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Let's get acquainted

Since I've been asked to write for the Generations page on a monthly basis, I thought I would introduce myself starting with the time I was in my youth. I was born and raised in Ellis County to August "Gus" and Helen (Pfeifer) Befort. They named me Alberta. Since then, I've married and my name is Alberta Klaus. If my name sounds familiar, it's probably because you remember me as the Ellis County clerk from January 1997 to January.

Some of my childhood recollections consist of living on a farm southwest of Hays, making mud pies and playing with my doll. Taming the baby kittens and petting our cats and dogs was a favorite pastime.

When I reached 8 years of age, I entered the milking business. This was done every morning around 6 a.m. and every evening around 5 p.m. This task of milking by hand is easy once you learn how to do it. We sat on T-shaped stools and hobbled the cows so we wouldn't get hit by their tails or be kicked. This didn't always work the way it was supposed to. Sometimes the tail came undone, and when that hard tail hit your head, it wasn't too pleasant. Sometimes the cows kicked and our bucket of milk spilled. This was a family activity consisting of my parents, two brothers (George and Jim) and myself. Once done milking, we separated the cream from the milk, fed the baby calves, slopped the hogs, fed the chickens and gathered the eggs.

By now, we've worked up an appetite for breakfast. My mom was a good cook and made us a good hot breakfast and, if we wanted to eat cereal, there was Post Toasties Corn Flakes with cold milk. Do you remember when they put prizes, such as a package of marbles, into the cereal boxes? I still have a few of those marbles. I think I liked the prize as much as I enjoyed the cereal.

After breakfast, it was time to go to our country school, which was open from September through April. First, we went to church at 8 a.m., then to school for religion class and finally our public school day began at 9 a.m. and ended about 4 p.m. There were four boys and three girls in my class. At recess, everyone in the eight grades went out to play. Remember outdoor toilets? We used them at school and at home until I was 12.

One thing that sticks out about grade school was field day. We would go to Hays and visit different sites, such as Fort Hays State University's Sternberg Museum of Natural History, Coca Cola Bottling Co. and XL Potato Chips House. Before summer recess, we would have a fun day playing games.

Probably when I was 10 years old, my parents bought me a new Schwinn girls two-wheel bike. That was such a nice gift until I got caught in the sand row along the road and flipped the bike. I had scratches, bruises and a chipped front tooth. Ouch, that hurt.

We did not have television until I was about 12 years old. Our programs consisted of what was playing on NBC or CBS, but I remember once watching part of the World Series baseball game on TV at the Antonino Hall during part of our school day. We must have done that during noon recess. Of course, the Dodgers were playing the Yankees.

We made homemade root beer when I was young. It was delicious. Root beer is still my favorite pop.

Living back in the '40s and '50s in the country, our air conditioning consisted of opening the windows, so things got mighty dirty. Guess what? I was the duster. I also helped do the laundry with an old wringer washer, wash tubs and washboard. Remember that bluing agent we used to get whites white and lye soap? We hung the clean wash on an outdoor wash line. There was no automatic washer or dryer back than. When the clothes were dry, Mom or I brought the laundry back into the house to fold and prepare to iron. I learned to iron by ironing hankies, towels and pillow cases.

Here's another thing I remember. Dad and my brothers drove the tractor to cultivate the fields. Oh how I wanted to do that, so after much festering Dad let me drive the tractor while he ate lunch. It was exciting and scary. I think it also scared my parents.

One other thing that stands out when I was in grade school, I took piano and accordion lessons. That is one of many good things my parents encouraged me to do. I still play both instruments. Life was simple and good.

To be continued ...

Alberta Klaus is a contributor to The Hays Daily News Generations advisory group.