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

Part III



My College Years


 Iowa State College -


Iowa State College (ISC) was founded in 1858, became a Land Grant College in 1862  and admitted its first students in 1869.  It was located on a beautiful site, in an open/undeveloped area  about three miles west of the city of Ames.  The Skunk river – really a relatively small stream most of the time - flows between the City and the Campus.  The Lincoln Highway was built along the south side of the ISC campus and the City of Ames.


The original campus was  generously sized with the college’s buildings located around the periphery of a large central lawn with  stately trees.  A Campanile was constructed in the center of the lawn with the Student Union 50 yards to its south, the engineering building was sited on the lawn’s west side and the agricultural science building on its east side- both facing the open lawn, all anchoring the central open campus.  Some 170 years later the campus has seen significant development.  To the credit of the university’s management the central open campus has been preserved, however buildings around the periphery of the central campus have filled in much of the open space around  the central campus.   The campus has expanded to the east and to the south east as well as locating satellite buildings beyond the campus.  It also has extensive Agricultural facilities surrounding the city.


The Skunk River flood plain is about ¼ mile wide on the west of the river covering the previous open space to the ISC Campus.  In the 1950s there were five four (?)-story women’s dormitories located on the southeastern  edge of the campus overlooking this flood plain.   Over the years the Skunk River has experienced significant spring flooding which covered the entire flood plain for several days.  Regardless, the ISC (now Iowa State University (ISU)) campus has been expanded east and south into this flood plain. A new football stadium, basketball arena and a Performing Arts Auditorium, with associated parking, have been constructed in this area.  Also, the new Veterinarian Medicine College has moved to a new location,  connected to the south eastern corner of the flood plain college expansion area.  However, this College is located on higher ground protecting it from these floods.


The “Lincoln Highway”, also known as Highway 30 is a two-lane highway traversing the United States which was built prior to the 1950s.  It has been replaced as a major highway by the new Highway 30, a four lane highway paralleling the old highway and located about a ½  mile south of the old Highway 30.  Additionally, a new Interstate Highway, I-35, has been built just east of Ames which traverses the U.S. from Duluth, MN to the United States/Mexico border at the Rio Grande River. 


Iowa State University and the City of Ames, aided by the expanded transportation systems, has attracted considerable new business to the area.   This expansion includes animal health businesses and Department of Agriculture facilities, as well as commercial start-up companies.  A commercial development area immediately south of Highway 30 and the  Veterinarian Medicine College  was established to be an incubator for new businesses, particularly ones commercializing  technologies fostered by/benefiting from ISU staff expertise.  Many of these companies have close relationships with specific ISU departments and/or staff.  All of this activity has added to the significant commercial, research and light manufacturing company growth of Ames.


From the time of ISC’s founding a retail shopping area, dubbed Campus Town, began forming and has continued to expand to support, primarily ISC/ISU’s growth.  Nearly everything a student might need or want, can be purchased in Campus Town, including eating at restaurants offering nearly every cuisine in the world.  One of the real treats for me when I attended ISC, was eating at a very small restaurant named “The Spud Nut”.  This eatery  was located across Highway 30 from the ISC Student Union and specialized in Iowa style pork tenderloins, i.e., a heavily bread crusted, deep-fat fried tenderloin in a typical hamburger bun, and loads of French fries.  While not the healthiest, it was a delicious meal and reasonably priced.  There was one reasonably sized theater which featured newly released films located in Campus Town, as well as drug, clothing, variety and grocery stores, barber and beauty shops, cobblers, etc. all within easy walking distance of the dorms and the Greek Houses, and the many apartments/rooming houses.


Also adding significantly to the growth  of Ames, is the almost explosive expansion of ISU itself.  The student population when I was at ISC  was about 10,000 total students, including all graduate schools. In 2018  the total student population of ISU was 37,000.  The accompanying growth of ISU in staff and  in support businesses aided substantially to the expansion of Ames.


The ISC’s colleges in the 1950s were Engineering, Veterinary Medicine, Home Economics, Science and Agriculture.  Today it has those five plus, Business, Design, Education and Liberal Arts.


My College Years -


John Nelson and I moved into our rented room shortly after Labor Day, September 1952.  My folks helped me move in as my parents and I did not want me to have my car on campus.  There was no place to park near our room and there was no place on campus for student’s cars.  John’s parents helped him move in.  We needed to find places for eating, as we had no kitchen privileges nor ability to cook in our room.  We decided to eat either on campus, when convenient or at local restaurants.


Freshmen and transfer students orientation, registration, military science sign-up, purchasing of books and supplies, a physical exam and a choice of required athletic pursuits were all parts of the initial bursts of activity.   We were not able to do any of this prior to reporting to campus.   Iowa State College was on a quarter system, as opposed to a semester system, i.e., an academic year consisted of three quarters, roughly, mid- September to Christmas break, early January to mid-March and mid-March through May.   Students could take an additional quarter of studies during the summer, however many of the classes were not offered in the summer.   Among all of the changes since then, Iowa State University changed to the semester system many years ago.  The tuition for in-state students was $50 a quarter in the 1950s.   The current tuition (2022) is about $5000 per semester for in-state students or 67 times as much as it was 70 years ago!


The student orientation and registration attempted to answer most of the myriad of questions that first year students might have.  We had been pre-assigned to our classes based on our pre-registration.  We were scheduled for our ISC physical exams.  We men (I am not sure where the women students were, maybe they were scheduled for a different day) stood in line at the ISC hospital/medical center on a designated day, naked as “jay birds” going from station to station for various medical tests and observations.  All of the staff were men, until we walked into a larger room in which there were several doctors conducting various portions of the physical exam.   The line I was in headed directly for a woman in a doctor’s coat who motioned me to approach.  My first reaction was to cover my privates,  to which she responded forget that “I have seen many naked men”.  Indeed, this woman doctor had a wonderful reputation on campus and she taught an extremely popular (even over-subscribed) senior seminar for couples.  It was titled  “Marriage and Family”.    Almost  four years later my fiancé and I were fortunate to be able to enroll in this seminar.  It was worth wait and very helpful.  This doctor was deservedly very highly regarded on campus; however, I fail to remember her name.   (P.S. I passed the ISC physical exam!)


We received a list of the required books and supplies that we needed for our classes.  The on-campus bookstore was not very big and was quickly  swamped, however, the large book store located in campus town which had the same pricing structure as the campus book store was convenient.   Additionally, unlike the campus book store, this store had copies of second/third hand books which were in decent condition at a reduced prices.  I bought used books whenever I could.  However, once I was in my chemical engineering courses, I purchased new text and reference books.  As I write this, I am looking at my Handbook of Physics and Chemistry and Handbook of Chemical Engineering carefully placed on the top shelves in my office.  These two reference manuals were purchased for my chemistry and my chemical engineering classes respectively. They are the  only two books that I still have from my college days. I used them more in college than since, as I migrated into management rather than staying on the technical branch in my career.  I do remember opening the Handbook of Physics and Chemistry once these past 20 years to look up something that I am sure was important to me at that time.  


All first and second year male students at ISC who were physically able, were required to take military science, which was the case for all U.S. Land Grant Colleges.  Additionally, a large number of other U.S. universities offered ROTC..  We had a choice of Air Force or Army (AFROTC or AROTC) military science each of which required marching drills for an hour each week plus a certain amount of class work.   There were also a limited number of slots for the Navy military science courses (NROTC). The NROTC program was a three credit-hour course requiring four one-hour classes a week for academic studies and one one-hour class a week for marching drill practice.  The AFROTC and AROTC were one credit-hour courses and required two classes a week in addition to the marching drill. There was no military science requirement nor opportunity for the women students.


The Navy had two NROTC programs: (1) a Regular Commission and (2) a Reserve Commission.  Those who applied for the Regular Commission Program did so prior to entering college.  They needed to qualify for the program academically, physically and leadership wise.  If they were accepted, they received funds from the Navy to pay for all books and tuition as well as $50/month while they were in college.   Additionally, those who accepted this appointment were required to attend summer cruises each of the three summers while attending college.  Upon graduation from ISC these students received a Regular Commission in the Navy or US Marine Corps (USMC) and were required to serve a minimum of three years active duty.  To receive his commission in the USMC the NROTC student had to option for the USMC commission prior to his third year and his military science was a USMC curriculum and not a US Navy curriculum. 


The Navy program to receive a Reserve Commission was called the Contract Program.  First year students who were not accepted into the NROTC Regular program,  could apply for the NROTC Contract Program or the Air Force or Army programs.   The NROTC Contract Program was identical as the Regular program except, one was accepted into the program as he entered college provided, he passed the physical exam, he did not receive funding for his books and tuition nor any compensation in the first two years.  He received $27 per month for his third and fourth year in the program.  He only attended a summer cruise/camp between his junior and senior year of college. To receive a Reserve Commission in the USMC, he attended the same USMC curriculum as the Regular Program USMC commissioned candidates attended.  Upon graduation he had a two year active duty commitment. 


To be commissioned into the US Navy or USMC each student must have successfully graduated from ISC, have completed the four years of US Navy/USMC curriculum, passed a standard swimming test and passed a physical exam just prior to graduation.  If a student chose either the AFROTC or AROTC, he could drop out of the program after two years and not complete the training  for a commission.  Of course, he was subject to being drafted, should the military need  men and the draft was active. I entered college, during the Korean War and men were being drafted. Those of us in the NROTC were exempt from the draft.  However, at this time I was only 16 years old,  2 years short of registering for the draft.


I chose the NROTC Contract Program as I did not know about the Regular Program prior to enrolling in ISC and I thought that I would prefer the Navy or USMC to either the Air Force or the Army.  This required me to take a US Navy physical in addition to the ISC entering student physical.  I had already taken the ISC physical exam, however the US Navy physical was considerably more extensive and  it included blood work.  The corpsman assigned to draw my blood was in-experienced or ill-trained as he took a number of attempts to find my vein.  For the next 20 years, I fainted at the sight of a needle intended for my arm – even once in a dentist chair while on active duty!  I passed the Navy physical exam, met the other criteria and was accepted into the Contract NROTC Program.  I was measured for my NROTC uniform; which was the most desired uniform of the three ROTC branches. 


All physically able first year students at ISC were required to sign up for physical training/a sport.  I chose tennis for  the fall,  swimming for the winter and golf for the spring.  These weren’t rigorous activities but really an introduction to each sport with the intent of ensuring every student became involved with some physical activity.  Our NROTC officer booked the swimming pool for testing those students enrolled in NROTC.  All of we students were required to report at a certain time and day to take the test.  I was  a self-taught swimmer. I had never had swimming lessons.  I  could dog-paddle somewhat.  We needed to swim 100 yards/meters without stopping to satisfy our ability to swim.  Somehow, I was able to stay afloat, swim then dog-paddle, et al to a “PASS” of the NROTC swimming test!


After all of the orientation, registration,  physical exams and other preliminary work, classes began.  Nearly all classes were taught from 8 AM to 5 PM, Monday through Friday.  There were no evening nor weekend classes for us as was the case in later years, as the ISC enrollment increased faster than the physical facilities.  Our rooming house was two blocks from the West Gate of the ISC campus.   From there it was about a mile to the building where my chemistry classes and chemistry labs were conducted.  That was my longest  walk to any class.   We had ten minutes between classes which was usually sufficient time to walk from the location of one class to the next, although the distance, particularly in foul weather with coats and boots, might make it difficult to be on time for some classes.  There was no campus transportation available for the students.


The first year engineering curriculum was the same for all approximately 1000 engineering students, regardless of the specific major one decided  to pursue.   We weren’t required to designate a major field of engineering until spring quarter.  First year engineering students were required to take chemistry specifically for engineering students, English, engineering problems - where we learned to use slide-rules -  (I still have my $25 K & E slide rule and leather case, now unused for some 65 years.  I think that I will give it to Adam, my youngest grandson and the only engineer of my six grandchildren!) - engineering drawing, physical education and Military Science each of the three quarters.  In addition, we were required to take one quarter each of algebra, trigonometry and geometry and one quarter of engineering orientation – which was an introduction as to what each branch of engineering entailed.  Some of our classmates had tested out of some of these classes, particularly the math classes, which enabled them to take fewer classes or enroll in electives.  The class sizes varied, English, math and engineering drawing were taught to class sizes of about 20 - 30 students  which was basically dictated by room size, chemistry class was taught in a big lecture hall of some 300 students.  The engineering orientation was taught in a lecture hall of  about 200 students.  Our USMC military class size was small as there were only about 7 NROTC students who opted for the USMC program. The academic USMC classes were different than the USN classes that the other NROTC enrollees were required to take. However, all the NROTC enrollees – both those opting for the USMC commissions and those opting for USN commissions - some 200 including all four years of students, drilled together on Tuesdays for an hour.  Which was the only day we wore our uniforms.


My most difficult class was English, which was really composition.  I had been poorly prepared for this class work and I had no one to counsel me as to the techniques and standards by which one writes various compositions.  Additional pressure came from the fact that I  knew  to matriculate from ISC one needed to pass a writing/English test in his/her senior year.  My English teachers were young faculty members, typically graduate students. I managed to pull a C average for the English classes all three quarters, despite a very poor start and lack of any real preparation for the course.  I breathed a sigh of relief at the end of each quarter when I learned of my grade.


I enjoyed algebra but I only managed to get C in the course.  The math classes were also taught by young faculty members, again primarily mathematics graduate students.  The engineering problems and engineering drawing was taught by young faculty members.  I made an As and  Bs in these courses. 


The military science was an introduction to the USMC which was taught by an active duty USMC Major.  The entire NROTC staff were Navy officers, including the Commanding Officer, and senior Navy enlisted men, supplemented with one USMC  officer, a Major, and a senior enlisted non-commissioned officer, both of whom typically had 10 or more years of experience in the USMC.  USMC military science was very enlightening and extremely important to becoming an effective USMC officer.  About ½ of the NROTC students were pursuing the Regular Program and the balance the Contract Program.  I received  Bs in the military science. 


I really enjoyed my chemistry classes and I excelled in them.  It was not a hard course for me.  The course covered a mixture of inorganic and organic chemistry, focusing on basic chemical properties and  reactions and a bit of the history of chemistry.  It wasn’t long into the first quarter of school that I decided that as much as  I liked the chemistry that I should major in chemical engineering.  I declared chemical engineering as my major, subsequently and never looked back.


Throughout the quarter, I studied diligently.   I had no one to counsel/help me other than if I could get a bit of time with one of the assistant teachers for my classes, which was not easy.  ISC had counselors, however, all of them were over loaded and it was very difficult to meet with one.  Of course, at that time we had limited telephone access and the counselors did not provide their phone numbers. My roommate was of no help.  Even though he was a second year science student -  most of his credits had transferred from MCC - however he was unsure of what he wanted to study and did not apply himself well.  I did most of my studying in the library which was close  to the location of many of my classes.   I also studied effectively in our room, as my roommate was seldom in the room other than to sleep and dress.  It was no surprise to me when  he decided not to return to ISC for the winter quarter.  I lost track of him then and have never reconnected with him. 


Our rooming house owners were friendly, concerned about our well-being and nearly always on-site, however they seldom invited us/me to visit with them.   They let us use their telephone to make calls, however, I seldom called home.   I wrote letters to mom and dad every other week or so and mom wrote me regularly.  I did my own laundry in the owner’s equipment, thereby saving my mother a bit of work.  I did not leave campus for home until Thanksgiving break.  On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, mom drove to Ames to pick me up for a four day visit at home with my folks and siblings.  Mom and Dad drove me back to Ames that following Sunday afternoon.   We had one week of classes and then first quarter final exams.  Also, during that final week of classes we registered for the winter quarter classes.


Typically, all of the students talking taking a specific course  would all be scheduled to take the final exam at the same time preferably in the same room.  As it was, our first quarter final chemistry exam was conducted in the Student Union Grand Ballroom and all 1000 of our freshmen chemistry students were scheduled to be seated in the room for the two hour exam.  In none of our first year classes were we permitted to have any notes or aids of any kind for our exams.  Once we had finished  all  of our exams, we were able to leave campus for Christmas break.  I don’t remember when I finished but my parents picked me up and I was able to spend almost three weeks at home.  We had no assignments to complete during the break.


When the results of first quarter’s classes were posted, I learned that I had earned an A in the chemistry class.  As it turned out one of the chemistry graduate students who was an assistant teacher for some engineering chemistry sections roomed with my MHS co-valedictorian classmate.  Very early in the winter quarter I was visiting with that class-mate, comparing our grades and  other aspects of our young college adventure.  His room-mate – the chemistry graduate student - told me that I had the highest grade in the entire class on the final exam.  I thought I had done well, but what he said sounded unreal.  I am not positive that he really knew how well I did, but he certainly was in a position to know.  I had a 2.9 grade- point grade for the first quarter, drug down by my grades in English and algebra.


Winter quarter classes began on the Monday after New Year’s Day.  I had a continuation of all my fall quarter classes, except algebra became trigonometry.  Engineering problems taught a number of basic engineering functions.  Winters in Iowa as described earlier, provide some nice challenges walking about a mile to chemistry class in foul weather, particularly in icy conditions.  The classrooms were typically comfortable temperature wise but hot beverages were not accessible, except for the Student Union, the men’s dormitory cafeterias and the book store.  There  were few if any vending machines on campus at that time.  Finding lunch on campus was more challenging as many dormitory residents ate at the various campus food serving locations instead of returning to their dorm’s cafeteria.  I moved to the basement two person room in the rooming house where there was a single man living, so the owners could rent the room we had rented in the fall to a couple.  My new room-mate was a young US Army veteran of the Korean War.  He was studying agriculture.  We hit it off well, as I was most interested in his combat experience in Korea.


The winter quarter class work went well.  I continued struggling with English.  All of my other classes progressed satisfactorily.  I again was excelling in chemistry and now trigonometry.  Our Tuesday marching drills were not conducted during winter quarter because of weather and in-sufficient space in the NROTC building armory to drill inside, especially since there were some 200 NROTC students at any one time.  This time was spent watching training videos of particular USMC activities.  My grades in the second quarter averaged 3.2, helped by an A in both chemistry and trigonometry.


I did not travel home for any visits during the winter quarter.  My social life was very limited as I spent most of my time studying and attending  an occasional week-end movie.  I was establishing some friendships with various class-mates, particularly fellow USMC class-mates and others that I knew who had also chosen chemical engineering as a major.  These friendships resulted in me attending some small gatherings of these acquaintances.  I also began attending professional organizations, e.g.,  the AIChE (American Institute of Chemical Engineers) and math and chemistry clubs.


While walking through the chemical engineering building late in the quarter, I noticed a posting on the bulletin board for a student to work part-time for the Iowa State Engineering Experiment Station, helping a chemical engineering graduate student with his research project.   The opportunity sounded enticing and I knew that I could use the extra money, especially for my later college years.  I applied and was  interviewed by the chemical engineering graduate student, Maurie Larson.  His doctoral research project was improving the manufacture of super phosphate agricultural fertilizers – something that interested, Iowa’s key industry of farming very much.  He was particularly attracted by my farming background and experience, and our class and work schedules were compatible.  He offered me the job.  I accepted it.  The pay was modest but competitive and there was the opportunity to work quite a few hours, including evening hours.


Maurie set up a pilot manufacturing facility in the open space of ISC’s essentially abandoned nuclear engineering building which was adjacent to the chemical engineering building.  Nuclear engineering had been discontinued as a major at ISC a few years earlier.  The federal government established a research laboratory focusing on nuclear support for the US Atomic Bomb effort during WWII, at ISC.  It was named the Ames Laboratory. It is in operation today conducting classified secret nuclear research and is staffed with chemical engineering faculty and researchers among others. It is a significant adjunct to the Chemical Engineering Department at ISC.  However, ISC decided to discontinue offering a degree in Nuclear Engineering, opting to basically make it a subset of chemical engineering.


Maurie’s research focused on using phosphoric acid in lieu of the conventional sulfuric acid in treating various natural phosphate minerals to make the minerals more useable by plants needing phosphate nutrients.  The phosphoric acid was mixed with the granular/powdered phosphate mineral materials which reacted with the phosphoric acid to make a wet, soft solid cake.  This cake was fed into a rotary cutter which chipped off small portions of the wet cake.  These cuttings were conveyed by a short belt conveyor to a small gas fired rotary kiln dryer where the now-super phosphate - with the phosphorus from the phosphoric acid being combined with the  phosphorus from the starting mineral material was dried.  The dried product was then analyzed for its effectiveness as a phosphate fertilizer.   The effectiveness was the extent to which various plants could utilize the phosphorous chemical in the super-phosphate fertilizer. 


I worked with Maurie about a year, including a considerable amount of time during the summer between my first and second college years,  mostly helping him with his various runs of making the super-phosphate fertilizer.  It was mostly manual labor with some record keeping, process monitoring and equipment set-up and repair.  He wrote his doctoral thesis on his research, was awarded a PhD in chemical engineering,  was hired by ISC Chemical Engineering Department.  He spent his entire career in this Department teaching and researching various chemical engineering processes..


Subsequently, I worked with Tom Wheelock, another chemical engineering graduate student helping him on his research project which was researching ways of making coal combustion less polluting.  His test production runs were frequently 24 hours long and required hourly recording of various data and conditions.  I spent a number of “all-nighters” in Tom’s laboratory monitoring the research run, recording data and conditions and ensuring that the test was not interrupted.   I was able to study about 50 minutes of every hour, so it was a profitable use of my time, as I was paid for the entire time I was on the job.  I worked with Tom also for about a year.  He was also awarded a PhD in chemical engineering, hired by the Chemical Engineering Department and spent his entire career at ISC. I continued working at various tasks and jobs for the balance of my four years at ISC.  The earnings from this part-time work were critical to my being able to pay my way through college. I continued to visit with Maurie and Tom whenever I visited the ISC campus after graduating.  Maurie is no longer living, however, Tom is living and is a University Professor Emeritus.


 My third quarter classes were a continuation of the previous two quarters, except algebra and  trigonometry were followed by geometry.  We resumed NROTC marching drills outside.  I continued to make good grades although geometry was harder for me than trigonometry;  I had more class-mate friends and socialized a bit more.  Near the end of the quarter, we pre-registered for fall classes.   I made a 2.9 grade-point in the spring quarter. 


Maurie Larson wanted me to continue to work during the summer and approached the Engineering Experiment Station to authorize my working for him and for other Chemical Engineering Department needs.  I decided to accept this offer and to take two summer quarter classes in each of the two sessions.  I took the first two of my three calculus classes, quantitative chemistry and speech, all of which would help me in my major but with a very full and tight schedule of classes for the following three years, and  with the three credit military science course all of the 16 quarters, there was little room for electives.  I planned to stay in the rooming house for the time that I would be working or going to class in the summer.


Discovering My Social Fraternity –


My big change in the third quarter came after I saw a notice in the ISC Student Newspaper that there was a fraternity rush week planned and that unaffiliated students, particularly first year students were  invited to visit any of the fraternity houses that were participating.  I believe that probably all of the 28   ISC fraternities, all of which were located just off the campus, were participating.  I knew nothing about fraternities other than the social and intermural athletics in which they participated and which was reported in the campus newspaper.  I decided to visit a few of the fraternities to see what I could learn.


The first fraternity that visited was Acacia which was located one block south of campus on the east side of the campus.  I met a number of the Acacia men that evening, toured the house and learned about the Acacia philosophy, which included a very high emphasis on scholarship and leadership.  Furthermore, the Acacia Fraternity had a “dry” house, meaning that there was a “No Alcohol Policy” in the Acacia house.  The actives seemed to be very principled.  I could identify closely with what I heard during that visit.  I was invited to return the following week for dinner with Acacia men and their house mother.


On my second visit, I met Mother Dinsmore (Mother D to all of her men) and was presented with the economics of living in and belonging to the Acacia Fraternity.  I learned that The Acacia fraternity was founded by Masons – members of the Masonic Order – and that until after WWI, one needed to be a Mason to become an Acacian.  However, as college age men became younger and most of them were not Masons, it became difficult to find qualified potential members.  So, the membership requirement became that a member needed to be recommended by two members  of the Masonic Organization. Since there were several Masons among the active members of the chapter, this requirement was easily met.  I was asked to join the ISC Acacia Chapter and to live in the chapter house that fall. 


The cost of living in the Acacia fraternity was a bit more than the cost of living in the apartment which I shared with one other student; however, the meals were a bit less expensive than eating in the restaurants that I frequented.  I agreed to the offer and became a pledge of Acacia, although since the quarter was about to end and summer break was next on the schedule for most men, there was little Acacia activity for me for the remainder of the term.  I ate a few meals at the chapter house and became more familiar with the men that I would be living with that coming fall.


I finished my first year at ISC and went home for a week.  I returned to campus  and my rented room in the basement, with no room-mate as my previous room-mate did not attend summer school.   This time I brought my car as there were ample parking places in the summer. The summer quarter was taught in two six week sessions as the courses are taught at twice the speed of the normal school year courses.  I earned an A in chemistry and Bs in the other courses and worked pretty much full 40 hour weeks at the Chemical Engineering Department.  After summer quarter classes were over, I went home for the about three weeks before the fall quarter began.  I spent the time at home helping my father, in the fields  and around the farm, reconnecting with family, friends and relatives and enjoying some down time. 


I returned to campus after Labor Day as the fraternity members returned a few days early to prepare the house for we occupants and for the occasional guests.  We washed the windows, trimmed the lawn and shrubbery, cleaned the interior of the house, did touch up painting and whatever else needed to be done to have the house ready for the men that fall.  Since there was car parking for about one-third of the brothers living in the house on-site, I kept my car at school.  


The three story house, with a full basement, was built in 1928 and was   located at  142 Grey Ave. on a wonderful, but small parcel of land overlooking sorority circle.  The house accommodated about 30 men on the two upper floors.  There was an unheated sleeping dormitory for all of the men on the third floor.  It had 15 sets of bunk beds..  The showering, toilets and lavatories were all in a common bath room on the second floor. There were twelve study/living suites on the upper two floors.  The main floor included an entry immediately off a large outside formal porch, a chapter (meeting) room, a dining room (which accommodated about forty diners) with a serving room to its side, a solarium/music room and the house mother’s suite (which was a moderate sized room that doubled as her sitting room and bedroom -with a sofa bed - and her private bath room).  The lower level included a kitchen, located below the dining serving room which   was connected by a dumb waiter with the serving room,  a chef’s suite – combination bed/sitting room and a private bath ,  one two man room for the brothers– a recreation room and a boiler room for central heating of the house and water.


The men were assigned to the rooms based on seniority and chapter office held that the brother. There were a total of seven pledges in my pledge class, each assigned to a different study/living room.    On Monday evenings we had pledge class where we learned about Acacia, its adopted mentor, Pythagoras, its history, the ISC Acacian history and  each of the active members of the chapter.  We pledges had Saturday house cleaning duties, which involved cleaning all of the common areas  within the house, the sleeping dormitory,  the main level, except for Mother D’s suite, the lower level, except for the chef’s quarters, and the men’s shower/restroom on the second floor and the outside front porch.  The men in the house were expected to keep their rooms clean and neat.


Since the house had only one telephone, (a wall mounted, land line located in the entrance to the stairway to the lower level), a pledge was assigned phone duty each evening between 7 PM and 10 PM during the week.  The third pledge duty was the planning and conducting a “Pledge Skip” in which the entire pledge class planned a weekend away from Ames, after leaving the actives a messy house to deal with.  Our planned trip was to Iowa City to visit the Iowa University Acacia Chapter.  About an hour into our trip, we stopped at a service station and called the house to tell who ever  answered the phone, that the “pledges had skipped” and  for those living in the house to have fun cleaning it!  Upon returning to the house some 36 hours later, we pledges were chastised a bit, but everyone knew that this was just one of the ways a pledge-class bonded.  It was all part of the over-all fraternity program.  We pledges had periodic tests to see if we had learned what we should as pledges.  By February it was determined by the active chapter members that we were sufficiently schooled on Acacia and we could be initiated into the order of Acacia.  We became members on February 21, 1954. 


In addition to pledge training, one of the great benefits to me was learning  etiquette, table manners and general appropriate behavior.   Mother Dinsmore (Mother D) ate with us at our noon and evening meals.  One of the four wait staff would announce the noon and dinner meal playing a small four tone musical panel.  The Venerable Dean (VD/Chapter President) if he was present would escort Mother D to her place of honor – to the right of the VD.  The other brothers followed the VD and Mother D’s lead to the dining room and filled in the other chairs at one of the two long dining tables.  The song leader of the group would lead the singing of the Acacia song.  The lead waiter would serve Mother D and the VD with the other three waiters following closely serving the other brothers their meals.   Everyone would wait for Mother D to begin eating and follow her lead in eating with the correct utensil, passing anything that needed to be passed, and otherwise setting the table manner tone.


Mother D was nearly always available to answer etiquette and related questions, including questions we had about relationships with girls, how to dress and how to deal  with a personal problem. She was always there to meet our dates and to make them feel welcome.  When she wasn’t counseling one of us, she was usually playing bridge with three  brothers.  She taught those of us who wanted to learn the game, how to play.  She was patient, understanding, tactful and omni-present.   She seldom left the house and had few friends outside the house.  Mother D was a gem and a real asset of ISC Acacia.


My initial room-mates were Ted Rice and Lynn Glenney, both now deceased.   Ted was a senior and Lynn was a junior.  Ted was majoring in psychology.  Lynn was majoring in agriculture, more specifically in the USMC as he was in the USMC Platoon Leaders Corps, an alternate route to a USMC commission, to the NROTC route..  He was a big man, maybe 6’3” and had just returned from his six weeks of summer camp.   He thoroughly enjoyed calling out “Attention” and other directives to demonstrate his leadership skills.  Unfortunately, I did not keep track of either of them and they are now both deceased.  Of the approximately, twenty five chapter active brothers that fall, about one-half are still living now some 65 years later, Dale Weber being the oldest and my pledge father Bert Fellows being another.  While many of us served in the military after our ISC experience, and the chapter had many returning veterans immediately after WWII, I  only remember one of the brothers who was a veteran  amongst the active chapter at that time.  I thoroughly enjoyed the brotherhood, the help with my studies from more senior brothers, the social activities – including serenading various nearby sororities, learning to play bridge – particularly with Mother D – and just “shooting the breeze” with various brothers. Several of the men in the house, attended the Presbyterian Church, that coincidently was only one block from the rooming house in which I rented a room during my first year on campus.  The pastor, William Remley, was a young, energetic  man who attracted a large congregation, particularly college students.  I began attending church with these brothers.  I thoroughly enjoyed his sermons and other church programs.  In 1955, William Remley was initiated into ISC Acacia as an honorary member.


My courses in the second year were a chemical engineering processing, physics, and naval science in all three quarters, plus my final quarter of calculus, a quarter of differential equations, a mechanical engineering metals fabrication course,  a second quarter of quantitative chemistry,  statics of engineering and dynamics of engineering.  I continued to work part-time at the engineering experiment station, primarily for Tom Wheelock.  The extra money came in handy and the work was somewhat flexible.  Tom was able to schedule the runs that I would monitor for him so that I could spend the night monitoring the run and recording the data.  He seldom scheduled work on the week-ends which would have conflicted with my Saturday pledge duties. 


Meeting Karen Swanson, My Future Wife -


On one  Saturday night in November, Acacia had a fraternity dance party scheduled at the  Chapter house, for which I needed a date.  I was not dating anyone at the time and had few known options.  I called a girl from our MHS class who was also a sophomore at ISC to see if she was available.  She told me that she had just gotten pinned the prior  month and was not available.  (When a woman accepted a fraternity man’s fraternity pin, she was “pinned” meaning she was not open to dating other men.)  However, she said that one of her dormitory floor-mates  was a neat young woman and she thought that the woman might be available to attend the dinner-dance.  She gave me the name, Karen Swanson, and said that I could reach her on this same common phone.  We ended our conversation and I called back for Karen Swanson.  She was there and came to the phone.  We exchanged pleasantries, learned a bit about each other - she had the advantage on me as she knew more about me from my MHS class-mate than I knew about her. 


She said that she was available the night of the Acacia dance, but would like to meet me before that.  We agreed to a “coke date”, i.e., Coke Cola, at the Student Union.  I agreed to meet her after her last class of the day on Tuesday afternoon.  Her last class was a chemistry class in the chemistry building about ½ mile from the Student Union.  We agreed to meet on the steps of the chemistry building at a specified time.  Tuesdays were the days that all ROTC members drilled in their uniforms, so when I showed up to meet Karen for the first time, I was in my NROTC uniform, which I told her would be the case.   As I was the only NROTC dressed student loitering on the front steps of the chemistry building at the appointed time, she recognized me immediately.  We had a nice conversation as we walked on a relatively warm November day to the Student Union. 


During a one-hour getting to know each other session, while sipping Coke Colas, I learned that Karen was a sophomore majoring in Household Equipment, from What Cheer, IA.  That she had an older brother who was in the Army, that her father and mother were the What Cheer School Superintendent and High School Principal respectively.  We made arrangements for me to meet her at her dorm and escort her to the Acacia house the night of the dance.  I purchased a corsage and gave it to her when she came to the dormitory entrance.  I introduced  her to Mother D.  We had an enjoyable time, even though I am a horrible dancer. The party ended at 11:30 as the women’s dorms and sororities had a strict curfew policy.  The women had to be in their dorms/sororities by midnight on the weekend and by 10 PM on weekdays.  I walked Karen back to Freeman Hall and we both agreed that we would have another date the following weekend.  The next week, I had a call from my MHS class-mate who had recommended to Karen and to me that we meet.   She told me that Karen really enjoyed the evening.  She thought that this could be something that made good sense for both Karen and me.  I continued to see Karen for dates at the Student Union and for movies and/or dinner on Saturday evenings.


The quarter ended, I did reasonably well in my studies and pre-registered for the winter quarter.  I finished my exams and headed home for a three weeks of home cooking, reconnecting with my parents and siblings.  I had only been home  for Thanksgiving during the entire Fall quarter.  It was a usual Davis family Christmas, with the church celebrations, a wonderful Christmas evening family dinner and gift exchange with family and Aunt Bea, and a big gathering at Grandad and Grandma Davis’ on Christmas Day or the Sunday closest to Christmas Day.  We also celebrated my brother Bob’s birthday (December 15), my sister Nancy’s birthday (December 18), my mom’s  birthday (December 23) and my brother Dick’s birthday (December 29) and I called Karen on her birthday also on December 29).  Karen was 19 on that day, seven plus months older than me.  We ate too much of mom’s great home-made Christmas candy, her baked goods and home-made ice cream.  It was a great down-time and family time.  Our celebration of the New Year (1954) was a low key affair.  Our family watched the New Year’s celebration on the new black and white TV that the parents had purchased before Christmas.


I returned to Acacia and to classes shortly after the first of the year.  I reconnected with Karen and we resumed our periodic dating for weekend movies or dinners and Acacia parties.  I resumed working at the experiment station and to my Acacia pledge responsibilities.  Our pledge training proceeded well and by the first of February, all seven of we pledges had passed the required tests and satisfied all other qualifications.  On the weekend of February 21, we were initiated and welcomed into the Brotherhood of Acacia. 


In January, a group of ISC students who were interested in acting, including Karen presented a short play,  the title of which I don’t remember, to other students and interested adults.  Karen had a part in the play.  Her parents drove from What Cheer to Ames to watch the play and to visit with their daughter.  Karen wanted them to meet me so, after the play we sat in the Student Union, snacking and visiting.  For some reason, I had to leave the visit earlier than the three of them.  Karen asked her folks what they thought of me.  Her mother, according to Karen during a later conversation, said something to the effect that she “thought that I was a nice boy”, which Karen did not believe was fair and was upset with her mother.  Regardless, Karen and I continued seeing each other.   One of Karen’s habits that I did not appreciate was she began smoking as a freshman at ISC, in part I believe as a bit of a rebellion over her fairly strict parents and in part because it  was “kind of the things that college students do to show that they are mature”.  Indeed, at that time the cigarette companies sponsored on campus “smokers” in which they distributed free packs of six cigarettes to the students.  It was a nasty marketing program which lasted for some ten (?) years.  I participated in a few smokers.  A few of our fraternity brothers were smokers, especially the older brothers.  However, I never enjoyed smoking and certainly did not want to spend my hard earned money on cigarettes. 


During spring break, Karen invited me to visit her and her parents in their home in What Cheer.  It was a pleasant visit in which Karen and her mother cooked all of the meals, as What Cheer was a very small town, with little to offer in the way of dining options.  There was one small café in which Karen had worked part-time during her high school years.   A single consolidated school on the top of a big hill at which Karen’s father, Edward R. Swanson was the superintendent and her mother Ruth Swanson was the high school principal.   Both of them had teaching responsibilities, her father taught a variety of classes, including history – he was particularly interested in both world and American history -, science and manual training/mainly wood working.  Her mother taught mainly high school math and some science.  The school reminded me very  much of the LaMoille school.  (Please see Appendix Four for more information on the Swanson family.)


They rented a three bedroom, two story house within a block of the school.  Karen was the valedictorian of her small class of ten students.  They attended the Methodist church which was one of two churches in What Cheer.  Karen’s grandfather on her mother’s side was a Methodist minister.  Her folks were faithful to the church, did not drink alcohol, smoke or curse and did not speak ill of anyone.  I was very impressed with them as hard working professionals, doing their best to educate their children and raising a  son and daughter of which they could be proud.  Despite being a strong student and having parents of limited means, Karen never received a scholarship to help financially with the costs of her education. I never applied for a scholarship though out my four years at ISC.  I never even thought about it, as my pre-college savings covered a significant portion of my college costs and I was supplementing that with work at the Engineering Experiment Station and later waiting tables in the chapter house.


The winter quarter classes were behind us and our grades were recorded.  My grades were the lowest of all previous quarters as my grades in the chemical engineering class and physics both dropped from an A to a C and from a B to a C respectively.  I don’t remember why, although I believe that I was working in the Chemical Engineering Department a considerable number of hours at that time, was dating more and generally not applying myself to the degree that I should have.  I did commit to doing better the next quarter, as Acacia was particularly strong academically and my grades pulled down that quarter’s Acacia grades.


Karen and I continued dating.  One of the big spring events for we NROTC members was the Navy Ball.  Karen and I attended it that spring.  It was held in the Naval Armory with a catered sit down dinner and dance amongst the various naval displays from ships that were installed in the armory.

Karen And Jim At The 1954 ISC NROTC Ball



The spring quarter classes were basically a continuation of the two previous quarter’s classes for me.   However, Karen had to take a basic statistics class for her major.  Math and mathematical concepts were not Karen’s strong suit and she could not master the subject.  She dropped the class before the drop deadline, planning to take the course later.  My class work went better the spring quarter.  I began thinking about how I could earn more money in the upcoming summer as I knew that a year from then I would not be able to work much if at all since, I would be attending six weeks of USMC summer camp.  My father knew a foreman for a construction crew building a new primary school in Marshalltown.  He contacted the foreman to see if there was an opportunity for me and possibly my brother Bob to work as general laborers on the project that coming summer. 


I completed my spring quarter, made slightly better grades averaging a 2.8, but still not satisfactory to me.  I continued to work in the Chemical Engineering Department until the end of the spring quarter.  Upon completion of my exams, I packed up my car and headed for home. Karen’s folks came to Ames to take her home for the summer.   She had a part-time job waiting tables in What Cheer’s only café.


Not only did dad secure jobs for Bob and me, he was persuaded to also accept a summer job on the construction crew.  He decided that with Bob and my help on the farm when we weren’t working  the construction job, that the three of us could manage the farm work and work a forty hour construction job at the same time.   All three of us were laborers helping the bricklaying crew which was just beginning to start a fairly big job.  Our jobs were to keep the bricklayers supplied with bricks and mortar, to mix the mortar, to clean up after the brick layers, enabling them to work more at laying bricks.   The pay was good, a union wage, although I don’t remember the  actual pay.  We were required to join the union but only after working three  months which enabled us to avoid joining the union as  we had to resign from the work in three months.  It was good outdoor work.   


I visited Karen a couple weekends that summer in What Cheer, staying with her and her parents in their small but adequate house during those visits.    The summer passed quickly with the construction jobs and farm work, but I saved a good bit of money, living at home and spending little money for unnecessary things. I had the pleasure and honor of registering for the draft shortly before my 18th birthday.  I advised the draft board that I was a member of the ISC NROTC unit expecting to be commissioned in the USMCR upon graduation in June 1956. 


I again drove to Ames shortly after Labor Day in 1954 to help prepare the house for occupancy that fall.  Again, the house was full, with several of the older classmen living in nearby rented rooms but eating their meals and joining the chapter meetings in the chapter house.  I began receiving $27 per month for my NROTC Contract membership,  I continued working at in the Chemical Engineering Department and I began work as one of four Acacia members who waited on the tables for the other brother’s noon and evening meals. 


The four of us would receive the food from the kitchen the floor below via the dumbwaiter, fill the water glasses on  the pre-set dining tables and otherwise prepare to serve the meals - seldomly did we serve family style.  We would dish the food portions on to the individual serving plates and carry the plates to the dining room  where Mother D  and the brothers were seated.  While the brothers and Mother D ate their meals, we waiters quickly ate our meals and prepared to clear the tables and wash and dry the  dishes.  The chef cleaned the pans and equipment he used in preparing the meal as well as cleaning the kitchen after each meal.   The breakfast meal was cereal, fruit, milk and toast, all self-served by the  brother from the breakfast buffet.  The waiters took turns with breakfast duty, setting out the food, clearing, washing and drying the dirty dishes and setting the table for the noon meal.  For all of this work the waiters received their meals free of charge.


The junior year of courses in chemical engineering was generally considered the toughest of the four year curriculum as it included three quarters of organic chemistry,  of physical chemistry (plus labs in both) and of chemical engineering unit operations, all of which were intense, comprehensive and fundamental courses for chemical engineers.  Many chemical engineering students changed majors or dropped out of college when they confronted these courses.  


In addition to my studies, my part-time work and my social life, I was elected Senior Dean (essentially VP)  of Acacia.  The responsibility of this  office was the physical management of the chapter house itself.  As mentioned earlier the house was some 25 years old and  needed not only tender-loving care, which is not necessarily compatible with 20 year old young men occupants,  it occasionally needed minor and even major repairs.   Typically, Mother D was the only real adult in the house, although we usually had at least one chapter member who was a military veteran and was not only older but more experienced in maintenance.   Fortunately, my tour as Senior Dean was not tested with any major chapter house physical needs.   


Karen and I dated frequently, including studying together in the library.  She  continued to live in Freeman Hall, however she had pretty well given up on her interest in the acting/theater interests.  She made reasonably good grades in her major fields of study, Household Equipment with a minor in Television.  She was preparing for a career as a foods/cooking/meals commentator on TV.  One of her courses in cooking or meal planning included a TV presentation on WOI, the local television station which covered most of central Iowa.  Her 30  minute presentation was on making Swedish Meat Balls.  It was to be a live presentation with no “Do Overs”.   She rehearsed for the program a number of times and finally her day came.  She did well and was commended for her performance although she was not satisfied with the presentation of the meat balls – they did not compare favorably to her Swedish mother’s meat balls.  Her mother was an excellent cook as well as science teacher!  Karen continued smoking although she knew that I did not approve.  I even tried smoking again with her to see if possibly it was something that I might somehow enjoy.  I never did enjoy smoking.  Karen also enjoyed socializing with wine despite her parents both being staunchly against drinking of alcohol.  I was not interested in alcohol and was very glad that the ISU Acacians had a firm rule that the chapter house was “Alcohol Free”.  However, her smoking and moderately drinking wine did not  cause us to end our relationship.


During the year, Karen had to live in one of the Home Economics Department, model homes of which I believe there were three.   Each home would accommodate about ten home economic majors,  who at this time were all female.  The women lived in the home for four weeks and rotated all of the various home making duties, while attending their full schedule of classes.  They were educated and evaluated on their abilities to plan and prepare meals, care for the household equipment, furnish the various rooms and other home maker duties.  This was a required class of one of her education majors.


The other highlight of the year, was in February, Karen and my relationship was such that I gave her my Acacia fraternity pin, which at that time at ISC was a BIG THING!   Although we had been dating each other exclusively for over a year, I did not “pin her” until then.  The celebration of the pinning by the fraternities is that after a pinning, the fraternity brothers gather around the window/door of the dormitory/sorority of the lady receiving the pin and serenades her.  Her room/dorm/sorority-mates/sisters join the pinned lady at her window or door and join in the celebration.  My brothers joined me in serenading Karen that night at Freeman Hall.


Despite my lack of stellar grades, I was elected into Alpha Chi Sigma  a professional fraternity specializing in the fields of the chemical sciences and into Pi Mu Epsilon a professional fraternity specializing in mathematics.  These were just two of many “Professional” fraternities, who work to build brotherhood among members and to cultivate strengths of members in that specific field of study.


As a precursor to a job search which would take place  in earnest the following year, I interviewed with several companies who were recruiting graduating chemical engineers for permanent jobs and lower classmen chemical engineers for summer internships.  I knew that it was unlikely that any of them would be interested in me for only the few weeks the summer of ’55  because of my prior commitment to USMC summer cruise/camp.   However, the market for chemical engineers was  particularly strong and I wanted to see if there might be something that could be worked out.  In the end, nothing developed.  I did benefit from these interviews as a practice run for the following year.


I studied hard and strived to make respectable grades in my course work, despite the challenges in doing so.  I enjoyed the classes but none of them were easy for me.  Organic chemistry, which for me was heavily demanding of memory, really challenged me.  It was not as intuitive for me as general chemistry.  Physical chemistry interested me more, but was also a challenge.  I received Cs in all three quarters of organic chemistry and a B and an C in the two quarters of organic chemistry labs.  I received two Cs and a B in physical chemistry and in the three physical chemistry labs.   I received two Cs and an A in the three quarters of unit operations. 


My A in the third  quarter unit operations class was partially a result of my method of preparing myself for the exams in these classes. These courses were focused on various types of chemical processes, e.g., distillation,  filtering, evaporation, drying, etc.  There were two sections taught by two different professors.  They taught the same material, used the same lesson plans and pretty much made the two classes identical, but each used  different problems in the periodic exams.  The professor for the  other section would post the problems and the solutions to the problems after each of his exams on the department bulletin board.  I believe we had three exams in the class, including the final exam which counted for 50% of the grade. I prepared for these exams by copying the posted problems and solutions from the other section’s professor and then reviewing these problems prior to my exam.   I did well in the first two exams that final quarter. The final exam had only two problems to solve.  Both of them were problems that the other professor had used in his exams earlier in the term and to which he posted the solutions.  When I sat to take the final exam, our professor was at the front of the room proctoring the exam. I had carefully reviewed both of these problems and solutions prior to our final exam. I went to the front of the room and quietly told the professor what had happened and that I thought that I had an unfair advantage.  He said it was  my lucky day and to just take the exam.  I aced the exam and that quarter’s unit operations!  I also did well in two Theoretical an Applied Mechanics courses earning Bs in both, as well as Bs in my three military science classes.


Karen decided to attend at least one session of summer school and to take the statistics course required for her major which she dropped a year earlier.  I  don’t remember what other class she took.  However, as I did not need to leave for USMC summer cruise until mid-July, I stayed around campus, living in the  chapter house, working at the Experiment Station and helping Karen with here statistics class.   Karen’s dormitory was one which stayed open during the summer, so she did not have to move  to a different dorm.  She finished the class prior to my leaving for summer camp, receiving a C and breathing a big sigh of relief.



My Last Year at ISC -


Two other USMC option, NROTC contract students and I left for USMC summer camp on July 22nd driving my car.   We took turns driving the about 24 hours non-stop trip from Ames to Quantico, VA, which is located about 35  miles  southeast  of Washington, D.C.  We reported in to our summer camp where we were pre-assigned to one of five companies each numbering about 100 NROTC students.  I was assigned to Company C but none of my other ISC USMC classmates were assigned to Company C.  The assignment of sleeping quarters, platoons within the company,  schedules for drawing uniforms, rifles, etc. were first on the list of duties.  Our barracks were steel Quonset huts, housing bunk beds for about 100 candidates.  We drew utility uniforms, combat boots and other required clothing and gear.  The Quonset huts were close to drill fields, classrooms, the mess (eating) hall and the obstacle course.  Sick bay, provided and staffed by the  US Navy was not far away, as I found out near the end of our summer camp.  The rifle range was not far away, however, we were not scheduled for marksmanship in the tightly scheduled six week camp.


Summer Camp was essentially a less rigorous and more respectful (but not by much) USMC boot  camp. The non-commissioned officers who served as our instructors recognized that someday we students could be their commanding officer.  They did not want a commanding officer that they  might have treated badly.   There were early morning revelries, physical training/calisthenics, drilling and squaring away sleeping quarters.  Then breakfast and morning classes on Marine Corps infantry tactics, weapons, and such.     A break for lunch, including sweetened ice tea – a Quantico staple, which I detested as it was so loaded with sweetener/sugar that I could not drink it.  And of course, a daily diet of salt tablets as the Quantico summer weather was hot and humid.  After lunch it was more physical activity and more classes.  A break for dinner and frequently after dinner classes or educational movies. There was little “free time” except for some on weekends.  Lights were out at 10 PM.


About one-half way through the camp, afternoon hikes carrying backpacks and other equipment were scheduled.  Frequently, there would be breaks along the way during which there were educational presentations.  The hikes increased in distance and difficulty and proximity to poison ivy/oak to which, unbeknownst previously to me, I was quite allergic.  I frequently awakened during the night or the next morning with terrible itching on the lower portion of my legs and sometimes my arms.  At the first sign of significant redness and itching, I reported to sick bay for treatment.  The medical corps did what they could, which was to coat the affected skin with Calamine lotion and provide me a supply of Calamine for self-administration. 


During the fifth week of the camp, after an all-night training march, when we arrived back at the barracks at about 0700, both my legs were terribly swollen from poison ivy/oak.  My utility uniform pant legs were totally soaked with the weeping from my poison ivy.  I could not remove my utilities.  I reported to sick-bay.  The corpsman took one look at me and sent me to the U.S. Naval Hospital a short distance away.  I spent the last five days of summer camp in the hospital where I received excellent care and attention.   All that was really required was no more exposure to poison ivy/oak, somewhat continual application of Calamine and time.   It was not necessary to be in the hospital, but of course the instructors did not want me involved in the training that last week.  I was released from the hospital on August 31, 1955, one day  prior to the conclusion of the six week summer camp.  I  reconnected with my two ISC NROTC candidate driving companions and we made arrangements to drive non-stop back to Ames.


Karen and I exchanged letters, as telephone calls were difficult to arrange with my schedule   I communicated with my parents by letter as they were anxious about me and USMC summer camp.   Concurrently,  with  my summer camp assignment, my brother Bob who had volunteered for the draft with the proviso that he be able to select his choice of duty left for his Army service.  Mom and Dad were beginning to realize that their family was growing up and leaving home. Mom had arranged for Karen’s mother to drive Karen to our home for a small reunion dinner of our families.  It was  good to see my parents, the four siblings remaining at home and to see Karen and her mother.  Her father  was unable to come as he had some prior commitment at his school.  It was good to get home and it was even better to see Karen.


Shortly after Labor Day, I returned to ISC for my  senior year.   We again had the duty to prepare the house for the fall term occupancy.   As Senior Dean, I had the responsibility of “managing” this clean-up and preparation.  My term as Senior Dean lasted until the end of fall quarter.  However, our house was unable to accommodate all of our brothers at that time and since we wanted all of the pledges to experience living in the house and become more knowledgeable Acacians,  I rented a room in a private home two blocks away from the chapter house, as did several other senior brothers.  I continued eating my meals in the chapter house, attended all of the meetings and fulfilled my duties as Senior Dean, however, I did not wait tables my senior year.  I lived outside the chapter house all three quarters of my senior year.


My fourth year courses included a Senior Inspection Trip, which was a required no-credit one week course that was a trip to five chemical processing plants in the Chicago, IL area.  We traveled to near Chicago by chartered bus, stayed in a centrally located – to the plants that we would be visiting – motel.  Among the plants we visited were a Sherwin Williams paint plant, a petroleum refinery and a soap manufacturing plant.  It was a first-time chemical processing plant visit for most of us.  We were able to see first-hand what some chemical engineers do and to see actual plant operations of various unit operations that we had experimented with in our unit operations lab work.  It was an eye-opening experience and interesting week. 


One afternoon we were given some time for down-town Chicago shopping.  One of the stores in our path was a jewelry store and since we had a bit of time, I looked at diamond engagement rings.  Knowing that we would have this opportunity, I had brought along $200 extra cash on this trip and planned to purchase an engagement ring for Karen.  She and I had talked about rings generally and I knew that she liked  emerald cut diamonds.   I found a nice emerald cut diamond ring that I thought she would like.  I don’t remember how many carats it was but it was about 1/8” wide and 3/16” long in a white gold mount.  I purchased the ring and carefully guarded it for the rest of the inspection trip.


I presented the ring to her upon our return from our Senior Inspection Tour.  She said yes to my proposal, however, I told her that she needed to get permission from my dad as I was only 20 and would be only 20 when I graduated from college and we planned to be married.  Hence, since I was a minor, she would need his permission to marry me!   She went along with the ruse and when we visited my parents the following weekend, Karen sat on my father’s lap and asked him if I could marry her.  He gave us his and my mother gave us her blessing. 


We began planning our wedding.  We knew that I would be graduating on June 9,1956 and at that time thought that she would also be graduating on that day.  We knew that I would have orders to report to the USMC sometime thereafter but not precisely when.    After considerable discussion and consultation with Karen’s parents, who unbeknownst to me were planning to resign their jobs in What Cheer and to move to Orange County, California that coming summer, the wedding date was set.  They were delighted to have the wedding as soon in June as it could be scheduled.  We settled on June 9, the day we would both graduate from ISC.


Shortly after the inspection trip, we were scheduled to take our English exam, the passing of which was required to graduate from ISC.  Karen constantly teased me about my  English and writing ability.  She bet me that I would not pass the exam – a real confidence builder!   Regardless, the exam was an assignment to write a few pages, I don’t remember how many words or pages, about some topic that I no longer remember.  I do remember looking for my name on the posting of those who had passed the exam on the big bulletin board in the Engineering Administration Building a week later.  Sure, enough my name was on the list of those who had passed the exam.  Karen also passed her exam which was administered on a different day.


Late in  the fall quarter, Karen learned that she had accumulated enough credit hours and had completed all of her required courses for her B.S. in Home Economics, with a major in Household Equipment and a minor in Television to graduate at the completion of winter quarter.  She graduated on March 10, 1956 in what was a small commencement ceremony as there were probably only about 300 graduates from the entire college.   Karen was offered a job in the ISC Library for the three months during spring quarter after which I would graduate.  She accepted the job, rented an apartment just off the west side of the campus where she could easily walk the ¾  mile to the library each day.  She stayed in Ames for most of the third quarter, planning our wedding.  We continued seeing each other frequently, planning our wedding, attending the Collegiate Presbyterian Church near her apartment, enjoying relaxing dinners, going to the movies and attending various campus social functions.  She resigned from her job at ISC early May and returned home to coordinate all of the wedding plans with her parents.


Karen’s Commencement March ‘56


Karen and I attended church services fairly frequently our junior and senior years.  She was raised attending Methodist churches and we attended the Collegiate Methodist Church in campus town which was well attended by our college classmates.  Since I had started attending the Collegiate Presbyterian Church with some of my fraternity brothers, I invited her to attend that church with me several times.  We decided that we both liked the pastor at the Collegiate Presbyterian Church, Dr. William Remley, much better than the Methodist pastor.  Pastor Remley had accepted several invitations to join some of our Acacia dinners and in 1955 became an honorary member of Acacia.  He knew Karen and I a bit and we decided that we would like him to marry us.  We asked him to officiate at our wedding and he generously accepted.


My senior year classes included three quarters of chemical process industries, chemical engineering design, chemical engineering laboratory and military science, two quarters of electrical engineering for non-electrical engineering majors and one quarter each of chemical engineering thermodynamics, chemical engineering special problems and social studies class entitled courtship and marriage.  I made As  in all of the courses except for Bs in both electrical engineering classes, in courtship and marriage, in one chemical engineering design class and in one military science class and a C in one chemical engineering process industries class.  My senior year was the best of my four years grade wise with a 3.52 grade-point average. I graduated in the top one-quarter of our class in a major that was recognized as one of the most difficult at ISC in the minimum four year time period.


I particularly enjoyed my chemical engineering classes this last year because combined with the beginning of the year inspection trip, I could better relate the course work with the real world chemical engineering work.  In the final quarter of engineering design, we were given the challenge of designing a complete chemical fertilizer manufacturing plant, including sizing the space and equipment requirements to manufacture a specified amount of the chemical fertilizers.


In addition to all of my other senior year activities at ISC was the job search.  Even though I was committed to spending two years of active duty with the USMC, I did not at this time know when that responsibility would begin.  Because of the very strong employment market for chemical engineers, some employers were offering even short term employment opportunities to those chemical engineers who had future military obligations.    Never-the-less, I wanted to explore various future employment opportunities, so I signed up for a number of interviews with prospective employers who visited the ISC campus in the fall and early winter quarters, looking to hire chemical engineers.   I interviewed with Exxon, Dow Chemical, Dupont, Monsanto, Diamond Alkali and several others.   I scheduled several interview trips, including ones to Dow Chemical, Monsanto and Diamond Alkali.  The offering starting salary for chemical engineers at that time was about $450 monthly.


I was extremely proud of the fact that I had completely paid for my college education from my 4-H baby beef projects, my farm laboring, my work at the Fisher Governor Plant, my  work at the ISC Engineering Experiment Station, my summer construction work, my modest payments from the USMC ($27/month in my junior and senior year) and my “free meals” at Acacia when I was on the wait staff.  Doing so, when tuition was only $50 per quarter was much easier than it is in the many years since my college days, where the current tuition is now some 60 times higher than it was in 1956!


However, I was nearly broke, getting married, relocating to Virginia with the need to rent an apartment and set up housekeeping, need to purchase uniforms and whatever other expenses might come our way in the next several months.  One weekend when I was home, I went to our local Marshalltown bank, where I had had a checking account for now almost ten years, visited Will Lane the manager (with whom my father and mother had done considerable business for almost 20 years).  He offered me a $500 non-secured loan at the then competitive rate, which I accepted.


I received offers from several companies, contingent on being able to work at least a month prior to reporting to active duty.  I accepted a job with Dow Chemical in Midland, MI in its Special Assignments Program contingent on being able to work with them at least one month.   However, on May 10th, I received my orders to report to USMC Base, Quantico, VA between June 12 and June 18, 1956.  Later, I received a letter of confirmation of my employment acceptance from Dow, dated May 18th.  In the meantime, I had advised Dow by phone that I had received my orders from the USMC and that I would not be able to accept Dow’s employment offer.  In a subsequent response from Dow, they advised me that, assuming that Dow Chemical was hiring graduate chemical engineers in June 1958 – upon the completion of my two year USMCR obligation - I would have a job with Dow.


Commencement from ISC/USMC Officer’s Commission/Wedding Bliss/Depart for Active Duty -


The final course work, prior to commencement was lower key, no senior final exams, more social interaction, conversations about our next responsibilities and what else comes next, however it was all a blur, especially with wedding planning superimposed on it.  Commencement was held on Saturday, June 9, 1956 at 10 AM.  There were some 2000 graduates all marching into the large old campus fieldhouse – home of the Cyclone basketball team.  I don’t remember who our speaker was, but I remember the fieldhouse being very warm, particularly  wearing the caps and gowns over  my Marine Corps shirt and trousers.  The awarding of diplomas involved processions from  two different aisles, to reduce the amount of time required for some 2000 grads to receive a diploma, shake a hand and have a picture taken.  The ceremony was over in two hours and the grads were released to attend whatever other activities they had.  All of the graduates who were being commissioned into one of the military services reconvened at their respective armories for the commissioning ceremony.  My mother drove to Ames to attend my commencement program and commissioning ceremony.   My father was disappointed that farm duties required him to miss the events of the big day. Karen was tied up in What Cheer preparing for our wedding that night.  So, mom represented our entire family at the first one-half of our big day.


The seven of we USMC and USMCR commission candidates met in a small venue where we were presented our Second Lieutenant bars, our record of being commissioned in the USMC or USMCR and congratulated by the Major who had been our primary instructor for the past two years.  We were in our khaki uniforms  – shirt, trousers  and tie - so we had our bars pinned to our shirt collars. Earlier on June 9, 1956, I received and  signed my acceptance of  my orders to report to USMC Officer’s Basic School, Quantico, VA between June 12 and June 18.  I was given the service number of 071341.  The orders were conditional on my passing the USMC physical when I reported to Quantico.



 Jim’s Commencement With Mom On The Acacia Fraternity Front Steps, June 9,1956 (Mother “Dee” is the lady on the right at the top of the steps.)


My mother and other happy Acacia graduate’s parents joined us at the Acacia chapter house where the chapter treated the graduates and their families to a picnic lunch.   After lunch, mom headed home to get ready for the wedding.  I had my car loaded with all of my belongings from the nearby room where I resided that last year.  I was prepared to leave ISC upon the completion of   the morning’s activities. I said my good byes to my Acacia brothers, after my mother left for home and then I followed her home to get also get ready for our wedding.  I did not say good bye to four of my Acacia brothers, Dick Kerr, John McDonald, Robert Davis and Larry McComber, instead I reminded them of their wedding duty, as ushers, later that day in What Cheer.  They all committed again to being there for Karen and me, which was a significant commitment as three of them lived far from Iowa and had delayed their plans to return to home prior to departing on NROTC cruises.  The only brother of the four, Larry McComber, who was not in NROTC, happened to live in Marshalltown.   He wasn’t as much inconvenienced,


I arrived home and dressed for the wedding, as were my entire family, all of my brothers and sisters were in the wedding party.  We headed for What Cheer separately and arrived in ample time for the 6 PM wedding.  It was a very hot Iowa day.  Many of the guests, particularly relatives of mine drove a fair distance to attend the wedding – upwards of two hours in some cases – and so the wedding guests began arriving a various times prior to the wedding.   A number of them were standing in line at the church waiting for the ushers to begin seating them.  Unfortunately, the ushers were MIA.  No one had seen them.  I was beginning to panic - fortunately Karen did not yet know about this snafu.  Shortly before 6 PM the ushers made their appearance.  They explained that they had been looking for my car, which was carefully hidden in a friend of Karen’s barn a few miles away.   The ushers wanted to “decorate” the car appropriately for we newly-weds.  Fortunately, they were not able to find the car, even though they thought that a local person had given them a good clue.


Regardless, the guests were seated, the church was still hot inside but tolerable.  The wedding began nearly on time.  Karen insisted on having all of my siblings in the wedding party.  My brother Bob, who was still in the Army at Fort Campbell, KY, was my best man – as I was for him two years prior.  My sisters, Beverly and Nancy were two of four bridesmaids.   My youngest sister, Jaynane was a junior bridesmaid, brother Dick was a candle lighter joined by one of my cousins.  Karen’s long-time school friend and What Cheer neighbor, Cynthia Draegert was the maid of honor, Belle Larson, my MHS class-mate and Karen’s dorm-mate, who introduced Karen and I was a bridesmaid as was another close friend of Karen’s also from What Cheer.

L to R: Belle Larson, Nancy Davis, JoAnn Aller, Beverly Davis, Cynthia Draegert, Karen, Jim, Bob Davis, Dennis McComber, John McDonald, Dick Kerr and Robert Davis, Center Front: Jaynane Davis, The Flower Girl is Anne Davis, Uncle Bud's 4 year old daughter. The Ring Bearer is a neighbor's son.


The wedding was conducted without any other hitches.  Pastor Remley was a pro and insured that the wedding was conducted properly, as we had no rehearsal.  Of course, we had no rehearsal dinner either. The reception was held in the church basement a fairly large  room which easily accommodated the attendees.  The ladies of the Methodist Church served a wonderful spread of food for the guests.  As you might expect there was absolutely no alcohol served.  Immediately following the wedding service.  The bridal party stayed in the sanctuary for the customary pictures.  Karen  and I received a phone call on the church phone during the reception from her brother in Korea wishing us both good luck.  The connection wasn’t that good, but his thoughts and well wishes were really appreciated. 


We thanked the guests for braving the hot weather and blessing us with their attendance.  We cut the wedding cake, we dispensed with the speeches, we had no toasts, we said our good byes to families and guests, we changed our clothes and we departed the church to find our car (with all of our luggage preloaded) which had been stealthy returned to a spot near the church – unbeknownst to our ushers!  We left the church parking lot without the usual raucous crowd send-off, headed east to Quantico, VA. Karen and I did not know that the ushers, were able to follow us in their car as we sped east on Interstate 80.   About an hour later, Karen and I stopped at a roadside fast food restaurant for sodas, as we were  thirsty and exhausted.  While sitting in our car, enjoying our sodas and some restful time, I looked in the mirror to see behind our car one of our ushers quietly painting a sign on the back of our car.  I started the car and sped away.  That was the last time that I saw Dick Kerr, as I did not keep up with him and he is now deceased.  I reconnected with John McDonald, Robert Davis and Larry McComber in about 2006 at an ISU Acacia reunion in Scottsdale, Arizona. These reunions were initiated about that time and the four of us have attended these reunions for a dozen years.  (More on these reunions in this autobiography when I move to Arizona in 2005.)



           Our Wedding Photo, June 9, 1956


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