by Roger M. Goetz
THE SOCIAL WHIRLWIND IN AMES BEGINS
Prior to moving to Ames, my folk’s social activities in the Chicago area consisted mostly of visiting members of the family along with a few of Mom’s former nursing classmates and a few of Dad’s coworkers (and their spouses).
Our holidays were mostly with members of my father’s family. His brother and wife in Milwaukee came down to Chicago for these occasions. Thanksgiving was always spent at the home of George Weidmann, a cousin of my dad’s father. George and his wife migrated from Germany to America between the world wars. They, of course, spoke German, and when they would babysit my brother or me on rare occasions, they would talk in German when they didn’t want us to understand what they were saying.
I loved being at their home, for they had something unique: a finished attic behind a door at the top of a normal staircase. Up there we could play and discover all sorts of "treasures" to be examined at length. Having such an experience, I could readily identify with the children in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis.
Christmas Day was always dinner in Chicago at the home of Dad’s brother Walter. New Year’s Day was always spent at our house in Glen Ellyn, a suburb of Chicago. We greatly missed these family celebrations after moving to Ames.
During World War II, my parents had little else by way of social activity, for my father was a scientist involved with the war effort and often out of town, while mother was busy at home with two small boys, my brother born in 1936 and me in 1940. During the war, when Dad was home, he was often out half the night wining and dining some government or military official in order to get a government contract for Cardox Corporation, the company for which he was Vice President in Charge of Research. They developed various fire extinguishing systems that used frozen carbon dioxide to put out industrial and military fires.
After the World War was over and gasoline rationing had ended, my parents were involved in more social activities but not on the level they would experience in Ames.
The social whirlwind began just a few days after our arrival there. We were welcomed into the Iowa State College embrace proffered by two chemistry professors and their families: Dr. Harvey C. Diehl (1910-1992) and wife Helen Louise (1915-2009) and Dr. Frederick Robert Duke (1917-1976) and wife June M. On Friday, September 3, 1948, about four o’clock in the afternoon, we went with them for a picnic at the Ledges State Park, located about fifteen miles west of Ames and about four miles south of Boone. We were delighted they had introduced us to the Ledges, and it became a favorite place for a family picnic in the years ahead.
Not quite two weeks later, on Wednesday, September 15, Harvey and Helen Diehl came for a short visit to our home. With them came a young couple, Clifford ("Cliff") C. Hach (1919-1990) and his wife Kathryn ("Kitty"). Harvey and Cliff, as partners, owned the Standard Sample Company, a small Ames business started some years earlier by another professor to manufacture and sell chemicals to the Iowa State Department of Chemistry.
On Friday, September 24, Mom and Dad were invited for a buffet dinner to the home of Dr. Ralph M. Hixon (1895-1978) and his wife Stella (1895-1989). Dr. Hixon, a chemistry professor, had just been name Dean of the Graduate College some months earlier. The other guests according to my mother’s diary, were "Quite a Gal" Miss Margaret Ellen White (1914-1991), administrative assistant to the Dean of the Graduate College at Iowa State, from the Graduate Office; the Dukes (mentioned above); Dr. Robert S. Hansen, a chemistry professor, and his wife Gilda; and Dr. Frank A. Piersol (1911-2010), a music professor and band director, and his wife Zaida Mae (1909-1997).
Monday afternoon, September 27, Mom attended Neighborhood Club for the first time. It was at the Jameson home next door. Regarding that event, Mom wrote, "Met some nice women and some I wonder about. They didn’t say one word to me. There were 12 altogether."
Wednesday evening, September 29, Mother, as she noted in her diary, "went to the Senior Chemistry Circle and enjoyed it very much." The Circle consisted of the wives of chemistry professors.
Saturday evening, October 2, as Mom’s diary notes, "we went to the President’s annual reception for the faculty. It was formal and I had to pay $37 for a formal. Rosy gray taffeta."
Sunday, October 3, my parents had Mr. Reinhard Friedrich and his younger son Reiny over for dinner.
Wednesday, October 20, from 4:30 to 8:00 p.m., Helen Ocheltree, my mother’s friend in Illinois, and her husband Cham stopped for a visit on their way to visit his mother.
Friday, October 22, we drove to my uncle’s farm near Savanna, Illinois, to spend the night on our way to Chicago.
Saturday, October 23, we drove to Glen Ellyn, the suburb of Chicago where we used to live. While my brother and I visited friends, Mom took the train to downtown Chicago to shop at Marshall Fields for blue drapes for the living room because she couldn’t find any that color in Ames or Des Moines. She found what she wanted. While downtown, she had her dentist check her bridge. Mother noted, "It was wonderful to shop again in Chicago." We went back to my uncle’s farm to spend the night.
Sunday, October 24, we celebrated the 81st birthday of my paternal grandfather (the day after his actual birthday) with all of Dad’s siblings and their families–forty people in all. Our day ended with a drive back to Ames.
On Wednesday, November 3, Mom wrote the following:
Went to 3rd grade room mother’s "coffee" this a.m. at DeVaul’s house. Was at a Faculty Wives Club meeting and should have gone to the [Memorial Lutheran Church] Ladies Aid yesterday. I’ve heard the remark that Ames is "clubbed to death." If I went to everything I’ve been invited to, I’d be a nervous wreck. June Duke and Peggy and Billy were over yesterday."
On Monday afternoon, November 22, Mom attended Neighborhood Club "and enjoyed it very much."
Our first major family holiday in Ames was fast approaching. When it was over Mom wrote the following on Thursday, November 25:
Thanksgiving Day. Lena Weidmann invited us to dinner (in Chicago) as usual, but, of course, we couldn’t go. The boys were very disappointed. So was everyone, especially I (me?). We had a chicken dinner and went to a movie.
Tuesday, December 7, Mom finally made it to Ladies Aid at church and, as she put it, "met nice people."
On Sunday, December 12, Dad was elected trustee at church and thus, with the other trustees, became responsible for overseeing the care of the church building and property. I remember during his term of office as trustee, one of the women of the parish, Mrs. Aldor C. (Lina) Peterson, complained to Dad about how the women’s restroom was so dirty. Since the congregation did not have a custodian on staff, Dad suggested to her that she clean it. She didn’t like that much, but she came back in a day or two and did just that.
Our second major family holiday away from Chicago was not long in coming. Mom’s diary for the entry written Tuesday, December 28, includes things about our Christmas that year:
The boys are having vacation from Dec. 24 to Jan. 3 – only 10 days. I baked and baked 4 kinds of cookies and "Hoernchen" last week. It snowed Thurs., Dec. 23, and I have been full of Christmas spirit for days.
The German word "Hörnchen" mean a little horn. Prior to baking, a mixture of chopped ingredients were placed on a triangle of cookie dough which was then rolled up and bent to form little cornucopia.
Back to what Mom wrote:
Put up the tree on the 18th and the boys did most of the trimming. This is the first year Roger didn’t believe in Santa Claus, so some of the Christmas fun was gone. However, they seem just as thrilled to get their gifts on Christmas morning.
Went to Church on Xmas Eve. The children’s program was pretty skimpy – most of the children are student’s children and they went home for Christmas. Had a nostalgic feeling for Pastor Harmon’s programs in Glen Ellyn. Went to Church Christmas Day at 9:15 a.m. In the p.m. the Dukes came over and stayed for supper. Dr. and Mrs. Chivers came about 8:15 [p.m.] and stayed until 10:30, so we didn’t miss going to Chicago to the usual Christmas diner at Walter’s too much.
It’s a strange feeling – we’re happy to be in Ames, yet we miss some things, even tho’ we wouldn’t want to be back in Glen Ellyn.
Later in this entry, Mom mentioned something I remember quite well. At Neighborhood Club, on Monday, December 22, Mrs. Schanke had given each of the women a jar of jam as a Christmas present. Either on December 23 or 24, and I think it was the latter, Neffs, Chivers, and Jamesons sent over a Christmas present to Mother’s complete surprise.
For a moment she was in agony about what to do, for there wasn’t really time to go shopping. Then she hit on a happy idea. She prepared a plate of a selection of the Christmas cookies she had baked as a reciprocal gift. I remember Chuck and I delivering them.
She got such rave reviews from the neighbors about her cookies with hopes that she would do it again that it became a tradition for her to bake Christmas cookies for the neighbors each year.
Our first four months in Ames had been filled with new experiences which kept my parents busy. This situation continued as the rest of the academic year unfolded beginning already with the next entry in Mom’s diaries.