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Dryden donation ignites memories

POSTED: April 21, 2014 7:00 a.m.
Linda Mowery-Denning/

Joy V. Bliss, center, donated 50 pieces of Ellsworth-manufactured Dryden Pottery this past week to the Ellsworth County Historical Society. With her are former Dryden employees Pauline Zvolanek, left, and Twila Mitchell.

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A decade after she and her husband wrote a book about one of Ellsworth’s more iconic businesses, Joy V. Bliss returned to town this past week with gifts for residents to enjoy for many years to come.
On April 3, officers and other volunteers of the Ellsworth County Historical Society carried several boxes from Bliss’ car to the Hodgden House Museum. Inside the boxes were 50 pieces of Dryden Pottery, made during the years in the late 1940s and early 1950s when the company manufactured items in a factory on Old Highway 40.
Those greeting Bliss included former Dryden employees Twila Mitchell and Pauline Zvolanek.
Bliss and her husband, G.L. Dybwad, who didn’t make the trip from the couple’s home in Albuquerque, have kept in touch with the women over the years.
Bliss couldn’t say enough about Kansas and her experiences in Ellsworth.
“If I were to write another book, it would be about Kansas,” she said. “The history here — people appreciate it.”
Bliss and Dybwad have written several books, including “Dryden Pottery of Kansas and Arkansas.” Bliss said the couple is in the process of downsizing, thus their donation to the historical society. Other pieces of the collectable pottery will go to the Kansas State Historical Society in Topeka and places in Arkansas, where the company moved in 1956 after the construction of Interstate 70 stopped the steady flow of traffic — and customers — on Highway 40.
Bliss and Dybwad also became friends with the late Jim Dryden, founder of Dryden Pottery. Dryden graduated from Ellsworth High School in 1935 and returned to Ellsworth in 1946 after attending college and serving in the U.S. Corps of Engineers in the South Pacific during World War II.
In 2001, the Ellsworth City Council proclaimed Aug. 4 of that year as A. James Dryden Day. Dryden, accompanied by his family, participated in the celebration.

 Dryden wrote in a thank you ad in the Ellsworth County Independent: “None of us will ever forget that day and the heartfelt welcome we received. Wish I could better express how grateful we are. My son and grandsons think Ellsworth is the most beautiful town in the world.”
Bliss said she and her husband maintain contact with Dryden’s grandson, who now operates the pottery business that continues to produce  handmade, collectable, personalized, custom cups, kitchenware and artistic and decorative pottery.
This week, retired Ellsworth High School art teacher Agnes Kepka and historical society director Phyllis Dolezal said they plan to build a display for part of the Bliss-Dybwad donation in a case off the gift shop. Pieces will be rotated.
“For so many years, nobody really cared about this stuff,” Twila Mitchell said of the history that surrounded her. “Now they’re going crazy over it.”

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