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

 Part II






The WWII Years -


The nineteen-forties were huge years in the world and in my life.  President Franklin D. Roosevelt was re-elected for an unprecedented third term and inaugurated in January 1940.  In the world, the war in Europe continued from the prior decade, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor and declared war on the U.S., WWII continued in  Europe, Asia and the Pacific for three and one-half years until V E day and V J day, both in 1945.  The development of the atomic bomb was completed in 1945, the dropping two of which,  resulted in a quick total surrender by Japan.  After V E day, Germany was divided into four sections with the USSR (Russia), the UK, France and the U.S. each responsible for a section.   Additionally,  after V E day, Russia resumed pushing  communism into  neighboring countries and essentially controlled all of Europe east of a divided Germany.   Western Europe was substantially rebuilt in the later one-half of the decade and continuing on into the 1950s as was Japan, however Eastern Europe  - Communist Europe - continued to stagnate.  Generally, the world economies were strong in the second one-half of the  decade fueled by the demobilization and the reconstruction in Europe and Asia.  The United Nations was formed in 1945.


The United States lost 407,000 killed in action during the almost four years of WWII.  Another 670,000 were wounded.  The  U.S. population at that  time was 131 million.  These casualties were about the same as the UK, which had 384,000 killed in action but had a population of only  48 million.  France suffered 200,000 killed and had a population of 41 million.  Russia suffered 11 million killed with a population of 190 million.  Germany had 5 million killed with a population of 70 million.  Japan lost 2 million with a population of 72 million.  In total some 25 million members of the world’s military were killed in WWII!  Counting the loss of civilians from the war, famine, genocide and the military actions some 80 million people or some 3.5% of the world’s population were killed during WWII!


After V E Day, Berlin was in the Russia sector of a divided Germany.  A “free” corridor from the free sector (the UK, France and US) to Berlin enabled Berlin’s access to supplies from the west, however, Russia decided to close that corridor isolating Berlin.  The Allies organized an airlift which flew the needed supplies into Berlin, until Russia finally relented and reopened the Berlin corridor, eliminating the need for the airlift.   Russia built a wall separating its Germany sector from the free sectors of Germany and extended the wall north and south between the Russia controlled portion of Europe and the free countries of Europe.  British Prime Minister Winston Churchill named this wall “the Iron Curtain”.   The Iron Curtain was in place preventing most citizens on one side from accessing the other side, frequently separating families.  The Iron Curtain was finally dismantled in 1991.  Those countries east of the Iron Curtain, i.e., the Soviet bloc, trailed substantially the countries in the free sector in economic development and other progress over the decades following WWII.  (As related later in this autobiography, I was at the Iron Curtain in Berlin in 1991 as it was being dismantled and secured two small pieces of the concrete from the wall.)


The U.S. effort to develop the atomic bomb required a highly organized, crash program to take  theoretical concepts of two different bombs based on two different technologies, as well as the construction of  several  very large manufacturing facilities to make the necessary raw materials and supplies for these two bombs.  This massive and very successful effort was conducted with the help of UK scientists and a number of European scientists who had fled Germany.  This achievement was a result of a critical race with the German scientists to achieve the first atomic bomb.  The accomplishment shortened the war with Japan significantly and  saved thousands of U.S. military casualties by avoiding the need for the Allies to invade Japan. 


Unfortunately, while Russia was fighting Germany along with the other allies, it was also positioning itself to export communism after WWII to neighboring countries and indeed around the world.  In retrospect the U.S. government was heavily infiltrated with communists and communist sympathizers.  The U.S. supplied Russia a tremendous amount of war materials to enable Russia to battle Germany basically on credit virtually all of which was never paid.  These war materials also included a significant amount of technology, e.g., the latest technology for substantial sectors of a country’s economy, including petroleum refining, vehicle manufacturing, etc. complete with the detailed designs of the most up-to-date manufacturing plants.  All of this was supplied to Russia in exchange for keeping it  successfully fighting Germany and incurring  unbelievably high casualties.  However, the communists and communism sympathizers further enhanced the U.S. transfer of materials and technology to Russia which strengthened its ability to successfully export communism to neighboring countries. 


I remember learning about the Japanese bombing Pearl Harbor on Sunday, December 7, 1941.  I was spending the week end with my mother’s parents in Albion.  It was a sunny, nice, fairly warm day for December in Iowa.  I was walking around the small town that early afternoon.   I stopped  and sat on a bench outside the town’s hardware store, when someone told me that Japan had bombed Pearl Harbor that morning.  Hawaii’s time was five hours earlier than the Central Time Zone where we were.  I didn’t really comprehend the significance of this event, however we later listened to President Roosevelt’s address to the nation which further described the attack and the U.S.’s reaction to it. 


WWII was a terrible war, but possibly not quite as brutal as WWI with the use of poison gas in that war (poison gas  was banned after WWI).  Many, many families were disrupted.   Many young men were conscripted into the military.  Fortunately, for us Dad was except from the draft because of a serious leg bone infection when he was in high school, because he had four children and because he was a farmer.  Fortunately, none of his four brothers/brothers-in-law were called to serve in the military for various reasons.   His younger brother, Bud, was already serving as a submariner, having joined the Navy in the mid-1930s.  He was deployed in the Pacific  theater.  Bud was the only close relative we had on either side of  the family who was in the military during WWII.  Bud saw considerable action during the almost four years of  WWII, and fortunately, survived it all.  Bud left the Navy after the war.  Dad’s youngest sister, who was separated and then widowed during the  war  married one of Bud’s fellow submariners.  He/they spent their entire career in the Navy.  We had several neighbors who served during the war and to the best of my knowledge we fortunately did not know a single one who was killed or came back seriously wounded.


One particularly, depressing event was written about extensively in the local and other Iowa newspapers in 1942.  That was about five brothers from a single family in Waterloo, IA, with the last name of Sullivan.   All five of these young men were in the U.S. Navy, serving on the U.S.S. Juneau, a light cruiser.  This ship was sunk on November 13, 1942 in the battle of Guadalcanal, one of the early major Pacific  battles.  All five men, and a total of 600 sailors were lost on that ship.   This was, and still is the worst single family loss from a single event in U.S. Military history.   A movie was made about these brave young men in 1945 which I remember seeing.  The sunken wreckage of the U.S.S. Juneau was located in 11,000 feet of water in March 2018.  


I remember seeing numerous advertisements, particularly in magazines and on recruiting posters, presenting US Marines and other military branch members as robust, good looking larger than life men attacking smaller, less robust Germans  and Japanese military men.   I also, remember one day, possibly in 1943 that dad received a phone call which turned out to be from his brother, Bud, who was on leave from the Navy and unknown to his parents – or I believe any of his family – had arrived in Marshalltown by train.  Bud wanted dad to come to the train station to pick him up and take him to visit their parents  who lived about seven miles away from our home.  I was invited to go along.   Bud had a full face beard, the first man that I remember having such a beard.   My grandparents were surprised and thrilled by Bud’s surprise visit.  I don’t remember him being on leave at any other time during the war – everyone was needed in that fight. 


During the war, there was rationing of many materials, e.g., gasoline/diesel fuel,  imported foodstuffs, fats and vegetable oils, sugar and many other things of which there was limited supply or the items were needed for the military effort.  We were issued a gasoline rationing coupon book from which we were required to provide a stamp when purchasing gasoline for our car.  Dad was able to get all the gasoline he needed for the tractor for farming.  Also, as part of our effort to support the military/war effort, we saved all of the left over cooking fat and donated it at a collection station in Marshalltown as the glycerin in this fat was recovered to make nitroglycerine. 


Nearly every physically fit, eligible male between 18 and 30 years of age, was drafted into the military service, if he had not already enlisted into one of the branches of the armed forces.  Many of the younger women volunteered for non-combat roles in the military, including nursing, operating transportation vehicles in non-combat areas, communications and flying – ferrying - planes to their needed location.  Everyone was encouraged to purchase war bonds/stamps, to participate in groups that made certain items of clothing for the deployed military and to contribute to the war effort in any way he/she could. 


During the war, wage and price controls were implemented which governed the wages that could be paid and the prices that seller could charge for their products.  The price controls applied to many commodities, such as grains and meat animals. 


I followed the progress of the war through both radio and newspaper reports.  Also, each week there was a movie update shown in the theaters prior to the featured film, which provided the latest war updates.  Most of these reports were designed to be promotional of the Allied forces success against the Axis forces.  I remember the reporting of the Normandy landing on June  6, 1944 which was the beginning of the end of the war in Europe.  From  that day on, the Allied forces unrelentlessly closed in on Berlin. The last of the German forces surrendered on May 8, 1945. 


President Roosevelt was re-elected for a fourth term and inaugurated in January 1944.  He did not live to see the end of the war in either Europe or the Pacific, as he died of a cerebral hemorrhage on April 12, 1944  and Vice President Harry Truman took the oath of the Presidency on that same day.   


I remember the reporting on the battle for Okinawa in the Pacific which was the  prelude to invading Japan.   The Okinawa campaign began on April 1, 1945.  The American forces faced terrific resistance, as the very determined Japanese forces knew the next battles would be on the Japanese Homeland Islands.  The battle in Okinawa lasted until July 2, 1045.  During most of 1945 the Japanese war material factories and its major cities were subjected to intense bombing by the American forces.  All of this was in preparation for a landing of US forces on the Japan Homeland, with an expected very heavy loss of American men.


On August 6, 1945 the American B-29 bomber Enola Gay dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.  It was estimated that 2/3 of Hiroshima’s 90,000 buildings were destroyed or badly damaged by the bomb which exploded 2000 feet above Hiroshima.  There were some 140,000  casualties, one-half of this total dead or missing, from this bomb. On August 9 a second American bomber dropped a plutonium bomb on Nagasaki.  This bomb exploded 1750 feet over Nagasaki with a resulting estimated casualties of 35,000 dead.  On August 14, 1945 Japan  unconditionally surrendered and on August 15, 1945.  President Truman had made the decision to drop these two bombs (the only two that the U.S. had assembled at that time) to avoid the potentially brutal campaign of invading Japan.


Our Life on the Farm During the World War II Years -


On a personal  and family level, the nineteen forties were also very significant, we acquired electricity for the farm, dad purchased his first  tractor and some tractor pulled farm equipment, I began school in 1940 – 1st grade – having just turned five years old, sister Nancy was born in December, 1940, brother Dick was born in December, 1942 and sister Jaynane was born in July 1946.  Wage and price controls  were ended shortly after the conclusion of the war.  Mom’s parents both died of natural causes.  Mom and dad purchased the “home” forty acres (that forty acres which included the buildings) from Mom’s parents. Mom, aunt Bea and uncle Lisle each inherited 40 acres of remaining 120 acres my grandparent Ware’s farm.  Mom and Dad purchased aunt Bea and uncle Lisle’s forty acres.  Mom and dad financed this purchase utilizing the Federal Land Bank.


Before the U.S. was attacked by Japan and entered the war against both Japan and Germany, we experienced several major events at home – electrification of the farm, the purchase of a tractor and tractor mounted/pulled equipment and I began school.  Getting electricity to the farm was huge.  Four wood power poles about 25’ tall and 10” diameter at the base were spaced evenly in our front pasture between the rural road in front of our  property and our farm buildings.   These poles supported the electric lines which delivered electricity to a central location within the farm buildings and the house.  A slightly smaller pole was positioned near the house which supported the power lines to the house.  The meter to register the amount of electricity used by us was mounted on this pole. 


As soon as we had electricity in the house, dad purchased a refrigerator and an electric powered milk separator.  The need for harvesting and storing ice was eliminated.   Electric lighting replaced our kerosene wicked lamps and candles.   An electric motor replaced the gasoline powered clothes washer and wringer.  Gradually, hand powered and gasoline powered equipment was replaced with electric powered equipment.  Initially, we had limited access to electricity in the house as the house needed to have electrical wiring installed.


Dad  purchased an International Harvester (Farmall) Model H tractor and a tractor pulled plow, disk and harrow (also called a “drag”) to replace these horse powered farming tasks.  He also purchased a row crop cultivator which was mounted on the tractor.  This changed significantly the amount of manual labor required in the planting and tilling of crops.  Dad no longer had to walk behind the horse  pulled plow, which was a challenging task as the horse typically moved faster than  man walks, meaning that dad had to almost jog to keep up with the horse and the plow.  The same applied to the harrowing/dragging.  Moreover, it was  easier to sit on the tractor to do the disking and the cultivating than to sit on the disk or the cultivator behind the horses to do these tasks.  Finally,  with the tractor when the day’s work was done,  there was no more work putting the horses into the barn, removing the harnesses, feeding and otherwise caring  for the horses, so they would be ready for the next day.  The Model H tractor was designed to pull a two bottom plow, a disc about 12’ wide and a harrow about 16’ wide.   It was the workhorse farming model for International Harvester at that time.  A bit later they marketed a Model M with was very similar as the Model H but had sufficient power to pull a three bottom plow and corresponding larger other pieces of farming equipment.  Dad continued using horses for planting the corn and soybeans, seeding the oats and hay, picking corn by hand and various other chores for several more years. 


I attended our nearby school a few weeks in the spring of 1940 to see if I would be prepared to begin school that September.  I was, although I don’t remember my parents prepping me for school as they each had a full plate with the farm tasks and caring for my siblings..  I entered first grade that fall and walked the approximate ¼ mile to our one-room school.  The building which was  single story measuring about 35’ by 50’ had a small  8’ by 12’ ante room at the lone entry for storage of boots, coats and supplies. There were four casement windows on each side of the building which provided plenty of light although the building did have electricity.  I don’t remember there being storm windows for use in the winter to provide better heat containment nor screens to enable opening the windows for fresh air when the weather was nice.   A blackboard stretched the width of the front wall.  Above the blackboard were the letters of the alphabet in script form, which served as models for our penmanship classes.  The building was heated with a coal burning stove located in the mid-front center of the classroom.  The teacher would come to  the building early in the winter time to build the fire and begin heating the room.  The school was named Hurricane #5. 


There were about sixteen students in the eight  grades. Every student walked to school with the longest distance for anyone being about 2 miles.  There were two girls and me in my class.  One teacher, Ms. Simcox, taught all of the students – all eight grades!   Books, which were well worn and limited in number, were at a premium.  Ms. Simcox would assign one grade several tasks, then move to the next grade to do the same and so on throughout the day.  She taught all of the subjects which were required for grades 1 through 8.  While she was instructing one class, the other classes would be team teaching/ learning/practicing their studies.  The individual learning involved many drills, use of flash cards for math and spelling and considerable cooperation among those in each grade.  The teaching task must have been gruesome for her and other teachers who had several/multiple classes to teach concurrently.  Some of the better upper class students would teach a portion of the younger student classes. I was tasked with this a considerable amount of the time.  Mrs. Nelson replaced Ms. Simcox beginning with  my fourth grade.  Throughout my seven years in this school, I only had the two same class-mates.  There was a morning and afternoon recess and a lunch period.  Each student carried his/her own lunch.  The school yard, which was about an acre in size, included swings, teeter-totters and lawns for frolicking when the weather cooperated.   The school work was easy for me and I typically excelled.  We had no home work.  During these years, I was also tasked with watching (baby-sitting) my siblings if my parents needed to leave the house for a few hours.  I was given considerable responsibility and opportunity to grow as a youngster.


The highlight of these contemporary memories was the driving trip to Connecticut (CT) in 1941 with my grandparents Ware.  I don’t remember anything about the drive except we were in the car a long time – this was before Interstate Highways and autos that could cruise 60 or more mph.  We must have stayed in a couple of motels during each leg of the trip but I don’t recall that.  I remember us visiting my favorite uncle Lisle, his wife Helen, their adopted children David and Linda.  Lisle was working for a YMCA organization in CT.  David was a couple years younger than me and Linda was a baby at the time.  We stayed with them several days and visited the local sights.  I had my first sighting of an ocean and swam/wadded in the Atlantic Ocean. My aunt and uncle were living in a relatively new, nice home in suburbs but they were longing to return to the mid-west.   One day we drove into Manhattan to visit mom and Lisle’s first cousin who was an executive with a pharmaceutical company and had an office in a “sky scraper”.  I believe he was on the 40th floor and had a wonderful view of the city.  (This cousin was a 1931 Harvard MBA who 22 years later convinced me to apply for the  Harvard MBA program!)  This road trip was a wonderful first of many driving trips for me.

Grandparents Ware And Jim, In CT 1941


In 1942 the folks bought us a Shetland pony, a mare that stood about 40” high.  I was to share her with my brothers and sisters as they reached pony riding age.  We named her Beauty.  Initially, it was my responsibility to feed and water Beauty.  I soon mastered saddling and bridling her and as she was already broken for riding and began  riding her shortly thereafter.   Brother Bob soon joined me in riding Beauty. Shortly thereafter we celebrated my 7th  birthday with my first “official birthday party”.  Attending guests included friends, Billy and Karen Tomlinson, Richard, Donald, David and Billy Wagoner and Janice, Patty and Mildred Holmquist, who were visiting from St. Paul.  We rode Beauty, played games and enjoyed home-made ice cream and cake with seven candles.


During these years I became very interested in building model airplanes, using balsa wood (a very, very soft and light weight wood) and tissue paper.  It was a national popular past-time and retail stores existed to satisfy one’s every need for different models of planes, as well as all of the additional supplies needed to participate in this wonderful hobby.  It may be the only true hobby I ever had.  I powered a few of the planes utilizing rubber bands connected to the propeller, which when twisted tightly and then released as the plane was hand launched into the air managed to pull the plane some 50 yards.  I believe that the war effort and interest in flying motivated me to this avocation.  Indeed, I told my mother that I would be a pilot some-day. (Alas, I did take private flying lessons in 1962 and soloed twice.  Shortly thereafter I decided that I wanted to attend graduate school and that private flying lessons were not financially compatible with graduate school.)


Early in these years, dad had a hired man to help with  the farm work as he began renting nearby land to add to our 160 gross  or about 125 tillable acres.  The hired man’s name was Jeff  Davis, no relation to our family.  Jeff lived with us and had no car.   He would hitch-hike to town for an evening on the weekend.  Jeff was with us about five years.  During that time, dad was renting a nearby farm consisting of about 140 acres of tillable land located about ½ mile away to our east - the Mitchum place.    I believe that Jeff worked for dad until Grandma Ware came to live with us in 1946.


At that time dad purchased a Farmall Model B tractor as well as a tractor mounted row cultivator for it.  This tractor was not powerful enough to do all that the Model H did, however, it was driver friendly, as the driver’s seat was mounted to the side of the engine centerline and made it more “user friendly” for cultivating row crops as the driver was placed directly over one of the two rows of crops being cultivated.  Hence it was easier to keep the tractor and cultivator in position to not disturb the crops as they were being cultivated.


As I grew up, indeed as all of we siblings grew up, we were assigned various responsibilities and tasks helping mom in the house and helping  dad on the farm.  From an early age, possibly five years old I would feed the chickens, harvest the eggs, bring in firewood for the kitchen stove, get the milk cows in the barn and ready them for milking.  I would take care of Beauty, our pony.  I would run errands for mom and dad.  I helped with the  washing of dishes after meals, setting the table for meals, preparing the meals and the clothes washing.   All of these tasks were year around.


In addition, when school was not in session, typically mid-May to after Labor Day  and on Saturdays during school, I would help dad with the planting, tilling and harvesting of the crops or whatever work the farm required.  I began driving the tractor when I was seven years old and before I was ten years of age, I was driving the tractor to prepare for planting the crops, caring for the crops, mowing  and preparing hay, for storage, grinding corn to feed to the cattle and hogs and a myriad of other chores.  


We took advantage of the winters to connect the draft horses and later the ponies to the sleigh and go visiting our neighbors by sleigh if there was sufficient snow on the roads.  The fields at that time were fenced into parcels of some 10 to 40 acres, thereby preventing much cross country sleighing.  We kids had sleds and frequently eagerly awaited the first sledding-friendly snow fall.  We normally had such a snow fall by Thanksgiving.


In the spring and even into the early summer, we occasionally had very heavy rains which caused the creeks on our farm to overflow.  We had two creeks which joined not far from our farm buildings and in total the length of the creeks exceeded a mile.  We had pastures along about 1/2 of this distance and crop land along the balance.  Occasionally, the waters would be as much as 100 yards wide during the height of the flooding.  Any crop land that was planted and the plants not firmly rooted was very susceptible to being washed out.  If it was early enough in the season that replanting, even with a different crop was possible, some product could be salvaged – otherwise it was lost.


These floods of our creeks were compounded by all of the local creeks which drained into the four-mile away Iowa River.  It too flooded, frequently over the roads and bridges crossing the river and resulted in thousands of acres of land under water.   Typically, the land near the river was woodland or pastures, as the frequent floods made it uneconomic to farm this land.   However, it was wonderful pasture land as the grass was lush and the proximity to water provided ideal areas to raise and/or feed cattle.  One of the recreational activities during these floods was to wade in the muddy, muddy flooding water looking for fish, typically large Carp which would be in the relatively shallow water looking for food .  One could spear the Carp with a pitchfork if one was adroit enough.   However, the Carp were not good eating.


In the summer, the creeks ran with a reasonable amount of water, as they were spring fed.  Playing in the shallow creek was a favorite past-time on hot days.  There were occasionally small fish in the creeks, along with muskrat, mink, opossum and water-foul.   However, in the Iowa River, the water was sufficient to sustain larger fish, e.g.,  Bass, Bluegill, Catfish and Bullheads.  It was fun to spend a Sunday fishing in the river, and if conditions were accommodative, to swim in the river.  One of the things we had to check ourselves for after river swimming was leeches, which would attach themselves to us and need to be forcibly removed.   In the winters, particularly after the farm was electrified and we no-longer stored ice in the ice house, we would harvest ice from the creeks or the livestock water tank to use for freezing ice-cream. 


During these early years dad would trap muskrats, a large land based “rat” like animal, possibly 15” long not counting a rat-like tail which was frequently 15” long.  There were numerous muskrats who created a den, somewhat like beavers do, but in the soil bank of the creek.   The entrance of the den was below the water line preventing certain predators from disturbing the young muskrats.   We would place leg traps, which were attached to a chain staked to the earth, at the entrance of the den and capture the muskrats as they entered/exited the den.  We would check the traps morning and evening, before and after school.  Typically, we had two dozen traps set.   In a good year we would get as many as one-hundred muskrats.  The muskrat pelts were worth several dollars each at that time.   Also, the muskrats caused the creek banks to become unstable and collapse, causing more soil erosion and the loss of farm acreage. 


Dad attempted to trap mink, also in the wild and near the creeks.   The mink were exceptionally wary and it was difficult to capture them.   We attempted to capture them with the same traps as the muskrats, however the mink had above ground entrances to their dens making it even more difficult to trap them.  The mink pelts were selling for about $25 each at that time.  As we   got older, my brother, Bob and I would set and check the traps.


In the late spring, as soon as the weather warmed enough, we farm boys would shed our shirts to get a sun tan – actually a sunburn, which over the weeks became a sun tan.  We did not know about the hazards, particularly melanoma, from too much sun.  (Fortunately, even though I probably was well tanned for at least seven summers, I have been remarkably free of skin cancer.  I had a modest basil cell cancer removed at about age 75 and a few “spots” frozen during my annual dermatology visits since then.  I have been very lucky in this regard.)


The Post WWII Years on the Farm -


The United State economy was very strong after the war as there were many veterans returning from the military service, who wanted to (1) get a college education and benefit from the GI Bill, a government program  which paid for veterans college and trade school costs, (2) get a job and begin a career and (3) get married and start a family.  The United States population was relieved with the ending of the war and the war restrictions which were in place for the four years of war.  These persons wanted to get on with their lives to start businesses, start families, travel and enjoy our country and it’s freedoms again. Additionally, wage  and price controls that were in effect during the war were terminated.  All of this benefitted the economy as our citizens purchased houses and home furnishings, automobiles and other large ticket items, disposable goods and personal needs.


Additionally, many of the technological and product developments for the war effort were modified for the commercial market, e.g., Jeeps, airplanes, all kinds of communications equipment, war surplus merchandise and more.  Many industries, products and technologies benefitted from the discoveries and other improvements made in supporting the war effort.  The strong pent-up demand as a result of the war effort propelled many companies growth.


The wage and price controls were rescinded shortly after the war ended. (Unfortunately, they were rescinded two weeks after dad sold a load of fattened calves.  Had we waited another two weeks, he would have cleared another $5000, which was a lot of money in 1945!)  Dad purchased a milking machine to help with the milking chores and rebuilt the milking parlor complete with concrete floor, a room for the milk-cream separator and the central control/operating equipment for the milking machine.  Throughout the following several years dad continued upgrading and adding to his farming equipment, adding a Farmall Model M and a mounted two-row corn picker for the M.  He also purchased a combine for oat thrashing which resulted in the oats being harvested in one operation instead of the previous five operations (cutting, binding, shocking, hauling to the threshing machine and thrashing the oats from the straw).  Additionally, he added a three bottom plow, a larger disc and harrow.   He also added power hand and table mounted tools for accomplishing the necessary farm maintenance jobs. 


 In 1945, we took our first family vacation.  I don’t recall my parents taking any vacation prior to this.  Bob and I, traveled with our parents on a driving trip  through South Dakota, visiting Mount Rushmore, Wild Bill Cody’s final resting site, a number of other tourist places in South Dakota, Wyoming and Colorado.  We also visited my mom’s brother, uncle Lisle and his family in Boulder, CO.  Aunt Bea stayed home on the farm with our younger siblings.  I remember going to a movie one night during the trip.  My dad was wearing a pair of trousers which looked like military issue and the theater sales clerk asked if he was in the military, in which case he could attend free.  Dad acknowledged that he was not in the military.  The memories of this driving trip conditioned me for my many driving trips later in my life, particularly to visit the western United States.  I never tire of visiting/observing the beautiful vistas, the towering mountain’s snow covered peaks, the natural rock formations, the animals and the native inhabitants.   I have never lived in these locations or taken sufficient time to hike and camp some of these wonderous places. 


When I was about ten years old, Bob and I joined boys 4-H, an agricultural organization for young men and women who wanted to learn to raise and care for cattle, hogs, sheep and even poultry.   We had a local 4-H club which included about 12 members ranging from our age to seniors in high school.  The primary project for most of our clubs members and all of our family members was raising beef calves, called “Baby Beefs”.   We would  purchase a beef calf weighing some 250 pounds at the beginning of the year – late December or early  January.  We were  responsible for caring and feeding the calf until it was time to show the calves at the county fair, in September.  We were responsible for keeping track of the amount and cost of feed the calf was fed through the nine months.  We were responsible for teaching the calf to lead via a rope and halter.  We were responsible for showing the calf at the county fair in competition with other 4-H members for the best Baby Beefs.  Our siblings followed in our footsteps, joining 4-H when they were old enough.  All of us saved money for college/nursing school as our parents weren’t in a financial position to pay our way through college even though they dearly wanted each of us to get whatever education we wanted.


The judging of the livestock was a serious portion of the 4-H responsibility; however, we were primarily interested in the economics of the livestock feeding.  A few of the 4-H members purchased expensive purebred animals hoping to end up with a grand or other major prize.  We just wanted to make the best return on our work and dad’s feed.  Dad purchased the calves for we children and provided the feed, all in exchange for each of us helping on the farm.  Each of us  was responsible for caring for our “project”.   We then took the Baby Beef(s) to the county  fair where the calves were judged  to determine the best calves.  Upon completion of the judging of our livestock entries, the livestock was sold in an auction at the close of the fair.  Frequently, the livestock was purchased by a local butcher shop or other meat market which paid a modest premium for the animal.   Other animals were purchased by the meat packers.  The proceeds from the sale of the beef calf, which at that time weighed nearly 1000 pounds, were ours to keep in our college fund.  It was a wonderful way to save money for college.


One of the events at the annual county fair,  for the 4-H members was a greased pig contest for twelve year old boys in which I participated.  The event involves coating a dozen pigs, weighing about forty pounds each, with axle grease –  almost a paste of grease.   The pigs were loose in an enclosed lot about 100 feet by 50 feet.   Twenty four boys were selected by a lottery and stationed inside the pen fence.   On a signal the boys scrambled to capture a greased pig.  Fortunately, I was one of the successful boys.  Each of us who had captured a greased pig and carried it to the finish station, had a pig to take home and add to the herd of pigs already there.  In the following year, I participated in a calf scramble, which much like the  pig scramble, except the calf was not greased.  Again 24 boys selected by lottery pursued twelve calves.  The calves weighed about 100 pounds and we were given a short piece of rope to put around the calf’s neck to “capture it”.  Again, I was successful and that calf was my 4-H project for the following year.


The annual county fair was a major social event.  In addition to the 4-H livestock competition and sale, individuals entered projects/products that they had designed and made or that they had grown in a garden, e.g., a 300 pound pumpkin or some such.  Many retailers of farm equipment and supplies and of unique new products would display and present these items to the fair attendees.   Additionally, there was the proverbial “mid-way” with rides, games and other attractions.  Each night the grandstand would be filled for the evening show/attraction, such as auto racing, horse racing or a famed singer/performer.  Typically, there would be a headline entertainer for the entire fair as a supplemental draw.  The greased pig and calf scramble were conducted as part of the entertainment. After all of the counties had their fairs, there would be a State Fair, although sometime it was held in August before some of the county fairs.


We bred Beauty to a quarter horse stud owned by a neighbor.  The result was a sorrel colt some eleven months later which was my horse.  I named him Rusty.   Rusty was bout 48” high when he was fully grown.  I worked with and trained Rusty as he grew.   When he was two years old I had him reasonably broken for riding.  My brothers and sisters then were able to ride Beauty, as I had moved on to Rusty.


Rusty was a head strong pony that loved to run and frequently would head for the barn at a full gallop, anxious to rid himself of me.  One Sunday morning, I was riding Rusty in the back pasture before church.  He decided that he had had enough and headed for the barn, but on the way to the barn there was an old Willow tree that had blown over in a manner which left about five feet of clearance under the tree.  Rusty wanted me off his back, so he ran under the tree resulting in not only knocking me out of the saddle but leaving me unconscious.   When I recovered consciousness, I was bleeding from my nose but otherwise seemingly unhurt.  I walked the two hundred yards to the house where the folks were talking with my visiting aunt Bea prior to dressing for church.  They of course were concerned about any injuries that I might have resulting from the episode.  Fortunately, I had none.  I returned to the barn to unsaddle Rusty and stable him.  We then readied ourselves for church.  I continued to ride Rusty and never let him unseat me again.  My brothers and sisters rode Beauty and other ponies but none of them  rode Rusty because of his being so head strong.  Rusty died on our farm after I had graduated from college.


One summer day, when I was about ten years old, my folks left the farm to run an errand taking our siblings with them except for me.  I decided that we needed to clean out some small trees and other brush in the edge of one of our fields.  I took a double bladed axe and some other tools on one of the  tractors to the location which needed clearing.  I made good progress but as the day was ending, I hoisted the axe onto my shoulder and headed back to the tractor, which was about fifty yards away.  As I was walking, I inadvertently released the axe handle, thereby allowing the axe to fall behind me.  The sharp blade clipped my ankle and apparently cut a fairly significant blood vessel.  I managed to stop the bleeding and returned to the house.  I did not tell my parents and did not bandage the cut.  During the night the cut opened up and bled somewhat extensively, severely soiling the sheets on my bed.  The next day my mother stripped the bed for laundry and saw the blood.  She was horrified, concerned and upset with me for not telling her about my accident.  Fortunately, the cut healed well, no stitches and no  complications resulted from this mishap.  Such was life on the farm.  Injuries, even somewhat serious injuries were self-treated and  seldom  did we go to the doctor.  I only remember one injury of mine which involved a doctor’s care – that was a cracked wrist from a fall at school.


In 1946, we “bored” a water well about 33 feet deep (using a truck mounted and powered auger about three feet in diameter) about 100 yards south of our house in a pasture as the well which had generously supplied the farm very good water many, many years was  slowly declining in its ability to  keep up with our water demand.  However, the capability of this new well was not satisfactory.  Hence, we drilled a second new well just twenty feet west of our house to some 130 feet in depth using a commercial well drilling contractor.  This well bore  was fitted with a 6” carbon steel pipe and used a submersible pump located in the water aquifer. The water was pumped to a pressure tank located in a well pit at the well head.  This well provided ample wonderfully tasting water for the entire farm’s needs.


 Beginning in September 1947, our local Hurricane #5 school was closed.  Bob, Bev, Nancy and I began attending LaMoille Consolidated School.   Most of we Hurricane #5 students were bussed to LaMoille Consolidated about five miles south from our home (a few of the students choice to attend the Clemons or the Albion Consolidated Schools).  The total attendance at the LaMoille School for grades 1 through 12 was probably about 125 students.  The facility consisted of a fairly large three story building with individual rooms for each  primary school grade and a large assembly hall for some 40 to 50 students in grades 9 through 12.  In addition, there were a number of smaller class rooms located around the assembly hall for individual classes, a kitchen and eating area for “hot lunches” which also doubled for the Home Economics classes, a wood working shop for manual arts, a small gymnasium with very limited seating on one side of the gym and a stage located on the other side.  Chairs for observers of student performances would be placed on the gym floor when needed.  There was a small baseball diamond located on the property along with a modest amount of play ground with a modest amount of  play-ground equipment. 


There was a two story “teacher’s house” which had four small apartments contiguous with the school grounds.  The school’s location was about five miles from Marshalltown, however there were few rental opportunities in Marshalltown or the surrounding areas for the teachers  who frequently only taught a few years at LaMoille before moving to another assignment.  Consequently, providing housing for some of the teachers, particularly married teachers was necessary to attract faculty members.


Interestingly, my future wife’s parents who were both school teachers/principles and superintendent in small consolidated Iowa schools interviewed for these positions at the LaMoille School in the late 1940’s when some of my siblings and I attended the school.  Her parents were both offered positions at the LaMoille School .  However, after visiting the school and the housing provided by the school, the Swansons, whose daughter was the same age and in the same class as me, decided that the housing offered by LaMoille wasn’t acceptable.  They declined the job or Karen and I might have met at the LaMoille School.


We typically had about 8 students in my class and were offered only the basic studies.  Again, school work was easy for me and the classwork was not particularly challenging.  I excelled in my studies, seldom had home-work, had virtually no studies outside of book work with the exception of the one-half year I took “manual training/shop” which was taught in a poorly equipped shop.  We had no science labs at LaMoille.  The teachers were all dedicated and did their best to educate us, however, the facilities were very limited.


I played both basketball and baseball when attending LaMoille, although I was not very good at either.   Our basketball and baseball competition were local comparably sized schools.  We typically played basketball games on Tuesday and Friday evenings competing with about a dozen other neighboring schools with attendance about the same or modestly larger the  than our school.  I believe that there were four categories of teams in the state, all based on the total attendance of the high school.  The games were played in months of November through February with tournaments in March.  The winners of the local tournaments moved  on to sectional, then regional and finally the state tournaments.   We would ride a school bus to the away games and a few of the team member’s parents would drive to the away games.  Attendance at our home basketball games was quite limited by the size of the gymnasium.


In basketball, I played guard most of the time and found myself in the starting line-up somewhat in my sophomore and my junior year.  I did not and do not have a decent outside shot, nor was I very good in handling the ball but I also didn’t have much competition from other students.  I don’t believe we had a winning season in any of my years on the team.  I made the baseball team all three years of high school that I was at LaMoille.  I enjoyed  baseball and played catcher most of the time.  I was a bit better at baseball than I was at basketball, but alas our teams were never very competitive.   During my freshman year, I fell on a set of concrete steps at school and cracked my left wrist.  It was in a cast for four weeks.  Fortunately, that is the only bone I have broken/cracked.  It kept me from playing basketball for those four weeks and did not help my basketball prowess. 


I was a cheerleader during my junior year for the  girls basketball games.  Other students led the cheers for the boys basketball games.  Since we had very limited attendance at our sporting events there weren’t many students or parents to join in the cheering.   At that time girls basketball was played basically on one-half of the court, six players to a team, three forwards and three guards.  The offensive team would in-bound the ball from the center of the court and the three offensive players would try to score over the three defensive players.  If they scored the ball went back to center court and the other offensive team would then try to score.  Iowa and Texas, I believe were the only two states that played girls basketball that way at that time.  The  juniors and seniors at LaMoille,  had a class play in which members of the class would compete for various roles and our parents and other interested community persons would attend the performances. 


In 1948 our family acquired our first television set which had a circular 15” screen and had a roof mounted antenna to pick up the signal.  We could access three television stations, NBC and ABC ( Des Moines stations) and CBS (a Cedar Rapids station).  The programing was limited – the stations signed off at midnight and resumed at 6 AM the following morning.  The black and white picture was not very good, frequently disrupted by lots of fuzziness on the screen and adversely affected by inclement weather.  Soon afterwards we modified the antenna to have remotely controlled directional positioning antenna which improved the signal reception and thusly the picture.  Gradually, additional stations were available and programming progressively improved.  Television then became our primary source of news, weather and crop/livestock prices.


In winter of 1949, when I was thirteen plus years old a neighboring farmer,  Mike McClure, needed surgery.  He hired me to live with he  and his wife, to do the morning and evening chores and any other necessary farm work.  At that time, he was milking about eight cows - by hand - feeding about 50 feeder cattle and about 100 hogs.  In addition, he had a goodly number of hens, laying eggs.  The morning chores took about 90 minutes and the evening chores about two hours. 


I lived with them, sleeping on a single bed in very small room, eating breakfast and dinner with them after doing the chores, including separating the milk into the cream and skimmed milk and rode the same school bus as previously to and from their farm to school.  When all of my work was done on the weekends,  I walked about a mile to my parent’s home and caught up with our family developments.  In all he hired me for about two months.   I don’t remember what I was paid, but I do remember, that I felt that I earned every bit of it.  The money went into my college savings account.  The following summer, he hired me full time to help him with his field work, as Bob and Beverly were able to pick up the load helping dad in the field.  Our hired man, Jeff was no longer working for us.


In June 1950 the U.S. was drawn into the Korean War as a member of the Allied Forces.  North Korea invaded South Korea on June 6th. By moving south of the 38th Parallel which was the then common border between North and South Korea.  The Allied Forces of which the U.S. was the major fighting element joined South Korea in first stopping the North Koreans from overrunning the entire Korean Peninsula and then driving the North Koreans deep back into North Korea.  U.S. Army General MacArthur who was the Allied Forces Commanding Officer wanted to drive the North Koreans across their border with China. At that point China entered the war on the side of  North Korean and General MacArthur was relieved of command  by President Truman.  The bloody battles continued until a stalemate was reached and a peace negotiated in July 1953 whereby both Koreas agreed to observe the 38th Parallel as the common border of both countries. The U.S. military losses were 37,000 killed and 137,000 wounded, including Karen’s brother Ed.  The South Korean’s lost 217,000 killed and 429,000 wounded.  The North Korean and China losses were over one million killed and over 2.2 million wounded! 


In the autumn of 1951, our Hartland Church building was in desperate need of repair and upgrading.  The original building was built in 1858 on stone pillars which were deteriorating and there was need to expand the capacity of the church for various activities.  It was decided to construct a full basement under the existing building and to install a central heating furnace, a kitchen for food preparation to accommodate modestly sized meetings and a restroom.  The building was lifted in place from the pillars on which it rested and men who were members of the church dug the basement with a “skipjack” basically a large bucket pulled by a horse which excavated about a cubic yard of dirt at a time.  An operator walked behind the bucket and insured that the bucket excavated the correct soil.  It was a time consuming process, but eventually the necessary soil was removed, foundations poured, walls constructed of concrete block.  The project was finished  in about 3 months, and included the completed basement as well as a make-over of the almost 100 year old building- new pews, windows, walls, floors and some carpeting.  It was a very nice improvement.  Note:  There was no building permitting at that time.  No inspections as to complying with health and safety standards, etc.!


Post WW II Years National Economy


During the post WWII years, the national economy was strong as it benefited from the pent up demand resulting from the war, the strong employment growth, the need for new housing and the commercialization of technologies developed in the war effort.   The farm economy also benefited from the strong national economy.  Demand for agricultural products was good, prices were strong and costs were generally under control.   Our country substantially helped rebuild Europe which was substantially destroyed by the prosecution of the war to defeat Germany. I don’t believe that we helped Japan that much in its reconstruction.


There continued to be tensions  between the free democratic countries and the communist countries, mainly the USSR.  A cold war was developing between the USSR and the European and U.S. countries.  These tensions were initially, primarily over the divided Germany.  Germany was divided into four sectors upon the finalization of Germany’s surrender in 1945. The British, French, Russian and U.S. each had responsibility for a sector.  The Russians had the East Germany sector and the other three, western sectors were controlled by the Brits, French and U.S. 


Berlin, the German capital city, was located deep into the Soviet sector, but it was also divided into four sections.  In June 1948, the Russians – who wanted all of Berlin – blocked all highways, railways and canals from the western sectors into the western controlled portion of Berlin.  The Russians believed that this would make it impossible for the people who lived there to get food and other supplies and this would drive Britain, France and the U.S. out of the western sectors of Berlin.  Instead of leaving, the U.S., Brits and French agreed to supply the western sector of Berlin by air.  Thusly, was born the “Berlin Airlift” which lasted for over a year and delivered some 2.3 tons of cargo into West Berlin.  Russia finally relented and the ground resupply was resumed.


As tensions in Europe increased, on the opposite side of the globe – as mentioned earlier -during the summer of 1950 the friction between  North Korea and a South Korea exploded when the North Korean’s with military support from China and the Soviet Union invaded South Korea.  As a result of the Korean War, the military draft was continued and many troops, especially those with certain specialties were recalled to duty.  This second disruption of these men’s lives was particularly galling to them, particularly to fight in  this deadly foreign war.  However, as the Korean War wound down, the conflict in Viet Nam was being kindled and the U.S.  was again drug into a war protecting non-communist countries from being taken over or being invaded by communist countries.  These proxy wars basically between the U.S. and U.S.S.R. would continue for years.



Finishing High School and Looking Toward College -


During my junior year in high school beginning in the fall of 1950, I began zeroing in on what I thought I wanted as a career.  I never really considered farming, although I enjoyed the work, appreciated the challenges and knew I would be successful at it for a career.   One of my reasons was that with five younger siblings, I felt that one or more of them might be attracted to farming as a career and might even want to take over the family farm when that time came.  I also knew that math and what little science I knew came easy for me and felt that these strengths would serve me well in an engineering career.  At that time, I knew little about management and even less about specifically what an engineer would do.  Regardless, I decided that engineering was probably my calling.


Having decided that I would go to college and study engineering, I decided that LaMoille didn’t really serve me very well in preparing for college and for engineering.  I discussed with my parents the possibility of transferring to Marshalltown Senior High School for my senior year of high school.   They supported my decision (Since the school district within which we lived was an independent district, its students could attend any Iowa public school without any complications.)  Dad said that he would buy me a car and that I could live at home and commute to Marshalltown High School.   I turned 16 years old that summer, earned my driver’s license and received a 1946 Plymouth sedan for my birthday.


I enrolled in Marshalltown High School (MHS) for my senior year of high school in the fall of 1951 and signed up for  physics and mechanical drawing (drafting) classes which I thought would help prepare me for college and a major in engineering.  I also took required classes in government and English/composition.  To help cover the costs of commuting and also to supplement my college savings funds, I worked two jobs during my senior year.  I did not participate in the various high school activities and was not yet dating.  I worked for the cafeteria director, depositing the daily cash receipts at a local bank, which required me to drive about two miles each way at the end of the school day.  Since I was driving to school daily, I had an inside track for this job which earned me free lunches for the year.  Secondly, I  worked in the meat market of the Corn Belt, a Marshalltown grocery store at which our family shopped weekly.   Each day after school, I would work three hours and on Saturdays eight hours in the meat market.


These jobs and the forty minutes a day commuting time left little time for homework. However, I  had an hour study hall each morning at 8 AM, which usually sufficed.  (In study hall, I sat across the table from an older sister of Jean Seberg.  Jean’s father owned and ran a pharmacy in Marshalltown that we frequented. Alfred Hitchcock picked, Jean Seberg, who had little to no acting experience to play St. Joan in his 1957 production, Joan of Arc.)  I had very little social life and engaged  in virtually no dating in high school.  Our contacts in the community and LaMoille High School were fairly limited and transferring to MHS for my senior year placed me in a totally new environment of some 145 class-mates and 500 total high school students.  However, living ten miles from town and working after school plus Saturdays left little time and occasions for dating and socializing with my class-mates.


I began considering where I would attend college.  My uncle Lisle who was Director of Development, at  Colorado University (CU), Boulder, CO lobbied me hard to live with them some few blocks from the CU campus and attend CU.   The prior year, he had arranged a campus tour and an interview with the Dean of Engineering at CU when our family traveled to CO to visit them and to spend part of our Christmas break in Boulder.   The offer was  tempting,  however, I  decided  to  attend Iowa State College (ISC), now Iowa State University (ISU), which was only 40 miles from home, less expensive than CU and had a well ranked Engineering College.  (Interestingly, my parents nor uncle Lisle, aunt Bea or cousin Willard Ware, the latter three all William Penn College graduates never suggested that I consider WPC for at least my first year of college.)


I did well in my studies at MHS, made good grades to add to the grades that I earned at LaMoille and graduated 16th out of 146 MHS graduates in 1952.   I would have been in the top ten percent had it not been for a grade of B in my physics class, not because of my work and course grades, but because the teacher who was the Dean of Marshalltown Community College (MCC), which was co-located at MHS, wanted me to attend MCC the following year prior to enrolling at ISC.  When he learned that I was enrolling in ISC he found a reason to lower my grade from an A to a B and that made the difference! (About a year later I learned that one of the co-valedictorians of our MHS class also enrolled in engineering at ISC, was not doing as well as I was grade-wise in our first year at ISC.   While we were not competing at ISC, I was surprised he was having so much difficulty with college work.     He subsequently took five full years to complete his college engineering course while I finished my college work in four years.   He however was an outstanding air force pilot flying with the Thunderbirds for several years.)


Our family was not one which celebrated milestones as many families do, particularly today.  My commencement from MHS was recognized by my parents gift to me of a Hamilton wrist watch, which I still have, although it no longer is operational.  I believe that we had a family dinner at a Marshalltown restaurant, attended by my family and Aunt Bea.  I did receive congratulatory cards from relatives, but it was not a big occasion in anyone’s mind, including mine.  Our commencement was not particularly memorable with my parents attending.  There were no awarding of scholarships or to the best of my recollection even a recognition of many honors.


James H Davis  May 1952 High School Commencement Picture


As I finished high school and prepared for college in the fall of 1952, I needed to earn additional money to finance my college education.  I did not want my parents to pay for my college, as I had five younger siblings who hopefully would also go to college and they would need more financial help than I.  Consequently, I applied for a manufacturing job at the largest Marshalltown factory – Fisher Governor Company.  I was accepted, even though they knew I would only be working through August.  I was trained to operate a contour lathe which made stainless steel valve parts.  The lathe was relatively high speed and operated using a template as a guide for the cutting tool movements to make the proper diameters and other finished surfaces.  Most of these parts were components of control valves used in the various chemical, petroleum and related processing plants and transmission systems.


I worked the graveyard shift, 11 PM to 7 AM.  I would be able to help my father on the farm during the day and get sufficient sleep to sustain myself.  The plant had maybe a 1000 employees with about 100 on the graveyard shift.  It was a union shop, however, as a summer employee, I was not required to join the union.  Never-the-less, it was an eye-opening experience for me as there clearly were “production rates” which were established by the permanent employees, many of them long time employees.  I was not very observant of these rates and usually produced more than the regular employees wanted me to.  I was advised several times by the other operators that I shouldn’t make so many products on my shift.  I was a “rate buster” which does not ingratiate one in a work environment.  Regardless, I did my job to the best of  my ability and spent no time with the other employees as there was work waiting for me at home helping dad.


I don’t remember how much I was paid for that summer’s work, but I was able to bank all of those earnings which added to my proceeds from the sale of my 4H baby beefs and my  other jobs all of which provided me a good start on financing my college work.  Earlier that summer, I pre-registered for enrollment at ISC, in the Engineering College, but not designating a specific major within engineering.  I received the schedule for first year orientation, for registration, for a physical exam and other related materials. 


I learned that the older son (John) of my last teacher (Mrs. Nelson) at Hurricane #5 was also planning to attend ISC.  John was a year older than me and had attended MCC for his first year of college.  Our parents thought that it might be good for us to room together at ISC and neither of us were particularly interested in living in one of the ISC dormitories.  We agreed to rent an off campus room  together.  The two of us traveled to ISC located in Ames, IA some forty miles from our home,  with our mothers to locate a satisfactory room to rent.   We had a list of rooms available to rent and found a satisfactory room in a rooming house just two blocks from the west gate of the ISC campus.   We signed a one-year contract and paid a deposit.


Our room was the only second floor room, which was about 8’ by 10’ with a bunk bed and two desks, two small dressers and a moderate sized closet.  It was accessed by way of a separate entrance to the house, for which we and the owners had the only keys.  An interior set of stairs also enabled us to get to the room.  The bathroom was just outside our room at the top of the stairs.  There were laundry facilities in the basement which we were permitted to use, thereby reducing the amount of clothing that we needed to send home for laundering.  There were two other ISC first-year students renting a room in the basement of the house.  The rooming house was owned by a kind, older couple who took in roomers to help meet their expenses.


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