Hello Readers and welcome back to the Hometown Heritage Blog!
Since it is Memorial Day this weekend, I thought it would be a good idea to share another story about a veteran from our Oral History collection today. Leo-LaVonne Carr shares this story about learning code and the end of World War II:
“[W]e lived in an apartment. We…five miles from where we worked and this lieutenant and his brother lived in the same apartment building so when they would call them they would run down and they’d get me and we’d go down to the signal corps and decode it you know. So the….very day before the day was over with the Japanese we decoded it and we got the message that five o’clock the next day the war would be over. So we had to make up messages to ever tributary all over the whole United States….the Marines, the Navy, the Army…the everything. But we couldn’t tell anybody. They locked us in there and we was in there all night and all day and even the girls that worked daytime, they couldn’t come to work. They had to go back home ‘cause we was getting all this stuff ready you know. And so at five o’clock that night we had all these empty tapes. We had the policemen were this way. The teletype…or telegraph company was this way and the fire station was this way and down below us was the radio station and we took empty tapes and we threw it out and we said the war was over. Well all those tapes got caught on the streetcars and the buses and the messages just went through just like that. Well then we sent the message to Fort Leonardwood and all the smaller places where they had the service guys and they stole the jeeps, knocked the fence down, stole the trucks, came to Saint Louis and you could buy booze in any drugstore and everybody got drunk and the roads were wider than this kitchen and by the time we got all the messages sent out and could go home all these people hanging on each other drunk, going up and down the street singing and then all the bands came to the big park right in the middle of Saint Louis town…the city of Saint Louis and they played and everybody was dancing. Everybody was drunk and I was dead on my butt.”
It sounds like it was one of the biggest celebrations anyone has seen all over the country, but unfortunately for Leo he was too exhausted to join in! You hear a lot of similar stories about parties happening in the streets when the news was announced (and even a few famous pictures). Most of you readers are probably too young to remember the end of World War II, but do you have any other stories (or maybe stories from your parents and grandparents) about the end of different wars? Let us know in the comments, and join us next week for another Hometown Heritage blog!
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!
Hello Readers, and welcome back to the blog!
Perry has undergone many changes over the years, some quite a bit more drastic than others. For example, did you know that there used to be a different Light and Water plant in Perry? The old Light and Water Plant was a very interesting building. First, the building is not something that we see in America today, as we separate the water works and light works into separate buildings. However, what makes the old building so interesting is what happened to the building in July 1894 and to Henry Draper. Henry Draper was the Night Operator of the Light and Water Plant, and he was on his way to work on that fateful night in July. Little did he know, Henry was never going to do any work that night.
As he was on his way to work, the Plant exploded. The cause of the explosion is unknown, but as you can see in the picture, the plant was flattened. Henry was unharmed, but unfortunately the Superintendent Henry Hock was killed in the explosion. It is a very curious case, and there is no information about the explosion in our collection other than the fact that it occurred. If you know anything else about the explosion, please share with us below in the comments!
As a small side story, I will tell you what happened to Henry Draper after the explosion. He became a landscaper and sexton at the Violet Hill Cemetery. He did his job exceptionally well, to the point that when the plans for the cemetery were destroyed for a time, he was the only man to know where the more than 900 dead were buried!
See you all next Wednesday!
As some of you may know, here at Hometown Heritage we have hundreds of Oral Histories, somewhere around 600. Many of these histories contain stories of life in small town Iowa, but many of them also contain stories about the wars American have been through, from World War II to the present. Some of these stories describe how difficult it is during the war, what it was like to finally come home, and how some people felt the war had changed them. Some, however, contain humorous little stories about people finding a little happiness in dark times. Today, I’d like to share one with you all that I found to be rather entertaining!
This story comes to us from an interview with Dale Grow. It was during World War II, and Dale described what staying in the barracks was like. He said that “everything was blacked out. At night before it got dark you put the plywood up on all the windows and the lights had to be dimmed and all that kind of stuff you know and bed check Charlie would come over every night at nine o’clock see.” Charlie, according to Dale, was a plane that would check to see what they were doing. Clearly, the point was to make their barracks as undetectable as possible, so that the enemy could not find them in the dark. This is just a small portion of the story, however.
The real interesting part of Dale’s story is what would happen at night, and how one night Dale sneaked out to go see the cook. The cook’s name was Ben Eilers, and he was from Iowa. One night Dale went to visit him, and Ben was making apple pies. The surprising thing about these pies was that Ben was making them in square tins, so that they could be cut into squares for the commissioned officers. The rest of the story is as follows:
And he had just taken ‘em out of the oven. Oh my god Ben, we ain’t even had any fruit. And you had to get up in the morning and steal milk out of the carton. The milkman did bring some…we’d get a carton of milk but anyway…what have you had to eat? And I said well not…not too great. Not too great. And he went back in the cooler and come out with a steak and fixed me a steak to eat and fried some potatoes and stuff and I set there and ate it. When I got ready to leave to go back to the barracks of course it was dark...just black as all get out. But I could feel my way back to the barracks and he said now here…I don’t give a damn whether these officers have pie for dinner tomorrow or not. And he give me two tins of pie to take back. But there’s one stipulation…you gotta get the tins back here, tonight. Well when I got back to the barracks the blackout boards…had to take ‘em down so you could get a little air in so you could breath and I flipped the damn light switch on. The platoon sergeant was right at the door…oh he jumped up and give me hell. And I said sit down Bud, sit down. I got some pie here and he shut the lights off and we had a table in the middle of the barracks and I said nobody eats pie ‘til you get two people volunteers to take the pie tins back. Ben told me…we all liked Ben real good…Ben told me he had to have them back. Well he picked out two guys and they said they’d take ‘em back. That’s how we got our pie. Anyway he took ‘em back and we…we could say we had pie.
As you can see, Dale sneaked out to get his barracks some pie! Even the platoon sergeant was not as mad as you would think, having a soldier sneak off at night and get some pie that was not meant for them. It goes to show that sometimes it really is just the little things in life. Readers, do you have any good veteran’s stories, either of your own or someone else’s that you know? If you do, we would love to hear them. So, feel free to share them with us!
Good Afternoon Readers!
Today I have another interesting story from out of our collection of Oral Histories. This story is about a darker time in Perry and America’s history: segregation. This story comes from the Oral History of Glen Theulen. It is about a high school dance that he attended and danced with an African American classmate, and the reactions of people at the dance:
“When I was in high school…I was a junior…we had a dance up on the old gym floor up here…the old high school. And the whites were not to dance with a black girl, never and vice versa. And so… So anyway why the…the dance goes on and so I went over and I said to Sophia White, I says come on Sophia let’s dance. Oh we can’t. I said come on, come on, let’s dance. And Sophia White is the sister to Roy White. Okay. Sophia was a year ahead of me…brilliant girl…and man we got on that floor and jitterbugged and I thought every teacher in that gymnasium was gonna have a heart attack and I’d forgotten about that but Kenny Appenzeller, kid from Perry…farmed outside of town here… When I first got home here in ’89 said you remember the night that you got old…got the…Sophia White on the floor? He says I thought the teacher was gonna have [unclear]. I thought she was gonna…and I said well I kinda remember that, yeah. And you know I just never…”
Unfortunately, we do not know what Kenny thought the teacher was going to have, as the translator for the script could not make out the words being said. However, as you can see, segregation was a real thing here in Perry. Even dancing together was not allowed, and from the sounds of it almost gave all the teachers heart attacks! Clearly, dancing with Sophie was completely unexpected, even if their jitterbugging was amazing. It is such a shame that a simple act of dancing with another person could lead to such awful words and hate. Thankfully, segregation no longer exists in our country today, and we have come a long way on discrimination. Do you, readers, have any stories about segregation? If you do, please feel free to share them with us!
Happy Wednesday readers!
I hope that you are all ready for more John Smith and his baffling case. Is Smith insane? Was he kidnapped? On the other hand, is he simply faking it as an insurance swindle? Without further ado, let us find out what happens in today’s installment!
The date is June 26, 1931. Not much news has happened concerning the Smith case today, but there is a small article in the paper titled “Sackett to File Charge on Smith”. For the most part, the article discusses the charges that Smith could face and where he would be held. Unfortunately, the exact charge was not disclosed on this day, but County Attorney George Sackett did say he was ready to file charges. The thought was that charges could be pressed for conspiracy to defraud insurance companies. With these companies, Smith apparently carried policies totaling $50,000. With inflation, today that amount would be about $734,549.68. Other charges included could be related to the burning of his car and the body that he used as a decoy for himself.
The biggest part of this article, however, was about Mr. Smith’s mental state. According to the article, efforts were being made to place him in a prison for the criminally insane. Dr. George Donahoe of Cherokee, state hospital for the insane, recommended that Smith be committed to the state institution for the insane. According to him, a skull fracture (the same one that originally help authorities to determine the burned body was not Smith’s) that he received 8 years ago at Norfolk, Nebraska was the cause of Smith’s mental condition.
Do you agree with Dr. Donahoe? Do you think that John Smith really is insane, or is he plotting this in an attempt to get away with his crime? Find out next time, with the heading “Smith May Face Bigamy Charge”!
Happy Wednesday Readers!
Last week I told you all the beginnings of the Smith Conspiracy, which was a big event here in Perry in 1931. Today, we will be continuing that story, looking at the next big headline in the March 13th Perry Chief, which read “County Attorney Sackett to Ask Complete State Inquiry In Smith Case”.
The County Attorney at the time, George Sackett, formally requested that the State Department of Criminal Investigation in Des Moines inquire into the mystery of the John M. Smith Case. Now, many of you may be asking why such an inquiry was needed. Well, if you remember from last time, there was also an article in this paper titled “Body Exhumed Here Was Not That of John M. Smith Thought Killed in Accident.” This happened because of an inquiry carried out be three insurance companies: Traveler’s of Hartford, Massachusetts Mutual and Minnesota Mutual. Primarily, Mr. Smith had bought a $5000 Travelers policy in Omaha good for only 12 days, and his supposed death occurred 7 days later. There were also other details about John’s death that aroused suspicion, such as how the car had not been wrecked but merely driven off the road at an angle and then burned.
Both of these suspicions lead to the exhuming of the body at the C. D. Bemmar funeral home. Dr. D. J. Glomset and Dr. C. B. Luginbuhl performed an autopsy, along with many other doctors and dentists who attended. What they found was startling: the body that was buried there was not that of John M. Smith. There was much to back up this discovery. First, the doctors found that the body was embalmed before it had been burned. They found that the body had an incision under the right arm, arteries had been drawn and drained, and then had been tied off. In addition, they found that the dental work did not match Mr. Smith’s dental records. The doctors also examined the skull of the body for a fracture that Mr. Smith had received while living in Nebraska that they believed had left an indentation. They did not find any such marking on the skull of the body. Clearly, the body buried in the cemetery was not that of John M. Smith. So, the all-consuming question became “Where was John M. Smith?”
Further details only made the case more interesting. To start, friends of Mr. Smith presented the theory that foul play might be involved. Where the body was secured also became a mystery, and mutilation of that body was determined to be a charge placed against anyone found to have taken part in the incident. Mrs. Smith also gave a statement, saying she would not collect any of the insurance money as long as there was doubt that her husband was alive. However, it was reported that Mr. Smith had approximately $50,000 in insurance, which was all payable to either his estate or Mrs. Smith.
Many factors about the Smith Case were coming to light, and each one only brought with it more questions. What happened next? Find out next week as the story unfolds with the headline “Smith Escapes Officers and Wife”!
Hello once again readers,
Today I have a very interesting story for all of you! This story is also rather long, and spans about a year, so I will be telling it to you in chunks. Without further ado, here is the first part of the story about John M. Smith.
The year was 1931, and John Smith was 37. He had lived in Perry for 7 years, and was the owner and operator of the Farm Disintone, a manufacturing company that produced insecticide. On February 4th, an article about him appeared in the Perry Chief. The headline read, “J. M. Smith Burned to Death in Accident.” According to the news article, Mr. Smith had left Perry on February 3rd at 6:30 p.m., driving to Manilla to do some business with his brother, Otis Smith. John had turned south off the highway after leaving Carroll in an effort to take a short cut. Unfortunately, it was on this road that the accident occurred at around 10:15 p.m. The sheriff of Crawford County reported that upon examination of the scene, it “appeared that the car had struck a chuck hole in the road, causing a blowout, careened into a small cement culvert and ran down into a ditch where it caught fire.” Normally this would not result in the intense heat that almost cremated the body, but during the crash more than forty-five gallons of insecticide had spilled, and also caught fire, completely engulfing the car. The crash also knocked John Smith unconscious, and thus he could not escape the blaze.
A young man who saw the crash attempted to pull Mr. Smith, who was seated upright in the driver’s seat, from the blaze, but was unfortunately too late. The only clues that survived the fire, and helped to identify the body, were a piece of paper that had the company name printed on it and the license plate number of the vehicle. The body itself was unrecognizable. Mrs. Smith was eventually called to determine her husband’s whereabouts, and she had confirmed he was driving to Manilla. This established the identity of the body, and she left a short while later to Denison, where the authorities had taken the body.
So far, this story just seems like a tragic death of a simple man who went on a business trip. However, the story soon becomes much more complicated. For example, on March 13th of the same year, another article appeared in the paper related to John Smith. This one’s headline? “Body Exhumed Here Was Not That of John M. Smith Thought Killed in Accident.” If you want to know more, come back next week for part two of the story!
Happy Wednesday readers!
I have a little update for all of you before we get to today’s topic. Do you all remember the photo of Rich Saemisch presenting couples at the 1976 prom? Well, thanks to some help from Kathy Lenz, we have figured out who they are! Two people in the front closest to Rich are Janice Godwin and David Wempe, and the couple in the back are David Hanson and Lynn Paulsen. Therefore, for those of you who were wondering, now you know!
Now for today’s topic. If you look around Perry today, many of you may think that it is a quiet little town. You may think that nothing much of national importance ever happens here. However, that has not always been the case. For instance, here is one story that got Perry quite a lot of national attention: the death of a Bonnie and Clyde gang member! The year was 1933, and Perry had a hospital called the Kings Daughters Hospital. On July 24, Marvin Barrow was admitted with four wounds: One .45 caliber bullet in the shoulder, two in the hip, and one in the forehead. He was in serious condition, and near death. He received these injuries during a gunfight near Dexfield Park, an area between Dexter and Redfield. During the escape after the gunfight, the gang had to ditch their cars. Unable to continue on foot due to his injuries, Marvin had to stay behind and his wife stayed with him. Bonnie and Clyde, along with another member got away from Iowa police. On July 25th, police question Marvin about a recent murder, and he apparently responded “unconcernedly.” Many officers from around the country came on the 25th, attempting to identify him for various crimes. On the 26th, Barrow’s mother came to the hospital, and Barrow, who had slipped into a coma, awakened briefly and was able to see his mother. It was discovered from his mother that his nickname was “Buck.” Unfortunately, Marvin “Buck” Barrow was to die on July 29th at the age of 31.
As you can see, Perry has had some interesting brushes with criminals. There are also stories about a man who faked his death for insurance money, someone who owned a bank and took all the money to flee to the Bahamas, and of course the KKK march that happened here. If you wish to know more about Marvin’s story, or about any of the other interesting stories, please do not hesitate to stop by!
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.