by Roger M. Goetz
A FRUSTRATING FALL AND HECTIC HOLIDAYS
With the start of the new academic year (1949-1950) my parents were involved in things more than ever. Two new church-related items crop up in Mom’s diary: attending L. L. L. [Lutheran Laymen’s League] meetings at church and going to an occasional mission festival in one nearby town or another.
I remember during my childhood going to such in Ogden and Boone, Iowa. For those who don’t know what a mission festival was in our church back then, it was a special event and deemed an exciting one by those in the generation of my parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. It was a time of preaching, fellowship, and a pot luck meal, especially for the purpose of asking for donations for mission work. I always considered them uplifting and downright fun!
After a year, Mom was getting accustomed to Neighborhood Club, for after attending their monthly meeting on the afternoon of September 26, she wrote in her diary on October 8, 1949, "I went to Neighborhood Club and enjoyed it very much. I didn’t feel so much an alien as I have most of the time."
In the same entry in her diary, Mom wrote about going on Saturday, October 1, 1949, to the Iowa State College President’s reception:
We went in formal attire and had to stand in line for 45 min. It seems so dumb to shake hands with a lot of people who won’t know us from Adam next time they see us. Got home at 10:30 [p.m.] and I had invited the Krenzins and Graebners over. They stayed until 1:15 a.m. By Sunday I was worn out and didn’t even have the ambition to get ready for church.
The two couples she mentioned were agronomy professor Ralph E. Krenzin and wife Esther plus history and government professor Norman A. Graebner and wife Laura. At that time they were members of Memorial Lutheran Church, as were my parents.
The next Tuesday, October 4, we left at 4:00 p.m. for a picnic at the Ledges State Park with the Dukes, Diehls, and Banks. Mom remarked in her diary, "The trees were beautiful and the weather fine. Just right to enjoy a fire." These occasions were always great fun for my brother and me.
Friday evening, October 7, Mom and Dad went to a movie, leaving Chuck and me home. Chuck was, in effect, my babysitter. I might mention that during my childhood in the Chicago area, I had a baby sitter only on rarest of occasions–perhaps three or four times before I turned eight and we moved to Ames. Those Illinois years were during the end of the Great Depression and World War II. Money was tight. Family economic resources were not used to pay a babysitter unless absolutely necessary.
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Memorial Lutheran Church, the congregation to which we belonged, was without a pastor at this time. During the pastoral vacancy, things were difficult because Memorial was not self-supporting. Rather it was a mission church subsidized by Iowa District West of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod in order to provide ministry to Missouri Synod Lutheran college students at Iowa State as well as to provide a congregation for Missouri Synod Lutherans who lived in Ames.
To understand the situation about to unfold, one should know that in the Missouri Synod, congregations are basically independent, and the Synod’s role is primarily advisory. The Synod is neither a hierarchical church, nor is an association of totally independent congregations.
In spite of this, when a congregation was subsidized by a District, the District’s mission board tended to in control of things. I suppose their motivation was good–to be good stewards of the District’s money (all of which, incidentally came basically from the congregations belonging to the District). Thus, because of the financial subsidy Iowa District West was giving to Memorial, the Ames Committee of the Iowa District West Mission Board tried to call some of the shots for the congregation.
This created a serious problem as Mom’s dairy entry dated October 8, 1949, reveals:
Charles has been going through hell trying to clean up the mess at the church. He’s trustee and one of the committee [at Memorial] to work with the Ames Committee of the Mission Board which has 2 stupid preachers on it. Chas. is so disgusted with their shenanigans that he is threatening to resign and join another church. Same with Friedrich and Kanke.
These two layman were Reinhard Friedrich, president of Builders Plumbing and Heating Co., and Walter G. Kanke, secretary-treasurer of the same firm. Reinhard’s older son Robert was the company’s vice president. This was a short-lived company that Reinhard Friedrich had started, hoping to sell plumbing and heating materials to building contractors. Unfortunately, the local contractors didn’t give the company their business. It should also be noted that this company was distinct from the business R. Friedrich & Son, also owned by Reinhard Friedrich.
Returning to what Mom wrote:
Those preachers are forever interfering in the congregation, keeping troubles stirred up. It’s a long story and I’m getting to the point where I’d like to go to a church where ######## is not present.
The symbol, ########, indicates about four words Mom scribbled out before giving the diary to me. This is something she did in only a few places. I suspect here the words may have referred to some other member(s) of the parish.
In her diary entry dated October 30, 1949 – Sunday, Mom reports that on October 10, Dad went to Rochester, New York, to the National Fire Protection Association committee meeting. Cardox Corporation, the company for which Dad had worked during World War II, paid his expenses: he was now a part-time consultant with them at $100 a month. The majority of the entry, however, dealt with other matters:
On the 19th I took the 4:17 a.m. train to Chicago. Did a little shopping and had a 1:00 p.m. app’t [appointment] with Dr. Morris. My blood pressure is very low. My hemoglobin is quite low and I’m supposed to have a basal metabolism taken. Took the 5 p.m. streamliner back [to Ames] and got home at 10:00 - very tired.
In her diary entry the following February she reported that after this diagnostic procedure had been completed, she had started taking two grains of Thyroid a day and that after a month she began feeling better.
Returning Mom’s diary: she continued with a report on some school things pertaining to my brother and me, and then wrote:
One day I was cooking cauliflower and Roger was objecting to the smell so he put adhesive [tape] over his nose.
On the 10th we had a horrible wind storm and Roger and Benny Jameson had a discussion about it. Benny said that since it was clouding up the wind would become worse and Roger contended that the clouds would slow up the wind therefore it would diminish.
It is clear that neither Benny nor I had the slightest idea what we were talking about!
After going on to describe our weekend trip to Mount Carroll, Illinois (October 22-23), for my paternal grandfather’s 82nd birthday (with 39 family members present), Mom concluded this diary entry as follows:
Went to Neighborhood Club Mon. p.m. at Chivers. Missed Chem Circle and L. L. L. Meetings last week.
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The next diary entry, dated Nov. 21, 1949 – Monday, gives a glimpse of some of Mom’s emotions:
Went to a movie yesterday p.m. for the 1st time in weeks. Went to Vesper services and Gamma Delta program last night. Last Friday we went to L. L. L. Meeting but didn’t enjoy it because the ######## there.
I’ve quit going to Ladies Aid [at church] because I think if the church needs money they should collect it [from the members] and also – I’m lazy. There always seems to be something doing which means millions of dishes to wash and I get enough of that at home. Sat. Eve we had Prof and Mrs. Wilkinson and Prof and Mrs. Fox over for dinner. Got thru with the dishes about 12:30 [a.m.].
Since the church had no automatic dishwasher, women of the Ladies Aid spent hours after a big meal. And between Mom’s low thyroid and bad legs, standing a long time to wash dishes took its toll on her.
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Thursday, November 24, 1949, was our second Thanksgiving in Ames; and thus we were again separated from relatives in the Chicago area. The previous year after a Thanksgiving chicken dinner, we had gone to a movie. This year was different. Aunt Irma, Mom’s oldest sister, came either by bus or train (I don’t remember which) from Wisconsin to spend Thanksgiving weekend with us. After she arrived Thanksgiving Day at 7:00 p.m., we had our turkey dinner. I wonder if Mom switched from chicken to turkey because her sister was coming. I was delighted to have Aunt Irma visit us and sad to see her leave on Sunday morning at 9:00 a.m.
I don’t recall any longer on which visit to Ames it was, but on one of them about this time, Aunt Irma brought a card game I’d never heard of called "Rook." She played it with me several times during her visit. Upon her departure, she left the deck of Rook cards with me as a present. I really enjoyed the game but could rarely find anyone willing to play it with me.
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The period prior to our second Christmas in Ames was difficult because we were all sick with the stomach flu on and off from December 3 through December 10. And that put Mom way behind in her Christmas preparations!
In addition, some time in the first part of December, my parents, with thirteen others, were guests of chemistry professor Rachel Edgar (1896-1994) for dinner at the Memorial Union, where she lived.
This Christmas was quite different from that of the previous year since our church in Ames was without a pastor. Filling in until our new pastor came was Pastor Herman Max Zagel (1906-1984), the pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church, located north of Boone, Iowa, with occasional help from other clergymen. Even though he was our vacancy pastor, he still, of course, had his own parish to look after as well. Our family, incidentally, had the highest regard for Pastor Zagel as both a pastor and a person.
The 1949 Sunday School Christmas program at church was not on Christmas Eve as the previous year but on a Sunday evening a couple weeks before Christmas. This was good since the married college students hadn’t gone home for Christmas yet and their children were able to participate.
I suspect that with so many students gone for Christmas break and with Pastor Zagel’s responsibilities at his own parish, Memorial had no Christmas Eve service. In any case, we attended his church on Christmas Eve and then returned home to open Christmas presents. Mom indicates in her diary that the biggest gift was a movie camera and projector. Her expense journal indicates that the two items were purchased on November 10, 1949, for a cost of $380.69 ($3500 in terms of currency in the year 2010). This was indeed a big thing for our family because prior to that time, Dad could make home movies only when he was able to borrow a movie camera.
Between the flu and Mom’s low thyroid conditions, my folks didn’t invite anyone over for the holidays. Mom wrote, "The Xmas business almost finished me."
Then on December 29, I had my tonsils out as already reported. But this didn’t keep my folks from having the Hach and Duke families for supper on New Year’s Day.