Green Lawn Abbey

The Kibler Family

George Kibler  1877- 1962

Corinne Barbara Houk Kibler  1888-1953

Infant Kibler 1919- 1919

George E. Kibler, from a 1911 publication of  "Club Men of Columbus: in Caricature" by Billy Ireland.

George E. Kibler, from a 1911 publication of “Club Men of Columbus: in Caricature” by Billy Ireland.

George Kibler was born in Paoli, Indiana in 1877. The 3rd of 7 children to his parents Carrie and Hampson Kibler, he was also the only one they could afford to send to college. George enrolled in 1900, but only went one year.  He had to go out and get a job, and was lucky to be involved in the early days of the “Ready –to- Wear”  department store retail boom. In many large cities, that’s where the jobs were. :Ready- to -Wear”  in this case, meant that you didn’t have to get yourself tailored if you wanted a new suit. You could buy clothing off the rack in pre measured sizes (although salespersons would still be the ones that got your clothing for you until sometime later in the 20th century). George got his first job in Elwood, Indiana and would work there for about a year until an argument with the owner of that store got him fired. Being a highly ambitious person, this worried George – especially since he had his new wife Blanche to support!  George would eventually partner up with a man named Charles Hauger in 1904, and expand the chain of “Hauger –Kibler clothing stores out to Ohio, with the first being in Dayton. George and Blanche would try to make a go of it, but tragedy would strike George in 1905. Blanche would die on April 5th, 1905 in childbirth, along with their baby girl. Determined to get away from the pain and keep his spirits up, he moved to Columbus the first chance he got, opening his first Columbus store in the Chittenden hotel, on 22 W. Spring st.  His gimmick was that his suits only cost one price the whole season long: $9.99. For ten dollars, you could buy a jacket, a vest, and two pairs of pants.  George did well for himself, and being an avid golfer and sports car fanatic, George would play the best courses and buy the fastest car he could get.

Corinne Barbara Houk , 1913, at the age of 24 while attending Ohio State. Courtesy OSU Makio Archives

Corinne Barbara Houk , 1913, at the age of 24 while attending Ohio State. Courtesy OSU Makio Archives

Around the same time that George was starting to be an up and comer in the Columbus business community, he met a young lady by the name of Corinne Barbara Houk . Corinne moved to Columbus with her family from Carey ,Ohio, so that she could go to Ohio State University, transferring from Ohio Wesleyan, where she’d previously attended. Corinne was a member of the Delta Gamma sorority there, and would continue to be at Ohio State. Henry Houk, her father, was a pipe salesman back in Carey, who had a hand in constructing the Wyandot county courthouse sometime in the 1890’s. Corinne and her sister Hazel got a little present from the Wyandot county commissioner  then too- a pair of child size chairs, made out of brass  pipe fittings (Susie Kibler Morris, the youngest daughter and now 94 years old, still has her mothers while a niece of hers has the one Hazel was given). They would make their home at 1544 Neil Avenue, and Corinne’s father Henry would make his living managing several of the apartments on and around OSU campus.  George didn’t live too far from Corinne at this time, and I’d like to think she was impressed with him as he drove down Neil Avenue to his place on 6th street.

Their first daughter Barbara was born in 1915. A 2nd daughter was born in 1919, but she didn’t live longer than 2 weeks, dying of what the doctors of the time called “inanition.” Her body wasn’t taking in nourishment, and her blood wasn’t circulating through her body properly, making the skin have a blue hue. George and Corinne didn’t name the little girl, and she was buried in Green Lawn Cemetery in early March of 1919 (later to be exhumed and reinterred in Green Lawn Abbey years later). Suzanne, the youngest, was born in 1922 when George was 45 years old. He and Corinne would keep the deaths of George’s previous wife and daughter, and that of their sister,  a secret for years.

George, probably sometime in the mid 1930's.

George, some time in the 1920’s. Courtesy of Suzanne Kibler Morris

By the time the 20’s rolled around, George was feeling like his time was running out. He was always conscious about how much older he was than Corinne, and always tried to work hard to provide for her, thinking he would be the first to go. By this time, he had another store in Columbus and his chain of stores and partners would extend from Indiana to Georgia. George was something of a hypochondriac, and would sell his shares of his business in 1929, thinking he had cancer of the stomach. It took going to clinics across the country for a year to convince him, that he in fact did not have cancer. George’s golf game was getting more intense, too. He’d been a charter member of the Scioto Country Club since 1915, and was thrilled to be chosen to be part of a welcoming committee in 1931 to bring the Ryder cup to Columbus, from the United Kingdom.  The Ryder Cup, which is still played today, is a match game that at that time was a contest between American and British players (the Americans won that year). After this event, George would spend most of his retirement golfing at least 3 times a week.

 

Corinne Kibler, sometime in the 1920's. Please pardon my reflection in the image.

Corinne Kibler, sometime in the 1920’s. Please pardon my reflection in the image. Courtesy of Suzanne Kibler Morris

Corinne was always a very talented person, and pretty too. While George and Corinne were having dinner out in public, there would always be at least one person that would complement Corinne about how pretty she was  ( she was prematurely gray by age 35, and this just set off her olive skin and green eyes). Corinne loved gardening, belonging to several clubs, and she was also a talented cook.  Their cook had Thursdays and Sundays off, so every Thursday night; Corinne would cook George his favorite meal: lamb chops and baked potatoes, with green peas. She would can and pickle just about every vegetable from her garden, would serve what a future son in law would nickname the “Kibler Vinegar Lunches”, with the assortment of her handiwork on the table. When the girls were young, Corinne also made their baby clothes and dresses, giving them away when Barbara and Suzanne grew out of them.

Corinne always felt a little more sophisticated than George’s many relatives that would come to visit. It could’ve been because she grew up in what she thought was a big city environment ,or it could’ve been because of her college experience, but it was always a test of patience for her to not completely blow up at whichever  family member of George’s may show up.  There was once a time right after dinner, that a girlfriend of one of George’s nephews cleaned her teeth- with her hair! Or the time, that a boyfriend of one of his sisters stole George’s car right out of the driveway when he came to visit .It was also Corinne who finally had to tell Susie and Barbara about not only their sister that passed away, but also about George’s first wife Blanche and the child that was lost before he and Corinne met. Susie was digging through an old chest, and found a pair of wedding rings, and didn’t recognize them as anything her mother owned. Corinne had to say “those belonged to the lady that was first married to your Daddy.”  I can only imagine that the secret of the little infant was revealed around 1927-28, because records show that she was exhumed from Green Lawn Cemetery to be interred in the Kibler family crypt inside of Green Lawn Abbey. The 2nd floor crypt has 2 empty spaces , possibly meant for Barbara and Suzanne at the time of purchase.

Barbara and Suzanne were out of Ohio by 1945, and living with their husbands in Houston, Texas. Corinne had a stroke at the age of 65 in the fall of 1952 while visiting them. She was okay for a few months, but she would die in 1953 of a heart attack after coming in from the garden with some roses for the vase in the foyer. George was the one that found her that day, and he would remain heartbroken over his loss for the next 9 years until his own passing in 1962 at the age of 84. Barbara and Suzanne would make a deal with the Columbus School for Girls in Bexley (where George lived nearby and where Barbara and Suzanne were past alums), and now the Kibler house is part of the school’s campus, and is the residence of the headmaster.  Barbara lived a very full life in Houston, and died in 2002 at the age of 87, choosing to be buried in Texas next to her first husband, Charles Dillingham. Susie is still active and enjoying the comforts of visits from her large family, still living in the same house that she shared with her husband S.I. (Seth Irvin Morris, who passed away in 2006 at the age of 92) for more than 50 years. Susie was ready to talk to someone about her father and mother when I contacted her through the Columbus School for Girls Alumni Association, and she and I have become great friends- I’ve even been invited to stay over should I ever find myself in Houston anytime soon.  Researching this family has been a very rewarding experience for me, and it was all because I was asked to look up (in Susie’s words) “a guy that sold suits.”