Hello readers and welcome back to the Hometown Heritage blog!
This morning I was watching the television while eating my breakfast, as I always do, and a segment came on about a new prototype car that was recently finished. This car, called the Hum-X for those interested, was special in that it could employ hydraulics to raise itself into the air and pass over other cars in traffic. This got me thinking about that today cars are everywhere and, aside from new ones like this, are no longer that amazing to us. However, this was not always the case.
Look at the slide show below. As you can see, they are all pictures of people standing next to various cars. “What is so special about that” you might ask. That, my dear readers, is exactly my point. Today, we all take cars for granted and understand (generally) how they work. However, imagine just for a moment that you were living back in the late 1800s and early 1900s with these people. You are used to getting around via horseback or walking, and suddenly this metal mechanical marvel (or devil, depending on whom you ask) appears. It goes just as fast as any horse you have ever known and it never gets tired! Also buying one costs probably the same amount as a small house, yet somehow your father managed to bring one home. What else would you do but take a picture to mark this momentous occasion! Everyone will want to be able to remember the day your family first got its very own Model T. Yet, compared to today, no one seems to be as excited about his or her first car. Sure, teenagers get excited when their parents present them with the keys, but it is not the same kind of excitement as it was in the 1900s. Back then, it was something to parade about the whole town, showing all your friends and neighbors how lucky and wealthy your family is. Today it is something everyone simply expects to happen. Who knows, maybe in the future we will react to new invention as people in the 1900s did (fingers crossed for flying cars!).
Do you remember your first car? Did you and your family all take pictures around it to mark the occasion? Let us know in the comments, and come back next week for another Hometown Heritage blog!
Hello and welcome back to the Hometown Heritage Blog!
The holiday season has official started, and tomorrow is Thanksgiving! Many people will be gathering with their families to eat copious amounts of food and take a much-deserved break. The staple of numerous feasts tomorrow will be a home cooked (and hopefully not burnt) turkey. Most people will buy their turkeys at the store, already cleaned, plucked, and frozen. However, can you imagine what it would be like to have to raise your own turkey just for the Thanksgiving feast?
Back in the early 1900s, many families had to raise and then slaughter their own turkey if they wanted to have one for a Thanksgiving celebration. Imagine you woke up Thanksgiving morning, bright and early, to start preparing for the day. You head outside to your farm, and similar to Donald Johnson in the picture below, you find yourself surrounded by turkeys. It is probably very loud with all of the gobbling going on, making it hard to hear anything else. Alternatively, maybe you saw some just outside by your car, similar to the turkeys seen in the picture of Stroudtman Farm. Which turkey do you pick? After spending so many months raising them, you must know all about them, possible even named some. The choice would be quite difficult; do you pick the one with the most meat on it, or the one that you can catch the easiest? I imagine the turkeys would not be very happy about the idea of being cooked up and eaten, similar to those of the chickens in the movie Chicken Run (perhaps they have plans to escape!). After catching the right turkey, you then have to slaughter it, pluck out all the feathers, remove parts like the feet, and determine the best way to cook it. From the sounds of it, getting a turkey for Thanksgiving used to be an all day ordeal! Personally, I think I will stick to hunting down my turkey in the grocery aisle.
As we cook our turkey this Thanksgiving, I am going to be thankful that I did not have to go out and hunt it down myself. Readers, what are you going to be thankful for this Thanksgiving? Leave a comment and let us know, and I hope you all have a happy Thanksgiving!
Hello readers and welcome back to the Hometown Heritage Blog!
I have a question for you to ponder, readers. Do you think that you could uproot yourself and your family, move to a new town, and open a new business to try to stay alive? Would you be able to leave your old life behind? I ask because this is exactly what Jacob Heater Jr. did in the year 1887.
The year was 1887, and the country was in a serious depression after the high of the Civil War. Dubbed the “Gilded Age”, the time was characterized by a materialistic excess and extreme poverty. The term "gilded" referred to the idea that although on the surface everything seemed fine, like it was made of gold, this gold was just a thin coating that covered a life that was hard and unforgiving. Jacob and his wife Martha were trying to make a living on his farm, but were not succeeding. In an attempt to try to make enough money to survive, Jacob Heater Jr. uprooted his whole family and moved to Jamaica, Iowa.
Many of you may be asking why, and the answer is that he attempted to start a Hotel. Named the Heater House Hotel, it was a building directly across from the Railroad Depot on the Southwest corner of Main Street in Jamaica. As you can see in the picture, it was a two-story building with a very big porch and balcony. The reason for this is that the Hotel shared its balcony with a saloon next door. In theory, this is a very promising partnership. The two buildings, located directly across from the Depot, would be able to draw in travelers for drinks at the saloon, then send them to the hotel when they needed a place to stay.
Unfortunately, since times were so bad, the Heater House Hotel went broke after a few years. Jacob’s fate after his hotel is unknown, but hopefully he found another way to live! Readers, do you think you could do what Jacob did during a depression? Tell us in the comments!
As a final note, we are drawing closer to the opening of the Gary Ernest Smith Exhibition! Remember to save August 23rd to your calendar as the opening reception here in Perry at the Hotel Pattee from 4:30 to 6:30 P.M. I hope to see you there!
Good Afternoon readers!
Perhaps some of you remember that a while ago I did a blog post about a chicken perched on the shoulder of D. R. Jones. Well, I am happy to bring you an update on that story!
Recently, I was looking through our Oral History Collection when I stumbled upon an interview with Dick Shoesmith. There were many interesting stories in his interview, especially about the Korean War. As I looked through, I found a story that wasn’t about the war, but was equally as interesting. That’s right readers, it was a story about the shoulder chicken. Dick was asked about his family and their arrival in Guthrie County, and the following story ensued:
Well my mother…she was…my other great grandfather came from Wales and she…her name was Jones, which is Welch and we still have people in Wales yet and also in England yet that we correspond with. In fact there in England there’s a homestead of the Shoesmiths’ that’s over four hundred years old and there’s still a clan of Shoesmiths live there. And I don’t know too much about my grandfather came from Wales but I know my great grandfather, he was an auctioneer and he lived down around Fontanelle and Orient down in there and he’s the one responsible for the Red Cross rooster, General Pershing. It was a black rooster that somebody bid on and they says oh just resell it again and it was for the war effort and every time he went to an auction you always had this black rooster that was perched on his shoulder and he always sold that…just kept sellin’ it you know and then raise money and his name was D.R. Jones. And he was a…with the DOT back when the white pole road started down around…went through Casey…which would be Highway 6 now or the Interstate 80 and he was the one responsible for getting the highway to run through the little town of Casey instead of bypassing Casey there. And his…well this rooster is on display down at the historical building yet. In fact they had it in…out at Guthrie County conservation on display. You can ask for it to…to go on loan there and we took some family over to Panora one year to see this. They’d never seen it before.
As you can see, the shoulder chicken was a Red Cross rooster and was apparently named General Pershing. It seems that he was to be sold at auction to raise money for the war, most likely World War I. However, from the sounds of it, the chicken was always given back to him so he could repeat the process! There is no indication of how much money was raised, but it feels great to finally know why this rooster was on D. R. Jones shoulder in the picture. In fact, it appears that the rooster was on display at the historical building in Casey. I cannot confirm this myself, but it is possible it is still there. Perhaps a trip down to Casey and Guthrie County is in order!
Hello again Readers,
Welcome back to the Hometown Heritage blog! I hope that you all had a merry Christmas and a happy New Year. Speaking of Christmas, I hope all of you took the time to take pictures during the holidays, because it is a perfect time to capture little moments of history.
Now, you may ask why this is the perfect time, and I will tell you. First, during Christmas, the whole family is gathered together, and if you take enough pictures, you can see them grow and change throughout the years. It is like recording your own personal family history. In the future, you can look back and remember when you were young, or how much your grand-kids have grown. Secondly, the pictures themselves reveal a lot about the past. Take, for instance, this picture of Doris and Gary Lewiston. This picture was taken around 1950, and you can learn a lot from it. You can learn about the kinds of clothes people liked to wear by looking at Doris and Gary. You can learn about the world by looking around the room (notice the old tube television) and by looking at the present Gary is playing with. Most of the time children will ask for what is popular at the time, so one can assume that model tanks and planes were popular in the 1950s. You can also learn that pets were just as nosy as ever when it came to new presents.
I encourage all of you to take as many photos as you can around the holidays. You will be preserving not only your own family memories, but also little snapshots of what life was like in the past. It does not just have to be the Christmas holidays either, any holiday or birthday or big event holds in it a little piece of history. All you have to do is capture it.
Today is another short blog post, but we wanted to get the word out to all of you about an event coming up this month.
Hometown Heritage and the Perry Historic Preservation Commission are pleased to invite you to the unveiling of a new relief for the Wall of Witnesses in Perry, Iowa. The new relief depicts Michael Kanealy, who was not only the owner and operator of Michael’s Pub for 25 years, but also a longtime supporter and promoter of Perry. The Perry Historic Preservation Commission chose to honor Mike after receiving numerous nominations earlier this year, and Newton artist Rick Stewart created the relief. The unveiling and a short program will take place on Friday, December 18th in the gallery of the Town Craft Building at 4:30 pm. There will be light refreshments, and the event is free and open to the public.
I hope to see you all there to honor Mike at this special event.
Today will be a short blog post. I just wanted to remind you all that tomorrow, August 20th, Jim Autry will be reading from his new book On Paying Attention: New and Selected Poems. He will be reading at 7:00pm at La Poste (La Poste is located at 1219 Warford Street, Perry, Iowa). Jim Autry is a retired Meredith executive who has become a business poet. Beaverdale Books will also be selling his book, so you can come and your own personal copy, and then have it signed by Jim Autry! In addition, musician Chad Elliot will also be performing that night, starting at 5:00pm. He will be playing until 10:00pm, so come early, and stay late!
Yet another point of interest at La Poste tomorrow night is the 38th Annual Iowa Watercolor Society Exhibition. They will be displaying 90 great watercolors for everyone to enjoy. These paintings will be at La Poste until September 24 if you want to see them but cannot make tomorrow.
If all of these things were not enough to win you over, La Poste will also be serving food! A meal of a smoked rib eye sandwich, potato salad and chips is only ten dollars. There will also be cellar and gallery drink specials available. In fact, tomorrow night is also Handlebar Happy Hour! All in all, tomorrow night is going to be a lot of fun. I highly encourage you all to come, and hope to see you there!
Hello again readers!
Welcome back to the Hometown Heritage blog. Here in the office we have tons of photos on the walls. Most of them are pictures of people and immigrants, in all kinds of different situations. Now I am sure that you all have heard the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Indeed, many family photos have stories attached to them, earning them their thousand words. However, what about photos whose stories have been lost? There are many pictures like that here at Hometown Heritage. For instance, on the wall next to my desk is a picture of a man with a chicken on his shoulder. By looking it up in our system, I can find out that it is a photo of a Welshman named D. R. Jones, who was the great-grandfather of Dick Shoesmith (the original donor of the item), but that is the only information about it in the system. Yet there is so much more that this photo could tell! Questions like the location of the photo and the exact date of the photo are unanswered. Even the biggest question, why does D. R. Jones have a chicken on his shoulder, is unanswered. Was it a pet chicken? Or was it a random chicken he found out in the wild and it happened to jump on his shoulder and stay there? Or maybe it is a stuffed chicken that he is posing with? Since there was little information recorded at the time of the picture’s donation, it is impossible to know for sure if any of those reasons are true. Because of this, it is important to record as much as possible for every photo. Without that information, the full story of a photo is lost.
Think about the pictures that you have in your house. Can you remember the story behind every photo? Or have some of these pictures lost their meaning, because no one is around to tell their stories, or not enough information has been recorded? I know that in my home, there are photos of people (purchased in an auction for the frames they were in) that we lovingly call great-grandma and grandpa, even though they are completely unrelated to us. In fact, we have absolutely no idea who these people are. They may not even be real for all we know! Still, their pictures may be worth a thousand words, but without a voice, their words and stories are lost. So remember to tell the stories of your photos to whoever will listen, as we will do here at Hometown Heritage. It is important that people do not forget the history behind photos like these, so that they do not end up like D. R. Jones and his shoulder chicken (seriously, why is it on his shoulder?). We will ask Dick if he can shed some light on this question.