There were also County Fairs to go to. And for us children the fairs meant popcorn and candy and watching the clowns. In addition there would occasionally be a circus in a nearby town. From time to time a Chautauqua would come to town, which put on plays and educational performances. Chautauqua was a non-profit organization devoted to spreading cultural presentations to the general public nationwide. And even more, there were Medicine Shows which would put on clown acts in a tent and in between the acts try to sell patent medicines. Needless to say, Mother warned us against patent medicines but we enjoyed the entertainment anyway. There was a fee to get into the Medicine shows. But we youngsters would get in free if we ran around town shouting for people to go to the show.
At this time, radio first arrived in Wellsburg. One of the local technicians had a radio and Father took me along with him to listen to the radio.
I made one trip by myself on the railroad to the nearest town North. I can't remember at what age. But I was driven to the station, put on a freight train caboose with instructions to the trainman to watch over me and see to it that I got in the next train back. It was quite an experience.
On Armistice Day, November 11, 1917, Father took me with him to Waterloo to watch the parade. That was the end of World War I.
The school would sometimes have trips to nearby locations but the longest trip I made while in Wellsburg was a trip to Minneapolis, Minnesota with my Grandma Morgan to visit Aunt Genevieve Robertson. I was told much later that the actual reason for the trip was because Mother was pregnant with my brother Donald and they wanted me out of the house when Father delivered the baby. The Robertsons lived in a very fancy house. We were there until we got news that Don was born. The meals there were with very delicious food of a much greater variety than I was used to at home. And while there we were taken on trips to see Minneapolis and St. Paul. One bit of knowledge passed on to me by Grandma Morgan while we were there was that I should quit believing in Santa Claus.
Father delivered all of us children. He also did minor surgery. There were especially a lot of motorcycles accidents he took care of. Often at night when I was in bed I could hear Mother and Dad in many arguments. I didn't know what they were about. And occasionally Father would lock himself up in the bedroom and I could hear him walking back and forth and what sounded like cussing. I didn't know what he was doing.
After this trip the school was to put on a fairy tale play. I was to have one of the parts in the play. But I fell down while playing outside near home and skinned both knees which became infected. The infections became so bad that I could see white inside the veins on my thighs. There was a danger of lockjaw. Father had to go to a nearby large city to get tetanus for an injection. The injection was made in my chest but it did the trick. But my recovery came too late for me to be in the school play, I was to have been one of the elves So my first acting bit didn't take place.
About this time I had my first experience with the surgeon's knife. When I was about one year old, Mother took me to a well baby show. I would have had top rating except I had a penile defect that later in life would have prevented me from having an erection. Father knew about it but did nothing. What I needed was circumcision which had nothing to do with a religious practice. So on Mother's insistence, I was sent to a nearby hospital and the correction was made. All that goes to show is that "Shoemaker's children go without shoes!"
The Prohibition Amendment, forbidding the manufacturing and sale of alcoholic liquor was in effect. But there was bootlegging everywhere. Frequent raids would be made on places suspected of illegal manufacturing or sale of liquor. Father had many patients inflicted with delirium tremens (hallucinations and tremor from excessive use of alcohol). But physicians were allowed a certain quantity of various kinds of alcohol for medicinal use, whatever that was. One time while I was wandering around Father's office downstairs, I ran across his supply of alcohol. One bottle was Old Taylor whiskey. The cap was loose so I took a sip. It had a sweet taste. But I had been warned about the use of alcohol so I never tried that adventure again. Father and Mother never drank alcohol in any form.
Mother became sick fairly often. The work she had to do would be enough to make anybody sick. As I became older in this house she had me help around the house, cleaning, doing dishes, bringing up coal and wood from the basement, etc. One time while she was in bed sick she gave me instructions on how to bake a ham.
In this house the walls needed repair. They were covered with wallpaper. So in order to put on new wallpaper the old had to be removed. Since the house owner would not put on new wallpaper, and Father did not want to hire someone, we had to do it. So Mother, Father and I, had to use water and vinegar and scrape off the wall paper. And then Mother put on the new paper after I helped her brush on the wallpaper paste.
Mother early on learned to drive the car. In addition to all the other work Mother did she would take Father's car and go around the neighborhood selling subscriptions to magazines to get some extra money to buy things she wanted as well as buy things Father would not buy.
Father occasionally would send patients to a clinic in Waterloo, Iowa about 40 miles East of Wellsburg. Waterloo was a city of about 40,000 at that time. The clinic was headed by a Dr. O'Keefe. This Dr. was so impressed by Father's diagnostic abilities that he asked him to consider moving to Waterloo and joining his clinic. So that is what was decided. We packed up all we could get in our car. Things we couldn't take along with us were sold at auction. And we children made sure our toys, books and games came along. So we were off to Waterloo, Summer 1921.
We settled in a rental house in the Westside section of Waterloo, 1921. Waterloo is divided into two parts, Eastside and Westside, by the Cedar River. Father's office as part of O'Keefe's clinic was in the downtown area. The house we lived in had a very small back yard, hardly enough for much of a garden.
I entered the fifth grade at one of the elementary schools nearest home. I did not have too much difficulty in school. In this school in my grade there was a black student, a boy. This was my first experience near a Black. This boy was the brightest in the class. I was extremely impressed. Waterloo had a large Black population. They were largely in this section of Waterloo.
School introduced me to libraries. In addition to the school library Mother got me a card in the nearest local library. I found myself in heaven. I looked at all the magazines I could get hold of. I was most attracted to nature magazines. So to get near to nature I built a birdbath in the backyard, consisting of a pole with a small wooden platform and a bowl with water on top. Unfortunately not everybody appreciated a birdbath. The neighbor behind us consisted of a woman and a very small boy. This woman encouraged her son to run out quick and knock the bird bath off the post. I restored the bath each time but the same thing happened repeatedly. Finally Mother visited next door and apparently her warning stopped the events. I constantly looked around outside for any birds.
In the Summer when school was out I went with Mother to various events such as movies. But I eventually went by myself to movies. They were very cheap, only a few cents. There were also cattle shows at a Cow Palace. But in addition to cows and bulls there were racing horses, working horses, steers, Shetland ponies, sheep, donkeys, geese, turkeys, chickens. And there would be shows connected such as roping contests and what you would see on part of the Western Movies.
I joined the Boy Scouts. Most of the Boy Scouts dressed up in uniforms when they went to meetings. I didn't have a uniform at first. In this particular Boy Scout troop the Scoutmaster treated the troop as a military unit. Most of the meetings were taken up with military drills. The Boy Scout Manual we were all given didn't say anything about that but instead had a lot about nature study, camping and many other interesting things. The Boy Scouts also had the use of swimming pools. Here I learned to swim.
On the second year in Waterloo Father had an accident in his car and suffered a broken arm. Since he was unable to see patients in the clinic until his complete recovery, Dr. O'Keefe fired him from the Clinic and he was left without any income.
Mother again used the car to sell magazine subscriptions. In the Summer Father using his one good arm drove me out to a gladiola farm and had them put me to work weeding gladiolas at 10 cents an hour to help the family. I hadn't worked too long before many of the other children who were doing the same work decided to stop working unless they got more money. I stopped along with them. This was my first strike. When Father picked me up that day and was told about the strike he gave me a long lecture about being a faithful employee and that striking was very wrong and not to ever do that again.
On the third year in Waterloo we moved to the Eastside in a cheaper house on Parker street. I had to enter a different Elementary school as did Ellen and Margaret. I also entered a different Boy Scout Troop. This Scoutmaster was entirely different - no military drill. Instead there were many nature walks and walking trips.
Right after Father's injury and as he was recovering at home I had the first and last long talks with him about everything under the sun. As soon as he recovered well enough he started using the car to go around various towns in Iowa to sell medical books. On a few of these trips I went with him but conversation was always at a minimum.
In Waterloo at this time I had another one of the measles. The measles made my skin break out and itch greatly. So to ease the itching I had to walk around and around the house.
I finally graduated from Elementary School in Waterloo.
Father, going around selling medical books, also was looking for another place to establish his medical practice. He finally found a place in Riceville, Iowa, a farming town of 900. So we made another move to Riceville, Iowa in the Summer of 1925.
1925 to 1938
Riceville is located in North East Iowa about 15 miles from the Minnesota border. It is split between two counties: Mitchell on the West and Howard on the East with the county line running North and South through the center of town.
The main Street is also Highway 9 running East and West through the town. Riceville was a typical slightly larger town in an agricultural area. Its population was approximately 900. The residents were families, some with children.
Check the map for the places mentioned following: High School, Elementary School, 6 churches, 2 doctors (MD), 2 dentists, residences with those successively occupied by the Uran family, indicated as 1,2,3,4.
Various buildings: post office, library, 1 dept. store, 4 groceries, 1 meat market, 2 variety stores, 2 drug stores, 2 barber shops, 1 farm implement store, 1 agricultural feed store, 2 hardware stores, 1 machine shop, 1 ice house, 1 bakery, 1 clothing store, 1 tavern-pool hall, 1 hotel, blacksmith, 2 gas stations and one combination gas station and garage repair shop, 1 restaurant, a hash joint, a harness shop, a shoe and shoe repair shop, a second floor movie theater, a local band that would play just off Main Street, water tower, railroad station, grain elevators, fire department, city dump, horse barns, and remains of an old water mill, a City Council Chamber, a jail used largely for drunks to sober up. Transportation apart from the railroad was by horse drawn drays and later auto trucks for goods and services. Sewage was dumped in the individual out house connected with each residence and the out house also served for individual toilets. A modern sewage system was installed at a much later time.
The city government consisted of a Council, a Justice of the Peace who served as the court for small offenses, a policeman, a jail used largely for drunks to sober up. The town elite were bankers, lawyers, doctors, business owners, ministers and the local priest.
The town population was Irish, German, French Canadians, a few Jews, a few Blacks. There were retired farmers. The poor worked daily labor and house care. The local atmosphere was individualism, Puritanism, move up in the world.
There were local geniuses. The town would occasionally be visited by a wandering airplane. So one of the machine shop mechanic built an airplane. The Texaco garage owner built a car. And to top that his son developed and patented doors for airplane hangars.
I entered High School as a Freshman as soon as school started in the Fall of 1925. I started the College Entrance Course which meant English, Mathematics, History, Literature, Latin and various electives from year to year. School started at 9:00 AM Monday to Friday with one hour for lunch, 12 to 1;00, and let out at 4:00. During the school day there was one hour study period, depending on the specific schedule of classes for each student. I continued my previous practice of no homework. For each text except mathematics I immediately on the beginning of each semester, read through each text so that I knew in general what was going to be required by each teacher. It was only in the Junior and Senior years that the best teachers taught English, Literature, History and Mathematics. In these years Math. went from arithmetic to algebra to advanced algebra. We had the most marvelous teacher for algebra a Miss Meade, and I finally caught on to math. The English and History teachers also were quite good. But our Literature teacher was the best of all. Her name was Gertrude Weaver. She never married but she was in love with Shakespeare. Not only did we read some of the plays but she would also have us act out some of the parts of her favorite plays. The Latin teacher had us get up before the class and read off some of the famous Latin speeches. In English we also did some debating. In one debate I took the affirmative for a strong military!! Class grades were usually in percentage points running from 75 to 100. Most exams were of the essay type. Multiple choice was just beginning to be used but not usually with us. Half of each study period I spent looking up topics I was interested in. In the Senior year there was a class in Physics. I used part of the study period looking up scientific articles in the Encyclopedia. I even tried to get members of my class interested in asking the Physics teacher to help us carry out experiments but he didn't know what to tell us to do.
In the Senior year the class put on a class play. I was given a small part but I wasn't cut out to be an actor.
We also were required to take Physical Training. This was a prelude to sports. We were given a choice. I chose volley ball and became quite good at it. However if boys did not go out for football, basketball and track they were looked on as sissies. So I succumbed and in my Sophomore year I graduated from sissy to a "real man" and went out for football, basketball and track. I didn't like any of these sports but continued anyway. In my Senior year we had a new coach for football, Paul J. Frank. He had been on the first Yale football team to win games. As our coach he really wanted to have a good football record so he could get a better job. So he pushed us to play three games beyond the regular season We won all the games except the last one where we were outweighed 50 pounds to the man. He got a new job the next year but everyone on the team ended up with a permanent injury, in my case an injured left knee. Ben Buresh was a tackle on the team. He had trouble passing some of the courses. I sat next to him in the main courses and let him copy from me on the exams. If he failed he would have been held back and would not have been able to play on the same team. Ben and his brothers were excellent farmers. Here is just one case where testing as usually carried on and especially IQ testing convinced me even at that time that most testing didn't really test. Farming successfully was not an easy occupation physically and especially mentally. In Ben Buresh's case the IQ rating and grade ratings were really beside the point.
Locker rooms were where anyone participating in athletics of any kind would change clothes. The girls had theirs and the boys had theirs. In our senior year two of the boys who were brothers started harassing one of the other boys who didn't happen to go out for football but only took physical training. That's the reason I went out for football to avoid harassment as a sissy. These two brothers made life miserable for this particular individual to the point where this boy's parents complained to the Principal, who put an end to the harassment. This individual later thanked me for not participating in the harassment.
But back to the classes. I took a course in Manual Training working with wood. First we were instructed in how to use all the various tools. Then we had to have a class in drawing diagrams of what we wanted to make. I made foot stools and gave them to the family or relatives. Then I made an open bookcase out of walnut. The top was made of ¾ inch walnut glued side by side with dowels and then planed flat. In addition to the work at school I set up a woodwork shop in the basement with tool bench, tool rack and vise. I made toys for the young brother Donald, and as I remember, doll beds for Ellen and Margaret. The tools I bought myself by paid jobs I did outside of school. I graduated from High School in 1929 at the head of my class in grades.
From the time we moved to Riceville I got odd jobs and used the money I got to buy my own clothes, tools, etc. The principle job I had was as assistant clerk in Wells Department store. Here I worked weekends and during the Summer during some of the weekdays. One job was to help keep the store shelves full of supplies. One particular job was to pound the 100 pound sacks of sugar which had been wet on transport to the store. After a good pounding each sack with a wooden mallet to break up the clotted sugar, I then had to carry them into the store and fill paper bags for sale. I foolishly would carry a 100 pound sack under each arm into the store! After all, shouldn't a football player be strong?!
In all the houses we lived in during my stay in Riceville, I helped around the house. In the first house we had a large garden which I helped Father plant and cultivate. In the Fall when vegetables and fruit were available Ellen and I helped prepare them so they could be canned for later use. Mother even prepared some of the canning to take to exhibit at the County Fairs where other women would also exhibit. In the second house, which was on the North East outskirts of Riceville, Father took a cow as payment for a bill. It was a gentle brown cow. The farmer who brought it in showed me how to milk it. So now instead of helping on a garden in the new house I furnished milk. The cow had to be milked twice a day. It also had to be fed hay, oats, and water and let out to feed on a grass lot next to the house. There was a barn at the rear of the house. That meant getting up early in the morning, milk the cow, work some on the garden, and walk to school by 9 o'clock. Walking to school from here meant to walk South to the underpass under the railway and then Southwest to school. It also meant going to bed at 9 o'clock. Father took in a second cow, a wild Holstein. He figured we could sell the extra milk. When I milked the new Holstein I had to tie her hind legs to keep her from kicking me from off the milking stool. In addition, she was constantly patrolling the grass lot trying to get out through the fence. She finally jumped over the fence. I was able to catch her and lead her back, hanging on to the halter around her head. But in jumping over the fence she tore one of the four tits (teats) on her milk bag. Then began the job of trying to get milk out of a split tit. I had to use a milk tube to stick up the tit, put a blob of ointment in my hand and then slowly and carefully make a slight squeeze to get some of the milk out. I finally persuaded Father to get rid of that cow since there was little extra milk to be sold anyway. Father also took in a pregnant sow (pig). All these animals were put in a barn at the rear of the house. And since there was room for chickens we got some chickens so we could have fresh eggs. So my chores multiplied. There was also a small orchard of apple trees. A couple of trees had apples that were twice as large as our current so-called Delicious apples. These apples were the sweetest and most delicious of all apples I have ever tasted. But their size would have made them difficult to market.
The next and third house was back in the middle of town. Here we had one cow, a couple of pigs to let grow and then slaughter for food, and I started raising chickens. All these houses of course were rented. This house was in bad shape when we moved in. So my additional job was to paint the inside of the house. In the process I learned how this kind of painting was done. So usually my day started at 5 o'clock. Father also bought a small trailer to hook onto the back of the car. I taught myself to drive the car, a Ford Model T, by backing in and out of our garage connected to the barn and turning around in the driveway.
So with a trailer I was given an additional job - hauling coal and wood for the house to save having hauling done by the local draymen. I had to chop the wood.
In Wellsburg I had a pal to play around with. In Waterloo I had no such luck and largely went around alone. So in Riceville I latched on to one of my classmates - Charles "Red" McMaster. He lived on a farm close to Riceville and was driven by his father to school. I urged him to let me visit him at his home on weekends. He agreed but each time I went there his mother indicated she didn't like me. But Red paid no attention to her dislikes. Red and I palled around all during High School and kept up a relationship till old age. Another one was Paul Zilk who was in a different class. He was obsessed with police work. One expression of his interest was Sherlock Holmes. So he got me interested in reading detective stories, which is still a habit. Red and Paul and I would also go swimming in the local creeks. Also, since some of us had use of a car occasionally, we would go to either Osage or Cresco to see a movie we couldn't see in Riceville. In Riceville the movies were shown at that time up the stair on the second floor in the building opposite the shoe store on Woodland between Main and 2nd. The owner of the shoe store ran the movies. Other entertainment consisted off an occasional Medicine Shows where you could buy everything to cure everything, and what was better were the Chautauqua Shows which gave educational shows along with entertainment. These latter appeared in large traveling tents. Also there were visiting circuses. And further, there were the county fairs. Occasionally I went to a baseball game, but especially when the Negro Baseball League sent a traveling team through. The Black team always made mincemeat of the local team. More in the category of religion there were occasional religious revivals with a traveling minister and a tent. For the religious it was a serious occasion but for others is was a form of entertainment. Holidays were celebrated by the town: July 4th, Thanksgiving, Xmas, all with parades. Hallowe'en was celebrated largely by the young teens. Trick or Treat had not been invented yet. So one favorite trick was to tip over outhouses. One poor old lady who lived behind our third house would stay out in her out house until midnight and then leave and it would immediately be overturned. And one year a donkey was led inside a church and put into the church bell tower. Another type of entertainment was charivari, locally called it shivaree, which was putting on a celebration for a new wedding, usually put on by teenagers. The Town Band also played at town celebrations and quite often also on market days Wednesday and Saturday nights.