Our connection with the Wiebe family: Grandma Susie Wiebe Hiebert (upper right)
When we came to America during the war I felt that part of our family had been left behind and, as a young child, couldn't understand why this had happened. My next memories are of moving to Hillsboro and having Irene, Ruth, and Esther nearby to help us become accustomed to American life for teenagers. Irene took me to the drug store and showed me how to order a rootbeer float which absolutely blew me away! Not only did she have money for such an expensive item, but she could do this without adult supervision. I felt so wicked! Irene saved us again when Betty, Joanne, and I showed up on Easter Sunday in our winter suits, not knowing that you had to switch to a summer outfit and preferably a new one at that. At noon Irene took us to her house and gave us some of hers and Ruth's dresses so that we could fit in for the afternoon and evening church sessions. It was so nice to have the Wiebes next door when we bought the house behind theirs the second year we were in Hillsboro.
Last summer Dick and I spent an evening with Irene and Don at Moundridge in their lovely home. It was a wonderful evening. We could go over old memories, compare stories, and catch up. We also visited Ruth and Herb briefly but Esther was not home. So many of our roots are similar to those of the Wiebe family. It would be nice to bring both families together, wouldn't it? Now Lois and Gary have been hired by Paul to teacher at Kodai so they will begin a new chapter of memories.
Gwen with Irene and Donovan
I roomed with Irene in Boyer. We were right next to Erky's room so she could hear everything we said, so we got in trouble for making noise. We were afraid to go to the bathroom at night so we would wake another roommate up and they would stand at the door and signal us when we could return to the room. That was quite traumatic.
John and his friends were jumping from the dorm dresser onto the bed and he had just landed when the matron caught them. John pretended to be asleep and the matron said they should all be as good as John!
We had an end room at one time and used the window seats for an insect zoo, dead or alive. We were always careful to leave things on the seat so Erky wouldn't look inside.
Hillsboro - I remember living next door to the Wiebe kids. Ruth was in a play and was the Southern Belle. She kept her southern accent for some time after the play. Ruth once organized a trio to sing in church, an Indian song.
Ruth and Herb make frequent trips through Omaha and stay with us. They share their experiences from Afghanistan, which are interesting.
One year the Wiebe kids decided not to go back to Kodai as they disliked school, so while the adults were busy they found a ladder and climbed onto the flat church roof, taking food with them, then threw the ladder down and hid behind the roof wall. The Wiebe parents took it in stride. They found the kids of course, hauled them down, and took them to the train station.
John was a leader of boys in Kodai. He organized a club of boys which met under the gym in a tunnel. The club had three rules: members must hate girls, they must hate school, and their grades had to prove it. One night after lights out the little boys had congregated in John's room where they were taking turns climbing to the top of a wardrobe and jumping down onto the bed. John had just jumped when footsteps were heard. John quickly crawled under the blankets while the other boys scrambled under the bed. The matron walked in and surveyed the scene, found the boys under the bed and scolded them severely saying, "Why can't you be more like John--nicely sleeping in his own bed!"
We move now to Kansas, where Grace and I were in Tabor and the Wiebes lived in that corner house.
I was driving with Uncle Wiebe and several of the children one time in Wichita when a car pulled out in front of him. Uncle Wiebe immediately honked at the guy, and then proceeded to follow him around the block honking all the while. Nobody seemed surprised at this. When the Wiebe station wagon was fully occupied, there was a head and waving arm at every window.
The Wiebe house was my refuge from student living when I was at Tabor College in Hillsboro--I'd go there when I needed family surroundings. Auntie Wiebe never knew quite how many places to set for dinner: While the family was gathering at the table, Uncle Wiebe would sometimes look out the window, see a passerby, run out and urgently invite the person in to eat. Once I was there for Thanksgiving (I think). After dinner the phone rang--long distance. Uncle Wiebe went about shushing people up so that Auntie could hear--but he was shushing so loudly that she couldn't hear anyway until somebody stopped him.
A story filtered down from Mt. Lake, where the Wiebes lived a year. Apparently they would have picnics in the back yard or elsewhere on Saturday afternoons (continuing the India lifestyle). This scandalized the Mennonites of Mt. Lake--all good families WORKED all day Saturday. Another MtW. Lake story--I visited Grandma during the Christmas holiday and was going back by train--Mr. Wiebe was to drive Esther and me to catch this train in Minneapolis (I think). I asked Mr. Wiebe about reservations on the train, but he seemed not to be worrying about it. We drove down the cold highway to the city, stopping on the way to take a look at the snowy scene. At the depot just about train time, we stood in line to buy tickets. The agent asked for our reservations. We had none. He looked surprised and explained that all the seats had been booked. What to do. Just then the phone rang. The agent answered, then came back and said we were in luck, two seats had been cancelled. I guess the angels were always busy when it came to Uncle Wiebe.
Our cousins, the Wiebes
Also, I learned to ride a bike on the Mahbubnagar compound when visiting the Wiebes. John had a bike and I remember that he helped me along at first. Later we rode all around the house on the veranda but our parents later forbade that because it was dangerous--could go off the veranda to the ground far below.
I visited Esther when we were missionaries in India. She was already adopting children by then and then moving them on to others seeking children. One of those is the adopted daughter of Martin Alphonse who has been living here in Chicago for the past three years, but is now moving back to Madras.
My first memories of our Wiebe cousins were when David and Paul, Gwen and I were little. They were our favorite playmates, and it was fun to have them come visit our mission station home. I remember that the ayah used to bathe us all together---right, Gwen?
It was never boring when the twins came to visit. They taught us a whole lot of valuable skills, like enticing scorpions out of their holes with pieces of food tied to string and making mudballs out of the dust on our car's wheels & eating them. Yum. They loved to explore and we followed after them--except out by the well in the garden behind our house. According to David and Paul, that's where the Boogie Man lived---in the well---and if you got too close, he'd climb up and GRAB you. What he would do after he grabbed us, I didn't know; I just knew I wasn't going to ever get close enough to find out. I'd stand on the back verandah and watch the well with fascination and fear, and sometimes I was sure I could see bony fingers reaching up and holding on to the rocks on top of the well, and I'd run for safety. David and Paul, if you ever read this, just be aware that you scarred me for life. I NEVER go close to wells in gardens just in case Boogie Men are in them too!
Another thing I remember about the Wiebes was that Mom and Aunt Viola seemed to be in constant competition. Who had the most kids? Whose kids did the best: at anything and everything. When Loey was born I knew we were the winners: there were 7 Wiebe kids and 8 of us! Thanks, Loey.
I remember liking the sound of Uncle John's booming, cheerful voice in the mornings when they'd come to visit. We all enjoyed listening to his funny stories, told with his contagious laugh. There are two of them I remember; these are written below--the way I remember them. I was very sad when we heard about his death years later.
The Wiebe kids seemed like an extension of our family. I knew all their full names and birthdays, their personalities. Esther was Phylly's friend, easy-going and kind to us little kids. John was mysterious; I usually had a crush on him. Ruthie was the actress, always trying to get the rest of us to be in a play. Irene was a daredevil, willing to join in risky adventures. David and Paul were constantly in action, thinking of new things to try and willing to put up with girl cousins. The only one I didn't know very well was Marilyn since she wasn't in India when we were there. I remember thinking of her as "Little Marilyn." To us, with our other relatives so far away, the Wiebes represented family and made our lives richer.
Abo, Abo, Abo
Swat. "Abo!" the little guy yelped.
Another swat. "Abo, Abo!" the little guy yelped louder.
A final SWAT. "Abo, Abo, Abo!" came the desperate response once more.
That done, Uncle John put the offender back on his feet and was about to get back into his car when he glanced down. It turned out that his victory was not quite complete. His pant legs were sopping wet.
It was a great evening, and John was having a good time. So good, in fact, that he didn't realize how late it was getting. When he saw how dark it had gotten, he decided he'd better get going---so off he went. As he walked home, he was thinking about the fine time he'd had and, probably, about one or two of the girls that he'd talked with when all of a sudden he noticed a strange noise. He stopped. The noise stopped. He started walking again, slowly. The noise followed him. It was kind of a rustling noise, like someone was trying to follow him undetected. Wary, John started to walk faster, but the sound kept following him and only got faster. Who could be after him? All sorts of wild and scary thoughts filled his mind, and he began to go faster and faster. By the time he came to the woods near his home, he was running---but the sound of his pursuer kept pace with his steps. Panicked, he dashed through the woods, across the farm yard, yanked open the back door and threw himself into a big chair in the kitchen. Safe! He sat there for a long time, breathing hard.
At last he got up and started up for bed. It had been a tiring trip home. Maybe he should tell his parents about the person who had chased him home. As he walked into the living room, his mother looked up from her sewing. "What's that noise?" she asked, glancing around. Then her focus came to the new corduroy pants John was wearing. "It's your new pants, John. They sound a little bit like rubber pants the way the legs rub against each other as you walk. Kind of a rustling sound."
Without a word, John turned and went up to bed.