Conversations with Kids: The Artist at Work

Topeka Daily Capital
January 17, 1960

The thing about talking to children is that you almost always learn something interesting. If you’re new at it, you may get a shock now and then, but the old timers are virtually shock-proof. They haven’t necessarily heard everything, but they’ve heard enough to expect anything.

I am an old timer, myself. I’ve done a lot of talking to children, often out of necessity. Around our house, I often find I’m on speaking terms only with some of the children. The younger ones, at that.

You can get into these conversations in any number of ways. For example, just walk in from work some evening and say to one of your sons, Hi, pal, what’s new?
“Aw, nothing, except Mr. Tompkins wasn’t home.”
Now, as you can see, the conversation is rolling. You say, he wasn’t home, huh?
“No, and we couldn’t get his ladder.”
You’re right. He said ladder. Ladder?
“Yeah. Will you borrow it in the morning and get my lunch box off the roof? I didn’t throw it up there.”
You knew he’d get that in. Who did?
“Kurt got mad because I threw his lunchbox and it went down the sewer….”

So you’ve learned something. Two lunchboxes at about 3 bucks apiece. 6 bucks shot.

Let’s say now that you’ve just lost six bucks yourself shooting 88 when you figured on about 81 and you go home looking for trouble. You storm in and collar two or three of them and yell, “who got that garden hose out in this kind of weather?”

Well, the first time I did that the children’s mother snapped, “I did, to wash off that mud you got on the walk that I asked you to wash off a week ago and quit yelling at the children and if you can’t play golf give up the game, and furthermore….”

Well, the second time I yelled about the garden hose, which was a long time later, one of them said: “We got it out to play filling station.”
“Yeah,” said another. “We filled up mom’s car.”
Oh, no. You didn’t really.
“Yes we did, daddy.”

Line up for broken arms.

It is through conversation that children learn discipline, and learn that parents are firm but fair. It was just the other day I told one of the girls she absolutely couldn’t go outside without her coat on.
“Why not?” she sobbed. “Amy is out there and doesn’t even have any pants on.” Two blocks away, too, it turned out.

You can walk in the house on occasion and upon close inspection find one there who isn’t yours. So you ask yours who their new friend is.
“His name is Johnny.”
Where does he live?
“We don’t know. He’s been here all afternoon.”

In those cases, we just turn on the front lights and wait for their search party to show up. And let me tell you, it’s better to wait for the search party than be in the search party. I’ve done both.

I like the real casual conversation where the child does the talking and you just grunt and nod as you read. I was doing this the other day when one of the girls said, “… and I frewed a rock and hit Tommy in the eye.”
Isn’t that cute the way she says frewed instead of th- WHAT?

It is through these conversations that I have learned of toys in the toilet, snakes on the patio, milk in the furnace vents and so on. And I learned something else the other night.

I chased all of them to another room period later I heard one say, “Daddy’s a dummy.”
“Yeah,” said another one.
“Yeah,” said another one.
“No, he isn’t,” said the oldest, and I was swelling with pride when he added: “he’s a dumbbell. That’s the way you’re supposed to say it.”

That boy is a born leader.

Holiday visit to Britton, over all too soon

Topeka Capital Journal
November 29, 1996

SOUTHLAKE, Tex. – We are spending the holiday with daughter Amy and her husband, Duff Nelson, and three granddaughters who were glad to see their grandma. They spoke to me too, to say 1) I parked in the wrong place, 2) I can’t smoke cigars in the house, and 3) would I pump up their bicycle tires?

Daughter Mary flew in Thanksgiving Day, so we had a small family reunion. Duff did well cooking the turkey, and it’s a good thing. He is still on probation for having messed up this chore three years ago. The turkey was on Duffs outdoor cooker for about three hours before he discovered the machine was out of fuel. We had microwaved bird for dinner.

We drove to Texas, and along the way I thought of the many times we had traveled south from Kansas for a family gathering. It started in the early 1950s when my parents lived in Oklahoma City, and there was no Kansas Turnpike or interstate between here and there.

We’d take the back roads down through Emporia and Sedan into Oklahoma, then through Pawhuska, Cleveland and Stroud, where we hit the new Turner Turnpike connecting Tulsa and Oklahoma City. It didn’t take long, because on those roads you could make Turnpike time.

We were doing just that one Christmas Eve night when we were stopped by an Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper. Continue reading

Mother’s Day, Naming Rites and the Origin of Kurt

Topeka Daily Capital
May 10, 1959

Today is Mother’s Day, and the only thing to do is take a firm stand in favor of it. After all …

Mothers are nice and necessary, and not in that order, but they aren’t perfect. Granted, they probably try to be, particularly where their children are concerned, but it is in that area that they often are at their worst. Some mothers do to some children a thing that shouldn’t be done to a mangy dog.

I refer specifically to naming children, for which mothers are mostly responsible. Once in a while, I am told, the father has his way about naming the baby, but it is a rare occasion when the matter is handled with this efficiency and harmony.

Most mothers snarl and say, “if you want to name a baby dash have one!” Then they named their newborn without even considering Uncle Moneybags, who might have been properly impressed and looked upon the namesake as a possible heir.

Personally, I’m a 0 for 4 in naming my own, although I had a little say a little to say about #2. Continue reading

Amy’s Least Favorite Column

October 6, 1959
Topeka Daily Capital

Thinking it over, I guess that one of the bigger developments of the year, along with the beginning of the era of personal diplomacy, summit meetings and the steel strike, is Amy’s learning to go to the bathroom.

In listing major events of the year, the feeling here is that their importance should be measured in terms of how they affect people. Well, in my little corner of the world, Amy’s ascent to this level of refinement created more excitement by far than Khrushchev’s visit.

I’m not really sure how the other three made this advance. All I know is that one day they wouldn’t go, the next few days they might and they might not go, and suddenly they went. One at a time, of course.

Their mother guided each of the other three through these perilous – and often disastrous – times, and I was barely more than a casual observer. But in the case of Amy, it became a family project and seldom have I seen a group so engrossed.

As the coaches would say, the education of Amy was a team effort.

Continue reading

Remembering mom

Topeka Capital-Journal
May 11, 1986

The nuns who taught us in the grade school saw to it that we learned early and well the importance of Mother’s Day. Like we always did at Christmas and Easter, we hauled out the crayons and drew a special card for mom.

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Leona Frances Shively

We spent so much time with the crayons, doing those cards, that it’s a wonder we learned to read and write and do our ciphering. But we did, and the cards were, in our minds, works of art.

I remember sister Mary Chrysostom best. She was my teacher in the 4th or 5th grade. She would draw a sample card on the blackboard and we would copy it as best we could.

She would come around and help the less gifted, and that’s one of the reasons I liked her. She spent a lot of time with me, so my card always came out looking pretty good.

The cover would have maybe a hill or two, some birds, a tree and a flower, and above it or below it or across it would be the word, “mother.” I was best at drawing hills and the sun. I was fair with the birds, terrible with trees and flowers.

Inside were two things. One was the message, expressing our love for mom. The other was called a “spiritual bouquet.” It was a list of prayers we had offered – or we were promising to offer – in mom’s behalf.

Even way back then I was into deficits. I’m afraid I padded my bouquet.

We would fasten these crayon-covered sheets together with colored string, or brass paper fasteners and then, at the proper time, present the card to mom.

She would express genuine pleasure at the total effort, an equally genuine surprise at the numbers button being promised. She never said anything, but I probably wasn’t fooling her.

I probably never did fool her. I know I didn’t the day a couple of other foolhardy adventurers and I skipped school to go downtown and hang out for awhile, and then go to a special high-noon baseball shootout between the Oklahoma City Indians and the Tulsa Oilers. Continue reading

A Trip to Oakwood

Topeka Capital Journal
April 14, 1999

When my brother Al and I planned our trip to western Oklahoma, we knew we’d see the place where we were born, and places where a lot of our ancestors are buried. What we didn’t know is that we’d also see Rollin Shaw, our next door neighbor more than 70 years ago in Oakwood, our birthplace.

We hadn’t seen him since the Sniders moved from Oakwood in the mid 1920s, but shortly before we headed back down memory Lane, Al’s daughter Claire, found him on the Internet, listed him as a resident of Dewey County and giving a phone number.

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From left: Dick Snider, Al Snider, Rollin Shaw, Dan Snider circa 1925

We called him and he remembered us, and after he recovered from the shock we arranged to meet next day at the Phillips 66 station in Oakwood. We had lunch, he took us on a tour of what’s left of the town, and then we went to the farm home where he has lived for the past 57 years. Continue reading

Big Muddy Golf, Gambling, Blockheads

Topeka Capital-Journal
March 22, 1993

NATCHEZ, Miss. – The problem with traveling is that there are too many tourists in the places tourists like to go. This city, for example, is a popular tourist spot, but it should not be confused with New Orleans, which is a tourist trap.

New Orleans relies on gluttony, a capital sin of which we are all guilty to some degree. Natchez, on the other hand, is a long-running contest over which will last the longest – the antebellum homes that abound here, or the hordes of old folks who flock in here to see them.

The homes always win. In fact, most of them look better today than when they were built, and they all have weathered far better than the visitors.

So, you may ask, what is an old weather-beaten Okie, who wouldn’t know an antebellum home from a new Holiday Inn, doing in Natchez? Simple. I am playing daddy to two heartless offspring who sometimes seem to think I’m Daddy Warbucks. Continue reading

Lessons in Family and Basketball

Topeka Capital-Journal
March 17, 1993

For weeks, our two sons, Steve in Maryland and Kurt in California, have taken turns calling me to make sure I know the game plan. I have it down pat. I am to pick them up at the New Orleans airport today. It is Saint Patrick’s Day, but that has no bearing, since the Snider family is about as Irish as Paddy’s bratwurst.

It was decided weeks ago it was time for another reunion, and the two of them, without consulting me, chose New Orleans as the meeting place. They explained it was “convenient” for all three of us.

That’s easy for them to say. They fly a few hours nonstop to get there and back, while I drive a few days to get there and back. That’s their idea of a square deal, and it gets even worse. In the four days we’ll be together, I will provide the transportation and who knows what else.

The plan calls for us to explore New Orleans, visit Natchez, Miss., the Civil War battlefield at Vicksburg, play a little golf along the way, and seek out food and spirits sufficient to maintain our stamina and morale. My stomach churns at the thought. Continue reading

A Birthday Exchange

(Dick Snider wrote this letter to his children 35 years ago today and the oldest replied to his siblings two days later – Editor)

March 20 , 1985

“How sharper than a serpent’s tooth is the sting of an ungrateful child.”
Grandma Snider

To the ungrateful:
On the occasion of my 64th birthday I take note of the fact that not a single one of my progeny sent tidings of any kind. This is duly entered in bold ink in the ledger of life, and will make it that much easier for me to bequeath my rather substantial holdings to the Redemptorists, the Benedictines, the Libertarians, the Sisters of Mercy and Oral Roberts. Continue reading

Barbara Linville Snider

Barbara Linville Snider, 89, passed peacefully in her sleep at home in Chesapeake, Va. Wednesday Jan. 22 surrounded by family.

Barbara Alice Linville was born on a farm in Harveyville, Kan. Jan. 8, 1931, the fifth of seven children of Oscar and Nellie Linville. As a young girl, she taught elementary students in a one-room school she also attended as a student, riding a horse to the school to load and light the wood stove to begin the day. She later attended Harveyville High School for a time, earning her degree from Topeka High School while working as a copygirl for the Topeka Daily Capital.

Barbara Snider

In the nation’s capital, she was a founding member of THIS – The Hospitality and Information Service, a volunteer organization of Kennedy administration families devoted to helping counterparts in the community of foreign diplomats adjust to living in Washington and the US.

Spending the next decade in Washington suburb of Kensington, Md., she was active in her children’s schools and in the social life of her community. In subsequent years, the family moved to Wichita, Kan. and Des Moines, Iowa. She and Dick later lived in Boulder, Colo., returning to Topeka in 1981 where he was an award-winning columnist at the Topeka Capital-Journal and the Topeka Metro News.

Following Dick’s passing, she moved to Chesapeake in 2012. She is survived by sons Steve (Mary Ann Allison, Hyattsville, MD) and Kurt (Rory Bennett, Del Mar, CA) daughters Anne Comer (Gary Comer, Chesapeake, VA, Amy Nelson (Duff Nelson, Southlake, TX) and Mary (Laurie Shedler, Washington, DC), nine grandchildren, and one great grandson.

In her later years, she shared lines from a favorite quote by author and artist Flavia Weedn along with her own thoughts in a note to her children: “’Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for awhile and leave footprints.’ If anyone is more blessed than I am with Steve, Kurt, Anne, Amy and Mary, then they have the same joy in life that I have. The only inheritance I can give to them is my thankfulness. Only God can give them more.”

A memorial service for friends and family will be held Saturday March 28 at the Harveyville United Methodist Church. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made in the name of Barbara Linville Snider to the Dick Snider Scholarship for Communications and Mass Media in care of Washburn University, 1700 SW College, Topeka, Kan. 66621 .