As I look back, soon to be a hundred years, Sacred Heart Church has been a large part of the life.
My parents go back another 50 years. My father lived on the Rankin farm, went to the Rankin School where he learned cursive writing, and then married my mother. They also became farm managers of the large tract. They attended and supported the Valley Park Sacred Heart Church.
About 1920, the farms were divided and my family moved to the Augustine Farm and we have been involved every since. I was born here 87 years ago, the only Weber child born in the Eureka area, and was baptized in 1925. I am sure you have seen the pictures taken at the old Central avenue when I was an altar boy for Fr. Dowling who lived at LaSalle and came for mass on Sunday, always bringing a good-smelling thermos of coffee.
I sang in the choir under Anna Klump (then Mottert), who donated the fine organ we hear each Sunday here now. Then, we had an old pump organ, and one Sunday as we sang with the windows open, we evidently disturbed the parrot who lived in the house just to the North of the old church. He had also spent a lot of time in his master's bar and started remarking in bar room style in answer to us.
We had a fair share of military members in WWII, with some memories of those who gave it all at that time, most were somehow related to my family.
So suddenly the War was over, and more of us came home and many soon were married in the church. I had a remarkable opportunity one Sunday as I prepared to meet Fr. Dowling to seek his help in giving instructions in the faith to my wife to be, Roberta. A priest began getting out of his car, but he wasn't Dan Dowling. He was a gaunt figure of a man in a Franciscan habit, Fr. Walfrid.
Plans soon began for a full-time parish and I became the individual who made him welcome. Fr. Walfrid came to the farm, where we had the instructions for Roberta. My mother more or less adopted him as she fed him well and introduced him to our good organic food. He also responded as he enjoyed the fresh milk and great cream for his coffee and fresh butter for his toast to go with the great fried chicken and fresh veggies. It must have worked, as Roberta and I had 54 years without an argument and six great children from the union.
So soon the Claffey Farm was chosen for the present church site. First we had to dig out the basement of the farm house, now known as the Sisters' House, the clearing of other homes thereon plus the famous barn which stayed for a while, as we used the side as the screen for our outdoor movie. Suddenly the school was started and later all six of my children attended. Housing for the Franciscans was completed, and it has been converted to the rectory and offices.
Roberta was very involved with the Women's Club while the children attended the school. Once our farm house chimney was invaded with hundreds of chimney sweeps. To move them I fired my shotgun up the flue and a great mess of birds and soot came tumbling down. Her remarks are remembered in my family to date: "I have to go the Women's Club at church. Have it clean when I get home," which we somehow did.
Early activities in the parish included the annual turkey shoot and chicken dinners in the open cooked, large kettles and that was a story in itself. In those days, the large pots were cleaned in a utility sink in what was known as the boiler room. My sister, Mary Hagemeister, was one of the chief washers. Seemingly, as years turned into decades, each year provided new ventures into progress and after 65 years we have a marvelous structure and a complex program to benefit the community.
So the excellent facilities for our fish frying has kept up with the religious activity as we move ahead. As I stood in line to receive my fish dinner, I noted some people who were there for almost my entire time at Sacred Heart. I thank the person who asked me to write my memories of Sacred Heart and others for helping me recall earlier events.
In September 1931, a severe tornado devastated many barns and buildings in Eureka. John Claffey had a new Model A Ford car, which had replaced his buggy in the garage while the buggy was stored in a shed alongside.
I have a picture of the garage blown apart and the car lifted and placed in the buggy. I used that in a Eureka-Wildwood Patch blog last year. The roof of the present house was bown off and it became a project top get it replaced. John's brother, Tom, had made a fortune selling wire in Kansas in the last century for you history buffs.
So it was great today to see the hundreds of happy fish eaters at the opening fish fry at Sacred Heart. Many have worked hard to make it work, and today I enjoyed seeing the great cooks in the block house. It looks like the new health facilities are a great improvement from where we began.
I think the community looks forward to Lent at Sacred Heart as great food and service are experienced there.
I wonder what changes will come in the next 65 years. I don't see how we can do better than the last. Much is said of a Peak Oil period. It is possible that we are reaching a Peak Church Period right now. Time will Tell.