This page was last updated 6 Sept 2011 -- rak.

Reserved his photo

Walter Raymond Kraus was born 29 July 1912 to Elizabeth Christene (Beltz) and John Henry Kraus at their farm in Sego Township south of Arlington, Reno County, Kansas. I do not know what inspired dad's names. So far I have not found either name used anywhere in any of dad's ancestral branches, nor have I found any Walter or Raymond families in either Reno or Marion County. At age 82, his mother told me she named him after some famous "radio guy" named Walter Raymond ... but commercial radio did not begin until eight years after dad's birth! So this remains a mystery.

In those days youngsters had to take on farm chores from a very early age, so one learned to work! And of course there was some time to play as well as to fight! Dad, and his siblings, especially his sisters, loved to tell stories about their fights -- some of which sounded very violent to me.

Granddad used horse and mule teams for power when he first started farming. He began shifting to tractors about the time I was born and sold his last horse, despite my protests and tears, when I was five. The Kraus farm was a wheat farm, but some feed and hay crops were also raised. There were always a few cows, mostly Holsteins, although always one Jersey cow so grandmother always had good cream to cook with. From the time I could walk I helped grandmother run the "separator", a machine which separated cream from milk, after each milking. There were also chickens both for eggs and meat. Whenever I was staying on the farm, grandmother would hand her chicken feeding and egg-gathering responsibilities off to me.

Back to the cows -- milking was usually dad's task, which he hated -- two wrists mangled in football in his mid to late teen years, surely made this an awful and painful responsibility. Dad loathed it so much that from very early on, his life goal was to escape the farm -- which he did after high school.

Even though farm work always took priority, there was time for schooling. Dad attended two, and possibly three, different one-room rural schools during his eight years of elementary school. Lunches brought from home were a feature of these schools. The family did not always have the wherewithall to send a lunch with dad. When lunch could be sent with him, the standard lunch was a "sandwich". And the standard sandwich was a slice of homemade bread, smeared liberally with lard, and topped by a couple of spoonsful of beans. These beans would usually be navy beans, sometimes kidney beans. Having escaped those "sandwiches", to his dying day dad could not stomach the idea of eating such beans no matter how they were prepared.

As dad's older brother, Harvey, grew and moved up to harder chores, dad would inherit both Harvey's earlier chores and his clothes. New clothes were a pretty rare thing during dad's childhood. Grandmother (who had worked as a seamstress prior to marriage) would sew dresses, primarily from feed sacks, for dad's two sisters, but sewing work clothes for the boys was a more difficult thing. As for the feed sacks, firms that sold farmers feed for livestock, competed not just on the basis of the quality of their products but also on the basis of the colorful patterns in the cloth used for the feed sacks.

Secondary school meant Arlington High School. Unlike his older brother who was pulled out of school to help with the farm, dad graduated. However, as his mother used to remind him when she thought he was "getting too big for his britches", it took him five years to do it -- too much missed time doing necessary farm work. Dad's graduating class was the largest AHS class prior to my graduating class.

Aside from academic work, dad pursued athletics -- and managed to break both wrists playing football -- wrists that never got set quite right. I suspect he also pursued the gals pretty assiduously -- photos taken during high school show a pretty slick dude, quite concerned with his looks. And the gals must have responded pretty entusiastically. There was some level of resentment of mom on the part of Arlington women, and I always thought it was because this gorgeous woman from elsewhere came to town and snatched dad up when all the time several local gals had plans for him.

After graduation, dad headed west with a friend to try out California. The friend liked it and stayed, at least a while. Dad returned to Arlington, got a job with an electrician. In those days, electricity was new in our area and an "electrician" did everything from stringing wire on the poles, to wiring a house, to doing repairs. During that time, dad met mom, and after a reasonable time they were married. The electrician job was very dangerous -- several guys got fried. Mom laid down the law -- you have got to find some other job and quit this dangerous work.

Well mom got part of her wish. Dad quit the electrician job and got one driving gasoline tankers -- probably even more dangerous than the prior job. Roads were narrow, most bridges were barely one lane wide, and the tankers were huge. One wrong decision and BOOM!~!! But dad was a very good driver and got better with each trip. After a year or so he was hired by Philipps 66 to drive their trucks. This meant moving to Wichita, Kansas, and a steady, dependable salary. Then, after three years or so, he bid on a Philipps pipeline pump station job and got it. Much safer. Mom was very pleased. Very shortly, he was assigned to help run a Philipps 66 pump station in north central Missouri. It was deep in the back woods with housing supplied for a crew of about ten just east of the metropolis of Florence, Missouri, which boasted a sign saying "Population 10"! This was high priority war effort work, so dad did not serve in the military in WWII.

The work went well and the whole family loved life in the woods, however, dad really wanted to be back in Arlington, Kansas, and he wanted to run his own business. So when the "Home Mercantile" -- a grocery store with an attached frozen locker plant -- came up for sale, he and his youngest sister's husband, Conrad Helsel, borrowed enough money from an old family friend, Wes VanRiper, to purchase the store. So we were back in Arlington, where dad's mom had been living for several years following granddad's death.

Over the years, in succession, a booming egg buying business was added, the locker plant was shut down, as local farm production fell they stopped buying eggs, the business was moved to a building with 4 to 5 times the floor space and the store was expanded to the point where it was a full-service small super market which competed toe to toe with the super markets in nearby (17 miles) Hutchinson, the name was changed to "H and K Grocery", dad bought uncle Connie out, the name was again changed (to Walt's Market).

During all the years the loan was being repaid, we had almost no cash income but we had plenty to eat! Then as dad approached his 60s he paid off the loan and they (mom, dad and my brother John -- I had long since gone on to college) began to be able to live much more than other folk did. Before he reached 65, dad was made a very good offer which he accepted. Mom was still teaching school, so there was income. So dad invested most of the money he got for the store in equal parts with three brokers, all of whom had previously been salesmen from whom dad purchased the goods he sold. These three he had learned over the years to trust. That trust paid off royally!!

During most of his adult life dad maintained two vices (i.e. two pleasures). More often than not he had a cigarette in hand and a cop of hot, black coffee nearby. I guess these made a pretty bad impression on me. I hated the smell of both of them and never in my life puffed a puff or sipped a sip. Dad tried to quit smoking many times, but finally, after he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, he went cold turkey and never smoked again.

Dad in public never met a person he did not like and could not talk up. Most people saw him as a very happy, upbeat kind of guy. Privately he was severely manic depressive and was often down, way down. Mom was his glue. She was incredibly adept at teasing him, cheering him, goading him, seducing him, whatever it took to get him back on track dealing effectively with life's challenges.

Even though he worked incredible hours, seven days a week, dad found time for plenty of public service which included the Republican city committee, the Town Council, the Methodist board of trustees, Boy Scout troop leader, Fire Chief, and being the guy who did all the repair jobs which retired widows in town needed done but could not afford to pay for. In the process he taught my brother and I many skills while setting an example of public service, all of which has served us extremely well. He was a much beloved and successful dad.

Because it was so much a part of dad, I will note that following the death of his father, in each place we lived he always found a surrogate father with whom he was very close. In Wichita it was Mr. Davidson, our landlord. In Missouri, it was the Schroeders, two old German brothers, who were scratching out a life for their families on small farms in the Missouri forest. After we moved back to Arlington, it was Wes Van Riper, the friend of dad's father, who had loaned the money with which to buy the Home Mercantile. 'Poppa' Wes often would show up at the store, don an apron, and go to work doing whatever dad needed done. He was not a spring chicken, but he got things done, and he was always in good humor -- which was a very good thing for dad. Also,like dad, he had known 95% of the customers for decades and loved talking with them -- and that was good for business!

In their retirement both mom and dad took up flying, golf and international travel. They took flying lessons, purchased a small plane, helped build a local landing strip and hanger, flew a great deal, even flying a couple of hundred miles for a cup of coffee when they felt like it. Dad had the pilot's license; mom also had done the training and did much of their navigating.

They both fell in love with golf and played almost every day, often on the local course which they had helped build. They even played in the snow, using bright orange balls. For their 50th wedding anniversary, I gave them a month of golf on the course on Frye Island in Lake Sebago, Maine, while they stayed on the island in our cabin which my eldest son and his first wife had built for us. I thought I had left the course management plenty of money to cover their play -- but they had so much fun, they considerably exceeded my deposit!

At the time, my brother was a pilot for TWA so his parents could fly free or at negligble cost -- anywhere! So travel they did. Just the other day I was reviewing an 8-page typed report which mom did regarding their month-long July 1970 trip to Paris, Lausanne, Geneva, Nairobi and Madrid -- just one of maybe 15 such trips. They always said their favorite place was Switzerland, followed closely by Hawaii.

Dad and mom lived their last couple of years, near us on Cape Cod, in their own apartment within a facility dedicated to care for folks like mom with severe dementia. Dad died in his 86th year. He was a little ticked by that -- his mom had almost made it to 100 and he was expecting a lot more than 86. His death can be ascribed to various causes. My own belief is that he ultimately died of the after effects of the radiation treatments he had received for prostate cancer.

Dad was a very smart man. He went through life deprecating his own intelligence, always maintaining that mom was the brains of the family. Mom was plenty smart, but dad may have been even more so. For instance, he and mom loved to play bridge -- and they won far more often than they lost. Dad continually said he barely knew how to play and that mom was the whiz that enabled them to win so much. He arranged as often as not for her to get the bid and play the hand because "I am not really smart enough to play most hands". This was very good for mom's ego and for their relationship, but it simply was not true. Even as mom began to lose more and more of her mental abilities they continued to win just as often ... In short, the truth was that dad could learn almost anything, could figure out most anything, and, I am convinced, had he had the opportunity for more education would have made a first-rate engineer or whatever else he set himself to.

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