Musings about an Absent Father

By Kristen Osborn Cart

My dad has been writing a memoir about his life growing up in Nebraska, as the son of Bill Osborn, builder of the Mayer Osborn elevators.  It struck me that after about 1939, Dad scarcely mentions him, other than to note his absence.  Grandpa was gone all of the time. Over the years the Osborn cousins have assembled photos from those times, and it is very striking that the photos of the Osborn home became scarce from about then. The few pictures we have from later on were from visits, and from the various projects he worked on. Bill Osborn was the photographer in the family.

William Osborn, 1952.

By the time I knew him, he had long since retired from that occupation, and he was home, taking care of his tropical fish business. He would find time to take his little granddaughters fishing (my cousin Diane and me), after night crawler hunting by flashlight, of course.  He was an affectionate grandfather, and he loved my mom.  He read the morning paper over breakfast, and ate his eggs sunny-side-up, mopping up the last of them with his toast. And he didn’t talk much. The elevator phase of his life, in my mind, consisted of a framed photo of an elevator (McCook Equity Exchange), and Dad’s assurance that it was grandpa’s first elevator he built on his own.

My cousin, Diane, brought out a cache of photographs of grain elevators one day, not too long ago.  Most were not marked, though the one from Kanorado, Kansas, had it’s location and capacity written on the back.  We have identified almost all of them, but a few are still mysterious, so now that it has been thirty-five years since Grandpa died, we have something to ask him.

This summer we are planning to go find some of the grain elevators he built some sixty to seventy years ago, many of which are still in use.  The buildings can’t tell us about his jovial smile, his mischief, or his aggravation at workers who left after their first paycheck.  But I can imagine him there, just as I suppose my father had to.  At least Dad could visit sometimes.

William Arthur Osborn, 1965

2 comments on “Musings about an Absent Father

  1. jeff says:

    That was a beautiful story. Thanks for sharing. It was a pleasure to have met you and if you have any questions about grain elevators, please let me know.

    • kocart says:

      Thank you, Jeff, for sharing your story and letting me see the manhole covers on the Walton elevator. It is a beauty–to me, these things are just magnificent and in no small measure because of their usefulness and longevity.

      Chalmers and Borton was a major competitor for my grandfather while he was in the business, but by the time the Walton elevator went up, Grandpa was no longer building but was doing repair and maintenance and living back in Fremont, Nebraska.

      I appreciate your taking the time to talk to me, and I will be in touch.

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