PHPP Oral Histories

Oral history recordings and transcripts. Includes “Grinnell’s Voice from the Past: The Depression and WWII Oral History Project” and other oral histories from the area.

Born February 8, 1916, Martin grew up and farmed in the Westfield area on the farm on which his father and grandfather had lived. For a short time he worked in the meat packing industry in Des Moines, but returned to farming until moving to Grinnell in 1992. He and his wife, Doris, had two daughters, and a son who is engaged in farming.
I live in the Westfield community, which was an earlier community than in the Westfield community, which was an earlier community than Grinnell.

Velma Bissell Hiser, born July 10, 1904, graduated from Dexter (Iowa) High School, attended Grinnell College and graduated from Northwestern University. She received her M.S. degree from the University of Iowa. She taught at Grinnell College from 1937 until her retirement. For a time, she and her husband managed the Monroe Hotel. Breeding and showing of Boxer dogs was a major interest of hers.
I taught about everything. I was a speech therapist, speech pathologist. And we had some basic courses and I taught those.

Lucille McDowell was born in Grinnell on October 19, 1910. A1928 graduate of Grinnell High School, she attended business college in Quincy, Illinois. In 1937 she married Dick Potts. She began her banking career in 1929 as a bookkeeper at Citizen's National Bank (later Poweshiek County National Bank and then Wells Fargo). She retired in 1975 at which time she was an officer and board member.
You've been known for giving pennies to children when they came into the bank.

The son of Dr. O.F. and Laura Parish, John was born September 23, 1904. After graduating from Grinnell College in 1927, he studied medicine at Harvard and interned at Johns Hopkins. He served in the Navy during World War II. He and his wife, Elizabeth, had three daughters.
We were lucky in living in Grinnell, we looked after each other here.

Since her birth on October 29, 1904, Augusta has lived in or near Grinnell. After her marriage to Leonard Pederson, she was his partner in farming, active in Grange and church work, and a busy homemaker and mother. She was an accomplished cook, baker, and quilter. She and her husband had three children.
My husband and I started up farming a mile north and a half a mile west of Grinnell. And we lived there for eight years, and I do remember a lot of things about that.

Anna Ramsey, the daughter of Frank and Alice Knight, was born on November 22, 1908. She graduated from Grinnell College in 1930. She married Fred Ramsey and had a son and a daughter. Before retiring, she worked as a secretary at Grinnell College.
By the time 1930 graduation time came around, it was really very sad because there were not jobs.

Born in Grinnell on September 10, 1912, Virgil graduated from high school and attended Grinnell College for a time. He worked in retail sales and traveled for the Grinnell Shoe Company. After service in the Navy during World War II, he and his wife, the former Ona Whitaker, joined in the operation of the Grinnell Livestock Exchange until 1973.
There was this feeling 'south of the tracks' and 'north of the tracks.'

Born in Cedar Rapids on November 3, 1912, Dorothy Williams came to Grinnell in 1934 as a graduate of Coe College. She taught home economics until her marriage in 1936 to G. Sharp Lannom III. She was interested in politics, and went to the Far East with the Iowa Development Commission and Iowa Governor Harold Hughes. Three of her four sons carried on the family manufacturing business.
I would go every Friday to the grocery store and get my groceries and if we ran out of eggs or something, I didn't go until the next Friday. And I think I would spend like twenty dollars a week for everything.

A resident of the Grinnell area her entire life, Josephine was born on November 29, 1902. Until 1980 she worked on the family farm doing chores and taking care of animals. At that time she moved into town, where she enjoyed reading and sewing in her retirement.
But most of the people were on this country line where you crank up a phone.

Born December 29, 1903 in Prentice, Wisconsin, Grant was educated in Wisconsin and Michigan. He came to Grinnell in 1928, and in 1929, was joined by his bride, Harriet. He was a professor of physics at Grinnell College. An observatory on the campus is named in his honor.
The town was really quite active up until the bank holiday. And then the Depression came and things kind of folded up.

Laura, the daughter of Henry and Merta Matlack, was born in Grinnell on July 19, 1913 and lived in Grinnell until 1936. She returned to Grinnell in 1966 with her husband, Henry Wieman, to her family home. She received a BA from Grinnell College and an MFA from Southern Illinois University. She taught in public schools and at SIU. She was a skilled weaver.
I was proud of my family, proud of my house, proud of my town, my college.

One of nine children, Art was born south of Grinnell on June 22, 1902. After graduating from high school and working for three years at the Farmer's Elevator, he began his career in insurance. Upon retirement, he was Secretary-Treasurer of the Poweshiek County Mutual Insurance Company. He and his wife, Mildred, married in 1930, had a son and daughter.
In spite of all the hardships, Grinnell's one of the best cities, I think, in the Midwest.

Dick lived on the same farm in Chester Township, north of Grinnell, his entire life. After two years of high school at Chester, he graduated from Newburg High School. He was active in the Poweshiek County Farm Bureau, the Ayrshire Breeders' Association, community organizations and was also an auctioneer. He and his wife, Lola, had three children.
This is a century farm, which means it's been in the family for over a hundred years, and we did get through the Depression and almost lost it, but we was able to hang on.

Born February 10, 1919, two miles north of Grinnell, in a house which had been built by her grandfather, Marian was a relative of J.B.Grinnell for whom the town and college were named. A graduate of Grinnell College, she studied Library Science at the University of Denver. She was the Librarian at Stewart Public Library for 22 years and at the Des Moines Public Library for 19 years.
My mother was Harriett Grinnell Dunham. Her father was a double cousin of J. B. Grinnell, the founder of the town.

Leo was born in Sully, Iowa, on January 19, 1908. He farmed, worked in service stations for 21 years, and in automobile sales and management for 20 years. He and his wife, Blanche, had three children.
I'm real glad I'm a Grinnellian and I'm going to die a Grinnellian.

The daughter of Dr. O.F. and Laura Parish, Margaret was born in Grinnell on June 14, 1906. She graduated from Grinnell College and taught fourth grade in Flint, Michigan, for a short time. She owned and operated Arnold's Shoe Store in Grinnell for 53 years and retired in 1989.
So my husband had left, and I had all these people to pay back. And I said, 'Well there's nothing else to do but do it.' So I did.

A lifelong resident of Grinnell, Gene was born July 23, 1913. He graduated from Grinnell High School, and was drafted into service during World War II in 1943. He worked at various jobs in Grinnell, and in Amana for eleven years. He and his wife, Doris, had a son and two daughters.
Well, when I was very young, there was a lot of activity at Arbor Lake.

Born in Chester Township on January 3, 1917, Everett moved into the city of Grinnell in 1930, where he graduated from Grinnell High School in 1935. After returning from a tour of duty in World War II, he founded Armstrong Electric from which he retired in 1980. He represented the Fourth Ward on the City Council from 1949 to 1951. He and his wife, Phyllis, were the parents of a daughter and a son.
We were a front line hospital. Sometimes we were ahead of the front line. In the Battle of the Bulge, we got ahead of the line.

Isadore Berman was born February 22, 1924. He graduated from Grinnell High School in 1941, served in WW II, earned a BA from Grinnell College in 1949 and, later, an MBA from Columbia University. He is continuing in the family scrap metal business. He and his wife, Ida, have a son and a daughter.
I know during the Depression that we probably got seven, eight cents a pound for the copper. Why, in comparison to today's price of seventy to eighty cents a pound.

Max Smith was born in 1918 and raised on the family farm in Marshall County. He graduated from Chillicothe Business College in Missouri before working as a hog buyer for the Rath Packing Company in Waterloo. In 1941 he was drafted into the U.S. Army where he served in the European and North African theatres and fought in the Battle of the Bulge. After the war he completed his bachelors degree at Iowa State University in 1949 and moved to Grinnell in 1950 where he served as President of the Poweshiek County National Bank from 1966 through 1983. He and his wife, Delores, had two children. Interview conducted as part of American Beliefs and Cultural Values, an American Studies class taught by Hanna Griff at Grinnell College in 1993.
We were totally unprepared as far as weapons were concerned.