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Friday, September 5, 2014

A Day at the Herbert Hoover Museum and Library


Friday Sept 5, 2014 Holiday Inn Coralville, Iowa

Hello All—today’s blog is fairly short since the pictures more than explain our day. First, though, want to share with Jane that I saw the Mighty Mississippi for the first time at St Louis as well and my reaction was exactly the same—once I got over the height of the bridge—narrow and sooooo muddy.  Guess this is why New Orleans folks call it the Big Muddy but when you realize all the major rivers draining our continent, that don’t empty into either ocean, dumps into this big watery trunk, it makes sense that it would be filled with tons of run-off. Delta folks are glad for the fertile contributions from the rest of the country—lol  Yes, that bug was awful but we shared our luncheon venue with a much cuter denizen today. I must say, I never once thought about the Iowa Primaries—thank goodness it is not an election year!  Smile

Just a few stories of our day’s exploration—the Ranger at the visitor center told us some good places to visit in Alaska should we go and gave us some pointers should we decide to drive the Al-Can—but we aren’t—don’t want to leave the States in Montana. She also told us of a semi-secret room at the Agate National Park in Nebraska should we go that way. In addition, after asking us if Hoover was the only Quaker president and our response, that no, Nixon was also a Quaker, she shared the fact that Nixon’s grandmother is buried in West Branch and Mrs. Milhouses’ home is still standing in town. Further, should we go to the cemetery to see her resting place, there is a house in which John  Brown resided when he was recruiting ( brutally, may I add, and don’t know if I’d call his action recruitment) in Nebraska. It was moved to West Branch for some reason. Both houses are privately owned and there is no marking to indicate what they are.  She also looked at the Iowa map with us and pointed out points of interest and roads to explore.  The best thing she did was to sneak activity books and pencils to Barb, as I was proclaiming how much I loved the Junior Ranger programs some Parks have for kids. When I turned back to them,, we all had a good chuckle as Barb said she was sticking me in the corner tonight to work on the activities.

After walking along the streets of the neighborhood of the homestead in which Bert was born, we stopped at the blacksmith shop which is a replica of Jesse Hoover’s and is on the lot next door to the original shop.  Having a father born in 1901 , Barb and I were pretty familiar with most of the tools—the shears for cutting metal, the cone form for making small circles and the adjustable tool for making larger circular pieces to use as tie-ers on the wooden wheels used on carts and wagons of the day. We no longer have those wooden wheels that needed being held together or tied but the term continues on as “ tires”.

Walking across the street we entered the miniscule two room cabin in which the Hoovers lived.  Parents in the rope bed, two boys in the trundle and the baby, Mary, in the cradle. Outside the door the sitting room/dining room –Heaven only knows how the wood cooking stove fit in there—but the hole is in the wall for the chimney. In summer, the stove was moved out into the summer kitchen—also quite small.  They better have been a close family ,emotionally, because they were more than close, physically! By the time Bert was 10, the family had moved up the street into a two story home which is now gone and both of his parents had died. The children were split up among family and Bert was sent to Oregon to live with an aunt and uncle who had lost their young son to an accident just about the same time. He was in the first graduating class from Stamford, which he entered at 17 and was the youngest  in the class. He became a mining engineer and so his adult life began.

The story of his life is one of great humanitarianism, though most of us know him as the President who was in the White House during the Depression. One of his notable acts was to get food to Belgians who were starving during WWI. In grateful, appreciation, Belgium sent the statue of Isis to Hoover and it is beautiful. It is also the only monumental structure on the property.

The current exhibit in the Library is of gowns of each of the First Ladies, along with a portrait and a short commentary on each woman’s personality and/or her personal contribution to the Country during her husband’s tenure as President. Unfortunately, pictures were not allowed.  The exhibit also showed the fashion taste of these women, some of whom were quite savvy and others of whom had what taste they had strictly all in their mouths.

After touring that exhibit, we’d walked a great deal and were tired so we decided to skip the exhibit on Hoover’s life, which would have been quite redundant, since we’d watched two videos and a smaller exhibit in the visitors’ center.  As a matter of fact, much to my dismay, though I laughed about it and told the young male usher about it, I simply drifted off for about three minutes at the end of the second video. Fortunately, I didn’t snore and when I told him that, he laughed and said , well, you are quite courteous!

In the gift shop we met three women of our vintage. Two ladies were 72 and the other was 70 and all were widows. They are local Iowans and go off on trips together. They’ve been to NYC, took a cruise, went to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. Each one takes turns picking what she wants to do and off they go. We had fun comparing notes. They were off to the Pink Pony for ice cream and we were off to the Hoover graveside and then to the picnic area for late lunch.

By this time, leaving the Library, the sky had darkened and the wind had picked up. I offered a short prayer to Mary asking her to hold off on rain until we’d walked  to the graves of Bert and his wife, Lou, a fellow Iowan, a fellow Stamford graduate and a fellow engineer.  Then we cut back down to the car through the tall grass prairie that has been replanted to show us what the landscape was in the times of Westward Expansion.  She answered my prayer but when we drove over to the picnic area the sky opened up and, once more, we ate in the car. But today we had the windows open and were joined by an adorable bunny who played by jumping out into the rain and then leaping back to the shelter of an available bush.

After the last of our Joseph’s pitas and ham and cuke we drove out to the cemetery to find the Milhouse grave but though there were many old gravestones, most are more than half buried and many are totally unreadable.-We walked in the rain quietly in this quiet spot and for a brief moment all of these souls were thought about once more, if only by strangers. We then drove by the Brown house but the owners have surrounded it by obscuring vegetation.  We never found the Milhouse home.  And so, in rain and a cool breeze our day ended. We renewed our room for tomorrow night, too, for we will spend the day at the Amana Communities. We will splurge a bit, there are meat shops, fudge shops, woolen and basketry stores  as well as the homes and museums about these people who lived communally until the 1930’s when they decided to own property individually. It was then that the Amana brand of appliances was established by the Amana Society. I’m sure there was some communal booty to share when they sold out to Whirlpool but that’s tomorrow’s installment!

So, I will close now to finish watching Mysteries of the Museum which is talking about the Joseph Jefferson home in New Iberia , La. It is talking of a 1980 draining of a lake and refill all by nature I’ve been to New Iberia at least 10 times and have never heard about this event or the home and its gardens. Have added it to a list of things to check out—either on this trip or in winter with Bill.

It is time to eat and rest up for tomorrow. Until then, have a terrific week-end, we’ll see you later. Goodnight from the historically enlightened Sister Act! Kathy and Barb

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