I had a very enjoyable morning with my father-in-law, Bill, and his older sister this morning, hunting for signs of the old house that their grandparents, J.W. and Mollie, had owned 70 years ago.
The little town of Conway Springs was our hunting grounds. In the early 1940's, Bill, his younger sister, and his parents had moved up from Oklahoma to Wichita so that Bill's father could get a job at Boeing. It was wartime and there was no housing to be found in town, so the family moved in with J.W. and Mollie, their parents/grandparents. All six of them lived together in the house until housing was found for Bill's family in Planeview, about 1 1/2 years later.
As we searched through "Conway", my father-in-law was working hard to reconcile his teenage memories with the reality of the town so many decades later. He did a fantastic job. At times I could almost feel the town as it was then. We drove around, first going by the block where Bill felt that the house should have been, then exploring the rest of the town a bit. Finally we went back by the home's street again, driving up and down, looking for signs of which piece of property it had been on.
After about our 5th time cruising slowly up and down the street, a woman came out of one of the houses to ask us if we were lost. When we explained what we were doing, she volunteered that there was an old house behind the newer house on the property next to her's. We were welcome to drive into her driveway and go back there to see if it was the one we were looking for.
It definitely was the right house! I recognized the outline of the living room windows and the vintage of the house from photos I'd seen. Unfortunately, though, it's obviously been uninhabited for years and its condition is terminally dilapidated. Nonetheless, it was interesting to get a feel for the house, its location in respect to the town, and its small size but pleasant setting. As we looked at it, my father-in-law recalled that his bed had been just inside the front door, in the living room.
Apparently J.W. was a perennial "horse-trader". Not literally, but he was always trading houses, even jobs, looking for a better situation for himself and his family. This was their last home; when they left this house, they were in their 80's. Mollie was in poor health, and so they moved in with Bill's parents. Within a year or two, grandmother Mollie passed away. Seven years later, J.W., too, was dead.
After finding the remains of the house, we decided to drive into Wichita and find J.W.'s and Mollie's graves. Again, Bill knew approximately where they were, but couldn't remember the exact location. It took a little searching, but we were ultimately successful.
Listening to Bill and Virginia share memories, I could get a sense of the vibrancy of the times they were recalling, even though the traces left are fading fast. It's hard not to think about what traces of today will still be around in a further 70 years, as time moves inexorably on.