thumbnail of The Eisenhower years; 2; Abilene: The Formative Years
Hide -
If this transcript has significant errors that should be corrected, let us know, so we can add it to FIX IT+
The following program is made possible by a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. I think by the time he left Abilene Kansas was almost completely formed. This is what he was and that is what he remained until the very last through this world. It has been my fortune or misfortune to wander at considerable distance. Never has it been outside my heart and my memory. Here are some of my only and dearest friends. Here are a man that helped me start my own career and helped my son start here. Here are people that are lifelong friends. My mother and my late father they relate right into the idea that our family and so the ceremonies and as the nation pays final farewell tribute to Weiss.
Has returned home. To the Kansas boroughs where he grew up. To. The Eisenhower years. A Chronicle of the sound of the Life Extension Radio-TV at Kansas State University this week. Abilene the foreman here. This is Abilene Kansas. It's not much changed from the turn of the century one white Eisenhower grew up here. Of course the physical characteristics of change there are new buildings on Main Street mixed with the old. For automobiles and trucks. On page
streets now of course the town is much larger. But attitudes have changed a little here still of fierce feeling of independence here. This is the Bible Belt and religion plays an important part in the lives of the people who live here and the Puritan ethic is still very much in evidence as it was when Dwight Eisenhower was a boy and as Eisenhower biographer Ken Davis has said. When I was as a general and a president he acquired here as a boy. Eisenhower the man that developed from Eisenhower the boy and the upbringing he had an adult. In 1891 the Eisenhower family moved back here to Abilene after living a short time in Denison Texas. During that time in Texas Dwight Eisenhower was born. He was still an infant. David and I did our move with their three sons back to Abilene where David became the engineer of the bell Springs creamery that Kramer still operating. Just two blocks down the street. Biographer Ken Davis.
I think they were close knit and most families it's a religious family for one thing and with a lot of Bible reading and every one of the boys reacted against that by not being religious at all in the Orthodox. And they were they weren't conscious of it apparently at the time at least they say they weren't but they were really rather even by Abilene standards they were not rich certainly they were they were not you know. I suppose it would be what would be called really in a middle class family but there were some rather wealthy people and they were conscious of the fact that they were not in social elite and there was felt they were very conscious of themselves as a family and this made for a certain kind of selflessness which single children don't have all the boys it grew up in Abilene and in that period it's an amazing generation that grew up in that little town never more college presidents bank presidents railroad presidents
just out of a town of about maybe 2025 hundred mazing really amazing. I think that we were still only in that place in our development where there was a little bit of the old pioneer. You did for yourself everybody. So not realizing that's a necessity for work. But there was no resistance to it. You know you just accept it as a way of life. Sneered it when they said we were in that prison thing like that we didn't know those words in those days in a way. Yeah the town the county or the or the federal government tried to give us a dollar lie think everybody in the town would be out of reach. Just a terrible time to change but we were still just in the last night. Say that day in Iran where people
do work to take care of themselves. AS. They earliest American Eisenhower's came to Pennsylvania with a party of Mennonites from Europe in 1741 they settled along the banks of a sus Farhana river thus became known as River brothers. In 1794 Frederick Eisenhower was born. To become a highly skilled Weaver. He married Barbara Dan Miller. They raised six children to maturity. One of them was named Jacob born eighteen twenty eight. He became a minister and farmer and was generally considered the outstanding member of his family his generation. Jacob Eisenhower married Rebecca matter. They had six children who lived to maturity. One of those six was named David Jacob Eisenhower born 1863. In 1878. Jacob Eisenhower moved his family including David from Pennsylvania to Dickinson County Kansas.
They became part of a river brother and colony of some 200 there. The Eisenhower's prospered on the land. And in 1885 on his twenty second birthday. David Jacob Eisenhower took a white. Elizabeth still. She was of German Mennonite stock raised a Lutheran in Virginia. She was a year and five months older than her husband. And from that union of David Jacob Eisenhower and I guess Dover Eisenhower. Would come six sons. All would except. One would become president. You know. David Eisenhower was head of the family. But there can be little doubt that it was Ida
Eisenhower who guided it. It was she who shaped her son's lives are you sure she was very highly valued and she was a strong woman. And the thing about her is this sappy this woman I ever knew in all my life she believed her Bible implicitly she read it all the time. She can quote verse my verse and she just absolutely believed everything was going to be alright with the world when the proper time came and then she was a very happy person. I'm sure that a lot of the charm that I can add in that Milton had was from her very you know term it's hard to explain what what it is really that she had that she was human she was exciting you know when she was herself and she could make you feel very excited and alive and this is a great thing that no one could do and that I could do my or our mother was very understanding. Now of course at times when we got so far out of line that she had to call dad in the morning
and he came to work and take us over that. A little over a story I want to again listen for the same name as the general court martials he was sort of a summary court martial. Three key ingredients in the upbringing of the Eisenhower boys religion discipline and work. Religion was a particular importance to David and I said how are they often found solace in Scripture. My mother I think had been raised as a little my father here in Pennsylvania I think it was an offshoot of the Mennonite group called the riverbed. So both of them had been raised in a very religious life and this is about it for themselves. I noticed that none of them really. Follow their doctrine and don't let any particular sect they just went back to the Bible. My father read go back to a degree and interviewed for himself and once in a while and we will
discuss the possible meanings through his interpretation of the passage both of them were very happy in their religion particularly my mother my mother. Yes everything's going to be right in the world in the long run because that's the way the Lord is going to have it and she has believed this completely as opposed to Eisenhower let the daily Bible reading sessions. They were often lengthy designed to reinforce the Sunday-School teachings in the river brother and meeting house. Young Ike at one time was given a gold watch for completely reading the Bible. One thing I'm proud of that my mother seen him and I said you want this far. She just take those chapters and I had to give her the sense of my soul. Cephas I always call him that to get captured chappies you know it was all he got so it was my mother allowed me to skip those she said they had known me as a matter of fact Dwight
Eisenhower's name came from his mother's religious background. There was an evangelist in her girlhood called L. Moody and apparently she had some admiration for him and I think the name right. Came from that Ike's name originally was David Dwight Eisenhower but it was later changed my father's name was David J. Davis Jr.. And so mother. Just because he was David she began to call me Drake and I got the notion that my name was Dwight David and I gave that as my name when I went to West Point and became officially that growing up in Abilene meant work for the Eisenhower boys all of them regardless of age. They had to work very hard they really did I think I think David Eisenhower the father never made more than a hundred dollars a month for you know until the boys were practically Grunow which was small.
And one of those days you know and you had all these kids to raise. So they were they were they you know had to work very hard and they learned a lot of that kind of discipline. My boyhood it was normal for boys to work. There were fewer people so wealthy that their children didn't want and didn't have to work and. In my day my chores as members go I got bigger but only getting the Kinley had to be a fire started in the morning and I had to get to Kinlay in the evening. When I thought I was terribly if I could remember. Whimpering in the alley howling about. But I had to do it. And it was good for me. And every one of the boys added. Sometimes these chores were rotated every get bigger. But it was a responsibility to do this until you did that you'd get a playtime and of course it was always the race who could get the catcher's glove. First baseman. He had been. White and that you had to get your work done quickly.
The original Eisenhower home in Abilene was a one story bungalow but early and they moved to a two story white clabbered house nearby. It was on a city block of land land put to good use. Part of my discipline was to taking care that we find we had to have a lot of chickens. We had to arsenals and things of that kind. In addition to the family garden each of the Eisenhower boys was given his own plot of ground allowed to raise any kind of vegetables he chose for sale to neighbors. The Prophet his to keep. Ike chose to grow and sell sweet corn and cucumbers. He didn't like peddling vegetables but it was a way to earn money for things like bats and balls and gloves. It was time for that side of growing up in Abilene as well. We know only three things baseball football and two or three of us boxing but baseball any time we were free. All of us were from baseball for six
years Roy and I we knew we could make third of the team ourselves and you know here in this school ground then we would play every minute. Yes. Young Eisenhower was husky and loved athletics. He organized Abilene high school's athletic association and served as its first president and played on the school's baseball and football teams. I was a kid. And when we used to go around the little high school teams and play in the local town the local town we would be because I was called Sweet. Anyways we yes went out of there and so well I was substitute in on the high school team. When I weighed under 16 I remember that. And the fellow on the other end was a modern 70 and I had to work pretty hard. I always like bodily contact and the coaches just because I just love to be someone I guess they put me on is fairly fast. But baseball I remember the life of
all of us boys together. It was far more fun and it was just a tragedy we never saw it that we were somebody that Scrooge you know just have beaten over their heads and they can do something. On the contrary felt we had a pretty good thing going here among the good things going for young white Eisenhower in his boyhood in Abilene where hunting and fishing trips with a friend who taught him things he would remember the rest of his life. His name was Bob Davis. He was Ike's boyhood hero. Ike described him as a traveler a fisherman Hunter guide bachelor philosopher and teacher. In that order he was much older and that is strange enough. My mother would trust me have all of me go out and sometimes spend a whole weekend on the river where he was a fisherman and in the fall and winter track and I learned from him that many things and he was really in the last of
his own right although he was not complete you know literally very bright very smart and he just never had any formal schooling. One of the things I could learn from Bob Davis and use the rest of his life was how to play poker the right way and the interface just passing the time back you can't fight back. Fire guard dog here if you look like you ladies almost on his very dirty days and he talked me and they just. Stuck me with me all my life. Very few people really know anything about a course of production again. But I mean the average citizen played an inside straight flush. And this is the kind of thing that a man who's been raised on percentages never even dreamed. And so he wins young Ike had a temper.
He came by it honestly. His father could show anger at an impressive level. Ike described his father's temper once as a temper that could blaze with frightening suddenness. But it was Eisenhower who taught young Ike a lesson and temper control. A lesson he carried with him as a general and as president. That fact I learned control it from my mother and they talked to me. Well I guess when I was over 10 and I didn't of course appreciated until I was 35 or 40. It was on a Halloween evening. My two older brothers gotten permission to go up and join a little group and I wanted to go along and my folks decided I was too young and I couldn't do it. So I of course I bellowed and did everything I could to get them to change their mind. Finally off when my two brothers. This is about
the last thing I remember of that instant kill. My dad had me by the collar and I was really yet in a tourney and I don't mean maybe. And what he had done he found me. There is an old apple tree stump an apple tree and for some reason I guess I thought the apple tree was to blame and I was there crying that I was I couldn't be eating as the apple tree of my fish and they were all. Please be messy while questions get through it is punishment easy as man to man. So I had to bet I went on a half hour later my mother came in the room and she began to talk to me and she used some Bible verses and then you seen that she talked a while and trying to show me how when you really get so angry at
someone that you couldn't help yourself that you were not hurting them at all they didn't even know it. How could they know it so you're hurting yourself. Well then in the meantime she began to wash my hands and get a little savage on them and wrap them up and I think that is one of the most important moments of my life. Part of growing up on the prairie in Abilene in those days was the ability to fight. Fighting was a legend in Abilene. It's wild west history was steeped in it and that carried down to the Eisenhower boys and their school chums. Oh no stay safe right now. I was astonished that they used to knock each other unconscious you know. Kids don't do that nowadays any refined at all apparently but. I was going out with Tori Spelling with her right there where everyone was really badly hurt but now they really slaughter going to one of the legendary Abilene fights involved 13 year old Dwight Eisenhower who hailed from the south side of the tracks pitted
against Wesley Merrifield from the north side. Merrifield was heavier and faster but I stuck with him. Witnesses say the fight lasted two hours long after either boy could strike an effective blow and it ended in a draw with each admitting he hadn't licked the other. Another of the oft told tales of the Eisenhower boyhood concern the flood of 903. Edgar and Ike were enjoying a water sport of sorts but it could have proved quite dangerous. My brother and I went off in doing a sled we found a floating sidewalk and we got a lot of noise to go with it and we were going down the street it was just a raging torrent down toward the river. And luckily some man breaking through and his horse at a high ground he just saw us and he made us get off never going further. And so finally you guys back in town and then when my father back that way in here
everyday we were indoors. Part of the discipline of work was the discipline of study. Although I could mits students in his day didn't have as much homework as students today. His prime interests were in history and geometry. Kenneth Davis. He soaked up facts like on water you know he had a very tiny memory about things that interested him in a lot of things he was a very good student never any trouble behave in Ike's elementary teacher Mrs. M. I well they believed in the children behaving themselves first and I had to work. They were taught to each one took his part hard to work at different times. They could cook they could do
the garden work. They could just do anything. Their parents demand it. When Dwight Eisenhower was fifty and his life was nearly taken he fell and skinned his knee and blood poisoning developed and spread. The strange thing about. It was nobody you know just a raw place like they don't and I can't remember when I really am. This showed the effects but I think it was the second night. That I came home and I lay down and became delirious and. Then found out I did receive a fever and going to bed got a doctor and for a couple of weeks a very sick boy so sick in fact. But there was talk of amputating the leg to save Ike's life but he made Edgar promise he would stand by his bedside and not let them operate. Ike said he'd rather die than be a cripple.
But strangely enough you know they were that easy seemed to. Follow into my body. And one down and two. Along the skin and finally a man and a doctor they came up from here to consult with our family doctor. Advised the use of carbolic acid to paint a bell around me and this started because they thought their behavior ever got up as far as my partner's chest. Then I was through. And but this time it had become too late to NPT. Growing from that Dwight Eisenhower learned another lesson he would remember and you through life that will is a strong weapon. High school record was excellent. His scholastic record the highest in his graduating class of 99. The school prophesy indicated that Ike would someday be a professor at Yale and that his brother Edgar would serve two terms as U.S. president. Following is graduation I took a full
time job at the bell Springs creamery to save money for his further education and to help Edgar with his work seven nights a week as an engineer. Twelve hours a night that was all part of the ethic by which Dwight Eisenhower was raised the family the close knit but self-reliant family the religion steeped lifestyle the independence of the individual the belief in work as the answer. In short the menu of the Eisenhower boyhood days you might say of absorption by it would be just the basic mistake as a discipline that I know you had to cooperate and we certainly learned responses. Will they raise their kids to be very self-reliant. They never interfered with any part of that they were responsible for themselves and they were responsible for what they did. Well I think my parents were successful in instilling you might say decent ambition. I'm all about my both my mother and father both
are saying well if you want to go to college go Also there's nothing stopping you. And they refused to do. Even the hint that a lack of money can keep you from going to college if you really want to do it. It was over. My mother had a number saying you would sink or swim or survive or perish or things of that kind. And she said it just how how strong strongly is your desire to do these things and I think therefore they were constantly trying to show us that if you got anywhere by your own efforts and how well you could do your work whatever you chose. There were two influences that played on Eisenhower and made for the kind of tension which made for uniqueness in him one was it was the Abilene Cowtown tradition. You know this is a town where Wild Bill Hickock was was the great hero. And I always lie Fred West in pulp magazines for relaxation. It was a town which had these kid fights which were in the old rough tough Well West tradition certainly. But I get personal
family was it was it was a it was a Mennonite family which is very committed to puritanical not Yankee puritan but. To puritanical conceptions of right and wrong and very religious much Bible reading much piety of the orthodox kind. And these are two opposite and between most the tension between those two I think had a lot to do with shaping Eisner's character AC which he turned out he was. He was a Democrat a real Democrat not in the sense of the question is who was brought up in the Puritan tradition there's a real relationship it seems to me always has seemed to be between Puritanism and democracy because every man is absolutely his center of measure of value in the Puritan tradition. And I was brought up in a tradition but there was also this wild Cowtown tough tradition which was the opposite of pacifistic.
And I think that this interests Eisner's Well I'm pretty much never been out in my memory. Here I thought well I don't know if I am Kenyan who's almost completely for a minor matter and that might make my dad right. And if they don't love me I think my family I'm really excited. And this is a great great thing you know good namely in the children behaving himself his first and work. I think that is when we started each one important moments in my life. This is what he was and that is what do you mean you are a lot of. Lies in our extension Radio-TV at Kansas State University on a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Producer narrator is Ralph Titus research bike and write. Music for the Eisenhower years was composed by Gail Kubrick. Performed by the
Kansas State University Chamber Symphony conducted by a third eleven good. Our thanks to the following organizations for materials used in this week's broadcast. WCAU radio Philadelphia. W have helped in radio Philadelphia metro media radio New York Time live broadcasting San Diego and CBS News. Next week. West Point and beyond. This is called the weeds. This is the national educational radio network.
The Eisenhower years
Episode Number
Abilene: The Formative Years
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/500-hd7nt95w).
No description available
Politics and Government
Media type
Embed Code
Copy and paste this HTML to include AAPB content on your blog or webpage.
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 71-6-2 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:30:00?
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “The Eisenhower years; 2; Abilene: The Formative Years,” 1971-00-00, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed December 8, 2023,
MLA: “The Eisenhower years; 2; Abilene: The Formative Years.” 1971-00-00. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. December 8, 2023. <>.
APA: The Eisenhower years; 2; Abilene: The Formative Years. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from