Alice Hallowell Johnson (1895-1999), was born on a farm just west of the Ames Woman’s Club. Her parents were Charles and Agnes Hallowell, early Ames farmers who later moved to Walnut Avenue. Alice attended South Side School and expressed an early interest in piano and violin. She took private violin lessons from a blind musician (Mr. Drummond?) who traveled from Des Moines to Ames weekly on the interurban.
In the photo below, dated 1913, Alice is posed with the violin presented to her by her parents on her 18th birthday. The instrument was made in Germany ca. 1913 in the Russian style of Richard Rubus of St. Petersburg. Note the dark finish and rounded edges characterizing this style. Alice made the dress herself, and was proud of the new black, patent leather high-button shoes as well. On this occasion she had just presented a recital in the Ames Public Library. Alice also performed for weddings at St. Cecilia’s Catholic Church and on stage at Lake Comar, a popular recreational area south of Story City. Her father played violin by ear, and Alice often accompanied him on the piano at Lake Comar, square dances, and area threshing meets. Ames Historical Society was presented with Alice’s treasured violin by her daughter, Dorothy Johnson Shepard, in October 2005. Dorothy is fond of recalling that this violin was also played at the farm of the Curator’s grandparents, Charles and Gertrude Van Patter.