by Roger M. Goetz
PRELUDE TO AMES, IOWA
In 1948, my father, Charles A. Goetz, Ph. D., was Director of Engineering for The Brunswick-Balke-Collender Company, 623-33 South Wabash, Chicago, Illinois. The company had originally hired Dad to solve a problem. The tops of the billiard tables they manufactured were uneven rather than uniformly flat.
Dad told me this presented a problem because pool sharks could shoot a ball a few times over such a table and then be able to use the unevenness to advantage in a tournament. He found a way to correct that.
As an aside, I’d like to mention that I’ve always been proud of the fact that while Dad worked there, the company had nearly perfected the first automatic pin-setting machine for bowling alleys. He had one of their bowling pins made into a table lamp which sat on his desk in our home in Ames for years and years. I finally got it and later gave it to my brother’s younger daughter.
The spring of 1948 seemed a happy one. For example, on Friday, April 9, 1948, my brother Chuck had a party for 11 friends that included dancing, games, and refreshments.
I was surprised to learn this in Mom’s diary, for Chuck was only eleven and a half years old. Weren’t they a little young to be dancing? But then, I remembered, Chuck had skipped a grade and was already in seventh grade. Maybe they had learned how for a school dance. Regardless of the why and wherefore, I was amused to read that Mom and Dad had one dance at the party and then were all in.
Another positive family event happened two days later. Mom wrote about it this way:
Sunday the 11th we drove in to Chicago to the dog pound to see if we could find a dog for Chuck. He’s been wanting one so badly. We found a young male part Boxer who seemed to be very friendly, and well trained. When Chuck saw all those homeless dogs it was almost too much for him.
I can well understand Chuck’s reaction to all of those homeless dogs. He had a large heart that cared about (and loved) any person or animal that was in a difficult situation. He always rooted for the underdog.
Mom’s narration continues:
[Chuck] named his dog Prince and was he dirty and did he just plain stink! Daddy scrubbed him when we got home, but he needed a second bath . . . Sat. [April 17] to get him almost cleaned up. Chuck was in 7th Heaven with his dog, took good care of him, feeding him and taking him for walks and playing with him. We kept him tied in the back yard.
By way of clarification, I must say that it was the dog, not Chuck, that was tied up in the backyard. I say this, of course, in humor; but, if you knew my mother, you’d know she had a tendency to use pronoun after pronoun in a sentence or two or three and leave her hearers quite bewildered as to who did what and to whom.
I became well aware of this after we moved to Ames. When Mom talked this way, often at the supper table, Dad would interrupt her narrative, comment on her use of too many pronouns, and ask her to explain. I have to smile at the memory. Why? Because occasionally her explanation was no clearer than her original statement.
But that was not a problem. Dad would ask a very specific question, and suddenly Mom would grasp what she needed to say and set forth the whole account with great clarity of detail to the amusement of all.
Returning to the dog Prince, the day before they got him (Saturday), they spent $1.13 for dog food and a leash. On Sunday they paid $2.75 for the dog.
Getting the dog necessitated a number of purchases:
|$0.48 dog chain and snaps
$3.52 dog license ($2.00) and harness
$1.20 dog food
$0.81 Prell shampoo for the dog
$0.25 dog license to replace the one lost
$1.14 dog food
Our pleasant life in Glen Ellyn was about to be shattered. It began the evening of Wednesday, April 21, when my playmate Linda Hall dropped by and continued when my friend Gary Cook came over. Gary, incidentally, was the assistant basket ball coach at Iowa State from 1980 to 1983. Mom wrote down what happened the next day:
Last night Linda Hall came by and he barked at her and growled. I told her not to be afraid–to talk to him nicely and I took her up to him and told her to pet him. As she put out her hand he snapped at her and snarled and growled worse than ever. I got really scared myself and my knees shook and I let out a shriek. She went away and the dog quieted down. In about 5 min. Gary Cook came by and Prince growled and snapped at him.
I called Daddy (he was at the Harrison Hotel, Chicago, attending American Chemical Society Convention) in the evening and he thought too that we had to get rid of the dog.
Chuck felt terrible and I did too because I really liked the dog. It was pathetic to see Chuck do things for him for the last time and this morning we took him to the police station to have him gassed.
It was awful hearing him bark and whimper in the gas box, but we couldn’t get away fast enough. Chuck’s heart was about broken and he wept bitterly – couldn’t take his piano lesson and couldn’t go to school and when he went to bed he almost broke down weeping again – "I miss Prince" he says.
I gave him a Nembutal to get him to sleep. I didn’t dare think about the whole business myself – Told him we’d get him another dog, but he said he didn’t want another.
The next paragraph that Mom wrote indicates that things for our family were going to get worse.
All is not well with Charles’s job at Brunswick. The man who hired him resigned after Xmas because management was a mess–they seem to be just plain ignorant–and now they’re having the reorganization bug and Chas. thinks they’ll do away with his position. He has been looking for a new job for several months.
The bad news occurs in the diary entry dated May 9, 1948, Sunday:
Charles was asked to resign at Brunswick on April 28 – an economy measure they say, but it’s a lot more than that, I guess. The sales vice-presidents want to regain control of affairs in the company, and Charles’s department was part of a new program put into effect about 5 years ago. Everyone except about 3 people hated to see him leave. They paid him 2 mo. separation pay which was quite generous.
Charles has had a complete [physical] check-up because he hasn’t been feeling good all winter. All they found wrong so far (and I guess it will be all, for $185) is a low blood sugar and he came home with a fancy diet. The diet has helped his stomach distress, but in reality all that was wrong was overwork and worry, and he has been feeling much better since he left Brunswick. He has worked just very hard, had to do a lot of traveling and affairs [at Brunswick] were always such a mess.
I was aware for some time that my father had been looking for a job. I felt uneasy when I heard my parents discuss the job situation. With the loss of his job, a sort of cloud covered our family. Yet life went on, as the next diary entry, dated May 19, 1948 - Wednesday, shows. And Ames, Iowa, started to become a part of our lives.
Roger was 8 years old the 17th. Sat. the 22nd, he’s having a luncheon for 6 friends.
He can still ask questions and here are some samples: Can a crab walk faster than a turtle? Do you have to have a license to beg? Why? How do matches make fire? How come you can put screws in wood and not in plaster? Is there such a thing as allergic to dogs and cats? What makes you allergic? How come when you listen to a shell it sounds like waves in the ocean? He asked all these between 8 and 8:30 tonight.
Chuck has been mowing lawns to earn some money. He has 6 lawns and could have more, but he barely gets these done. He likes the money, but doesn’t seem to care about going after it too hard. Daddy has helped him several times.
Last Thursday the 13th all four of us left for Ames, Iowa (316 mi.). Chas had an offer for a teaching position as Analytical Prof. at Iowa State College. They want to give him $5500 and an Ass’t Professorship and Chas wants $6000 and Associate Prof.
Chas. knows Prof. [Harvey] Diehl there and he told Chas to ask for that. Well, the authorities couldn’t agree over the week end, so now we’re waiting to hear from them.
We stayed at a tourist cabin – $9 a night.
That tourist cabin was absolutely horrible! All four of us thought so. It was located on U. S. 30 (Lincoln Way) near the east end of town on the south side of the road. But Dad put a positive spin on it. He said it was better than sleeping in the car. I suppose so, considering we stayed there three nights.
When we actually moved to Ames, I asked my mother if we were going to stay there again and was relieved when she told me we wouldn’t. All through the years, even into adulthood, whenever I rode past those tourist cabins, I would all but shudder.
The other thing I remember from that trip to Ames was when we drove down Main Street. I saw a sign that had the word "café" on it. I’d never seen the word before, so I looked at it in puzzlement. Using the normal rules of pronunciation (the "e" at the end is silent and it makes the vowel in front of it into a long vowel), I asked, "What’s a k~f?"
Mom and Dad and Chuck all laughed.
Chuck said, "Everybody knows it’s pronounced ‘café.’"
"Well, I’m not everybody." I felt embarrassed. "What’s a café?"
My dad said, "a kind of restaurant."
The above diary account concludes with a report of our return home by way of my father’s parents in Illinois and then this note:
Had the car repainted last week. Won’t be getting a new one now for a while."
I’m sure the car was a Pontiac, but what color? Dark red? Maroon? Blue? I don’t remember, and there’s no one left to ask. Nevertheless, Mom’s journal of expenses tells us that she paid the $177.37 cost of the car repair and painting on May 12, 1948.