Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Bess' 1930-35 Diary

I don't think I've done this before and posted a whole page of one of Bess' 5 year diaries, but today's are too good as a group:

May 12th

Mon 60
Alone all day + got home at 11. Read “It’s a Great War” Hazel, D +N over.
Got 3 new tires + tubes (19.75 each)

Tue 60
Dug 2 pail dandelions – sewed + heard A’s 4 White Sox 2 game – Harry mowed lawn – Mildred here in evening till 11.

Thur 84
Lindburgh baby found dead.
Seeded new lawn, fixed wire on back porch, set out plants. H to Chi Omega house for dinner. Home at 8:30

Fri 70
Hard rains off + on all day. No fires - Over town to Hands and for yeast. H made puzzle + cake for Hildegarde’s birthday. Isabelle came for her about 5:30 – She worked on tulip quilt + heard Coon Sanders as May Frolic - Robin

Sat 50
Planted dahlias – Made Hildegarde’s cake + H and I delivered it in the rain, - H to Court of Awards. I heard ball game + read – furnace + grate fires. Steak fry here because of rain. Hilly – Jerry – Dr. Frankel + Herb Smith. H and I got Waucoma auxiliary flowers – a cat asleep in car


"It's a Great War" Mary Lee, Houghton Mifflin, 1929, 574 pages. According to the American Book Exchange: "The author of this novel, based on her own experiences, was a young American who spent two years in France as a civilian employee of the United States Army - first with a base hospital unit in Bordeaux, then with the Air Service in Paris, and finally as Y.M.C.A. canteen worker in the zone of advance and with the Army of Occupation in Germany."

Bess' husband, Walter, volunteered for WWI at age 39. Because he was a physician he was taken and worked in France as a surgeon. After the armistice, but before his enlistment was finished, he was sent to Serbia to fight a typhoid outbreak. He contracted pneumonia and died. Bess was 36 when he died in 1920, Helen was 7 years old. Bess never re-married.

The "A's" would be the Philadelphia Athletics. That year Connie Mack's team went 102-52 winning the American League pennant. They defeated Gabby Street's St. Louis Cardinals 4-2 in the World Series. The Chicago White Sox finished 7th in the 8 team AL that year. Bess was a die hard Cubs fan, but listened to any game she could.

Even though Charles A. Lindburgh Jr. had been kidnapped on March 1, 1932 the body wasn't discovered until May 12th. Eventually Bruno Hauptmann would be found guilty and executed. To this day controversy surrounds the case.

The "new lawn" would be in the extra half lot that Bess had just bought from her neighbor, realator Lee Koser. She paid $60.00 for the lot. In 1928 Bess had paid Koser $1,000.00 for the two lots on which Foxcroft had been built. (The house was built for $11,000.00) With no building occurring after the stock market crash and onset of the depression, I'm sure Koser was happy to sell land at any price. The majority of the extra land became Bess' sizable kitchen garden. Helen sold the lot to another neighbor in 1981.

"No fires" would refer to the furnace and the fireplace meaning it was warm that day. "Hand's" is the name of a jewelry store in Iowa City, which is still in business in the same location as it was in 1933. "Hildegarde" was one of Helen's college best friends.

Apparently "Coon-Sanders" was the Coon-Sanders Original Nighthawks Jazz Orchestra founded by drummer Carlton Coon and pianist Joe Sanders. Their "Maytag Frolics" were popular hits. Bess probably heard them on her radio.

Most of 1934's entries make sense after reading the previous years. A "grate fire" would be in the living room fireplace, Given the high being 50 degrees that day it was probably chilly in the morning. The "steak fry" seems to have been Hildegarde's birthday celebration. "Jerry" would become her future husband. Given the size of Foxcroft it was often the site of gatherings, especially of Helen's college classmates. "Waucoma" was the name of the small Iowa town where Helen was born and that she and Bess had moved from in 1928 after building Foxcroft. "Cat asleep in the car" was likely Buff, a cat that Helen still talked about prior to her death in 2004.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

2nd Annual Bungalow Blog Tour

Hello folks,

Welcome to Foxcroft, a late 1920's bungalow set in University Heights, Iowa. I'm Mike, your host. I live here with my family.

A little about us:

We are the second family to live in our home. We owned the house for a year before beginning to restore it. We had the incredible opportunity in that time to get to know the daughter of the builder during her final year she lived here as our life tenant. Helen passed away in December of 2004 at age 93. She was 18 when she moved in with her widowed mother in September of 1928.

Helen and her mother, Bess, 1929.

We started work to make it our home in 2005. We have had the privilege of keeping much of the historical documents that came with the house: daily journals of both Bess and Helen, and amazing photo albums, including pictures of the house under construction:

And original interior photos

The big project we embarked upon was taking the entirely unfinished second floor...


2005 (before we started working on it)

...and putting in three bedrooms, a bathroom, laundry room and sitting room. We also added a gable to the rear of the house. Here is the interior of the new gable this morning.

We used salvage materials (the bookcases, door, picture rail and casing above) as well as the original blueprints to match trim, etc.

Perhaps the single best day of our renovation was here:

A Little Off the Top, Please

Lately my big projects have been outside. Bess and Helen by themselves built a cement fish pool in 1933.

More photos of their work are here: Digging the pool.

The pool was completely filled in some time in the 1960's. Over the past couple years We excavated and and now have it working again. We added a small waterfall:

Last summer we also built a pergola and patio of mostly salvaged materials. Here it is as used for our youngest daughter's birthday party in September:

A particularly interesting part was lifting up the very heavy cement columns. My partner in crime during this adventure is a fellow teacher and the lead builder of our upstairs. Our two families have been friends for over 25 years:

Here is a walkthrough of the entire pergola project:

We sincerely hope you've enjoyed your visit here, but sure to leave a comment or question if there's anything more you'd like to know. Feel free to poke around and snoop in the closets, etc.

If you wandered here not due to the online house tour, be sure to check out the other stops:

Next House on the Blog Tour: Stuccohouse
Previous House on the Blog Tour: 1916 Portland Bungalow