Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A Life Well-lived, but All Too Short

Waterloo Corrugated was a great place to work. Actually I think he did a lot of his work at home so he could “play” during the day! He had quite a reputation for being a practical joker. One of the funniest, and there are many, jokes he played was on an employee who was in the National Guard. The Guard would have their annual training encampments and this guy would always take along several ‘luxuries’ such as a portable TV and radio, etc. Well, he made the mistake of telling dad this. Dad got a newsletter from our local Congressman and cut out the letterhead. He went on to write this official looking letter with the Congressman’s letterhead explaining that guardsmen should not be taking these ‘luxuries’ to these encampments. The guy didn’t take anything like that with him. Imagine his surprise when he later found out it was a joke! Or there was the time when he had an actual casket that he had to develop packing for. As you probably already imagined, he climbed in the thing and had someone close it. I don’t remember if it was one of secretaries or one of the office guys who opened it, and much to their surprise!

Dad was an avid cartoonist. He did these funny family tree books with all these fake Schell family ancestors. He made quite a few and I think some of them are still around. He, of course, made up funny stories to go along with these trees. This is NOT where I got the idea to research  genealogy.... or was it? When the local hockey team started out in 1962, he wound up drawing some comical explanations for the various penalties that would appear in the program. Hockey was new to Waterloo and fans needed to be educated and this was a funny way to do that.

He loved car racing and made several trip to the big races in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. John Ewers, one of the Waterloo Corrugated bosses, had a model race track built in his basement; he had dad make all of the landscaping . He built buildings and viewing stands out of balsa wood. And as Staci pointed out after reading this, he made quite a few of the cars. They were made of a fiberglass-like material that had to be baked.  At home we were quite aware of the car-making because the smell of these  models baking in an oven permeated the house! It was quite a track. There was a group that got together on the weekend to race these models cars and they had great fun.

He took an active part in the Dad’s Night productions at Castle Hill Elementary School. The PTA dads would put on these elaborate skits and they were quite a hit. We kids never got to attend these, but the one that stands out in my memory was the take-off on the “Jack Paar Show”. Their version was the “Jack Poor Show”. I don’t remember who played the parts, but dad did a lot of the set work. Staci remembered him dressed up like a clown once. Go figure! There used to be films of these but I fear they are long gone. It would be great to be able to see those today.

We lived at the hockey rink in the winter. If one of us boys was playing hockey, he was almost always there to watch. There was public skating on the weekends and all of us kids went, but we could never convince dad to join us on the ice!  We went to all of the Black Hawks hockey games; mom and dad always sat in the same place with the Brooks (Dale and Gwen). The kids usually scattered and hung around with their friends. It was always a great time at McElroy, the arena’s name.

We had wonderful times on “Walton’s Mountain” on Greenview. Sherwood Park was a great place to grow up; some of us returned there to live as adults. But, alas, Sherwood Park is no more-- too many really big floods. The floods of our childhood were actually always fun! They were always small and didn’t cause damage- they were just a minor inconvenience. But it was fun to play in the water and out in the woods. Mom and dad created a good life for us there and I don’t think any of us would have wanted it any different.

We lost dad way too early in life; he was only 53. He was diagnosed with cancer in June, 1978 and had a tumor from his left arm removed. He had to go back to Rochester’s Mayo clinic in September where they operated again; he had a tumor the length of his spine. He also contracted a staph infection later. It just proved to be too much and he died on October 18, 1978. We had to have the funeral in one of the largest churches in Waterloo and the place was packed, actually there were many people standing.  The line of cars going to the cemetery was endless. It truly  was a testament to how well he was known,liked, and loved. We miss his smile, we miss his jokes, we miss his caring, we miss him.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Bill’s Early Working Years in Waterloo

Quincy College (now university)
After getting out of the navy in March of 1946, he returned to Quincy where he made use of the GI Bill and enrolled at Quincy College.  He and mom would marry a little more than a year later on May 30, 1947. They married at St. Francis Catholic Church and their reception was in the backyard of Great Aunt Irene and Uncle Elmer Schutte. Aunt Irene was my maternal grandfather’s sister. There was a film taken at that wedding with mom doing some fancy knife work as I recall. I wish that film were still around, but I fear it is lost to history. They were living at student housing at Quincy College when I came along on March 8, 1948. Aunt Martha regales in telling stories of babysitting me; I am certain that some of this will come up in Staci’s “My Funny Family” blog <www.myfunfam.blogspot.com>. So, I will skip over that! After dad graduated from college, they moved to Waterloo. Mom had lived in Waterloo since 1936, when grandpa had moved here for a job. Mom came back often and spent summers in Quincy. We have asked around but have never learned about how mom and dad actually met. We are kind of wondering if the Schell boys hung around with the Schutte boys-- they all had about the same kind of sense of humor. That certainly could have been how they met for the first time, but, again, that’s another fact lost to history.

When they moved back to Waterloo, they lived with mom’s parents out in Sherwood Park. Dad said he would NEVER live in the Park, but mom related in some notes she left that after a few floods, he became a true “river rat”. He would sit on the front porch and shoot at bottles and cans as they floated by. He worked as an assistant manger at the Paramount Theater in downtown Waterloo. I’m not
Downtown Waterloo by Sears, 1940s
sure how long he was there, but he then went to work at Sears. He would eventually get a chance to apply at Waterloo Corrugated Box Co., where he wound up working for the rest of his life. We don’t know the circumstances of why he went there, but when a couple of the owners of the company, John Ewers and Jim McLaughlin, found out that he was from Quincy, they took an immediate liking to him. John and Jim were originally from Keokuk, just up the Mississippi River from Quincy. He started there in 1952 and became a sample maker.

This is a good place to break. I’ll finish his story in the next blog. Then it will be on to tell about the ancestors I have found. One who nearly didn’t make it here alive. One who had an encounter with a famous American author. And one who was on Sherman’s march through Georgia in the Civil War. Stay tuned!