CHAPTERS OF MY LIFE
BY DOROTHY LAMB BAXTER
Written May, 1998 – April, 2000
Dorothy Lamb Baxter Feb 17, 1919 - Apr 26, 2000
We believe this was her senior high school picture
This book is dedicated to the loving memory of our mother, Dorothy Baxter.
The chapters were written in the later years of Dorothy's life. We believe
the stories are meant to show the trials and challenges she faced growing
up and at the same time, show us what a wonderful adventure life can be. She
learned that joy can be had even in the face of adversity. A child during
the depression, she managed to find beauty in the simplest of things. From
the work that the family did together maintaining the dairy to the good-natured
card games in the evening, family life was so much fun. The chapter about
her father, Harold Durley Lamb, gives evidence of the things that shaped her
future beliefs. “His six children were the joy of his life.” We were too young
to remember our grandfather, Harold, but from Mom’s descriptions, she was
much like him.
This book contains the chapters that she was able to finish before her untimely
and very unexpected death on April 26, 2000. She wrote the chapter about
her time at Merrill Palmer just a few weeks before she died. The chapters
are exactly as she wrote them. They are in her life’s chronological order
(rather than the order in which she wrote them). Pictures have been added
to illustrate some of her stories.
We miss Mom terribly and no day passes without thinking of her. Our hope,
and we believe Mom's hope as well, is that this book will help us to remember
her, the importance of family, and the beauty of life.
We will never forget her.
The Children of Dorothy Baxter
MY FATHER – HAROLD DURLEY LAMB
My Father admired a humble person. To be great and humble was even better.
He himself was a humble and great man.
I'm writing this not as a biography, but to show the character of this man.
I want to show his devotion to family, his love of nature, beautiful music,
poetry, astronomy and his ability to comfort and help people. It is my thought
that he chose the ministry for his career as this gave him the opportunity
to make lives better. His six children were the joy of his life.
His work in the family dairy kept him at home. This was an advantage to the
children as he was around to teach them games. Summertime found the yard
full of neighbor children. Although he was working in the milk house he was
watching them play. He'd show them games. Using a jack knife he taught us
mumbledy peg. Then there was "Cricket", "Annie Annie Over" and "Red Rover,
Red Rover". He showed us how to play marbles by drawing a circle in the dirt.
Then he demonstrated holding the shooting marble and flipping it with the
thumb. These were such good games for any number of children. Where
he learned them I don't know. Some of them I've never encountered elsewhere
after all these years. Evenings found us playing cards around the dining
room table. Euchre was a favorite. I'm surprised that he knew so many card
games as Grandma Lamb considered them sinful. She did approve of the game
of "Flinch". That is still one of my favorites.
During the mid-thirties we had a terrible drought and heat wave. Many days
the temperature never went below 100 degrees. With no air conditioning and
a house with no insulation, it was impossible to sleep in the upstairs bedrooms.
They were like ovens. We'd spread blankets in the yard and try to sleep.
With no clouds in the sky there was a brilliant display of stars. As we lay
there looking up at them, Father told us their names. He'd point out Venus
and the North Star and all the constellations. He explained the rotation
of the Earth. He predicted that someday men would walk on the moon. Lindberg
had flown across the ocean around that time and Father reasoned that since
man had accomplished that they could also fly to the moon. Due to that terrible
hot summer I learned about Father's knowledge of Astronomy. He'd had
one course in it and his memory was amazing.
Sheldon, Iowa was the town where Father spent some of his childhood. He spoke
fondly of it. It was not without tragedy, however. His father died at a very
young age leaving his mother with three small children to raise. Father often
told how she cried every day. She felt lost and didn't know how to manage
with the three little ones. Father assured her that he would always take
care of her. When he attended college in Grinnell, Iowa she moved there and
they lived in a house together. He attended Harvard Divinity school. While
there he fell ill with Tuberculosis. As part of his recovery he was advised
to live where he could be outdoors in fresh air. That was the reason he and
mother chose to move to Keystone, South Dakota where they lived in a log
cabin. How they did enjoy that life! He became the minister in the church.
Their first child, Julia, was born there. Holding true to his promise to
always care for his mother, be arranged for her to come to live with them.
It seemed a perfect arrangement except that mother didn't like having Grandma
Lamb there. The solution was for Grandma Lamb to go to Hennepin, Illinois
to live with her sister Rose.
From Keystone they moved to St. Onj, South Dakota where Bob was born. As
was the lot of ministers, they moved often. Two years was the usual stay
in one church. He served churches in Chatom and Belpry, Ohio. That is when
Elizabeth came along. I was born in Dwight, Illinois. He did well in all
these churches and his career as a minister was flourishing. He loved it
when mother could accompany him on house calls. Mother could hire help in
the home so she had freedom to go calling with him.
Again tragedy struck. It was during the terrible flu epidemic of 1918. Father
had a severe case of the flu. It damaged his speech and caused him to sleep
a lot. Delivering a sermon was hard due to his speech problems. Preparing
a sermon was almost impossible as he would fall asleep as soon as he'd sit
down. He felt he had to give up the ministry.
What a terrible blow for him. Their next and final move was to Urbandale,
Iowa where they bought a house on 5 acres of land. Here they lived well making
use of all the produce they could grow. They raised a huge vegetable
garden with plenty of sweet corn. They filled the chicken house with chickens
which provided eggs and meat. They sold fruit from the apple, plum and peach
orchards. When they were able to get a few cows in the barn they began selling
milk. Eventually they were in the dairy business delivering milk to families
in both Urbandale and Des Moines. The big dairies were competition with
their pasteurized and homogenized milk. Father promoted his milk as tasting
better raw and having cream that rose to the top of the bottle.
Father certainly had the ability to adjust to change and make the best of
it. I never heard him complain. He was not a swearing man. He did get annoyed
with one cow when she stuck her foot in the pail just as he finished milking
her. He said, "Oh Gee Whiz". The swear words I know I didn't learn from him.
Father was dependable and faithful in his milk deliveries. Collecting
was another matter. He would rather give the milk away than ask for payment.
I don't know how well he kept accounts. Most people paid by putting the money
in the empty return bottles. Mother seemed to know who owed. Sometimes she'd
send me to collect. I had no problem.
His children were his pride and joy. What a beaming man he was when he became
the father of twins. He had a big part in naming them William Winfield and
Mary Ella. The event inspired him to write one of the many poems he wrote.
This one started "The tenth of May on Mother's day two little Lambs came
Mother was overwhelmed by having two babies. It took a long time for her
to recover physically. She stayed upstairs for weeks it seemed. She didn't
even come down for meals. Aunt Blanche came to help. She was wonderful. I
remember her going up and down stairs many times a day waiting on mother.
She must have done all the cooking for the rest of us as well.
She loved the babies, especially Mary. There was talk of her taking Mary
home with her. She had no children at the time and Mother thought she had
too many. When Julia overheard this conversation she ran screaming to father
that mother was giving Mary to Aunt Blanche. I don't know how he handled
that crisis, but it was resolved quickly. No one was going to give his child
I must tell about another caring thing that father did for us. Whenever
any of us girls attended a late night school activity or worked late, he'd
get out in all kinds of weather, trod down to the streetcar stop and walk
us home. I appreciated this as it was scary walking home in the dark. There
was a culvert at the bottom of the hill and I feared something horrible was
hiding there and would jump out at me.
As we grew up and left home one by one he kept in touch through letters.
I think it was his idea to have a family round robin. It is still in circulation
and getting better all the time as the next generation has become involved.
It keeps the family close.
In later years he suffered with Parkinson's disease. This did further damage
to his speech. He shuffled as he walked. His hands shook. Worse was the effect
it had on his facial muscles. They seemed frozen in one expression. It gave
him a blank stare. He could not smile. His beautiful beaming smile was gone.
He left this world on a cold March day when he was 66 years old. He collapsed
from a brain tumor and died in a few days. He was a great and humble man and
I loved him.
Dorothy Lamb Baxter Nov. 1998
Harold and Jessie Lamb with their children: (From left to right) Dorothy,
Bill, Julia, Mary, Bob and Elizabeth
GROWING UP AT 3400-64th STREET IN URBANDALE
Summers in the mid-thirties were hot and dry. Air conditioning was nonexistent,
houses were not insulated. Upstairs bedrooms were like ovens. Sleeping outdoors
was the only way to get a little rest. Beds were set up on the front porch.
Some of us slept on a blanket out in the yard. I learned about stars on those
hot nights. They stood out bright and clear in those cloudless skies. Father
knew all the constellations and planets. He loved teaching all of us about
them as we lay there under the stars. The big dipper, the seven sisters, the
North star-all became well-known to me as father pointed them out.
Also on those hot days father started out on the milk route early. As soon
as the first glimmer of light appeared, he hitched up Dan to the milk wagon;
loaded the crates of bottles into the back. The 8 or 10 cows we had were our
means of support. We began supplying the neighbors with milk and then the
business spread to where we were delivering milk all over Urbandale and to
61st street clear over to 58th street in Des Moines.
"LAMB DAIRY" was lettered on the milk wagon in big blue letters. The
sight of the old brown horse pulling the wagon became a familiar sight. Father
often roused me from my outdoors bed so-that I could go with him. Although
I sometimes hated being wakened I came to love going with him. Old Dan knew
the route and stopped at every house where I delivered milk. I ran in with
the milk and when I climbed back into the wagon Dan would proceed.
This was the best part of the day before the heat became intense. I remember
how quiet it was at that early hour. No one was stirring. The dew was heavy.
My shoes became soaked as I ran across the lawns to set the milk down at
the back doors. I remember clearly that cool, wet dew. As daylight broke
and the sun rose higher, the dew quickly evaporated.
Father often recited poetry as old Dan took us door to door. He knew many
poems and their authors. Some were long and I marveled at his memory of them.
He could pull up a poem to suit different occasions. For example when I'd
be swinging in the swing which hung from a tall limb in the huge elm tree
that grew in the back yard, he would recite
"How do you like to go up in a swing? Up in the air so blue, Oh, I do think
it the pleasantest thing ever a child can do. Up in the air and over the
wal1, till I can see so wide, Rivers and trees and cattle and all over the
countryside. Then I look down on the earth below, down on the roofs so brown.
Up in the air I go flying again, up in the air and down.
Another situation that inspired a poem was in the evening when we children
would be sitting around in the parlor. Father would come up with "Between
the dark and the daylight, when the light is beginning to lower, comes a
pause in the days occupation that is known as the children's hour." It is
a long poem and he knew it all.
Back to the milk route. Another part of the dairy business was bottling the
milk. This took place every morning after the cows were milked and the milk
strained through a filter and set in ice water to cool. I helped with the
bottling during the school year. Father would climb up the stairs to my bedroom
saying "Dorothy dumpling darling dear it's time to bottle the milk." I dragged
myself out of bed and had to hurry to get the job done and get to school
on time. Sometimes I'd be late to school.
My big bosomy teacher, Anna Funk Reid didn't like that.
In those days we put the milk in glass quart bottles with round cardboard
lids that just fit into the groove at the top of bottle. "Lamb Dairy" was
printed on them as well as on the bottle. We neither pasteurized nor homogenized
the milk as did the large dairies in Des Moines such as Anderson-Erickson.
Our customers seemed to like our raw milk where the cream rose to the top
and was so thick you could whip it. Our Guernsey cows gave rich milk.
The cows were tested regularly and wore tags on their ears to prove it. Inspectors
also checked the milk house and equipment.
Running a dairy is a full time job, seven days a week and no holidays. The
cows were milked twice a day and had to be driven down the road to Walker's
pasture. This was Bill and Mary's job. Bill and I helped with the milking.
There's more to it than squeezing those tits. You have to dodge the cow's
tail as she swished it to shoo off the flies. And you never knew when the
cow would kick her hind leg and knock over the bucket. I hated that after
all that squeezing.
If you could milk fast enough, the milk foamed up in the bucket. Bill
always claimed that his foam was thicker than mine. Now-a-days a family business
is called a "cottage Industry". I don't know if the Lamb Dairy could be called
that, but it was a business that involved the whole family. It was our sole
means of support. As for me, I have cherished memories of it. It helped shape
me and prepared me for the long beautiful life I have had.
By Dorothy Lamb Baxter July 1998
The house at 3400 64th Street where Dorothy grew up.
Dorothy on the porch of 3400 64th Street
One thing the Lamb family never had was a car. That didn't mean that we
had no transportation. Not at all. We had Dan. He was an even tempered, slow,
plodding horse that could pull our buggy and our milk wagon.
Father taught me how to hitch Dan to the milk wagon. The harness hung in
the barn and I learned where each piece went. Putting the head piece on was
not easy. First the bit had to be put into his mouth. Dan hated that bit.
He jerked his head up and down trying to keep it out. The reins hooked to
either end of it. Pulling the right rein tugged the right side of the bit
and the horse turned right. Pull left and he turned left. The rest of the
head piece went on easily.
A big leather piece went over the back. Fastening the cinch strap scared me.
I had to reach under the belly of the horse and pull it across to buckle on
the other side. Next Dan had to be backed between the shafts of the wagon
and fastened up to the shafts.
The same process hitched Dan to the buggy. Two or three times a week
my sister, Elizabeth and I had the chore of going in the buggy to Walker's
grocery to buy 100 pounds of ice. Walker's Grocery was about a half mile
trip. We needed the ice to cool the milk. After milking, the milk was poured
into five-gallon cans and set into the tank of ice water to cool.
Ice was an important part of life in those days as not many had electric
refrigerators. Our icebox sat in the shed just off of the kitchen. A hunk
of ice went into the top of the box. As it melted the cool air wafted down
through the shelves. The drippings went into a pan underneath. Someone had
to remember to empty that pan every day or there'd be water running all over
Dan was used in other ways besides delivering milk and getting ice. As the
apples ripened in the fall we tried to sell the surplus. Elizabeth and I
would load the buggy with bushels of Jonathons, wealthies and greenings. We
headed Old Dan to 61st Street and stopped at every house hoping they would
want to buy. We had a scale to weigh them and sold them for 3 cents a pound.
If we couldn't sell them all on 61st Street we-went on to 58th. Gradually
people came to look for us so we had steady customers. The children along
the way watched for the horse and buggy and followed us. Sometimes rowdy boys
would jump on the back wanting a ride. It was a real problem to get them off.
Hair pulling usually worked. Dan was a good horse for the job he had to do.
He added excitement to my life, also terror worry and pleasure. He enriched
my life as I grew up on 64th Street in Urbandale.
Dorothy Lamb Baxter
NEIGHBORS ON 64th STREET
Sixty-fourth Street was laid out in 5 acres of land to each lot. It is the
first street outside of Des Moines. It provided people with more room, lower
taxes, and yet it was close to the big city with all of its' advantages.
Mr. Edwards lived at 3400 before we moved there in 1920. He was farsighted
in the way he planted and arranged his 5 acres. He planted an apple orchard,
a peach orchard and a plum orchard. He put in a number of cherry trees and
some pear trees. He had several rows of concord grapes and goose- berry
bushes. There was a large area for a vegetable garden and an acre of land
where we raised alfalfa for hay for the cows.
He built a beautiful cave lined with white tile which provided storage for
all the fruits and vegetables. By fall the cave was filled with bushel baskets
of fruit, and potatoes, vegetables and even eggs which were kept in a crock
filled with some kind of slimy substance. It was a delight to go down into
the cave with its cool moist air and breathe in the aroma of all the fruits.
For buildings, Edwards built a barn, granary, chicken house and a well
placed 2 holer back house.
The Williamsons lived at the bottom of the hill on the other side of
Mulstays. She had a few chickens as did many of the neighbors. Her specialty
was flowers. She loved flowers. From her large flower beds I learned an appreciation
for so many kinds of blooms. From azaleas to zinnias, she had them all.
The residents of 64th Street used their acreage’s to their advantage and
to their individual liking. Mulstays were the exception. They were across
Roseland Road to the south. They let their 1and grow up in tall grass and
weeds. It was wild and unkempt looking. With the Mulstays lived their daughter
and son, Eileen Dunbar and Elmer. We became well acquainted with Eileen.
She made a path through the weeds from her back door to ours. She came nearly
every day to use our phone. In those depression days not every one had a
phone. We needed one because of our dairy business. We welcomed anyone who
didn't have a phone.
Eileen was an interesting visitor. She rode the street car into Des
Moines almost every day. She advised mother where the bargains were.
She offered to pick up items we could use. Mother jumped at the chance to
buy socks, underwear, shirts and other articles of clothing from Eileen.
I became interested in embroidery when she brought me stamped dresser
scarves and pillow slips and the like along with the embroidery floss. I
have framed the sampler I made and it hangs in my-bedroom. Years later, Eileen
was arrested for shop-lifting. It was then that we realized we were buying
stolen goods from her.
Elmer was Eileen's brother. He had his own way of bringing in money
to get them through the depression. Letting the weeds grow high helped him
in his project. Mrs. King lived just West of us. Her house was on a hill.
From her upstairs bedroom window she had a perfect view of Mulstay's back
lot. She was sure that Elmer had a still back there. The high weeds kept
it well hidden. But she could see a column rising which she knew was smoke.
Elmer could be seen working around there. An illegal still during those prohibition
days brought in a considerable sum of money. Besides that he forged checks.
It was my job each day to deliver milk to Mulstays and Williamsons.
My best friend was Betty Ebers. She lived with Williamsons as did her mother
and brother Jim. Williamsons were the parents of Betty's mother, making them
her grandparents. I loved staying and visiting Betty each day. It sometimes
took an hour for me to make that delivery.
Betty and I began playing together when we were 2 years old. We went
all through school together. We walked to and from Urbandale school each
day. We were still a pair when we attended high school at North High in Des
Moines. We shared all of our secrets. We even made up a language which made
it possible for us to converse and no one would know what we were saying.
One thing which aroused our curiosity were the two chicken houses in Mulstays
back yard. An old lady lived in each house. They always waved to me as I
walked past them on my way to Bettys. I learned that they were Mrs. Mulstay's
sisters. Why they stayed in those chicken houses I never knew. I never saw
them leave. Once I saw Mrs. Mulstay taking food to them. They were always
at the window waving to me as I walked by.
One sad day we noticed a flurry of activity there. Furniture and all their
household belongings were being carried from the house to the ditch by the
road. Mulstays were being evicted. The sheriff was there taking the whole
family away. The two old ladies from the chicken houses were brought to our
house where they could sit as they waited for a car which was to take them
to the poor farm. I didn't happen to be home that day. Mary reported that
they were filthy and smelled to high heaven. My sister, Julia was horrified
when one of them hugged and kissed her.
We never saw them again. I've always felt that living at the poor farm had
to be a better life from the one they had in the chicken houses surrounded
by high grass and weeds. Eventually the place was cleared off, the yards
were mowed and a family by the name of Reisen moved in. They had 2 girls
close to my age which Mary and I played with.
I knew all the neighbors on 64th Street. It stretched about a quarter of
a mile from Douglas Avenue on the North to the streetcar tracks on
the South. The families living on the East side of the street were Gering,
Hutchinson, Palmer Wilson and Hoffman. On the West side was Lewis, then
us Lambs, Mulstay, Williamson. Then came a big expanse of land we called
Walker's pasture. Beyond that, were two families whose names escape me.
Many changes have taken place. The lovely homes sitting on five acres
are still there. Houses have been built on the pasture lands, flower gardens
and alfalfa fields. I like to remember the wide open spaces and the fun I
had growing up on sixtyfourth street in Urbandale, Iowa.
Dorothy Lamb Baxter July 1998
Eavesdropping is not respectable but you can learn a that way.
As a young girl I had many hiding places. For one thing I liked being
alone. Also when mother had a chore to be done, she'd give it to someone
else when she couldn't find me. But to hide where I could eavesdrop was the
A perfect place was behind the cave. There was a slope to lie on so
I didn't have to lie flat. It was so comfortable. On days when mother was
hanging laundry, Mrs. Jones, our neighbor across the street came over. She
found that to be a good time to visit. Mrs. Jones and mother always had
lots to talk about. Often the conversation turned to problems with me. No
one knew that I was listening behind the cave. Mother complained that I was
lazy, I lied, I put off doing my choirs, I fought with Elizabeth, I played
with Betty Ebers too much. I wasn't good at school. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
Week after week the conversation went like that. Seeing how irritated mother
was with me, Mrs. Jones suggested that I come to live with them. She said,
"I don't have any children and I've always liked Dorothy.” Mother seemed
pleased with the idea.
Soon after that mother came to me telling me to pack a few clothes as I was
to stay with Joneses. I gathered up all my school clothes and went across
the street to Joneses. Mrs. Jones hugged me and showed me to an upstairs bedroom.
Their house was similar to ours with 4 bedrooms upstairs. I was thrilled
to have a whole room to myself. I put my clothes in the dresser drawer and
hung up my dresses.
In the morning I dressed for school, went down stairs where Mrs. Jones
had fixed a big breakfast in the kitchen. She asked if I wanted to take my
lunch or if I wanted to come home and eat with them. I chose to eat with
them. It was wonderful. I ran all the way there at noon. What a scrumptious
lunch. She fixed mashed potatoes and gravy plus vegetables and she had even
baked a pie. I thought I was in heaven. I walked back and forth to school
with Betty Ebers as usual. Jean Williams joined us. All was the same except
I lived in a different house and was showered with attention. I loved it.
I helped with the dishes and setting the table. I did ironing, made
my own bed. I sometimes brought things in from the garden.
Bob delivered milk there and I always said "HI" to him. He remarked how clean
the milk bottles were as he picked up the empties. He asked if I had washed
In the evenings we'd play games. Joneses knew card games and we played
dominoes. I was the center of attention. They included me on any trips and
even took Sunday afternoon drives.
How long I lived there, I don't remember. It was a matter of a few
weeks. One evening as we were eating supper in the kitchen, there was a knock
at the back door. It was father looking very determined. He didn't even look
at the Joneses. He looked at me and spoke with the voice of authority saying,
“get your things, you're coming home now." Mr. and Mrs. Jones looked stunned
but said nothing. I went to the bedroom and picked up all my clothes. We
walked slowly across the street together without saying a word. As we walked
up the front stairs and in the front door, the whole family was there to
greet me. Nothing much was said but I felt they were all glad to see
I asked mother why father made me come home. I told her I thought I was going
to live with Jones' forever. She explained that father was afraid I’d get
to talking like Mrs. Jones. He didn't want that. Mrs. Jones did murder the
King's English and embellished it with a few swear words. I really liked
the Joneses and enjoyed my short stay with them. I continued eavesdropping
from behind the cave. The conversation no longer was about me.
Dorothy Lamb Baxter (no date given)
What is a tree worth? Having had a love affair with trees since I was big
enough to climb them, I'd say their worth is immeasurable. Fortunately I
lived on an acreage where there were many kinds of trees. Mr. Edwards owned
the property first and planted a variety of trees which added great beauty.
He put Box Elder trees along Roseland Road. They grow fast and are short lived.
There couldn't be a better tree for children. They have low sturdy limbs
which are perfect for climbing. I was able to climb to the top. I liked to
stretch out on a lower limb and had no fear of rolling off. I'd lay there
for hours looking up through all the branches enjoying the movement of the
leaves and the amazing beauty and structure of the tree. If you have never
lain under a treelooking up through the branches you've missed something.
It is a perspective quite different from seeing it from the side. What a good
place to hide. Find a crotch to sit in high enough up where the leaves are
thick. They will conceal you and you'll not be found.
The apple orchard was a great place. What a variety of apple trees
was there. The grass was never mowed there making it possible for me
to make rooms and beds in the tall grass. Many a summer afternoon found me
there with my dolls.
The plum orchard was even better. Amongst the plum trees were elderberry
bushes. My neighbor, Betty Ebers often played with me. We made rooms under
the branches of the elderberry bushes. The limbs curved down to the ground
making divided rooms. Logs and tree stumps made furniture. We searched garbage
dumps for broken dishes and jar lids for the kitchen. Crumpled dried leaves
made tea. The elderberries made many fancy delicacies. The plums, however
were not all that good in my estimation. They were called "minor" plums --
very small and with large pits and SOUR! Mother did make plum jam of them
but it took lots of sugar.
Beside the plum orchard was a tall pignut tree. It had nuts that looked
like hickory nuts. The squirrels were the only ones that liked them. Black
walnut trees were in the yard near the plum orchard. They were a blessing
and a curse. The walnuts were delicious but what a job to get to the meats.
Each nut had a soft, juicy black covering that had to be peeled off. Gloves
were necessary when handling them or you ended up with stained black
hands that could not be washed even with lava soap. Many a long winter evening
was spent hammering the nuts against a brick to break them open. I hit my
fingers many times. The job wasn't finished until you dig the meat out with
a nut pick. To get the meat out in a large piece was the goal. Mostly it
came out in little pieces as it was firmly stuck in those tiny holes. You
did well to get a half a cup of nut meats in an evening of work. Mother used
them sparingly in cookies and sometimes in ice cream.
An interesting feature of the yard was the terracing. Originally the
land was a steep hill. In order for the house to have a level lot, the hill
had to be leveled off. This made a terrace in the back and one in the front.
On top of the terrace in the back were 2 huge elm trees. One on either side
of the cave. They had good limbs for a swing. They provided wonderful shade.
In back of these trees was a peach orchard. This was very special. I don't
know of anyone else who had peaches. The four hard maple trees in the yard
were exceptionally beautiful. There were 2 south of the house and 2 in front.
Their thick big-leaves made a dense shade. In the hot summers before air
conditioning, we would sit or lie under those trees and be cool.
I've had a love affair with trees for as long as I can remember. Wherever
I live I pick out a tree to be my favorite. Each season brings out a new
beauty. From the first buds in the spring to the change of colors in the
fall they are a joy to behold.
Leaf raking in the fall is not a sought after chore. It does provide fun
for children. What fun to jump into a huge pile of leaves and nestle down
to sleep or dream. What is a tree worth? I paid $400.00 to have an oak planted
near the pond at my Beacon Hill retirement home. It is in memory of my dear
husband, Stan. A money amount doesn't begin to tell it's worth. I recently
read a poem which begins like this: "Beauty of life has been given to me
in the patterned leaf of every tree".
Dorothy Baxter August 1998
Dorothy on her beloved swing.
The sight of #7 coming down the streetcar tracks on Grand Avenue at the
end of a long day was a welcome sight. It was a noisy, smoky and jerky ride
but it was the way home. Such was transportation on the good old Urbandale
The Urbandale street car was the means of transportation for the Lamb
family. It was our way of going to Des Moines for shopping or school or work.
Julia took it for many years as she worked for the Insurance Company. When
it came time for high school, the #7 streetcar took me to 9th and Clark where
I transferred to the Clark Streetcar which took me within a half mile of
North High School. I walked the rest of the way. By the time Mary and Bill
were ready for High school, Urbandale had its own high school. So they missed
out on all that fun.
A person going to school could buy student tickets. A round trip cost
5 cents. Mother took advantage of the cheap transportation and had me do
errands on the way home. One errand each week was to Ungles Bakery where
they sold day - old bread for 5 cents a loaf. I would buy 5 loaves which
kept us in bread for a week or so. We kept it in the cave to keep it
fresh. Mother was a master at pinching every penny.
Another time, mother saw an ad in the "Beaverdale News" for a $2.00 item
on sale at a pharmacy at Beaver and Urbandale. She had Elizabeth take the
streetcar using her student ticket. I was to go along to help carry the items
home. Mother gave Elizabeth the $2.00 in a little purse with a chain handle.
When we got to the Pharmacy we found that the item we were to buy was sold
out. So back home on the streetcar. Elizabeth handed me the purse to carry.
Unbeknownst to me, the latch on the little purse came undone and the money
fell out. As we got off the streetcar and were walking home, I noticed that
the purse was open and the money was gone. We Were both panic stricken. We
knew mother would be upset because we hadn't been able to buy the item and
then had lost the money. We waited for the streetcar to go to the end of
the line, turn around and head back toward Des Moines. We got on again and
the conductor let us look for the lost money. It was nowhere to be found.
We looked all along the road with no luck. It was a gloomy walk home. As
we neared our house, Elizabeth burst into tears crying uncontrollably as
we approached mother. She sobbed that Dorothy 1ost the money. Mother
was furious with me and threatened never to let me go shopping again. I
was far too careless and unreliable. I was really mad that Elizabeth put
all the blame on me and she came off smelling like a rose. That was a sad
and sorry streetcar adventure.
All through high school and summer vacations I took the streetcar to various
baby sitting and house cleaning jobs. Dr. Schenk, our family doctor, lived
on Grand Avenue in a huge elegant three story house. His wife hired me to
clean the house every week.
Getting there involved taking the streetcar to 9th and Grand and transfer
to another street car. It took well over an hour each way. I don't remember
how much I got paid. I do remember how I hated the job. It was such a big
house which I completely cleaned every week. Dragging the vacuum cleaner
up and down all the stairs was tough. The third floor was used for a costume
shop. It was carpeted so had to be vacuumed. Mrs. Shenk had every kind of
costume you could imagine. She provided costumes for the Community Players
as well as for Halloween and masquerade balls. I rubbed elbows with high
society as they came to choose costumes for a number of parties. I
learned a lot about the social life that went on in Des Moines. Those people
had chauffeured cars and didn't have to rely on streetcars.
I have fond memories of the kindly conductors. I had to catch the 7:40 each
morning to get to North High School on time. Sometimes I’d be only as far
as Palmers' when the streetcar got to 64th street. The conductor looked for
me. When he saw me running he'd wait and greet me with a remark about getting
out of bed earlier.
After college, I worked in Des Moines for awhile at the community centers
which had nursery schools. At one time I was a supervisor for 5 of them.
One was on East 14th street, one at the Jewish Community center on 9th avenue.
Another on the South side. I learned the routes and where to make the transfers.
At one time I was contacted by 3 of my former teachers from the Child
Development Department at Ames. They wanted to visit all of these nursery
schools. I had no way to take them around except by streetcar. I felt so
underprivileged that I had no car. I probably should have used taxis but
I considered the cost. I'll never forget getting on and off streetcars,
making transfers all day long as we covered the entire city. Here I was with
these ladies who had been my teachers in college and here I was dragging
them all over. They were exhausted by the end of the day. I felt crummy
and mortified. Their one comment was that I really knew my way around.
What do you do on a hot summer day when a swim in a pool is what you want?
An hour trip by streetcar to Birdland pool is the answer. There is no direct
route to Birdland Pool and it takes at least an hour to get there. However
there were many days during the summer that Bill and Mary and I enjoyed doing
the washer-woman and cooling off in the Birdland Pool thanks to the #7 Urbandale
street car. The noisy clickety-clack of the streetcar, the screeches, the
frequent stops and the cigarette smoke was not all that pleasant but that
was part of life when I was growing up in Urbandale.
Dorothy Baxter August 1998
1936 was not a good year to be looking for a job. Having just graduated from
high school, that's what I was doing. My hope was to get a good place to
work to support myself so that I wouldn't have to go to college. I felt I
wasn't college material. My counselor explained to me that one should have
at least a "B" average to be a candidate for college. There were always too
many "C"s among my "B"s. Mother also told me that my teachers said that I
wasn't as smart as Julia and Elizabeth. With that discouragement I abandoned
the thought of college and looked for employment.
Mrs. Neufeld had an employment agency on 7th and Locust in Des Moines. I
took the streetcar every morning to her office, sat myself down with a dozen
or so others hoping there'd be a call about a job opening. Calls came in
wanting short time help as well as for more full time work. Work for those
who could type and do short hand were the most frequent. I could type but
didn't know short hand. On one day the Jewish Community Center wanted dishwashers.
They were having a huge banquet and needed dish washers. Three of us sitting
there responded to that. Never have I seen so many dishes. We were
instructed as to where the Kosher dishes went. That was the first that I
knew about Kosher. At any rate the three of us had several hours of work.
I had no idea what I was in for when I answered the call for people
to break eggs. I had to go way over on East 14th Street. The pay was $10.00
a week. It was in a warehouse type of building. There were long rows of tables
with 5 gallon buckets of eggs at each chair. Each place had a narrow bar
set up on which to break the egg in half, then dump it into a custard cup,
smell it to see if it were fresh. If OK then dump it into a large container.
Some days we had to separate the eggs putting the whites in one can
and yolks in another. We used our fingers to pick the yolk from the white.
Every two hours we had a 15 minute break. For lunch time we had a half hour.
The hours were 8 to 5, 5 days a week.
The enormity of the number of eggs broken every day was amazing to me. The
big cans of eggs were sold to bakeries. I didn't keep a count on the numbers
of cans I filled every day nor how many buckets of eggs I used. There
were at least 30 women working. A supervisor walked around all the time watching
that we didn't slow up nor talk with the ones sitting nearby.
I was pleased one day when the supervisor asked me to be the one to
empty out the containers when they became full. I would walk around checking
the cans. When full I carried them and dumped them into a huge container
which was then hauled away to be frozen. What a relief it was for me to have
a less monotonous job. The others envied me.
I worked there for several months. Besides the monotony of the work,
I found the co-workers left a lot to be desired. Their strong point was telling
dirty jokes. I actually got tired of a steady diet of dirty jokes. I began
to think that perhaps if I studied readily hard I could make it in college.
I just didn't want to spend the test of my life doing boring work such as
The-only other work I could get was baby-sitting. This paid less than 50
cents an hour. Mother talked me into quitting at the egg place and go to
work for Blanche Olmsted. She was married and lived near Beaverdale. She
had a new baby 48 and a 2 year old and was looking for someone to help her.
In those days mothers stayed in bed for a week or more after having a baby.
I did all the cooking, cleaning, laundry and watched the 2 year old. This
lasted until Blanche was able to be up and do her own work.
From there I had a number of baby sitting jobs. I don't remember the
name of the family who lived on 68th Street who were editors of the magazine
"Wallace's Farmer". I stayed with their 2 boys often. For a long time I helped
a lady who had a nursery school in her home. There was a teacher who lived
in Botsford's house on Roseland who hired me to work every afternoon so as
to be there for her son when he came home from school. Elizabeth was in
school at Ames. She heard of a professor name Eveleth who wanted to drive
with his family to California and spend the summer. They had 2 pre-school
children and the Mrs. was pregnant. They wanted a girl to go along with them
to help with the care of the 4 year old girl and the 2 year old boy. That
sounded exciting. Going to California was a dream of mine. I did get to see
a lot of country, but entertaining 2 children in the back seat all that
way and then caring for them all summer as we visited their grandparents
wasn't all that much fun.
However, it was Eveleths who encouraged me to go to college at Ames and major
in Child Development. They told me that I was good with children. I had a
number of temporary jobs after that which led nowhere. I decided to take
the money I had saved and enroll at Ames. The fee for a term there at Iowa
State was $40.00. I lived in the same dorm as Elizabeth. This was a cooperative
dorm where we helped with the cleaning and kitchen work. This helped with
board and room expenses. I began college in December of 1938. From high school
graduation in 1936 to 1938, I had many jobs and experiences. These were worth
more in preparing me for college than any "B" average. I received an excellent
education, made many - wonderful friends and met my future husband. I graduated
in December of 1941.
Dorothy Baxter September 1998
CALIFORNIA HERE I COME
Going to California was a dream of mine.--Pleasant weather, ocean breezes,
orange trees. How could I ever have the good fortune to go to such a paradise?
In the summer of 1937 the opportunity came. I was through high school, looking
for work and having no luck
My sister, Elizabeth was in college at Ames. She had an NYA (Natl. Youth
Act) job helping Madge McGlade in the personnel department. Madge was a friend
of mother’s. They were friends at Oberlin College. A job request came across
the desk which Elizabeth found interesting. A college professor named Eveleth
was planning a trip to California with his family. There were 2 children
aged 2 and 4 and Mrs. Eveleth who was expecting another. She wanted a girl
to accompany them to Oakland, California to help care for the two little
ones. Elizabeth thought I might be interested. I was. I met with the Eveleths
and was accepted. They would pay me $3.00 a week.
With Mr. and Mrs. Eveleth in the front seat and 2 year old George and 4 year
old Francis and me in the back seat we started out on a day early in June.
I knew it was a long trip by car. Keeping a little boy and girl entertained
in the back seat for 5 days was an undertaking I was unprepared for. We stopped
every two hours at a roadside park to let the children stretch. We took some
meals in restaurants. At times we bought groceries and ate at rest stops.
By 4 o'clock each day we looked for a motel. I was impressed by motels.
The variety of scenery as we drove across all those states was wonderful.
Nebraska wasn't all that exciting. I thought we'd never get across it. It
was an unusually hot summer and air conditioning in cars was unheard of.
The windows had to be kept open. George wanted to hang out the window. I
was busy keeping him from doing so. I was stumped as to how to entertain those
children on the long stretches. I remember they had a few toys which they
quickly tired of. I told them stories and made up stories by the dozen. We
sang songs. The hours seemed endless. Fortunately they both napped morning
and afternoon. Then I could enjoy the scenery. After Nebraska the scenery
was better. Getting into the mountains was spectacular. We crossed Colorado,
Montana and Nevada. It was exciting to finally reach California.
Our destination was the home of Mrs. Eveleth's parents in Oakland.
We arrived late at night. The children were asleep and were carried to their
beds. I was given a room off of the kitchen. It was just a two-bedroom house.
The room off the kitchen was actually a breakfast nook. They had put a bed
in there for me. Not the greatest of accommodations. That was my home for
about 3 months.
The grandparents were lovely people. They preferred having the children play
outside during the day. The back yard was small with no trees or anything
for the children to climb or play on. We often took walks around the block
to help pass the time.
It was a break when the family took a trip to Yosemite National Park
for a week. All of us including the grandparents went. We stayed in tents
which were already set up and equipped with beds. Meals were cooked on a grill.
The children and I gathered twigs to help start the fire. Logs were provided
but it took those little branches to get the fire started.
The children and I took long hikes over the many trails The most exciting
thing was to see a squirrel. Bears roamed freely but fortunately I
never encountered one.
Uncle Joe, my father's brother, and Aunt Helen Lamb lived in Oakland at
that time. I phoned them to let them know where I was to be all summer. They
took me out to a fancy restaurant almost every week. What a treat! How I
did enjoy going to all those beautiful places and those great meals. Uncle
Joe was the best at entertaining. He treated me like a queen. I felt so special.
He often talked about his brother, my father. He was disappointed when father
chose to go into the ministry. Uncle Joe and father were miles apart in
their personalities. Their sister, Ethel was a disappointment to Uncle Joe
as well. She turned into a religious nut who gave all her money to a church
called "I AM". Joe often had to help her out with money.
The San Francisco - Oakland Bay Bridge was finished that year. Uncle Joe
took me for a ride across it. The bridge was an engineering marvel as it
was the longest suspension bridge. Uncle Joe had followed its progress from
the beginning. He was concerned about its safety as the man who designed
it committed suicide. He told me this as we drove across. The bridge is still
standing proving there was no cause for worry.
The Eveleths drove to the ocean for a day of fun at the beach. It was my
first view of the great Pacific Ocean. An awesome sight. We learned how cold
the water is. The children touched it with their feet and didn't care to
wade or swim. They did love playing in the sand. I feasted my eyes on the
waves and wide expanse of water.
The summer passed quickly. By the middle of August plans were made for the
trip back to Iowa. Mrs. Eveleth hated leaving her parents and she especially
hated going back to Iowa. She cried most of the first day. The trip home
seemed to go faster. I had an easier time with the children as I knew them
Mrs. Eveleth made one comment to me which definitely affected my future.
She asked me if I had any plans for college. At that time I was sure I didn't
want any more schooling. She explained the excellent program which Ames offered
in the Home Economics department. She told about the outstanding Nursery
School where one could work as part of the study toward a degree in Child
Development. She thought I should consider taking that as she said,
"You seem to have a talent with children". Those words came back to me as
I continued having trouble finding a paying job. As you know I did graduate
from Ames in 1941 with a degree in Child Development.
As we neared Iowa I noted we were on the Highway which went through Des Moines.
I made several hints that it would be easy for them to let me off in Urbandale
as the highway went within a mile of my home. That is just what they did.
It had been a long summer and I was so glad to get home. I didn't have much
money to show for it as I spent most of my $3.00 a week. It was a great
trip and a wonderful experience. I was glad it was over and I was so glad
to be home.
Dorothy Lamb Baxter July 1999
THE SUMMER OF 1940
I was home between my sophomore and Junior year of college at Ames, Iowa.
Uncle Joe Lamb, my father's brother, came to visit his mother, my grandma
Lamb, in Hennepin. She lived in that small Illinois town. She was elderly
and really needed someone to be with her. Her daughter, my Aunt Ethel stayed
with her for months. Ethel was anxious to bet back to her home in California
where her children and grandchildren lived. It fell to Uncle Joe to find
someone to stay with his mother. Before going back to California, he stopped
at our house. As I appeared to be available, Uncle Joe prevailed on me to
go to Hennepin for the summer. This would relieve Aunt Ethel and would mean
money for me.
So it was that I took the Rock Island train to Bureau, Illinois. Bureau was
as close as the train went to Hennepin. I loved the train ride. The depot
in Des Moines was an exciting place with trains arriving and departing all
day and night. Loud speakers announced the schedules. What a lot of hustle
and bustle and crowds of people. I boarded and found a comfortable
seat in the passenger car. We were free to walk around. When it came time
for dinner I went to the dining car. That was a luxurious place. The tables
had white table cloths and napkins. The waiters were spiffy in their uniforms.
I was treated like royalty. It was an enjoyable trip.
Arriving in Bureau, I was met by grandma's neighbor. To get to Hennepin
involved crossing the Illinois River over which there was no bridge. A ferry
boat was there to carry the cars and people across. I loved the new experience.
Aunt Ethel and grandma greeted me warmly. I looked over the house. It had
4 bedrooms upstairs and one downstairs. Grandma had that room. There was
no bathroom and no running water. A hand pump in the back room called the
shed pumped water from a cistern which went dry if it didn't rain. The cistern
was filled from water running off the roof and into the eavetrophs whenever
it rained. The water went through a filter but that didn't make it drinkable
in my opinion. The other choice for water came from artisian wells located
at various parts of town. There was one a couple of blocks away where I took
a bucket every day so as to have cooking and drinking water. Artisian
wells are very deep which made them heavy with minerals and bad tasting to
me. I used lots of Kool-Aid which only helped a little. I was thirsty the
Of course with no plumbing there was a back house which was quite a
distance from the house - a long walk for grandma. She always needed help
getting there. I knew about out houses as in our big house in Urbandale we
had no indoor plumbing until I was in college. Laundry day was work as all
the water had to be pumped from the cistern. There was always the worry that
it would go dry. The artisian water was so hard that it was unusable for
cleaning. No amount of soap phased it.
Next door to grandmas was a church building. It was never used as a church.
A lodge held its weekly meetings there. They were supposed to be secret. However,
being curious, I peeked into the windows and watched all the ceremony. They
did a lot of marching around and around the room and reciting pledges. It
all seemed pretty silly to me and I've had a low opinion of lodges ever since.
The day to day care of grandma was not hard. It was just a matter of
being there, fixing meals, doing laundry and cleaning. It would have been
boring except for Helen Jane Reed who lived 2 houses away. She was on summer
vacation from the University of Illinois. We did things together. We attended
the movie every Saturday evening which was held in the park. The park was
a block square in the middle of town. A screen was set up between the trees.
Some chairs were available or you could take your own. Although the movies
were mostly westerns and wouldn't have been my choice, I always went as it
was something to do. A large part of the town attended.
Helen Jane invited me to go to the State Fair in Springfield along
with her brother. I have been to the Iowa State Fair many times and this
was similar. The evening performance was a rodeo with roping of cattle, parades
of horses and even dog acts. Thanks to Helen Jane the summer went fast and
there were many enjoyable times.
The highlight of the summer was when my brother, Bill, came for a week. He
came over on the train and the good neighbor went to Bureau to meet him.
One game grandma loved to play was Flinch. Bill joined us in that most every
evening. There was little to entertain Bill. He filled his time by walking
down to the river and watching all the activity there. There was always the
ferry to watch. There was some boat traffic. He tried fishing but never caught
As the summer came to a close, I had to get back to Iowa for my senior
year in college. Finding someone to live with grandma wasn't hard. A neighbor
volunteered to stay with her until permanent arrangements could be made.
Uncle Joe felt responsible for her care. He worked out plans for her to go
to California to live with him and Aunt Helen. This she did. It was only
a year or so before she died. That was how I spent my summer vacation in
Dorothy Baxter January 2000
From the first time I heard of Merrill-Palmer school in Detroit, Michigan
I dreamed of going there. I was a senior in college at Ames, Iowa majoring
in Child Development. Studies in family and children was Merrill Palmer's
specialty. In fact that is all they taught. The students attending came
from other colleges for one term as a supplement to their college course.
I asked my counselor how to go about attending. I must write a letter
stating why I wanted to study there. My grades would be important. I should
have at least a 2.5 average. That means at least half "B"s and half "A"s.
I never did that well. I was doing well to get "C"s. However, I wrote the
letter thinking I didn't have a chance. In a few days I was informed that
I was accepted. It was hard to believe. The fact that no else applied helped.
So it was that in the winter quarter of 1940 I took the train to Detroit
and then a taxi out to Merrill - Palmer. At one time the area where the wealthy
lived. The school was held in 4 huge 3 story houses. One was for classrooms,
others for dormitories and offices. The house where I lived was directly
across the street from the house used for classes. What a pleasure to be
on such a compact campus after the spread out campus at Ames.
My room was on the third floor of one of those huge houses. My roommate was
a most delightful girl from a college in Missouri. The school adjusted to
students coming in at all times for either a term or a semester. I was there
for the winter term which was from January to March.
This was a small college. I think the enrollment was around 50. Right away
we knew everyone. Eight girls were in the house with me. How quickly we were
fast friends. For three meals a day we ate together at the dining room table.
Our cook prepared and served the meals in fine fashion. She cleaned up afterwards
as well as doing all the grocery shopping. We had a housemother who lived
in the house and ate with us. A cleaning lady did all the house work. This
was luxury for me as at Ames I lived in a co-op dorm where the cleaning and
cooking was done by the residents.
This big house had a huge living room and sitting rooms where we often
gathered just to relax and visit. Classes were small. There was much individual
help and counseling. We went on many interesting field trips. For example
we saw the Ford Motor Company assembly line. It takes hundreds of people
doing boring routine jobs to put together a car.
Visiting orphanages and homes where children live in groups saddened
me. One I'll never forget was an elaborate place that kept children for a
month or so at a time while their parents took long trips overseas. Some
children looked so sad and kept asking when their mothers would be back.
Poor little rich kids.
I was apprehensive about going to a jail that kept teenage boys who had
been in trouble with the law. The boys were confined, closely watched but
were free to walk around as they attended workshops. They were taught a trade.
We could talk to them and ask questions. One boy was especially charming,
pleasant and seemed so harmless. Later we learned he was in for murder.
It appeared they were being rehabilitated but a high percentage returned
to crime after their release.
It was a valuable experience to work with the preschool children in
such a fine nursery school. I observed several hours a week, and also worked
there. The head teacher met with me to discus my performance and how I could
improve. A huge treat for me was attending live plays. That was something
I had never done. I especially remember a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta.
The entire three months was a marvelous experience. When it came time to
leave there were many tears. We knew we'd never be together again. I corresponded
with a few for awhile but that didn't last long as we became busy with graduating
and getting jobs. I am so glad I had the opportunity of attending Merrill-
Palmer. I remember it fondly.
Dorothy Baxter April 2000
Dorothy’s college graduation picture
FIRST JOB IN 1942
It was 1942 early in the year when I started my first job after graduating
from Ames with a degree in Child Development. The country had been in a
great depression and the US was entering the fight in World War II. Franklin
D. Roosevelt was the president. In an effort to help people through the depression
he started many programs. The WPA (Works Progress Administration) was one.
It opened up many job opportunities as well as services. There are buildings
being used today which were built by the WPA. The gym and auditorium added
to the school at Galva being one.
That was how I got my start. I was hired as head teacher in a Nursery School
for underprivileged children in Urbana, Illinois. Such WPA Nursery schools
were set up in poor communities. They gave a safe, warm place for children
to play and one substantial meal each day. Local people were employed as
cook, janitor and assistant teacher. The head teacher had to be a trained
nursery school teacher. She was responsible for the total operation of the
So it was that a slum area in Urbana, Illinois called “criminal Hill"
hired me. It was housed in a building used by the Salvation Army for Sunday
Church Services. The head of Child Development at Ames alerted me to the
opening. I applied to the committee which was made up of prominent community
leaders who took over the job of establishing the WPA Nursery school. They
kept tabs on the school and were largely responsible for its success.
The group found a place for me to live which was within walking distance
of the school. This room, in a private home, cost me $3.00 a week. My salary
was $10.00 a week. This room was a bedroom off of the family living room.
To get to the bathroom I had to go through the living room and dining room.
There I lived for several months. When the family moved due to a transfer,
I found another place with a kitchen and more privacy which was much more
to my liking. Fortunately the nursery school was operating smoothly. All
I had to do was replace the teacher who was resigning to have a baby. Twelve
to fifteen children came each day. It was a handful for Maxine, the assistant,
and me. It was Maxine's first job out of high school.
As the children arrived in the morning they were served juice and crackers
by the cook. Play time and story time kept them busy until noon when the
cook served lunch cooked up largely from surplus commodities. These were
supplied by the government. There was no way to know what we would be getting
from surplus commodities. The government bought up food which was in great
supply. This helped keep prices up for the food growers. At one time we had
crates of beautiful large oranges. Another time we had pounds and pounds
of butter, Always we had large supplies of canned vegetables. And prunes--always
prunes. The cook could order from the grocery store to make up a balanced
Both the cook and janitor were a vital part of the staff. The janitor, Hanks,
arrived early each morning to start the fire in the space heater, and to
carry out the ashes. He also filled several buckets of water from a pump
across the street. There was no plumbing for anyone on Criminal Hill. We
had little commodes for the children. The staff went to the back house in
the back yard of a neighbor. On Fridays Hanks had to store away all the toys
and furniture to make ready for the Salvation Army Sunday services.
The children came from homes which could well be called shacks. This section
of Urbana was called Criminal Hill due to the high crime there. It was 2
or 3 blocks long with 30 or 40 families. It was definitely a poverty area.
Police were afraid to enter. I never had any occasion to be afraid. The people
readily accepted our being there and the children came happily each day.
Their clothing was well-worn handme downs which were ill-fitting.
Their speech was shocking. Swear words rolled out of their little mouths.
It took me a while to understand one little two year old. What he said sounded
so cute. It finally dawned on me that he was saying "son of a bitch". That
phrase was used by all the children to describe everyone and everything.
That and "poopy-ass" were basic adjectives. It did seem appropriate after
having weeks of the same surplus commodity for lunch. Mark joyously greeted
his mother with the news that they didn’t have poopy-ass prunes for lunch.
I was baffled as to how to deal with all this foul language. Obviously these
words were used at home so how could I stop them? I didn’t find any
answers so I did nothing. Now 56 years later these children are approaching
60 years old. I often wonder how they have spent their lives. Did they finish
school? Did they get jobs? Did they move out of criminal hill? Do they swear?
After I had been there for nine months, word came that WPA was being dropped.
World War II took many men, war plants employed both men and women. The country
was no longer in depression. WPA was no longer needed. Did that mean the
end of the Nursery School on Criminal Hill? It did not. The civic committee
which had over seen the project felt it was a benefit to Urbana. They began
looking into a way that it could be financed by charity organizations. While
a means of raising money was in the works they asked me if I would be willing
to stay on with no pay. I had no funds as I was making only 10 dollars a week.
I had just finished college and had a big debt which I was trying to pay
off. I didn’t even have enough money to buy a train ticket home. I didn’t
see how I could get by with no income. I declined the offer. Hanks loaned
me enough money to buy a Train ticket home.
A popular song at the time was “Blueberry Hill”. As I packed to leave,
that song kept running through my head. I easily paraphrased it and sang,
“I found my thrill on Criminal Hill. On Criminal Hill beside the still.”
Dorothy Baxter May 1998
MY YEAR ON SWAN ISLAND (1944)
Swan Island is a piece of land in the Wilamette River in Portland, Oregon.
During World War II it was used for ship building and repairing war torn
The Henry Kaiser Company was given a contract to build a tanker each
week. To find enough workers, mostly welders to accomplish this was a problem.
The armed services had taken so many men. Other war plants took workers as
well. He could hire women but what were they to do with their children?
Kaiser had a solution to that problem. He built a nursery school on
Swan Island right beside the ship works. This was a round building. On the
outer rim of the building were 15 pie shaped rooms which he equipped with
child size furniture. Outside the center of the building was a grassy playground
full of swings, slides, sandboxes, teeter totters and all sizes of tricycles
and wagons. All 15 rooms opened onto this playground.
Then he set about hiring people to operate this finest nursery school facility.
He scoured the country to find people trained in child Development.
He contacted colleges which taught child care in their Home Economics Department.
He offered top wages add lured prominent educators to come.
Iowa State at Ames was one college which had its own nursery school for students
to work in and study and observe. I had graduated from there in 1941 and
at the time was working as a supervisor to 5 nursery schools in Des Moines.
Those schools had been started by the WPA and were taken over by city agencies.
It was through the Child Development department at Ames that I heard
of this Kaiser nursery school. James Hymes was hired to be the head and hire
teachers. He was a professor at Columbia University, in New York and the,
author of many books on Child Psychology. I was familiar with his books as
they were used as study guides.
When I got a letter from him asking me to apply, I was excited. No one had
to twist my arm when I learned that the salary was to be the unbelievable
amount of $50.00 a week. I was soon on the train to Portland. Kaiser even
had dormitories built on Swan Island. These were for any workers who
wanted them. I was instructed that a room was reserved for me. As I walked
in with my 2 suit cases, I see a lady standing in the hall with a big grin
on her face. To my amazement I saw it was Evelyn Lindquist Krabbenhoft. I
knew her from my dorm (Freeman Hall) at Ames. She also had been in many
of my classes. She had arrived the day before. What a welcome sight she was.
She was newly married to Ken Krabbenhoft who was also an Ames graduate and
a friend of my fiancé, Stan. Evelyn was biding her time until she
could join him in Hawaii where he had been sent on a government job for work
in the war effort. So here she was on Swan Island working until she could
get clearance for Hawaii. We became roommates.
This is a good time to tell what is happening to my love, Stan. He graduated
from Iowa State in June of 1942 and was soon drafted into the army and sent
to Alliance, Nebraska to be trained as an x-ray technician. This was a training
base for paratroopers. After every training jump there was much xraying to
be done looking for broken legs, ankles, etc.
We had become engaged when I went to Ames for his senior prom. I took
a weekend off from my job in Urbana, Illinois to attend the dance with him.
What a treat it was to be together after a 6 month separation. During intermission
we sat on the edge of the fountain in front of the Home Economics building.
Suddenly Stan said, "I'll probably never amount to anything but I love
you and want you to marry me.” I was stunned. I hadn't expected this. I gave
him a quick answer, “yes". It was a sad parting when I left to go back to
Urbana the next day.
Now I'll jump back to what is happening on Swan Island. Teachers began arriving
from all over the U.S. We had a few days to get acquainted before the school
opened. Most of us were recent college graduates and were happy to be getting
a start in such an ideal setting. We were assigned our jobs and had a few
days to set up our room. James Hymes talked to each one of us individually.
I was so impressed with him. What a kindly, gentle lowprofiled man - easy
to talk to. He was behind us all the way. I was nonplused when he told me
that his wife was to be my assistant and his 3 year old daughter would be
in my room. His wife was so unassuming and easy to work with, good with children
and always seemed to know where she was needed. I couldn't have asked
for anyone more cooperative. Their little girl was a darling, too. Obviously
Hymes practiced what he preached with her.
I was assigned the "swing shift". That was from 3:00 P.M. to 11:00
P.M. The children arrived about 2:30. Their mothers dropped them off as they
hurried away to their welding jobs. There were usually some tears as the
children watched their mothers leave. The play room was so colorful and the
shelves full of wonderful toys. It was easy to get the children interested
in play. Except for 3 year old Bobby. His initial response to his mother's
departure was to give me a swift kick in the shins. Sometimes he'd seek out
someone to bite. That is a no no. To keep him from doing this-I had to hold
on to him by holding him on my lap until he calmed down. After ten minutes
or so he was ready to settle into some play. I did have bruised shins for
a long time.
The big part of swing shift was putting the children to bed along about
8:30. The maids came in and set up cute little cots. The children seemed
to like getting into their own little cots and dropped off to sleep quickly.
Soon after 11:00 their mothers came and wakened them to take them home.
Waking them from a sound sleep in the middle of the night seemed a cruel
thing to do to the poor kids, but anything for the war effort.
Never before or since have I seen the country so united in the war
effort. We put up with food rationing, gas shortages, old clothes. The men
being gone was the worst. Most of us teachers were waiting for our men to
return. My roommate, Gloria H Harvey had her husband in the South Pacific.
When she was lucky she'd get a letter every 2 weeks. Even then the letters
had big holes cut out by the censor. Anything which indicated where he was,
or what he was doing was cut out. She was hysterical and crying much of the
time. Then came word in a telegram that he was wounded and in a hospital.
Soon after that he was sent home and discharged. That was a happy ending.
He did recover.
Another roommate, Becky Greenlee had a husband in Europe. We all kept
watching the news from both the Pacific and European theater of operations.
The mailbox was closely watched, The mail man was always greeted enthusiastically.
He seemed as depressed as we were when there was no letter. A big smile on
his face meant that one of us had a letter. Stan was good to write
several times a week. I wrote to him almost every day. Although he was never
sent over seas, we saw each other only 3 days in 3 ½ years. I have
kept all of his letters. It makes a thick stack since our only means of communication
was by mail. He started out in Alliance, Nebr. then was sent to Ft. Brass
N. Carolina and then to Camp Crowder, Missouri. His last camp was in Hattiesburg,
I was still in Portland, Oregon when he wrote that he was training for a
mission which, if he had to do it, he could not survive. It was so secret
he couldn't tell me anything about it. He wanted to get married before he
had to leave.
I talked to James Hymes about the problem. Should I leave Swan Island
and get married or not? He advised me to do as my soldier wanted. Stan was
able to get a furlough. He studied the map and decided a central meeting
place would be Denver, Colorado. That seemed a half way point between Ft.
Bragg, North Carolina and Portland, Oregon. His train arrived one hour before
mine. I'll never forget the sight of seeing Stan standing at the station
as I stepped off the train. 79 We took a taxi and headed for the courthouse
to get a marriage license. The taxi driver informed us that since it was
Saturday the court house was closed. However, he'd be happy to drive us
to a nearby town where we could get a marriage license. How did he know that
was what we wanted? For $10.00 he drove us there and back. Next we looked
for a preacher. We saw a huge Methodist church, went in to the office. The
minister was not there but it so happened the District Superintendent was
visiting. He agreed to marry us. His wife and son acted as witnesses. The
ceremony took all of 5 minutes. He wouldn't take any pay as he said he never
took money from a soldier. He gave us a fancy certificate. It was Oct. 28,
It wasn't easy finding a hotel. All the good hotels were full. One
with a vacancy was a real dump. We took that for one night and were able
to get a lovely place at the Broadmoor Hotel for the rest of our honeymoon.
Stan's furlough was for two weeks so we had a glorious time. The play "Porgy
and Bess" was at a theater in town. Seeing a real live play was a treat for
both of us. We toured Denver by streetcar. One day we bought groceries and
took a picnic lunch to a beautiful park. The two weeks just flew by.
We had a big decision to make. Should I go to Ft. Bragg with Stan or go back
to my job on Swan Island? The thought of more separation was horrible. For
me to go to Ft. Bragg won out. I sent my resignation to James Hymes and I
became an army wife.
Within the next year, the war with Japan and Europe ended. It was then that
Stan told me what he had been training for. Eisenhower was planning the invasion
of Japan. Stan being a radio operator was to strap the radio equipment on
his back leave the ship as soon as it got near the shore. Then he was to swim
to shore, set up communications and send word back to the ship as to when
the rest of the men could sneak in. Several men were training for this mission
in hopes that at least one would make it.
The invasion never took place as President Harry Truman ordered the
atom bomb be dropped on Hiroshima in Japan. Soon after, another bomb was
dropped on Nagasaki. With such devastation, the wonderful news came that
Japan surrendered unconditionally.
At this time we were living at Camp Crowder, Missouri. Stan was discharged
from the army on Feb. 2, 1946. It was Ground Hog’s Day. It had been a long,
horrible war with so many lives lost and countries torn apart. But we had
survived and HAPPILY MADE PLANS FOR THE FUTURE which had been so uncertain.
We lived happily ever after.
Dorothy Baxter June 1998
Dorothy and Stan’s Wedding picture October 28, 1944
December 7, 1941
Many good things happened in December 1941. Dating a man I liked very much
was one of them. Graduating from Iowa State College another. The start of
World War II was the bad thing. I was living in the Home Management House.
This was the final step in the Home Economics course, There we got experience
in running a home. Eight girls lived there taking turns at cooking, planning
meals and cleaning, laundry and caring for the baby. We had a housemother
to keep it all together. There were classes to attend but always we had to
see that one of us was home to tend the baby. On December 7th as we sat around
the table eating supper, we listened to the radio. Franklin D. Roosevelt
was speaking. He announced that Japan had bombed Pearl Harbor and the U.S.
was now entering the war with Japan. "A day that will go down in Infamy"
is a quote from that speech. It was a day that upset everyone’s life. I did
get to graduate and go to my Nursery School job in Urbana, Illinois. Stan,
the aforementioned man I liked very much, was able to graduate in June
of 1942. He invited me to come to his Senior Prom which I did. It was a beautiful
June night and we left the dance to sit out by the fountain in front of the
Home Economics building. His exact words to me were, "I don't have a job,
I'll probably never amount to anything, but I want you to marry me.” My answer
He was drafted into the army 3 months after graduating. We spent the
next three years writing letters to each other and trying to arrange a way
to meet. First he was sent to Alliance, Nebraska into the Signal Corps. I
kept working in the Nursery in Urbana, Illinois. Next he went to Fort Bragg
in Fayetteville in North Carolina.
The Nursery School was a WPA project. (WPA was Roosevelt’s means of getting
jobs for people during the depression). As people got jobs in the war effort,
Roosevelt ended the Works Progress Administration. That ended my job. I then
took a war job at the Kaiser Shipyards in Portland Oregon. I worked in the
Nursery School which took care of the children whose mothers worked as welders
in the shipyards. Stan and I corresponded almost every day as the war
kept getting more and more horrible. Every able bodied man we knew was drafted
as well as many of my girl friends. Families were separated. The newspaper
listed those killed each day from both the Pacific and European theaters.
All our letters were censored as it was feared the enemy might see them and
learn of war activity. A popular slogan was "Loose lips sink ships”. Stan
studied the map in an attempt to find a location where we could meet and
be married. Denver seemed a likely place.
He couldn't write about the training he was taking as it would surely
be censored. After the war ended he told me he was training for the planned
invasion of Japan. He was to pack all his radio and signal equipment on his
back and swim from the ship to the shore of Japan. He felt sure he would be
killed. He wanted to be married before this. He pushed for a meeting in Denver.
At that time the law demanded a blood test 3 days before the marriage. The
furlough came through. "Rush test and trial" was the wording of the
telegram he sent. My roommates translated that to rush test and travel”. I
had my test, quit my job, packed and got on the train for Denver in 3 days.
On October 28, 1944 his train from Fayetteville Pulled into Denver one hour
before mine pulled in from Portland. There are no words to describe how thrilling
it was to see him with that huge smile on his face. We had been separated
for 3 years. He had previously reserved a hotel room which fortunately was
near a Methodist church. We walked into that large Broadway church office
and asked if the minister was there. He wasn't but the District Superintendent
was and he agreed to marry us. His wife and son were our witnesses. The wedding
ceremony took only a few minutes. The minister refused pay saying he "never
takes money from a soldier".
The 2 weeks furlough went all too fast and I went back to Ft. Bragg
with Stan. I was now an army wife. It was my job to find a place to live.
The USO was helpful. They had a file of people who would rent out rooms.
I found a room for $7.00.a week which even served breakfast. There was one
other couple and we all ate with the family. We were getting nicely acquainted
when Stan got orders to go to Camp Crowder, Missouri.
I packed hurriedly and within a couple of days we were on the train
to Camp Crowder in Neosho, Missouri. We stayed in a hotel until I could find
a room. That was not easy as I had to find one on a bus route so Stan could
get to camp. The only place was one with a family and a back house. There
was no plumbing. I filled a pail with water each day for cooking. It was
a large room with a kerosene space heater and an electric hot plate for
cooking. The room always smelled of kerosene. Stan said the people he was
around always remarked that he smelled of kerosene.
We became acquainted with the couple next door and spent many evenings playing
rummy with them. I found the days dragged by in that one room. I took the
bus into town and found an employment office. My only skill was typing. There
was an opening for a typist working for a Captain at the camp. As I remember
the pay was $10.00 a week. That paid the rent and the bus fare. The job was
easy. I had a couple of letters to type and some filing. Most of the time
I had nothing to do but look busy.
Life went on pleasantly for 6 months. We began hearing rumors of peace
negotiations. What thrilling news. We religiously listened to the news on
radio every day. Stan was confined to camp as that always happened whenever
any major change occurred. My job ended. There was nothing for me to do but
pack up and go home to Urbandale. Stan was discharged a week after the war
ended. What a joyful celebration we had. The long horrible war was over.
Families could be together again and we could go on with our lives. Stan's
dad begged him to come home and take over the farm. The hired man's house
was empty. There we settled for the next 14 years. Thus ends my account of
life during World War II.
Dorothy Baxter Jan 5, 2000
The house in Neosho, Missouri where Dorothy and Stan lived while Stan was
in the Army.
Stan and Dorothy during World War II
BAXTER FARM This is the Baxter Farm where Dorothy lived with Stan, John,
Becky and Dick. The white house in the foreground was her house.
Stan was discharged from the army on Ground Hogs Day in 1946. World War
II was finally over and we could take up a life of our own. We left Camp
Crowder, Missouri and went to the Baxter farm where Stan's parents lived.
Stan's dad grew up on that farm as did Stan.
As the war wound down and thoughts went to what to do next, a letter
came from dad asking Stan if he would consider coming home to the farm. He
was ready to retire. He wanted Stan to take over the operations. He would
stay on for a couple of years and then move to town leaving it all to Stan.
After four years of army life this sounded like heaven. There was a hired
man's house where we could live. That house was surrounded by corn fields.
It had no plumbing, an outhouse and was heated by a space heater in the
living room. We happily moved in. I learned how to build a wood and coal
fire in the heater and in the cook stove which we bought for the kitchen.
It was impossible to buy any electric appliances as there were none made
during the war. All manufacturing went into weapons and machines for the
I carried buckets of water in from a nearby well. I had lots to learn
about farm life. 300 of the 600 acres went into growing corn. I learned more
about corn than I wanted to know. Stan explained it all to me. A stalk of
corn is both male and female. The tassel on the top is the male which sheds
pollen onto the silks of the ear. Each silk goes to feed a kernel of corn
on the cob.
I had to know this in order to understand everything about raising
seed corn. Stan's dad contracted with the Pioneer Seed Corn company to provide
them with hybrid seed.
They were interested in developing a high yielding corn growing on
a sturdy stalk which would not blow over in a high wind. This could be accomplished
by crossing two types of corn. At planting time six rows of female corn was
planted then 2 rows of male corn. As the tassels began to appear, they had
to be pulled from the 6 female rows so that the 2 male rows pollinated all
the female rows. The corn that grew on the six rows produced the desired
kind of hybrid seed.
Detasseling of the female rows was a major operation which Stan managed.
He contacted high school girls in Ida Grove to do the work. He drove to Ida
Grove each day to pick them up in the truck and brought them to the field.
They rode on a machine which we named "the goon". It was designed with boards
for the girls to stand on. The driver sat high above the corn row. It was
an awkward looking contraptions whose only use was transporting detasselers
through the corn rows. It went slowly as it was imperative that every tassel
be pulled. Timing was important as the tassels had to be pulled before any
pollen fell. The male rows were prominent with their tall tassels waving
and doing their job of pollinating the denuded female rows.
It took a week or two to complete the job of detasseling. The girls
collected their checks. Their pay was $1.20 an hour which was good pay at
that time. It was hot and hard work. At picking time care had to be taken
to keep the male and female corn separate. As the wagon loads came in, it
was unloaded into the dryer building where it went onto A conveyor belt.
A crew of women stood along the belt sorting out any moldy or bad ears.
I helped with that operation. Next the corn went into the drying bins. These
bins had hot air blowing through them from a huge oil furnace.
The corn had to be dried down to 8 or 10% Moisture to prevent molding or
spoiling. I had the job of testing samples from each batch to determine water
content. I have completely forgotten how I did this. I remember using a Bunsen
burner. The dried corn was then shelled and ready for the Pioneer Corn company.
Wagonloads were hauled to Galva and then shipped by train to Pioneer near
Des Moines. I understand that detasseling isn't done anymore as a female
corn has been developed that doesn't pollinate. The breeding of corn is an
incredible business and is an important part of the economy of the prairie
states namely Iowa and Illinois. A large percentage of the crop goes over
seas as the production is so high the U.S. can't use it all. It's chief use
here is the feeding of hogs and cattle. Corn fed beef is touted as the best.
Raising 1000 hogs a year was also a 95 huge undertaking. But that's another
story having nothing to do with Ground Hog's Day-- The day that took us
from the army to the farm where I learned about corn.
Dorothy Baxter July, 1999
Corn detasselers. Stan’s sister, Elma, is in front.
Dick, Stan, Becky, John,
Dorothy and Lou Baxter (Stan’s Father)in their corn field.
Corn picking time is no time to have a baby. Usually the crops are in by
the end of November. My baby was to be a Thanksgiving baby. However on October
21st in 1949 when Stan parked the corn picker long enough to come in for dinner,
I asked if he had time to take me to the hospital. He was less than pleased
but we got going. We left Johnny off at grandmas and drove the twelve miles
to the small 17-bed hospital in Ida Grove, Iowa.
After a quick exam the nurse told Stan it would be awhile. With that good
news he drove back to the farm to continue picking corn. Along about 4 o'clock
I was wheeled to the delivery room. Dr. Armstrong came around 5 o'clock
and began telling me to push. Previously I had read how harmful ether was
on babies when it was given to mothers in labor. With that in mind I kept
pushing away the ether mask. By 6 o'clock my little boy was born.
Dr. Armstrong left the nurse to take over and he began washing up to go home
to supper. The nurse said, "Dr. look at her." They both began to laugh. I
asked if it were twins. They stopped laughing long enough to answer.
They sat beside me as they waited for pains to start again. They did start
again and at 6:30 my little girl was born. No laughing now. There was total
silence and a flurry of activity as a hypodermic needle was prepared and
jabbed into the babies heart. That brought out a soft whimper. Quickly she
was give oxygen which brought out louder crying. Dick was screaming loudly
but no one paid any attention to him.
Dr. Armstrong thought it best to have a special nurse come to stay
the night with the babies. He assured me they were fine. He just wanted
to be sure they were watched closely. I remember this was an extra $8.00
on the bill. You can imagine what that would be today.
Meanwhile back at the farm, Stan picked corn until dark then drove
back to the hospital. The nurse saw him sitting in the waiting area. She
rushed to announce that it was twins. He slumped to the floor in a momentary
faint. When he came in to see me I was afraid to look at him for fear he'd
be mad. He didn't seem mad but was worried that we had only one crib. I assured
him that the crib was big enough for two and we had plenty of clothes.
Taking care of 2 babies plus an active 2 year old boy kept all of us
busy. We had told John about the coming baby. When Stan told him there were
2 he cried and said, "oh no! Just one.” Stan understood his feelings. John
would watch them as they lay in the crib. Becky was at one end and Dicky
at the other. He put his toys in the crib with them but was disappointed
to get no response. They weren't much fun for him.
Stan took Johnny with him to do chores. He named the pigs and enjoyed
throwing corn to them. This was a big help as John had been used to my spending
all my time with him. It was a big change in his life.
We had many visitors to see the babies. Many asked if they were identical?
Audrey, Stan's cousin said, "Now not only pigs come in litters". "The first
year is the hardest” was the comment made by one who had twins. Actually
it wasn't all that hard as the babies were remarkably good. They slept a
lot. The formula agreed with them and they made good gains in weight. Laundry
was a problem. Disposable diapers weren't on the market yet. I had a Maytag
wringer washing machine and no dryer. The clothes line had diapers
blowing in the wind most everyday. Feeding the babies every 2 hours was
time consuming. Anne the neighbor girl was a huge help. It was 13 months
before the babies slept all night. The first time I attempted getting away
was when the babies were 4 months old. That was for an important event when
Stan and I Went to Jefferson, Iowa to Bill and Bobbie's wedding. Anne stayed
with the babies. We drove there and back in one day I hardly knew how to
act in public. I'd forgotten how to talk with adults. It was a beautiful
wedding. It got me back into life other than formulas and diapers. It was
exciting to have twins. This year they'll be 50 years old. I couldn't be
more pleased with their accomplishments as they have reached maturity. They
are the best.
written Jan.1999 by Dorothy Lamb Baxter
John Baxter holding Becky and Dick
In 1950 and 1951 this country had a polio epidemic. An area around Sioux
City, Iowa was especially hard hit. It was then that Dr. Saben and Dr. Salk
worked frantically on developing a vaccine to prevent polio.
We were living on the farm near Galva, Iowa which is in the Sioux City
area. Several families fell victim to polio. Each day the Des Moines paper
listed the seven signs of polio. Stiff neck, and stiff back, fever, and pain
were at the top of the list.
One morning as our 2-year-old twins sat side by side in their high chairs
for breakfast, I noticed that Dicky was not bending his neck. I tried to
get him to look down, but he was reluctant to do that. I used his love of
caterpillars to get him to bend his neck. I laid a caterpillar on his stomach.
Caterpillars were in abundance and Dick was fascinated by them. He often
found them crawling in the yard. Even as the caterpillar crawled on his chest
he would not bend to see it. I took his temperature It was 101 degrees. I
lifted him from his high chair and called Stan to watch Becky and John
as I was taking Dick to Dr. Grubb's office in Galva.
I carried Dick as gently as I could, but he screamed in pain with any movement.
Dr. Grubb's office was at the top of a long flight of stairs. As I reached
the top and walked in the door, Dr. Grubb's face turned grim. He looked
at Dick's little stiff body and said I'd have to take him to the hospital
in Sioux City. I complained about that and pleaded that I could care for
him at home. His answer was, "Do you want to wait until it is an emergency?"
I drove home to get Stan and arranged to leave Becky and John with
the grandparents. A test to confirm polio was the first concern at the hospital.
That involved sticking a long needle into the spine for a sample. Poor Dick
really screamed. He was placed in a crib in a room in the polio wing which
already had over 100 patients. This was a terrible epidemic.
Stan and I were told that Dick would have to be isolated for 10 days
and we couldn't visit him during that time. I didn't see how I could walk
out leaving him there in such pain. The Doctor explained that we could
phone any time but when he became critical then we could be with him.
Walking out of that hospital and driving home was the hardest thing I've
ever had to do. Dick was such a cute chubby little boy with lots of smiles
and now I was leaving him with strangers in a strange place. The following
morning I tested Becky and John to see if they had stiff necks. John couldn't
bend his neck at all. His fever was 101 degrees. Back to Dr. Grubb and back
to Sioux City with him. John had been looking forward to starting kindergarten
the next day, but that had to be delayed for 3 months.
He was given a crib in the same room with Dick. Dick was so glad to
see us and it helped him to have John there. He lay so still and didn't want
to move. John, being 5 years old had a better understanding of why he was
in the hospital and knew that we would be back to see him. I asked the Doctor
if he thought they'd be paralyzed. He said he had never seen such an acute
case that didn't have some paralysis. The next 10 days were endless. I was
completely out of control. I walked around in circles and couldn't
stop crying Stan went ahead with farm work. I tried to care for Becky. She
couldn’t understand where Dick and John were. The phone rang constantly with
people asking how the boys were.
During that first week, Becky had a fever. I took her to Dr. Grubb. He said
that she possibly had a slight case of polio but had no symptoms of stiffness
so I could keep her home and try to keep her quiet. When he asked how the
boys were, I burst into tears and couldn't stop. Dr. Grubb was a very fatherly
type.--a classic family country doctor that knew all the Baxter family. In
fact he had delivered Stan's sister, Elma, right there in the farm home.
As he tried to console me he gave me some good advice which I have never
forgotten. He said, "If we could plan out our lives we would plan for only
good things. But we don't get to do that. No one ever gets through this life
without having problems, troubles and yes even tragedies. What you have to
do is learn to take them gracefully". Those words struck me just right. I
sure wasn't taking it gracefully. I snapped out of my crying jag.
Every day I phoned the hospital. This was no comfort as with so many
patients I don't think the doctor knew which boys were mine. When the 10
days were finally over, Stan and I headed for Sioux City. The boys were so
sick. I could hardly recognize Dick. He was no longer a chubby little boy.
He was so thin. Oh how they cried when they saw us. We stayed as long as
we were allowed and promised we would be back every day.
Each day the mailman came to them with gifts. What a lot of toys they got.
I never knew who sent them. Many of our neighbors told of mailing them presents.
The number of cards and phone calls we got were incredible. It all helped.
It was comforting to know that people cared. What a lot of toys they got.
The nurses gave the boys the Kenny treatment. That combines hot baths with
massage. When it came time for the boys to go home I was given instructions
on the Kenny treatment. They were to soak in a hot bath for 20 minutes, then
lay on a table where I could stretch and flex their arms and legs. I was
to massage their backs and necks. This was to be done twice a day. After
3 weeks in the hospital the boys were dismissed. I was so happy I thought
I'd burst. I was told the boys should be kept quiet, rest a lot and stick
with the hot baths and massage. I could expect them to be irritable and cry
a lot. John wasn't to start school for 2 months.
The routine of hot baths and massages got to be boring, but the boys endured
it and seemed to know it was necessary. I tried to keep them playing quietly.
As they gained strength it got to be harder to hold them down. When they got
outside, before you know it they were riding bikes, climbing trees, riding
their horse, feeding pigs and making forts in the grove. I could see no signs
We made regular trips to Sioux City for check-ups. As the years went by John's
feet became deformed. The Achilles tendons were to blame. The polio had evidently
damaged them so they stopped growing. As John grew, the tendons didn't. He
walked on his toes as he couldn't pull his heel down. We were sent to an
orthopedic surgeon. He explained about an operation which would give more
length to the tendons by cutting them half way through and pulling them to
the desired length. He said it would be best to wait until John quit
growing to do this operation. When John got to be eleven he was growing so
fast and his foot was becoming more and more deformed. He grew 5 inches in
6 months. The doctor said he had never seen anyone grow so fast. He felt
we shouldn't wait any longer. He went ahead with the surgery. John had to
have casts on both feet and legs for 3 weeks. He crawled around on his knees
and even played baseball in the back yard. He was thrilled when it came
time to remove the casts. His joy was short lived. When he tried to walk
the pain was excruciating. His muscles had shortened and were weak from disuse.
He was in a deep depression for days as we tried to get him to take a few
steps every day. It was a horrible ordeal, but gradually he got to walking
One fortunate thing happened before all this polio started for us.
An eager beaver insurance salesman came to the door selling polio insurance.
A special polio policy was written due to the epidemic. The premium was small
and I bought it. As it turned out that was money well spent. Insurance paid
every bill. It paid the follow up operation and even the special shoes which
John wore for a while. 108 I am so thankful that the boys are well and have
no ill effects. Best of all there hasn't been another epidemic in this country
thanks to the polio vaccines developed by Dr. Salk and Sabine. Our family
came through it with no permanent damage thanks to good doctors and the help
of many people. I learned many lessons that have been helpful all my life.
I try to remember that whatever happens, take it gracefully.
by Dorothy Baxter 10/98
To live in Iowa during High School basketball season is to know hysteria,
enthusiasm and the only topic of discussion. To be the mother of the star
players on both the boys and girls teams is to know excitement, nervousness
ups and downs and sometimes heartbreak.
Every Tuesday and Friday evening, are taken up with basketball games. The
other days are taken up with practice. It is all consuming. And when the
teams are winning, the entire town gets involved. So it was in Dunlap during
the years when Stan was high school Science teacher and when John, Becky
and Dick were students in high school. Those years were 1961 to 1968.
When Stan was applying for the job as teacher in Dunlap he was asked to bring
the whole family to meet with the School Board. When we walked in to the
meeting all eyes turned to John. He was entering his freshman year and was
already 6 feet 2 inches tall and growing. Becky was 6 feet tall and was
to be in 9th grade. At the time Dick seemed short. The fact that Stan was
well qualified was minor compared with the prospects of tall basketball
We moved into the best house I had ever lived in which was less than a block
from the school. As soon as basketball season started we were absorbed; John
was on the high school team and the twins were on the Junior High teams.
Practices were tough and involved much running. How they hated all that running.
The boys already had a good team. What they needed was a player with height.
John provided that and the team began to win. The seats in the gym began
to fill up and the whole town came alive. When John got to the 11th grade
he was 6 feet 5 inches tall. We were winning the Boyer Valley conference
then the sub-state. When we got far enough along in the tournament to play
Atlantic the excitement ran high. That school was several times bigger than
Dunlap. We always gave them a good workout, but could never beat them. If
we beat them we'd go to the state. But unfortunately we lost by 2 points.
The game was in Atlantic and I didn't go as Laura was a baby. Most everyone
in town went to the game. Stores closed and it was actually a ghost town.
The year Becky was in the 11th grade was the big year for the girl's
team. No one could beat us and we went to the state tournament. The games
were played in the Veteran's Auditorium in Des Moines. Stores closed, meetings
were canceled and most of Dunlap went. I did go to that as I could leave
Laura with Elizabeth who lived-in Urbandale.
The girls won the first game and advanced to the semifinals. They ended up
in 3rd place in the State which is no small achievement for the little town
of Dunlap. When we won the game which put us in 3rd place, it couldn't have
been more exciting. There was a big party after the game in a reserved room
in a hotel. We had a big dinner and sat and talked over the wonderful season.
I know that a game is a team effort but it sure helped having my tall children
playing. It never happened before and I don't think they have been to State
Becky was a real star. Her name appeared in the headlines of the sports
page of the Des Moines paper every day. Each day the top scorers in the state
were listed. Her name was always at the top of the list. It was nothing for
her to score 50 or 60 points a game.
At that time girls rules kept the forwards on one end of the floor
and guards at the other. The same play was used over and over as it worked.
The guards were to capture the ball and throw it across the center line.
The forwards then were to get it to Becky. She stayed near the basket and
would shoot it in. Betty Egan was a little shortie but she was good at maneuvering
the ball to Becky. Pat Peterson was a forward and an excellent shooter herself.
She was often left unguarded as there were usually two guarding Becky. This
left her wide open to shoot it in.
Becky didn't like being so tall. One day she was crying and said "I'm only
in 8th,grade and six feet tall.” She would have much preferred being shorter.
John and Dick were the best players on the boy’s team. Roger Nelson was an
excellent ball handler and could get the ball to them. When they were too
heavily guarded leaving Roger open he made scores. It was frustrating to
the opponents. But exciting for the whole town of Dunlap.
Meanwhile Stan became increasingly disenchanted with teaching. So few
students were interested in Chemistry and Physics. Some, like John Gambs
worked at it but others just wanted to kill time and get enough credits to
graduate. Stan was constantly looking for job openings. It was a sad day
when we moved from Dunlap. I still write to Genevieve and Edgar Rannells.
They keep me informed of any changes. I like to remember the good years we
had in Dunlap and the lovely house near the school and within walking distance
to stores and banks. Its a much better life than living in a huge metropolitan
area near Chicago with all its traffic and hustle and bustle and noise. I
have fond memories of the years spent in the small Iowa town of Dunlap. If
I could have my choice I’d probably still be living there where I knew almost
everyone in town. I hope John, Becky and Dick remember that they were cheered
and called heroes as they worked hard to win games and bring excitement to
Dorothy Baxter March, 1999
BECKY’S WINNING BASKETBALL TEAM
This is Dorothy’s Dunlap, Iowa house. The picture was taken in 1983
when Becky went back for a reunion. Becky is in the foreground.
and Stan with their four children - Dick, John, Laura (in Dorothy’s arms)
and Becky. Around 1965
THERE'S BAD NEWS AND GOOD NEWS.
It was noon when Stan walked in the front door and announced "I'm unemployed".
Four years earlier the Morrell Meat Packing Company closed their plant in
Ottumwa, Iowa where Stan had worked for four years. It was then that we moved
to the Chicago area as he was offered a job in the quality control department
in Elmhurst, Illinois. I was leery about leaving my beloved Iowa to live in
the dreaded metropolitan area of Chicago. Even worse was the fact that plant
wasn't stable either. Meat plants were closing all over. There were no job
opportunities in Ottumwa as thousands were looking for work after being laid
off when Morrell closed. It was either take the Elmhurst job or be out of
work. It meant leaving a beautiful house which was almost paid for. It meant
uprooting Laura again. It seemed all wrong to me. But Stan felt definitely
it was the thing to do.
We drove to Elmhurst to look for living arrangements. We stayed at the Holiday
Inn in Lombard. A real estate agent showed us around. We looked mostly in
Lombard where taxes were much less than in Elmhurst.
We all were taken by the tri-level house at 22 W. Crystal. Laura especially
liked the big bedroom on the upper level. We moved in on a beautiful day
in late August. Getting Laura registered into the fifth grade was the first
order of business.
It was tough starting again in a new school where she knew no one. However
I was happy to see Laura bringing home a girl the first day. Lisa Temple
lived on the corner of Crystal and she was also in fifth grade. Getting acquainted
came easier and soon Laura seemed at home. Fortunately this was the last
move we had to make. As I had predicted the plant in Elmhurst did close.
However, Stan was transferred to the Chicago office. He could commute there
by train and we didn't have to move. It was a year or so later that Stan
came home at noon with the unsettling news that he was unemployed. For eight
months Stan read want ads and applied for job after job. Being 58 years old
was against him.
Always he was told he was over qualified. It was a discouraging time.
To make the situation less grim one afternoon I was surprised by a knock
at the door. I opened the door and there stood Dick. I had no idea he was
anywhere around. He had been working in Yosemite National Park in Wyoming
after graduating from college. He had the bright idea that perhaps he could
find a permanent job in Chicago. He could live at home while looking. He
figured on staying with us for a couple of weeks. The 2 weeks turned into
two years. I loved it. He did find a wonderful job with Borg Warner and after
25 years he is still there. I was sorry when he moved into a condo in Wheeling.
Later he moved into Chicago where he is close to his work. At least he is
still in the area and visits whenever he can.
As Stan continued looking for a job it occurred to me that my life had been
pretty soft all these years. I hadn't needed to work and could stay home
to raise the children. Now it was time to stir myself and look for something.
First I looked at the want ads in the "Lombardian". There was an ad asking
for help at the Helen Plum Library at the registration desk --No experience
I filled out an application stating my previous experience and education.
My degree in Child Development and work in nursery Schools interested Betty
Taylor. The Children's department was in need of help. I started work the
next day. I took my turn sitting at the desk where children came asking for
books. I was in my glory showing them the good old tried and true books as
well as newer ones. Six story hours for pre school children were held every
week. I was assigned to do some of them. It was a pleasure. We chose a theme
for each week. There was a wealth of books, film strips and puppets and games
to choose from to follow the theme. A limit of 20 children was set for each
story hour. Groups were arranged by age--18 months to 2 years, 3 year olds
and 4 year olds. It was ideal. This brought children into the library and
circulation increased by leaps and bounds.
The library is supported by tax money. An ample amount is designated for
new books. A happy situation. Paperbacks were popular with the teenagers.
I was assigned to do the ordering and cataloging of paperbacks. I had
to hurry to spend all the money budgeted for these. I poured through the
catalogs and made a point of buying titles which were popular in hard backs.
It was curious that teenagers would take out a paper back in preference to
the same title in a hard back. The print is smaller and there are no pictures.
I suggested to some patrons that they could get that title in hard back but
they said they like the size of a paperback as it fits into a pocket. I was
pleased one day when some library inspectors were nosing around and commented
that the paper back collection was the best they had seen anywhere.
Another bonus of my years in the library were the friends I made among the
other employees. They were an outstanding group. How pleasant to spend coffee
breaks and lunch hours in the break room. I actually looked forward to going
to work every day. Mine was just a part time job. I liked that as I worked
3 eight hour days. All were swing shift from 1 to 9.
After being out of work for 8 months, Stan was getting desperate. The minister
at our Methodist church was concerned. When the church needed a janitor
he talked to Stan about taking the job. At first Stan was turned off by the
suggestion. As time went on with no prospects, the janitor job seemed more
and more appealing. He met with the church board and said he would consider
taking the job with the stipulation that if another opening came along he
might take it. So it was he became church janitor. He found it a rewarding
experience. He enjoyed the variety of work. It wasn't all cleaning. He arranged
scheduling of all the other meetings and activities that took place. There
were scout meetings, YWCA exercise classes, committee meetings. He was kept
busy opening up and locking up at all hours. He became a reliable and indispensable
part of the church. In fact the minister was so impressed that he set aside
one Sunday as Stan Baxter appreciation Day. It was to be a surprise to Stan.
I was chosen to keep it a secret and to be sure he was in church that day.
During the service he was called to come op front. Representatives of the
various groups of the church came forward telling how pleased they were with
the care and help he gave. The minister remarked it would be easy to do without
a preacher but the church could never do without a good janitor. A reception
was held in the parlor for him after the service. It was very touching.
I have never seen any such ceremony before or since.
During this time Laura found her first job. She was in high school only 15
years old. The Dairy Queen was permitted to hire students that young. She
worked after school and on weekends.
The Baxter’s pretty well took over that corner of Lombard. The church and
Dairy Queen are both on the corner of Main and Maple. The Library is down
one block. Stan and I world sometimes take our lunches to work and meet in
Lilac Park to eat them. What a beautiful setting for lunch. All of these
events came about because of the day when Stan came home at noon to announce
he was unemployed
I'm writing this story to point out that bad news can turn around and
become good news. I'd have never had those 7 enjoyable years at the Library
and Stan would never have had reason to say that he liked his janitor job
better than any other he worked at. Then too, there is something to be said
for flexibility and resiliency.
Dorothy Baxter Written April 1999
This is the house at 22 W. Crystal in Lombard, IL. This picture was
taken in 1979 - a winter with record snow fall in Chicago. Stan is in foreground.
"We can't go to Susan's wedding as we are getting a baby!" This was the first
time Laura had mentioned that she and Gerry had been on the list hoping to
adopt a baby. They had waited a long time. It was still not certain as the
baby wasn't yet born. The mother was entitled to change her mind. In fact,
she could change her mind even after 6 months. She was a single mother with
two children. She had her first baby when she was in her early teens. It
was a struggle to support the 2 children she already had. She was just starting
a new job as manager of a motel. It was a job which paid well. It would make
life so much easier financially. She couldn't visualize caring for a baby
and doing what is required of a motel manager. A baby didn't fit into the
The Lutheran Home would handle an adoption for her. This was an open
adoption which allowed communication between both families. Several couples
who wanted a baby wrote letters to the mother telling of themselves and enclosing
a picture. From these letters the mother chose Laura and Gerry to make a
home for her baby.
The matter of a name was discussed. Laura and Gerry liked the name
Jennifer. Laura especially liked that name as she had baby sat our neighbor's
little girl with that name. The mother chose a middle name which is Elyse.
On the day Jennifer Elyse was born Laura and Gerry went to the hospital to
bring her home. The mother was holding her and handed her over to Laura.
Everyone was crying as they walked out of the room to take her home. It was
an emotional time. A counselor came in to support and comfort the mother
for a while. Jenny received a great reception that evening at home. All of
Gerry's family came. Dick and Stan and I went there on that rainy evening.
The living room was full with both sets of grandparents and Aunt Bryna, her
husband and children as well as Uncle Dick. Jenny was wide awake and didn’t
even whimper as she was passed from one to another. Each one got to hold
her and admire her beautiful eyes and perfect little body with precious little
fingers and toes. I've read how important bonding is. This was the ultimate
in bonding. It makes wonder how much effect that had on making her
the friendly little girl with a beaming smile that she is.
If you could see how much Laura and the mother look alike you would understand
why Jenny looks so much like Laura. They look enough alike to be sisters.
How nice that is. In fact everything about the adoption went well. It has
worked out to be a happy event.
The two families continue to meet together. Jenny had the privilege of knowing
her brother and sister. They get together for picnics. I was fortunate to
be in on one of those occasions. It was at the time of Amy's birth. Dick
took me to the hospital to see the new arrival. How hospital policy has changed
regarding visitors. Amy was in a crib beside Laura. We went in to visit.
Soon Gerry's parents came. Next came Jenny's birth family. All of us were
around admiring the new baby. Jenny's brother and sister were with their
mother. What fun Jenny bad playing with her brother. They are both active
and enjoyed running up and down the halls. The sister is quieter and just
sat watching all the activity. Amy was the star. Everyone got to hold her
and marvel at how pretty she was at only one day old. 128 What a great occasion
it was to have these families together celebrating the birth of Jenny's sister.
Jenny is growing up knowing of her adoption and her family. I hope she knows
how fortunate I feel to be her grandmother. I am so glad that Laura and Gerry
adopted her. She is a joy to all of us. We are lucky and privileged to have
her. Laura and Gerry did miss out an Susan and Bill's, wedding. But they
Dorothy Baxter May 1999
9/26/92 - Jenny’s 1st day at home with Laura, Grandma and Grandpa Baxter
5/24/97 - Amy at hospital with Laura, big sister Jenny, Grandma and Uncle
What Hath God Wrought? (quote from Alexander Graham Bell)
For my birthday, Dick gave me a telephone and placed it beside my recliner
where I sit most of the time. That made three phones in my little one room
apartment. What Luxury!
I remembered the time when I was a young girl growing up on 64th street in
Urbandale. Many people had no phone let alone more than one. These were
depression days. A phone was not a necessity. Due to our dairy business
a phone was a necessity.
Neighbors to the south, the Mulstays and Eileen Dunbar had no phone. Nor
did the Jones' across the street to the east. Hardly a day went by that someone
didn't come over to use our telephone.
I used it a lot as my friend, Betty Ebers and I had to discuss our teacher,
Anna Funk Reed. We talked about her huge breasts. We felt she didn't need
to sit at a table to eat. She could merely set the food on her breasts for
a table. She was a strict teacher and we were terrified of her. She didn't
hesitate to jerk Junior Avaux out of his seat and shake him till his shoes
Ours was a busy phone. One call which came every day was from Mr. Walker.
He had a grocery store at 70th and Urbandale Ave. He called each day to ask
what groceries we needed. He took the order and in a short while Mr. Casson
was delivering them at the back door. What service!
Eileen Dunbar was a regular visitor coming most every day to use our phone.
After I learned of her arrest for shop lifting and writing bad checks, I
wondered what criminal activities she conducted over our phone. She always
talked so low it was impossible to know what she was saying.
When Stan and I lived on the farm we were on a party line with ten people.
Each family was given their own ring. A crank on the side of the telephone
box was used to ring our neighbors. Each had his own ring such as 2 short
and one long. Ours was 2 long and one short. We could hear everyone's ring
on our line. To be polite you answered only your own ring. However it was
a great temptation to lift the receiver and listen in on the neighbors. We
had to be careful what you said. When Stan phoned his folks from the hospital
to tell them of the birth of our twins it didn't need to be published in
the paper. That system worked only for those on the party line. For calls
to others we went through central. When we lifted the receiver central operator
answered and then rang the party requested.
I liked the system. I was disappointed when dial phones came in around 1960.
It ended all that entertainment and news source. One still could listen in
on the party line but it was only by happenstance that you lifted the receiver
and heard talking.
Today was an example of how wonderful a phone is. I answered the ring and
heard, "Hello Grandma, this is Adam". He explained that he and his wife Sherry
had the opportunity to ride a cargo plane to Washington D.C. They grabbed
at the chance even though it meant sitting on the floor and no windows. Sherry
is expecting a baby in July. This was an opportunity to see a Doctor. In
the Azores where they are stationed, baby doctors are scarce. Everything
checked out fine.
They soon will be transferred to Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma. The Air
Force favors that babies be born in the U.S. where better case is available
in case of any complications. They look forward to being close to home. This
will make John a grandpa and me a great grandma. I’d like to phone each of
you every day and know that you are well and happy. Alexander Graham, you
and God hath wrought a good thing.
March 2000 Dorothy Baxter
DOROTHY’S GREAT GRANDCHILD
CAMDEN ISAIAH BAXTER - Born to Adam and Sherry Baxter on July 16, 2000. 9LBS