By Dr. Ferrell Miller
Geary County Historical Society Board Member
“Miss Jule Richardson: Nanny To Junction City’s Children”
For over half of the 20th century, a woman working outside the home was the exception rather than the rule. Gaylynn Childs, our former Executive Director of the Geary County Historical Society, wrote in an article that the 1905 “Junction City Directory” listed 318 women with occupational designations other than “housewife”. Many of these jobs would be considered “blue collar” jobs today. Among this category was one in which a specific woman was considered a legend. Her name was Julia Richardson. She was often referred to as “Miss Jule”. She was a nanny to many of the children who grew up in Junction City near the turn of the 20th century.
According to a “Daily Union” newspaper article published at the time of her death in 1951, “Miss Jule” was a member of a respected colored family, which came to Junction City just after the Civil War and before the railroad lines were laid. The family lived at 515 West Fourth Street for nearly 80 years. She was born in that house in 1873. “Miss Jule” served as a practical nurse for babies. When the small fry graduated to school, Jule moved to the next family on her waiting list.
A day with Jule began at 6:00 AM and ended at 6:00 PM. She never married, but devoted her life to the children of Junction City. For more than 40 years or up until WW II, Miss Jule gave a big party for Junction City’s children. She did this each year until she was no longer physically able. In 1951, at the age of 77, Miss Jule Richardson died in the arms of one of “her children”. That person was Betty Cleary. It was Miss Jule’s turn to sit on the heavenly lap and rest her head on the pillow of love as she had provided to so many others.
“The First Circus Arrives In Junction City”
Zoos were not as numerous in Kansas as they are now. Zoos may be found in Wichita, Topeka, Emporia, Manhattan, Salina and Overland Park to mention a few. Before there were many zoos, the circus was a way to see and learn about animals that were not common to our area. A good place to see these animals was at the circus. So, when a circus came to town in the 1800’s and beyond, parents made every effort to take their children to see the animals.
It was August 9 and 10 in 1866 following the Civil War that J.T. Johnson and Company exhibited the first circus in Junction City. Watching a circus crew put up the big tent and make camp was almost as exciting as seeing the animals and the show. The elephants usually stole the attention in the pre-event activities, because of the work they did in unloading and setting up equipment for the performances. In 1867 the circus, which included the Siamese Twins as a part of the circus company, visited our town again. During the decades which followed, the summer entertainment often included shows of various types.
Circuses are becoming less and less available now. Many of us have memories of not only watching the circus tents being set up, but also enjoying the animal acts, trapeze artists, clowns, shows and activities along the midway. Who could forget the circus marches and music played by live musicians and the smells of popcorn and cotton candy. Good memories!!!