Karl Lehman says that when he and his wife Dorothy moved to Gardner in 1953, they believed Gardner was a “growing area about 25 miles southwest of Kansas City on good highways and a double track Santa Fe Railway.”
Karl and Dorothy were from Wathena, Kan., both the children of farmers. They were smitten with each other in high school, graduating from Wathena in 1923. Karl began working as a teller at the Farmers Bank in Wathena shortly after high school and married Dorothy at the age of 21 on June 9, 1926.
The two honeymooned in Colorado, and upon returning to Kansas they purchased controlling stock in the Farmers Bank of Meriden, Kan. Karl survived the hardships of the Great Depression in a business which took a direct blow from the infamous “Black Tuesday.”
Dorothy and Karl had two sons, Don and Dana Lehman, who have since made their homes in Gardner, raising their own families in the community.
Dorothy and Karl were 47 years old when they came to Gardner in 1953. The two originally planned to move to Colorado Springs to purchase a real-estate and insurance business, though Karl’s business skills lead him to Gardner while helping an Oskaloosa Massey-Harris business with liquidation and finding a new Massey-Harris business getting ready to open in Gardner and needing stock.
After getting acquainted with the locals, Karl discovered the longtime controlling stock holder of the Gardner Farmers Bank was wanting to sell his interest and retire. Karl decided to entertain the idea and meet with Howard Bigelow, who was looking forward to retirement.
Karl hesitated the purchase purchase due to the fact he would be in debt approximately $60,000, but Dorothy thought it was a good deal and urged her husband to go through with it. Dorothy was correct and the Lehman family moved to Gardner and was successful in the banking industry.
Karl and Dorothy were members of the Gardner Presbyterian Church, and many community clubs including the Gardner Masons, and the Lions Club. Karl and Dorothy lived out the rest of their lives in Gardner. Dorothy passed away in January, 1997 at the age of 92, and Karl passed away in March, 2003 at 97. The Lehmans are buried in the Gardner Cemetery.
For the month of July the Gardner Historical Museum is displaying its annual Bridal Exhibit. Admission is free. The museum this year is focusing on displaying dresses from the turn of the century including the 1920s.
Dorothy Lehman’s wedding dress from 1926 is a featured item in the exhibit on loan from the Lehman family, including a wedding picture of Karl and Dorothy, at the ages of twenty-one.
Please visit www.gardnerhistorymuseum.org or call (913) 856-4447 for more details.