Descendancy Narrative of John Morgan by Charles J. Vella, Ph. D



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From his retirement in 1973, he attended classes at S.F. State University, especially in philosophy and literature. He had a world class personal library of Marxist/socialist philosophical/historical and economic works. Between 1991-1995, he wrote and self-published a dictionary of seaman's terms (entitled Sea-Say: A Book of Memories) with maritime stories from 17 contributors (who were seaman, longshoremen, sail boaters, and shipwrights). He and Roz sang in the Jewish Folk Chorus for many years. In 1996 he had a second hip replacement.
There is a 3 hour autobiographical videotape in the possession of Charles and Marilyn Vella.

Autobiography written by Marshall Milton Uran


I was born November 7, 1911 in a small apartment over a garage in the town of Wellsburg, Iowa, a town of 200. My father, Joseph Alfred Uran, was an MD, a general practitioner, physician and surgeon. Born in Illinois, he had been trained as a pathologist at a college of physicians and surgeons in Chicago, Illinois. On graduation he became chief pathologist at the State Insane Hospital in Illinois. For some unclear reason, possibly because of friction with his father, who wanted him to go into joint medical practice, he left this post and went to Holland, Iowa, a town with a population of 50, to practice general medicine. His father, my grandfather, Benjamin Franklin Uran, was a pioneer surgeon in Illinois, and located at Kankakee, Illinois most of his life. Here, my grandfather practiced both surgery and general medicine. He also gave general medical aid to the native Indians in the surrounding area. (see the bibliography) My mother, Imogene Morgan Uran, was a grade school teacher in Holland. Mother and Father were married here. There was an opening for a doctor in Wellsburg, Iowa, a town of 200, so they move moved to Wellsburg, where I was born. My Mother's mother, Lydia May Morgan, was also an elementary school teacher. My maternal grandfather, J.H. Morgan was also a teacher and most of that time spent as a school superintendent

My earliest memories were from the age of three. I remember being taken with my mother and grandmother Morgan to visit my great grandmother Clarinda Houghton, who was very old, in her late nineties. I saw a jar on the fireplace mantle which I assumed was a cookie jar. I asked my great grandmother for a cookie. She was sitting and with great effort got up and went right to that jar and took out a cookie and gave it to me in spite of my mother scolding me for asking. There was a picture taken during this visit of the four generations.


My next memory about this age was wanting to crawl under the first house we lived in to have a bowel movement. The house had a porch with a space above ground so you could crawl underneath. But my mother, missing me, found me before I got very far underneath. I suppose I was scolded for this escapade.
Kitty cornered, diagonally, from this house, lived a boy the same age who was the son of one of the local bankers. This boy, Virgil, and I ended up being rivals. We would meet outside the back of our respective houses to play together with toys we would bring outside. He would often take one of my toys along with him to his house and try to keep them. This happened once with a toy fire truck I had. When I complained to my mother, she would then call up the neighbor and get the toy back. We would both often go into my house and ask for a cookie or something to eat. My mother would give it to us and we would go out to play some more. But it didn't work the same if I went over to his house to get a bite of something. His mother would always indignantly refuse.

Early on, probably around the age of four, my mother wanted to start me to read as soon as possible. She began with phonics, first teaching the sounds and then using a picture and a story about a letter and later syllables and much later simple words. I remember vocalizing the letter C as sounding like Johnny with a bone in his throat. In this manner towards the end of age four I was beginning to read a few connected words. At the same time she was having me start to print down what I learned. By age five I was able to read in books for children.


About this time we moved to another, our second, house further on the edge of town, which of course was not very far, but further away from the center of town. The town of Wellsburg, population 200, consisted of a main street with grocery store, drug store, post office, pool hall, clothing store, hardware store, blacksmith shop, stables for horses and a stud farm. There was one garage, and possibly two, as cars became more common. At right angles to the main street was the elementary school. The Rock Island Railroad ran North and South the West side of town. Here was the Railroad Station, grain elevators, and a lumber yard. Individual houses were scattered around the outskirts of the main part of town. The size of the houses varied according to the wealth of the owner. Some houses were rented, as were those my family lived in during the years in Wellsburg.
In this second house we lived while I was four going on six years old. Here I made friends early on with a neighbor boy. We had great fun together. One project we had was building what we called bridges in the garden next to our house. My father was a great gardener in his off hours. In the garden we would get pieces of wood, lay them down together parallel and call them bridges. We finally had to lay off too much more bridge building because my father complained that too much room was taken up in the garden.

In the back of our house was a cornfield of sweet corn. One fall when the corn was high my friend and I decided we wanted to go swimming. And since there was no pool around, we took off our clothes anyway and ran through the cornfield. It was great fun playing hide and seek in the cornfield. And running through the corn plant rows we were caressed by the long leaves and the silk sticking out of the ears. But our "swimming" was called to a halt when neighbors complained about naked boys running around. I was severely lectured by my mother that nice boys did not take off their clothes where anyone could see them.


While we lived in this second house there was a house brought in to be set down on one side of ours. Our house had a vacant lot on one side and on the other side was father's garden lot and further on that side had been a vacant lot. This latter lot was

where the house was to be brought. This house had been elsewhere in the town. The whole process of moving a house I found fascinating. I watched every bit of the whole process. The house came down the street on what looked to me were little wagons with big wheels. That house of course had been raised up and put on those "wagons" elsewhere. What made it move along the street was a large iron drum on end on a platform with the platform held to the street with big stakes. The street was actually a dirt road. All the streets in Wellsburg were dirt roads. Wound around this big drum was a long cable. One end of the cable was attached to the drum and the other end was hooked to the house on wheels. There was a long timber placed with one end on the drum and the other end sticking out into the street. A horse was hitched to the end of this timber attached to the drum. The horse was then used to go around the drum with the cable. The cable would then wind around the drum and the cable would be pulling the house toward the platform. When the house was pulled close to the platform then the whole platform would have the stakes in the road holding it pulled up, the horse would be used to pull the platform further ahead with cable unwinding to its end. Then the whole process would start over again until the house was finally pulled to where it was to be put permanently. (The "platform" described was a form of turntable or winch) I watched every part of this moving I could. I pestered the workmen doing the work of moving with questions about why this and why that.


Around the same time a new house was built on the other side of our house. This also was a source of fascination for me. I followed all stages of its building from the foundation to the completed structure. The foundation was made by having a team of horses tied to a large scoop digging into the earth. My mother at all times cautioned me about getting too close or I might get hurt. I also asked questions from the carpenters as the house went up until they got tired of having me bug them. Although once the house outside was finished I managed to get inside through an open door to see what was going on. But the carpenters soon put a stop to that probably complaining to my mother.
In this second house I had more sophisticated toys. I was given a roller coaster, a small 4-wheel metal wagon that I could pull around with things it. I soon learned about being careful. The wagon was out in front. I got into the back of the wagon and stood up. When I happened to lean a little forward for some reason the wagon started to move and I fell down face forward to the ground in front of me. I put my hands out to catch the ground and in so doing my right hand fell on top of a small board which had two sharp nails sticking up. The nails pierced the lower palm of my right hand and went through to the back side. I started screaming and managed to pull the board free from my hand. There was a lot of blood. Mother called Dad who came home from his doctor's office to take care of my hand. After stopping the blood he used little cotton covered probes like the Q-tips we use today. Dipping a Q-tip in tincture of iodine, Father carefully probed into each puncture, halfway through on each puncture in the palm side and the other halfway through on the back of the hand. I can't remember what pain killing solution he may have used. But the pain was terrible and I cried and screamed. However, Father was very patient and proceeded slowly and Mother stood by to give reassurance and to tell me why it was necessary to have this treatment. There was a danger of infection. The holes on the back of the hand were enlarged a bit during the treatment. There are two scars on the back of the right hand as a reminder.
My sister Ellen Vivian was born in this house just after my fourth birthday. Both I and my sister were delivered by Father. After Ellen was about a year old and began to walk she developed a limp. Mother, after asking Father what might be wrong and not getting a satisfactory answer, insisted that another doctor be called in for consultation. She may even have talked to this doctor herself since I am sure he was a nearby colleague of Father. When he came and examined Ellen and asked about her nutrition, he found out that my father had stopped buying milk because he thought it was too expensive. This other doctor than raised hell and from then on we had fresh cow's milk. This whole incident I only really learned about many years later. But instead of fresh milk most of the time we used canned condensed milk which Father thought was much cheaper.

Mother early on started treating me "manners". I was always required to eat everything that was put on the plate for any meal. I soon got tired of one dish - bread and warm milk. I disliked it so much that one time I refused to eat it. Mother insisted on my eating it telling me it was good for me. I shook my head NO. So she took a dish of dessert I liked at this meal and put it on top of a nearby shelf telling me that I couldn't have the dessert or any other food until I ate the bread and milk. I finally buckled, ate the bread and milk and got the dessert. Mother was always very stern but a quiet and loving mother. She was always conscious of trying to get the best nutrition for her children. Father, however, was always quite distant in comparison so far as guiding manners.



Whenever he had to go outside of town on a visit to a patient in a farmhouse he always wanted company. Before I entered school at the age of 6 and if it was daytime, he would take me along. I would stay in the farmhouse kitchen while he took care of a patient. Farmhouse kitchens were usually a combination of kitchen and dining room. There would be a large iron stove for cooking and heat as well, using wood and coal to burn in the stove.
In those days roads in Iowa were dirt. So there would be mud after a rain in summer and snow and ice in winter. In winter the roads were not cleared of snow. Drifts would pile up even 10 feet high. If there should happen to be a slight warming, or sleet, or unusually a bit of rain, the rain would harden the drifts. Then the only means of travel in the country would be with horse and sleigh Santa Claus style. In summer with heavy rains, if an early style car was used, and you got stuck in the mud, you would have to go to the nearest farmhouse and pay the farmer to pull you out of the mud. So traveling with Father into the countryside was an adventure.
One time Father took me along on a long trip by railroad to Cedar Rapids. He went there, as I learned much later, to invest (gamble) on the Chicago stock market. After we arrived by train he would take me with him to a hotel and rent a room. After a meal he would leave me in the room by myself while he went out to the stock market office. This particular time I got anxious because he was gone a very long time so I went outside the room, went down the stairs to see if I could find Father. While wandering around the lobby one of the hotel attendants got hold of me and entertained me till Father arrived. I was greatly relieved when he showed. After getting home and telling Mother about my experience she complained strongly to Father. So on such trips afterwards he would take me along to the local stock market and I would watch the strange goings on till he was through.
Most children in Wellsburg and the farmer's children brought into the town school started school at the age of five. Mother as an experienced elementary school teacher thought age five was too early. So I entered elementary school at age six. By age six I was reading everything - magazines, books, newspaper. So when school started in the fall of 1917 I was told I must start school. I knew where the school was, just a short distance from where we then lived. I walked to the school at nine o-clock but didn't want to go in. I was satisfied staying home. So instead of going in the school I hung outside around some bushes. My intended teacher, knowing I was supposed to be there, sent someone out looking around and found me in the bushes. So I was reluctantly escorted into the classroom.
This "hooky" was like a number of incidents when I was younger. I wanted to get away from discipline so I ran away from home. I never got very far. Mother found me right away or a neighbor told her where I was. As punishment for this I was put out in either a barn we had or an attached shed wrapped in a blanket and left a while. I eventually learned to stay home.
Since I was a year older than the others in my grade at school I had no difficulty with the subject matter and I often found myself with some free time. There were always two different grades in each classroom with one teacher for both. So when the other grade was reciting in the front of the room I would use my free time after studying by reading anything other than the text book that might be available. There were usually story books of some kind donated to the school.
The only thing I ever had trouble with in school, even through high school till my Junior year, was arithmetic and then algebra. Mother asked Father to help me at home with arithmetic since my arithmetic grades were not good. But he had so little patience with me that he was of little help. Nevertheless I struggled through.
The subjects through Elementary school ran about the same through the eight grades: reading, arithmetic, spelling, history, writing up stories on suggested subjects and occasionally a subject of your own choice.
History always had a special caste to it. In the early 1900s there was a developing socialist movement in the United States. The business community became greatly alarmed and quite deliberately took charge of education to make sure that all the children were indoctrinated in the "right" ideas as to what "actually" took place: Columbus discovered America; George Washington was the Father of his Country because he won the Revolutionary war against Great Britain and became the first President when the Colonies decided to make a new nation: Abraham Lincoln won the Civil War against the South so he could free the slaves; and so on and on. Near all the Holidays we often put on little plays in the schoolroom about that holiday or write stories and draw pictures about it.

One thing that was especially good was that multiple choice tests had not yet been invented. When you had tests the answers had to be written out in essay style so that you had to think first what you wanted to say and then put your answers out so the teacher could understand it.


When I went to school each morning I had to dress in a dress shirt and knee length dress pants "knickers" and long black stockings and high black button shoes because after all I was the doctor's son. The banker's son was dressed similarly. Shouldn't the town elite be all dressed up!? But all the other boys came in shirts open at the neck and denim overalls and whatever shoes they played around in and in Spring and Fall they would wear sneakers.
The banker's son, Virgil Clausen, and I continued our rivalry and had the only fist fight I ever participated in to this day. He took one punch at me and I took one punch at him and that was the end of it.
At recess we always had great fun. Everyone participated, girls and boys. One game was Pom Pom Pullaway. Everybody lined up on two lines facing each other. Each side would take turns at being "it". The "it" side would say in unison, "Come away or we'll pull you away." This was the signal for the "it" side to run toward the opposite and try to touch the person opposite. The other side would then run away to avoid being touched. Then the other side would be the "it" side.
One game played usually by boys was a game they called "cricket". They probably had heard that the English played a game where something was batted around. So they would dig a small trench a few inches deep. Then take a small 8 inch round stick, probably from a broom handle and place it in the trench so that laying against one end of the trench it would stick up above the trench about three inches. Then standing at one side of the trench and using a long stick about 4 feet long, he would hit the small stick in the trench so that it would jump into the air and land at a distance. The game was to see who could make the stick in the trench go the farthest.
At the age of 6, we moved to another house, the third house, near the grade school. At this house, before Margaret was born and Ellen was 4 years younger at age 2, we lived for two more years. This is the house from which I started school. Ellen was born in 1915, four years after me, and then Margaret was born in 1917. In this house, I came down with a combination of both scarlet fever and the mumps. Ellen had some kind of problem - German measles or something. I remember that when we were in the same room recovering, I would be in one part of the room and Ellen in another (I was 8 and Ellen 4). Since we were both in the same room, we would talk to each other. One of the things we would do would be to try to tell stories about something. And another thing we would do would be to make up what we thought were nonsense syllables and we would shoot them back and forth and then laugh about what we said. In the course of these years, and somewhat later, I'm not sure about the exact dates, we also all came down with chicken pox and German measles and whooping cough.

At school our recess was 15 minutes long. In the school whenever we would be reciting up front (we were all sitting up front the other desks behind us), the teacher would ask questions on whatever subject we were studying, there was always competition to see who could answer the question the quickest and the fastest. So whoever thought they knew the answer would stick up their hand and there would be competition to see who would really do the best job of answering. The teacher would then praise the person who gave the best answer. So we learned competition in this way. Of the children, the girls were usually much faster, but some of the boys especially one or two of them had great, great difficulty in doing whatever it was they had to do. So occasionally, when I had free time I would sometimes help one or two of the people and give them an answer. Of course, we weren't supposed to do that, so I had to do it carefully when the teacher wasn't looking.

About this time - this was around 1917 or 1918, this was the period when the women started to get their hair bobbed, and their dresses were getting a little bit shorter the boys were especially interested in seeing the fact that some of the women even had legs. Because up to this time, all the dresses were down to the floor and all the women wore long hair tied into one kind of a bunch or knot at the top. Women also wore corsets. Everybody wore button shoes requiring a button hook to tighten up the shoe. Men wore high stiff collars with long ties. And in 1919 the women's suffrage movement was successful with the adoption of the 19th amendment to the Constitution.

In this area of the country, we had distinct seasons. There would be winter, spring, summer, fall and winter again. In the wintertime, there was all kinds of snow, sleet and ice forming. It would be very cold, sometimes near zero or even below in the worst time of the winter. There would be what we would call blizzards in which it would be snowing and the wind would be blowing very strong. In the wintertime, of course, what we could do outside in the way of playing games would be making snowballs and snowmen. When we got older, we were given sleds. If somebody would pull it, we would have fun sitting on the sled. This part of the country had very few hills. Up to the time I was 8 years old, we didn't go to the nearest hills. What we would do, then, was play on the ground in the snow. We would have very warm clothes and warm overshoes (overshoes were shoes made out of rubber that would fit over our regular shoes so we would have shoes inside of shoes). We would have longer pants than what I wore to school. When we came home from school and it was a weekday, Monday through Saturday, boys would be allowed to wear overalls, then I was allowed to wear overalls, and the girls would have different kinds of dress.

As spring came along and the snow began to disappear and later in the spring it would start raining, we'd have lots of sunny days and the sun would melt the snow. Later we would have rain occasionally. When we went outside and it was raining, we had to wear rubbers, small rubber shoes that fit over our regular shoes. We could play outside much more than in the wintertime.

One of the games that we would play outside if there were neighbor children would be hide and seek. One person would be IT who would stand in a certain place, and everybody else would go hide. And then when the person who was IT would say Ready, I'm coming, & he/she would go and try to find people who were hidden. The first person who was found would be IT for the next game. Hide and seek, of course, is something that you could play on the inside as well as the outside. Ellen and I and when Margo began to walk a little bit and understand what we were doing, we'd play this game inside the house.

As Summer approached, weather became very much warmer. In the middle of Summer, of course, it would -`become quite hot and the only relief from the sun would be clouds. There would be rain and there would be thunderstorms and lightning. We were always cautioned when there were severe storms to stay inside because people could be hit by the lightning and they would be killed. So we had to be very careful when there were very heavy thunderstorms. We had to stay inside and all we could do was look out the window and see the lightning and how the clouds were forming and the wind was blowing and trees moving back and forth. In some severe storms sometimes a few trees would be blown over and fall to the ground.


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