Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Diamond Jubilee

One of the more entertaining aspects of maintaining our municipal website is that I've started a section celebrating town history. Since 2010 is our Diamond (75th) Jubilee, we're trying to celebrate in many ways. Of course everything I have put up so far is from Bess' photo albums. Here are a few shots:

My very favorite picture, Foxcroft totally eclipsed by the house next door, which was built by the real estate developer of University Heights. Both homes were completed in 1928. Mr. Koser, the storybook style home owner, was the first mayor after University Heights incorporated. Bess served on the first city council:

Back of Foxcroft under construction:

View from the front porch, 1928, University Hospitals and the Fieldhouse are in the distance:

View from the front porch, 1934, The UI football stadium was built in 1929:

I have lots more to share. Larger versions of all these pictures can be found here:

University Heights PLACES

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Get Your Bess Fix Here

I mentioned in my last post that my neighbor, Julie, was writing a great blog. She continues to weave an intriguing tale, and makes my posting easier too. Julie has managed to plow through January to June 1935-39 in Bess' diary. I have never been able to get through more than a couple pages at a time. I admire her perseverance! Use the links below to read what Bess had to say about the Wilsons.

All those entries made me realize that I don't think I've ever posted a picture of either Helen or Bess. Here is one of the two of them in front of Foxcroft, 1929, which would have been one year after they moved in.

This photo was taken after Helen had spent the summer in France on a UI study tour. She was 19 in this picture, Bess would have been about 47. The dress Helen is wearing is one she made with fabric she brought back from Paris.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

I'm Not Even The Most Interesting Blog...

...On Our Street Any More!

It was bound to happen. After nearly five years of writing Foxcroft, I knew the level of stories that I'd be able to turn out would start to slide, that the quality would diminish, and that perhaps this little project would fade away.

But what I wasn't prepared for was that I would be totally eclipsed by one of my neighbors!

Julie and her husband (referred to in her blog as the "Spousal Unit or 'SU' for short,") have lived two doors down the street from us for several years now. I had rarely run into her, more typically SU and I would be out shoveling snow at the same time. We never really did more than exchange pleasantries. I knocked on their door during the campaign, and Julie and I got talking. She told me about her mystery.

And at this point you need to hear her story in her own words...

Dear Mrs. Wilson

Before you go, let me just say that the connections between her place and ours are intricate and run deep. Once you read the above post click on the link at the top that says "how the mystery began" you'll be hooked too!

And Julie, in a little shocker, just for you: I realized last night, while walking the dog, that ECW Jr. and my stepmother were high school classmates...

Monday, February 01, 2010

So Much Literary History in So Few Words...

From Bess' Diary Feb. 1, 1941

February 1, 1941
Sat. 48
Read “Always the Land” by Paul Engle* pretty good writing. Saw Iowa 46 Millikin** 27. Walked over + the Strothers (?) brought me home. BJ and 2 guests kept me awake until 2.

Paul Engle

*Paul Engle, Cedar Rapids, IA native is best known as a poet, but “Always the Land” is fiction. He was a Rhodes Scholar and winner of the “Yale Series of Younger Poets Award in 1932. He is also very well known as the second director of the world renowned Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

Foxcroft neighbor, Wilbur Schramm, was the first director of the workshop, and at the time of this diary entry Schramm was about to take a leave of absence in order to work in the U.S. Office of War Information. Engle was Schramm’s early star student, and Engle’s “Worn Earth,” which won the Yale prize mentioned above was Engle’s masters' thesis. The University of Iowa was the first American college to accept creative works as thesis and dissertation requirements. Engle became acting director during Schramm’s absence and subsequently permanent director until 1966. Under Engle such writers as Flanner O’Conner, Robert Bly, and Donald Justice were students. The many famous writers who served as visiting faculty under Engle included Nelson Algren, Philip Roth, and Kurt Vonnegut.

I kept the autographed copy of “Always the Land,” along with many other books and papers, at the urging of Bess’ neice who inherited the contents of Foxcroft. It is displayed prominently on the “Iowa shelf” in the living room bookcase.

**Millikin College (now University) is located in Decatur, Illinois. Their nickname is the "Big Blue".

I have no idea who the "Strothers" are (or if I've spelled their name right) I'm not sure who "BJ" is either, there are a few other references to her, including one about her going to a "freshman party." At this time Helen was teaching in Milwaukee, so perhaps Bess took in a boarder?