Sunday, May 29, 2011

Travels with my Dad—Day 8

After attending College Church in Wheaton, we decided to hit the road westward.  Dad had in mind to show me some of the childhood towns where Mom lived before her folks settled in Cedar Rapids.  She was born in Des Moines when they lived in Marshalltown, and as her dad’s business grew they moved to Fremont where she went to elementary school in a class of 8 students and then moved to Cedar Rapids for middle school and was thrown into a class of 200.

Map picture

It was a beautiful sunny day for a drive.  We enjoyed getting off the interstate and going through the Amana colonies, North English and South English and through the small towns of Iowa.



A generic small town in Iowa—just typical old brick , flags waving, only 2 storied buildings.

The farmland in Iowa is not flat.  I loved the gently rolling fields and noted the greenways in the dips, presumably for erosion control, or perhaps ease of tilling.

11-05-08-14-08-44H 11-05-08-14-17-13H 11-05-08-14-17-24H 11-05-08-14-20-58H Old and new, silos and cell towers ^

In Fremont there is a new school so we didn’t actually see where Mom attended,

                          v  Margaret, (top row, 3rd child)


but we did see the bank where her saved-up nickels were lost during the Depression:



From there to Oskaloosa where her aunt and uncle and cousins lived, and then on toward Des Moines.

On the road is the charming Dutch town of Pella which is best known for being the home of Pella Windows and Doors.  I will remember it for its tulips and windmills, however.  It was getting close to dusk when we arrived so picture taking was iffy, and being Sunday night the streets were empty.  We learned later that the tulip festival had been that weekend and we had just missed it.  I could tell that it was a place I would like to linger: the streets were so tidy, the yards were immaculate, and the shop windows so enticing (but closed, alas).  The businesses all had Dutch names: Van Dyke, Vermeer, Van Den Berg.

11-05-08-16-32-20H    The town square, above and below.11-05-08-16-31-07H

 11-05-08-16-33-01H 11-05-08-16-33-31H 11-05-08-16-36-20H

At days end we arrived in Des Moines which seemed like a large and confusing city in our fatigue.  Finding our way to the motel was stressful and once there we didn’t really want to go out to find supper at 10 PM.  It was our only supperless day, and it suited both of us just fine.


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Then and Now

Posted by PicasaThe Marion Wade Center at Wheaton houses the C.S. Lewis library as well as 6 other British authors.  In the photo above you see the Lewis family wardrobe which was the inspiration for The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and was given to Wheaton by the family.  The top center photo is the reading room of the Wade Center where I could happily sit and avoid going to class or doing homework.   The bridge pictures of Dad are at the Lagoon, a healthy walk from campus for young dating couples.  Dad took this photo of Mom at the Lagoon in the 40's:

College Collage =)

Top:Lisa Beamer addresses graduates, Todd Beamer relief in student center Middle: Class of 1946 and student center

Travels with My Dad-Days 6,7,8

The two goals for our trip were for my Dad to attend his 65th college reunion and to see my sister and her husband in Denver. 
Dad entered Wheaton in the fall of 1942 and would have graduated in 1946 had the war not carried the young men away.  Mom was a senior that year although she took an extra year and graduated with the class of '43.
Understandably, there was not a huge turn out of alumni from 1946: they are 86 years old or so.  At dinner the first evening there were 6, and mostly they didn't remember each other.  The few that Dad had looked forward to seeing weren't able to make it.  There were 2 from the class of '41 and 1 from '36.  They joined our group, along with my good friend Marilee who was in my freshman class (class of '72) and is now the assistant to the president.  She was there representing her dad, class of '41.
Over the weekend we had a great time of seeing the campus, enjoying the well-kept grounds and being thrilled with the new buildings, especially the science building.  Dad identified all the buildings by their old names and purposes and was happy to have a few stories to tell about their former uses. He took me to see his off-campus house that he roomed in with his cousin on Scott Street and showed me the path he walked to school everyday.


His house has been refurbished and looks better now than it did then, he says.
 We enjoyed getting in on the graduate school graduation.  Lisa Beamer, author of Let's Roll and widow of the 9-11 hero of Flight 93 which crashed in the countryside of Pennsylvania, was the speaker.   Her husband, Todd Beamer, was a Wheaton grad ('91) and the new student center is named for him.  Lisa spoke on "Ordinary Significance", encouraging these young academics to find significance in their daily lives.


Dad and I both enjoyed the sunshine and the memories of this weekend. We felt that the Lord has blessed and protected Wheaton through the decades as He has protected and blessed our lives.  We are grateful for the heritage that my own children have enjoyed, as well.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Travels with My Dad, Day 5

We left La Crosse on Thursday morning, heading into more traffic and bigger cities than we had seen for a week.  As the Navigator I was a little nervous: we were doing some route changes that involved being able to read and interpret the exit numbers on the atlas Dad uses.  Keep in mind that his atlas was published in 1997 and a few roads and overpasses have been built since then.  He has a new atlas at home but he is waiting to use it until this one wears out.  [I should have helped that cause with my coffees.]

Then there is the additional tension of the GPS.  Most of the time it was just great, but sometimes the little person inside got her nose seriously bent out of shape if we made a detour.  Even for ice cream.  Or a bathroom break.  Or sometimes we did actually take a wrong turn because she waits until you are right at the intersection in the right-hand lane and then she says “Go left at ….Road” and there you are, but there is another car beside you and you can’t just jump over them.  And the GPS lady starts freaking out, “Recalculating.  Recalculating.  Go 150 feet and turn right and then turn right and then turn right again” and you can just hear her muttering under her breath, “and you will be where you should have been if you’d listened in the first place!” But my Dad might choose to go left and then left and then right and be ahead by 2 blocks of what she is advising, and she who has no sense of humor is quite busy “recalculating” all the way.  Dad doesn’t hear well so he misses some of her early prompts, the ones that say “In 500 feet, turn left…” and he often has his own sense of direction, not to say preconceived ideas, so we  got quite well acquainted with the testy little miss in the GPS. 

However, I was the backup Navigator who has both a louder-in-your-ear instruction giver and the good sense to give several advance warnings.  And a sense of humor, or at least the sense to shut up when a mistake has been made.  But finding the exit numbers on a map that is 8 1/2 x 11 and changing routes in the middle of a city is not for the faint of heart.  But we made it, I-90 to I-94 to I-39 and then US 53 in towards Chicago.

Our destination was a little inspiration Dad had had along the way: I should see Serena, the town where Mom taught school before they were married while he was in the Navy.  Now I had heard bits and pieces of her life in Serena through the years, but it was never very important in their conversation because they weren’t together: it was a waiting time, a non-event, sort of.   Now that Mom has gone, everything about her life and history seems very important to Dad and he was eager to show me places she had lived, places they’d been together.  So we headed down the back roads to Serena.  (I’ll admit that I always envisioned it as a little town out in the middle of nowhere, and it was, back in 1943.  But I was quite surprised to see how close to Chicago and Wheaton it actually is, now.  In 1943, it was a world away…)

This is a typical, typical scene in Iowa and Illinois:  A cluster of trees and farm buildings along the road with miles of fields in between. An old highway. Flat. 


The first indicator that we were in the ‘hood:11-05-05-10-38-03H 11-05-05-10-38-12H 11-05-05-10-46-03H Everything seemed familiar to Dad, the firehouse, the school…the local cafe was closed or we would have had lunch there.

11-05-05-10-47-08HBelow is the high school, newly modernized, where Mom taught English and Latin and typing (that was a joke).  The story goes that the previous English teacher had gone into Chicago for a weekend and had run off and gotten married and didn’t come back to teach, so the school called Wheaton College asking for any leads and Wheaton called Mom at home in Cedar Rapids to see if she was interested.  She was, and she came and finished out that year and the next 2.11-05-05-11-06-04H 11-05-05-11-07-02H 11-05-05-11-08-51H While in Serena, she lived in the home of one of the school families, and they were good to her. The current owner let us look at house.  The upstairs right window was her bedroom.

11-05-05-11-30-40H 11-05-05-11-13-19H This is the little post office that Mom walked to every day on her lunch to see if she had gotten any letters from Dad.  The silos were there then, too.


There were enough letters of consequence going both ways to prompt Dad to go immediately to Serena upon his discharge from the Navy in order to propose marriage.  It happened to be the end of year school picnic on the Fox River but that didn’t stop a fellow who’d been away too long: he just took her out on a rowboat and proposed.  She accepted. This photo was taken that very day:


I found it rather remarkable that, 65 years later as I was walking around her high school, in the (new) concrete I saw her initials, M.K. for Margaret Kikendall.  Her spirit lingers!


Day 5-La Crosse to Serena and Naperville and Wheaton, about 300 miles

Map picture

Sad to say that my camera has developed a problem with the lens which casts a shadow in the upper left corner unless I seriously crop the photo.  I guess I need a new camera. You can quit rubbing your eyes and your screen.  It’s my bad.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Road Trippin’ with my Dad—Day 4


Before we left our overnight spot in Mitchell, South Dakota, at my request we went to see the famous Corn Palace.  For you historians out there, it was built in 1892 to show young immigrant farmers what fertile soil they could have in South Dakota—enough crops to make art out of the leftovers.  [Isn’t that like playing with your food?  Never mind.]

Every year the outside of the building is stripped and redecorated with murals of corn, rye, oat heads and sour dock.  About 275,000 ears of corn are split in half and nailed to the walls in patterns made by local artists and celebrating current concerns. Each year has a new theme.11-05-04-07-32-35H 11-05-04-07-28-12H 11-05-04-07-28-49H 11-05-04-07-30-09H

11-05-04-07-33-28H  Then we were on our way across the rest of South Dakota, across Minnesota, and into Wisconsin.  We saw fields of every soil color and John Deere machinery of every configuration kicking up dust clouds as they got to work on the spring soil.  Everywhere we saw wind turbines punctuating the fields, bringing another source of power to the consumers and another source of revenue to the farmers.11-05-04-12-57-53H     11-05-04-12-58-53H 11-05-04-12-58-58H 11-05-04-12-59-02H

We went into the “historic downtown La Crosse” looking for a waterfront motel, but alas, they were full.  So we ended up at a convenient spot on the Mississippi River and near the freeway to our dinner spot, the ubiquitous Olive Garden.

A scene that I liked in the ‘historic downtown’ (I love old signs painted on brick buildings):11-05-04-15-26-09HOur motel was located on French Island, and with the Mississippi surrounding it at record heights I thought I should inquire about air mattresses in the rooms, for instance.  The clerk admitted that although they had been prepared to evacuate in the past few days, it “seemed to be alright now”…Good words to go to sleep by, eh? 

I noticed the water was so high on the trees as we crossed over to the island that it came right up the trunk to the branches.  In the evening darkness coming back from dinner with the water alongside the road I imagined Indians in their canoes sliding through the waters around French Island.  I wish I could have gotten better pictures but stopping on the freeway for pictures is not considered a roadside emergency.  Only to me.

 11-05-05-05-46-44H The Mississippi right up to the tree branches here^in La Crosse, but the news of the hardships from flooding further south were very sobering.  Dad knew that the Mississippi channel  is only 9 feet deep so when heavy rains and snowmelt coincide, there is no place for the water to go but outwards, whereas our own Columbia River has a channel depth of 43 feet.


Day’s Totals:  374 Miles, Mitchell, SD to La Crosse, WI

Map picture

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