Kenton Allen, Karen Allen Miller, and Kim Allen

Recorded August 5, 2006 Archived August 5, 2006 42:39 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: wtc000751


Kim asks her dad and her aunt to tell her about her grandparents (their parents) with a special slant on their mother’s mental illness.

Subject Log / Time Code

mother would save wrapping paper from christmas and iron it for the next batch of gifts
Karen discusses mother’s depression and her receiving shock treatments and how she was sent away to live with an uncle and aunt during these bad periods.


  • Kenton Allen
  • Karen Allen Miller
  • Kim Allen


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00:15 My name is Kim and Alan, I'm 44. Today is August five 2006 the day of my brother's wedding celebration. I'm here at the World Trade Center PATH station, and I'm interviewing my father Canton and my Aunt Karen.

00:34 My name is Kenton Hall Allen. Although I never use the name. Haro. I am a 69 going on. 70. The date is August 2006. My son's celebrating his wedding today. I'm at the World Trade Center at the PATH station and dumb.

01:00 Next to me is my little little anymore. Sister Karen Marie.

01:09 My name is Karen Marie.

01:12 Miller.

01:15 Guess my maiden name is Alan that pertinent I'm just turned 61 the dates, August 5th 2006, and I'm at the World Trade Center in.

01:30 I am the aunt of the interviewer Kim and the sister of Canton.

01:39 Great.

01:41 So, you know as I'm sitting here looking at you Karen and you Dad but especially Karen, your Karen Marie and Marie was my grandma's name. Your your mom. You look just like your mother.

01:57 And I was hoping that the first thing you might want to do is tell me about your mother Marie. What was she like?

02:07 Oh, that's a hard question. She was an amazing lady.

02:13 She was very loving.

02:17 And your remarkable? I I knew her differently than

02:22 My brothers did because I was born so much later in her life. And I was alone with her more than my brothers were at a different time. And

02:35 In the end of her life, after

02:38 Towards the end of her life. We were we did a lot together. We went to club meetings and did things together and

02:48 We are real close and

02:56 She has a lot of Marie's name after hers. My daughter's name is Teena Marie in the and but I've got two cats. I got Murray the middle name and my other daughter is named Carmen Marie. She was somebody that

03:23 Never could find fault with people. She always found something nice about everybody. She met even strangers. She would take them in. She was good to my friend. Some of my friends had problems, and she took them under her wing and she just was a remarkable lady.

03:45 Do you have some first thought you'd like to add about Grandma dad?

03:49 Well, I know I loved it very much. She would read me the Hardy Boys, mysteries in the bottom bunk of my bed. And I remember that was a great when I can get my mama to do that. And she said, I shouldn't read in bed sideways because I ruin my eyes because when I be closer to the bed than the other and I might just try my eyes. I remember beautiful smile and course. I remember her.

04:21 My father was a rather difficult man to be married to because he was stubborn, extremely intelligent very well. How could I say not confident in himself and you needed to be reinforced and he was messy, which my brother inherited. It is naturally. I'm very, very neat myself because I married very well. When I need lady.

04:54 I think that he has the Alan Misty jeans, just like I tend to be collecting syndrome in the

05:07 Yeah, it seems to be that everybody puts things on the floor and sorts of them and gets back to them later. Grandpa with your dad was The Collector, but after she was gone, I found a lot of things that she had saved and like plastic bags, 10 or 12 hook together with a rubber band at Christmastime, what she saved off of every pack wrapping paper in fire nut. We had to open our packages. So very carefully. And what time? So that was dad's idea. One at a time, but we had to open them very, very carefully so that she could save the paper. And if it was wrinkled chat with ironaton honest-to-goodness, I still have a couple pieces that she said she saved

06:00 In my wrapping paper boxes, when she had a tremendous sense of humor. I remember Christmas times. We had long play records. And if somebody got a long pie record, why she said we all said it was an egg beater. It was an egg beater, even though we knew it was a record and that was, that was funny.

06:23 No, one time, she wrapped up an egg return said, this is the right record.

06:30 Funny lady.

06:31 My grandma, who is from Portland, Oregon. How did she end up in Kansas?

06:37 I know that one went to tell her she went to college and George Fox college for 3 years, long enough to get a diploma from there, but she came out here were sister lived and she was working at Friends University and she went one year friends and they had she had she was in The Chapel at two friends and

07:09 There was that somebody going to friends was going to go to Chapel and had to field. They'd only counted empty seats and then they had at my dad sit in the

07:21 Seed and having to be next to my mother. And that's how they met in.

07:28 They weren't supposed back then. They weren't supposed to date or whatever and and Heat.

07:41 24. I think maybe my father, Alvin Alan, who had no middle name because cuz his

07:51 They wanted a name. Alvin Wilbur Allen after his grandfather. No, no. No, there was an argument. So we just had no middle name and it went he went to school at Winfield at Southwest Southwestern College, Kansas, and he was a debater and that's why I happened to be in Wichita. Because there was a debate tournament and so he went to Chapel and sat next to Marie and she didn't know what to do that. They strike up some kind of conversation or something and she had to ask to house my other. If it was okay for her to communicate with him and so he wrote her a letter and she went to the ER, all about himself and everything. And so she answered every one of these questions with a question question and they started writing to each other and that's how it started.

08:41 How does your family feel about her being courted by a man from Kansas?

08:46 I don't think they were very thrilled and they got engaged while she was out here in Kansas, and they were planning to be married. And they went back to most you went and met dad's family in jet War.

09:05 And I remember through Kansas and Hodgeman County to be exact and

09:14 She was sitting around the table with his family and they were talking. I don't know where they were talking about politics, or what they're doing, but she announced that she was a socialist, and she didn't know what that meant, particularly, but shocked them all, and she met the family and then they went back to Portland and to Newberg where all of her family lived and met his family and then they were married almost right away and they sailed the day after they married to the Philippine islands for for dad had a job in the Philippines.

09:49 And stayed there for about 2 years. How different were they? I think it was pretty different. Very different. My, where did he come from? Father was a

10:07 I lived on a farm wild and Western Kansas, he made money by growing watermelons and nobody in his family had ever had a higher education at all. And he was the poet and the dreamer and he was fat Alvin and and made fun of. And so the way he got himself out of that is to go to college and he got his degree and you suddenly was respected and they fought through years and he got his doctor's degree. And so we had to call on. Dr. Alan from my after that doctor and education, and I had a lot of pride in that, but he always had a certain inferiority feeling he had to be built up. He had to be filled up, and it was a problem. His whole life that he needed to be, he needed to be encouraged because he had this info.

11:07 Already feeling that came from his youth because they made fun of old fat al, you know.

11:15 Back to the beginning. He also traps comes to raise money and he had to earn his way through high school because they couldn't put him through that. And they took him five years to get to high school because he had to work on the farm and until that put him in the same.

11:35 Mother was a year behind in college or she had an extra year. And so that put them in the same graduating class. My mother. Our mother was very different background her. Her father was a physician and he was traveled through the traveling physician. So is an educated home. They the mother stayed at home and my Riddell Hester was her name, right? And one of the very serious things that we have to talk about if we talk about my mother,

12:19 Is it? They weren't too eager for her to get married cuz they're worried about it because she had had bouts of depression that started very young. And I ordered her the rest of her life to a certain degree and they consider very delicate and health and they didn't want her to get married or have children. Feisty should do it. Anyway. I just lost the thought. That's okay. It'll come back.

12:51 So she she one thing about dad that you didn't mention. He's the first person in his family, to go through high school and graduate in and useful tip High School too. And then he is the first person to go to college in the first person to get a degree and many of his

13:09 Nieces and nephews considered him the the goal in it after he did that. All of the kids graduated from high school and many of them went on, they considered him the

13:25 Role model role model. That was very important to him to be that and very dry. And also pick cotton.

13:40 But I started with a sooner.

13:43 He was in Oklahoma little. Well. Yeah, you can come down there.

13:48 Life.

13:49 Not an easy life.

13:53 He deserves a lot of credit that Grandma was really.

13:56 Different hurricane considered a privilege more of a privileged life. Cuz they all had a very good. I've got in my office in Wichita, her tennis racket. She was a very good tennis player and let her reply was one of the best. Ya was at a friend's University. She played tennis in Wichita that was there or was it friends and she's very good.

14:26 Ever considered, do you think your parents had a great love affair? At least at the beginning? Oh, yes, I think so. Why do you think that

14:37 I just do. I I seen the

14:41 I had letters.

14:44 That I found, and

14:47 How could somebody put up with the whole day?

14:54 Working so hard to keep that up. If she wasn't really in love with him, totally clear till the end.

15:04 It was a big deal.

15:07 End of debauch, the families and that means she had to fight to

15:13 Go against the grain and get married and go off like she did and she always was with him.

15:22 I'm sure there are no Affairs in that. They was a big, they cared about each other and supported each other and whole Allen and Murray the typical things but I don't remember any big fights or anyting awful. It is a my mother's was an employer. If there was a conflict she moved away from me. She just didn't want to challenge it and I guess that was a surviving thing.

15:52 So after they, after they were married, they set sail for the Philippines that, right? And what did they do there to talk some? And she also had the first girl scout troop in.

16:08 The Philippines, she had a group of girls and she also taught sewing.

16:14 I have a book of all the stitches in.

16:19 Each page had a different Stitch that she taught, and they were considered Elite cuz they had servants.

16:28 And experience of being so the American colonists in the Philippines and they were very privileged dressed up in a Muslim Garb and sat on his lap and he didn't know it was her and he was she was trying to embarrass him because this woman was sitting on a man and I would it was really got all upset and everything humor.

17:00 She was a practical joker later on. She embarrassed, you by riding a bicycle and college campus around campus, and I don't figure that was any worse than you going. Barefoot.

17:19 Republic. It was raining, running down the street. She was just ahead of her time cuz everybody rides bicycles now.

17:30 So after they got back from the Philippines,

17:33 Before she was embarrassing, you in the college campus.

17:37 Sheehan and Grandad, start a family, where did they settle when they got back? They were there two years, right? Well, they were advised to stay because it was during the Depression and they were home sick. And there was a lot of unsettling Us in the Philip Philippines. They were some tribal fightings and things like that and some things weren't. So if I think Dad was challenged with those, one of those bolo knife, like they brought back and somebody broke his desk with my knife and a threat because he didn't give his son a grade or something like that.

18:20 And but they were, they wouldn't wouldn't listen to cuz they were still homesick and that came back and there wasn't any work.

18:27 Cuz it was 1931 or they left and 29 about 19:31. That's about right, are older brother. Larry Albin. He got the middle name was born in 1930 for 2 years, 2 months, and 4 days as we always said, older than I was. And where was he born? Was he born in born in Portland, Portland, Oregon and then I was born two years later and I was countin Carl Allen and my father made fun of my name. Can I had an uncle harl and he said he said hard liquor and some of the rest of my life. I would never use.

19:17 Oral, I was Canton, H. Allen and Kirstie JoJo is Herkimer. Never tell anyone. I remember once my, my brother Larry called me Canton Haro, and I got so angry at him. I ran him around that. I chased him around the block trying to get him so you don't mess with it. Now. My name is Kevin Harlan. Okay, so then what do you remember about that? Are nine years later. I'll always be the younger and you are the baby sister. Karen Marie. Keron Mari the cutest baby. I ever did. See my first poem. My father was a poet. It is though. He's tried to tried to instill that into me and she was cute.

20:07 I know I'm looking at it right now. She's got a nice smile on her face. She's still cute, though.

20:15 Non babyish but cute. Nice lady looks a lot like her mother, especially after Karen lost her how many pounds lost 205 lb. He was very very, very seriously ill with the Obesity and she lost 25 lb of now or face. Looks like that pretty face of Murray.

20:40 What does you do look like Grandma? So were you excited about Karen being born or you eating or diapers? But I don't remember that. I know a story. Okay? Tell her I'm ready. There's a

21:01 Going from Portland to Newberg. I believe it was. There was a halfway bridge in the boys used to fight over. Who got to hold me. And also at the halfway Bridge, they had to change one would hold me until the halfway bridge and then the other one would hold me the rest of the way when they put it. The halfway Bridge.

21:26 Who and where you like to always, you are a little sister. Well, I don't have a lot of memories when I was little little, they start when I'm about 3 or 4.

21:42 So during the time, when you were growing up, Grandad was teaching, or yes. He was always a teacher when he was first back. He did something where he was in the

21:56 Your lived in tents. Bornean spent one summer intensive. He couldn't find a job and he had an illness or he was on crutches and that was right after he came back.

22:20 And that's about the time. They had the fire in the cabin and all of their things, burned up on the alsea river near Waldport, Oregon and that was a place of my you that they all ended. Did you get to go there at all before my time? And we would go out fishing. I caught my flounder on the dock at the water park and then I was sitting thrilling, my father loved to fish. He wasn't very good at it, but he loved to do it. And

22:54 Your grandfather, your mom, your mother's father, my mother's father and they build it and then eventually it burn down so he can kind of gone back there to try to see it, but it's can't tell where it was gone. Our mother was a prankster.

23:13 Do you have an idea? Oh, yeah, I'll tell me talk about the cabinet, the lclc river.

23:23 She and her younger brother Ralph.

23:27 Not the youngest brother, but they seemed a team up together and get into trouble. And Marie was the ringleader, but she didn't get always get caught.

23:40 And they did things like walking across the railroad trestles, over the

23:45 River.

23:47 And that was a No-No. And one time, they fell in the water.

23:53 And they thought they weren't going to get caught. They hurting their wet clothes on the Rafters in the cabin. Course, when you lay down, or you look up, there was all their clothes and their mother couldn't prove, it was Marie that led the

24:11 Activity, but she knew of course and I don't know, she was always doing something and she would get the other kids in trouble and she wouldn't get caught.

24:25 Now Karen has a very different and hard upbringing than I did. Because when my mother when we lived in

24:39 Caldwell Idaho, my father is at the College of Idaho. Now, the Albertsons College of Idaho is a professor of my mother got very, very sick, and had to be hospitalized for extreme depression. And those are in the days when they didn't have the medications and the counseling. And she had shock treatment after shock treatment. And I remember going visiting her at the hospital and she was just a ghost. And I was at about an 8th grader than learned about that age. How old was I the first time? I don't know you're very young and you left to go to Newberg, Oregon to live with your

25:22 Uncle Homer, in an olive and Joyce and Meredith and you were gone for a year. I don't know, because Mom was and dad was certainly wasn't able to parent you.

25:36 And so is Dad me and you were gone.

25:41 And Larry.

25:43 I seem to think there was a time when I was about a year-and-a-half old that I went that I can't account for cuz I can't remember any of it. I know the second, the time. I remember the most was when I was nine approximately and I spent nine months away and I remember it might have been twice. You were there.

26:05 Kenton look very much like his Uncle Homer when he was young. And I remember waking up on the waking up and there was somebody sleeping on the couch and I thought it was can't and it was Uncle Homer and he said, you want to fly home with me boy. I thought that was just a real game. I thought it was going for a visit and I didn't come home for 9 months. And I thought my family didn't want me. For some reason. They tell you, why would they take me to? My note, tell me anything though. Didn't tell me anything. Or did you find out that mom had been?

26:39 Seriously ill when I was 16 years old in Mexico, when Gretchen Kim's, aunt called me a brat said I could be a lot nicer to my mother because she'd been so sick and I knew nothing nothing about any of it. And I became extremely rude upset teenager because I had not been told anything about my mother's illnesses or anything. And if I had known even at 9, I could have done something and I could have helped that was in the air, our mental illness. It was a big shame and it was something you didn't talk about and you are embarrassed by it, only kept secrets for years. Now. That's a big.

27:32 Problem in our family.

27:40 People named what it was.

27:44 I think a nine-year-old could be much more understanding a nine-year-old does not a baby.

27:52 And could understand a lot and can be helpful and surely at 16. I could have been a little bit better.

28:00 Equipped to understand what was going on.

28:05 I was at a total loss and to hear it from Gretchen who wasn't close to me.

28:13 And she thought I was awful. She thought I was a terrible person and understanding your mom or Gaston.

28:22 I thought it was completely, I only way I know you're is later when we are living in Wichita.

28:30 And mother was sent to a mental a mental institution there and the shock treatments. Again, it was still before they had work out better ways to handle it. And I remember going there and and I just cry with her and she would just cry and cry and I would hold her and cry, and she's never going to get better on that end. And I was older. My brother was no counselor and Karen was younger and I had a lot lot of burden and it was, it was just extremely hard to see my mother like that and do just for a long. Of time. I go visit her and she would cry and they would be no. She just thought it was going to be the rest of her life like that. Eventually she did come out of it and

29:30 Fortunately, the years before she died. She was in pretty good shape when she. Yeah, she had one episode closer to the end of her life, but they brought her out of that with medication and she had shock treatments again. She was the 70's or her 8770 jump. It was when we took a trip to Oregon and we took her out to see Homer and Olive and Ralph and Rosa and coming back from that trip. I called home and said that we were going to have to do something cuz she's slipped into.

30:11 A depression coming back. And I was having to help her with her hygiene and all that type of thing. And I knew that we were there again when we were passing back. But back then, right by, then. I knew what was going on and I could recognize the signs, but

30:27 But the nice thing is when she was well, she was extremely well-liked by friends, and she was, in fact, even the Quaker church and missionary society and she cooked hamburgers to earn money during lunch. Caldwell, Idaho, and she, she loved to play cards. And she had her card friends and she had some great times late in life. Famous description of her mother as she played cards at a drop of a hat. Didn't matter. What? Kind should play a single card game. I know how to play. She taught me.

31:10 Card, once you found out the poker cards weren't necessarily for gambling cuz she was raised. It cards were poker cards? Gambling was

31:24 You know, I know know, once you found out, you could use those cards for other games that were acceptable, then she would play cards. She was raised on Rook & flinch.

31:35 Granddad was a pretty funny guy too. Sometimes morning.

31:41 He wrote a poem about the boy flipping my heart. I hold him high and never let him fall or something like that. And Morgan daddy Morgan and so far. Yeah, I was really nice and he wrote a poem about some boy that

32:03 Had a hole in his pants. In the, he choked to death and babe, pulling through the whole of his pants or something like that, without taking a whole and choked himself that it was funny. Funny. This was a pretty hot.

32:16 Life for him to. It wasn't easy for you. And I want to do. You just didn't know what to do. He didn't, they didn't send me away because they didn't love me. They just didn't understand what to tell. He couldn't have handled me in the two, boys. At the same time. He wasn't capable of it, but I didn't know that.

32:36 One of my strongest memories in that long time, that I was away and he never remembered it. Until I told him about it. Was that?

32:46 He came on an Easter vacation all the way from Idaho to Oregon to see me when he should have been studying for 5 finals because he needed to see me. And he knew, I needed this family and he drove all that way to come see me, you? Yes, you and it meant a lot and he didn't even remember doing that but you've always remembered it. Oh, yes.

33:12 And another real strong member. I had this after mother's been sick, and

33:19 We've been separated night. So that's why I said, I think I had a younger time. I was separated, because when we move to

33:29 Caldwell. I was looking so forward to having my own room and having my both my brothers and my mother, my whole family together and I really remember that strong and that's about my first real memory.

33:44 Then there was a show whether you had to have the door open, so the light would come in and then eventually I got. So I had to have the door shut and have stuff things under there. So there's no, like the dude. I used to have to go to sleep with Larry, playing the piano or something like that.

34:02 I have memories of babysitting you to really. I used to be your babysitter.

34:11 You remember going trick-or-treating for me when I had the chickenpox? I'm sure I did because I probably got some of the candy I suspect.

34:23 What one thing I have to say about my father.

34:28 He was.

34:31 Definitely liberal politically was a good Quaker. He, a lot of the values I have came from him about helping people my mom too. And one of the saddest things about him, is his inferiority complex, you struggle that year after year. I became his counselor, and I don't know how much you know about this Karen, but every time he had a problem with his school, Lakeland College in, Wisconsin and Friends University in Wichita, he would conflict with administrators for, for reasons, and I had to go up to school and become the intermediary.

35:19 And and resolve it because he couldn't do it himself. And so it was kind of tough. I had to do that with my brother too, and he was in difficulty when he was a teacher. So just like, you had dinner reading me a father figure in my life too cuz they couldn't do it many times.

35:42 So what are the, what are the strengths of your family? It sounds to me. Like, there's someone's I'm hearing here. What are some of the things you treasure from your really? Really, the last few years. I put a stop to the hiding things in our family will cuz it one time Homer. Mother said.

36:04 Youngest brother had a hiatal hernia, and he was going to have surgery and it's a Chinese going to have that surgery. It was not a

36:12 Done deal. It wasn't exciting.

36:16 It wasn't one. That was always successful. It was a real serious thing. It wasn't.

36:22 No, just go in there and do it. There was a real danger and they weren't going to tell mother about it.

36:28 And I threw a fit.

36:31 I said she has a right to know because she needs to know he's having the surgery and she needs to have the right to cry and worry and whatever cuz what if he didn't make it to you. And told her that would be worse. And so I told her and I said you need to quit protecting her so much because personally I think she had the stronger personalities and dad did she just would wear herself out periodically in the depression would set in until I told her. And from then on Helen quit protecting her and she was told the truth about everything and I can tell you one thing cuz I have have the same.

37:11 I think my mother.

37:13 Was probably bipolar. She was born today. They probably would have put that handle on her and I am too that she was strong enough to tell me it one time when I was really down and they wanted to give me shock treatments and I had such a horrible.

37:30 Prejudice against them cuz I saw them when I was a nurse.

37:34 And then I knew all about my mother's illness that I didn't want to take them. And she told me.

37:42 You need to do it because it saved my life. And so she had the strength to help me face what I had to do.

37:50 So she had a lot of strength.

37:55 That people didn't always recognize as I think through.

38:00 Will you many years of my old life?

38:04 One thing I profoundly as Karen knows and you can know is that I've been there death, several times, you know, when I was in college.

38:17 I almost died of pneumonia. I had a train wreck and almost died. I had to. I was on a heart transplant list and almost died. And I just had open heart surgery with rehospitalization is terrible. And I'm absolutely convinced in my little quicker way that there's something left for me to do.

38:38 I believe that and he got a, you can't.

38:46 You can't solve the world, but you got to do everything. You can when, you know, I taught it and in Sunday school. They taught me, the name of a taught me that if you give

39:01 Beggar on the street to a dollar because he's hungry and he goes around the corner and buys a bottle of booze. I didn't change what you did. You didn't the best you know, how

39:15 You know, it's not what you saw is what you try to solve, and I believe that still working at. It haven't made it yet.

39:25 One thing I always Siri, I always had to do that. They gave the end of their presence to the wrong member of the family.

39:33 That if they'd treated adds some of his problems like that that maybe it would have been better and he wouldn't have worn her down so much.

39:41 Come to me.

39:44 Pastor Allen was actually a very strong inspirational person. She just had something.

39:53 She couldn't quite handle and guess what? I'm Karen married. Well, and I married well, and I've had three great children and two great-grandchildren and my son just got married, and I'm so happy by the values of all of them and care. And it is an extremely great grandmother to her multi, grandkids have to count them.

40:26 Well, Tina has six.

40:29 And you helped deliver one at Tina's babies, in a taxi. Didn't you two may? I delivered two babies on the couch in my living? Okay, Stars twins.

40:38 Tina has six and Lenny has she had three and she got one by marriage and one is deceased.

40:47 Gangster.

40:49 9.

40:51 Pretty impressive. And then I have another great. I have three great-granddaughters.

40:56 She got more than I do.

41:00 Yeah, the best brother and sister.

41:05 Absolutely, we do what we've lost her brother, but he never was that close to us, cuz he had a very, very difficult life and some value problems, but I was pretty close to Larry.

41:20 And the last few years of his life. I had to take take over the role of taking care of him and everything. And and it was seems to be my mission in life to be taken care of and Lenny. Lenny. And your husband took care of our father. So I'm really grateful that they are into. Of course you did. We all tried to thank you very much for letting me interview you, or are you

41:49 You know, people meant a Senora. Get everybody tells me now and I look like my mother. I think I have the same type of temperament. We both share the same emotional disease cuz it is a disease. It's not being crazy. It's a disease and

42:10 I tend to be somebody that can't see the bad in people. I see the good in people. That's your mother. And her family is loving too much. I'd like to have that flaw and I do have one daughter that I love her dearly, but she has the same thing. She's done a lot of her grandma in there, too.

42:32 What's a great family? Tried to be here? Love you, too.