Oral History of Hannah H. King
Recorded by: Lindsey Morris
Hannah King interviewed by Lindsey Morris on March 12, 2008
Hannah Hildena King is a dearly loved mother of four, grandmother to eleven (including myself) and great-grandmother to one. She is seen by many as a strong-willed, independent, honest woman. Hannah has battled three bouts of breast cancer yet still refuses to give up. She is an inspiration to many and has been a guiding light throughout my life.
Hannah King was born on a farm just outside of Park River, North Dakota on July 10, 1930. She was the second of four children. Her older sister Sophia, aka "Fife," was born in 1928. Hannah followed shortly after, preceded by her brother Ardell and last, but not least, was the baby of the bunch, Harold. Hannah also had two half siblings, one boy Leonard and one girl Edith, who were from her mother's previous marriage. Hannah recalled the time when her half sister, Edith, was pregnant and came to their house to give birth. "My mother was fine with it…I, however, thought it was a bit of an infringement," she shared. Hannah's mother, Olga Olivia Olsen, was a housewife spending her days caring for the four children as well as working as a janitor at the city hall. Trigvey Peterson was Hannah's father. He earned his living working for the Public Works Administration as a handy man at a hardware shop.
Hannah attended school her entire life. In her younger years she attended Park River School for grades K-12. "They were very original back then, can you tell," she joked with me regarding the school's name. After graduation Hannah attended Jamestown College in North Dakota. Since college was relatively far from the town where she lived, she moved into the dorms like most. Hannah graduated from Jamestown with her bachelor's degree in science and her RN (nursing degree). "I wasn't the type that always went running home to mommy, but I did move back home for a while and worked at our local hospital," she told me through her chuckle; "…Then once I got bored with that, I joined the military." Hannah spent about three years (well that she could recall J) serving in the Air Force branch of the military. She was stationed stateside, which means she wasn't overseas or in the middle of any war zones. It was here that she met her husband, Richard John King.
Richard John King was born on November 13, 1923 in St. Louis, Missouri to his parents Nell Dillon and Richard King. He, like Hannah, was in the military; he worked as a Personnel Officer in the Air Force. He was also in WWII working as a "bombardier." Hannah and Richard met at the officers' club, which she described as their own personal diner/bar. It was always full of the "elite" military personnel. "In my opinion they were rather snobbish," she whispered. "We would head there after a shift, have dinner, then migrate to the bar and of course that's where you met the guys…and well…that was about it." She told me of when she found out Richard wanted to meet her. "Someone told him, 'Well you better watch your language because she won't put up with that swearing!'" she chuckled to me. Continuing with her story she told me, "He was very careful, and he did clean up his language, which was funny when I found out about it." They went together for a couple of years before Richard proposed. "I don't quite remember," she states about their engagement, "not too dramatic or romantic I suppose then." They were married on the base where only their friends attended, neither of their families. "We wanted to just leave and get married at the court house, escape the hustle and bustle…but my friends would have none of that."
After Hannah and Richard were married, he remained in the military for several years all the while they moved around and started their family. Together they had four children. Hannah's first son, Michael, was born 2 or 3 years after they were married on the base in Illinois. Following was Patrick born in 1963 in Japan on a military base as well. Next was her first girl, Tara, who was born in Illinois on the same base as her first, Michael. The baby of the family was a girl named, Kyna, who was born on the base in Germany. They remained in Germany for about three more years before Richard retired then moved back to the States. When they returned to the States, they moved to Prescott, Arizona where Richard had gotten a job. "I can't remember what job it was, but he hated it, which is why we moved again," she laughed while shaking her head. They then moved to Tucson, for yet another job. One year later they moved to Colorado Springs. After remaining in Colorado Springs for three years they moved to Mesa, Arizona where she thought they'd stay. Much to her surprise they moved
again, this time out of the country to Holland. They lived there for only about a year while Richard worked in personnel on a base. "He was always looking for a place to go, then when we got there he wouldn't like it; so we'd end up moving again," she said about her husband. "I learned to be a good packer. After a while I'd look around and say 'I don't think we're going to stay here long' and so I'd leave things in boxes." Finally in 1973 they moved one last time from Holland back to Mesa, Arizona where she has stayed for the last 35 years.
While thinking back on this time, Hannah felt all the moving around wasn't so bad. She loved being in different places, meeting new people and observing their lifestyle. The base had everything you needed in order to avoid going into town, but Hannah rarely stayed on the base; it was "boring" and always the same old people. "I loved going into town to the markets and shops. Communication was hard at times, especially in other countries, but you picked up some of the language and most of the town's people knew bits of English; anything else you just acted out." Hannah shared with me some of the possessions she picked up through her many years of travel around the world; they were marvelous. She has things ranging from a huge, antique-like globe stand which opened to hold liquor bottles to tiny Japanese glass statues meticulously painted to include every detail. "It was an experience I'm very glad I had; it was good for the children too I think."
Although Hannah spent many years with her husband Richard; unfortunately he passed away July 10, 1987 from an aortic aneurism burst. As you could imagine this was a hard time for everyone, given his relatively young age (even for the era). She was now left alone with the house, as all her children had grown, married and moved out. Hannah tried to look forward to the days ahead without her husband. Her years following were filled with days spent with her children and her new grandbabies, which she acquired at a rapid rate. Hannah recalls watching her grandchildren pick grapefruit off her trees, slide head first down the slide into the pool, nearly falling into the ditch trying to catch minnows with a net, and taking walks down to the local school during summer vacation to play at the playground. Hannah's grandkids are no longer babies, with the exception of a few stragglers, but now she is slowly getting great-grandkids. She can now look forward to watching her great-grandkids feed the horses, play house behind the hedge in her yard or basketball in the driveway, all experiences which have helped contribute to the breathtaking life she has lived.
Hannah has experienced a full and wonderful life. She came from a very small town and was determined to get out and do something with her life. She has seen many places and experienced numerous different cultures. Education and knowledge have been very important to her in her life, and she has done everything she can to ensure her children and grandchildren share the same virtue. I grew up by my grandmother's side, and I am grateful for how she has impacted my life. I would not be the same woman I am today without her. I only hope to be as strong and determined as her in the coming years of my life. Hannah King holds a very special place in all my family's heart.
Photos courtesy of the family.
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