to each other," said Thelma Bass, who traveled to Kansas City from her home in Kalamazoo, Mich., for a weekend reunion of the robins. Marjorie Spence, who held the reunion, said the package had traveled all over the country and to South America. It comes around now twice a yean "It's slowed down some — like we have." From a letter Spence wrote in 1995: "Honestly gals, can you believe that we young chicks can be masquerading in these old bodies?" Four robins have died. Those remaining, all past 80, say no matter what else is planned that day, they sit and read the letters as soon as they arrive. Shared lives Through stories and photographs — always included — the robins watched each others' children grow. They swear they know children and grandchildren they've never met. The news, of course, was not always good. In the summer of 1993, instead of a letter from Betty D'Antoni, they heard from her husband, Paul, who told them Betty had died. "There is no way I can tell you how much I miss my Betty She enjoyed the robin and I enjoyed knowing all you nice ladies were friends and classmates. I sincerely hope you all keep the robin circulating for the next century" Robin reunion The weekend reunion was held at the Kingswood Retirement Community in south Kansas City, where Spence and Betty Stewart live. This is the Silver Jewelry 3RD STREET FLOWERS 785-263-0440 105 N.W. 3rd / Abilene Get Your ART Together! "If You Love It...Frame It! framing I Tiiaffe 1 /2 block south GrS of Iron Ave. 121 S. Santa Fe, Sallna, KS • (785) 827-9200 They kept up on romance, marriages, babies and careers. They shared war, news of husbands, brothers and boyfriends. They learned of the deaths of their friends'parents. group's third reunion in 60 years. One of the members, who lives in Denver, was unable to attend. After lunch Saturday, the group moved into the music room to sing a few old songs. Stewart, wanting to face the piano, tried to scoot her chair • around. A fellow robin tried to help. "Come on, kiddo," said Alice Crane of St. Joseph as she tugged on Stewart's chair. "Don't, Alice! You'll throw your back out," another robin cautioned. A couple of others helped turn Stewart's chair. Soon, Bass, despite numb fingers from recent spinal surgery, was playing "Tell Me Why" while the others huddled around the piano and sang. Seven were present. Another had died the night before. The robins smiled as they sang and put arms around each other, just like the old days in Wathena, a town of little more than a thousand just across the Missouri River from St. Joseph. When the song ended, Spence told a couple of guests: "You should have heard us 30 years ago." . "Thirty? How about 50 or 60?" quipped Maxine Sinclair, who came from St. Paul, Minn. They went on to sing "Let Me Call You Sweetheart" and "I've Been Working on the Railroad." The others wished Frances Childers, who came from Horton, Kan., had brought her trombone because she plays a mean "Getting Sentimental Over You." Between songs, they talked about life, love and letters. The end of an era They decided that round robin letters probably would die with their generation. "Young people e-mail now — they don't know how to write letters," one said. And they decided that Crane was the first to have a husband die. Crane nodded. Her husband died in 1963. "I was the last to marry and the first to lose a husband," she said. "I must have been hard on him." Joan Stevens, an Olathe robin, said she wasn't far behind. "I lost my husband in 1965," she said, then added quickly: "But I got another one." A few giggled at that. The way they would in the old days back in Wathena. FOR ALL YOUR INSURANCE NEEDS - CKeck mtik State Farm Bary Martin 1023 Greeley Ave., Salina 110 N. Concord, Minneapolis Slate Farm Insurance Companies * Home Offices: Bloomlngton, Illinois 785-825-0555 Introduces Investment Services, Call Today 785-825-1621, JOHN WEBB i KELUWEBB i LARHYFIEF 8 MIKE SAMPLE AWideVarlety Of Financial Services Are Available Including: • Retirement Plans For Individuals And Small Businesses • College Savings Plans • Mutual Funds •401(K)s& Rollovers • Stocks & Bonds • Tax-exempt Investments Tescott 785-283-4217 Barnard 785-792-6222 Lincoln 785-524-4458 Sallna 785-825-1621 ervices, Inc. Member NASD nnd SII'C. 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Hendrix said the utility's extensive use of corporate jets for out-of-state travel, its choice of an exclusive Arizona resort for a recent board of directors meeting and its decision to spend $1.5 million to build new executive offices undermine its case for a $151 million rate increase. "It seems to me that this is a time when they need to scale back rather than continuing to spend money on things that aren't essential to their basic operations," Hendrix said. Kim Gronniger, a Western spokeswoman, said none of the cost of the office renovation project or the airplanes was included in the rate case. "The rate increase request is based solely on our costs of providing reliable electric service," she said. The Kansas Corporation Commission will begin technical hearings on Western's proposed rate inci;ease May 17. Public hearings were held last week. The commission's staff and other interveners in the case have urged the KCC to significantly cut Western's rates, not increase them. As evidence of excess, some point to the $5.4 million one-time bonus paid to Western chairman David Wittig in 1999. ' SPRING OPEN HOUSE -May 1st - May 5th Mon.-Sat. 10 -5 • Register For Gift Certificates • Great Gift Ideas • Food Samples • New Spring & Summer Merchandise MARKET SHOP ; <• ^ ^ 5^ (lirrSct HOME .ACCENTS 101 S. Santa Fe 823-5855 liOMEMAUE IIAPIMi \EK^ 102 E.Iron 825-6515 it SHIRT SALE Starting Tuesday May 1 Bring in your laundered shirts today! Don't forget our convenient drop-off i and pick-up in the LayawayDept.at Wal-Mart. May Special thru May 31,2001 820 E. Crawford • Salina • 827-9875 all on sale save 20-AO^° on all carpeting plus 0% until January 2002^ on all installed floor covering^rchases over $1000 when you use your Sears card . 199 " your choice I sq.ft.installed Fundamentals 1 texture, Lexington 1 plush, Darby berber and Dynamics liome & office carpeting Available in a wide variety of colors. 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See store for details. •Sunday, April 29,2001 4:00 p.m. Sams Chapel Kansas Wesleyan University All-Tchaikovsky Concert Works by Pyotr Llyich Tchaikovasky Swan Lake Suite Scene Dances of the Little Swans Hungarian Dance Neapolitan Dance Mazurka Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Op. 64 Andante cantabile, con alcuna licenza Hopak from the opera, "Masepa" David Lowe, conductor Pezzo Capriccioso Variations on a Rococo Theme Available at the door General Admission $8 Senior Citizen $6 Children 18 and under FREE! •Note Date! Season tickets have a inis-printed date for tliis concert.
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