It simply wouldn’t be Christmas without her. The vintage ceramic “cold paint” angel passed down to me from my grandmother is a keepsake I look forward to displaying year after year. Aside from her festive style and intricate design, it’s her signature Napco marking that confirms her authenticity to prime collectors.
National Potteries Corporation (Napco) was established in 1938 opening its doors in Bedford, Ohio, southeast of Cleveland. During its first peak in popularity, (the 1950s and 60s), the company distributed a variety of collectibles depicting the times, with products like birthday and Christmas angels, Lady Head Vases, (remember the Lucille Ball one?), planters, ashtrays and nursery rhyme figurines. This explosion in production of novelty items made them a much familiar sight in my mid western household and I’m sure in others across the country.
Since I have long-admired many of my family treasures, I decided to research more about the company. A quick discovery was Kathleen Deel’s book, Napco, A Schiffer Book for Collectors, which I purchased, and contains great info on various Napco collectibles.
I learned that Napco’s products are known for being “well-designed” as items are distinctive, with a “cold paint” technique, referring to the outside finish of the ceramic item.
Vintage and Today
In Napco’s vintage world, each product is marked with various paper labels, foil seals or markings featuring wording such as: “A Napco Collection;” “Napco originals by Giftware;” “National Potteries Co., Cleveland, OH; and “Napcoware, Import Japan.” fromgrandmastree.com
Today, Napco has an extensive vintage product presence through online sales platforms like eBay, Pinterest and Collectors Weekly. There is also Napco Marketing Corporation, a wholesale distributor of floral and plant containers, and similar products, owned by 1-800-Flowers.com, Inc.
The website, Napcoimports.com, has an impressive online catalog, and touts a customer-driven product line with a 150,000 square foot distribution center in Jacksonville, Florida. napcoimports.com
To keep my family’s 1950s holiday nostalgia intact, I will pass down my cherished “cold-paint” Christmas angel, along with some other novelty keepsakes. After all, Christmas would not be Christmas without Napco! 🎁⛄️🎁
Notable landmarks that were once part of my life and neighborhood, growing up in Independence, Kansas, are now gone. Some, I consider historically significant, not only to my life, but to the town and to the state of Kansas.
Something that seemed unprecedented, since the time we sold my childhood home in 2014, is that Mercy Hospital, part of the Mercy Hospital System, closed its doors, partially due to Kansas’s decision not to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.
The hospital closed in October of 2015, but months before that decision was final, the town had found itself losing doctors and its number of patient visits were declining. The result was no more hospital for the roughly 9,000-person community and for other areas it served in Montgomery County.
My beloved old neighborhood really is empty. The original part of the hospital, founded by the Sisters of Mercy and erected in 1927, along with its unique counterpart, an architecturally rounded addition, built around 1960, are both gone.
Like so many of my friends and family members, I was born in that hospital. My grandmother worked there as a registered nurse in the 1930s and 40s. My mom was a longtime volunteer for the Mercy Hospital Auxiliary and my dad was one of the first babies born in the newly constructed Mercy Hospital in May of 1928.
A welcomed solution
The hospital’s closing imposed a deeply chaotic and disgruntled impact on the community for obvious reasons. However, a welcomed solution came along two years later in 2017 with the opening of the Labette Health/Independence Healthcare Center, a rural health clinic with state of the art facilities, including an emergency room and small cancer treatment center. The facility is located further west of town, not in my old neighborhood.
Nonetheless, the efforts of Brian Williams, President and CEO of Labette Health, (nearby Parsons), who secured a $6 million dollar low-interest loan from the U.S Department of Agriculture, along with $1.6 million dollars, raised in local funding, helped create a winning alternative to a full-fledged hospital.
When I was growing up I attended Lincoln School, which was directly across the street from my house and East of the hospital. The white Art Deco school was architecturally and structurally sound, built under the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in 1939-40. My memories of it are vivid and many of my closest friends, to this day, are ones who attended Lincoln.
I remember during my Kindergarten year, winter of 1971, we had a huge snowfall, nearly up to my waist in some parts of our yard. Because the streets had not been cleared in time for morning Kindergarten, my dad carried me across the street onto the steps of my Kindergarten class.
I have never forgotten that day–how special I felt because I lived so close to the school, and the effort of my dad to make sure I stayed safe and dry.
The bus kids to me, however, were the lucky ones. In extreme cases, if school was in session before the weather hit, they were often dismissed early. It seemed back then, school was always in session, and rain or waist-high snow, my across-the-street-residence gave me no excuses.
Shortly after closing it’s doors in 2011, Lincoln School was torn down in a plan involving the hospital and its need for a helicopter landing pad. The community adjusted okay to this change. Due to a shrinking population, Independence needed only two public elementary schools as opposed to three and found a way to secure a section of land and raise funds to build a new school on the other side of town.
Consequently, the helipad was used for only four short years due to the closing of the hospital. My mom missed hearing the school kids play on the playground during their recess time. It really was a welcomed and familiar sound that kept her company. Her view out of her screened-in-front porch for the last of the sixty years she lived in that home was unfortunately an empty lot.
Still a Vibrant Community
In recent years Independence has experienced a slight decrease in population and a change in its overall economic growth. Some of these factors were noticeable even before the pandemic hit, yet the town appears to sustain a vibrant, hopeful spirit.
The community has innovative leaders and dedicated citizens who keep their rich traditions alive, support their existing local businesses and look for ways through the Main Street program, Chamber events and festivals to keep volunteers active.
Neighbors helping neighbors improve their homes, residents coming up with new ways to enhance the downtown area, are all things that have helped the town’s viability.
My old neighborhood is different, yet sustainable. It’s fight is long but worth it’s journey. 💛🍋💛
Although I am a native of Southeast Kansas, part of my family’s history is deeply rooted thirty miles south and across the state line into Northeast Oklahoma. My dad’s paternal grandparents owned a family farm and ranch in Oklahoma’s Washington County, (thirty miles northeast of the larger Osage County), from the 1920s through the early 1970s.
Etched in my memory are trips to Copan, Dewey, Bowring and Bartlesville, visiting great aunts and uncles as well as a few family cemeteries and interesting sights along the way.
My great grandparents’ original farmhouse sat on their property of 180 acres before Copan Lake and nearby Hulah Lake were developed.
Throughout my childhood, my dad would tell stories about his summers spent on the farm in the 1930s, it’s close proximity to the now infamous Mullendore Ranch and his fun visits with half cousins, who were Native Americans. He often told of warnings by his family, out of respect for private property, not to venture onto the Mullendore’s land.
Spending time as a child with various generations of my family, while visiting the area that holds our shared history, helped to shape my interest and love for Northeast Oklahoma, its landscape and culture.
Hulah Lake 💙💙💙💙
Spreading across miles of rolling terrain, that was once Indian Territory, Hulah Lake is located in Northeast Oklahoma’s Osage County. “Hulah,” meaning “Eagle” in the Osage language, was previously an Osage Nation farming community. outdoorsy.com
Situated 20 miles north of Pawhuska, 15 miles southwest of Copan and five miles north of Bowring, the man-made reservoir was completed in 1951 by the United States Army Corp of Engineers, Tulsa District. (US Army Corp of Engineers, Tulsa District Website)
December on the Lake 💙 ☃️
Last December, my son and I traveled toward the lake from Bartlesville in search of a family cemetery near Bowring. It was a gorgeous drive on Oklahoma State Highway 10 North where the winter landscape with late Fall foliage was visible for miles.
The lake itself, in all its beauty, has a shoreline of 62 miles and offers nearby residents and out of town travelers a chance to enjoy picnics, hunting, fishing, boating, a bird sanctuary, camping and rest area. (Oklahoma Fishing Guide Website) On our drive down Oklahoma Highway 10, we spotted a notable entrance to the Mullendore Cross Bell Ranch to the West.
Woolaroc Museum and Wildlife Preserve 🧡💙🧡💙
Bartlesville, Oklahoma is home to Woolaroc, (named for Woods, Lakes and Rocks), which is the wildlife preserve and art museum founded and developed by Phillips Petroleum Company founder Frank Phillips and his wife, Jane Phillips. (woolaroc.org).
Originally Frank’s and Jane’s summer retreat, the exquisite property, which has been expanded over the years, is now owned and operated by the Frank Phillips Foundation, Inc. and has been open for the public to experience and enjoy since 1937. (Woolaroc Museum Gallery Guide)
My scenic drive off the entrance of Oklahoma Highway 123, (this time in August), led me across peaceful terrain, (including a couple narrow bridges), spotting lots of buffalo, elk, llamas and a zebra along the way.
The drive led to a unique museum experience filled with extraordinary works of art. Each room showcased Native American and Western History including American Indian collections, paintings, sculptures and exhibits by well-known artists. The museum is also home to one of the world’s most extensive Colt firearms collections and to the 1927 “Woolaroc” aircraft.
My travels to Northeast Oklahoma are a reflection of the interest I have in my family’s past along with Oklahoma’s rich history.
In my very early childhood, my grandmother and I would walk a few residential blocks from my house, pass by several store fronts, including my dad’s barbershop, to the Woolworth’s store in downtown Independence, Kansas.
Once reaching our destination, our shopping experience was never disappointing. Sweeper bags, hula hoops, aspirin or a hairbrush, Woolworth’s was THE place for buying whatever we wanted or needed.
As soon as we walked through the door, the smells of perfume and day-old popcorn would welcome us back like an old friend. Down the slanted entry ramp and onto the wide-open fluorescent-lit shopping space, Grandma would head for the household items and I would go directly to the aisle filled with miniature ceramic figurines.
After shopping the aisles, we would go to the lunch counter and order a grilled cheese sandwich and what was to me, their signature drink: a concoction of orange juice, milk, crushed ice and phosphate, aptly named the “Orange Whip.”
To this day, I have dreams about that Woolworth’s…the signature fluorescent luncheonette sign; the endless aisles filled with ten cent treasures, Woolworth’s, no doubt, made an impact on me…
Retail Pioneers 💙
Woolworth’s history in my hometown in Kansas and towns and cities across the country is a long and thriving one. Some deem the F.W. Woolworth Company the most successful retail five and dime chain store in all retail history. (Remembering Woolworth’s, Karen Plunkett-Powell, St. Martin’s Press, 1999)
Although the first store that opened its doors in Utica, New York, failed, Frank and Charles, the Woolworth brothers, opened a new store in Lancaster, Pennsylvania in 1879 that would be the first successful “Great Five Cent Store.”
Famous Lunch Counter ❤️
On February 1, 1960, four African American students from the Agricultural and Technical College of North Carolina sat down at a Woolworth’s lunch counter at 123 S. Elm Street in Greensboro, North Carolina. Up to that point, the lunch counter had been for “whites only.”
When the students were refused a cup of coffee and asked to leave the lunch counter, the four freshmen refused to get up. The “Greensboro Four” or the “A&T Four,” as they would later be known, stayed until the store closed. Each day, the number of student peaceful protesters grew while other cities in North Carolina launched their own “sit-ins.” (International Civil Rights Museum Website)
A sit-in movement spawned in additional cities and states in the south. After nearly six months of boycotts, store owners abandoned their segregation policies.
The remaining portion of the lunch counter, including the stools where the “Greensboro Four” sat, has been preserved in its original Woolworth location, 134 S. Elm Street, Greensboro, NC, now home to the International Civil Rights Center & Museum, which opened on February 1, 2010, the fiftieth anniversary of the original sit-in. email@example.com
Standing Up by Sitting Down
An additional exhibit titled “Standing Up by Sitting Down” honoring the first national peaceful protest in America is displayed at the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel. This exhibit includes original interactive video footage and honors the original 1960s sit-ins in the south.
Woolworth’s Today ❤️
The last Woolworth’s store in the United States closed its doors in 1997. While other retailers have used its name in many variations across the world, only a couple of those chains and corporations are currently connected to the original F.W. Woolworth Company brand.
In the US, the company restructured, existing as Foot Locker, Inc. which sells sports apparel and footwear, and is traded on the New York Stock Exchange. (FL) ☮️