Elsie Johnson

Being born on December 29, 1921, has always been tough on me – everyone is broke and the holiday let down is over!

I was the first born to Elsie and Lewis Honanichl who lived in Perry Iowa. Mom was a school teacher and Dad was a conductor on the Milwaukee R.R. Perry was a farm and R.R. center population 6,000 and about 40 miles from Des Moines, Iowa. It was a prosperous area and all went well until the Great Depression of the 1930’s

By that time our family had expanded to two more daughters and a very welcome son. We lived in a nice two-story home with a half-acre in the back. My parents were both brought up on a farm in Kansas. We kept a large vegetable garden and even a few chickens.

Our neighborhood had an abundance of children. The elementary school, “Roosevelt” was across from our house. The neighborhood was congenial – we played in each other’s yards – hopscotch – jacks – jump rope – hide and seek – shared holiday activity, etc. Our summers were warm – our winters cold and snowy!

My mother thought travel was a wonderful way to educate. My father could get R.R. “passes” so we could ride free. We usually went to Kansas to visit relatives. One summer we all went to the Chicago World’s Fair 1933. I was so impressed by the “Big City”. We even went to the Chicago Theater to see the dancer Sally Rand who danced without any clothes! Needless to say there was lots of blue lighting and smoke and she kept moving huge fans back and forth the which didn’t reveal much, but I was shocked!!

Another year my mother took us to California to visit her Uncle Scott in Pomona. It was a wonderful long train trip. We ate in the dining car and slept in the Pullman car. Uncle Scott had a beautiful ranch where I had my first taste of avocado, oranges and dates picked from a tree. It was an exciting time I’ll never forget. The palm trees, cactus and desert were beautiful.

A trip to Seattle, Washington by train was even more exciting. I had never seen mountains or the Pacific Ocean. We went through the Continental Divide and experienced all the rugged mountain scenery! I still remember those trips!!

As I reached high school age, I also had a good experience. I took piano lessons, dancing lessons, babysat for $.35 an evening, worked at Woolworths on Saturday making $.15 an hour and was lucky to have the job (of course I could buy a nice blouse for a dollar). I was a cheerleader, learned to drive a car and had a valid driver’s license at 13, was in contest chorus and was a member of National Honor Society and worked at the public library part time as a volunteer.

After high school graduation in 1940 I was ready to go to nursing school. I had a scholarship to go to Drake University but money was tight so nursing school seemed to be the correct direction. It was war time. I had a three year course at Grace Hospital in Hutchinson, KS. Since it was a small hospital and wartime, we didn’t have interns so the nursing staff got to do all the IV’s and duties of interns. We were well prepared to graduate and go into the Service. I applied for the Cadet Nurses Corp and was proud to a wear y grey uniform.

I was ready to join the Navy Nurse Corp. However, the Navy had a training school for Navy Cadets in Hutchinson. We were excited when these uniformed young men came into town looking for dates. That’s when my plans changed. I met Harry Johnson on the steps of the nursing home. We kept corresponding and when a lovely diamond ring arrived in the mail, what could I do but wear it? (My mother made me promise to finish school before I married) I graduated on D-Day 1944. Soon I was on my way to Florida where Harry was stationed. The wedding was in the beautiful Flagler Church in St. Augustine, Florida – but that’s another story.

After the war was over Harry decided to finish Dental school. The University of Indiana accepted his application so we were off to Bloomington, Ind.
Student housing was arranged and we were lucky enough to be assigned to a trailer that was near the stadium. We lived in this tiny trailer for 2 years – no running water – no bathroom – we had to walk a couple of blocks to the community bathroom. It was a cold winter. We heated with kerosene. Our clothing absorbed the smell and soon we trailer people could be identified by our odor!

After 2 years we were transferred to Indianapolis for his practical dental training. We were fortunate to find an apartment in an old converted house who rented to medical students. We enjoyed our time there since we were all students with very little money and lots of ambition. I worked at Mouldings, Inc., as an industrial nurse. It was a great experience but another story!

After graduation from Dental School, we had very little money and were trying to decide where to set up his dental practice. I was 7 months pregnant to add to the problem. Fortunately, Harry’s uncle who was a practicing dentist in Pleasantville, NY, offered a space in his office and an apartment. It was a good solution. We lived at 15 Great Oak Lane in Pleasantville for 35 years. Our family of three daughters kept us busy and happy. We loved being a part of Pleasantville and all its activity.

Before we realized it – it was retirement time. It was a big decision to leave Pleasantville we had been active in the church and community. Our next 20 years were spent traveling and living on Cape Cod and Clearwater, Florida. We were lucky to enjoy good health and enjoy a happy 64 years together. Sometimes I feel we had a story-book life. What a lucky girl I’ve been!

Elsie Honanichl Johnson
Southbury, CT ©2012



Elsie's stories on Story Chip

Playtime in Perry, Iowa

When we were little, my sisters and brother had a big sandbox in the backyard. We used to play “Store” together, and would steal items from my Mom’s garden such as utilizing her rhubarb leaves as filet mignon, and cut the stalks to look like peppermint candies. She never seemed to notice or get...


How "The War" Affected Our Family

There were always two brass shells from World War I that decorated our dining room buffet. These were brought from France by my father as a souvenir from my father’s service in World War I. I went into nurses training hoping to join the Navy on completion. I still remember spending a day with...


Smells That Evoke Memories

As we approached our house for lunch — we could smell the aroma of fresh baked bread and cinnamon rolls!! Mom had baked again — what a lovely smell!! We would immediately start eating those delicious rolls with butter. “You can’t just eat bread — you need a balanced diet!” our mother announced! Her...



Politics I don’t remember election time as being discussed when I was young. Roosevelt’s name came up a lot - CCC [Civilian Conservation Corps], etc. http://www.ccclegacy.org The only funny time I recall when my mother said she was voting for Alf Landon because he was from Kansas (both of my...


The Great Depression

Depression Years I didn’t realize there was a depression until I was in grade school. Some of the children were given boxes of milk daily. I asked my mother why I couldn’t have milk at school. She explained why some children got milk daily that we had enough food and money to buy, but not every...


St. Patrick's Day

Celebrating In New York City It was St. Pat’s Day…., we had told our daughter that we would drive her to the NYC Airport early. It was a lovely day so we decided to go on into te city to watch the parade celebration. We were very lucky and fond a suitable place to park the car and proceeded to 5th...



“You won’t put beer in my refrigerator!” said my mother to whomever had brought beer on their visit!! This was the strict household I was brought up in — no beer — no alcohol. If my father wanted a drink, he would have to go to the local bar. He was brought up in a different household, not respected...


Haircuts and Hair Styles

Our father was the barber when we were young. We (the three of us) looked alike with the “Buster Brown” bangs and short hair. Mom would wash our hair with rain water collected in the large rain barrel. She said the rainwater was “soft” and made our hair shiny. I do remember going to the barber shop...


My Father - Lewis George Honomichl

My father was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. The family had come from Czechoslovakia. Looking for better living, they moved to Wilson, Kansas. However, that was the time when the Dust Bowl attacked and the Depression came on. Somehow after he served time in France during World War I, he ended up in Iowa...


Memories Of After World War II

The war was over. My husband Harry had started Dental School pre-war and was anxious to finish. The government had approved help if you wished to resume school. Indiana gave him his first acceptance so he decided to take it since schools were filling up fast! Especially because they offered housing...


Being Sixteen In The Thirties

School Activities - Girl Reserve Club - an athletic club with after school games. Cheerleader - would practice after school. Social Activity - Rainbow Girls - we had meetings and dances on the weekends. Dancing lessons - Tap and Toe Saturday and Sunday Activity - worked at Woolworth’s for $0.15 plus...


My Father

We always had a nice car. My father kept it very clean, putting on seat covers when it was new. The oil was always changed on time. He wanted me to learn to drive so handed me the keys after a few days of practice and told me to drive up and down the driveway until I was ready to take the driver’s...


Memorial Day Memories

We always called it “Decoration Day”. School was dismissed for the year and we looked forward to a summer of freedom. Decorating the graves at “Violet Hill” our local cemetery was always special. Most of our relations were buried in Kansas but we had graves of friends of our parents to decorate. We...


Clothing In The 1940s

When I was in high school in Perry Iowa, we were never allowed to wear pants!!! I did walk a mile to school so in the winter my mother brought me a snow suit (wool) to wear. I was very warm. However I always had to take my skirt to wear after I got to school. Horrors!!! I forgot my skirt one day and...


Music Music Music!

Music has always been a big part of my life - from learning nursery rhymes through the wonderful years of the 40s! Music and dancing was a wonderful combination. I took tap and toe dancing and even enjoyed the recitals when we wore wonderful costumes. In high school we even had after-school lessons...


Christmas Memories

It was early Christmas morning. We could hear giggling and know the girls were waiting at the top of the stairs for everyone to awaken. This was the house rule - we all go down together to see what Santa had left. Harry would light the fireplace and we could start opening gifts while staying in our...


Dating In The 1940s

We used to date some but most of all we had a group. I guess you’d call it a ‘gang” now. It was a mixture of boys and girls and we had wonderful times together form going to dances to stealing watermelons. One of the boys had access to a Model A Ford. We decided to drive to Des Moines (40 miles) to...


Pearl Harbor Day, December 7, 1941

Pearl Harbor Day will always be in my memory! I had just started my nursing career and had Sunday off. I had a friend who lived nearby so went to visit her and her family. We had a pleasant day when the news came over the radio of the bombing of Pearl Harbor!! It was hard to believe! Needless to...


Two Difficulties In My Life

Difficulty #1 I think my father thought he was taking me on an educational trip. It was to a packing house. It was a terrible experience for me - I can still hear the cries of those slaughtered animals and see the blood running and knives being stuck in those poor innocent animals!! To this day I...


I Was A Child Of The Depression Years - Born In 1921

My parents both were brought up on Kansas farms but after their marriage lived in Perry, Iowa, where my father worked on the Milwaukee RR as a freight conductor. I can remember the Depression years. My father didn’t always have work due to the slow down. My parents kept a full garden and some...

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