|Grandma Kathleen Louella (Green) Morris, the daughter of Roy Green and Maggie Neal, born 5 Nov. 1916 in Cullison, Kansas, died 22 Sept. 1985 in Wichita, Kansas.|
When Grandma came to visit us in Kansas City, which wasn’t often, I was always nervous as a young girl. She and Grandpa would arrive sometime during the day, in time for her to walk to our school to meet us at the guard-crossing. I could never pick her out from all the other mothers or grandmothers, even though the others were white. Grandma was fair skinned with fine straight hair that she wore in a bun 365 days of the year. For first grade she had to attend a black school in Topeka, and her classmates called her “baby shit” due to her complexion. As an adult, we seven grandchildren called her “white Grandma” due to her complexion. She claimed Negro, her sisters who we didn’t really know, had color as did their mother, but her drivers license had “white” listed as her race. When we asked why, which we did often, she’d explained while standing in the colored line at the Hutchinson, Kansas license bureau sometime around 1942, a white clerk behind the desk motioned for her to get out of that line and to stand in line with the white citizens. No questions were asked, the clerk just chose white as Grandma’s race, which she never corrected, and it stayed like that on her driver’s license until her death in 1985.
When we visited her on the farm outside Buhler Kansas on RR3, she’d make us our favorite spaghetti. No one made spaghetti like Grandma. She’d render some bacon, add tomatoes and onions, and that was the sauce. No hamburger, no mushrooms…nope just delicious bacon and sautéed onions, smothered in fresh tomato sauce. She and Grandpa lived in Mennonite territory, where Grandpa had gone to school, as well as my mother and her siblings. Actually three generations had attended the all white school (except for my family) of Union Valley, including my cousins who lived with Grandma after their mother’s death. Living in an all white community was not new to Grandma. She had also attended predominately white schools all her life, except for first grade in Topeka, and she lived on North Star St. in Hutchinson, a white neighborhood, where she was accustomed to playing with her white classmates. She graduated at the age of 17 from Hutchinson High school in 1934, an integrated school with very few African Americans, but she had been active in the choral group and would regal us with her fond memories of her friends and school. After graduating, she married Grandpa who was eleven years her senior, got pregnant, and moved to Mennonite country on the farm where Grandpa raised Black Angus cattle and other livestock while she tended to a family garden. So Grandma, well versed in animal parts, would make spicy hog-head cheese, that as a child, I thought the gelatinous mess looked icky, but I loved the taste. Other times while visiting, there was a tub of fresh sauerkraut waiting. She’d prepare ribs and sauerkraut, a good German meal, and one of my favorites. I make it even today, but I can’t find hog-head cheese as fresh and delicious as Grandma’s.
Grandma’s quilt, backed with spring pink fabric and tied using yellow tacks, brings fresh memories of her love and comfort. When, I’m sick I pull it out, wrap myself into its healing powers, lay on the sofa and watch reruns of The Lawrence Welk Show. And of course, to celebrate good health, I eat a pot of bacon spaghetti.