Quilt reveals chapter in the Mexican Village

By Dave Myers
Southwest Kansas Catholic

It was among teacher Lola Adams’s first projects for her new class.

The young teacher faced her classroom of children in the small, three-room school in what was known as the Mexican Village, just south of Dodge City. The year was 1930.

“They had big brown eyes and big smiles that would go right through you,” recalled Lola Adams Crum [several years after having worked in the Mexican Village, she married Lynn Crum] in an interview with Tim Wenzl, for his book, “A History of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish.”

During those first days as a teacher, she wanted to impart a special lesson to the children, one that would describe in a tangible way how special they were as individuals, and how important it was to support each other as a group and a community.

The project included having each child embroider his or her name onto a piece of cloth.

“Miss Adams’s lesson was to later show the children that sewn together in union, a quilt was made to serve as warmth and comfort,” explained Nora Gonzales Mode, whose parents, Manuel and Esperanza Gonzales, were students of Adams’s.  “I remember the first time she explained the reason for the quilt. … It brought tears to my eyes.”

That quilt is now on display at the Boot Hill Museum in Dodge City.

But that’s not where this story begins. The story starts with a little boy named Manuel.

“When Miss Adams first came into the village, she was scared,” Mode told the Catholic from her home in Wichita.

“She didn’t know what to expect. She was in her classroom getting everything prepared, and my father showed up with a bouquet of flowers. She mentions in her book* about this little boy with the big brown eyes coming to her and handing her this bouquet that came from flowers my grandmother had planted and grown. He knew that if Grandmother found out he took the flowers, she would be upset because her garden was her pride and joy.

“It melted Miss Adams’s heart and created a bond with the boy from childhood on. Everyone adored Miss Adams She took my dad under her wing, as he took her under his. He circulated her through the village introducing her to families, and she was welcomed. They took pride in her coming down to be a teacher. Back then, not too many people wanted to go into the village. There were people they could get, but they didn’t stay long.

“My father credits her with his academic success. Back then, male children didn’t go to school for very long, just like the girls. But he ended up getting through high school, for which he credited Miss Adams.”

This is also the story of a little girl, Esperanza “Blanch” Moreno, a classmate of Mode’s father. Miss Adams knew that from those earliest days of childhood, they would one day grow up to marry. And marry they did.

“I remember growing up going to Sunday dinner at her home with her family,” Mode said. “Those were the dinners I remember. She married Lynn Crumb when I was probably in college. I would say that was the mid-80s.”

When Mode’s mother died in 2003, the first person they saw in the procession coming up the aisle was a woman in a wheelchair--their teacher Miss Adams. “That meant the world to all of us,” Mode said. And when Miss Adams died a few years later, Mode’s father was invited to sit with the family and be a part of the service.

“My grandmother, Petra Moreno, also grew up in the Mexican Village. In our culture, we take care of our elders. We heard many stories of the village.”

Just as her parents cared for her grandparents, so too did Mode care for her parents. “This tradition was handed down to my children. I was very blessed to take care of my parents and pass that tradition.”

Miss Adams gave the quilt to Mode’s father in 2003 shortly after Mode’s mother died.

“My father cherished it. Not only because his name was on it, but also because it was that lesson she taught them that he carried with him throughout his life.”

Regardless of the many stories she heard of the village and the adventures that her parents enjoyed with their friends, Mode admitted that at first, she didn’t know who many of the people were behind the names on the quilt.

“That’s because, in the Village, they all used nicknames,” Mode said.

The one that sticks in her mind is a man who at the time had become known as  “Egghead.”

“How he got that nickname, I don’t know,” Mode said, laughing.

“Once they started mentioning nicknames, I was able to put faces to names.

“Miss Adams loved each of these children, and they in return loved her,” Mode said. “I know deep in my heart that Miss Adams and my parents would want this quilt to be shared with the community.”

 

* A Reminiscence: Teaching in Dodge City’s Mexican Village, by Lola Adams Crum