The challenge of moving around in elevator construction also brought opportunities and cultural enrichment

By R. Janet Walraven

R. Janet Walraven, M.Ed, retired 35-year teacher and international-award author of four books, resides near Albuquerque, N.M. She is the youngest of Bill and Sadina’s three daughters.

For our family, the nomadism of the grain-elevator construction business had its challenges. We moved 33 times in the 16 years from 1948 to 1964. My two older sisters changed schools 22 or 23 times; I changed 26 times. We were all good students. Since neither of our parents had the privilege of attending college, both set the standards high. With a lot of support and unconditional love, the expectation was always straight A’s, and we worked to accomplish that. 

Because my eldest sister, Ramona Sue, had severe asthma and eczema, some of the high-humidity places were very difficult for her. She struggled with her health until ninth grade when doctors said she needed to be in a dry climate. Serendipitously, Daddy was assigned to the jobsite in Albuquerque, N.M., where Ramona enrolled in a private high school. Rita, second in line, and I continued moving with our parents. 

Rita was very social; she was like a magnet collecting a group of friends wherever we moved. It became difficult to say goodbye, especially to boyfriends, when she reached high school. That’s when she decided she wanted to be in the private high school with Ramona, and I reluctantly joined them for two of the four years.

My parents made sure we visited attractions in various places. Paulding, Ohio was close enough to Canada to visit Niagara Falls. Moving to Florida brought adventures in learning to water ski, fishing for red snapper in the ocean with Daddy, and exploring the islands all the way to Key West. New Mexico was another adventure–learning about the Pueblo people, being fascinated with turquoise mines, and understanding the variety of Southwest cultures. We also learned to love sopapillas!

Left to right: Ramona Sue, Janet, and Rita

Most of Daddy’s crew quit following us around by the time their children reached junior high. Some of the men went back and forth from home to work on his jobs. Changing schools for the kids was difficult, and many of the wives got tired of moving. Mama did not.

When Daddy became vice president of Chalmers & Borton in 1964, Mama knew that was the end of the adventures. She had embraced all the different cultures, the historic sites, the people. They bought their very first home and settled down in Hutchinson, Kan. 

Daddy enjoyed flying in the company plane to check on all the jobs around the country. Sitting in an office day after day was not his cup of tea. He imposed his strict standards on every superintendent in the company, but as his mentor Andy Milnar put it, no one ever lived up to Bill’s standards. 

Note: Reno County Museum in Hutchinson, Kan. houses many of the archives of Chalmers & Borton, Inc. 

Sadina’s list of moves from 1947 to 1964

1947 LaCrosse and Bison, Kan.

1948 Dighton and Bucklin, Kan.

1949 Hereford, Tex.

1950 Utica, Kan. and Aurora, Mo.

1951 Girard, Kan.

1952 Manter, Dighton, Bison, and Mullinville, Kan.

1953 Perry, Okla; McPherson and Kiowa, Kan.; Ponca City and Enid, Okla.

1954 Hereford, Tex.

1956 Sunray, Tex.; Paulding, Ohio

1957 Homestead, Fla; Hutchinson, Kan.

1958 Tampa, Fla; Ft. Worth, Tex; Albuquerque, N.M.

1960 Clovis, N.M.; Tampa, Fla.

1961 Wilmington, N.C.; Chattanooga, Tenn.

1962 Hutchinson, Kan.; Liberty, Mo.

1963 Plainview, Tex.

1964 Greeley, Colo.; Hutchinson, Kan.

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