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by: Mildred Swanson
Some of the fondest memories of my childhood centered around this general store, listening to the many tales and stories told by the farmers as they sat around the big burning side heating stove in the winter.
This little general store that my mother operated in this small town of my childhood was the mainstream of our lives. About everything we ate, wore and owned came from it. All our family stories come from there, too, going back to our great grandparents time.
It was in the fall of 1911 my mother was left a widow with five small children, ages ranging from 5 months to 10 years. She left the farm near Grimes and built her home in Clive, with the help of many good friends and neighbors. It was this general store and the Post Office that she raised her family. Our home was very plain. No carpet on the floors. We lived in the upstairs. Only the living room was papered. The downstairs was used for the store and Post Office and general storage.
The outside of the store didn’t look like much, but when you opened the door and stepped inside, you were in another world. The first thing that you noticed was the wonderful smells hitting you at the same time — the smell of dry goods, cheese, pickles, spices, candy, herbs, and many more too numerous to mention.
On the porch was a variety of kegs and barrels and against the wall was a bench. This was a fine place for the community to gather on a summer evening and discuss the events of the day. They would usually start gathering early to claim their favorite seats. There was a kind of “picking order” when it came to who sat where and what they sat on. The first in the group had the only rocking chair. Others had a certain feed sack they used day after day. By doing so they had it molded in the right places to fit their back and rump. Most just used what was available to them — even the steps.
You might say it was the social meeting place of the small community. Some of the men smoked corn cob pipes, and some chewed tobacco or snuff. The women usually had their knitting or just visited. The younger ones always had their own evening of fun. To complete the evening, mother would get out a box of crackers and some cheese. I can see our guests cutting pieces of cheese with their pocket knives and popping it and a cracker in their mouths.
On the right, as you went in, was the huge glass candy case with a rounded top. Inside were so many different kinds of candy that it was hard for a child to make up his mind the kind he wanted. In those days, you could get a bag of candy for a nickel, and there was penny candy of many different kinds.
In the darkest corner, to keep from ripening too easily, was a large bunch of bananas suspended from the ceiling. One could get two or three for a dime.
Big thick “Big Chief” tablets were five cents, and pencils a penny apiece. Along the north wall was the dry goods shelf. It held materials that wore and wore, for the practical minded country people — ginghams, denim and chambray. Calico sunbonnets were made at home, costing about fifteen cents, and calico dress goods sold for ten cents a yard. Thread cost two spools for five cents.
The grocery department was the most flourishing. There were kegs and wood boxes full of dried beans, prunes, raisins, rice and assorted cookies. Molasses and vinegar were in barrels with a wooden spigot pounded into a bung hole. Also there was a barrel of brown sugar and crackers. All there were put into paper bags or bottles for the customer. Oleo was uncolored and cereals in the early days were usually oatmeal and rice. Later cornflakes and shredded wheat.
In the rear on a wire extended from wall to wall hung men’s work gloves, denim jackets, mackinaw coats, pants, caps, socks and long johns, which everyone wore in those days. Garden supplies as hoes, rakes, seeds, etc, were sold.
There were cookies on display in boxes with isinglass lids, so you could see what you were buying. You would tell mother what you wanted and she would swing the little lid back, reach in and put the kind and amount you wanted in a bag. The sponge cookie with the coconut topping was a real treat, as the Mary-Ann, and cookies flavored with ginger.
Our patent medicine department consisted of a Swamp Root and Lydia Pinkham’s, both so called tonics, Castoria, Doan’s Pills and aspirin.
My mother had the store and Post office from 1912 until 1929. One could mail a letter for two cents and a post card for a penny. The mail was sent out from Des Moines twice a day, morning and evening by train. As youngsters, it was our job to meet the mail train. Everyone in this small town walked in for their mail and to get the day’s gossip.
I remember there was one corner in the house that was called the cry corner. Any tears to be shed were shed in this corner. I imagine there are tear stains on the wall today if the wall was examined real close under the layers of wallpaper. To get me out of their way my older sisters and brother would stand me in this corner with a bottle of milk or water.
My mother was a good Christian and a good loving, kind woman whom everyone admired for her courage. She never complained because she knew she had a job to do in raising and educating her family. Sometimes I wonder how she stood up under the long hours and seemingly insurmountable problems.
Clive – – – as told by Mildred Swanson
The titles listed in the right sidebar are a collection of stories and articles written by Mildred in the 1960s to the 1980s. They are hers and hers alone and give us some insight as to what Clive was like in the early years – at least from her view point. Please respect these stories. They are all we have, for no one else has come forward with any other descriptions. PLEASE do NOT copy. They are her legacy for everyone and she very much wanted them to be published. Never in her wildest imagination could she have foreseen that they could be shared in this manner.
by: Mildred Swanson
As I sit here this morning reading the monthly “Newsletter” which tells me we now have a Lion’s Club, Jaycees, Chamber of Commerce and other civic organizations in Clive. It is unbelievable that over the years Clive has made such growth and still growing.
The other day as I strolled up the track and around the block, I began to wonder what had happened to the neighborhood. When had it disappeared and sub-divisions and commercial development began to appear? Our small community, somehow had character and warmth, and personality all its own. A sub-division has split-level homes, apartments and landscaped yards, people who barely know each other, and nothing, as far as I could see, to distinguish one from another, nothing of which memories are made.
There are no sidewalks covered with hopscotch lines or sample drawings of budding artists. I couldn’t help but notice the many apartments that have been built in the last few years. There were few trees in sight big enough to support a tree house or a rubber-tube swing. The lawns were all manicured to within an inch of their lives. None were marred by paths trodden by the feet of running children or have bare spots where the youngsters dig for gold or make mud pies, and there wasn’t a front porch to be seen. There was no place for a porch swing where so many childish secrets were shared, no place to play during a summer rain. No banisters to saddle and ride off into the sunset.
I noticed there seemed to be no people, no women hanging out their laundry, no one visiting over the backyard fence, no men pitching horseshoes, no children in the yards playing “Andy Over,” “Run, Sheep, Run.” Where was everybody?
As I looked around, I couldn’t help wondering what memories our children will have to keep them warm when the often cold adult world closes in around them. I have many…
I have my memories of a summer evening. There are the sounds of children playing “Hide and Seek” or tag in the last light of day. As it became dusk, my mother, her days work finished, came out to sit on our front porch where she was joined by one or two neighboring couples. We children chased fireflies, being careful not to wander too far away. My mother and the other women sit on the porch sewing, discussing their day’s activities, the church (so called Sunday School) supper, their children, or sharing items they had read or heard from others.
The men sit on the porch steps, their cigarettes or cigars glowing in the quiet dark, as they talked over the latest happenings in the mines and railroads, where a lot of them worked, wonder at the world events, analyze the latest boxing matches, or swap stories and tales so dear to their hearts. They watched the train as it rode off in the distance. Finally one of the women decrees it is time to go home as “tomorrow is another work day.” Gathering together their families, they would leave.
I would curl up next to my mother, as she swings away. The family dog quits his frog hunting and jumps on the swing to savor the delight of being next to his mistress, and we would spend the last few minutes of that warm summer evening encircled in life and peace. Even then, we never wanted it to end
And it never has. Those evenings live with me, even now. Those memories are among my most precious possessions.
I realized the old neighborhood is gone now, sacked by time and change. The children are grown and gone; the adults are old and worn; the houses are weathered or torn down, but I find my heart is still here, locked in time remembering.
Neighbors came around at butchering time and apple picking time. It was common for a neighbor woman to ask how to sew on a pocket or hem a shirt. When death came, there was somebody to clean house, to carry in food, to help with the milking, and to just sit and talk.
Grief and sickness always brought in neighbors with understanding and sympathy, but it was not all grief. The arrival of a new baby brought neighbors, too, with baby blankets, clothes, admiration and encouragement. It would have been a neighborhood sin to “hire” somebody to help in a house at the time of birth or death. There was a warmth of love between neighbors. It is sad that this is gone.
Kids had fun, too. There were farm chores, but still time for swimming and fishing. Scarcely an afternoon went by in the warm summer that I did not tag along with the gang down the dusty road, barefoot, through the barbed wire fence, along the path to the swimming hole on Walnut Creek.
Once when we approached the swimming hole, we heard voices-another bunch of kids had taken over our private domain. It was so hot we went down the creek and found another hole to swim in.
Whatever happened to people? They don’t knock at the door anymore. Visiting has sort of gone out of style. With the ending of the horse and buggy, with wives and mothers working, with kids being bused to schools thirty miles from home, man has become an island surrounded by people who are just too busy to care about him. The man down the road works in the city, goes to church there, belongs to the country club there and just comes home to sleep.
We have telephones now. Used to be able to call central and say, “Will you look across the street and see if John Doe’s horse is tied to the telephone post in front of the grocery store?”
Once mother bribed a neighbor down the road to stop. She gave her a pot of blooming tulips from her garden. She stayed and talked for two hours. They had so much to talk about. Nearly two years went by before she saw her again, except to wave as she went by.
Shopping isn’t fun anymore. The neighborhood grocery store is gone. We stand silently while the checkout girl rings up a sack of groceries. She has a name tag on so we don’t have to ask her name. No use to know her because when we come in next week a new girl will be in her place. We can’t chat with the store owner anymore. The manager is probably from Kansas, Nebraska or Minnesota. To cash a $5.00 check we have to be photographed, finger printed and show a driver’s license. We feel insulted, having lived in this small town for many years.
You can’t talk to your doctor. The nurse sees to that. “You got a sore throat? Well the doctor can see you in three weeks from today!” Yes, one can go to the hospital.
You can’t drop in and talk to the teachers about a kid. Have to talk to the principal and he will talk to the teacher.
You open a bank account in one of the 12 branches nearest you because you know the girls who work there and they call you by name. There is no personal banker anymore. You go in a week later and the girls have been transferred to another branch and the teller says, “May I see your identification?”
I shall never forget when somebody yelled, “Here comes the train!” and we children would run to wave at it. The railroad tracks ran close by in front of our house and were a source of interest and joy to all of us.
The trains had a pretty constant time schedule. Both passenger and freight trains chugged past with much noise and smoke. Steam swooshed out a pipe on top of the black engine. Many a night my mother would watch to be sure sparks did not light on the house roof.
In between trains the speeder would come by with its pop-pop popping motor. We kids called it the buggy. It was a little square vehicle with no top. The “buggy” carries the track repair crew of four to five men and their shovels and picks and lunch pails to this spot and that where they would stop and dig around.
It was always fun to watch. Sometimes they replaced old cross ties and sometimes leveled rails. They shoveled course gravel between the ties, and rails were fastened to the ties with huge spikes. Often we could hear the clanking as men swung their huge sledge hammers. This track repair job provided employment for many of our young and old. Each small town along the line had their own “section crew” they had so many miles to cover and meet. Sometimes overlapping if certain work had to be done. The overall track was kept in repair by what was called “bridge gangs”. They would have several cars which contained a kitchen, and bunk cars. They had their own chef. They would pull in on the siding and stay for two or three weeks at a time, repairing all necessary work to keep the track in good shape.
A few minutes before each train was due, the men hastily lifted their little truck off the tracks to the side to get it out of the way of the train. We kids would get nervous if we heard the train whistle and the motor car was still on the tracks. We clinched fists and then stood back and watched as they hurried.
Then the fast speeder flew by carrying the “inspector” who, I supposed was looking for cows. Many times I had heard people refer to that funny looking grill on the front of the train as the “cow catcher.” That speeder had a roof over it that was painted orange. It went by very fast.
The tracks were littered with big black chunks of coal that had fallen off the coal cars. We would often walk the tracks, collecting coal in a bucket for mother to burn in the cook stove.
In summer, we watched men with pack sacks walking the tracks. I thought it was hard to walk the tracks. The ties were not always an equal distance apart, and it was tricky business to try to balance on top of the rails. We only tried when there was an older person along. We were cautioned never to go near the tracks unless someone took us, and we didn’t dare disobey.
We could hear the train whistle when it neared the crossing about two miles away and the engineer always blew the whistle as they neared our small town.
In summer we would dash out to the tracks to wave. “Now don’t go across the road,” our mother would caution every time we stood on the big flat rock and held to each other so we wouldn’t tumble onto the track. The engineer in his striped cap sat up high with his arms resting in the window ledge. We were always delighted to have him wave back at us. The fireman, standing between the coal car and the engine, paused from shoveling coal into the hungry fire box of the locomotive and he waved, too. We watched the big iron bar that connected the wheels go up and down and back and forth in powerful strokes. Then we enjoyed watching and listening to the cars swaying and clacking past. We saw oil cars and closed box cars, a cattle car. Cattle cars had spaces between the boards and we could see whether there were cows or pigs or sheep inside, and we counted the cars if it looked like it was going to be an extra long train.
We watched for the men who were looking for a free ride. We called them “bums.” Once in awhile, we saw a bum riding atop a load of pulpwood, but most often they acquired themselves a box car so they would be in out of the wind. In fair weather they sat in the open doorway. We always waved at them, too, and most often they waved back.
Then, at last, the end of the train came in sight. The big red caboose was the best part. Sometimes the trainman was standing out on the platform with the black rail around it. Other times he sat up in his window. We wondered how he got up there. We called him the conductor and he waved too.
On the afternoon (4:00) train there was something special. The man in the caboose threw off our daily papers. There were no deliveries by paper boy back then. These were rushed to the Post Office for distribution.
In winter when we heard the whistle, we dropped our toys and dashed for the kitchen window to wave. Even mother waved. Occasionally there a different crew, but that didn’t matter. All of the freight train crew waved. We had little interest in the passenger trains. For one thing, they went too fast, and besides, they had no caboose.
At Christmas time there was a special treat—hard candy hidden in the middle of papers. One Easter, the train slowed down and came to a stop! We always wished it would, of course. They were the first colored eggs we had ever had. What a wonderful present. We wanted to save them forever. They were blue and green and yellow and we thought they were the most beautiful gift anybody could want.
We never knew the names of all the men but a few still cling to my mind. Mr. McCutcheon (father & son). Pinky Hartshorn, Kemp Brothers, Carl Moody and many more. The sound of a train still brings back the memory of our over-the-rail friends of long ago. I wonder if they knew how happy they made three little girls and one small boy who, over the years, never forgot them. I will always wish that we had had a chance to say “Thank You.” The memory feels so unfinished.
by: Mildred Swanson
The government started interfering with my life, back in the ’30s, and it hasn’t stopped since. That’s when they started building them government outdoor toilets with concrete floors and tin ventilation pipes sticking out the roofs like on the Toonerville Trolley.
The government built them all over the country, but it was in the small town of Clive, Iowa, where it affected me. Up until then, there wasn’t any class distinction anywhere in our small town. But when the government stepped in and began building them privies, we had what became known as “class wars” in my little town.
There was a Depression on at the time, but before them privies went up, everyone in Clive was weathering it together in real brotherhood fashion. The mothers of the poorer kids used to call them in about noontime. Then they’d tell them to go over and play with the doctor’s children, or over with the new neighborhoods kids so they could eat.
They would hike off and get there just about time they were setting the table and they always got an invite in to eat. It didn’t make no difference ‘cause they had more patches. There wasn’t a speck of class distinction in the whole town, and everybody helped another.
But then one day, the government came in and started making a secret survey. They had officials driving all over town taking pictures and filling out government plans, and we all sort of figured they was going to construct some big secret installation that would put Clive on the map and bring prosperity. Them government officials kept making that survey for several weeks; then one day they called a town meeting to be held in the school house, so we could find out about what the government was planning.
Well, the night of the meeting everyone in town showed up, including quite a few from Valley Junction (now West Des Moines) who were just dying to learn what was up in Clive, their rival town.
When the school house was filled, a government man got up and said that what they’d been doing was making a housing survey to see what people needed. He read from a bunch of government forms as how there was 221 house in Clive and 222 outhouses.
The extra outhouse was what made the survey take so long. They kept recounting and recounting but they always came up with one more privy than homes and he admitted the government might have made a mistake.
But our neighbor set them clear on that point, for he leaped up and yelled, “I got two outhouses in my backyard. One’s for them that came a callin.”
The government man wrote something down on the form and seemed relieved to be able to account for that extra privy.
And then he got ready to tell us what we was all waiting to find out, and everyone grew hushed, but he didn’t say much.
He said the government was going to give the people of Clive the opportunity of a lifetime. The government was going to build two-holers in Clive that everyone could be proud of and all you had to do to get the government construction in your back yard was pay for part of the costs. Well, it was right there when the poor folks got up and marched out, because it was plain nobody but them with the money was going to be able to afford a government back yard housing project.
That’s when the class war started.
When they’d built half a dozen of them, everybody got conscious that there was rich folks and poor folks in our town. Them that was rich had government waste disposal units and them that wasn’t had homemade outhouses that’s been there since the town was founded. But them old timers had made them good, ’cause they was still where we run to when tornadoes threatened.
Us poor kids was the ones that suffered from these government improvements. What happened was that some of us got inferior complexes we never did get over.
For when we went to visit kids whose parents had government toilets, they started looking down their noses at us. First thing they’d do was put on a tie and take us out to show us how fancy it was.
I remember the first one I seen. This doctor’s daughter opened the door to it with a flourish like she was presenting me to the King of England’s Castle. Then I started inside she blocked the door.
“Your shoes clean?”
I looked at ‘em and they had mud and she shook her head and pointed.
“Use the foot scraper, please.”
Well, I didn’t know what a foot scraper was and I started taking off my shoe to scrape my foot on it, thinking maybe it was to make it stop itching. But she showed me how it worked and then she stepped aside and I entered. I looked around and then I said, “Shucks, it doesn’t look nothing too special.” Then it caught my eye and I asked, “What’s that?”
“That is toilet paper. Government toilet owners use that instead of catalogues.”
Well, that didn’t impress me none. “What you read?” I asked. “Ain’t got no pictures or reading matter on it.”
The girl laughed haughtily. “How uncouth!”
And that’s when I flew out the door and lit out for home, for anything I couldn’t understand I was scared of, and I sure didn’t know what “uncouth” meant.
It wasn’t long there was so many of them government projects that it looked like they was going to be the downfall of the rich folks. There wasn’t no Jones family in town, but when it came to government privies, that’s what they was trying to keep up with. Them rich folks kept trying to out do each other, and before long, them toilets was bringing on all kinds misfortunes.
When one family learned his neighbors had a three holey, he had the government build him one with six! They had a little girl, and the first time she went out to it, when it was ready for occupancy, she saw all them holes and she just stood there. I tell you she had never seen anything like it, and she got all frustrated trying to decide which one to use.
They found her there late that afternoon standing and crying over and over, “Decisions, decisions, decisions.” And after that experience, she never was no good at making decisions and when she was grown she packed up and went to Washington where she works.
Them folks did everything to outdo each other. Some even had electric lights and stoves in them. Trying to keep ahead of his neighbors, a neighbor on the west side installed one of those fans that went on automatically when you opened the door. That didn’t last long. It was all right when you went in, ‘cause there was a sign warning you to duck, but when you got up, you forgot all about that overhead fan and that neighbor had it removed the second time he’d arose right up into it with his head.
Clive must have been some sort of pilot program for the government, ‘cause they had workers all over town putting them out buildings up. And when them that had ‘em started raising their noses when they met us that didn’t have ‘em, it made us poor folks unite.
It was in 1956 the town incorporated. A few years later the community organized and got an election called and voted bonds to build a water system. Come spring, there was a water tower erected on the west edge of the fast growing town. Now everyone had running water for the first time in Clive’s history.
But what was really good was that the whole town soon had indoor toilets and I tell you those folks with them government toilets just walked off and left them. I ain’t sure, but I think the reason they left ‘em standing was that the government made ‘em take out a 90 year lease on them.
But to hear them upper class folks tell it, they couldn’t afford to get them government outhouses torn down. They was going broke paying taxes to support the water system bonds. And us poor folks sure did laugh at ‘em, ‘cause we was so poor we didn’t have to pay no taxes.
by: Mildred Swanson
At last, the big event of the summer had arrived and everyone was so excited. It was the Fourth of July, 1917, in the small village of Clive. There were 12 families living on the adjoining farms. This was the first social event of the year.
Most of the families had lived in the neighborhood for several years. While we had a few new families, this was one way to get acquainted. Committees were appointed and had spent lots of work and time planning for the picnic.
A nice place along Walnut Creek had been selected. It was at a beed, selected because the creek made a half circle around this flat area. There were plenty of level spaces for the tables and many large trees providing shade most of the day.
A few days before the picnic, some of the men moved an old cook stove to the area and a good supply of wood was cut and piled near it for cooking. Long tables and benches were made from boards from the surrounding area. Large tarps were hung over the table, just in case it rained; there were also birds in the trees. A tent was set up nearby for the small children to take their naps in. Several swings were hung from the tree limbs and teeter-totters set up for the children.
The morning of the Fourth was clear and warm; the birds filled the air with their cheerful songs as the sun peeked over the horizon.
The men and boys were up early and hustling around doing the chores. The ladies and girls rushed around the kitchen packing dishes and all kinds of savory foods. Soon the picnic boxes were packed and loaded ready to be transported to the site and away we went to celebrate the Fourth of July.
Around ten thirty the folks were arriving at the picnic grounds. Hand shaking and happy greetings were exchanged among the older folks while the children shouted in glee as they played tag or threw rocks into the Creek. Occasionally one fell into the shallow water and had to sit wrapped in a blanket until his clothes were dried out, unless the mother had brought along some extra clothes.
A big fire was burning on the improvised stove, sending out clouds of smoke, which drifted among the tree tops. A big pot of coffee was brewing with that tantalizing aroma.
Each family brought a complete meal, so there were platters of crisp fried chicken, delicious home-cured ham, baked beans, sandwiches and bowls of salads, homemade bread and rolls with fresh butter and jam, gallons of coffee with thick cream for it, and plenty of rich milk for the children. It wouldn’t be a picnic without a big crock of lemonade, with chucks of ice to keep it cold.
Dessert consisted of cakes, pies and cookies, and everyone brought a freezer of ice cream. It was made with cream, milk, eggs, sugar and vanilla. This mixture was put in a container and set in a bucket of crushed ice and rock salt. Someone turned the crank until the cream was frozen stiff, then it was packed in more ice and kept until noon.
When all of the families had arrived and the food was ready, someone called out, “Come and get it,” which brought the folks on the run to find a place at the tables. When all had eaten as much as they could hold, they left the tables and found a shady spot to relax and visit. The men talked about the crops and weather, with some politics mixed in. The small ones were put in the tent on blankets for a nap. The ladies washed the dishes that would be used later on, place the food on one table and covered it with a cloth. They chatted about the children, sewing projects and the gardens.
Games and races were planned so there was plenty of action all afternoon. The sack races and three-legged races brought cheers and boos from the onlookers. There were races, games and balloons for all ages so that everyone had a part in the fun. All of this activity made the folks hungry, so in a few hours they would be back getting snacks. More coffee and lemonade was made for the thirsty contestants.
About four thirty, it was time for a few farmers to leave, so the horses were hitched to the wagons, picnic boxes loaded in, the kids rounded up and the families headed for home, amid shouts of “Good –bye. See you later. Hurry back.”
For most folks, this would have been the end of the celebration, but not for this crowd. While the men hurried through their evening chores, the ladies washed the dishes, made another supply of sandwiches, salad and a fresh freezer of ice cream.
Later in the evening, putting on our dress clothes, away we went to the home of the Day family, one of our neighbors with a large house. The living and dining rooms were cleared of furniture, except for the chairs. Soon as the folks arrived, the dancing started. Our neighbor was a fiddler, so the evening started with a fast stepping square dance. Our host was an excellent caller and soon the young and older folks joined in the fun.
Old time waltzes, two-step and a few polkas continued until midnight; then it was time to eat again and finish the food left over from the picnic. More dancing continued until about four a.m. when everyone was ready to call it a day.
Soon was the dawn of another day, the robins and other birds were singing gaily from the trees, along with the happy lilting song of the meadowlark. The barking dogs greeted the families as they arrived home. The roosters added their loud crowing to the other sounds. Another day was here and time to get up and go to work.
The happy ending to another enjoyable community party.
by: Mildred Swanson
Mr. and Mrs. Robert J. Anderson moved into the community between 1900 and 1911. They were one of three minority families living in the area.
Mr. Anderson was a former slave and was very religious. He was about six feet tall and very robust. Mr. Anderson did labor work and farmed his small garden plot as well as was a general handy man. The Anderson home was on Broad Street (Reams Noodle site). He was able to make a comfortable living for those days. This gardening was a family affair. Mrs. Anderson would take her family on Saturday and Wednesday to “peddle” her garden produce in West Des Moines (Valley Junction). This would be an all-day chase.
At that time, the main source of energy was coal and there were several coal mines in the vicinity. There were no trucks in those days to haul the coal from the mines to the consumer and it was all delivered by horse and wagon or shipped by railroad. In the winter when his gardening was slack, Mr. Anderson drove a coal wagon. It was a dirty and cold job, as well as hard work. He put in long hours leaving home early in the morning in order to get in line at the mine and get loaded and get on his way to delivery.
He had a small stable which enabled him to have his own horses. (I can still see the old spring wagon they used in their delivery of vegetables). This was also used as the work shed where they cleaned and prepared their vegetables for delivery.
Mr. and Mrs. Anderson were the parents of two children. Leonard and Maxine. Both children attended Clive School. Leonard attended East High were he is in the Hall of Fame for outstanding sport participation. After graduation he attended Des Moines University where he studied engineering. He graduated around 1920. He moved to Kansas City to teach. He later furthered his education by attending the University of Iowa. After receiving his degree he went back to Kansas to teach in a colored college, where he taught until his death.
He always visited our town each summer. He was treated like one of us.
Maxine was several years younger. She attended Roosevelt High School, later graduating from Drake University. During World War II, she got into Government Welfare work and the Red Cross. She served in the Peace Corps and eventually went overseas. She was married to an Army Officer.
Our homes were close so we children grew up together and were friends for years.
by: Mildred Swanson
I walked across the street to the overgrown right-of-way that led to the railroad tracks, less enthused than I should have been. I perched on a pile of rusty rails overlooking the right-of-way. I wondered what this would be like in the next sixty years (the closing of our little depot and the abandonment of the track was only three months ago). Already it was making me ill but I knew I would be a fool to postpone this few minutes and journey into the past. Now I could invert my memory to the turn of the century when I was a barefoot “tyke” growing up with a railroad in my front yard.
I was young when we moved to this small town of Clive. As I grew older, I could see a monster with a big black tail roaring toward me. I remember how I would cup my hands over my ears and cringe. I remember it was the first train I had ever seen. The smoke traveled too fast for me to scamper out from under it. If I stood, it would crush me to a pulp, so I ran back to the porch and crouched down behind a barrel. The giant’s shadow disappeared, the ground quit shaking and the noise harried yonder. I was still alive. I emerged from my hiding place in time to see a funny box climb over the hill. I wasn’t afraid anymore!
I learned to love trains and to recognize a caboose. It was fun to wave at the engineers as the trains chugged up the steep grade. They always waved back at me. When I got big, I vowed I would like to ride up there with the engineer. I’d ring those bells and blow me plenty of whistles to echo through the night.
I remember my brother would run alongside a slow moving freight. He would try to catch a ladder but would lose his grip and tumble onto the gravel.
Mother warned him “stay ‘way from those trains! If you slip under the wheels and get smashed, I won’t have my little boy anymore”, but it wasn’t more than a week ‘til he tried again! This time he latched onto a lower bar all right, but couldn’t find anyplace for his feet, so he let go and got shinned on a pile or rock. Mother wouldn’t whip him in that condition. She was too softhearted. Besides, an only son was very special.
He kept working at it until he could snatch toe grab irons and hoist himself up where he could plant his feet. Then he would leap off just before he reached the crossing and land up-right like a cat.
I interrupted my reverie to raise up and look for the spot on the rails where my little dog was killed under a locomotive’s wheels after he decided that he couldn’t chase the train out of town. That was one sight that I wished I had been spared. Mother and I picked up his scattered remains that afternoon and buried them under a large stone near the accident. I looked around for that headstone but it was no place to be found.
Re-entering that narrow realm of yesteryear, tears blurred my eyes. I could not help wanting to break down and have a good cry.
As I turned to trudge back toward the house, I wandered where I had hid those pennies I had flattened on the rails. I thought I heard mother calling, “Mildred! Suppertime!” I was tempted to sprint across the street where I used to stumble in the mud. She would look me over in disgust. “I do declare! You’re a sight for sore eyes. Get that bucket off the back porch and wash up.”
Just then I thought I heard the five thirty out of Des Moines toot. I knew it was old number #729, a fast “passenger.” I could tell most of the engines by their whistles.
I closed my eyes and visualized pulling a gold “retirement watch” from my pocket. Snapping open the cover, I saw that it was time to return to the present.
I started to wade the weeds to cross the new paved street, back to my rose garden.
Wait—I thought I heard the sound of #729 returning down the track. I am sure I remembered the shrill whistle-only on #729. Perhaps I should wait and wave at my old friends.
I look back once more with a heavy heart at the poor simple ways of yesterday. How I wish I could reclaim them.
I am glad I took time to cross the street and find my place on this rusty rail and visit the past. What will another 60 years bring—taller weeds—less trains, deserted tracks, vanished rose garden and faded memories. What will our younger generation have to remember from all this?
What will I see if I should return sixty years from today?
by: Mildred Swanson, 1981
My mind to me
Is a looking glass
Into which I can
At my own Pleasure
Reflect upon the Past
As if it were yesterday.
The names, faces and Places
Of a yesteryear
Is as refreshing to be today
As it was then – anew.