It all began last winter when, at the monthly Cumbernauld supper, J.J. asked some of the diners how many were interested in computers. "Not a single hand went up," he said. "And I heard a few comments such as 'I'm too old for that stuff.'"
But that didn't deter J.J. He countered with, "You may get a note from your grandkids every three years. If you were on e-mail, you'd get an answer tonight."
That did it. After hearing a "Gee, that would be nice," J.J. almost immediately got a group interested.
Of course, the first step was to provide a computer setup since Cumbernauld's computers are for business office use. J.J. talked with Charlie Rhoads of Wichita, a good friend who is working on his master's as a computer technician. A graduate of Southwestern College, Charlie worked for Mary Dorsch when she ran a computer store on East Ninth, and he and J.J. had gotten acquainted while he was employed there. Charlie also continues to service J.J.'s home computer setup.
J.J. arranged for Charlie to set up a computer in the Cumbernauld library as a gift from himself and his wife, Dorothy. They also cover the cost of supplies and maintenance.
"Classes" began Feb. 9 on a one-on-one basis. "At first, we met Monday, Wednesday and Friday with an hour devoted to each one. But that wasn't long enough," J.J. said. "They asked for more time at one sitting and not as many days. Well, it turned out to be about three hours each one day a week."
J.J. didn't use a blackboard and lectern. And he didn't show them how to do it. "The only way to teach them," he explained, "was to get them to sit down and ask how to do it and write it down."
Marjorie Strohl, one of his students, said learning was pleasant because J.J. was "so patient. He's clever and humorous. Just a good person." She admits being biased because she worked as a secretary at J.J.'s insurance business 40 years ago and "he gave me the best recommendation I ever got."
"They've never seen me get angry, but one time when the computer acted up I got slightly perturbed and said 'dammit,'" J.J. said. "That rather shocked the lady I was helping. I quickly explained that those vertical arrows at the top and bottom on the right of the screen are called dammits. I think she bought it." (Column note: She not only "bought it" but now it's a standing joke and all the women refer to the arrows as "dammits.")
One time when Marjorie was doing her e-mail, she phoned J.J. with the report that "it blew up. It made a big noise and quit." Charlie was down in no time to take the main unit to Wichita for repairs. Meanwhile, J.J. put up a notice in the library that "anyone who wants to get their e-mail can come over here (to his home) where I have the same facility. I had two of the gals over here that afternoon."
"Now, they handle it like they were born with it, and I'm just on call," J.J. said.
When I asked J.J. if any of the women had "graduated" to other computer uses, he replied, "Some enjoy the 'Net, but I think the e-mail is their real love. They have learned how to properly 'import' pictures to a new file that is workable and save it" onto their own personal, private floppy discs.
While not a member of the group, Conley H. "Chip" Powell, the "cartoonist-in-residence" at Cumbernauld, frequently leans on J.J. for help. Chip is described as "an independent working on his master's."
J.J. further explained that "one of the things that has been quite successful is the 'Learning to Type' software by Mavis Beacon. We put that in, and one of the ladies who had been a schoolteacher but never learned to type tore into it. She saw me one day in the hall and said, 'I've even gotten to the G and H's.' Several have used the typing course to improve their skills."
Members of J.J.'s "class" are Viola Teubner, Julia Wilke, Jane Richards, Isabelle Sauer, Marjorie Strohl, Vivian Bish, Elizabeth Boone, Gladys Clark and Fran Broadhurst. Evelyn Forsythe, an original member, had to drop out later.
Commented J.J., "Our relationship has been a precious time."
It has been a very special time for the ladies, also, judging from the following comments:
Marjorie Strohl said, "For several years I felt the magic world of the computer was passing me by, and then at age 83 J.J. Banks said, 'It's never too late to learn.' So I am! Thank you, J.J."
This from Eizabeth Boone: "I thought maybe I wouldn't be able to remember well enough, but thought I should not let anything stop me. I have enjoyed the class so very much."
Jane Richards: "... because of this new skill, I get frequent letters from my grandchildren - a real treat. They are so proud of Grandma's new abilities, and they can find time for short notes. It's really great! I admired J.J. long before computers were even dreamed of."
Viola Teubner: "J.J. opened up a brand new world for me. I can now contact friends and relatives often. With J.J.'s patience, I am no longer afraid of this new (to me) piece of technology."
Vivian Bish: "What a wonderfully unusual man J.J. Banks is. Starting from scratch with so many old ladies, he can claim credit for turning us into competent e-mailers and seekers for new knowledge."
Fran Broadhurst: "Thanks to J.J. for getting me back with e-mail. (As a retired Southwestern faculty member, Fran some time ago had learned to use e-mail on campus, but had not pursued it.)
Isabelle Sauer: "What a blessing to work with J.J. He keeps challenging us to learn more. This has added a spice to my life that I never expected."
Gladys Clark: "J.J. is a true optimist. He has the patience of Job. I surely thank him a million."
(Column note: Many thanks to J.J. for loaning his digital camera for this photo and to Vi Teubner for coordinating the picture-taking event. It was no easy task, trying to keep eight women and one man quiet long enough to take a picture.)
The best chili - Larry Dobbs' prize-winning chili from the Church of the Nazarene cookoff was one of the treats at the church's food table at the final Town Night of the season.
Proud of our youth - Effervescent Lois Loucks, our Main Street manager, was even bubblier than usual in telling me how proud she was of "our kids" - she was including college students also - for respecting the downtown Halloween decorations. "There was no vandalism and very few pumpkins and cornstalks disappeared," she explained. "We're so proud of our young people for appreciating what we're doing."
Journal prints article - Our feature article of Aug. 5 on Winfield's Ed McComas and his fighter-pilot exploits in the CBI theater during World War II is reprinted in the October-November edition of the Jing Bao Journal. That's the publication of the Flying Tigers of the 14th Air Force Association. The editor is C.L. "Mac" McMillin of Montgomery, Ala., who flew with Ed and who gave a signed painting of Ed's "Ace in a Day" accomplishment to the Cowley County Historical Museum
Readers respond - We've had three responses to our Oct. 21 column on the limestone business. An anonymous reader informs us that the man in the photo of the old kiln was Bill Schooling and that the photo was taken by L.L. Liermann Jr.
And this from Cleve "Bud" Smith of Wichita: "I am enclosing a copy of a 1907 map showing a railroad spur going to a quarry. It switched east of Gott's, east of Black Crook Creek, south along the west side of Cup and Saucer Hill and across the road to the quarry. Part of the roadbed is now a gravel road along what was then the G.B. Trask farm. I don't know when it was built or torn down, but my dad told me that one time when he was a teenager (late 1890s or early 1900s) he and other neighborhood boys had released the brakes on an empty car and rode it back to town. I never hear anyone mention the lime kiln on the east side of the river south of town. It was being used as a silo in the 1940s. I haven't seen it for almost 50 years."
J.J. Banks offers these additional details: "Our son, Jim Banks, now owns what I believe is the quarry that this message refers to. There is a very old stone quarry on the premises, and it is the first quarter south of 'Saucer Hill.' The quarry was owned by the Presbyterian Church of Winfield when J.E. Banks (my father) purchased it. It had been willed by H.P. Gott and his wife to the church at their death. I do recall that there is a 'right of way' in the north quarter (Saucer Hill) that is probably for a long-gone railroad."