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A View From The Attic

Week of December 12, 2011


Fremont County Historical Society

TRAVELING IN THE 1930s
By Nadine Elwers


Earlier in an Attic, Nadine talked about her friendship with Ogda Anderson. This article continues with the challenges of travel to pay a visit.


This story would not be complete if I did not include a description of how complicated a trip of only a few miles in rural southwest Iowa could be in 1935. First, the agreement had to be made in person and the date and time established. We had no telephone and neither did the Andersons. It was understood that the visit could not happen if the weather did not cooperate. When the dirt roads turned into mud, we stayed home.
Iowa soil is particularly unforgiving when it turns to mud. One Iowa farmer said "It's forty feet deep!"


Our Model A car had running boards and a box-like container on them held spare parts and tools for changing to a spare tire when needed, but there was no antidote for being mired in mud.


From our farm location west of Waubonsie State Park, a trip to Shenandoah was an all-day excursion reserved for Jubilee Days or late summer trips for school supplies. One year our car broke down and we had to stay overnight in one of the cabins near the Sheridan Avenue and Highway 59 intersection.


There was only one bed for the adults. We had brought along kids who were relatives. I slept on the floor with them and my sister, never dreaming that Shenandoah would later become my hometown.


Travel improved when Highway 2 was extended from Highway 275 to Nebraska, through Waubonsie State Park. The drainage ditch west of the Bluff Road was also built at the same time when I was living there. I remember my great grandmother Augusta Spiegel had a farm, which the new Highway 2 bisected, and she was not very pleased. But it did make travel easier.


Great grandmother Speigel's house is still there. When you are going west from the park and come down from the hills, cross the Bluff Road, then the ditch, it is the first house on the left. My whole family lived within a mile of her house. I was born in a house a half a mile from hers in 1931 and lived there until I started second grade in Central School in Shenandoah, leaving Sunnyside country school (the one now open for visitors at the Fremont County Historical Society Museum complex), the school my mother and grandmother had attended before me.


But the twists and turns of life and fate put me in Fremont County again when my mother married Arthur Kohler, whose farm was across the road from Page County in the Fremont County area known as the Summit community south of Shenandoah.


Those were the good old days but I certainly do not miss the mud that plagued our travels.