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By Linda Emley
This is a story about friends. How many times have we thought about some old friend and wonder why we didn’t stay in touch? Friends come in many shapes and sizes. We have old friends, new friends, good friends and best friends. If we are really lucky, we even have friends that would do anything for us.
Sometimes we meet a person and you just “hit it off”. You know that feeling you get when you meet someone new and you feel like you’ve know them all your lives. You can just tell you are going to be good friends for many years to come. Other times we run into an old friend that we haven’t seen in ages and we pick up where we left off. It seems like it was only yesterday when you last talked.
But my all-time favorite friendship story is when your children ask you how you know someone and you say, “We went to school together.” I knew I was getting old when I heard myself saying that to my children. The friendships we build in school last forever. It does not matter how many years ago it was since you sat side by side in history class, they are still your buddy.
I want to share a story about three ladies: Betty Lou Martin, who is my mother; June Edwards and Allene Luedke. We need to add the men that happen to be their husbands: my dad, J.B. Martin, Tony Edwards and Morris Luedke. Every year, they all get together on a Sunday afternoon and enjoy a day of food and friendship. One year they meet at the Luedkes’ house in Colony, Kan., then the next year at my parents’ house in Richmond and then the next year in Kansas City at the Edwards’ home.
As children we always got to tag along and each year the eight of us would catch up and then not see each other again ‘til the next year. A few weeks ago, these couples came to Richmond and I went to join them for dinner. Allene’s son Mark drove them to Richmond for the long journey from Kansas. He had not been to our farm for many years,but he still knew the way. The guys watched the Chiefs game and the women sat in another room and caught up. I wanted to know how this long-distance, long-term friendship started and I found out it all began in Richmond, 63 years ago.
It was the fall of 1948 and all three women were living in or around Richmond. Allene Vantrump grew up in northern Ray County and she moved to Richmond to work for Otis Chandler. My mother was born here and has always been a Ray Countian. She was a teacher in a one-room school house and one day she went to Otis Chander’s office to pick up some school supplies and met Allene. Allene was renting a room from Mae Morgan, who was my dad’s aunt, so their paths kept crossing and they became friends.
June and her husband Tony moved to Richmond from Hamilton and he drove a milk truck. He would go to local farms and pick up milk to take to the Richmond cheese factory. This was a new one for me because I didn’t know that Richmond had a cheese factory. I got out the old phone books and under creameries there is a listing for Central Farm Products on North Thornton, phone number 298. It was located next to the Women’s Club, which is now the US Bank parking lot. They made cheese and shipped it to other towns in Missouri. June met Allene and soon the three ladies were good friends.
J.B. and Tony were both in the local National Guard 923rd Medical Ambulance Company that went to Fort Jackson, S.C. on Jan. 23, 1951. June and Betty Lou went with their husbands and left Allene in Richmond. She said she remembers the day they left like it was yesterday. It was sad to see both of her friends move away from Richmond. Allene changed jobs and worked at Production Credit for Monty Evert until 1953 and then she took a job in Columbia, Mo. and left Richmond. Never again would all three live in Richmond.
Tony and June went overseas for a tour of duty in Japan.They later moved to Kansas City where he was a dentist and June was a housewife and pharmacist. My parents moved back to Richmond and have been here ever since.
In 1960, Allene was living in Kansas and the other ladies drove out to see her. It was the beginning of their yearly visits. The only thing these ladies had in common was they all lived in Richmond for a few years in the late 1940s, but they have stayed friends. They stay in touch during the year and share important events along the way. I’m sure June and Allene know most of the major milestones of life.
Last week, Georgianna Ellis from Hardin stopped by the museum. She’s a cousin of Orvil Hixon and she came to show me some family pictures of Hixon and share some stories. Georgianna went to school with my parent,s so she told me stories about the good-old days and we had a great time. Yes, I felt like we were old friends. Karen Joiner was staffing our genealogical library and she came in to see what was going on because she heard us laughing and knew she was missing all the fun. I introduced them and they both looked at each other and after a few questions, they realized they were neighbors in Richmond 60 years ago. They hugged and the three of us spent the rest of the afternoon sharing stories and having a great time like we had all been friends forever.
Both of these friendship stories started in the days when Richmond had a cheese factory, the Drinkmore Beverage Company, the A.B. Cassady Beverage Company, Lillard’s ice cream creamery, 12 grocery stores, eight car dealers, 10 cafes, three hardware stores, three jewelry stores, three lumber yards, two newspapers, two taxicab companies and many other merchants.
Richmond has changed a lot, but we still run in to old friends every time we go anywhere around town. There is no better feeling in the world than spending a little time talking with a good friend. Whoever said “You can chose your friends, but you can’t chose your family” didn’t really understand the value of a good friend. We don’t always chose our friends because sometimes life gives us friends when we need them the most and it is our job to make sure we stay in touch.
You can write Linda Emley at firstname.lastname@example.org