Hannig-Kellar, Flora Interview, 1981 March 27. OH-00784. [Transcript.] Oral History Research Center, Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.
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UNLV University Libraries Flora Hannig-Keller i An Interview with Flora Hannig-Keller An Oral History Conducted by Michael D. Taylor Ralph Roske Oral History Project on Early Las Vegas Special Collections and Archives Oral History Research Center University Libraries University of Nevada, Las Vegas UNLV University Libraries Flora Hannig-Keller ii © Ralph Roske Oral History Project on Early Las Vegas University of Nevada, Las Vegas, 2019 UNLV University Libraries Flora Hannig-Keller iii The Oral History Research Center (OHRC) was formally established by the Board of Regents of the University of Nevada System in September 2003 as an entity of the UNLV University Libraries’ Special Collections Division. The OHRC conducts oral interviews with individuals who are selected for their ability to provide first-hand observations on a variety of historical topics in Las Vegas and Southern Nevada. The OHRC is also home to legacy oral history interviews conducted prior to its establishment including many conducted by UNLV History Professor Ralph Roske and his students. This legacy interview transcript received minimal editing, such as the elimination of fragments, false starts, and repetitions in order to enhance the reader's understanding of the material. All measures have been taken to preserve the style and language of the narrator. The interviewee/narrator was not involved in the editing process. UNLV University Libraries Flora Hannig-Keller iv Abstract On March 27th, 1981, collector Michael D. Taylor interviewed housewife Flora Hannig-Keller (born January 24th, 1902 in Washington, Utah) in Henderson, Nevada. This interview is Flora Hannig-Keller’s personal account on growing up in Nevada. She discusses home and family life and local social and recreational activities. During the interview Mrs. Hannig-Keller also shares some of the poetry she wrote about Nevada and her family, specifically her children and grandchildren.UNLV University Libraries Flora Hannig-Keller 1 Let’s see, this is a test and I’m just seeing if this recorder works. Good afternoon, my name is Michael Taylor and I’m here today with Flora Hanning-Keller at her residence at 234 Nebraska Avenue in Henderson, Nevada. And well, Mrs. Keller, can you tell me when you were born and approximately where? I was born in Washington, Utah, in 1902, January the 24th. And what age, could you tell me did you move here to Nevada? Well, I’ve lived in Nevada most of my life. I lived in Northern Nevada when I was, oh, probably three or four years old when we moved from—to Southern Nevada. And we came by covered wagon. And it took us a full month to go from a place they called Fairview in (Unintelligible) my dad freighted on the freight road to haul ore, you know. Uh-huh. And it was a mining camp though, where we lived and my mother didn’t think that was a very good place to bring up four little girls. So she talked my father into moving to Southern Nevada to Mesquite. And it took us a full month by covered wagon to come there. A full month. And did you pack your whole belongings and household and everything? Oh yes. Yes. Everything. Uh-huh. Yes. And there was—you were the youngest of four girls? No. I wasn’t. I was, yes. I was the youngest of four girls. Uh-huh. But I had a brother, younger. Three years younger than me. Was he old enough to drive the wagon, or? Oh no, he was only, I was only about five years old and he was only about three or two. I see. UNLV University Libraries Flora Hannig-Keller 2 When we came. So then I started to school in Mesquite when I was six year old, went to kindergarten there. What were the schools like? Were they one room schoolhouses? Or? Well, we had probably six or seven classes in one room, you know. Uh-huh. From the first grade on up clear to the eighth grade (unintelligible). Quite a bit. And how far would you say you had to approximately walk to school? Well, my folks had a farm, it was about four miles from the schoolhouse. And my older sisters walked to school but they thought that was a little bit far for me to walk. (Laughs) So I stayed in the—at my uncle’s and he only lived about a mile and a half from the schoolhouse. I stayed with them that whole first winter. I see. What did your father do in Mesquite? Well, he tried to farm but he wasn’t a farmer and he didn’t like farming. Uh-huh. And so he had a grape vineyard and in 1910 there was a flood came down the Virgin River and it took that vineyard away overnight. The grapes were just ready to harvest and they’d get out there and load as many as they could in the wagon and the ground would start cracking, why, they’d move back. And the next week the cowboys picked grapes off of our vines clear down by Saint Thomas. They—they’d go down the river after a flood, you know, and pull a cattle out of the mud. Uh-huh. UNLV University Libraries Flora Hannig-Keller 3 And they said they picked, picked grapes off of vines and they were our vines. (Laughs) that lost down. There were still—still grapes on ‘em. That’s something. So dad got discouraged and he went back to the freight road when, that’s when we came—we moved to Saint Thomas then. And they hauled—he hauled ore from Grand Gulch Mine to the railroad depot there and sent to always be shipped out. This was ore as you’re talking, wagons with pulling the ore? Yes. Uh-huh. Yes. And so we—and I’ve, I started to—or I went, I was in Fifth grade when we moved to Saint Thomas. And I went to—they organized a high school in Overton. And I was one of the first students in Overton High School. One of the charter students and we rode what we called the churn. It was a hard rubber tired truck, really. (Laughs) (Laughs) It—you know, we rode that and when we—if we were ever unprepared with our lessons, well, we’d tell the teacher. We knew it when we left home but they’d jolt it out of us, on th way up there. (Laughs) (Laughs) I had the same problem. (Laughs) So, and I’ve got—I graduated from high school in Overton in ’21. In 1921? Mm-hmm. Could you tell me what you did with yourself after you graduated from Overton? Did you stay in Saint Thomas? Or did you—? I married when—the year after I graduated from high school, I married. Uh-huh. UNLV University Libraries Flora Hannig-Keller 4 Yes. And where was your husband from? He was from California. He came there and my dad had a little station there in Saint Thomas and we had a garage where they repaired cars and my husband was the mechanic. And he got a job there and that’s where I met him. I see. He was working for my dad. Were there many cars in the state during the, those years? Well, it—when I was a little girl, we lived in Mesquite. We heard that there was an automobile coming through and we all lined the road, just like you would for a parade, you know. (Laughs) To see that car because it was unusual for a car to come by. And I bragged about—well, my oldest sisters had ridden in one of those. I see. (Laughs) When we lived in Northern Nevada, they, they rode one time, somebody took ‘em to school in a car and I thought that was great. You said you lived in California for ten to twelve years. When you moved back to Nevada where did you and your husband move to? I left my husband. I divorced him. Mm-hmm. And I came back to Nevada to be with my folks after—and my oldest daughter was ten. What year was it that Saint Thomas was flooded out by Hoover Dam? Were you living there or? UNLV University Libraries Flora Hannig-Keller 5 Well. We had, my folks had sold, and everybody had sold their land to the government. Uh-huh. And moved out. And I was back in the valley when the water was coming up. We used to—my second husband and I, we’d drive down to the lake just about every night and put a stick in the ground to see, and measure to see how far up the water come each day. And it flooded the whole—you know, the, they cut down the trees and tore down the buildings and everything. And we had a reunion down there about seven years after the lake had covered the town, why the water receded and all the foundations and everything was left there and we had a Saint Thomas reunion of people that lived there, met down there at the school, where the schoolhouse had been and we had a program. I’m sure that must have been some emotional impact to lose your home and everywhere you grew up as a small child to say that you can’t go home no more. Yes. It’s kind of, it’s kind of bad that you can’t go back and the only—you have that town in your memory but you can’t go see it anymore. I see. That—makes it kind of bad. I’m sure it does. I wrote a poem about, oh, one of these programs asked me to write something about Saint Thomas and I wrote a poem about that. Would you care to share that with me? About eight years after the water of Lake Mead had covered Saint Thomas, the lake receded and the town site was dry. The former citizens held a reunion. Flora Hannig-Keller was asked to give a sketch of the people of Saint Thomas. So she wrote this poem: UNLV University Libraries Flora Hannig-Keller 6 Come with me and reminisce of things that used to be and things as they are now I never thought I’d see. When I was just a little girl and lived in Saint Thomas Town, I never thought it would be a lake, a lake of great renown. I never thought I’d ever see boats sailing up the street, to catch a fish while in a tree would seem to some a feat. Remember sliding down Clay Hill, a shouting, and a smiling? Whoever thought that, that same hill would someday be an island? I can’t forget the old schoolhouse, they had to tear it down. Because the waters of Lake Mead were going to flood the town. But there is where we gathered at schools, and church and all. For weddings and for funerals and many a festive ball. Remember when in high school to Overton we went to learn, the hard tire truck we rode in, we rightly called the Churn. That song, dear hearts and (unintelligible) people (unintelligible) Saint Thomas. ‘Cause they are dear who yet are here and those who have gone promised. Remember brother Gentry, with his humor and his wit. Whenever a prank was played on one he was a part of it. He’d rather play a joke then eat. He was so full of fun. His store, the place where friends would meet. He was loved by everyone. Then there was Martin A. Bunker, a very pious man. His only real ambition was to help the gospel plan. You all know the Bunker family, albeit there is Brian L. who is loved by all the Mormons and other folks, as well. Berkeley made the senate. It seems just yesterday, I saw him barefoot, stride a horse, so carefree and so gay. There are others of Saint Thomas of which I ought to mention. But I’d keep you listening all day and that’s not my intention. Dear to us, was Bishop Gibson, you all know Robert O. took a special interest in us, the right way would have a grow. Do you remember a little bachelor on the corner, quite a fella. Always at the dance you’d see him, course you do, it was Frank Vanilla. Don’t forget, George L. Whitney, he is still going strong. Recently a wife he’s taken, he’s not old, just been here long. There were many other dear ones, if more time I only had. Many are the things I’d tell you of my mother dear and dad. We UNLV University Libraries Flora Hannig-Keller 7 were like one big family—each one interested in the other. Helping out in times of trouble like a sister or a brother. This big family was scattered. Some went far and some are near. Each one has a place in memory. Memories we all hold dear. So to me this spot is sacred. Memories will last always. Gone now is my dear Saint Thomas. Gone too are my girlhood days. Gone are many friends and neighbors, to that far and distant land and we bow our heads in memory as on this (unintelligible) spot we stand. That is beautiful, Flora. (Laughs) And how old were you when you wrote that? Well, it was—I was about thirty-six. Thirty-six? That is absolutely beautiful. In fact I was married a second time. I got this thing full of poems I’ve written. I see. You write many poems about Nevada? No. I have written—that’s about the only one but I’ve got, I think I’ve got one about when— That was beautiful Flora. Flora could you tell me what you did here in Nevada as, occupation-wise? Well, I was a housewife. That speaks for itself, just taking care of my—I have had four children but I’ve lost two. I had a little girl die through a tonsillectomy and a little boy, my only little boy, drowned, when he was six years old. And I—my husband and I—my second, that’s my second husband, we went—we were up near Mercury courts, up near Mercury, where the Mercury camp is. Uh-huh. UNLV University Libraries Flora Hannig-Keller 8 And we sold rock, white rock, crushed rock for—the roofing rock for the Collins Roofing Company. And I worked out in the sun just with the men. Just like the men. Uh-huh. Everyday. And before that though, before he got the mine, why, I took care of my grandchildren, Beth and, well, Wally had gone in business with Frank—with George Cromer. And Beth was a bookkeeper (unintelligible) and I took care of the children from the time the first one was born I was there, you know. And took care of those children. And then later when Beth and Wally separated I still stayed and took care of the children. And then when he got a housekeeper I’d go in about three days a week and then I cut it down to two and then to one. But in the summertime, I’d go up to the cabin and take care of those kids. We’d—that was my main, main job was to see that they were fed and their clothes were washed and everything. And we’d go—we’d pack a lunch and go hiking just about every day. In other words I don’t think there’s any place with a radius of five miles around there that I haven’t been over that (unintelligible). (Laughs) That sounds great. And we’d play games, play duck on the rock and I was about sixty-five then. (Laughs) Duck on a rock? Is that a—? A game. We’d put, you know, we’d put a rock, everybody would have a rock for their (unintelligible) just a good size one that you could hold in your hand. And then, somebody would be the duck. And they’d have—they’d put their, their rock on another rock and you’d try to knock it off. Throw your rock and knock it off and if you—if you knocked it off, why then the guy that was the duck had to catch you before he could pick your rock up and get back to the line. UNLV University Libraries Flora Hannig-Keller 9 (Laughs) And if he caught you why then you were the duck. And we used to play that a lot. That sounds like fun. But my—I took care of my grandkids and when Beth went to the hospital and came home with twins I wrote a poem about a grandmamma of twins. Oh, could you read that for me, please? A Grandmamma of Twins. This was written January the 31st, 1960. Sister dear please tell me what am I to do? We expected one baby but today we got us two. I went to bed late last night a freezing to my shins. I woke up very early a grandmamma of twins. That’s only two babies, yes, only two I’m sure. But what do you mean only two, we already had four. When little Wally came along, oh, happy wasn’t more. Nine long years we waited for Wally to be born. In less than two years after that, along came Vicky Marie. A sweeter little baby girl, I never hoped to see. Then next came Ricky Kevin, our humble home to bless. An angel straight from Heaven. He is that more or less. Babies dear precious babies, they are that, it is true. Their virtues are so many, their faults so very few. But when they get older, some changes do appear. Much trouble they cause me but still to me they’re dear. Yes. Babies we have here, one, two, and three. We find we still had plenty room for dear sweet Cheryl Lee. I’m only the grandmother, so why now should I fret, if it does more children should Beth and Wally beget? Multiply and the earth replenish and also it (unintelligible). This commandment God gave to us, but not only to a few. Now please don’t be mistaken and accuse me of such sins, to think I do not welcome, these precious little twins. I feel I am big hearted and my shoulders they are broad. We are twice blessed today, for these babies we thank God. Then there’s a postscript to this. I read this poem to the kids and Mark began to cry. Because he was excluded and understood not why. Darling, don’t you UNLV University Libraries Flora Hannig-Keller 10 remember? That you were up in Heaven. Almost two years later you came to make the number seven. (Laughs) That is beautiful, Flora. We’d sit around with the kids, take their turn going up and having their bath and getting in their pajamas. Then come down and sit around the fireplace. It was always cold enough there, up there in the summer to have a fire at night in the fireplace. Uh-huh. And I would read to ‘em and I taught the girls to crochet and knit and we spent a lot of time—every evening we, we sat around the fire and visited and I read, I don’t know how many books, I’d get an armful of books every time I’d go up there, you know, from the library and read to them. How far did the children travel to school from where you were living there? Well, this would be in the summertime when we were up there at the cabin. Oh I see. Up on the Cedar Mountain. Uh-huh. Up on Mammoth Creek. They have a—they still have their cabin up there. They call it a cabin but it’s a two-story building. But we had many a good time up there and I—one night Mark, he’s the youngest one. Mm-hmm. He didn’t want to take a bath, you know, boys. (Laughs) Boys that age they—he wasn’t dirty. He’d been playing out in the dirt all day but he didn’t—but I insisted on him taking a bath and he UNLV University Libraries Flora Hannig-Keller 11 wasn’t going to. And I said, “Alright, you go out to bed.” And you can’t hear this story tonight. So he went out, and he, they had, they call it a guesthouse but that’s where the boys slept. They had bunk beds out there. And so he went out to bed and yes, I told him he couldn’t hear the story if he wouldn’t mind me. So pretty soon he—I heard the door creak open. And under the stairway where we sat—“None of you children have ever told me you didn’t love me” But, I said, “Mark told me tonight, he didn’t love me and he wished I’d go home and stay there.” And I said, “So tomorrow Wally, I want you to go down to the lake and call your daddy, on the phone and tell him to come and get me to take me home. But I don’t like to stay where I’m not loved. And Mark doesn’t want me.” Pretty soon I heard, crying, (Laughs) and he come, come up there and he put his arms around me, “Grandma, I didn’t mean it, I do too love you.” (Laughs) (Laughs) So, that was—we were friends then. Uh-huh. And he went up and took his bath and (Laughs) so we were friends again. Can I just ask you to do a little more regression and back to let’s say, prior to the World War One. Could you tell me a little things, how the feelings were, the people here in Nevada and what they were trying to do on their part? Well, most everybody that I knew that was old enough went, joined the Army, you know. Uh-huh. And we had hard times of, you know, the money was scarce and we never did go really, really, our family never did go really hungry, but we had, there was times when we had bread and milk and that was about all we had to eat. Was there a whole lot of gambling here in the state during those periods? UNLV University Libraries Flora Hannig-Keller 12 Well, I guess there was over here in Las Vegas. Uh-huh. There was still—and my dad used to drive a little, a truck that he’d come over and haul ice. He hauled ice from Las Vegas to—over to Saint Thomas to keep the drinks cold and make ice cream and stuff. (Laughs) And one time he, it was in the middle of the summer and Fremont Street wasn’t even paved then. And he went to a friend of his and wanted him to come and pull him out of the mud. He was stuck in the mud on Fremont Street. (Laughs) And this fellow said, “No way!” They hadn’t had any new rain for a long while and he—and he knew that my dad had been drinking and the thought he was just imagining things. But he wouldn’t—he wouldn’t take no for an answer, so he went with him, to prove to him that he wasn’t stuck in the mud. Well, he had loaded this truck up with ice, big blocks of ice. And then he’d gone into one of those gambling places and gambled all night. And he was stuck in the mud. (Laughs) It was sunk clear down to the running board to the truck. (Laughs) Wow. And he had to get a team to pull him out of the mud. So he was (Laughs) (Laughs) He was stuck in the middle of summer. (Laughs) He was stuck in the mud down on Fremont Street. That sounds interesting. In Las Vegas when Fremont Street wasn’t paved— UNLV University Libraries Flora Hannig-Keller 13 Uh-huh. And they came over here and they stayed in a dormitory and went to school and my oldest sister worked for—I cannot even think of the name. My next eldest sister worked for Van (Unintelligible) and my eldest sister, they worked and went to school, they stayed at the dormitory at night. And that must have been in about 1918, 1917, or 1918. ‘Cause I graduated in ’21 and—from, they, I think they started that high school in Overton in 1918. So, but my, they didn’t have a school in the valley when my oldest sisters were going to high school, so they came over here to Las Vegas to go to school. Sounds great. And Fremont wasn’t even paved, wasn’t a paved street. Yes. Do you recall when electricity first came to this part of the state? When what? Electricity. Electricity. Well, must’ve been about the time I was married—well, no, I guess we had, we had electricity before in about ’19, ’18 in Saint Thomas. Because—well, my dad had, he had a motor, you know, and he made electricity for the station for the service station and all, the little store and we made our own ice cream and it was run by motor, you know. What exactly did people of Saint Thomas do for a living? Were they farmers or? Yes. Most of them are farmers. I see. Some of them are interested in mine, you know. Mm-hmm. UNLV University Libraries Flora Hannig-Keller 14 Hauled ore. But most of them are farmers. They raised tomato plants and shipped them out all over, you know. The tomatoes would get a good start because it was warm in this neck of the woods. Mm-hmm. And they’d—and then asparagus was another crop that they raised a lot of. And there was farmers in Overton that they raised all kinds of vegetables and they’d put a picks of package, be about so big box, of all kinds of vegetables and I think they sold them for a dollar and shipped them out, you know, for a dollar. You’d get lettuce and radishes and onions and everything imaginable in that box for a dollar. (Laughs) I see. And they raised cantaloupes. So that was a good crop in the valley. They—everybody, nearly everybody raised cantaloupes and they shipped ‘em out and the train had come down and pick up the course, the people who worked and packed the cantaloupes in the crates and then load ‘em in these box cars and once a day the train would come down and pick ‘em up. And us kids used to, down at the corner of the box cars where the ice water dripped, you know, we’d get a burlap sack and put over and have ice cold cantaloupes. (Laughs) (Laughs) We just practically lived on the cantaloupe. (Laughs) (Laughs) And we’d congregate up there about time for the train to come and the conductor would let us ride around the Y. That was a thrilled, you know, to get (unintelligible). We’d get our cantaloupes nice and cold while we was waiting for the train to come. (Laughs) UNLV University Libraries Flora Hannig-Keller 15 That was the highlight of the day was to ride around the Y on the train. (Laughs) It sounds fantastic. You want? Yes. Mrs. Keller told by Betch Carson: About one block from our neighborhood there lives a lady who’s true and good. Sometime ago she stubbed her toe, which makes it rough when she’s on the go. She’s full of pep and vivacity but she overrates her capacity to do the things that should, that need to be done. So (unintelligible) don’t help her none. She’s far too active to put on the shelf. In doing for others, she forgets herself. For which we admire her very much. But she shouldn’t be working and standing and such. We tried to advise her but she doesn’t mind. She’s what is called the independent kind. So in order to curb her energy, we have to declare an emergency. We have to go up and slow her down, so she won’t continue to go to town. And do the work of two or three. That’s the only solution that we can see. And then—My Friend: I have someone I like so much. His friends and neighbors call him Dutch. To me he is a friend indeed. I call on him in time of need—to fix a pipe and stop a sink. He is so very wise I think. And when my goings rough and hard. I use him for a sounding board. He listens to my woes and grief in pilling them I get relief. I think he’s very wise but still he doesn’t know a daffodil from a narcissist. And called he a flowering quince. My best peach tree. When I broke my little toe, he was a friend to me, you know. He wrote me poetry, my land, and offered band to hold my hand. Now he expects the same from me because he has a twisted knee. So Dutch a rose bouquet I’ll send and hope to always be your friend. UNLV University Libraries Flora Hannig-Keller 16 That’s beautiful. (Laughs) He called me up and wanted me to write a poem about him because he’d written one about me. Uh-huh. And I took him a bouquet of roses over there. Well, Flora, I have just a few more questions and one was could you tell me where your family was originally from? Were they immigrants? Or were they Native Americans? Well, my grandfather, my grandfather came from Denmark and my dad was born in Denmark in Amberg, in Amberg, Germany. And they came to this country when my dad was just six weeks old. But my mother’s, my mother’s side of the family was born here, far as I know. They didn’t come from a foreign country. I see. But I don’t know, my grandparents on me mother’s side, I—they probably always lived here. (Laughs) I don’t know that they were immigrants. I see. And I just have one complaint to relate: Now I don’t want to be making a fuss but that little old door at the rear of the bus swings open too often and I want to cuss. So keep that door closed at the rear of the bus. Now you who are sitting up front it is neat. You breathe in the air so fresh pure and sweet. If you need relief just go, just head for the brush and padlock that door at the rear of the bus. (Laughs) (Laughs) That’s great. UNLV University Libraries Flora Hannig-Keller 17 (Laughs) That’s beautiful. I think with that, I think I have enough and I would like to thank you very much. Okay. Well. I hope that it’s okay. I’m sure it is. Thank you. Yes. One of my hobbies is quilting. Yes. Before I leave I notice you have this large quilt setting in your living room. Looks like it’s taking up your whole living room. Just wondering if you might have a little story about this little hobby of yours. (Laughs) I don’t spend my time playing bingo, for to me, it’s a waste of time. I don’t meet friends for a game of bridge in that there’s no reason or rhyme. Let me go to a quilting party. Or I may put one on at home. For whenever I have a quilt on, I do not care to roam. So far my friends and relations I have made quilts by the score. My daughters, granddaughters, and grandsons, and I probably will make many more. In our fifth ward every new baby has received a shawl or a quilt. If I happen to overlook someone I have a feeling of guilt. So as long as my fingers are nimble and my eyes are able to see, give me thread, needle, and thimble, for quilting means so much to me. Definitely, and I can certainly tell that. (Laughs) (Laughs) Yes sir. Well, again, Flora, I’ve definitely ‘gotta run. Okay. (Laughs) UNLV University Libraries Flora Hannig-Keller 18 Well, I’m glad— (Tape ends)