When He Was Young

My nephew had to do a school report recently and decided to do his presentation on his grandpa. His main source of information ended up being a book I did in 2006 about my dad’s childhood. This was the first history type book that I did which with a non-traditional look. No white pages with lots of text and a few photos. I enlisted the help of my niece Kimberli to do some illustrations. She was just starting her artistic training and she tried to do a different style than she was really comfortable so the quality of the drawings is inconsistent but the illustrations still add to the book. It was a learning experience for both of us.

One of my main goals with this project was to make it a more approachable history to read for all ages. And I think that it was at least partly successful with that since Jacob was able to use it for his school report. Now he knows something more about his grandpa that he can probably relate to in more ways. My dad had a kind of interesting childhood growing up in the days of prohibition in a suburb of Chicago.

While I’m sure I would do somethings differently if I was starting this project today, I still think it is a pretty good example of what can be done when you don’t have tons of information or lots of photos. I’m hoping that it will inspire someone in how they can tell one of their family’s stories.



8 July 1856 – Iowa City – Mary Taylor

Autobiography of Elizabeth White Steward

When we completed our journey to Iowa City, we were informed that we would have to walk four miles to our camping ground. All felt delighted to have the privilege of a pleasant walk. We all started, about 500 of us, with our bedding. We had not gone far before it began to thunder and lighten and the rain poured. The roads became very muddy and slippery. The day was far advanced and it was late in the evening before we arrived at the camp. We all got very wet. The boys soon got our tent up so we were fixed for the night, although very wet.

Autobiography of Heber Robert McBride

We went from Boston to Chicago then to Rock Island, crossed the river on a steamboat, because the railway bridge was burned down. After we all got over, we took the train for Iowa City. When we got there and our baggage was unloaded, it was getting late in the day, and our camping ground was 3 miles from the city, as there was no place at the depot large enough to accommodate so many people. So a great many of the people started for camp on foot just about dark and I was one of them. But we had not gone very far when it began to rain and was so dark that you could not see anything and to make things worse I got lost from the rest of the company, but made out to keep the road by the help of the lightning, for Iowa can beat the world for thunder and lightning, but I never was afraid of lightning. After ascending a steep hill I could see a fire at the camp. They was keeping a big fire burning for to let the people know where the camp was for there was a great many people waiting there to get their teams and wagons ready to start across the plains.

When I saw the fire, I started in a straight line for it and that is where I missed it. Not knowing anything about the country, I thought that would be the best way. The rain had quit after it wet [p.8] me through, there not being a dry thread. After wading through numerous pools of water from ankle deep to knee deep and wallowing through grass as high as my head, I managed to reach camp pretty near give out. But after all my bad luck I was there before quite a number of the company. Father and mother and the children arrived after me. 2 of the children, being small, had to be carried most all the way. But when they got to camp, they found an old friend, James Fisher, from Scotland. Him and father was playmates together and had not seen each other for a number of years. He took us to his tent to stay all night. I don’t know how long they sat up and talked, but after supper I soon fell asleep. This was my first night in a tent.

Journal of Peter Howard McBride

The night we arrived in Iowa, there was the worst storm I ever have experienced, thunder, lightning, rain coming down in torrents. There were wagons to take our bedding and luggage to camp three miles away, but we had to walk. Parents lost their children and children their parents, but we finally got settled in tents for the night, but were all glad when morning came as the sun was shining brightly.

60 Years Ago Today and Yesterday

Saturday, 31 May 1952:

At 4 a.m. in the Laramie bus depot I brushed my teeth. As we left I saw the outlines of the University of Wyoming. We sped up over the mountains, 8800 feet, and over the Continental Divide. There was an accident on the road where a deer had apparently been hit by a truck.
As we left Wyoming behind, the flat plains of Nebraska stretched before us. At North Platte, we crossed the time zone and set our watches ahead one hour. While traveling I talked to the bus driver and he pointed out a herd of buffalo in the fields along the road and told me about Boys’ Town as we passed it.

At Omaha we changed buses and drivers. Then we had difficulty getting rearranged in our seats because the committee in charge decided to switch the kids in the back of the bus to the front and vice versa. A couple of us ended up in the aisle because two of the kids couldn’t decide which of the two seats they were going to sit in.

As we drove through Omaha, I found it to be an interesting city with many beautiful homes and clean streets. The next city was Council Bluffs. Once again while driving I talked to the new bus driver about Salt Lake City and the Mormons. When crossing the Missouri River, he pointed out the huge dikes which had been built in an effort to control the rising waters. Sleep? Whatta night!

Sunday, 1 June 1952:

Around 4 a.m. we arrived at the Tri-Cities: Davenport, Moline, Rock Island. Whatta night in the bus! The bus driver promised to wake us up so we could see the great Mississippi. And he did. There was a toll charge of 25 cents to cross the Mississippi River. It was pretty dark to get a good idea of the river though.

At about 6 a.m. we stopped at DeKalb, Illinois. The driver insisted we could get a better breakfast here than in Chicago, but I think he had some ulterior motive. Most of the kids came back moaning about the heavy hot cakes and the “hole” of a rest room. I decided not to have breakfast, because it was fast Sunday. While the group ate, I redecorated the bus and then made an attempt at starting my diary.

At a fire station across the street someone asked for permission from the firemen for us to slide down the fire pole. After we got permission, we hurriedly climbed up the stairs at the fire house and each of us took a turn wrapping ourselves around the pole and zooming down through the flapping doors.

Around 7 a.m. we were back on the road again. We had a singing Sunday School on the bus and entertained the driver with:
Come, Come Ye Saints
The Spirit of God Like a Fire Is Burning
We Thank Thee O God for a Prophet
We Are All Enlisted
 Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam
Put Your Shoulder to the Wheel
Master the Tempest Is Raging
Did You Think to Pray
Oh, It Is Wonderful
Secret Prayer
Will the Youth of Zion Falter
Onward Christian Soldiers
How Gentle God’s Command
Welcome, Welcome Sabbath Morning
Oh, How Lovely Was the Morning
Oh, My Father
I Know That My Redeemer Lives
and many others.

While we entered the suburbs of Chicago we were still singing. And when we crossed another time zone, we set our clocks to 8:45 a.m. Soon after we passed the Chapel Hill Gardens, biggest Veterans Hospital in the United States, and Glenn Oaks Cemetery and Mausoleum.

Then as we drove into Chicago through their narrow streets, we passed Sunbeam, Formfit, and General Motors Parts Division. We headed northeast into the colored section which is an older section along Roosevelt Road. We craned our necks trying not to miss anything.

For many of us this was our first look at Chicago. As we were heading northeast through the older section of Chicago, we passed the Gold Theatre where three features were playing. The bus driver gave us a few interesting bits of information as we rode along. The driver warned us about holding onto our luggage since the bus terminal was notorious for thievery. He also told us that an ordinary house in the suburbs costs $25,000-30,000 compared to a dirty looking apartment above a store cost $80 a month. Next he discussed how Chicago bus drivers receive a higher cost of living allowance than any other bus drivers in the United States.

Then we saw an elevated L train in West Roosevelt and traveled through a section of better looking apartments. Then a car darted between our bus and street car in a mad dash to get somewhere in a big hurry. We passed street markets, a rummage sale, an International Harvester Company, and the largest railroad depot in the world. Next we went along the Chicago River and passed the Chicago Tribune building. The bus driver told us that the main papers are controlled by colored people. Lastly we passed some big radio and TV stations and the YMCA.

When we arrived at the depot, Irene Blake was there. She had been waiting since 7 a.m. along with Mrs. Hansen’s son, Al, and his wife, Ruth Purdy Hansen. The depot was dirty and crowded. In the rest room there was a lady taking a public bath. They certainly need the new super depot which is in the process of being built.

We changed buses and drivers here, but we had too much luggage for the bus. So some of the luggage had to go in the lower compartment. There was a rest room in the back of the bus, which might have had something to do with the lack of baggage facilities. We put our lunch at our feet and rented a pillow again for more comfortable sleeping.

We left Chicago via South Park and the shores of Lake Michigan at 10:40 a.m. and passed the sight of the Chicago World’s Fair. There were miniature sail boats on the lake and people horseback riding in the park. We passed a huge Chicago museum, a ball game with the local hoboes, and the “L” train again. The dirty section of Chicago popped up again as we left via highway 30 through a slightly foggy atmosphere. We snoozed and ate. Later we caught sight of a big semi that had hit a tree and ran into a house. Ouch!

Dr. Watkins told us a few interesting things about the European people. He said the Frenchman instinctively conquers all of his disappointment and was orderly about his own emotions. The German man was orderly about his personal affairs, where the English were enterprising.

As we passed through Warsaw, Indiana, we discovered many beautiful homes along the lake. This country seemed very rich and fertile as we proceeded by a roadside trailer camp. Soon after we journeyed past Columbia City and then Fort Wayne at 2:45 p.m.

At our next rest stop a gorilla in a large wagon greeted us and we bought orange juice out of a push button machine. Wow! Can you imagine that? Back on the bus I rested my eyes until we arrived in Lima and rested some more until we came to Mansfield. Later I spotted a group of young people in what looked like white graduation robes.