Roger M. Goetz Chapter 05

Looking Back
by Roger M. Goetz



Mrs. Percy H. (Janet) Carr, nee Noyes (born 26 March 1907; died 2 April 1984) was the wife of Dr. Percy H. Carr (born 22 September 1904; died 14 May 1991), my physics professor at Iowa State.

Apart from being a professor’s wife, Mrs. Carr was well-known in the Ames community for many things, including her tireless work over the years with Camp Fire Girls.  The Monday, January 8, 1945, issue of Ames Daily Tribune (Ames, Iowa), reported the creation of the new All City Camp Fire Girl Council, to which Mrs. Carr was appointed.  Page 3, column 4, reports:

Mrs. Percy H. Carr has been appointed Executive Secretary.  Mrs. Carr is well trained in youth organizations.  Before coming to Ames she attained the rank of Lieutenant and acting Captain in one of the first Girl Scout troops in the city of Binghamton New York.  Since coming to Ames she has served as Camp Fire Guardian for ten years and on the Board of Awards for three years.

She is a skilled Nature Hobbyist, has a student pilot’s license, is a Red Cross First Aid Instructor, is a Cub Scout Den Mother, a member of Chi Omega sorority and Civil Air Patrol.

She was a Den Mother, of course, in connection with her son Robert H. Carr (Ames High Class of 1953).

Another facet of this gifted woman can be seen in the following excerpt from the Tuesday, April 17, 1951, issue of Ames Daily Tribune (Ames, Iowa), page 10, columns 2 and 3:

Bird calls coming from the second grade classroom at Roosevelt school recently brought little response from the neighboring birds but certainly delighted the youngsters.  The second graders who are studying their feathered friends this spring had a visit from Mrs. Percy Carr and heard her give various bird calls as well as tell some of the things she has discovered about birds.

Mrs. Carr told the students how beneficial many birds are to man and stressed the importance of protecting them.

This was not the first time Mrs. Carr had spoken to children in school.

A year earlier, during the first week of May, I saw Mrs. Carr at Louise Crawford School, located at 415 Stanton.  My fourth-grade classmate Damon Dwayne Catron (1939-1989), who lived at 226 Stanton, and my third-grade neighbor Benny Jameson (1940-1965), had caught a bat down by Lake LaVerne the day before.  With Mrs. Carr’s help, Dwayne and Benny brought the bat to school caged in a corn popper.  She spoke to the third and fourth grade classes about bats, and then the bat was set free.

As far as some of us children attending Louise Crawford School in the 1950s were concerned, Mrs. Carr was one of the most important women in town, not because of the talks she gave in school, not because of her community activities, but because she lived across the street from our school at 424 Stanton and her home was usually open for children to drop in and visit.

I loved to do just that.  Her home was a treasure trove of things to see and learn about.  She collected shells and rocks and much more.   She had different living creatures there at one time or another, including a flying squirrel and a raccoon.  The raccoon lived in a large cage in back.  One time, I noticed the raccoon was gone and asked her what had happened to it.  She told me she had gotten rid it of it because it had bitten her son.

When she showed me things and explained them, I was filled with wonder and appreciation for the world around me.  She had the gift of helping children to see things they’d not noticed before and view them in a new way.

Perhaps the most important thing I gained from visiting her was discovering that L. Frank Baum had written sequels to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.  From that time on, I saved my allowance and when I had enough saved, I would go downtown to order the another Oz book at Ames Stationers.  This process took years and gave me something always to look forward to.  My peers in junior high thought I was crazy to buy these books, but I didn’t care.  They were fun to read.  And since Mrs. Carr approved, their opinions didn’t matter.  I just kept on buying and reading them.

After I grew up and left Ames, I only visited her a couple of times; but she always had a special place in my heart.

When I was visiting my parents in Ames late in June of 1984, I decided to go visit Mrs. Carr.  When I got to the house, Dr. Carr welcomed me inside.  It looked much the same as it had during my childhood.

"I"ve come to see Mrs. Carr," I told him.

"She’s not here," he replied.

"Will she be back soon?" I asked.

"She’s not coming back here," he answered.

"She’s not?"  I was quite surprised.

"Janet fell asleep back in April."

It was then that I understood she had passed away.

We visited for a few minutes longer.

As I was preparing to leave, I asked him, "Do you still have her Oz books."
He nodded.  "Yes."

"Well," I said, "I want you to know that they are now quite valuable and should not just be thrown away."  I knew she had the early edition of these books with the colored plates, and a year or two earlier I’d read the set was worth over a thousand dollars.

"I’ll tell Robert when he comes to deal with her things," he replied.

As I walked down the front steps, I felt sad.  An important piece of my childhood had come to an end.