Thursday, May 15, 2008

May 15-16, 1933

From Helen's Diary:

May 15
Gardened most of day. Fed Buster every hour or so. Put in seeds + transplanted artichokes + tomatoes. France and England worried over Hitler's aim of arming Germany. Sunny till evening then rain. Made rhubarb fluff + ham souffle.

May 16
Gardened in morning and dug worms. Saw "Farewell to Arms" Helen Hayes and Gary Cooper. Very good. Went to Mortar Board picnic in park. Took Mrs. Wilson. Bed + read.
Roosevelt sends message to 54 nations warning against aggression. Fair- rainstorm in evening

My Comments:
Helen would have been 22 years old and would have lived at Foxcroft for 4 years with her mother when she wrote this. The spring term at the University of Iowa was already over, the previous week she wrote about working on a correspondence course. I believe she would have graduated the year before, but worked on grad level classes. "Buster" was a baby robin that had been pushed out of it's nest by his mother. She was digging worms for him.

Helen probably made rhubarb fluff from their rhubarb patch in the yard now owned by our neighbors behind us. The neighbor's lawn service just mowed all the rhubarb down last night while cutting the grass.

"Farewell to Arms" probably made a major impression on Helen. Her father had volunteered for World War I at age 40, and since he was a physician, was commissioned as a captain and sent to field hospital in France. He was sent to Serbia to help fight a typhoid outbreak after the armistice, but before his enlistment expired. It was there that he contracted pneumonia and died. Helen was seven when he passed away, Bess was a widow at 36. She never remarried.

"Mortar Board" was an honor society that Helen belonged to. "Mrs. Wilson" was their neighbor two houses down. Mr. Wilson, was Eric Wilson a former University of Iowa track star, who ran in the 1924 Olympics. The Wilson's were neighbors for 40 years.

On May 10, 1933 German students burned 20,00 "Jewish books" in front of the University of Berlin. By 1933 Helen had already been to France twice, something that certainly set her apart from young Iowa girls of the 1930's. We found her ticket stubs and a 78 rpm recording of Josephine Baker from Helen's 1931 tour. As a French major she was keenly interested in European events. I find her comments to be ominous foreshadowing considering that 10 years later she would leave her high school teaching job in Milwaukee and volunteer for the American Red Cross. Due to her fluency French she was posted to England prior to the Normandy invastion and went to France right behind the allied troops.


Jenni said...

Very interesting how history is reflected in her personal diary.

I would be dying to dig up some of that rhubarb from your neighbors yard.

My grandfather was in Normandy. He did not talk about it. He built air fields so he was either there early or after the invasion.

Mike said...

I was counting on the rhubarb too! Those neighbors have moved out and are trying to rent the place, so it is currently empty. We planted rhubarb in our own yard last year, but need to let it grow this year before we can start harvesting. I make a lot of rhubarb crisp, pie and sauce.

Helen's husband was a Normandy vet. She met him in a rehab hospital for head wound victims in Panama after the war. He was a patient, she was in charge of recreation activities. That is another huge story in itself!

Jenni said...

LOL...Helen's life just keeps getting more interesting.

pam wilson said...

Mr. and Mrs. Wilson were my husband's grandparents. They were Eric C. and Lois Sensor Wilson. Their only child, Eric Jr. also ran track for Iowa from 1945-1949. He passed away on June 2; he was 80. He lived in Indianapolis, IN most of his life.

Mike said...


Are you a retired teacher in Iowa City? There is a Pam Wilson that I used to work with...

Pam Wilson said...

No, sorry Mike, I never lived in Iowa. I live near Indianapolis. I used to be a teacher though!