Fannin at Lamar - N
Postmarked: 6 May 1952; Houston, Texas 5
Stamp: 1c Green George Washington #804 
To: Mrs. Wilbur Bennett
341 N. Seward
Red Cloud, Nebraska
812 Holman St. Houston 6
So good to have your diverting letter – I did make it after all! Im doing copy for a television advertising agency and feeling very crassly commercial, but who isn’t? Sounds like you’re collecting material for some opus on trucking – when and if you bail out! Don’t work too hard. – Seriously. Saw Beth a few times and loved getting “back in the swine [‘swing’?]” – need some similar morale boosting here! Love as always, Helen
Helen Skrinar was 32 years old when she sent this postcard to a friend from Nebraska. She was the oldest child of Joseph Francis Skrinar (1892-1964) and Ellen May Little (1894-1975). Her father was born in Joliet, son of Stephen Skrinar and Marija Ogulin, who immigrated from the Slovenia in 1881-82 with their infant son, Mathias (Matthew). The family settled in Joliet where many of their countrymen were living, and there the family grew: Mary Susanna (1888-1936), who joined a convent; Stephen Joseph (1888-1959), Joseph Francis (1892-1964), Helen’s father; and Katherine (born 1895), who married 1) Joseph Lektorich, and 2) Joseph C. Berker. Stephen bought a house at 1003 Scott St., and became a naturalized American in 1888. He died before 1900, and Mary kept the family together. Matthew remained single and worked as a laborer and when the WPA began to hire workers took a job in Rockford, IL where he died in 1935 and was buried in the Winnebago County Farm Cemetery in Rockford. Stephen Joseph married in 1908 and fathered a child, then divorced before he moved to Denver before 1917, working there as a butcher. He served in WWWI in Europe 1918-1919, returning to Joliet to live with his widowed mother. She died in 1832, and Stephen stayed in Joliet through 1942, but eventually moved to San Bernardino where he died in 1959.
Although his brothers were blue collar workers, Helen’s father Joseph Francis worked white collar jobs, first as a bookkeeper (1910), bank teller for Joliet National Bank (1917), Registrar for the Selective Service (1917) [he signed his brother Matthew’s draft registration, and indicated he himself had “defective right eyes”], an insurance salesman (1920), then forming his own agency before 1930. He married Ellen May Little, only child of Henry Dwight and Julia Little about 1917 and had 4 children: Margaret M. (1918), Helen (), Joseph, Jr. (1922), and Thomas Henry (1924). Helen acquired an education at St. Francis Academy and the College of St. Francis in Joliet, there she worked for the Sisters of St. Francis of Mary Immaculate, and published a book in 1940, Burnished Gold, an edited literary book. During WWII she completed technical training and was an instructor in the operational theory and maintenance of aircraft instruments at the US Army base in Lincoln , NE. She later worked as a staff writer and editor for the Publications Department of Education and Training at Glenn L. Martin B-29 bomber assembly plant in Omaha. Her brother, 1st Lieutenant Joseph F. Skriner, Jr. died in a plane crash in Italy on 31 May 1945, and is buried in the American Cemetery in Lazio, Italy. Her younger brother Thomas Henry also served as a private in the 3rd Marine Division in the South Pacific for 2 years, after the war attending Creighton University in Omaha, and a MD there in 1952. He interned in St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tacoma, WA, and opened his obstetrics practice there.
Helen earned a Master’s degree in English at Catholic University of America in Washington, DC, and worked as an English Instructor at Marycrest College in Davenport , IA. Her parents moved to Omaha, NE by 1948 where Joseph, Sr. worked for Bankers Life Insurance Company of Nebraska. Her sister, Margaret remained in Joliet, where she worked as a bookkeeper. Helen wrote advertising copy for several midwestern fashion stores and a daily newspaper, before moving to Houston where she was a screenwriter for the Southwest’s first televised weekly live fashion show. There was only one television station in Houston in 1952 (KPRC-TV) and Battlestein’s Department Store sponsored a live fashion show, “Fashions in Motion,” which must have been the one Helen wrote copy for.
The recipient of the postcard, Mrs. Wilbur Bennett, Blanche Mildred Rhoads was a teacher, wife of Dr. Wilbur Keith Bennett. She was a 1931 graduate of Union College in Lincoln, and in 1932 she married Dr. Wilbur K. Bennett in Shariton, IA. In 1939 she obtained her master’s degree from the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, and may have met Helen Skrinar when she was an instructor at the Army base in Lincoln during the war. The Bennetts moved to Red Cloud in 1946, famous as the home of Willa Cather. Blanche became a founding member of the Willa Cather Pioneer Memorial & Educational Foundation in 1955. She was an author of two books and many articles, and an eventual Ph.D. at St. Andrews University in Berrien Springs, MI in 1983 at the age of 74.
Helen returned to Omaha and married William McCormick Dickson on 18 April 1953 at St. Margaret Mary’s Catholic Church there. William was the son of Vernon O. Dickson and Mary M.McCormick, born 23 May 1923 in Burlington, IA. He graduated from the US Merchant Marine Academy in 1944 and served as a Navy Lieutenant in the Atlantic and Pacific Theaters. Helen and William moved to the northwest shortly after their marriage where he worked as a naval architect and navigation specialist, and she worked as an advertising copywriter for Best Apparel, which later merged with Nordstrom. In 1957 they moved to Tacoma where they resided for 46 years. They had one son, William Dickson, Jr. William obtained a master’s degree in business administration from Pacific Lutheran University, and taught at Green River Community College in Auburn prior to his retirement. They moved to McMinnville, OR in May 2003.
Helen died in McMinnville, OR on 28 May 2009, and is buried in Willamette National Cemetery in Portland, OR, beside her husband who died 8 December 2005. Her parents were buried in Calvary Cemetery in Tacoma, WA, as was her brother, Dr. Thomas Henry Skrinar, who died in 2007, and his wife, Kathleen Gallagher Skrinar, MD (1928-2011) and Helen’s sister, Margaret Mary Skrinar Moir (1918-2010).
The advertising agency where Helen worked was in the 4500 Block of South Main, near the intersection of Main and Richmond. The buildings at that site look as if they might have been in existence in 1952. Since it was about a half a mile from her apartment, Helen could have walked to work, or taken a bus on rainy days.
The location where Helen lived in 1952 is now a vacant lot on Holman near Milam. The church in the background is Holy Rosary Catholic church built in 1913. Helen had Catholic roots and may well have attended this church so close to her home.