Roger M. Goetz Chapter 39

Looking Back

by Roger M. Goetz


 SPRING 1951

On Sunday, April 1, Dad left town for ten days. First he attended a meeting of the A. C. S. [American Chemical Society] in Boston.  One purpose for going was to look for organic chemists.  From there he went to Cleveland to attend another A. C. S. meeting.  Mom mentioned this trip in her diary and then revealed an interesting development.  Dad’s new position at Iowa State was taking its toll on him:

This job of Head of Chemistry Dept. seems to be getting him down and I don’t like it.  He’s been so irritable from worrying and overwork and several colds didn’t help.

Dad was to be home from this trip on Thursday, April 12.

Dad wasn’t even home a month before he left town again on Sunday, May 6, at 6:00 a.m. for Chicago.  There he met Vic Williamson and Felix Rodgers (whom I presume worked for Cardox Corporation).  The three of them then drove to Detroit for the National Fire Protection Agency meeting.

Then on Wednesday Dad flew to Wilmington, Delaware, for the opening of the new Du Pont Research Laboratories.  He went there at Du Pont’s invitation with all expenses paid.  Before he flew home Mom wrote the following:

Friday the 11th he will fly home.  I’m worried – there have been so many crashes lately.

There’s no question that Mom was a worrier.  The depth of how worry could effect her is clear from the following excerpt from her diary:

[Thursday] the 24th [of May] Mrs. Spedding and I had a luncheon at the Union for the past and future chairmen and assistants of the Sr. and Jr. Chem. Circles and after that planned the next year’s program as to dates and chairmen of the meetings.

Sounds very simple – but I couldn’t sleep good the nite before and was so jittery I was nauseated before I left for the Union.  Got home at 3:30 with a headache and completely exhausted.

As head of the Dept’s wife, I was to run the show and I’m such a greenhorn.  I felt I did very poorly.

In spite of Mom’s feelings and lack of self-confidence at this new endeavor, I know her capabilities well enough to know that she actually did much better than she thought.  This is evident in the next task she had to deal with as her husband’s wife:

May 26 we went to Iowa City – their [the University of Iowa’s] Chem. Dept. entertaining us.  We had lunch at the Glockler house – he’s head of the Chem. Dept. [at the University of Iowa].  Talking to strange women for 5 hrs. wasn’t easy for me.

But she managed it just fine.  I know, for I was there.

Dad drove Mom and Chuck and me to Iowa City from Ames.  I have a vivid memory of the route [say it to rhyme with the word "bout"] we took to get there.  We set out on Route [say it to rhyme with the word "boot"] 30.  And in those days there were no U. S. 30 bypasses around towns.  We drove right through many of the towns back then.

I know that going through these towns slowed down our progress, but I didn’t really mind because it was interesting to see the landmarks and sights of another town.

And when I was older, I learned a traveling game from Pastor Fields.  It goes like this.

When traveling through a town, each person in the car picks the house he/she would like to live in. No changing to another house later!  And two people cannot choose the same house: the first one to speak gets it.  And nobody can choose a house once the car has passed it.

Once everyone in the automobile has chosen a house, the one choosing the largest, grandest house is the winner for that town.  This created a sort of dilemma for the players: when I see a nice house should I grab it or wait for something nicer to come along?  The danger, of course, was that all of the houses further along the road might be inferior.  As a result, by waiting you might win or you might get stuck with one of the last houses and lose abysmally!

Our family had a different game we often played back then while driving cross country called "Zit."  This word is not the slang word for "pimple" that appeared on the American scene about 1966.  I suspect it is a fast way of saying, "That’s it!", for one has to say the word as quickly as you can while playing the game, which is, in a sense, a counting game.

While driving along, we kept our eyes peeled for certain creatures.  The first person to spy one of them and say, "Zit," got the point(s) connected with the thing discovered.  Here is a list of some of these and the points connected with same:

old man with a grey beard
    0 points
  1 point
  3 points
15 points
99 points

There were a couple of other items that should be added to the list, but we saw them so rarely that I can no longer remember what they were.

The first one to reach 99 points was the winner.

So we would be riding along and one rider would see a bunch of cows in a field and start saying, "Zit, zit, zit, zit, etc." for each cow he saw.  Another would swing around and start at it, too, until the total zits uttered equaled the number of cows there.

Sheep were much rarer than cows but plentiful compared to goats.

And in all the years we played this game, we only came across an old man with a gray beard two or three times.  And we happened to be playing Zit only one of those times!

Going back to U. S. Highway 30, we drove east from Ames, through Nevada (our county seat), then Colo, then State Center (where they had beautiful flowers growing) to the south edge of Marshalltown.  On the north side of Highway 30, shortly before coming to Highway 14 (which one could take north into Marshalltown itself), was an excellent restaurant called Lloyd’s.  Everyone now and then we would drive after church from Ames to this restaurant for Sunday dinner.

From Marshalltown we continued through Le Grand, Toledo, and Tama, and then several miles east to a point where U. S. 30 goes uphill and a county road angles off to the left.  That county road skirts the north edge of the Iowa River valley and the drive is as beautiful as any I’ve seen in Iowa.  At Belle Plaine, we went south to Marengo and then passed through part of the Amana Colonies, to Iowa City.

Now it’s much faster to travel the Interstate System, but not as interesting or beautiful as the route we took in 1950 and later.  Nor can one play Zit!

Going back to this trip to Iowa City, Mom wasn’t the only one who felt uncomfortable about it.  Chuck went off somewhere with another guy his age, and I was left behind at the Glockler home to try to play with a couple of girls whom I didn’t even know.  It felt awkward but I survived.

On the way back to Ames, Mom told Dad that she’d just as soon not repeat this experience and why.  And Chuck and I voiced the same opinion.  He accepted this, and we never did it again.