Thursday, March 26, 2009

50 Years Ago Today at Foxcroft

Bess' Diary:

Thursday March 26, 1959


Usual jobs- did ironing + baked 3 loaves of bread - rainy almost sleet - M to Cedar Rapids for nothing but the ride! as he and the carmel corn man couldn't agree

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Fish Letters #1

In honor of what would have been Helen's 98th birthday today here is #1 in an occasional series I'll refer as the "Fish Letters." Helen and her mother dug a fishpond in their back yard in 1933. Last spring I found where it was and started to excavate it back out. It had been filled in for over 40 years.

Since the upstairs attic was their archive, (with 1200 sq ft of space nothing was ever thrown away) I found among all the papers a series of letters dealing with fish for the pond. Here is the first one:

October 21, 19933

My Dear Miss Fox,

We do not ordinarily advise that the goldfish or fancy goldfish be placed in the same aquarium with the tropicals. Goldfish require a cooler water temperature than tropical fish and also more water per fish.

Tropical fish, which have asterisks in front of their names, are not scrappy and will live peaceably with others, providing that the temperature of the water is maintained at 72 to 75 degrees. We therefore, do not recommend that you keep the two varieties together. Keep them separate.

At present, you could obtain an excellent pair of Calico Veiltails at $3.00 per pair, Japanese Veiltails at $3.00 per pair, Veiltail Moors, Medium at $3.00 per pair, Veiltail Moors, Large at $5.00 per pair and Lionheads at $2.00 and $5.00 per pair.

We trust that you will be in the market for some of these beautiful fish and may we have the opportunity to serve you.

Very truly yours,

J T Charleson (Signature)


And like so many other companies I've looked for in the history of Foxcroft William Tricker, Inc. is still in business! The patch I put in the bottom of the pond last fall seems to be holding, maybe I'll order some plants from them. We did put in two goldfish from the local pet store, one survived the summer, but I haven't seen him lately in the tank in the basement...

Friday, March 13, 2009

A Grocery Store!

Well that's what I heard when I went to a public meeting to listen to a development proposal being made for the St. Andrew's church site two blocks from us.

Here is the media's write up complete with snarky comments that so drearily seem to define our dialogues:

Residents discuss condo idea

A little backgrond: University Heights (our fair city) is 1000 souls surrounded by Iowa City. Immediately to our east outside city limits is the UI football stadium:

and the largest teaching hospital in the known universe:

(I am not exaggerating either)The picture above is a tiny bit of the original structure which is now nearly invisible due to building around it.

At our far western border was a private club named "The University Athletic Club" which was created 50 years ago, in an era of restricted alcohol sales, some would say as a way for wealthy alumni to have a stiff belt before/during/after football.

The "Athletic Club" has been University Heights ONLY major commercial entity since it's inception. Last fall the University of Iowa BOUGHT said private club in order to have a catering/banquet hall facility to replace the flooded Iowa Memorial Union. This will likely reduce our city budget by at least 10% due to the loss of commercial property tax revenue since the UI is tax exempt.

Connecting the hospital and the Athletic club to areas to the west and east is Melrose Ave, which is four lanes wide from I-380 up to the University Heights city limit where it narrows to two lanes, and then immediately after crossing the railroad bridge back into Iowa City again goes to four lanes. This road neatly splits our small community in two. It is a major arterial road for the greater metropolitan area.

Prior to UI's purchase of the athletic club quiet negotiations were underway for a developer to buy St. Andrew's Church which is adjacent to the Athletic Club. UI had a right of first refusal and passed, in 2007, on the property for 4.3 million, according to the developer. The congregation has now bought land for a new church and the developer has made preliminary plans for this project. Lots of things need to happen including changing Sunset/Melrose intersection by filling in a steep ravine and re-routing Sunset.

I give the developer credit for having public meetings, I am delighted at the thought of a walkable grocerty store, that is the thing we gave up in moving here that I miss the most. Here is our old grocery store, which was half a block away through the back alley from our previous house:

Go HERE: Dirty John's to read about this Iowa City institution

Here is the developer's proposal(a bad PDF)Of course what is driving many people crazy is that there will be 36 condo units above the commercial property to the front of the lot and the NINE STORY residential condo building to the rear. It must be said that this developer was part of a plan to build a similar residential structure on the Athletic Club property 3 years ago which was defeated by community opposition. So those folks were out again in full force last night. I'm not opposed to the project.

I think the project as a whole would be beneficial to the community, and I'm guessing that if developed to the scale proposed, it would likely double our city property tax revenue. My suggestion would be to take whatever increase we get in revenues and put it into a fund to buy the wooded ravine to the north of town and get us some protected green park space. If projects like this would stop further regional sprawl by building denser near the center of the greater metropolitan area I say more power to them.

The kicker in all this is that the congregation has yet to vote on moving, and at even the most optimistic scenario, phase I, moving the road, wouldn't begin until fall 2010, with construction perhaps not starting until 2012.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The Only Thing We Have to Fear...

Bess' Diary March 4, 1933:


Heard Roosevelt Inaugural all day - Crochet - H got Muscatine warrant for $30.00 All banks in U.S. closed for a few days - Heard Iowa 16 Ill 44 - a terrible mess of a game.

Comments: 1932 was the first election in which Helen was eligible to vote. She told me her plan was to go and vote for William Z. Foster (communist party candidate) but at the last minute she chickened out and voted, as her mother Bess did, for former Iowan Herbert Hoover. Bess' diary for Nov. 8, 1932 says she was glad Roosevelt won.

I'm also amused by Bess being more upset about the University of Iowa Hawkeyes' basketball loss to the Fighin' Illini of U. of Illinois than she was about the bank holiday.

Monday, March 02, 2009

75 Years Ago at Foxcroft- March 2, 1934

Bess' Diary:

March 2, 1934
"Lump Sum" came. Paul McN 38.00 - Bertha 70 - Helen 77 - 1/2 farm tax 106 - office tax 6.60 - 1/2 Iowa City tax 24.29 - got new battery for car 7.40. Paid OES, DAR + Shrine dues - Mrs. Eastman here for dinner- Helen took us both to see Laurel and Hardy in Fra Diavolo


The "lump sum" may have been payment by her tenant of farm rent? I know from my own family history that farm leases typically began March 1. (Hence many February weddings among my ancestors) Bess still owned farm land back in Waucoma.

Bess' payments above totaled $329.29 plus dues to her clubs.

The "Iowa City tax" is interesting, at that time University Heights was still unicorporated Johnson County. It has never been a part of Iowa City, incorporating on July 10, 1935 as a municipality. Postal service has always been via Iowa City however.

Fra Diavolo from

STORY: Laurel and Hardy's first period operetta. In the early 18th century, northern Italy is terrorized by a notorious gang of thieves led by Fra Diavolo, "The Devil's Brother." Wanderers Stanlio and Ollio are held up by a band of Diavolo's men, and lose their hard-earned life savings. They determine that they too will lead a life of crime, and proceed to bungle a series of robbery attempts with Ollio posing as the dreaded Diavolo. They make the mistake of holding up the real Diavolo; he in turn threatens their lives, but spares them and makes them his personal servants. Diavolo is enamored with the charms of the lovely Lady Rocberg and the 500,000 francs she has hidden in her petticoat. The Boys help to expose Diavolo, and all escape unharmed.