Archive for Thursday, December 30, 2004

The little old winemaker

December 30, 2004

Many old-timers in Lansing will remember John Mondero as the Little Old Winemaker. He was a shoe cobbler by trade.

He and his younger brother, Frank, and sister, Mary, were placed in the St. Vincent Orphanage in Leavenworth when their mother died in 1895. John was 3 years old. His father took the oldest brother, Joe, to work with him in the coal mines in Leavenworth. In those days, families would come to the orphanage to get children to work for them on their farms.

John ran away several times and returned to the orphanage when he was not treated right. Finally, he ended up in Ellis County with a family that would lock him outside. A good neighbor took him in so many times that finally "Mother Riedel" told him, "No more, Johnny, you are going to stay with us."

He then grew up in a loving home.

He learned the shoe repair trade in Hays. The family moved to Lansing in 1938, and he worked at the Shoe Shop at Wadsworth.

John always had a big garden, along with grapes and fruit trees. Some trees had three different fruits because of his ability to graft. He grafted fruit trees all around town. When I was 10 years old, John gave me five small peach trees and helped me plant them and showed me how to graft.

John made wine out of every type of fruit, but to me the best was dandelion.

His wine cellar was located in the present-day parking lot of the Caraway Printing and Lansing Current newspaper office. He loved to give samples to anyone who stopped by. He used baby jars filled to the brim and would always say, "What do you think of that?"

John later became my father-in-law.

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