Ruth Stahl

by Ruth Stahl

Myrtle Killian Day 

          At least three dozen well-wishers were milling around when I arrived, and Myrtle looked wonderful - cool, calm and collected. She was pretty as a picture with her sparkling white blouse, well-coiffed hair, and every-ready smile. She was celebrating her 95th birthday at the home of her son, Howard. Throughout the afternoon, some fifty friends and relatives came to offer best wishes, and Myrtle knew them all.

       Among them was Supervisor Pete McMahon who came to present a certificate signed by the entire town board, proclaiming July 21,2001 as "Myrtle Killian Day." The certificate state, "Myrtle Rogers, born 1906 in Bliss, NY, moved to Grand Island in 1914 where she married her husband of 61 years, Howard Killian."

       Myrtle remembered very well those early days. She said, "I always lived on a farm, and we did not have electricity at first. We used to heat my grandmother's flat irons on the stove to do the ironing. I saved the old oil lamps and passed them on to my children when I left the house." (Myrtle moved to a senior residence about four years ago when she felt she could no longer live alone) "When we were kids we used to walk across the fields to Ackerman's for home-made bread and jelly. We wore a path to that house," said Myrtle.

       "I went to the same school my father attended, School #9. I lost my father at an early age, but my step-father was so good to the family. On Saturdays after breakfast I had to help Dad sharpen the axe and the knives. It was my job to turn the cutting bars on the chopping machine, to make silage for the animals. We had chickens and three cows. We raised wheat and hay which my father loaded on the wagon and took across the river to sell. He usually returned with a load of coal for the winter. We made our own butter and traded the excess for groceries at Schutt's store. Mrs. Fred Long had a bread route but sometimes we had to shop across the river. In winter the ferry quit at 6 PM so if you missed it you had to look for a relative to put you up for the night," she said.

       "We had great teachers at School #9: Edith Kissinger and then Pearl Clark, who was well qualified in high school subjects. I finished 8th grade when I was 13, too young for working papers, so went back for another year. We couldn't afford the tuition and board for high school across the river," Myrtle remembered. Myrtle is quite proud of her granddaughter who now teaches in "Veronica Connor's school."

       When Myrtle met Howard Killian, he and his father were doing concrete work. She remembers how they moved their house. "The railroad came along and bought property and houses on the south side of Staley Road, that were for sale but had to be moved. We bought one for $200. Howard and my father went into the woods and cut two large trees, shaping them like sleigh runners. When it snowed, they hooked up four teams of horses and moved the house down Baseline and up Whitehaven to a prepared foundation. The Robert Kaiser house on Baseline was another one that had been moved from Staley. The house for the park ranger at Buckhorn came from the Sidway estate. Frank Roe used to move houses, too. He had a farm on Staley Road.

       Myrtle and Howard had two children, Nan and Howard, who were there to help celebrate her birthday. "I read the name Nan in a story book and my mother-in-law wanted me to change it. "No way," I said. The children went to Sidway School and then on to Tonawanda High School. Both were born on June 24th, so Myrtle had to make two birthday cakes, "Nan wanted chocolate and Howard wanted white."

       Myrtle had a huge cake to celebrate her birthday on Monday, and marveled at the number of cards she received. "Last year I had 69 cards, but maybe there will be more this year," she said. Myrtle loves her new home and is very active there, playing cards, helping with Bingo, coloring the covers for the monthly newsletter. "Don't visit me on Wednesday," she says. "That's the day I get my hair done." And what does she do on Saturdays? "That's the day I catch up on all the things I didn't get done during the week." Myrtle Killian is truly a marvel, and a great source of Grand Island history. We all join in wishing her a happy birthday with many more to come.

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