Reunion picnics are part of the crazy patchwork quilt of our childhood. When we were young, my siblings and I measured the progression of summer by the family reunions we attended.
For us, summer began with the Memorial Day Picnic. This reunion always started with the obligatory visit to the Silver Lake Cemetery where my mother’s father’s parents and grandparents were buried. The anual family picnic started in the 1890’s as a celebration of my GGG-Grandmother Elizabeth’s May birthday. When Mother’s Day became an annual event, her children got together with her the second Sunday in May. After WWI and the Memorial Day observation began, the reunion date moved again. The reunion had moved from the G-G-G parent’s farm to the shelter house in the Rossville Park near the high school and wonderful old ball diamond with a wooden viewing stand. Lots of softball games with old and young were played there. The playground next to the shelter house was pretty awesome, too. My mom remembered playing there when she was young. The slide was huge and had wooden rails. I was always terrified and went home with lots of splinters.
Every summer, Aunt Mary and her family made a visit from Massachusetts. There were several family picnics and outings with my Mom’s family. Those picnics always seemed to be around my Cousin Pam’s birthday. I am thinking she may be the only cousin with a July birthday. If I am wrong, someone will let me know shortly!
The next family reunion was the first weekend in August in Alta Vista, Kansas. This was my Grandma Dorothy’s annual reunion. GGMa Myrtle’s siblings, cousins and descendants were at this picnic. The Alta Vista Park had a huge water tower a short distance from the shelter house where the reunion was always held. We were always trying to climb the water tower. My brother made it to the top once. This was the same brother who climbed over the side of the suspension bridge at the Royal Gorge when he was four. I remember wondering why my parents seemed so surprised and upset about the water tower incident when he was nine. What did they expect? He did survive both incidents. Mostly, I remember how hot a Kansas August is and wondering what the adults were thinking. The best Kansas August reunion was the time cousins came from Washington D.C. We went to someone’s farm. It was cooler there, we had the best time playing in the barn and under the trees and there was a new cousin my age.
The annual family reunion marking the end of summer was held the first weekend in September. As previously reported, Grandpa K, my dad’s dad, had 10 siblings spread throughout the US. The Topeka brothers and their families had their picnic Labor Day weekend at the Gage Park shelter house closest to the zoo. Sometimes out-of-town siblings and/or their families would show. This reunion often involved a zoo visit and maybe a last-weekend-of-the-summer swim at the big park pool.
This past weekend was the Memorial Day picnic. My sister called me on the way home from Rossville. They had a great time. I waxed nostalgic for a few minutes, remembering really good times. After we hung up, I made tuna and egg salad sandwiches, four bean salad and brownies.
Excuse me. There is iced tea and food to eat outside in the heat with bugs and humidity. There is not a playground in our backyard, the covered swing in the backyard will have to do. BTW, my mother’s birthday is in July…. lemon cake…. ice cream .…… yum …..
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