Grace Less & Margie Olson

Grace Less and Margie Olson pose for a photo at the Trinity Lutheran Church.

Grace Less

Grace Less, the mother of Pastor Less at Trinity Lutheran Church, is not native Abilene resident, but she lived in many different towns and states to choose Abilene as her home. 

Born in Fond du Lac, Wis. Less only lived a year in the cold north before moving with her family to the wind city of Chicago. 

 “My mother’s people were up there (Fond du Lac) and my dad would take us in the summertime,” Less said. “So I got acquainted with things that go on a farm.”

In Chicago, Less got to see how Al Capone affected the area and local farmers. 

“It was the Al Capone day in Chicago and the farmers were afraid to live there...where we live was in the south western side of Chicago,” Less said. “We didn’t know what was going on, except what was in the paper.”

While Less lived for the farm life, she worked in the city during World War 2 as a general clerk for Montgomery Ward. After a while, she would get promoted to the wallpaper department as a reorder clerk. 

“I had this big book and every page was a different pattern of wallpaper,” Less reminisce. 

Outside of work, Less and her girls would take on Chicago with old school girls nights. 

“Going out with the girls, we could go to a lot of different places during the war, cause the men were gone,” Less said. 

“Living in Chicago for a pack of cigarettes, we would get into a Chicago theater and see a whole movie… just for a pack of cigarettes,” Less added. 

Less can remember how different the military felt during World War 2 and the job of women stateside to help the soldiers. 

“They (government) were encouraging us to write to the men and I was writing to three different fellas… those fellows called in and thanked you for writing to them,” Grace remembers. 

While one of her pen pals was her brother-in-law, the other two gentlemens she never got to meet them in person. 

“All they wanted was some silly letter about the things we were doing,” Less remembers. 

After the war was over, Less met her husband and got happily married. First mission as a married couple, Less’s husband wanted to move to Toledo, Ohio. 

“My husband didn’t want to settle in Chicago, so we went to Ohio where his family was.” 

Even when married and with her son, Less stuck to being a working woman and found her place inside of insurance offices. Even with boring facade of a insurance office, Less can remember some interesting situations that went on inside the work. 

She saw one of her previous bosses get arrested for scamming Sears out of money. Another time, a customer complained that his claims were not being filled. 

“So I called up the company and they said they never received any of the premiums,” Less said. “The agent was sitting in a rowboat out in the middle of Lake Erie, so the cops came and put him in jail, because he was pocketing all the money.”

“So I mean, the different jobs, you get into different circumstances,” Less jokes. 

Outside of her work and taking care of her family, Less found a passion for creating items through sewing, crochet and embroidery. Recently, Less won an awarded at the Central Kansas Free Fair for her crocheting work. 

“I made my pretty clothes,” Less said. “When the stretch materials came out, I made a jacket and trousers for my husband and for my son I made his little dress shirts, trouser and jackets.”

She had to leave behind a lot of her own handmade items when moving to the home, but “you know, they are just things,” as Less says. 

Finally, Less wanted to share her secret advice to living a long life.

“You just got to live on day at a time. That’s all.”

Margie Olson

Olson, a native Abilene resident, spent her time teaching the young minds that came through the Abilene school district. 

Born in Flint Hills near Cottonwood Falls, Olson spent her time helping out her father on the family farm and enjoying the country.

“It was beautiful country,” Olson said. 

Olson met her husband, the boy-next-door, at a young age. 

“I knew I was going to marry him when I was in the sixth grade,” Olson said. “We walked to school, a country school. We dated all through high school.” 

So in 1941 after their marriage, Olson moved to Abilene as a young war bride. Sadly, it was only eight months in before her husband was called off to the war. 

“Close to eight months before he got the letter that said Uncle Sam needs you now,” Olson remembers. 

As soon as possible, Olson joined her husband at the Air Force base in Texas, which started a long timeline of moving around to different bases in Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas. To help out with the war efforts, Olson made herself similar to Rosie the Riveter at the war plants. 

“I not only worked in a war plant, you can’t believe what I did,” Olson reminisced. “But I climbed an eight foot ladder with a blowtorch...they had a whole bunch of pipes about the size of my thumb in a circle and I had to weld them together at the top.”

Once the war came to an end, they moved back to Abilene were Olson became a language arts teacher. 

“I think all my life I wanted to be a teacher and I dearly love my students,” Olson said smiling in memories. “I love teaching and I even dream sometimes of still being a teacher and teaching. Also, I don’t give my students up. I still have students around here and I still claim them as mine.” 

“I don’t think there was a day that I went to work, even on snow days, that I went to work wishing that I didn’t have to,” Olson added. 

In true language arts teacher fashion, Olson was an avid reader and it became one of her favorite things to do outside of work. 

While living in Abilene, Olson got the honor of meeting the 34th U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower on several occasions. 

“When he came to Abilene, he was more like a hometown boy and he was very hard for the Secret Service to keep track of, because he knew Abilene,” Olson reminisced. 

Olson could remember the night they announced his win to his death. 

“I have a picture of us (Olson and her husband) and he was leaning right over the radio,” Olson said. “The results were in and I could not stop celebrating.”

“When he died, I sat on the corner and watched the funeral procession come through Abilene,” Olson added. 

Finally, Olson wanted share her secret advice to living a long life. 

“I was raised on a farm, so I always had good nutrition, I think healthy,” Olson said. “We couldn’t run down to the corner store and get an ice cream cone.”

Also, Olson claims her 21 steps up to her bedroom and unknown steps from her basement helped in having a long life  

“I think those steps were the best thing that could happen to me.”

 

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