Evelyn Hillard celebrated her 105th birthday at Hillside Terrace. Hillard lived her entire life in Pratt and recalls her life in the county.
Some birthdays are more special than others. This year Evelyn Hillard celebrated a birthday many never get to see. On July 15, Hillard turned 105 and she had a party and everyone was invited.
Hillard actually celebrated her birthday on Sunday, July 16 at Hillside Terrace. Family and friends came by to help her celebrate this event.
Hillard was born and raised in Pratt County and has lived her while life here. She was born three months after the Titanic sank. She has some memories of World War I, went through the Great Depression and dust bowl, World War II, the creation of the state of Israel, saw the deaths of two presidents in office with Franklin Roosevelt and John Kennedy, the deaths of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, Watergate, the Vietnam War, man landing on the moon, disco, 9-11 and a host of events that shaped the country.
May people have asked Hillard what the secret is for a long life. She has always been active and always enjoyed life.
"I think that's what does it," Hillard said.
She also doesn't drink and smoke. She said it looked like smoking took to long and she didn't want to waste the time.
Her journey started on July 15, 1912 on a little farm three miles south and four east of Pratt. Her parents were Walter and Natalie Dauner. She had two sisters, Edith Brehm and Lois Woolfolk.
Her family raised wheat, corn, oats and milo. Raised cattle and had lots of horses to pull the combine and wagons. Walter bought a combine in 1921 than needed eight horses to pull and they had two wagons that each required two horses.
The family had a big garden and one day her mother had her hoe the weeds out of the beets. Well, she got a little too aggressive with the hoe and managed to kill the weeds and all the beets too. She didn't have to hoe weeds after that.
Weather always played a part on the farm. One year during a snow storm, the road filled with snow and they couldn't get out. Her dad rode a horse to check on the neighbors.
Only once did she see funnel cloud. The family watched form in the sky but it never touched down. Hillard's father was very frightened of tornadoes and one evening they went to the storm cellar seven times but a tornado never touched down. In 1925, there was a tornado in Medicine Lodge and her teacher took her class to see the damage.
"I never saw anything so tore up in my life," Hillard said.
A hail storm come just when the combines were ready to cut the barley crop. The crop was destroyed and nothing got harvested.
Hillard attended Glendale School until she was a junior then she attended Pratt High School and graduated in 1930. Glendale School was about two miles away and Walter took them to school in a wagon. They also walked to school sometimes.
She joined the Glendale Church and is still a member to this day. She taught Sunday school and was the church pianist for 75 years.
On Feb. 4, 1931, she married Clarence Hillard who built a new house for them seven miles east, two miles south and one half mile east of Pratt. Clarence had lost an eye in school when a student hit him in the face with a snow ball that had a piece of coal in the middle. In spite of that, he was able to build a house the was straight and level, Hillard said.
Clarence and Evelyn had a daughter that died at birth and they had a son Walter Clarence, who they called "Butch" who was born in 1934. They lived on the farm for 59 years.
They raised wheat, corn, barley, maize, alfalfa and had a diary farm from 1948 to 1980. The dairy pretty much ran their lives. The had to milk the cows twice a day, every day of the year. Milking was at 5 a.m. and again at 5 p.m. If the cows weren't milked every time, they would stop producing, Hillard said.
They had electricity supplied by the city of Pratt and the milking machines were electric. During a snow storm, they lost power and couldn't get all the cows miked by hand so the city was able to temporarily restore power for a brief time each day so they could get the cows milked.
Butch took over the dairy in 1989 but only stayed on the farm until 1990 when allergies forced him to leave.
During harvest, Hillard prepared the meals and drove truck to deliver wheat to the elevator. One year they had four harvest crew that were there for a month. It kept raining and they could only cut part of a day, getting into the field at 2 p.m. So she had to cook for her family plus those four men for a month.
Summers on the farm got very hot. One day, the thermometer on their porch read 120 degrees. She remembers the awful dust storms from the Dust Bowl days. She would put wet dish towels over her son's crib to help keep some of the dust out but is was so fine that it got everywhere, Hillard said.
She had to clean house every day but still the dust returned.
"It was terrible," Hillard said.
They had a smoke house where they cured their own pork and used it as a place to run the separator that separated the cream from the milk. The family also raised a lot of chickens, up to 1,000. They sold the eggs for six cents a dozen. One time they had $1.80 from their eggs and she was able to buy enough groceries to last a week.
They had cherry, peach and pear trees on the farm and she canned a lot of fruit. She also canned apples she got from a neighbor. The put the jars in the cellar and had fruit all winter.
Hillard got involved with the Red Cross in 1960 and was there until she retired on Dec. 31, 1992. Bill Adams, the Pratt Chamber of Commerce secretary, asked Hillard if she would help with a fund drive and she stayed for over three decades starting from secretary and advancing to manager.
During that time she helped outside of Pratt for four major weather disasters: Hurricane Betsy in 1965, Topeka tornado in 1966, Hurricane Beulah in 1967, and hurricane damage in Corpus Christi in 1979. She traveled to those places and helped people that were injured, helped with clothing, food, helped them get back on their feet.
One night in New Orleans, she went to get in her provided car and she couldn't find her key. A stranger who was staying at the same place as her offered her a ride and she got back safely. Another time, she was driving through an area in New Orleans at night where there was no power and she said it was a little scary.
Hillard said she did everything there. The Red Cross was based out of the old city building where the summers were hot and the winters were cold. In 1965, Hillard helped get a mini bus for the Red Cross and was the driver for many years. She also helped with Meals on Wheels, headed up the Food Bank and the local United Way.
Back then, there were no cell phones and they didn't have a radio on the bus, so they had to go back to the office to find out who needed to be picked up. She went back one day and discovered she had forgotten to pickup Rose McGuire at Dr. Flanders office. Driving the mini bus was one of her favorite jobs.
She has seen a lot of growth in Pratt over the years. She remembers a house built at 524 Larimer and it was in the middle of a wheat field.
Walter got in ill health before they moved to Pratt while Hillard was driving to town to work. He said he didn't want to go any where in the evening but when Hillard would come home, he had changed his mind and they would go visit Hutchinson, Greensburg, Medicine Lodge and other places.
Walter died in 1990 and their son Butch died in 1999. Hillard lived at 909 Larimer until she moved to Hillside Terrace in 1993. She was active in the Hospital Auxiliary, Hospice and was a bus dispatcher for the Senior Center.
Hillard's hearing is not good and her vision is almost gone but she still enjoys life and having visitors and calls from family and friends. She also enjoys Talking Books made possible through Emporia State University.
"That's one of the best things in the world," Hillard said.
Of all the history she has seen in her 105 years, man landing on the moon was the most memorable. She recalls getting up at 2 a.m. just make sure she saw the landing and still remembers the famous Neil Armstrong words: "That's one small step for man and one giant leap for mankind."
Hillard was a contributor to the Pratt Tribune for many years with the column "Echos from Evelyn" that were her memories of Pratt. She was also the lifestyles editor from 1957 to 1960.