Our columnist’s thoughts on our new historical exhibit? “Well, it used to be the ’70s, and now I’m 70!”

By ROGER AEGERTER

 JEFFERSON, Iowa, July 2, 2021 – When the Greene County Historical Society decided to do a new “historical display on the 1950s, ’60s & ’70s,”  I thought it was a good idea until I realized, hey! That was my life! I’m not historical!

I was born in the ’50s, was a teenager in the ’60s, and worked my way into the adult world in the ’70s. So, I guess that does make me an historical figure now.

We needed objects for the display, objects as I came to realize were the fabric of my life. They were also the fabric of my house, things I still use.  Unlike my wife Jan, I don’t have clothes from my first dance in junior high (not middle school) or even my suit from graduation.  I grew, mostly out. But some of the clothes in the display are real “Groooovy.”   They really do remind me of those good ol’ days.

Roger Aegerter Profile PictureThose days don’t seem so long ago. But my birth was 25,682 days ago. What?  It seems like only 23,998 days ago.

All of us can reflect on their lives and say they have been through a lot.  But I can modestly, honestly say I have.

I could take you through my life day by day, if I could remember, but that may take too long.  “It was a cool spring day in 1951 when I was born…”

I spent my first eight years growing  up on a small farm outside Rockwell City, Iowa. I remember watching a tornado pass two miles west of the barn.  I remember going with my dad to see a neighbor’s barn burn down.  I remember standing in the yard trying to see a small light travel across the sky, Sputnik, I assume. I also remember it was the “country kids” vs. the “town kids” on the school playground.  In my mind, my parents lived a typical farm life. I was too young to really help with chores, except gathering eggs from the hard-pecking hens and yelling at cows to move out the gate. My mother was a stay-at-home farm wife in a typical 1950s – gardening, sewing, cooking, choring, etc.  Ever since my days on the farm, I have been a fan of green tractors.

When historians or my aunts talk about the ’50s, they many times have said it was a simpler time.  I agree. Getting on a yellow school bus with my sister, playing with my dog Tippy, riding my black Schwinn up and down the gravel farm lane, thinking a bottle of pop or an ice cream cone was a special treat worth waiting or working for – those were the best of times.  The ’50s were a great time to begin life.

I can tell you exactly where I was sitting when a high school girl walked into Mrs. Gallentine’s  7th grade English class and said President Kennedy had been shot.  Front row to the right by the door.  I have gone back to that classroom several times and stood in that spot.  The school is now a museum for historical stuff!  We had a short assembly before we got on the busses to go home that day.  I don’t remember if at the time I thought the world was ending, but I do remember lying in front of the black & white TV and watching the next few days’ events unfold.

The rest of the decade, the world – I mean Iowa, or I mean northwest Iowa – was turned upside down and inside out. A few days ago, I was “scooping the loop” (the square) in Rockwell City, and it did bring back memories! Almost all those memories are triggered by familiar sights, sounds of the oldies, and smells like a lockerroom which take me back in time. I can still tell you when, with whom, and what car I was in when I was traveling to the Iowa State Fair to see the Beach Boys, listening to and singing to my Beach Boys 8-track.

There are also memories of the Vietnam War as I graduated and moved on to college. In the fall of 1971, I lost a high school classmate in Vietnam.  I remember the funeral. I was on many athletic teams with Craig in high school and I remember him as a kind, quiet person who was big into Boy Scouts.  This May, we had a 50-year memorial service for Craig with over 100 people attending.

I also remember protests going on at Iowa State University. Classes ended early that spring because of the riots and deaths at Kent State University in Ohio and protest marches on campus.  I forget when, but sometime in 1970 or ’71, the first draft lottery came about. Thirty of us in our dorm sat in the lounge to watch the draft numbers being picked to match birth dates. A couple of things I remember about that night.  We were all real quiet, there was no kidding going on when someone was assigned a number.  My number was 273, fairly high. But a junior in electrical engineering who was vocal against the war was assigned number 1.  He was going to be drafted eventually.   I remember him crying, getting up and throwing up several times in the bathroom.

My higher education happened in the early ’70s. My becoming an adult, at least that is what I thought I was becoming at the time, happened in the late ’70s. Being on my own, trying to find my first real job, my second, my third, and for me, getting married, a lot happened in my life in that decade.

Just one last thought about my ’70s decade. In April of 1973, April 9, my birthday to be exact, there was a 1950s-type of blizzard (things seemed bigger when you were a kid). I was in Ames, the snow had been coming down for a couple of days, but I tried to drive out of Ames to go home for my birthday. Not quite thinking as an adult yet. I only made it to the edge of west Ames before I turned back.  ISU was closed down for a couple of days, one of the first times in history weather shut it down, and I witnessed a fairly big John Deere tractor, my favorite, doing donuts down main street in downtown Ames! The snow was piled 6 feet down both sides, so it acted as pinball bumpers as the tractor hit the snowbanks.

As with that tractor, “My life, what a ride!”

You can comment on this column in the space below here, or you can write directly to the author by email at roger.aegerter@gmail.comHe is executive director of the Greene County Iowa Historical Society.

Sharing memories from our featured historical era — like playing cowgirl “Dale Evans” in the 1950s

By MARY WEAVER

RIPPEY, Iowa, June 25, 2021 – “Roy Rogers, King of the West” was a famous television show from 1951-1957. Though my family was not able to have a television until 1954 at our rural Rippey farmhouse, it was so very magical to watch Roy ride his horse “Trigger” every Saturday morning while I was in elementary school.

My cousin Bob and I played cowboy, with him being Roy and me being Roy’s wife Dale Evans. We had “pretend” horses, not even stick ones, but we could ride ’em fast in his apple orchard.  We had cap guns, and I can conjure the vivid odor of caps being exploded. Most times, they would not feed into the trigger mechanism of our little guns, and we just hammered those caps on the sidewalk.

Mary Weaver ProfileHis little brother Mike was 6 years younger, and he became “Pat” and drove his pretend jeep “Nellybelle” to get help and save the day. In the TV series, Nellybelle was cantankerous and sometimes on the show refused to start and Pat would beg and threaten her. When our older second cousin from up the road came to visit, younger Mike was relegated to being “Bullet,” the dog. I think he resents that to this day, as he sometimes mentions it at family gatherings.

I had many Roy and Dale articles, like a lunch box with a picture of Roy and Trigger on one side, and Dale riding “Buttermilk” on the other. I had a large towel with a picture of the entrance to their ranch and all the actors dressed in their cowboy outfits. I had a Western cut shirt without buttons, but rather with those snaps like cowboy shirts have. It had a yoke with piping that in my mind made me look just like Dale Evans.

When I went to the Denver Livestock Show on the train with my parents in 1956, I wore my cowboy shirt, and skirt and vest with white fringe, just like Dale’s.  I also wore my two pistols, but did not take any caps. When we toured the U.S. Mint there in Denver, the security guard asked me to give him my guns and they were placed in a locker during the tour!

Though I can not recall the specific plots of the shows, it seems the good guys always won. The bad guys went to jail, but there were no hangings, or deaths due to gun fights. Oftentimes, Bullet would grab the bad guy’s wrist, wrestling the gun away from the outlaw before someone was fatally injured.

During that time, Dale, who in real life was married to Roy, gave birth to Robin, a child with Down syndrome and a congenital heart condition. Dale wrote a book, “Angel Unaware” about that birth and the care of the child. I still treasure the story, and after all these years recently shared it with a mother who had given birth to a child with a congenital disability.

I enjoyed the end of the show, with Roy and Dale singing “Happy Trails” while riding Trigger and Buttermilk. I always sang along, but now I can only remember “Happy Trails, until we meet again”.

I had to research it online to find all the lyrics and was surprised about the line, “some days are blue.”  I didn’t recall those words, but I will share them with you.

Some trails are happy ones,
Others are blue.

It’s the way you ride the trail that counts,
Here’s a happy one for you.

Happy trails to you,
Until we meet again.
Happy trails to you,
Keep smiling until then.

Who cares about the clouds when we’re together?
Just sing a song and bring the sunny weather.

Happy trails to you,
Until we meet again.

I had always thought I would request to have “Happy Trails” sung at my funeral, but the song and lyrics now seems diminished, since it is often played when a basketball player fouls out of the game.  I’ll have to ponder that thought some more, but the song’s lyrics are not really about fouling out of a game.

“Happy Trail” thoughts to you readers.

You can comment on this story in the space below here, or write directly to the columnist by email at mweaver235@gmail.com. The author, who still lives outside Rippey, is an active member of the Greene County Iowa Historical Society.

Native son Carson Roberts is historical society’s first “director of digital history,” enhancing our offerings

By CHUCK OFFENBURGER

JEFFERSON, Iowa, June 17, 2021 — The Greene County Iowa Historical Society has recently added Carson Roberts, a 25-year-old graduate of Jefferson-Scranton High School and Iowa State University, as the organization’s first “director of digital history.”

Roberts, who will be a part-time paid employee, will lead the society into expanded services on the internet, more use of social media, increasing the group’s video production and organizing our video archives for easy access. At Iowa State, he majored in management information systems. He worked four years while a student in ISU Extension’s information technology department, and the past three years he’s been part of the four-person IT team of the Dallas Center-Grimes Community Schools.

“Director of digital history? I like that title, it sounds really cool,” Roberts said of his new job. “I’m looking forward to helping tell the stories of our local history.  When you think about it, it’s really important.  What has happened here in earlier times kind of shapes the way people grow up here today.

Carson Roberts in the small office of the Greene County Historical Museum.

“It seems to me that a lot of our local history here is rural history, and it’s not told very often,” Roberts continued. “You don’t hear much about it in school. We have to spread out our wings, use the technology we have available today, and tell more people about it.”

Doing more with video has been a primary goal of current historical society president David John.

“We’re glad to have Carson on board and glad to have his help in moving the museum into the digital age,” John said.  “We look forward to making our historical society archives more accessible to the public. We would like to do more interviews to expand our oral histories.

“Moving into the digital age will help the historical society and the museum, with existing videotaped programs and future programs, easily available to a wider audience in the community and beyond,” John continued. “We hope, as a historical society, to be more interactive with and relevant to the community, via various media.”

Roger Aegerter, executive director of the historical society, watched Roberts grow up in Jefferson, knew of his talents with information technology, and earlier hired the young man to do some work on websites Aegerter supervises.

He learned recently that Roberts had left his job with the Dallas Center-Grimes Community Schools and was considering moving to Minneapolis, hopefully to work with a larger firm.  However, Roberts was also considering staying in Greene County and trying to find enough IT work to sustain himself.

About the same time, Rob Hoyt, of Scranton, whose IT company is Impact Media Live, and who created the historical society’s current website in 2016, informed the society he is moving on from website work.  Aegerter visited with Roberts about taking over the historical society’s work, and, after a formal interview for the job, Roberts was hired.

Aegerter saw the opportunity not only to find a good replacement for Hoyt on the group’s website work, but also having someone who has time to handle expanded online and video offerings. And there was another appealing element in hiring Roberts.

“There are many things that small towns need to survive in the future,” Aegerter said. “One is the ability to access and utilize technology, the other is to keep and attract young people to contribute to the local economy and lifestyle.

“I am always excited to hear that a Greene County graduate has decided to stay in the area or bring their talents and energy back to the county,” Aegerter continued. “I am also excited when I find someone that has expertise in any form of technology. I am hoping that Carson can gain a foothold in the community – his community – and give all of us technology underachievers a valuable resource.”

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    There have been three courthouses built where the Greene County Courthouse stands today.  Ground was broken on the current courthouse in November of 1915, the cornerstone was set in May 1916 and the new building was dedicated in October of 1917. The centennial celebration of the courthouse is already underway, with events being planned by the “Courthouse 100” committee, with support from the Greene County Historical Society.  You can learn more about the courthouse history and the celebration plans on the Facebook page “Courthouse 100: Greene County, Iowa.”

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