Verda Wedel of rural Goessel has about as many paper napkins in her house as a restaurant does, but her napkins aren't plain, they don't match and they carry historical significance. "I imagine there's probably several hundred," Wedel said. "I never stopped to count them."
Verda Wedel of rural Goessel has about as many paper napkins in her house as a restaurant does, but her napkins aren't plain, they don't match and they carry historical significance. "I imagine there's probably several hundred," Wedel said. "I never stopped to count them." Wedel collects napkins and has been doing so since she was in grade school. She and her husband, Henry, celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary Jan. 10, so some of the napkins are antiques. She has eight photo albums full of the paper linens, which appear to be in pristine condition. There are napkins from holidays, birthday parties, anniversary celebrations, school events, FFA banquets, open houses, restaurants, weddings and places in Europe. Her oldest napkins are from her early years of grade school when she attended a one-room school in Greenfield District No. 99 in rural Goessel. "Anywhere and everywhere, the napkin always has to go home with me," Wedel said. Wedel said she always has been fascinated with collecting things, but as a child growing up on a farm, her family didn't have much money, so she started collecting things she could get for free. When she attended events, such as open houses and parties, she'd bring her own clean napkin so she could keep the napkin from the event intact. In addition, friends and family gave her napkins. Her wedding/anniversary album contains a variety of napkins, including those from Goessel High School classmates' events - this album contains napkins from weddings and anniversary celebrations of those weddings. Wedel is a 1956 GHS graduate. She can trace through the album who got married and in what order, she said. "So, it's like a history book," Wedel said. There's names on the napkins, such as "Harold and Joanne," "Selma and Merlin" and "Esther and Lester." Wedel can't pick out any one napkin as her favorite. "I think I like the different party napkins the best," she said, in addition to the wedding napkins because of the historical record they show. Napkins aren't the only things she collects - there's also bells and chicken items. "Everywhere we go, I have to have a bell," Wedel said. "... I'm a big one for gift shops." Wedel has bells from her and her husband's major wedding anniversaries, including the 50th, and places they've visited, including Europe, Niagara Falls, Mexico, and different states and cities. Her favorite bell is a cow bell from Switzerland. Wedel said it had been a childhood dream to visit Switzerland, and she finally got to go in 2000. Other bells were gifts, including the bell she was given when she retired in 2002 from the Goessel school district after 30 years of service. The bell is an old school bell, she said. "Most of (the bells) have some meaning or other," Wedel said. "Most of them are here for a reason - a memory - a memory maker." The bells are on display in a cabinet in the living room. Also on display inside and outside the home are likenesses of chickens - including glass ones, ceramic ones, wooden ones and pictures of ones, about 100 to 150 in all. There's even a sugar container, creamer and cookie jar shaped like the fowl. Wedel's interest in chickens started when she was given a glass chicken set as a child - she grew up with chickens. "I just decorate with things that I like," Wedel said. "No rhyme or reason. ... I enjoy having the chickens around." Also decorating the home is Henry's collection of 225 model tractors and equipment, in a variety of sizes, colors and shapes. Contributing to Henry Wedel's interest in tractors was his 45 years working at Hay and Forage Industries in Hesston (now AGCO); he's retired now. The collection contains a great deal of tractors and equipment models that were produced at HFI. Henry said most tractor dealers have toys, so he was able to obtain models from them. He also has Case tractors. "We've always farmed with Case tractors," Verda said. In addition to dealers, Henry purchased his tractors in other places. "I bought a bunch of (my collection) at different toy shows," Henry Wedel said. Wedel started collecting when he saw a model of a tractor he used to own - and obtained it. Then, he started going to toy shows and picking up different items. Henry Wedel has shared his hobby with the couple's eight grandchildren. When each grandchild was born, he or she received a tractor that year. The Wedels have four grandsons and four granddaughters. Newton Kansan