"Marshall made this." Loretta Ensor lightly touched the table top before moving on to the next piece of furniture, a smaller, double-tiered chairside table.
"And Marshall made this . . . " Marshall, his sister Loretta explained, had set himself the goal of making something out of every kind of wood he could possibly obtain. The wood of the common Osage Orange, she added, had been stubbornly difficult.
In the early 1960s my parents had transitioned from Southern California to Grandview, Mo. My mother, Margaret Yancey, formerly W6VQO, favored Hallicrafters equipment. In the picture above, at least one of the transceivers visible in the ham shack was a Hallicrafters. Maybe both of them.
One day she excitedly telephoned me at my home in Olathe. "Marshall Ensor lives in Johnson County." When I had no immediate response, she rushed on. "Don't you remember? Back in Southern California how I used to listen to Marshall Ensor's broadcasts of 'Teaching Radio by Radio'? Sometimes his sister Loretta taught the lessons. Those lessons helped me learn Morse Code."
Even before my parents had totally settled into their new home, my mother joined a Tuesday morning women's net for which Loretta was 'net control'. The two women soon found they had a lot in common beginning with the fact that they were both born in 1904, my mother in January and Loretta in April. The on-the-air acquaintance grew and when Loretta learned that my mother lived just across the state line, a mere 10 or 12 miles away, she invited her new friend to come for a tour of the Ensor farm. And my mother, fearing she would get lost out in the countryside, recruited me to tag along.
Loretta met us in the driveway. We had a brief, awkward introduction to Marshall, who was seated in the closed cab of a combine up over our heads. "When the neighbors have a breakdown in one of their machines," Loretta explained, "they bring it to Marshall." She then led us through a screen porch into the kitchen and from there into a combined office and family room. It seemed that Marshall had created most of the furniture in the room. The adjoining parlor contained some of Marshall's other work -- vases, bowls and other containers in alabaster, turned by Marshall on a lathe, and dollhouse furniture he had made at age 15 for his younger sister.
After we had made the circle of the downstairs rooms we were back in the kitchen. Motioning to a nook off the kitchen, Loretta casually said, "That's Marshall's radio shack."
My mother stood in awe, frozen on the threshold. Here was the 'kilowatt beast', the transmitter Marshall and Loretta had used a few decades earlier to transmit their 'Teaching Radio by Radio' nightly broadcasts through December and January, the best months for propagation. My mother remained for several silent minutes, her gaze shifting from one piece of radio equipment to the next. Her vision even took in the two small holes in a glass window pane through which Marshall had brought the lines from the antenna closest to the house.
In more recent times, I have often been a guide for tours of the historic Ensor home. Unseen and unheard by the visitors has been the shadow of Loretta, saying to me, "and Marshall made this."