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“1776. No just 76”

She’s 76, going on 100. Pat, my wife, best friend, and guidance director. 1776 was the country’s birthday, today is your day. Actually, I am determined, that as long as I live, you will never be able to catch me.

Happy Birthday. I love you.

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My objective today is to wish granddaughter Jenna, son-in-law Steve, and good wife Pat a Happy Birthday. (“No foolin”) The best thing about it is that March is no more, and there is hope eternal for better days ahead. But we have been “fooled” before. In fact, we are reminded of that by the few snow flakes that fell earlier today. Yesterday, the temperature was near 70 degrees. We have had gigantic snows in April, nearly shutting down the entire state and all schools within. The year 1973 in particular, comes to mind in which I became helplessly stuck trying to get on the highway to Keosauqua, IA and to the school where I was teaching at the time. I ended up trudging home through the snow and calling the school to tell them that I could not get there because of the snow. Keosauqua was some 50 miles away from our home in Ottumwa, and the Principal laughed and said “now what is the real reason.” It had not yet started to snow there, and he was still thinking that April and Springtime, more likely, suggested “spring fever” and a desire to just play “hooky.” Before the day was over, the snow, some two feet of the stuff, reached Keosauqua and he knew I was telling the truth.

Just a few years ago, when I was still maintaining a back yard fish pond, April 4th and Pat’s birthday, brought a sudden drop of temperature and heavy snow which resulted in the loss of my four beloved foot long beautiful Japanese Koi fish. The much smaller and also beautiful, gold fish survived. Apparently, the sudden change caused a loss of oxygen in the pond which was too much for the larger fish.

So anyway, April 1st brings us closer to May and then real Summer which arrives in June and will last a few precious weeks until we start thinking about leaves and soon after, Winter again. Hopefully, we will not have any “April Fools” concerns this year with the weather.

Once again, Happy Birthday Jenna, Steve and Gram.

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These thoughts will include some of my earliest memories and memories of being told of things that took place before I was born. My parents were high school sweethearts in the years about 1914 – 1917. Of course transportation was mostly horse and buggy in those times, so those students from the farms fortunate enough to attend high school lived in rooms rented in town. Thirty years later during my own high school years, things hadn’t changed all that much. We no longer depended on horse and buggy, but still only had one school bus my Freshman year, and only two or three by the time I graduated in 1948. All other students not served by a bus had to have their own transportation or stay in town. There were few all weather roads, plus WWII stopped the manufacture of any new vehicles from 1942 through 1946. Thus, we still had many farm students residing in town through the school week.

My Dad was allowed to attend High School by contributing financially by working his way through school. There was public education, but the cost of food, and room rent was met by holding a job with the Mount Ayr newspaper. Among his duties was meeting various trains upon arrival to interview those coming and leaving and reporting for the paper. If my sister Jean happens to read this, perhaps she can correct me or add knowledge of my parents’ high school years.

Our country entered WWI in 1917, and Dad entered the Army and served until the end of the war at the end of 1918. They were married and lived in Des Moines until after my sister Anne was born in 1920. During the period in Des Moines, I remember being told that he worked for the Flynn Dairy which was located perhaps 4 to 5 miles from their home on the east side. In order to survive financially, he walked the distance to and from work daily in order to save street car fare. Again, Jean help me out here. I believe they returned to Ringgold County in the early 1920’s and lived on a farm near Delphos, IA. Apparently, Dad had visions of sometime becoming an independent businessman, and leaned toward owning a greenhouse (I remember seeing blue prints or plans for the construction of such) or by investing and learning all he could about a new technology, which would result in the hatching of chicken eggs by means other than the accepted method of letting the hen sit on the eggs for a three week period. A farmer, or later a business person, could buy an incubator and replace the hen who then could just concern herself with just providing the eggs.

He learned about a company in Springfield, Ohio called the Buckeye Incubator Co. which he felt had made the most progress in developing and selling the new technology. After repeated efforts to contact the company about possible employment and being totally ignored, he decided to hitch hike, (hardly any highways or cross country traffic at that time), ride by train either as a passenger or otherwise, or walk to Springfield in order to confront the company and convince them he was to be their next employee. (Shades of that remind me of Steve and Julie’s decision to go to Houston and work for Texas Instruments) Arriving in Springfield, Ohio unannounced, I believe they thought they could get rid of him by offering him a territory as a salesman in the Ozarks of Missouri. Somehow he saved enough to buy a car, I suppose a Model T or something. Of course there were few roads in the rural Ozarks (mostly just trails) and most farmers had never heard of an incubator and couldn’t afford one if they had. (Jean, do you remember the name of the man from Buckeye Inc. who became a lifelong friend and mentor to Dad and visited from time to time?) At some point, Dad purchased an incubator for himself and Mother, and began the Prentis Hatchery, probably about 1924. He would continue his now improving sales in the Missouri Ozarks and by then, southern Iowa as well, and Mother would oversee the hatchery operation, first, at their farm home, and later when they would open a retail hatchery in Mount Ayr. Sister Anne, was joined first by my brother, Richard in 1922, and my sister Jean in 1926, who I’m appealing to for help. Julie, check the birth dates, I’m sure I’m not totally right. Then I arrived in 1930, and by then the hatchery business was beginning to prosper in spite of the Depression. All before, about 1933, is hearsay for me. However, Dad continued to be a relatively successful salesmen well into the 30’s and Mom became a successful business woman, somewhat a rarity for that period with the help of the older children. Eventually, other Prentis Hatcheries were established in Leon, IA. and Bedford, Iowa.

The thing I remember most as a child was the joyful Friday evenings in which Dad would come home for the weekend. He would enter the house and state that he was sure he had dropped some change as he was getting out of the car. I would run to find a penny or two or sometimes a nickel or even a dime. More than likely the dimes had indeed really been unintentionally dropped as a dime was quite valuable for those days.:-) The other memory of his sales career was that almost every year there was a wreck in which he suffered injuries. As a result, I can remember many different cars in my early years, including Chevy’s, Ford’s, Studebaker’s, etc. and the fact that Dad suffered with a bad back requiring hospitalization at the VA Hospital in Des Moines, and the use of many braces, etc., throughout his life.

In addition to the annual wrecks while traveling, there was another, which will always be referred to as “the wreck” involving the entire family. Jean will know the exact year; however, I believe I would have been only about three. Our family had traveled to Bedford for business and to visit friends and celebrate the Fourth of July. The hour was late and I was sound asleep in the back seat between Anne and Richard. No seat belts then. Jean was between Dad and Mom in the front. We collided at a relatively high speed with a car that had been abandoned without lights sitting on the roadway. The highway was a gravel road. There were no paved roads in Ringgold County outside of town until I was 9 years old in 1939. In town, we had a few brick streets and a paved street that led to and through the most upscale section of town known as Sheldon Heights. There were no highway speed limits then or until well into the 1950’s in Iowa. As I grew up I could never understand why you couldn’t see a car sitting in the road at night until I hit a 1200 pound cow that had been previously hit and was struggling on the road at night in 1999. Then I understood how it was possible. Anyway, “the wreck” had serious consequences as Jean was thrown through the windshield and was near death for a period. Mother also suffered head injuries and suffered a permanent knot on her forehead until about 25 or 30 years later when she had it surgically removed. Jean has carried leg scars and marks since. The only real memory I have was being awakened by the crash and being unhurt, and asking Anne if we were still at the Fourth of July Fireworks. Then, the following days being kept informed of the condition of Mother and Jean. The rest I believe, had only minor injuries.

The first hatchery in Mount Ayr was one block north of the town square between a feed, coal and ice business operated by my uncle and a blacksmith shop. Behind the hatchery was a huge sand pile owned by a nearby lumber yard. All of these surroundings provided immense places of interest for a youngster after being old enough to go to the hatchery when there was no one at home to care for me. And it was great fun, when I was allowed to sleep nights at the hatchery, with my brother who at about age 13 to 15 was the night man. He would provide a 25 pound bag of chicken feed for me to use as a pillow. Before my birth, that building also provided the family living quarters in a loft at the rear of the building for a while. I think Jean remembers having lived in ten houses including the hatchery quarters by the time she was ten years old (or was that Anne?). By 1938, Dad had left the sales job to concentrate on the growing business. The only problem was, he had a new interest. Politics. He successfully ran for State Representative and began a 22 year career in both the Iowa House of Representatives and Iowa Senate as an elected official, followed by 6 years as a public servant, having been appointed to the Iowa Tax Commission. At one time, he was urged to run for Lieutenant Governor, but decided that he was financially unable and it would not be fair to his family. Anyway, he was still required to be gone for long periods and the business still required my Mother to handle the reins of the business.

The hatchery business was and probably still is a business requiring large amounts of manual labor. The early incubators required the most attention, and unfortunately never wore out and were mostly retained until the final days of the hatchery. However newer, more advanced machines were added through the years which were more efficient. The eggs had to be kept at a constant steady temperature (97 to 99 degrees) and had to be “turned” every three hours in order to give them uniform exposure to the heat and to exercise the embryo within the shell. The eggs were in trays of about 120 or so and merely were tilted in opposite directions each three hours. The whole operation only took about 20 minutes, and then the “turner” could go back to bed. There was always a fear of a power failure or a machine malfunction, and there were warning bells that loudly (scared the h— out of you) let you know if there was a problem during the night.

Thus, that was the need for a night man. Some time around 1940, the business outgrew the facilities and a building was rented on the east side of the square in Mount Ayr which provided for expansion. After Anne and Richard graduated from high school and left for college, and later Dick’s employment in Wash. D.C. and then the army after the beginning of WWII, more duties were to be assumed by the remaining children. As I was approaching the Junior High age, it was expected that I would become the “night man” and would sleep at the hatchery on the square until 1944, and later in the new hatchery building built next to the family home across from the Mount Ayr schools, until my own graduation from high school and subsequent leaving.

I don’t mean to minimize the contribution of my Father to the development and growth of the business. If ever there was a workaholic, he was one, but the importance of Mom maintaining and managing the business in his absence with the help of my brother and sisters, and myself should never be overlooked. Of course we had other important employees through the years that also were most valuable.

As mentioned, the business required lots of manual labor. A liaison had to be maintained with flock owner farmers who provided the eggs under the supervision of the hatchery. Flocks were vaccinated and tested on a regular basis by hatchery personnel. Then the farmer brought the eggs produced by his flock to the hatchery where the eggs would be sorted and “trayed” usually on a Sat. and Wed. The eggs would then be placed in the incubators early Sun. and Thurs. morning. Careful records were maintained on each tray. The trays stayed in the incubator for 18 days at which time the eggs were removed and placed in a larger hatching tray for the last 3 days in a separate incubator. Then on the 21st day when the incubator was opened, one would be greeted with yeep, yeep, peep, peep, and hundreds of baby chickens in the process of freeing themselves from the shell.

Hatching day twice a week were the really busy days. The trained chick sexors would arrive to determine whether the chicks were pullets or cockerels. The pullets were sold for egg laying and the cockerels were sold for Sunday dinner. Most chick sexors were of Japanese descent and during the war years, even though they were American citizens, they would arrive and leave at night. We brought them food as they would not be welcome at restaurants. It was unfortunate, but the country was so paranoid. Other days we were immersed in preparation, making cardboard boxes in which to deliver the chickens to the customer, cleaning up all the equipment after the hatch, etc. Also many times the customer would wish the chickens to be a few days old, so that required maintaining batteries of baby chickens to be fed and watered. There was a supplemental and very important feed business for all kinds of livestock, and the sale of equipment necessary for raising poultry. In addition, Dad added a farm for raising turkeys. My experience as “night man” during the hatching season (Jan. to June), qualified me to be the night man to sleep with the turkeys in a bunk house on the range (July to Christmas). There, I was a combination guard, and did morning chores before going to school. I was of high school age with a drivers license by the time I was asked to sleep with the turkeys.

To bring this to a conclusion, the hatchery was one of the first in the state of Iowa, after which followed a period of many years where nearly every town had a hatchery or certainly at least one in every county. I recall that in advertising, the Prentis Hatchery hatched and sold 250,000 chickens annually. As all things change, that too changed. Gradually there became factory farms with their own hatching facilities, and the poultry business as a part of every farm came to an end. Prentis Hatchery, as well as being one of the first in the state, was also one of the last to close in the state. After Dad’s retirement, Richard became the owner operator and hatching chickens ended probably in the mid-seventies. For awhile the business continued after Richard’s retirement as a feed and farm supply store until its closing during a prolonged recession in the eighties.

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March 7th. It always rings a bell and reminds me of the day in 1951 that I entered the U.S. Navy. My service number assigned me that day rolls off my tongue far quicker than my social security number. Pat and I had married two months earlier and I had expected to be leaving shortly after our wedding day. Then because enlistments were coming in faster than the Navy could keep up, there was a delay until March. I suspect there were many like me who preferred the prospects of Navy life compared to the dire news reports of what might be expected if one was sent to Korea as a soldier or marine. In my own defense, I had always wanted to be in the Navy, as a child wants to be a fireman or whatever. Indeed, I had already joined and served in the Navy Reserve for four years, long before the Korean War, enlisting when I was 17 and still in high school with parents approval. From our home town of Mount Ayr, IA. I was sent to Des Moines for induction. There, I joined a group of about 35 other Iowans taking their physicals and oaths and receiving their orders. As it turned out there were several from Ottumwa, which I didn’t know but became close friends and served with the next four years. Our friendship was renewed many years later when Pat, Tim, Julie and I moved to Ottumwa and our children would meet their future spouses. Funny how things all work out sometimes.

That day in Des Moines resulted in the determination that out of the 35 men, only two of us were married. I was 21, barely, and the other married man was 18. So, I was assigned the task of carrying all the orders for the entire group and was designated as being in charge during the two day train trip to San Diego, CA. That included arranging for meals and payment to the Railroad, etc. Also, keep the under-aged (all of them) out of the club car. I was not thrilled with the responsibility.

There was time available before train departure and another memory of that day included a visit to the State Capitol to see my father, who was serving in the Iowa Senate. The Legislature was in session and I was allowed on the floor of the Senate to see Dad. I was embarrassed (and honored) when he halted proceedings to introduce me to the Senate and announced that I was leaving in a few minutes for San Diego and the Navy. A quick father and son hug, and I was out the door to a big ovation.

The trip was relatively uneventful, with no particular problems. All good boys in those days. One other memory of that first day was of a song that I heard for the first time. “Unforgettable” reminded me of the love I had just left behind and had no idea when I would see again. And of course, the day in general that would be – unforgettable.

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I am always amazed when considering the massive technological advances that take place over such short periods. A life is such a small speck on a time line. As I play the remembering game I will be reminded that probably everything I might write about has no doubt already been heard before and that there is little interest in going through it again. In other words, who cares, but so what, I’ll meander for awhile now, and no doubt will again.

As I said, the advances made by mankind just continually mushroom. Centuries went by with seemingly nothing or little new. There was that thing called a wheel, and lever, etc. and everything appears about the same. Then all of a sudden we see pyramids, temples, Roman viaducts, and all the ancient marvels (and their stuff outlasts our stuff in most cases.) So of course there has always been advancement, and no doubt each generation felt time was leaving them behind.

The quantum leaps in any human lifetime is breathtaking. We’ve all tried to recall the first things that we remember in our early lives. I doubt if I can pinpoint the earliest age that I remember. I was an infant when my family moved to the house that I grew up in, and changes in that house were always occurring. Maybe we always had plumbing, but I remember the outhouse still being there and the pump and well that were enclosed in the back entryway indicating that my parents hadn’t yet been convinced that it would be safe to remove them. The house had a couple of vacant lots with it and we always had a cow, and chickens, and oh yes, a pony, which I remember, but was gone before I was old enough to ride (yes, in town).

The house was heated with a single coal stove which sat in the living room during the winter and was removed during the warm months. The cook stove used kerosene, and we had an ice box which was replenished two or three times a week by a delivery man who was signaled by a sign placed in the window. The sign could be turned in different directions to indicate the amount of pounds of ice you wished to receive.

The washing machine that I remember had an electric motor, but the one at Aunt Florence’s house which had no electricity had a gas motor that agitated the tub. The clothes were run through a ringer that you turned with a handle, (later was electric) that frightened me, because one might get their hand caught in that thing. The drying was accomplished in the winter with lines strung throughout the house. The clothes sucked the air right out of the room as they dried, and I always found it difficult to breathe. I didn’t like the sheets on the bed immediately after drying, even outdoors, (can’t breathe) and still don’t to this day (those dried in today’s dryers are okay). The appliances began to upgrade before too many years.

We had an automobile, but I remember “Ben Thompson” delivering the coal with a wagon and team of horses. He was the local freight hauler, (the UPS man of the day) picking up the freight when the train arrived (which ran through our backyard). As the train was slowing by then, we could always see the several hobos in the empty boxcars, or hanging on between cars. Then shortly, after the train reached the depot and switch yards, we would have those same faces we’d seen on the train, knocking on our door asking to do odd jobs, or just wanting a handout.

Also, in the 30’s and beyond, Mar. 1st was Moving Day for farmers. Most rented their farms and needed to be on their new farms before planting season. Anyway, I remember the stream of horse drawn wagons piled high with furniture, tools, etc. going by our house as they moved from one part of the county to another. The horses were the power for the farm operations. Tractors were a rarity until after WWII.

When I was seven and Grandma Tennant was caring for me, we listened live on radio to the Coronation of King George VI. Grandma explained that it was because King Edward had caused such a fuss with that Simpson woman. (I recently read, that event had been the first televised event in Great Britain. Can’t imagine who would have seen it). Cars were model A Fords with lots of model T’s around for years along with comparable Chevy’s, etc.

I’m sure every generation can point to the differences in a life time. It just seems like such a short time to have had the changes we have had. Then I take a step back and am reminded that my Dad was born just 20 years after the Battle of the Big Horn and just 9 years after the Battle of Wounded Knee. He lived to see a man land on the moon. Grandmother Prentis died when I was 15. She enjoyed telling me how she was startled by a couple of Indians sitting in a field that she often passed through when she was a little girl. She was frightened and ran but there was no problem.

My Mother recalled listening to the very first radio broadcast from KDKA Pittsburgh, on something called a crystal set. She remembered that at the end of WWI in which she had two brothers in France, they were never able to determine for sure when the boys would be home. That was before radio, and mail and newspapers were delayed. Telegrams just weren’t commonly used. So they just had to meet the train every day in Benton with the horse and buggy until one day they were there. I’m sure they didn’t both arrive at the same time. Dad had also been in the Army but had not yet gone to Europe, but I bet she was anxious to see him also, as they were married before another year after the war.

Well, I haven’t given you any earth shaking new items here. As I said you may have to put up with more of this from time to time. Point is, things sure do change in a person’s lifetime. Julie’s work with Genealogy prompts one to ponder, about the lives of all our ancestors.

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Wow, where would I be without daughter Julie’s help? Wife Pat tried to help, but she’s an old dog too. My efforts at setting up this blogging thing last Saturday turned out to be first a comedy of errors and later pure frustration. I finally just had to pack it in and return on Sunday. Not being familiar with the procedures and terminology, nevertheless I had set out to register and establish an account. I wrote an info page, entered it someplace and immediately lost all the content and received numerous messages that I had violated various rules and regs. With new determination I re-wrote, re-entered, and re-messed up. Once again, I re-scanned the site for more information and after re-examination, proceeded for the third time. You guessed it, I still didn’t have a clue as to what I was doing. By then, I was certain that I would be fined or sentenced, or at least drummed out of the organization. Finally after Julie realized what I was attempting to do, she made several suggestions via IM and finally asked, “ARE YOU LOGGED IN?” At that point it was like the student half sleeping in the back of the class who was asked by the instructor, “which is worse, ignorance or apathy?” The answer of course was “I don’t know and I don’t care.” My answer in addition was, I need a break and I need sleep. See you later. (No, I wasn’t logged in.)

The new day, Sunday, brought new hope and acceptable success. Still trying to learn, and hope you all will bear with me. I can’t leave though without mentioning the frustrations that I have trying to use the Cell phone, and even the new land line service through the cable system. Blake and Julie can attest to that also, after being cut off recently. Anyway the service would no longer allow us to get anything other than a busy signal. So I did successfully reach them with the cell phone after a 40 minute session of music and messages. The man asked me several questions which I could not answer and asked me to perform several operations that I could not do. He then said, “never mind,” try it now. Lo and behold it worked and continues to do so thus far.

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Hello world!

I’m way too old to understand what this is all about or what to do about it, but I have enjoyed reading blogs from family members – and others. So here goes, as I try to figure this all out. My daughter Julie has been paying tribute to all of our family’s February birthdays with pictures and enjoyable memories. Now it is her turn on Mon. Feb. 25. I guess I have been prompted to take a stab at this blogging thing because I just wanted to add a Happy Birthday and Thank You for being such a great daughter.

I have been very adept at complaining about the miserable winter we have been experiencing. However, your birthday quickly reminds me of the day in that year that you came to us bringing such joy and love to your Mother, Brother, and me. I guess if I mention the year I will be giving away age secrets, but 1959 was a h— of a winter. Snow up the gazoo. While you well know the story, Julie, I will just quickly summarize the ordeal. Because the streets were nearly impassable, arrangements had been made to get Pat (Mom) to the hospital in a Jeep if necessary, owned by the town’s ambulance operator (and Undertaker) who was a good friend. All this, even though we lived only two blocks from the hospital. When Mom reads this, she will surely correct all the details that I have wrongly remembered. Anyway, I had had to be gone much of the time making it harder for Mom who also had a young son to care for. You arrived safely after long labor and the Dr. nearly not arriving on time. I was fortunate to be on hand. After a short but successful stay at the hospital, Mother and new Daughter were allowed to go home.

After a couple of days, with me being gone, new complications set in and a return to the hospital was necessary, again through deep snows and ugly weather. I attempted to return to Corydon from Des Moines through gigantic snow drifts, etc. and finally arrived in time to find out that you were going to be okay. Anyway, it was an ordeal for Mom, you and Nana who had come to help out for a few days. Now your upcoming birthday of course reminds me that everything turned out fine and what a joy you have been to us. Also, for me to quit complaining about this lousy weather as it is nothing compared to the winter of ’59. Now you have your own wonderful family and are also a Grandmother, indicative of a very successful birthday event in 1959. Happy Birthday.

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