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You are here: Davis of Iowa > Jim Davis's Biography > Part I                    Click HERE to go to Part II

Part I



(1935 - 1940)

James Howard Davis-


I was born 7:20 PM August 6, 1935 in the Deaconess Hospital, Marshalltown, IA.  I weighed 7 pounds 4.75 ounces and was 19 inches long.  Doctor Southwick and Nurse Weisenberg delivered me. My, parents Ralph W. and Ruth L. (Ware) Davis, were each 22 years old and were married August 30, 1934.  We lived in a rented house near Marshalltown where  dad was employed by a farmer and mom taught elementary school. 



James Howard Davis


 On August 25, I made my first trip to my grandparents Ware’s farm, near Hartland, IA – 10 miles northwest of Marshalltown - where I met grandparents Howard and Emma Ware.  I also met  my aunt Bernice (Bea) Ware, mom’s older sister who lived in Carlisle, IA where she taught high school home economics.  It was a warm day and I was covered with too many blankets.  As a result, I was very fussy.  On September 1, I made my first trip to my grandparents Davis’ farm near Clemons,  IA (about 15 miles northwest of Marshalltown).  I met grandfather Tom and grandmother Mary on that cold, rainy day.  On September 15th, I traveled with my parents and mom’s parents to Carlisle to visit aunt Bea and her close friend and fellow teacher Ethel Luce.

Dad And Jim At 3 Months


Mom And Jim At 3 Months


Aunt Bea, Grandma Ware, Jim And Mom, Fall 1935

Grandad Ware And Jim, Fall 1935


My mother kept a wonderful record of my early years in my “Baby Book”,  something she was not able to do for all of  my siblings - I was the oldest of six, three boys and three girls.  My  baby book  came in handy in writing about these early years of my life.  We had a terrier puppy named Patty which was three months older than me.  I enjoyed her very much.  When she was one year old, she had a small litter of puppies for which mom and dad found homes.  Patty frequently took baths with me in my portable bathtub. My first toys were a rattle, an empty baby powder can and my toes!  However,  as soon as I was old enough, I really enjoyed my rocking horse which was  gift from my aunt Bea.  I soon learned to make it rock!  Later I also became quite attached to a wooden hammer and a peg board.


Life On The Farm-


When I was about 8 months old mom, dad and I moved in with my grandparents Ware on their family farm.  At  nine months I was crawling and at ten months I was climbing stairs.  I had my first tooth at ten months, four teeth in eleven months and eight teeth at fifteen months.  At twelve months I took my first step while helping my dad separate the cream from the milk by hand cranking a milk-cream separator.   My first baby words  were “baa” from hearing the baby calves calling to their mother, “whoa” from hearing my dad drive horses and “hot” from mom telling me the stove was “hot”.  I could not say the word “hammer” but instead called it an “orry”.  My first playmate was Billy Tomlinson, who was three weeks younger than me and a third cousin on my mother’s side of the family.  He lived on a farm about two miles away where his parents farmed.  Other playmates were the Wagoner boys – Dick, Don, David and Billy – also third cousins – who lived about a mile away.


Dad and mom rented her parent’s 160 acre farm beginning with the 1936 crop year.  Typically, farmers rented their farms from March through February.  The first of my five younger siblings, Gerald Robert (Bob) was born later that year on December 15th, also in the Deaconess Hospital (as were our other four siblings).    Shortly, thereafter, mom’s parents moved to a house they rented in Albion, IA – about seven miles northeast from the farm.   A year  later they  purchased their retirement home, also in Albion. 


Our farm buildings were located about 300 yards north of the gravel rural road traversing east and west, in  front of our property.  (In the late 1950’s the road was converted to a blacktop surfaced road and was identified as E-29.) The sections of agricultural land throughout Iowa generally are one square mile (640 acres) in size and are bordered,  primarily by rural roads running east-west and north-south.  We had an immediate neighbor south directly across the road, whose buildings were located very near the road.  The next closest neighbor was on the north side of our road about ¼ mile west of our property and a second neighbor another ¼ mile west of that property located on the south side of the road.  To the east ¼ mile on the northeast corner of the intersection, was a one-room school house located on an acre of ground.  About ½ mile east of the school on the south side of the road and ½ mile north of the school on the east side of the road were two other neighboring farms.


Our farm house was three stories including the unfinished basement, which was used for fruit and vegetable storage,  wood/coal storage and  the furnace which provided central heating for the house.  We had no electricity and limited – gravity fed - running water in the house.  We had an outdoor privy about 30’ from the house which was a cold walk in the winter!  And air conditioning for the hot summer days and nights was limited to whatever breeze might be available!  On hot evenings we spent considerable time outside, as long as the mosquitoes would leave us alone.  


We had a cistern that collected rain water via our house roof gutters just outside our kitchen.  That “soft” rain water was hand pumped into the kitchen sink or carried into the house in buckets.  This water was used primarily for bathing and  washing hair.  We also had a shallow well which was about 10 feet deep as it was located within 10’ of a creek in which spring water ran year around.   The well was about 150 yards from the house.  Water was pumped from this well to a second water storage cistern located 100 yards up a slight hill to the west of the house.  From this cistern we had a bit of gravity powered water flow to the house, but certainly no pressure.  The well water was pumped to the storage cistern by a windmill powered pump.  Someone walked to the well to initiate and to stop the water pumping whenever the cistern needed replenishing.


The water in the cistern gravity flowed to the house and to the “horse tank” – a seven feet diameter, two feet six inches high, open top wooden vessel which was used for watering the horses, cattle and hogs.  The horse tank was located near the barn which was located about 100 yards away and slightly downhill from the house.   The horse tank was located in a fence which divided two barn lots.  One lot was used by the horses and milk cows to access water. There was a ground level hog  waterer also installed in the horse tank so both the pigs and the beef cattle  occupying the other lot could access the water.  In the winter a wood burning heater was immersed in the water so that a fire in this heater could keep the water from freezing.  The milk cows grazed in either of two pastures whenever they were not in the milk barn, both pastures had a creek from which the cows accessed drinking water.  These creeks were spring fed and neither was dry in my years on the farm.


Water for cooking, bathing and washing clothes and dishes was heated on a wood burning combination kitchen stove and oven.  Baths were a weekly occurrence.  Laundry was also a weekly occurrence. Mom used a gasoline motor driven laundry machine which had a laundry tub in which the closes were gently agitated in hot soapy water for several minutes.  These clothes were then passed through a wringer which  squeezed out the soapy water.  The soapy water flowed back into the laundry machine.  The clothes were discharged into clean cold water.  The clothes were then again passed through the wringer to remove as much water as possible prior to hanging the clothes on outdoor clothes drying lines to air dry. The clothes lines were galvanized wire strung between support poles.   The clothes were hung outside the house to dry, almost regardless the season.  In the winter the dried clothes were frequently frozen stiff and needed to thaw before being folded.  In really inclement weather, sometimes the clothing was hung on a drying rack in the house which was placed near the central heating grate on the main floor.


The main floor of the house consisted of a good sized kitchen, a dining room and a living room each of  which was about 10’ by 15’, as well as a bedroom which was about 10’ by 10’, a bathroom which  was about 6’ by  8’ and a large enclosed all weather porch for storage, the milk separator, the “ice box” and various other farmhouse necessities.  It too was about 10’  by 15’.  The second floor had three bedrooms each about 10’ by 12’ and a walk-in attic which was converted in to my bedroom when I was about twelve years old.


Before the farm was electrified in 1940, we relied on an ice box for cold food storage.  The ice for this ice box was “harvested” from a reasonably close river in the winter and stored in the “ice house” until it was needed.  The ice house was a  building about 12 feet by 12 feet by 8 feet tall in which the ground was excavated  to a depth of about 8 feet.  The ice would be placed in the ice house and packed with sawdust along the edges and between the blocks of ice.  The sawdust was  gathered from cutting firewood and it  provided insulation to minimize the melting of the ice during the warm months.  The ice  supply typically lasted through the summer.  The ice house was about thirty yards from the kitchen and porch where the ice box was located.


We typically heated the house using firewood harvested from trees located on  the property, particularly along the creeks.  We harvested the trees with two-man saws and axes.  We cut the logs  into 15 inches long sections which the  furnace would accommodate.  If the diameter of the log was larger than about 12 inches, we split the logs with an axe or with sledgehammer  driven steel wedge prior to cutting it into lengths of 15 inches.  We  hauled the wood to the house in a horse drawn wagon – equipped either with wheels or if there was snow on the  ground  with “sleigh runners”.  The wood would then be pitched through a small window which accessed the basement storage area adjacent to the furnace.  We seldom used coal in the early years as the cost was considerably more than the cost of firewood sourced on our farm.


We used kerosene lamps and occasionally candles, for lighting.  The evenings were long particularly in the winter as we had limited things with which to pass the time.   We had few books to read and few games to play and the rather poor lighting was not conducive to either.  We did play some card games.  We seldom had visitors other than family in the evenings.  Electrifying the farm changed all of this.


We also grew and raised most of our food requirements including  fruits, vegetables, milk, eggs and nearly all of our meat, as we typically butchered a fattened calf and hog as well as many chickens each year.   Butchering an 800 to 1000 pound calf was major event and not for the faint of heart.  Frequently, in those early years we would share the beef with family. The calf was killed, suspended by its hind legs from a tree branch, skinned (the hide was sold to a leather shop where the hide was “tanned” and made into leather goods), gutted and cut into quarters, each of which weighed 100 to 150 pounds.  The quarters were then cut into steaks and roasts with the trimmings ground with a small table mounted hand cranked grinder into hamburger.  We had a special meat saw which was much like a hacksaw but about the size of a large hand saw.  The teeth on the cutting edge of the saw blade were fairly small and close together to enable the bones to be cut along with the flesh.  The meat was then stored in a frozen food storage commercial locker in Albion and retrieved as needed for our meals.  In the later years we dispensed with the cutting of the meat into servings opting instead to take the quarters of beef to a neighborhood butcher shop in State Center, about 7 miles away, where the quarters were cut into steaks, roasts and hamburger.  That meat was stored in rented storage lockers (storage drawers) in a large walk-in freezer at the butcher shop.  We would retrieve the needed meat during the course of the following months.   Butchering a hog was very similar, however the hogs weighed only about 250 pounds live and yielded some 125 pounds of pork roasts, chops and other pork cuts of meat.  Again, we would take the pork halves to the same butcher shop for the final cutting into various servings and for storage in the rental freezer until we needed the meat at home. 


Mom and dad were not big on lamb/mutton so we never butchered lambs although we did raise lambs for sale and sheep for wool.  We also hunted rabbits, squirrels and pheasant to supplement the other meats.    Mom canned some meat but only minor amounts.  We ate the fresh liver, heart and chicken gizzards promptly after butchering the animal but none of the other organs.


Each spring when the winter weather had somewhat warmed, we purchased baby chicks typically two weeks old from a commercial chicken hatchery.   We had a special “chicken house” located not far from our house, in which we confined the baby chicks to keep them from being savaged by foxes, hawks or other predators as well as from scattering into the orchards, pastures and fields.  The baby chicks were fed a combination of ground corn and commercial feed containing various nutrients, minerals, etc.  When the chicks matured, we began butchering the male chickens (roosters) for our meals.  The hens were confined to a hen house where they laid eggs.  We gathered the eggs daily for our food.   We sold the surplus eggs to the owner of the grocery store where we purchased groceries.  The old hens and roosters would be butchered periodically and their meat used for various meat dishes, particularly mom’s chicken and dumplings which were always a treat.


We always had about a dozen milk cows which required milking twice a day.  We milked these cows by hand until a few years after the farm was electrified when dad purchased a milking machine.  We separated the cream from the milk and used a small portion of the cream and some milk for meals.  The excess cream was stored in five gallon “milk cans” and taken to a creamery each weekend where it was churned into butter and utilized in making various dairy products, including ice cream.  The sale of the surplus cream and eggs paid for most of the groceries that we purchased..


We also had a large garden in which we grew many vegetables and we had a large apple and cherry tree orchard which provided those fruits.   Mom “canned” the surplus vegetables and fruits as they matured in mason jars.   She also processed some of these items into jams, jellies and preserves which were also canned.  We purchased additional fruits and vegetables, which we did/could not grow, e.g., peaches, apricots, various berries, etc., and canned them as well. 


The canning process was labor intensive.  The vegetables and fruits were prepared for eating.  The clear glass “Mason” jars, lids and rubber gasket seals in which the foods were to be preserved and stored were sterilized in boiling water.  After sterilizing these items were removed from the bath and allowed to cool.  The foods to be preserved were heated to near boiling and then placed in the sterilized jars,  leaving about one-half inch of space in each jar.  The jars were then sealed and placed in the kettle of hot water which covered the jars by at least an inch.  The water in the kettle was then heated to boiling and held at that temperature for 20 minutes.  The canned foods were then removed from the hot water, allowed to cool and then stored in a dark cool environment -  in our case in cupboards in the basement.


Occasionally, mom froze fruits and vegetables and also placed them in the rented freezer storage units space permitting. However, later after the farm was electrified and we had our own large chest freezer was the preferred storage for our meat, vegetables and fruits. Freezing vegetables and  fruits is not only much simpler and less labor intensive, the flavor, texture and taste of frozen vegetables and fruits is typically superior to the canned version of the same food.


Our Family And Social Life-


I have few specific memories about the first five years of my life on the farm but I have many general memories.  Specifically, I recall (1) Bible School at age four wherein another four-year-old and I got into a wrestling match, (2) when  I was four years old, waking at my mom’s parent’s home with my aunt Bea on April 1st, and her telling me that it snowed last night – April Fool! (3)  my aunt Bea reading to me and reciting the saying of The Little Engine Who Could, i.e., “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can” before accomplishing something and “I thought I could”,  I thought I could, I thought I could”, after the accomplishment, (4) when I was four years old, we had our first telephone – a party line with an operator, and (5) mom coming home from the hospital with a baby sister when I was almost three years old and with a second sister when I was five years old.


Generally, I remember dad farming - milking the cows, hand cranking the milk/cream separator, feeding the pigs, driving the horses doing the field work, joining the oat thrashing group of neighboring farmers, repairing the farm equipment,  and  mom cooking on the large wood burning kitchen stove/oven, doing the family laundry, hanging the wet clothes outside to dry, canning vegetables from our garden, mending our clothes and caring for we children.  I was too young to significantly help my parents at this time,  although I “watched” my younger brothers and sisters for my parents when they were busy with chores or farm work.  I also, remember helping my  parents plant and weed the garden, doing the laundry and dishes, gathering eggs and such. 


My other general memories include (1) church services at our one-room country church, including the annual Christmas program, (2) church celebrations and fund raisers, e.g., ice cream socials, (3) annual Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving and family birthday celebrations at home (4) the annual Davis’ Christmas gathering of dad’s large family at his parent’s home and the one silver dollar birthday gifts from my grandparents, (5) our weekly Saturday evening trip to  Marshalltown to sell our surplus cream and eggs,  to  purchase groceries and to go to a “wild west movie”, (6) going to neighboring farms  to pick strawberries,  to harvest rhubarb  and  to pick blackberries, (7) walking our long - 300 yard- driveway to get the mail or to mail a letter, (8) dad hooking a team of draft horses to the car after a heavy snow to pull it through the snow to the road so we could drive somewhere, (9) riding in dad’s sleigh behind one of the draft horses in the winter, (10) going for a car ride on hot summer evenings to “cool down”, (11) visiting neighboring friends and relatives, (12) in the winter when ice in the water tank or creek was plentiful, making home-made ice cream and (13) my one-on-one visits and staying overnight with my mom’s parents in their home in Albion.


Our social life was centered around the farm, the church (one and a quarter miles away) and family.  Church was a weekly occasion with a congregation of about 25 worshipers.  The church was founded as a Quaker Church in 1858.  Actually, it was organized by seven Quaker families living near Hartland as the Hartland Friends Monthly Meeting, a term adopted by Quakers/Friends to designate their churches.  However, the neighboring farmers were generally various Protestant religions who attended the Hartland services and the church eventually became a neighborhood Friends (basically Protestant) church which employed part-time or retired pastors of various Protestant religions.  The Hartland Friends Monthly Meeting was probably the fifth such Meeting in Iowa.


There were three or four Sunday School groups meeting in separate classes in different areas of the one room church, primarily for Bible study prior to the church service.  The church services were longer Quaker services, instead basically a Protestant service.  The religious holidays, particularly Christmas, Easter and Good Friday were faithfully celebrated each year.  There were about 6 children my age who attended Sunday School and church.  We occasionally had visiting pastors  but our regular pastors hired for a modest salary delivered most of our sermons. 


Also located on the church grounds was a township hall, which was used for community meetings and served as the venue for the ice-cream socials, various political meetings and other community gatherings, including voting. Contiguous to the church was the Hartland Cemetery where many of the early settlers to the local area, including many of the Ware side of our family, as well as some of my immediate family are buried – more on this later.


Church gatherings and particularly the annual - sometimes twice annual - ice cream socials which were fund raisers for the church were very special occasions.  The ice cream socials were exceptionally well attended by residents from as many 30 miles distant.  The events were so well attended that the food and drinks were frequently sold out prior to the announced ending time.  It was an occasion where one could reconnect with friends and neighbors not seen in the normal course of living on a farm.


The night before the social, the men would freeze the ice cream which was made from cream, eggs, milk, sugar and vanilla.  This mixture was placed in a sealed canister which was placed in a bucket of crushed ice. The bucket had a turning mechanism built into it.  A baffle was fixed inside the canister which kept the fluid thoroughly mixed throughout the process.  The canister was turned via a hand crank – typically 25 minutes - until the ice cream became sufficiently frozen to make it very difficult to turn the crank.  At that point the canister was removed from the ice bucket, the ice cream removed from the canister and stored in a larger container stored in ice – later an electric freezer - and the process was repeated for as long as needed to have a sufficient supply of ice cream for the ice-cream social customers.  The women, in addition to mixing up the ice cream ingredients, prepared chocolate, butter scotch and strawberry toppings, cookies and cakes, sandwich makings – typically shredded chicken -   potato salad and other related dishes.  These ice cream socials were a significant source of church revenue, as the ice cream and other food sales ingredients were donated by the parishners.


Our family celebrated the birthdays of each of we children by inviting mom’s parents, aunt Bea and neighboring childhood friends for lawn games and home-made ice cream and birthday cake – complete with candles representing the age of the sibling celebrating the birthday.  There were few gifts involved, and what gifts were given were typically practical items such as clothing or an inexpensive toy.


The annual Church Christmas celebration, always early evening on Christmas Eve, included a play depicting the Birth of Christ performed by children of the congregation, singing of Christmas hymns, a visit from Santa Claus - who was one of the parishners in Santa garb - complete with a bag full of gifts for the children.  Additionally, fresh fruit and candy was given to all attendees.  After the Christmas eve church festivities, we returned to our home to celebrate our own family Christmas.  Our mother’s parents  and sister, aunt Bea, were always in attendance as were occasionally my mother’s  brother and his family who visited us from Chicago, Connecticut or Colorado to celebrate Christmas.  Mom always served oyster stew, ham, sweet potatoes, salads and desert.  After dinner we sat around the Christmas tree and exchanged presents.


On Christmas Day every other year and on the Sunday closest to Christmas on alternate years, dad’s entire family gathered at his  parent’s large house some ten miles away.  As described later, dad had seven brothers and sisters (one was serving in the Navy and to the best of my recollection was not at any of these early Christmases) all but one of them were married at the time and most  of  those who were married had one or more children.  So, this was a big gathering.   Grandma Davis, with help from the other women always had a noon dinner spread which would not quit.  Nearly every kind of meat, vegetable, salad, bread and dessert  were available.  This buffet dinner was enjoyed by all.  After dinner, presents were given by our grandparents to the children and my dad and his brothers and sisters would present their parents with gifts.  The adults exchanged names to determine who would present gifts to whom.


Our immediate family celebrated Easter after church services, with a large meal mom prepared which typically included both ham and turkey/chicken, whipped potatoes, sweet potatoes, salads, home-made dinner rolls and desert(s).  We were again joined by mom’s parents and her sister.  Thanksgiving was always a big celebration, again with relatives and close friends, and always at our home.  The crops were all harvested, winter had typically begun with at least some snow on the ground. The dining room table, sometimes supplemented with a card table also seating diners was laden with food.  Mom’s cooking included turkey and ham, whipped and sweet potatoes, salads, home baked rolls and several deserts.  No one ever went hungry.  We gave thanks for all we had and for the crops that were safely stored.


Mom and dad attended evening meetings of our church members, held in various parishioner’s homes to discuss church and related business.  I occasionally accompanied them.    Whoever hosted the meeting typically served dessert and coffee.  The host’s baking was always special.  Additionally, our folks participated in a “500” Club, meaning that they gathered to play 500, a card game much like Bridge, but a bit less complicated.  My folks really enjoyed playing cards,  particularly 500.  There were typically four or five tables (a total of 16 or 20) of players.  Most of these members belonged to our church, however several  couples did not.  Whoever hosted these games also served refreshments at evening’s end.  These games were played for enjoyment not money.  (Our folks never gambled at least as we consider gambling.  However, farming was always a big gamble particularly on the weather but also on commodity prices and livestock’s health!)


Our weekly Saturday evening shopping trip to Marshalltown was eagerly anticipated, as typically a “wild west movie” was on the agenda along with a stop at the ice cream store to sell our cream and to purchase an ice cream cone.  The weekly grocery shopping was also on the agenda.  Although we had a big garden and an orchard with a dozen fruit trees, we supplemented that harvest by helping neighbors who had surplus strawberries, blackberries and rhubarb harvest their bounty and shared some of our surplus crops with them. 


Our farm buildings were set back from the rural road that serviced our area and as a result we had a 300 yard dirt (sometimes “mud”) lane.  The mail was delivered to a mail box where our lane joined the rural road.   We walked to the mailbox to retrieve our mail, the local newspaper (The Marshalltown Times Republican) and to post letters, as the postman/woman would pick-up out-going mail as he/she left our incoming mail.  We had no difficulty getting our “steps” in while working/living on the farm.


I remember the winter snows, particularly the blizzards.  We had a lot of snow in central Iowa when I was young.  The heavy snows made the farm chores considerably more difficult, particularly if they were accompanied with considerable wind which resulted in sizeable snow drifts through which to shovel pathways.  When the snow in the lane was too heavy to drive our car though, as an  expedient, rather than plow/shovel the snow to clear the lane, dad on occasion would use the draft horses to pull the car through the snow to the rural road.  We of course needed to await the county road maintenance man to clear the gravel roads before we could drive after a significant storm.  We enjoyed sleigh rides in the winter for recreation and occasionally used the horse and the sleigh to visit neighbors or even go to church when the snow was too deep for the car.  Sometimes heavy snows and winds would fill the road ways from bank to bank if the road went through a hill or ridge with road some several feet below the top of the cut through the hill.  The resulting amount of snow in the road could approach 20 feet or more in some of these locations.  It took the road maintenance man hours to clear the road through the cut as the amount of snow to move was monumental.


On the very hot summer evenings, with no breeze, we would sometimes go for a ride in the car with the windows down just to cool off before going to bed.  In as much as we had no electricity and no powered fans or air-conditioning, getting relief from the summer heat and humidity was a challenge.  A ride in the car with the windows lowered helped some.


As auto fuel was relatively expensive and the cars not terribly reliable at that time, we seldom would drive very far to visit relatives and friends. Occasionally we would drive to Carlisle a distance of about 40 miles, on a Sunday to visit aunt Bea.  Other than that trip, our visits were to relatives and friends who lived relatively close and to Marshalltown for groceries and supplies.


One of our most favored treats and reason to have relatives and friends visit was to enjoy home-made ice cream.  The ice cream was prepared as described for the ice cream socials earlier.  Ice cream was served with mom’s home-made chocolate syrup and brownies.   Such a treat and everything necessary except the chocolate, the vanilla and the brownie ingredients was home grown!  Home-made ice cream was a staple for our birthdays.   It was frequently accompanied with angel food cake, although I preferred chocolate cake.


It was always a special treat to visit my mom’s parents and stay over-night with them in their home in Albion.  Having them both entertain and educate me was a special treat.  Going on walks with my grandfather around the town was particularly rewarding.  I wish that I had a recording or record of our conversations – as well as many other conversations that have long been forgotten.  I also wish that I had been more inquisitive and asked more about his and about grandma’s lives.


Of the specific memories these first five years, I remember mom and dad bringing home my baby sisters, Beverly near my third birthday and Nancy just after I turned five.  And suddenly we were four siblings, Bob was 16 months younger than me.  Our four bedroom house was filling up rapidly.


My mother wrote that at the age of two, I thoroughly enjoyed playing in the water and one day while playing in the water in the livestock water tank, I tumbled into the tank.  Fortunately, she heard me and rescued me before any damage was done.  At the age of three, I went missing one fall day. Mom and dad looked all over for me.  Finally, I found my way home from a field some 100 yards west of our house.  I reportedly told my dad that I wasn’t sure if it was our house as it looked different from the hill I had climbed.


At the age of three plus, I learned about “April Fool”.  While staying with Aunt Bea and my grandparents, in their Albion house, on the night before April 1st, when we awakened, Aunt Bea looked out the window and said “It snowed last night!”  I looked out the window and it was a bright sunny day with absolutely no snow.  I challenged her and she replied “April Fool!”.   Another lesson learned.


At the age of four we had our first telephone installed.  The primary telephone line was installed along the rural road in front of our property and it  connected us to the telephone office/exchange located in Marshalltown, complete with telephone operators.  The telephone line connecting our phone to the line on the rural road  was suspended from modest sized, maybe inches in diameter 12 feet tall poles.  The phone was installed in our dining room and we were on a party line which included several of our neighbors.   To place a telephone call, we needed to call the operator and ask her to connect us to the party we wanted to talk with.   I remember shortly after having the installed we received a call and I answered it.   The call was for me.  A friend had called to ask if I could come and play with him.  I told him sure.  I then went to my parents to ask if I could play with him.  They asked me who I was going to play with and I was dumbfounded as I did not know who had invited me!  We subsequently figured it out and I did go and play with cousin Billy Tomlinson.


Each summer morning in June, we had a two week “vacation” Bible School to which some dozen children who were pre-primary school and early primary school ages attended.   When I was four and attending Bible School, a young boy my age, who I had never met challenged me to a wrestling match.   I was goaded on by other boys who knew him and told me that “he was tougher than me”.  Sadly, I ill-advisedly accepted his challenge and we began to wrestle on the grass in front of the church.   He was getting the better of me until one of the teachers stopped the ill-advised tangle.   Fortunately,  the teachers made no big deal of it and I don’t believe ever told my parents.  The boy and I became the best of friends after that, as his parents and our parents became best friends as well.


We had a large, fenced in, grassy yard which dad mowed with a push lawn mower.  I was not big  enough to operate the mower.  The west side of the yard was bordered by a large garden plot, approximately sixty feet by thirty feet,  in which we planted and raised many vegetables.  Dad would plow and otherwise prepare the garden plot each spring with horses, just as he would prepare a field for planting corn or soybeans.  We would then stake out rows for the different vegetables.  We planted seeds for most of the products, although we purchased tomato plant seedlings from a greenhouse and planted them to ensure that the tomatoes would prosper.  Planting and weeding the garden manually, required significant time and was something I was tasked to help do.  Raising our vegetables and harvesting our fruit from our orchard saved us significantly on our food expenses.


I enjoyed making my own toys and finding places around the buildings to play.  One of my favorite toys to fabricate was making “caterpillar” tractors from 2X4 blocks as well as other construction vehicles and playing in the dirt with these home-made toys.  We had no sand box, only lots  of dirt.  Bob and I also, built a home-made rope braiding machine with which we could braid hemp bailing twine into a three strand rope.  The ropes that we made were clamped on each end to prevent unraveling with ring closers which had a sharp end protruding through the small eye hole of the closer.  I tried out my new rope on a steer that was larger than me.  The steer didn’t appreciate being lassoed and promptly started to run.  He pulled the rope through my hands and the sharp end sliced the palm of my hand badly.  I still have that scar to remind me of this “learning experience”.


These memories of our social and family life on our farm have stayed with me for some 80 plus years and I treasure them. 


Before continuing with my life, let me circle back to describe farming at that time, the community of Marshalltown, IA and briefly my mother and father’s families. 


Farming At This Time -


Farming is a “full-time” job as the workday year-around begins and typically ends with chores.  The rest of the day is spent preparing the fields for crops, caring for the crops and harvesting the crops during spring, summer and fall.  Winter days were also busy bringing in firewood, “harvesting” ice for the ice house, maintaining/repairing farm equipment and a myriad of other tasks for which there was little time when tending to the crops.


Our morning and evening chores depended on the farm animals we had.   We always had (1) a dozen or so milk cows which we milked by hand twice daily, (2) chickens which we raised each year for meat and for eggs, (3) hogs, including brood sows, a boar or two for breeding and  the resulting piglets which we fed and fattened for market, (4) feeder calves which we  purchased and fattened (finished to approximately 1000 pounds) for market and (5)  occasionally, sheep including ewes  and rams - both of which we sheared each spring and sold the wool - and the spring lambs which we raised and fattened for market.   We also had  to care for the draft/work horses .  A while later we had ponies for riding added to our animal cadre.


Depending upon the time of the year and the farrowing of piglets and lambs, the purchase of baby chicks to raise or the purchase of feeder calves to fatten, the chores varied, sometimes considerably.  Milking the cows by hand was always done the first thing in the morning and last thing at night.  After milking, the milk was processed through a “separator”  which was a crude centrifuge which separated the cream (which is lighter in density) from the milk.  What cream we did not use for meals was sold to a local manufacturer of butter and ice cream.  What milk we did  not use for food was then fed to the pigs.  The  eggs that we harvested which were not used for our food were also sold to a local grocery store.  The money we received for the sale of the cream and the eggs paid for much of the groceries we purchased.


The farrowing of the pigs typically occurred late winter/early spring when the temperature was cold.  The farrowing house, was a small building about 12 feet by 10 feet with six or eight farrowing pens.  There was no heat in this building except for the body heat of the sows and after they were born, the piglets.  It was a rough life for the little pigs and there were a number of the piglets that did not survive. 


During the non-winter months, the milk cows  had  sufficient grass to eat in the pastures.  We did not supplement this feed with additional grain or hay.  The milk cows would over-night in the pasture.  During the cold winter days, the milk cows were kept in the milk barn during the night.  The only heat in the milk barn was the heat from the animals.    The milk cows were fed a mixture of shelled or ground corn and oats at each milking, along with hay stored in the barn next to the milking “parlor” at evening. Occasionally, one or more of the milk cows would have calves in the winter which required special attention and care.  During the winter days, if the snow was not too heavy, the milk cows foraged feed in the fields or grass in the pastures however that was supplemented with grain and hay at milking times. 


The other chores included feeding the animals, much of which was done via automatic livestock feeders and waterers – which also needed tending, e.g., grinding corn and other grains and mixing that product with supplements for the cattle or hogs.  Ear corn was ground every few days and  placed in the automatic feeders for the hogs.  The cattle would be fed the ground corn in troughs, called “bunks”.   They  would  be fed twice daily.  The cattle would  also be fed hay during the winter. 


Dad typically raised oats, clover and/or alfalfa hay, corn and soybeans.  The crops were rotated to keep nutrient levels in the soils satisfactory.  We used no commercial fertilizers, instead we relied on livestock manure, decomposition of the non-harvested portion of the crops left in the fields and the nitrogen enrichment needed by the corn, from both the soybeans and the hays, particularly the alfalfa both of which captured nitrogen from the atmosphere and stored it in the plant roots.   Every winter we hauled livestock manure from the barns and feedlots to the fields which would be planted with corn that coming season.  If these barns or feedlots needed the manure removed during the year, the manure was stockpiled until time to move it to the fields in the winter.  The manure was spread by a horse drawn manure spreader, which was essentially a wagon with a moving looped chain, when it was engaged, pulling lateral bars along the bottom of the wagon to the rear end of the spreader.  The rear end of the spreader was made up of horizontal rotating drums which would tear apart and throw the manure into the air covering about a 20 feet wide swath.  As the wagon moved forward the manure was spread relatively evenly on that portion of the field. 


In my early years dad farmed using only draft/work horses of which he had four.   Many farmers had tractors but we did not have a tractor until 1940.  When dad bought the tractor,  he also bought a tractor pulled plow, disc, harrow and cultivator.   He later added machinery such as a tractor pulled corn planter (about 1945), and later still a tractor pulled combine and corn picker,  both of which eventually were self- propelled/powered and all of which eventually were wider than two rows of corn or beans.  What I describe below is the way he was farming pre-1940, i.e., pre-tractor.


The fields producing hay needed no planting as the hay crops were sown the prior year and no new planting was required for these fields.    Simultaneously, with planting oats the hay seeds, either clover or alfalfa were sown.  The oats mature in three to four months while the clover or alfalfa attain a thick stand, the hay does not interfere with the production of the oats, however the hay gets a very good start at growth and is prepared to be a thick crop this second year.  Occasionally, the hay fields remained in hay for consecutive years. The hay fields typically produced  two cuttings of clover or three cuttings of alfalfa each summer.


When hay was ready to be harvested, - typically, the first crop was ready for harvesting by June and it would be 12” to 18” high.  It was mowed down by cutting the plants about 4” above the soil using a “hay mower”.   These hay mowers had a 6’ bar through which a sharp blade with many teeth cycled back and forth powered by the movement of the mower through the hay.  The hay would cure (dry) for a couple of days where it fell during the mowing.  It was then raked  into rows of partially dried hay which were then picked up by hand using pitchforks and put on horse drawn hay racks (flat-bed wagons about 8’ wide by 12’ long).  This loose hay was then typically stored in our barn in the hay mow,  a  compartment above the portion of the barn the animals occupied.   The hay was conveyed into the hay mow via a large set of four hooks, called a “hay fork” which grabbed about a cubic yard of loose hay.  The hay fork was connected to a large hemp rope which connected the hay fork to a small trolley which ran on a beam that was the length of the barn and positioned just below the roof peak.  From that trolley the rope then went through a system of pulleys to a power source – usually a horse/pony -  which lifted and moved the hay to the desired position.  The hay  was raised from the hay wagon outside the barn to the trolley and then moved via the trolley into the location in the barn where the hay was being stored.  The hay fork was disengaged from the hay which then fell into place in the hay mow.  Workers in the hay mow moved the loose hay around using pitch forks to maximize the amount of hay  that could be stored in the hay mow.  The pony or horse providing the power to make this happen was led by person.  It was my job when I was old enough to do it, five years old as I recall.


The fields that were to be planted with oats were planted first in the spring as little soil preparation was required for the oats and hay seeds.  As soon as the fields were clear of snow and dry enough to have horses and machinery on it, we were preparing for the oat seeding.  The oat fields were usually planted with either corn or soybeans the prior year.  The soil was not compacted and only the remaining corn   or soybean stalks  remained to be dealt with.   We prepared the oat fields for planting using a horse drawn farm implement called a “disc”,  which was about 12’ wide and had two horizontal rolls composed of 12” diameter steel discs  spaced about 6” apart.  These steel discs cut up the corn/soybean stalks and roots, and cut into the soil to a depth of about 3” thereby loosening the soil.  There was a seat on the disc so dad could sit while disking.  The soil was then ready to receive the oat  and the hay seeds.  Which were spread from a horse drawn wagon containing the seeds to which a “spreader” was installed on the back.  The spreader had a 3 cubic feet bin for the oats and a 1  cubic foot bin for the hay seeds which fed the seeds into a rotating disc which distributed the seeds on the field using centrifugal force.  Typically, the oat and hay seeds were distributed in a swath about 20’ wide.  While some farmers planted oats using grain that they had previously harvested, dad purchased “seed oats” and hay seed which was grown by seed companies which raised special quality oats and hay designed to increase yields and to better withstand plant disease and insects.


After the oat seeding the fields were typically drug with a horse drawn harrow, essentially a piece of  equipment  much like a bed spring, about 12” wide, which contained rows of spikes appropriately placed and typically penetrated into the soil about 2” deep.   Dad had to walk behind the harrow as there was no seat on it for him.  The harrow  was drug over the planted field and the oat and hay seeds would be covered with the soil and more fully prepared to germinate.


Oats were harvested similarly to hay, except the oats which were plants about 3’ high with the oat kernels (the feed grain) called the head on the 3’ stems. The stems which are called straw, were cut about 3” above the ground and bound into bundles approximately 12” in diameter by a machine called a  “binder”.   The bundles were tied with twine.  There was a seat on the horse drawn binder so dad could ride while harvesting the oats. About a  dozen of these bundles were then put into  vertical stacks called “shocks” by persons walking behind the binder or going to the field immediately after the bundling.  The straw portion was placed on the ground with the grain portion on top.  Again, the plants dried/cured and when they were sufficiently dry, the bundles would be put in the hay racks and moved to the thrashing machine.  The thrashing machine was a big piece of equipment, about the size of an eighteen wheeler semi-trailer rig. It was typically powered by a gasoline powered engine  which transferred the thrashing power from the engine to the thrashing machine via a long belt, some 6” wide, 3/8” thick and sometimes 100 feet long.  The farmers paid the owner of the thrashing machine based on the number of bushels of oats that were recovered.  The thrashing machine was owned by a person who would bring it to the farm needing the oats separated from the straw.   Typically, neighboring farmers would work together preparing for the oat thrashing and schedule one farm after another for the oat thrashing, so the farmers could all work together moving the grain from the fields to and from the thrashing machine.  The oat kernels would be stored in an especially designed bin for use as animal feed or occasionally sold if not needed as animal feed.  The straw was stored in the barn or an outside shed and used for animal bedding in the winter.  The thrashing operation would move from one farm to the next each day as no farmer needed  more than one day to do the oat thrashing.  The yield of oats was typically 40-50 bushels of oats per acre (43,500 square feet) of land.


For both corn and soybeans, the fields were plowed as soon as possible after the oat seeding.  The horse drawn plow was a “two bottom plow” which meant that there were two adjacent contiguous strips of soil in which the plow bottoms moved.  The plow bottoms were spaced such that the first bottom plowed the right hand strip which was about 12” wide and the second bottom turned the next 12” of soil.  The plow bottoms moved about 8” below and parallel to the surface disrupting the soil and turning  the bottom soil to be on top and the previous top soil to the bottom of the furrow.  This way the remaining plant material on the surface was transferred to into the soil to aid its decomposition and provide nutrients for the crops.  There was no seat on the plow so dad walked behind the plow guiding it and making sure that the soil was being plowed correctly.  This was an exhausting job.  After the soil was plowed, it was further worked with disks and harrows similar to preparing the oat fields, to condition the  soil for better crop production.  The corn or soybeans were planted with a horse drawn “corn planter” – which  did  have a seat for dad to ride on.


The corn was planted in “hills”, that is in groups of three or four seeds every 30” in rows 30” apart.  The corn was planted in this manner so that the corn could be cultivated, i.e., the weeds which grew because the  weed seeds were in the soil, would appear simultaneously with the corn and would rob soil moisture and nutrients from the soil to the disadvantage of the  corn.  To plant the corn in these hills the corn planter had 1 cubic foot bins which fed 3 kernels of seed corn through a shoe which deposited the kernels 3” below the ground surface.  The shoes were spaced 30” apart to achieve the parallel rows.  The planter would typically plant two rows simultaneously.  To have each of these hills every  30”  in each row, the corn planter had a trip mechanism which “tripped” the seeds to drop into the hill each 30”.  This trip mechanism was controlled by a special wire which ran the full length of the field and had a “knot or enlargement” every 30”.  The planter trip mechanism was guided along this wire and the seeds were “tripped” every 30”.  This trip wire had to be moved by dad at each end of the field before he could begin the round trip.  Thus, planting corn was a tedious,  time consuming job, even though dad was able to ride on the planter.  The reason the rows of corn  were 30” apart was that the typical width of the horse pulling a cultivator was 30’’ and could pull the cultivator without damaging (stepping on) the crops.  As soon as the  corn was 3” high, a horse drawn cultivator would plow out the weeds between the rows.  The cultivator had several small shovels mounted in a fashion such that four or five of these shovels would turn over all of the soil between the corn rows, killing the weeds that were growing there.   The corn was typically plowed a total of four times while it was growing, one of the times the plowing was across the rows plowing the weeds out between the hills of corn in each row.  Hence the need to have the hills neatly spaced every 30”. 


Corn would grow to a height of 6’ or more and typically have two ears of corn per stock.   Occasionally a stock would have only one ear and occasionally three ears.  The corn would mature and the plant would begin to die in September.   The ears of corn, which had husks protecting the ears until the corn was mature, began to dry out and was ready for harvesting after the first heavy frost.   The corn was picked by hand by walking the row and pulling the husk off the ear and the ear from the  plant/stalk.  A horse drawn wagon, would follow along the picker(s) and receive the picked corn.   The typical yield of corn at that time was 80-100 bushels per acre.  When the wagon was full of corn it was taken to the corn crib, a building which had wooden sides which had about 1” spacing between the 4” boards on the crib sides to allow air to further dry the corn and to keep the corn from spoiling.  The corn was  either shoveled into the cribs or in our case conveyed  by a horse powered  grain elevator.  The ears were  conveyed  to the top of the crib and dropped into the proper bin.  The elevator was a system of linked chains moving horizontally mounted bars up the elevator casing  which was about 12” wide taking ears of corn along for the ride.  Depending on the weather and the amount of corn to pick, corn picking could take a month or more.  I  vividly remember one year picking our last field of corn on Thanksgiving morning.  Why it was that late I do not remember.


The soybeans were planted the same way as corn, except they were planted in rows and not in hills.  A seed was dropped through the planter shoe every 6” or so and there was no attempt to cross plow the beans as there was with the corn.  The beans were cultivated along the rows two or three times, depending upon the amount of weeds that grew among the beans.  One of the great jobs for “farm kids” was “walking the beans” which entailed walking along each row of beans and pulling volunteer corn and weeds from the bean rows.  Since beans were frequently planted in fields in which corn was grown the previous year, kernels of corn  left in the field from that  previous crop germinated and grew in the row of beans along  with other weeds.  These stalks of corn and weeds were not removed by cultivating the beans because the cultivating only removed the corn and weeds between the rows of beans.  Youngsters, old enough to  walk and pull out these corn stalks and weeds would be “employed” walking the beans.  As these “volunteer” corn stalks and weeds robbed the soybeans of moisture and nutrients as well as playing havoc with the combine’s operation when harvesting the beans. The bean plants also began dying in September and after the first heavy frost the beans were typically dry enough to harvest.  Beans needed to be combined,  similar to the harvesting of wheat  and later on our farm our oats.  In the early years we did not have a combine, so dad did not raise many crops of soybeans, which were a cash crop – meaning we sold the beans via a grain elevator operation for cash and did not use the beans as feed on our farm.   When we raised soybeans, dad would pay an owner of  a combine to come harvest our beans.  The beans would be placed in our wagons or in a rented truck to be hauled to the grain elevator.  The soybeans typically yielded about 40-60 bushels per acre.


Two added comments on farming, (1) the weather and (2) the commodity prices impact’s on farming livelihood.   Late and/or wet springs, draughts or heavy rains, even tornados or just very strong winds, during the growing season and  hard frosts too early in the fall, all effected the planting, tilling and harvesting of the crops adversely and typically caused reduced yields of the crops or on rare occasions destruction of the entire crop!  Additionally, our farm had two modest creeks which joined midway through the farm  nearly always had flowing water.  Along about one half of the creek’s path were pastures for grazing of the milk cows and, when we had them, the sheep.  Nearly every year in May and June heavy rains would cause the creeks to flood.   Sometimes the flood waters would be over 100 yards wide.  For the fields which bordered  the creek that were planted with crops, the seeds/plants frequently were washed out and carried away along with rich top soil.  Those crops had to be replanted, if there was sufficient time for the crop to mature even with reduced yields.  Any significant draught during the growing season was also a major disruption in the crop yields.  Finally, an early hard frost prior to complete maturity of the crop would reduce the yield and could complicate the crop harvesting.  Also, insects which targeted our crops were also a major concern.   During the middle and late 1940s corn borers were a particularly devilish problem.  These flying insects would bore into the stalk of a well-developed but not yet mature corn plant and lay their eggs in the plant.  This frequently weakened the corn stalk to the point that it died/failed to mature and yielded no or totally immature corn.  Fortunately, insect sprays were developed to kill off the corn borers after only a few years of their adverse impact on the corn crops and they ceased to be a continuing problem. The commodity prices, mainly the price received for the sale of fattened hogs, cattle and even sheep would significantly impact the income from our farming.  As farmers, we had little control or even an ability to predict these variables.  We could only react to them in minor ways as to when to sell the hogs, cattle or sheep.  Additionally, while we sold little of our corn, oats and hay, a number of farmers did and those commodity prices significantly affected their farm income.


Dad added new types of machinery, rented/purchased additional acreage for the farm, electrified the farm and made other added advances in his farming throughout his life. 


The Ware Family-


My mother’s families were paternally the Ware and maternally the Pemberton families.  Both families were largely of Quaker religious persuasion.   In Iowa at that time the population of Iowa represented 2.5% of the U.S. population, however, 10% of the U.S. residing Quakers lived in Iowa.


My mother was born December 23, 1912, I believe at home on the farm where we grew up, as the Deaconess Hospital in Marshalltown, IA where most of us who were born later, was not yet open.  She was the youngest of five children.  Her older brother Ralph, was born 1898 and died of Scarlet Fever in 1903.  Her sister Bernice (Bea) was second born on December 2, 1900.  Brother Lisle was the next born on December 1, 1902.  Sister Beulah was born July 30, 1910 and died in 1912 of stomach flu.  Both Ralph and Beulah are buried in the Hartland Cemetery which is located adjacent to the Hartland Friends Church.   Later, grandfather and grandmother Ware staked out a family plot in the Hartland Cemetery adjacent to where their young children were buried.  This plot is also close to where a number of grandmother Ware’s extended Pemberton family are buried.  (Please see additional information of her and her immediate family in Appendix One of this document.)


The Davis Family -


My father’s family were paternally the Davis and maternally the Hobson families. Both families were largely of Quaker religious persuasion. 


My father was born March 11, 1913,  at home in Yadkin  County, NC.    He was the fourth of eight children birthed and raised by Tom and Mary (Hobson) Davis.  His father farmed, raising primarily tobacco. When father was two years his parents decided to relocate their family of six to IA where farming was more rewarding and the schools better. His siblings were Safrona Speas, Pearl Christensen, Howard Davis, Charles Davis, Ruby Dauplaise, Tom (Bud) Davis and Wayne Davis.  (Please see Appendix Two for an expanded coverage of dad, his family and  the family trees of  his siblings, their spouses  and their descendants  and  spouses along with the dates and places of birth and death, if applicable.) 

My father and mother met, dated,  fell in love and married on August 31, 1934.  However, since my mother’s employment as a primary grades teacher required her to be unwed, she and he kept their wedding a secret.  They lived apart for that school year.  Because, I was to be born in August 1935, mother did not renew her teaching contract upon the competition of that school year.  My father was then employed as a hired man near Marshalltown so my parents moved into a local rental for the first year of  my life.   My parents then moved in with her parents in the spring of 1936 as dad and mom began renting the Ware Family Farm at that time.

Five of dad’s siblings (Safrona, Howard, Charles, Wayne and Tom - after serving eight years in the US Navy and few years  in an electric motor repair shop in Marshalltown) and dad all farmed in the area.  Pearl and her husband owned the grain elevator in Clemons.  Only Ruby, who married Eddie Dauplaise, a career Navy enlisted man after being introduced to him by her brother, Tom, enjoyed a non-agricultural occupation.


We had 34 Davis family members of my generation, the oldest being 20 months older than me.  Four cousins were older than me.   The youngest of our generation was 34 years younger than me.  I knew the oldest one-half of our generation fairly well but I did not know the younger half  and probably never met the youngest 20% of our generation.  An interesting development is that with exception of the death of one of our generation when he was three years old as the result of a childhood disease, we had no other deaths among the remaining 33 members of our generation until 2007.  Consequently, we enjoyed some 73 years between the birth of our oldest cousin and the first death of a cousin, not counting the loss of our three year old cousin.  Moreover, almost all of us have enjoyed good or very good health, with very few suffering from extended health problems.  I believe that our Davis family is blessed with very good genes. 


This is supported by the fact that my dad and his siblings had on average a life  span of 86.5 years.  Their dad lived 76 years and their  mother lived 82 years. Five of dad’s siblings lived into their 90s with the oldest living to 98 years.  Dad’s youngest brother died of cancer at the age of 64 and my dad died of prostate cancer at the age of 83.  As reported later in this autobiography  my brother Bob died as the result of an accident at the age of 76 and my middle sister, Nancy died  at the age of 78 from six different cancer experiences (lymphoma, breast and pancreatic).  As I write this, I am nearing my 87th birthday and enjoying very good health.  My other living siblings ranging in age from  almost 76 to almost 84 also seem to be enjoying quite good health.  I repeat, good genes!  (The exceptionally good health of our Davis family is something that might be worth studying, particularly for someone practicing in the medical field.)


From my earliest memories, I remember The Christmas gatherings hosted by my Davis grandparents in their large farmhouse.  Only Ruby and her family who were typically living on the west coast and Bud when he was in the Navy missed these wonderful occasions. The buffet overflowed all of the available tables and counter tops and then some.  The Christmas Tree was loaded with decorations and gifts.  I don’t remember a single Christmas gathering cancelled because of Iowa winter storms.  Grandparent Davis’ in the  early years of their grandchildren would give each of us a silver dollar. 


Additionally, one of my aunts or uncles would host a summer Davis reunion which again was always well attended.  Our family hosted one of those summer gatherings, maybe in the mid-40s.  My youngest uncle, Wayne, promised me $5 if I would ride our breeding ram which ran with our flock of sheep.  I managed to ride the ram about 100 yards straight to a creek where the ram stopped abruptly causing me to tumble over his head, down the 10 feet bank into the creek.  It resulted in many of the older men and women having a good laugh. 


Those of us who knew our grandparent Davises, knew them as very hard working, down to earth, exceptionally good role models.   We will always remember my grandmother making biscuits for every breakfast and having a very large productive vegetable garden.  My grandfather Davis died at home November 8, 1961 of Leukemia and grandmother Davis died July 6, 1970.  My father’s last living family member of his generation was his youngest brother’s widow, Clarice - who died on July 10, 2022. My father died June 18, 1996, at his home on his farm from complications of prostate cancer.  (Please see additional information of The Davis  family in Appendix Two.)


Marshalltown, IA; My Home Town –


Marshalltown, Iowa was and is the county seat of Marshall County, one of 99 counties in Iowa.  Most Iowa counties are of similar size, each had its own county government which was typically based in the largest town in the county.  At that time Marshalltown probably had a population of 15,000 residents.   Including the county government, Marshalltown was the headquarters Lennox Furnace Company (now based in Richardson, TX), Fisher Governor Company (now Fisher Controls and part of Emerson Electric) and Marshalltown Trowel Company, all nationally known prominent manufacturing companies, particularly in their markets. Marshalltown Trowel’s trowels are very well  known among professional masons.  Marshalltown is also the home to the Iowa Veterans Home (IVH), which was founded  in 1887 and is located on an idyllic setting immediately northwest of the town.  The facility provides residential, nursing and memory care for over 500 Iowa veterans and spouses at any one time.


Marshalltown is also well known by locals throughout Iowa, for its Maid-Rite sandwich shop.   The shop which serves only loose meat (hamburger) in a bun sandwiches, malts, pies, chips, soda and coffee originally opened in 1928 and operated throughout the depression.  The original prices were $0.10 for a Maid-Rite and $0.05 for a malt.  I remember eating in the original venue, which was basically two parallel dining counters on either side of a center area for cooking, serving, etc. The patrons, sat on stools on the opposite side of the counter.  There was a narrow walkway behind the stools and the outside wall.  If one wanted to go to the counter on the other side   of the venue, he/she had to go outside and come into the restaurant on the opposite side. The original building was located about two blocks from the Marshalltown railroad station.  During the depression and later there were a number of, primarily men, who stole rides on the railroad by hopping into empty freight cars.  They were called “hobos”.   When some of them got off the train in Marshalltown they would walk the two blocks to the Maid-Rite.  They had little, if any money.  If they had a bit of money some would buy a cup of coffee and for nourishment they would pour as much catsup as they could into the coffee from the catsup bottle on the counter for the  Maid-Rites.   The owner discontinued providing catsup for the Maid-Rites and still today there is no catsup in the Maid-Rite store.


Our families love Maid-Rites and almost every time those of us who don’t live in/near Marshalltown visit the area, we find our way to Marshalltown for a Maid-Rite or two.  For our holiday gatherings,  I normally order Maid-Rites to be shipped from Marshalltown to where ever  we are gathered.  The Maid-Rites aren’t quite as good as when  we buy them at the Marshalltown Maid-Rite counter, but they are still enjoyed.


There are several other Maid-Rites in Iowa but only the one in Marshalltown enjoys the outstanding reputation for its Maid-Rites.   The franchise in Marshalltown was the third one in Iowa, but has bested the others.  The current Maid-Rite location, which was built in 1958, is located just a block from the original restaurant described earlier.  The current venue is a bit larger and has counters along the two sides and the front of the building with the meal preparations being done in the center.  The current seating, of about 20 persons, double that of the original venue.  As the Des Moines Register says the Maid-Rite is a Marshalltown institution. 


Click HERE to go to Part II